7 Unexpected Experiences You Can Only Have In Britain’s Coolest Cities
Go beyond Britain's most famous attractions to discover unexpected experiences.
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Great Britain may be the land of room temperature beer (trust us, it works), but it’s nevertheless a veritable magnet for experience-hungry travellers seeking culture, charm and pub grub on a whole new level.
And while the UK abounds in tourist-approved attractions that never seem to get old, it’s the treasure trove of surprises to uncover in its most exciting cities that offer an alluring detour from the beaten track. From tiny, Madchester-era record stores in Manchester to a kaleidoscopic, neon lover’s playground in London, here are some of the singular ways to experience Ol’ Blighty. Excuse us while we check out flights to the UK.
#1 God’s Own Junkyard
Movie buffs and history junkies alike will marvel at this showcase of neon artist Chris Bracey’s personal collection of work, held in a London salvage yard.
Maybe you’ll recognise a piece from movies like Captain America or Eyes Wide Shut, or maybe you’ll simply enjoy being transported to 1960s London, when the city was drenched in a dazzling array of neon.
Before his death in 2014, Bracey spent years collecting discarded pieces from wrapped film sets and shuttered businesses, and constantly repurposing found objects and waste into new works of neon art to add to his collection. God’s Own Junkyard is truly where neon dreams are made.
# 2 Llechwedd Caverns Trampoline Park
Wales: land of unpronounceable words, King Arthur and medieval castles. And, it seems, epic trampoline parks deep underground.
Bounce Below might be the only place in the world where you can go trampolining through caverns made up of the world’s finest slate rock. Enter through an old mine train and discover a dizzying maze of 10,000 square feet of netting, suspended between three levels of trampolines – 20 feet, 60 feet or 180 feet off the ground. Just try not to look down!
#3 Piccadilly Records
Look no further than Manchester for an authentic taste of the UK’s much-lauded music scene. Credited as the birthplace of Madchester, a music and cultural scene associated with alternative rock, acid house and early 90s fashion, Manchester is a proverbial mecca for music lovers – and Piccadilly Records is like a gift shop that transports you to another time.
With a staggering collection of lesser-known and rare vinyl in just about every genre, it’s pulled crate diggers from all over since first opening in 1978. It’s also the home of regular music events, like gigs, DJ sets and exclusive album playbacks.
An honourable mention goes to Eastern Bloc Records, one of the only shops in the UK where early Madchesters could find imported dance music when it opened in the mid ’80s.
Located in Edinburgh, Summerhall is a multi-disciplinary arts space open to the public all year round, a kind of melting pot of artistic talent and community spirit where there’s always something on.
As the city’s newest and biggest arts venue, you’ll find theatre, visual art exhibitions, studios and workshops on any given day. This year, you can discover emerging musicians at the Nothing Ever Happens Here show, weekly life drawing classes, and spoken word nights that showcase everything from poetry to bedtime stories.
#5 Bad Film Club
The team at Bristol’s famous Bad Film Club will argue the only thing better than watching a great film is watching a really, really bad one. Friends Timon Singh and Tim Popple have created a space for movie fans to share a few drinks and more than a few laughs over some of the worst films ever made.
Catch rare gems (a word used loosely) like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, 1959 film Plan 9 From Out Of Space about aliens resurrecting dead people and the famously terrible Troll 2 in different movie theatres around the city. Bad movies, good times.
#6 Baltic Food Market
Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle has come to rival Manchester’s Northern Quarter and various parts of London in terms of hipness, and it’s largely due to the transformation of one of the area’s most iconic buildings, the Cains Brewery, into a giant food market.
Holding its own with the likes of Europe’s most sought-after food halls, the Baltic Food Market is a must-see for any self-labelled foodie with cultural leanings. The ten-strong roster of food vendors changes frequently, while each weekend will welcome DJs, live music and other events. Plus, entry is free – more money to spend on cocktails, cakes, Asian street food and smoked meats.
#7 Holbeck Underground Ballroom
As a university town, Leeds is famous for it’s millennial-friendly approach to nightlife and live music. But if at any point you find yourself hankering for a dose of theatre, Holbeck Underground Ballroom is a great place to soak some up.
A leading arts space, Holbeck Underground Ballroom turns all notions of fusty, exclusive theatres on their head. It’s accessible, experimental and above all, welcoming
Pull up a comfy armchair to watch a ‘pay what you feel’ cutting-edge theatre show, and sip on 1 pound beer or free coffee. Nestled in the iconic industrial thick of Leeds, the Ballroom is one of the city’s best-kept secrets.
(Feature image: God’s Own Junkyard/Facebook)
In Britain, there are surprises around every corner. Set off on a trip to discover the unexpected and find your Great Britain. Find out more here.