Top 10 UK cities for the architecture lover

Every country is famed for its own styles of architecture, but in the United Kingdom you can see many stand side by side within its cities. The historical structures from the UK’s past, such as Roman fortifications and medieval monasteries, can be found among the civility of Georgian residences and soaring skyscrapers of modern design. If you journey across the cities of our kingdom, ensure you take the time to look up at the astounding edifices built to endure as testaments to our imagination, innovation and architectural excellence.

Here are 10 of the UK’s architecturally brilliant cities:

1. London

Each year, millions of visitors arrive in the UK capital of London just to witness the structures that stand within the city. From the exquisite St Paul’s Cathedral designed by the acclaimed architect Sir Christopher Wren, to the RIBA award winning Gherkin, past meets present to great effect in this huge southeastern city.

The stately beauty of the Houses of Parliament overlook the River Thames, and the grand Westminster Abbey pierces the London sky, but it’s the Shard, a 95-level skyscraper, that holds the record as the tallest building in the country.

2. Bath

The Somerset city of Bath is an exceptional location in which to view a variety of architectural styles in a single visit. From its Historic Roman Baths to the Palladian architecture, it was for its edifices in 1987 that Bath was nominated a World Heritage Site.

A jewel of the southwest, Bath boasts residential architecture from John Wood, the Elder and the Younger in the Georgian style showcased in the celebrated Royal Crescent. Other must-see structures include the Pulteney Bridge and the majestic Bath Abbey.

3. Glasgow

Once famed for shipbuilding, the port city of Glasgow has now become a cultural hub of international repute. The buildings standing in this Scottish city provide a feast for the architectural eye in a mix of styles from early 20th Century back to the Victorian era.

Designed by Dame Zaha Hadid, the Riverside Museum presents a meeting of the past and present. Built to portray Glasgow’s industrial and maritime history with glass facades and dominant angles, it’s also firmly in the future. The famous Mackintosh designs that created the “Glasgow Style” can be seen in the Lighthouse tower, as well as the Scottish Gothic of Glasgow Cathedral.

4. Bristol

From 20th-Century Brutalism back to medieval fortifications, the maritime city of Bristol has an eclectic collection of architecture.

Unique to the city, the Bristol Byzantine style, popularised in the middle of the 19th Century, can still be seen such as Colsten Hall and the Carriage Works. Medieval, Tudor, Stuart, Georgian and Regency architectural examples are all to be found within the southwestern city, as well as the innovative work of prolific Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

5. Liverpool

Much of the city of Liverpool’s architecture has been dictated by its location and role as a major and integral port for the British Empire. With architecture ranging across three centuries there are a wealth of style to explore.

English Heritage describes Liverpool as the finest Victorian city in England and many of its greatest structures started as headquarters to shipping firms. From Cathedrals to castles, there are still structures from times past to visit in Liverpool, but stunning modern architecture too – from the Museum of Liverpool at Pier Head, to the West Tower on Brook Street.

6. Newcastle-upon-Tyne

The city of Newcastle is placed on the River Tyne, spanned by the innovative tilting Millennium Bridge, a masterpiece of modern ingenuity. Newcastle’s architecture dates further back than this.

The city’s namesake Castle Keep is Grade I listed and officially an ancient monument built on a site where William the Conqueror’s son Robert Curthouse’s Norman home once stood. Built between the years 1824 to 1841, Grainger Town is considered the historic heart of the city and an unrivalled example of Classical Tyneside architecture. An English Goth Cathedral can be seen here, as well as a restored Friary from the 13th Century and homes from the Regency period.

7. Edinburgh

Modern masterpieces sit side by side with medieval monuments in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. From the controversial Parliament Building of that divides the city with its aesthetics to the lofty castle that commands attention, you’ll find a myriad of unmissable edifices.

The cobbles of the Royal Mile, 1960s and even Georgian housing can all be seen in this famous city, which boasts close to 5,000 listed buildings.

8. Cardiff

Famed for its fantastical and fairy tale castles, the Welsh capital of Cardiff features two impressive architectural designs by William Burges – Castell Coch and Cardiff Castle. The city’s architecture ranges from the Norman period up to the present day but much of it is built on Roman foundations.

Equally impressive structures from the 21st Century stand in the Welsh city, from the reflective façade of Cardiff Central Library to the unique design of The Senedd debating chamber for Wales’s National Assembly.

9. Belfast

The Northern Irish capital of Belfast displays an impressive architectural landscape. Meaning “Mouth of the Sound”, the city takes its name from the Irish phrase “Beal Feirste”, which describes its coastal location. This long-established maritime reputation can be felt in the modern architecture of Titanic Quarter.

You’ll also discover unmissable structures across the city designed by architect Sir Charles Lanyon, including his Palm House, among the first iron-framed glasshouses in Europe, and the Lanyon Building, a gothic centrepiece for The Queen’s University.

10. Manchester

The city of Manchester offers a skyline full of architectural highlights. Ultra-modern and contemporary structures sidle up to Gothic and Georgian structures against the northern skies.

The city is product of England’s industrial revolution and is renowned for a forward-thinking and functional approach to architecture, from warehouses and mills to viaducts and canals. However, with commerce came wealth and there are many grand structures to be observed from John Ryland’s Library, the Town Hall’s Neo-Gothic styling, to the astonishing Manchester Cathedral. At Deansgate, the Beetham Tower stands as the tallest building in the United Kingdom outside of the capital.

Grade listed buildings and ancient architectural sites can be found throughout the cities of the United Kingdom and are wonderful to behold. However, they didn’t arrive by magic. These stunning structures were designed by great minds who sought to transform the urban landscape with edifices that would inspire and astound. From the London masterworks of Sir Christopher Wren to the provocative genius Enric Miralles in Glasgow, the skylines of our cities would be nothing without the ingenious architects who brought them into being.

Posted by Mark
October 16, 2019

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