"A paradise for shoppers, Leeds has been dubbed the 'Knightsbridge of the North'."

Get under the skin of these five cities and explore the quirky attractions, chic bars and hidden gems, right next to the well-known tourist favourites

 

Glasgow

 

Glasgow's biggest cultural contribution might once have been the deep fried Mars bar, but these days it's a bubbling cauldron of cool. Art and culture are everywhere and the city has a great track record for creating Turner Prize winning artists and breakthrough bands. For a slice of this scene, visit the Gallery of Modern Art, in the city centre. Fans of the modern should also drop into the Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art. You can only get in as part of a guided tour, but it's well worth it for the spectacular interiors.

 

And if you want to rub shoulders with Glasgow's arts set you're spoiled for choice. Soviet-themed Bloc+ is a popular alternative bar on Bath Street, which invites visitors to bring along an instrument and jam with the Blocestra - Bloc+'s ad hoc orchestra. Elsewhere Nice 'N' Sleazy hosts live music, although Glasgow's food fans also come here for the burgers and reasonably priced mango daiquiris. If you're after a more romantic evening, head to Boudoir in Merchant City. This intimate little cocktail bar is the ideal love nest, with low lighting and draped velvet.  

 

Newcastle

 

Visit Newcastle and you'll discover a city with its finger on the pulse of style and a keen sense of fun. The recently made-over Newcastle Quayside is a striking show of confidence, but for a glimpse of the real city you'll have to head into the streets. Newcastle has a vibrant shopping scene and fashion-forward day-trippers should head straight to High Bridge. A short walk from the station, this quarter is home to destination retailers End and Union Clothing, both of whom stock an enviable selection of smart street styles. A cluster of quality vintage shops in the area also provide hours of rummaging fun if you're looking for a one-of-a-kind piece.

 

If you fancy an alternative night on 'the toon' head to Ouseburn, a hub for creatives. The Tyne Bar is a popular choice for its quirky beer garden under a railway bridge, while The Cluny is the best place in town to catch exciting new bands.

 

 

Leeds

 

A paradise for shoppers, Leeds has been dubbed the 'Knightsbridge of the North'. Ever since Harvey Nichols opened its first branch outside London here in 1996 the city's retail ranking has rocketed. The recently opened Trinity Shopping Centre in the heart of the city is home to bags of high street brands and a great place to pick up a wardrobe's worth of fashion essentials. But for boutique shopping, head to the iconic Corn Exchange, where independent shops sell everything from arts and crafts to the next big trend - all in a beautiful Grade I listed building. Go to Mad Elizabeth for unique vintage pieces or pick up some colourful treats and Japanese inspired Jewellery at Candy Candy.

 

If all that shopping takes it out of you, Leeds has plenty of places you can refuel with a coffee. The city's gone through a barista revolution and now has some excellent places to grab an espresso. Five minutes' walk from the Corn Exchange you'll find Brewbar, a new specialist coffee shop under Leeds Art Gallery, which offers expertly made coffee.

 

Here in the evening? Leeds has some exceptional nightlife. The HiFi Club hosts comedy, live music and DJ sets, or you can join Leeds' new music fans at The Cockpit.

 

Manchester

 

Amazing shopping, a buzzing café culture and some of the hottest bars in the north give Manchester obvious pulling power, but the city has its fair share of high culture too. Oxford Road is sometimes known as Manchester's 'cultural corridor' and is a great place to get to grips with the city's intelligentsia. At the northern end, the Cornerhouse is the place to catch arthouse cinema or just grab a coffee and eavesdrop on the clever chatter. Head south to explore the Manchester Museum with its giant T-Rex and ancient Egyptian artefacts. Alternatively, drop into The Urbis building in the centre of town, home to the National Football Museum. It's the world's biggest football museum, it's open seven days a week and, remarkably, totally free to get in.

Lancaster

 

Many visitors will make a beeline for the grand castle, but this isn't the only way to dive into Lancaster's history. Judges' Lodgings is the oldest townhouse in the city, dating back to 1590. Originally the home of the witch hunter and keeper of the castle, Thomas Covell, it's now open for visitors to snoop around the period interiors.

 

For something more modern check out the city's arts scene. The Dukes on Moor Lane hosts plays and screens the latest arthouse films, while the Peter Scott Gallery (part of the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts) reopens this October. And to mingle with Lancaster's creative clique, swing by NICE Bar at The Storey. The food has a Mediterranean twist and is all sourced locally. Our choice? The lamb shoulder in mint and berries - absolutely divine.  

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