Our Top Five UK City Breaks for Christmas Shopping
Sponsored Feature in Association with American Express
City Breaks and Christmas shopping, two very different ways to spend a weekend with two very different factors for success. But can you combine the two into a single, epically enjoyable experience?
We take a virtual tour of five of the UK’s biggest and best cities where you can nail the festive shopping and enjoy some of the finest dining and drinking experiences our country has to offer.
We researched this post by connecting our American Express card with TripAdvisor, which unlocks a range of exclusive content for Cardmembers that includes ‘Hotspot’ guides to some of the very best restaurants, bars and hotels in these cities recommended by other American Express Cardmembers. On top of that you can access a regular suite of offers.
Why: The Scottish capital is stylish, culture-rich and has plenty to take in. Edinburgh is more of a traditional city break and it’s easy to see why. The best way to take it all in, is to admit to yourself that you’re a tourist and just go and absorb all of the sights.
Hotel: Bonhams is a luxury four-star boutique hotel situated in the West End of Edinburgh, and a great option. It is one of the most stylish hotels in Edinburgh. G&V Royal Mile is equally impressive, an almost contemporary landmark, and the only five-star hotel on the historic Royal Mile.
Shop: Princes Street is the home to Jenners, a quirky department store that is to Edinburgh what Harrods is to London. Alternatively, head to George Street, where you’ll find high-end shops and designer boutiques sitting alongside high street favourites. A comprehensive multi-brand experience is offered at Livingston Designer Outlet, named as one of the top 5 shopping outlets in the UK.
Restaurant: Fishers in the City is located in an old converted warehouse on Thistle Street – a great venue for a casual lunch or a couple on date night, and is noted for its exquisite fish dishes. For something truly special, take a look at The Honours by Michelin starred chef Martin Wishart who combines seasonal, Scottish flavours in brasserie-influenced dishes.
To do:Calton Hill – take a walk up to the city’s best vantage point, with views of the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh Castle and the volcanic hill known as Arthur’s Seat. For time out, more great views and an eclectic mix of restaurants and shops, then head down to the very laid back Leith waterfront area.
Why: Liverpool’s reinvention has been well documented, led by its appointment as City of Culture. It now has an abundance of attractions, events, sport and an unrivalled musical heritage. It also boasts the largest collection of museums and galleries anywhere outside of London.
Hotel: For something a little different, try the Hope Street Hotel, an award winning boutique hotel that is privately owned and independently run. Also of note is Hotel Indigo, which sits on a site once central to the local cotton industry, and takes its colourful interior design cues from this historical trade.
Shop: Centrally located, Liverpool ONE is a large open-air shopping district with 160 famous high street and designer names, including one of our favourites – Flannels. For more exclusive shops, the Metquarter delivers high-end fashion brands such as Gieves & Hawkes, Hugo Boss and Armani Exchange. And for the ultra-fashionable, visit Cavern Walks where you will find Vivienne Westwood and famed designer boutique Cricket. You will find independent stores at Bold Street, selling everything from world foods to clothes and records to art.
Restaurant: We like Matou, a modern pan-Asian restaurant overlooking the reinvigorated dock waterfront area of Liverpool, and one of the city’s renowned landmarks, the Pier Head. Another superb option is 60 Hope Street, a family owned and run restaurant spread over three floors of a Georgian town house. The changing menu of seasonal British food is entering its 15th year of delivering fine cuisine and service to match.
To do: Catch a DJ set at The East Village Arts Club, recently refurbished and one of the coolest music venues in the country. Or head to The Caledonia for some live jazz or rockabilly and a pint in a friendly, homely atmosphere.
Why: Centrally located within the UK, and an up and coming city that offers a surprisingly diverse and exciting blend of shopping, arts, fine dining and opportunities to discover new things.
Hotel:Malmaison or Hotel du Vin – both are chain hotels of outstanding quality, offering excellent accommodation, a fantastic bar for pre-restaurant drinks and well-appointed rooms.
Shop: The famed Bullring Shopping Centre offers an array of high quality shops, while The Mailbox also offers high-end outlets, fashion boutiques and is home to a branch of Harvey Nichols. Have a poke around The Custard Factory, where you’ll find an exceptional mix of vintage shops, boutiques and art dealers, all packaged-up with food and a live music space.
Restaurant:Edmunds – for fine dining; small, intimate and with views overlooking Brindleyplace. The food is superb. For a livelier option try Bank across Brindleyplace. It’s a bar/ restaurant where they mix first class cocktails with the atmosphere spilling into the restaurant where the food is top notch.
To do: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts and the Ikon Gallery offer both ends of the art spectrum. The former comprising a surprisingly broad collection of Old Masters, whilst the latter offers internationally acclaimed modern and contemporary art. For the evening, try the world famous Symphony Hall, a staggeringly beautiful 2,262 seat concert venue. You’ll find anything from Jazz and Comedy through to world-renowned artists.
Why: The capital a true city of the world, with something for everyone. From the tailors of Savile Row to the dizzying views from The Shard, there’s something for everyone – and almost too much to mention.
Hotel: The Sanderson hotel is staggering, located in the heart of London’s West End in a landmarked 1950s building been transformed by Philippe Starck. It epitomises new luxury; smart, pared-down and unique. An alternative is The Connaught, a more traditional offering in the heart of Mayfair – perfect for the fashionable districts of London and the West End.
Shop: The options the capital has to offer are huge, from luxury shops such as Harrods to unique retail outlets like Dover Street Market. For a complete option under one roof, it has to be London’s sizeable Westfield centres, that have absolutely everything you could possibly want or need. At the other end of the scale, top markets such as Spitalfields and Portobello Road feature eclectic mixes of stalls surrounded by boutiques, high end shops and quality eateries.
Restaurant: Burger & Lobster – as simple as it sounds; burger or lobster for around £20. The best part though, with such a ‘limited’ menu – they can focus 100% on quality with Nebraskan steak and Canadian lobster… unreal. For something more exotic, try Michelin Star award-winning Hakkasan, which offers the finest modern Cantonese cuisine.
To do: Visit East London – where you’ll find trendy bars and shops, street art galleries and unique restaurants. The most notable areas are Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Hackney Wick and Dalston. Alternatively, head to upmarket Mayfair and get a luxurious wet shave at Geo F Trumper on Curzon Street.
Why: Manchester, just like Birmingham, is a former industrial town that has reinvigorated itself and evolved into a thoroughly modern city. You only have to look at Man City, the shopping, bars, restaurants and cultural options available.
Hotel:The Lowry – located by the River Irwell is a stylish, five-star hotel named after the artist L. S. Lowry. It offers luxury, excellent service and is suitably located for exploring the city. For something more traditional try The Midland Hotel, housed in an impressive building standing in the heart of Manchester’s city centre. Serving guests throughout its 100 year history, the hotel has played host to royalty, literally and metaphorically.
Shop: Head to Exchange Square in the city centre for a host of high-end department stores. For something more boutique, it has to be King Street and/or the Spinningfields area, which has an Armani Store as you enter from Deansgate, plus Mulberry and DKNY. For something a little different try the Northern Quarter for one-off shops and quirky finds.
Restaurant:The Alchemist – where the food is great but even better; their team of mixologists who push the boundaries of the Manchester drinking experience. For something more high-end fine dining try Australasia- serving modern Australian cuisine with Pacific Rim flavours underpinned by European cooking tradition. Concoctions are based around a blend of Indonesian Southeast Asian and Japanese influences also help determine the taste and style.
To do: There are plenty of options in Manchester. For something unique to the city, try The National Football Museum at the Urbis building in the city centre founded to preserve, conserve and interpret several important collections of association football memorabilia. If you enjoy architecture, then a visit to The John Rylands Library – a late-Victorian neo-Gothic building on Deansgate in Manchester, England – is a must. It’s truly stunning.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the hotspot content and travel offers then you can connect your American Express card to TripAdvisor at www.americanexpress.co.uk/TripAdvisor.
This post is sponsored by American Express
The Mailbox, headquarters of BBC Birmingham. The Mailbox, Birmingham, UK. By Bs0u10e01.
Edinburgh Castle at sunset © Historic Scotland.
Liverpool – VisitLiverpool.com
London from a hot air balloon by Daniel Chapma – Flickr.
Manchester at night at Flickr by Michael Colvin.