London is one of the most visited capitals in Europe and is a popular destination due to its diverse culture and rich history. The best way to explore is via one of the many walking tours through the city of Westminster, showcasing the likes of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Many of the museums are free to enter, including the Natural History Museum with its amazing Dinosaur Gallery, and then you can pop next door to check out the Science Museum. There are many markets and shopping areas around the capital – Camden being a favourite for all things retro and eclectic. For some glamorous shopping, try Oxford Street or Bond Street. Head over to the South Bank and take a spin on the London Eye in one of its 32 pods, followed by a visit to the London Aquarium, which is just next door. Of course, you can’t visit London without seeing Buckingham Palace, which opens its state rooms to the public from July to October. You can also enjoy the beauty of green spaces, including the large Hyde Park, where you can relax, walk, go paddle boating on the serpentine, or let the kids enjoy the Diana Memorial park.
• Stay at the Georgian House Hotel from £247 per night in an Enchanted Chamber including breakfast. Also enjoy the hotel’s Wizard’s afternoon tea for £30 per person. Book online at Georgianhousehotel.co.uk
There’s so much to see in Edinburgh that its worth picking out the top spots if you’re only visiting for a weekend – and the famous Edinburgh castle should certainly be on your list. Positioned proudly overlooking the city on a 700-year-old extinct volcano, there’s lots to see, from the Great Hall and The Royal Palace to the Scottish Crown Jewels. Enjoy hourly guided tours and learn about the history. At the end of the iconic Royal Mile, you’ll find Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, where the views of the city are worth the climb. Edinburgh Zoo is home to the UK’s only giant pandas Tian Tian (sweetie) and Yang Guang (sunshine), and you can watch them play in their natural environment. There are lots of festivals, and one of the most fun is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts and cultural festival in the UK. It lasts around three weeks in August, showcasing comedy, shows, theatre productions, cabarets and music. On your visit, appreciate some of the local food, including haggis, which is served from eateries all over the city, but each has its own take on the famous dish. Don’t miss the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, and of course, you can’t visit Edinburgh without sampling a dram or two of whisky!
• Stay at the ibis Styles Edinburgh, St Andrew Square, from £60 per night for a superior room. Book online at All.accor.com
Belfast, Northern Ireland
It’s no secret that the Irish are known for their friendliness, and wherever you head in Belfast, you’ll easily make new friends. This city is fast becoming one of Europe’s must-visit spots, and from its troubled history to it booming present, it’s worth dropping by. The Titanic was famously built in the city’s docks, and the two Harland & Wolff cranes, known as Samson and Goliath, dominate the skyline. At the Titanic Belfast attraction, you can explore the docks, walk the decks and travel to the depths of the ocean in an interactive experience. Over nine floors, you’ll learn all about the ship’s history. The city is relatively small, so you can explore on foot, but take a Black Cab Tour to check out some of the many wall murals around the area. The wall art shows both sides of the community and was previously used to make political statements, but they now have a more neutral feel. Or you can hop on board an open-top bus and take in the beautiful City Hall, Ulster Museum and the Botanic Gardens. If shopping’s your thing, then you’re in the right place as the city is home to many eclectic shops and boutiques selling jewellery, arts and crafts. There’s also Northern Ireland’s largest and oldest indoor market St George’s, which sells some of the finest food produce and is situated in a beautiful Victorian building.
Known for its sport, beautiful countryside, culture and as the home of Dr Who, Cardiff is a great escape if you’re after action and adventure. Cardiff Castle is one of Wales’ top attractions, with over 2,000 years of history dating from Roman times. Head to Cardiff Bay, a waterfront escape from the bustle of the city centre, where you’ll find the Wales Millennium Centre – the county’s equivalent to the Sydney Opera House. While there, explore the Norwegian Church Arts Centre, where Roald Dahl was baptised, and the Techniquest Science Discovery Centre, which is a fab family day out. The Dr Who Experience is also great, as the interactive tour takes you into the world of the Doctor. If you’re here for a sporting event, then the Millennium Stadium will blow you away. And if you want to get involved, Cardiff International White Water offers an Olympic raft and canoe course with activities to try. The stunning landscape and hills around the city make it the ideal destination for hikers and cyclists, too. There’s a variety of food, but don’t leave until you’ve tried a Welsh rarebit burger and traditional Welsh cakes.
• For more info, go to[ Visitwales.com](http://Cardiff.hilton.comtay at The Hilton Cardiff on a Cardiff City Break deal from £67.50 per person, including bed and breakfast, dinner or a bottomless brunch, and access to leisure facilities. Book online at Cardiff.hilton.com
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