10 of the best must-see city gems: precious places to discover, from Medieval to modern

10 of the best must-see city gems: precious places to discover, from Medieval to modern

The Leeds Library

Commercial Street, Leeds

With books dating back to the 1800s and a vast range of cookery, gardening and
nostalgia magazines, we can’t imagine a nicer place than this private library to curl
up for a good read. Membership does cost (£120/year, £170 for couples), but if you
make an appointment you can take a free tour instead! Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 9.30am-1pm. Call 01132 453071 or visit www.theleedslibrary.co.uk

Old Bowling Green

Lower Canal Walk, Southampton

Think Southampton’s all concrete? Think again! You’ll find the world’s oldest bowling  green tucked away between parklands and the quayside. Reportedly first used in  1299, nowadays the clubhouse is home to all sorts of intriguing memorabilia. Open to the public, except during matches and functions – enter if the side door is open! to confirm a specific date, call 0238 063 3907 or email info@sobg.co.uk

Marble Hall

Surrey House, Norwich

An Edwardian masterpiece by George Skipper, designed for The Norwich Union Life Insurance Society – and still Aviva’s headquarters today. Take a free tour during office hours (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri) and marvel at the grand staircase, chiming skeleton clock and 15 types of marble. Call 01603 681062 to book (advised, though you can look round without a guide, too). Visit www.norwich12.co.uk

Cold War Bunker

Monument Close, York

In this beautiful medieval city is a thoroughly 20th century secret – a Cold War bunker! Enter the blast-proof doors to find out more about Britain’s best-laid plans, which were thankfully never needed. One-hour guided tours now run seven times a day (weekends only) for the winter season. Adult £6.40, Conc £5.80, Child £3.80. Call 01904 646940 or visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/york-cold-war-bunker

St Olav Bookshop

North Street, Chichester

Over 950 years ago The Church of St Olave was built in Chichester and it still remains today, thanks to some 18th century renovation! Just a short distance from the city cross, this fascinating building nestles happily between modern shops. Now a Christian bookshop, it’s well worth a visit. Open Mon-Fri 9:30am-5pm, Sat 9am-5pm. Call 01243 782790 or visit www.stolavchristianbookshop.org

New Walk

From Belvoir Street, Leicester

Visiting Leicester? Head south along the pedestrianised New Walk. Developed in the late 18th century, many of the beautiful townhouses and wrought-iron railings were brought back to tip-top condition in the early Seventies. Go as far as Victoria Park for
a delightful urban jolly and take in the fabulous New Walk Museum and Art Gallery en route. Call them on 01162 254900 or visit www.leicester.gov.uk

City of Caves


Strangest of contrasts is this network of caves, accessed via the Broadmarsh shopping centre. Some 500 caves date back to the Middle Ages and have been used as recently as the 1940s. Indeed Nottingham has the biggest network of caves in Britain – so make your next shopping trip one to remember with a little extra adventure! Adults £7.50, Concessions and children £5.50. Open Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm. Call 01159 881955 or www.cityofcaves.com

Roath Park Conservatory


Experience a little piece of rainforest in the heart of the capital. Enjoy the view from
your bench, or ask the staff your gardening questions before feeding the fish, and
learning about the tropical plants. Wheelchair access available to the lower section.
Adults £2, concessions £1, under 5s free. Open 10.30am-3.15pm for winter season. Call Cardiff Parks Service on 02920 445911 or visit the conservatory's page at www.cardiff.gov.uk

Apprentice Boys of Derry Museum & Exhibition

Memorial Hall, Derry

Derry is famous for the political murals on its city walls, but if you fancy keeping your toes warm then pop into Memorial Hall. During winter it’s open to pre-arranged groups. Peruse at your leisure or take a guided tour to learn about the Siege of Derry, and view the Orders’ meeting rooms. Booking essential. Email tours@apprenticeboys.co.uk or visit www.apprenticeboys.co.uk/museum

Fergusson Gallery

Marshall Place, Perth

This lovely, domed building not only showcases the work of artist John Duncan Fergusson and dance pioneer Margaret Morris, but also tells the story of their loving relationship, and the years they spent together after their first meeting in 1913 Paris. Entry is free, with city centre parking nearby. Access to first floor via stairs only.
Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm. Call 01738 783425 or visit www.pkc.gov.uk/museums


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