The UK’s Top Artistic Towns And Cities


Fans of contemporary art will love Liverpool Biennial (from 9 Jul), the UK’s biggest festival 
of its kind. Now in its ninth year, it showcases 42 international and local artists inspired by the city. The artwork is based on themes including Monuments from the Future; Ancient Greece, as the city’s architecture is inspired by it; and Chinatown, because Liverpool is home to one of Europe’s oldest Chinese communities. Director Sally Tallant says: ‘Building on our year-round programme of commissions in Liverpool, including Sir Peter Blake’s Dazzle Ferry, we hope to create a long-lasting contribution to the cultural life of the city and make it a place where artists can live and thrive.’

Highlights include local artist Mark Leckey’s Dream English Kid, a film inspired by his life in the 1970s, which will be screened alongside new sculptures in Saw Mill on Parr Street. You can also see classical Greek sculptures from National Museums Liverpool on display in Tate Liverpool, while American artist Betty Woodman creates a large-scale bronze fountain outside George’s Dock Ventilation Tower. Children will enjoy British artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s film, Dogsy Ma Bone, which was directed by young people – see it at Cains Brewery, the main Biennial venue. While you’re here, see John Moores Painting Prize (from 9 Jul) at the Walker Art Gallery.

More to see: Hop on to the Echo Wheel of Liverpool for city views. Beatles fans must visit the Cavern Club, where the Fab Four played. The location moved in the 1970s, but the look is the same. And visit Liverpool Cathedral, the largest in the country.

Where to eat: Open from breakfast to dinner, East Avenue Bakehouse on Bold Street near Liverpool Central bakes its own bread and serves local British produce.

Where to stay: The Richmond hotel is a Grade II-listed building near Walker Art Gallery. A weekend single night costs from £98, based on two people sharing.

How to get there: London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street costs from £32 return (from two hours 14 minutes).


Sculpture GardenSt Ives

With its bobbing fishing boats, cobbled streets and beautiful beaches, you can see why St Ives has always attracted artists – including JMW Turner, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Today, it is one of Cornwall’s most popular towns, thanks to its beaches, craft shops, cafés and galleries, ranging from the hip to the huge.

The best place to start your artistic journey is at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, which is 40 years old this year. The museum is located within the artist’s former studios, where she lived and worked. Even though Tate St Ives is currently closed (it’s due to reopen next year with an extension), there are plenty of galleries to visit. Bernard Leach, one of the world’s greatest potters, founded The Leach Pottery Studio & Museum in 1920. The collection includes pieces by Leach, William Marshall and Kenneth Quick. In the autumn it will also offer pottery classes.

New Craftsman Gallery is the oldest gallery in St Ives. Established in 1962 by Leach’s wife Janet, it is now home to works by many leading Cornish artists.

More to see: Godrevy, with its sandy beaches and cliffs, is a National Trust site that’s perfect for walks and surfing.

Where to eat: Porthminster Beach Café has terraces, beach vistas and an award-winning menu that specialises in seafood with Mediterranean and Asian flavours. But you can’t visit Cornwall without trying a Cornish pasty – pastry filled with meat or vegetables. Pengenna Pasties often tops the lists for the best pasties – fillings include lamb, cheese and onion, and steak and Stilton cheese.

Where to stay: The Blues Hayes hotel is located near Porthminster Beach. The bedrooms are great for couples – some have four-poster beds and others boast seafront views. Prices start at £150 per night based on two people sharing.

How to get there: London Paddington to St Ives costs from £62.60 return (from five hours 56 minutes).


When you say ‘Manchester’, often the first thing that springs to mind is its world-famous football team, Manchester United. The northern city, however, is also home to many cultural landmarks, including The Lowry theatre and gallery complex and the Imperial War Museum North in Salford Quays. The Lowry is a sight to behold. Built in 2000, the building pops out of the waterfront like a ship. Inside the icon is a theatre, restaurants and gallery. The Lowry Gallery celebrates the artist LS Lowry, who was born in nearby Stretford, and is home to the largest collection of his work.

Last year, the venue underwent a revamp and now has more gallery space. You can combine a great British artist with a great British tradition by taking a Curator-led Tour of the LS Lowry Collection and Afternoon Tea (27 Jul). At the Imperial War Museum North, there is the exhibition World War II: Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style. Take a good look at the building, which is also an architectural wonder – it was created in aluminum by Daniel Libeskind. Manchester Art Gallery has Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite works, and last year’s Museum of the Year, the Whitworth Art Gallery, includes works by William Blake, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Millais and JMW Turner.

More to see: Manchester United Museum & Stadium Tour of Old Trafford is a rite of passage for fans of the team. You’ll see the changing rooms and the players’ tunnel. If you have an extra day, explore the Pennines, a spectacular range of rugged hills.

Where to eat: Try the British national dish – chicken tikka masala – on the ‘Curry Mile’. At the Punjab Tandoori Restaurant, it can be cooked according to taste: mild, medium, hot and ‘apna style’, which is more like home-cooked food. Football fans won’t want to miss Cafe Football. Created by footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, the menu features comfort food such as macaroni cheese.

Where to stay: Budget hotel Motel One is close to Manchester Piccadilly station. It doesn’t cut corners on style and is within walking distance of many landmarks. Prices start at £84 per night based on two people sharing.

How to get there: London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly costs from £42 return (from two hours).


In 2011, the National Museum of Scotland reopened after a £50 million redevelopment. Since then, it has had more than eight million visitors, making it the UK’s most popular museum outside of London. Its latest development sees the opening of 10 new galleries (from 8 Jul), which will focus on science, technology and art. Many items haven’t been seen by the public for years. Highlights include a Picasso sculpture and the remains of Dolly the sheep – the first mammal cloned from adult cells.

While you’re in the city, check out the Scottish National Portrait Gallery close to Edinburgh Waverley station; the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One in expansive grounds to the west of the city centre; and the nearby Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Two – catch ARTIST ROOMS: Joseph Beuys: A Language of Drawing (from 30 Jul). Meanwhile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the royal family’s official residence in Scotland, is hosting the exhibition Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe.

More to see: Edinburgh Castle is rich in history and is home to the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles. Climb up Calton Hill, which is 338ft high, for spectacular views.

Where to eat: Visit French bistro La Garrigue by the station. Try snails or blue cheese soufflé.

Where to stay: Residence Inn is a reliable mid-range option. A single night costs from £142, based on two people sharing.

How to get there: London King’s Cross or London Euston to Edinburgh costs from £71 return (from four hours 20 minutes).

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