My feed

Our writers test and research products independently. When you buy through a link on our site we may earn a commission but this never affects our product choices.

Best UK city breaks for families: short breaks for kids of all ages

Looking for a fun-filled city break with the kids? From London to Liverpool, Glasgow to Portsmouth, here are the best family-friendly UK cities that are perfect to visit with children, as recommended by Mumsnetters.

By Lucy Cotterill | Last updated Feb 15, 2024

UK City break

If you’re looking for a change of scene, a UK city break could satisfy your weekend wanderlust. But which cities are particularly well suited for an escape with the kids?

We've scoured Mumsnet's UK travel forum for tips, recommendations and guidance from families that have travelled the length and breadth of the country. Whether you want to tick off cultural sights, historic landmarks, fun-packed parks or family-friendly beaches, we've rounded up the best family-friendly cities in the UK.

Our roundup features activities and attractions to suit every family and budget.

For more inspiration, check out our UK holidays hub which features guides to the best spa hotels for families, the best holiday parks, the best family hotels in London, the best family hotels in Edinburgh, the best family hotels in Wales, all featuring top tips from Mumsnetters.

What Mumsnet users say
emmathedilemma · Recommended
“York is great - railway museum, dungeons, Jorvik, boat trip, Hop on/off the bus, chocolate's a really compact city and everything is quite walkable.”
See Post
IbizaToTheNorfolkBroads · Recommended
“We did three days in York at the end of the summer. Me, my son is thirteen and my daughter aged ten. We only live an hour away, but went to do all the touristy stuff we never have time to do and had a blast!! We walked the walks, went to Clifford's tower, did wizard-themed crazy golf (A Hole in Wand), went to the York Chocolate Story, went to the immersive Van Gogh experience, had a boat ride."
See Post
Our verdict

One of the oldest cities in the UK, York has a long history dating back to its Roman roots. From walking the Roman Walls to visiting the Jorvik Viking centre to spotting the bell towers of the gothic cathedral, York Minster, there’s plenty of educational fun to be had while exploring the city's cobbled streets.

Children can also expect to find chocolate treats, classic cakes and a sprinkling of Harry Potter in York thanks to The Shambles, a wonky street lined with 14th-century buildings that closely resembles Diagon Alley.

For more wizarding fun, check out Hole in the Wand, an incredibly entertaining crazy golf course built around bubbling cauldrons and magical portals. If you prove your powers as a wizard, each player earns their own magic potion gift to take home.

What Mumsnet users say
Fivemoreminutes1 · Recommended
“You’ve got the dungeons, Tower of London, musicals, a science museum (The Wonderlab is excellent), London Eye, Shard, Thames cruise, Covent Garden etc… You could also do a day trip to Warner Bros studios or Thorpe Park.”
See Post
BookHermitBlack · Recommended
“The best thing I did when took mine age 5-10 at the time was a 24-hour bus ticket on the open top bus and combined boat trip. Saw so much more of London than we could have done otherwise with little legs. Also, the Science Museum and Natural History Museum were big hits (and free).”
See Post
Our verdict

A city that needs no introduction, our beloved capital is an obvious choice for a family city break. It may have a reputation as an expensive destination but it's packed to the rafters with free attractions that are brilliant for families. From the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, to the Tate Modern and the National Gallery, it's easy to get a family-sized culture fix.

Embrace your inner tourist and spot sights like Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Tower Bridge and Big Ben and explore central London's Royal Parks, home to boating lakes, playgrounds and family-friendly cafes.

A trip to London is certainly fast-paced and busy but can offer an educational and entertaining weekend away with your kids.

What Mumsnet users say
thereisonlyoneofme · Recommended
“I’ve just come back from Portsmouth, lots to see, huge shopping complex and ferries to the Isle of Wight.”
See Post
ElizabethinherGermanGarden · Recommended
"Portsmouth is great! It's quite hipster in Southsea with quirky shops and so forth."
See Post
Our verdict

On England's south coast and just over an hour and a half from London by train, Portsmouth offers a great mix of city and seaside fun. Home to the British Royal Navy, Portsmouth is also a great place to explore many of the Navy’s historic ships that children may have learned about at school.

With pebble-filled beaches, splash parks, skate parks and amusement arcades, there's plenty to keep kids busy and if you want to explore further afield, there are regular ferries that sail to the Isle of Wight in under an hour.

Don't miss a trip to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard to see Henry VIII’s ship The Mary Rose, Nelson’s legendary warship HMS Victory and the largest Royal Navy ship HMS Warrior 1860. The Spinnaker Tower offers panoramic views from the 170-metre-high viewing platform and is next to Gunwharf Quays for outlet shopping and a range of restaurants. Fort Nelson is free to visit and kids will love running around the Victorian fortifications, hidden tunnels and giant canons.

What Mumsnet users say
Balalake · Recommended
“Manchester has plenty to see and with the tram, better public transport than anywhere else outside London.”
See Post
Mocha1978 · Recommended
“Manchester is great. We stayed at the Premier Inn near the Trafford Centre and went skiing at Chill Factore, indoor sky diving was fun too.”
See Post
Our verdict

A great UK city break option, especially for those visiting with older children or teens, Manchester has plenty to offer families, from fantastic museums and art galleries, to excellent shopping and of course, two iconic football stadiums - Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium.

While best known as the city of football, don’t let that put you off if you’re not a fan. Manchester is a diverse city packed full of culture and history, so whether you’re checking out a show at The Lowry or taking a whistle-stop tour on Manchester’s sightseeing bus, you’re sure to find something to appeal to all ages.

The Science and Industry Museum (known locally as MOSI) is incredibly interactive. Dedicated to ideas that changed the world, it's located on the site of the UK’s oldest railway station and is packed full of fascinating science and technology discoveries. Head to Salford Quays for family-friendly entertainment and outlet shopping. For a bit of green space, check out Heaton Park with its cafe, tramway, playgrounds and petting zoo.

What Mumsnet users say
exexpat · Recommended
"There are often festivals, markets and other events around the harbourside and city centre - there'll be something pretty much every weekend from about May onwards."
See Post
frazzled3ds · Recommended
"I took my 3 there for a visit a year or so ago and did S.S. Great Britain. Great fun!"
See Post
Our verdict

A vibrant city packed full of activities, independent shops and award-winning attractions, Bristol makes a great family-friendly break with entertainment for all ages. It's quite hilly, so you may want to pack a lightweight stroller, but you can also take the Waterbus for a unique way to travel from the train station to the city centre.

The S.S Great Britain is the city's number one attraction with two interactive museums and the chance to climb rigging onboard the fully restored Victorian ship, the world’s first great ocean liner. And it's well worth checking out Aerospace Bristol where families can learn about aviation history from the very first powered flights through to the modern day, before stepping on board the star attraction - the last Concorde ever to fly. Don't miss a trip to the Clifton Suspension Bridge for spectacular views of the Avon Gorge and to check out Slidey Rock, a natural rock slide loved by generations of kids.

Bristol is also the birthplace of Banksy so you can expect to spot a few of his designs dotted around the city.

What Mumsnet users say
Sunbeam18 · Recommended
"Glasgow is brilliant for a short break - great museums/galleries, music scene, bars and restaurants and shopping."
See Post
TheBogQueen · Recommended
"Glasgow is small enough to get around easily via the subway but loads to do and see. It really is a beautiful city."
See Post
Our verdict

Regularly topping the Rough Guides polls for being the UK’s friendliest city, Glasgow is also Scotland's largest. You can expect stunning architecture, gorgeous parks, a thriving street art scene as well as an impressive collection of museums, attractions and galleries suitable for all ages.

You’ll also find excellent shops, restaurants and indoor attractions in case the unpredictable Scottish weather doesn’t play fair.

The Glasgow Science Centre is a fun, interactive attraction that can easily entertain the family for the whole day. One of Glasgow’s largest venues, kids will love exploring the science museum, the IMAX cinema and the planetarium with its revolving tower.

If you’re visiting Glasgow with older kids (particularly those who love a good Insta backdrop) the Mural Trail is a fun way to explore the city on a dry day. Commissioned by local artists, these stunning murals decorate the sides of buildings and walls and are a photographer’s dream!

What Mumsnet users say
Dancingfairydreams · Recommended
“Cardiff has some wonderful arcades to wander around, with some great independent shops too! Would recommend the boat trip from by the castle down to Cardiff Bay, there's plenty of places to sit & people watch, most places are a chain but coffee co on the veranda is a lovely place to sit!”
See Post
BlancmanegeBunny · Recommended
“Cardiff has a lot to offer, a compact city centre with new Malls and old quaint arcades. Nice selection of bars and restaurants, and the waterfront area at Cardiff Bay is lovely. Lovely castle to explore too.”
See Post
Our verdict

The Welsh capital and largest city in Wales, Cardiff offers a brilliant mix of old and new, from the historic Cardiff Castle to the revamped Cardiff Bay.

You'll find everything from quirky markets, Victorian shopping centres and vibrant inner city eateries, and with a wide range of beaches nearby, Cardiff offers plenty of outdoor fun too.

Travelling with adrenaline junkies? Cardiff International White Water (CIWW) offers a wide range of family-friendly activities both on and off the water including white water rafting, water tubing and the high ropes adventure Air Trail.

Barry Island, made famous thanks to Gavin and Stacey, is worth a visit for some traditional seaside fun. You'll find amusement arcades, a beautiful golden sandy beach and some independent shops and restaurants.

What Mumsnet users say
fofo4  · Recommended
“We went with my kids a few years ago and had a great time. The Roman Baths were good. There is a big park near the Royal Crescent which we enjoyed. There are some museums and galleries. Wandering around the old town. Nice cafes and restaurants.”
See Post
Ho11y  · Recommended
“It's the best city on earth! Definitely do the Roman baths with the kid's audio version. It's brilliant. The play park in the Royal Victoria Park is fab and the open top bus tour is pretty fab too- and if your kids aren't walkers then you could jump off the bus tour at the closest stop to the park.”
See Post
Our verdict

The largest city in Somerset, Bath is most commonly known for the hot spring Roman Baths and stunning 18th-century architecture and it makes a great destination for a UK family city break.

Small enough to explore on foot, there's a wide range of family-friendly attractions and activities all within a short distance. From marvellous museums that can bring history to life to fun outdoor activities in Bath’s parks and green spaces, it's a great choice for visitors of all ages.

The Roman Baths are suitable to visit with children (note that the on-site spa is for adults only). With children’s audio guides and costumed Roman characters to help bring the history of the Baths to life, kids will love learning about 2,000+ years of history in a fun and immersive way.

A short stroll from the city centre, Royal Victoria Park is a 57-acre green space home to botanic gardens, an 18-hole miniature golf course and an adventure playground with a zip wire.

What Mumsnet users say
juneau · Recommended
"Oh, I love Edinburgh! Definitely see Dynamic Earth, Arthur's Seat (if the weather isn't too wet and windy), National Museum of Scotland, Jenner's, Royal Yacht Britannia, and have a good walk along The Royal Mile and the streets off it."
See Post
Insomniac79 · Recommended
“Edinburgh has got the Castle and a great free museum, plus brilliant underground ghost/history walks and the Edinburgh dungeons. All very close together. Plus the royal mile, parliament, and Arthur's seat to climb if it's dry for amazing views. Beaches and the Pentlands are nearby. And great restaurants.”
See Post
Our verdict

The Scottish capital is a popular choice for a UK city break thanks to its beautiful architecture, sprawling parks, access to beaches and of course, the world's largest performance arts event, the Edinburgh Festival.

In addition to the narrow streets of the Medieval Old Town and the stunning Edinburgh Castle, the city has some great free attractions for families, from museums and galleries to street performers spanning the Royal Mile.

Set over five floors and with over 100 interactive, hands-on exhibits, Camera Obscura is filled with mind-boggling illusions and tricks. Kids will love the vortex tunnel, shrinking room and mirror maze, before checking out the impressive 360-degree views from the Rooftop Terrace. If your kids are obsessed with dinosaurs, you'll want to pay a visit to National Museum of Scotland, which is filled with hands-on exhibitions.

What Mumsnet users say
BonnesVacances · Recommended
“Liverpool just has a vibe. Especially down in Albert Docks. I was very impressed. We stayed in the Radisson hotel in the docks and the room had a massive window and a lovely view of the Mersey. It was just fabulous!”
See Post
Lurkerlot · Recommended
“Liverpool has loads to do around the dock area, plenty of really good places to eat, and great shopping, all walkable.”
See Post
Our verdict

Birthplace of the Beatles, Eurovision Song Contest host city and home to one of the largest art galleries outside London, Liverpool has a buzzing cultural scene. And there's plenty to entertain visitors of all ages, including the Museum of Liverpool, the Maritime museum and the Central Library.

Kids will love the free-to-enter World Museum with its dinosaur zone, bug house and aquarium, and music fans shouldn't miss a trip to the British Music Experience which takes visitors on a journey through British pop from 1945 to the present day. See some of Freddie Mercury's iconic outfits and Noel Gallagher’s world-famous guitar, you'll even get the chance to play a wide range of instruments in the interactive studio.

No trip to Liverpool would be complete without boarding a brightly coloured boat for a 50-minute ferry ride across the Mersey - a great way to take in the city’s skyline from the water. And yes, in case you are wondering, you'll hear the song while onboard!

What’s the best UK city to visit in winter?

London is a magical place to visit in winter and thanks to its excellent transport network, you can easily get around when it's cold outside. For festive lights, fantastic shopping and impressive views across the city at night, Edinburgh is also a fantastic choice in December and January, with a big wheel, ice skating and Hogmanay festivities galore.

What’s the best UK city to visit in summer?

In the summer months, cities that are close to the beach are always going to be a popular choice. We recommend a weekend city break to Portsmouth, Cardiff or Edinburgh when the sun is shining.

What’s the best UK city to visit with kids?

Based on the huge range of experiences and attractions recommended by Mumsnet users, York gets our pick as the top city to visit in the UK with kids. We were spoiled for choice when picking a selection of activities and attractions for kids, with Mumsnet users sharing a huge range of indoor and outdoor activities suitable for children of all ages. If you like chocolate, love Harry Potter, or simply want a family-friendly city that's fun to explore, York is an excellent choice.

How we chose our recommendations

We spent hours sifting through Mumsnet's UK Travel forum for recommendations from users on their experiences of family city breaks in the UK, including the destinations they’ve visited personally with their kids and would rate most highly for a UK city break.

We looked out for recommendations on family-friendly activities and attractions, to ensure each city catered for guests of all ages and offered plenty of entertainment for children whatever the weather.

We then consulted recommendations from travel experts and made sure we included attractions that are highly rated on TripAdvisor and review sites, ensuring that previous visitors were satisfied with their stay.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.