Rushing through the UK is easily done – tick London, Oxford and Edinburgh off your list, and you’re good to head on to the next place. But the UK has so much more to offer than its bustling capital, historical university towns and picturesque castles.

I recently explored the northwestern regions of England over a couple of weekends, and think that adding one week in North West England to your UK itinerary is an absolute must! Here is how to fill that week.

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

Manchester (2 days)

Manchester is a great starting point for touring North West England. Its airport is one of the main international hubs on the island and most trains along the West Coast of the UK stop here. Of course convenient transport isn’t reason enough to visit a city on its own, but Manchester convinced me with a few other features.

Vintage shopping

The shops on Oldham Street in Manchester’s city centre are some of the best vintage shops I’ve ever set foot in. And I’ve been to London and Stockholm. Admittedly the styles you find are more or less the same quirky and unique stuff you’d find in London – but OMG the prices! My favourite stores were Cow and Pop Boutique, but there are many more vintage fashion, second hand vinyl and charity shops to chose from!

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

Music history

Who doesn’t like Oasis? Well, and if you don’t like Oasis, you might enjoy James, New Order, Morrissey or Joy Division! Manchester has a rich music history, but an even richer contemporary music scene with gigs and shows happening all the time.

Art everywhere

Manchester is a very artsy city – what is it about former industrial cities in the UK and their thriving art scenes? There are many museums and galleries, such as the Whitworth Gallery, HOME or Manchester Art Gallery in town. At the latter you can currently see a great photography exhibition, portraying Great Britain through the lenses of international photographers from the 1930s onwards. Entrance is free!

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

My favourite area in Manchester was the Northern Quarter, a mix of slightly run-down and more upmarket bohemian neighbourhoods in the northern section of central Manchester. To learn more about the social and cultural history of the area, as well as the street art pieces ranging from the 1990s to today I booked a private tour with Hayley Flynn from Skyliner. If you’re in town for her monthly street art tours, go for it, and if not, get a group of people together and book a private tour like me. You’ll hear loads about the history and development of the Northern Quarter, find some amazing street art and hear the stories behind it – and you’ll walk away with a better understanding of how street art and city life blend in with each other.

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

Where to stay

We splashed out on a beautiful room at Gotham Hotel, a 5-star retro hotel in the city which is inspired by the 1920s and 30s. The building itself is a sightseeing attraction, and the hotel was definitely one of the best city hotels I’ve ever tried. Every little detail was perfect – from the hidden bar in our wardrobe to the rooftop cocktail bar!

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.


Lake District (3 days)

The Lake District National Park lies just 1.5 hours drive from Manchester, but can also be reached by train – whichever you prefer. I’d recommend renting a car, as the area is top-drawer road trip material!

We stayed in a spa hotel near Bowness-on-Windermere, which is in the southern Lake District, and explored the area from there. Here are a few things to do:

Drive

As I said, the roads here are among the most scenic in the UK, and whether you’re adventurous and wanna drive up and down Kirkstone Pass, or just along the shores of the lakes, it is totally up to you.

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

Hike

Hiking trails in the Lake District can fill hours or days, and cater to all sorts of difficulty levels. If you’re after a scenic trail that isn’t too challenging but still rewards you with great views at the top, I can recommend the trail up Loughrigg Fell from White Moss. It only takes about 2 hours to complete the circle, so it’s a great little activity to fit in with a day of relaxing at the spa.

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England. When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

Explore the towns

The villages in the Lake District are beautiful, and to be totally honest, every single one of them deserves a day of your attention. If you’ve got to choose though, I’d visit Keswick in the northern Lake District, and Grasmere in the centre. Another beautiful place that I only know from local stories is the medieval village of Cartmel just south of the Lake District!

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

You can easily fill three days in the National Park, exploring different villages, hiking different trails and eating your way around the culinary highlights of the region.


Liverpool (2 days)

I’ve added Liverpool at the end of this trip under the assumption that you will be flying in and out of Manchester. If you’re heading further up north after exploring this region, you could also visit Liverpool before driving to the Lake District. Either way, here are a few things to put on your itinerary:

Beatlemania

As a devoted Beatles fan, I figured I’d spend at least a day in Liverpool learning more about the band’s history at The Beatles Story museum, visiting their childhood homes with a Beatles tour and stopping by such iconic places as Penny Lane or Eleanor Rigby’s grave. To make my Beatles experience even more perfect, I booked a room at the Beatles hotel, A Hard Day’s Night. All rooms are Beatles-themed and the bar serves cocktails named after Beatles songs. In addition, the hotel is located in the famous Cavern Quarter, and just a stone’s throw away from the Cavern Pub & Club where the Beatles rose to fame.

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England. When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

Waterfront & Albert Dock

On a sunny morning, there is nothing more beautiful than a stroll along Liverpool’s Waterfront and Albert Dock!

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

Bold Street

Possibly my favourite place in Liverpool, Bold Street is a shopping street in the Ropewalks neighbourhood. It combines an eclectic mix of vintage shops, coffee houses, restaurants, bars and stationery shops that made my heart beat faster. My top tip: breakfast at Leaf on Bold Street!

Cocktails all night long!

Ropewalks isn’t just great during the day, but also at night, when the cocktail bars and trendy clubs open their doors. We tried and failed to get into Kazimier Garden after hearing the amazing music coming out from it – probably because we had spent most of our night (and money) at Santa Chupitos where they serve awesome cocktails that require a Bunsen burner for preparation, making it impossible to drink just one or two.

When you visit England, don't just stop in London. Exciting cities and jaw-dropping landscapes are waiting too - here is how to spend one week in North-West England.

Of course, northern England has more to it than the Western side – just think of York and the North York Moors National Park, or Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. Spending one week in North West England is only just the beginning of exploring all the beautiful places England has to offer. Which would you choose next?

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.

Disclaimer: This trip was supported by Expedia and Visit Britain.