Have you ever wondered what the biggest cities in the UK are, the history they have behind them and what they have on offer? Well, that is where we step in… We are here to give you the lowdown on that information and show you exactly what you are missing out on the top 10 biggest cities in the UK, which you may not have necessarily known before.

10.  Cardiff

biggest cities in the UK
Source: Cardiff University

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, serving both as a city and county. Its nickname is the “City of Arcades” and is home to the biggest concentration of Victorian, Edwardian and modern-day shopping arcades in the whole of Britain.

Now, let’s look into a bit of the history of the city. Cardiff officially became the Capital of Wales in 1955 and remains Europe’s smallest city. It was originally built as a small port in the 1st century. Along came the 11th century, and the Normans had arrived. The Norman landowner Robert Fitzhamon built within the remains of a fort the Romans had originally built

The city acted as a market centre and small port, and then, as the city expanded, it became an established centre for the development of coal and iron ore mines around Merthyr Tydfil around the second half of the 18th century.

In the present day, Cardiff remains the most important administrative, shopping and cultural centre in the country. As well as this, it is also the Head Quarters for many national organisations and government departments.

Attractions to visit in Cardiff: Cardiff Castle, Llandaff Cathedral and Medieval Parish

Population: 447,287

9.  Leeds

biggest cities in the UK
Source: Shoosmiths

Originally an Anglo-Saxon township, the city of Leeds was a local market centre that wasn’t incorporated until 1626. By this time, the town was a centre for cloth-finished and was a wide area where domestic weaving was pursued – originally introduced in the 14th century.

By the end of the 16th century, the city was able to challenge the supremacy of York and Beverley in the woollen-manufacturing trade. Over 100 years later, in 1816, the Leeds and Liverpool canal was completed. Then, after 1848 the railway made the city a major centre for locomotive engineering, leading to the expansion of the city.

Attractions to visit in Leeds: Millennium Square, Royal Armouries and Kirkstall Abbey

Population: 455,123

8. Edinburgh

biggest cities in the UK
Source: Britannica

The City of Edinburgh was originally known to be a military stronghold. At the core of the city is an aesthetic and political heart embedded in its history. Edinburgh was originally built up in the middle ages, but it was a town that was in constant fear of attack.

In 1995, its Medieval old town and Neoclassical new Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site – a standout achievement for the city.

At the top of Castle Rock – top of the Royal Mile – lays the Number one attraction to visit in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle. The castle is perched on a volcano, and as well as exploring the castle, you can visit St Margaret’s Chapel, National War Memorial and the Half Moon Battery.

Another attraction to visit is the Edinburgh Zoo, just a short bus ride from the city centre. It is home to over 1000 animals, including the UK’s only giant pandas.

Population: 464,990

7. Leicester

biggest cities in the UK
Source: Leicester City Council

The City of Leicester has been occupied for more than 2,000 years. It originally was a Celtic settlement and was the capital of the local Celtic tribe. In the beginning, it was an Iron Age settlement near the River Soar.

The city was originally named Ratae, and in the second century the Jewry Wall Public baths were built, which visitors can still see today as it still stands on St Nicholas Circle. In the early 12the century, Leicester was rebuilt in Stone and was ruled over by an Earl. The earl rebelled against the King in 1173, however, the King captured the town and burnt part of it down.

In Medieval times, the main industry for the city was wool. In the late 16th century, Leicester Abbey was shut by Henry VII and then sold to the town council.

Attractions to visit in Leicester: Leicester Cathedral, the Great Central Railway and the King Richard III Visitor centre.

Population: 508,916

6. Glasgow

the biggest cities in the UK
Source: The Times

Glasgow was originally established in 1119 after the building began for the Cathedral on the site of St Kentigern’s Church – who is the patron saint for Glasgow. Medieval Glasgow ran from River Clyde, up to Saltmarket, then along High Street and all the way up to the Cathedral.

In recent years, there has been the development of the High Street, which included an archaeological excavation, and hidden gems were uncovered. Medieval architecture in the city includes Glasgow Cathedral, Crookston Castle, Provands Lordship, Provan Hall, the Trongate and Tolbooth Steeple.

Attractions to visit in Glasgow: Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow Cathedral and George Square and the Merchant District.

Population: 591,620

5. Bristol

biggest cities in the UK
Source: FT Property Listings

The original town of Bristol was listed as Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1051 and was a port trading site, regularly doing business with Ireland. In 1155, it was officially incorporated, and then in 1247, the port was renovated and improved.

During the reign of Edward III – from 1327 until 1377 – the city imported raw wool from Ireland and manufactured woollen cloth. This was then sold to Spain and Portugal in exchange for sherry and port wine. Bristol also played an important part in maritime history as John Cabot sailed for his voyage to North America in 1497 from the Bristol port.

After World War Two, a lot of the city was destroyed, and in post-war reconstruction, the Council House was built in 1956, as well as a new shopping centre in Broadmead.

Attractions to visit in Bristol: Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Zoo and SS Great Britain.

Population: 617,280

4. Sheffield

biggest cities in the UK
Source: Shoosmiths

The original name for Sheffield came from the River Shead, as the city was once called Sceaf, meaning the border of the river. The city was founded in the early 12th century by the Lord of the Manor at the time, William De Lovetot. On the site of Castle Market, he built the castle.

However, in 1266 rebels unfortunately burnt the castle and then it was rebuilt in 1270. During the middle ages, Sheffield dealt in the woollen trade and in 1297, Sheffield was given a charter giving the city the right to hold a weekly market and annual fair.

During the 15th and 16th century, the Bishops House was built, originally getting its name from two brothers John and Geoffrey Blythe, who lived there and they were both bishops. Then in 1763, the first theatre was built, and the city continued to rapidly grow during the 18th century.

Flash forward to the 21st century, and the city is still rapidly growing and thriving.

Attractions to visit in Sheffield: Millennium Galleries, the National Ice Centre and Millennium Square.

Population: 685,368

3. Liverpool

biggest cities in the UK
Source: Medium

In 1190, Liverpool was originally known Liuerpul, which came from the Old English word Lifer, meaning thick and muddy water, however, this name evolved over time. The origins of the city go all the way back to 1207, where King John issued letters advertising the advertising of a new borough.

In 1235, the Liverpool castle was complete, and the city originally only consisted of seven streets which remain there today, this included: Bank Street, Castle Street, Chapel Street, Dale Street, Juggler Street, Moore Street and Whiteacre Street.

In 1811, the Congregational Church was built and today, now it is listed as a Grade II building. Unfortunately, after the war, the city struggled as there was a decline in manufacturing at the Docks.

However, along came the 1960s, and music began to thrive throughout the city. In 1957 the famous Cavern Club opened, and The Beatles were born.

Attractions to visit in Liverpool: The Cavern Club, Merseyside Maritime Museum and the British Music Experience.

Population: 864,122

2. Birmingham

biggest cities in the UK
Source: Big Hospitality

Birmingham originally was established as a Saxon village. In the early 12th century, the town grew, and the King gave Lord of the Manor to Peter De Brimingham. The city was allowed to hold a weekly market, and when the market began to run, it attracted merchants and craftsmen to come to live in the town.

During medieval times, the city became known for its wool industry and was later known for its metalwork industry in the 14th century. In the 18th century, St Phillips Church was built in 1715, and the city continued to boom.

In 1769, an act of parliament was passed, which was formed by a body of men known as the Street Commissioners. Thislenforced legislation to clean and light the streets of Birmingham. Along came the 20th century and Birmingham University was founded in 1909, and the Repertory Theatre built in 1913. Then in 1963, the Bull Ring was built.

Attractions to visit in Birmingham: Victoria Square & Birmingham City Centre, Birmingham Museum and Art Galley and the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum.

Population: 984,333

1. London

biggest cities in the uk
Source: Lonely Planet

Last but not least, we have the United Kingdom’s capital city, which is, of course, London. The city was originally founded by Romans, and then their rule extended from 43AD until the fifth century.

The Romans gave the city the name Londinium and the population was a massive 50,000 as it played an important part in being a major port. Then in the 8th century, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Essex. In 1199, King John reinforced a self-government system into the city and later, in 1215, the city was able to elect a different mayor to rule over London annually.

From the 16th to the 17th century, the city was beginning to benefit from central politics, as well as maritime trade expansion, which was developed by the Tudors and then continued by the Stuarts.

The poor conditions of the city in the late 17th century were responsible for the Great Plague, which resulted in the deaths of 70,000 people. The following year was the Great Fire of London, burning down most of the city.

From 1750, the population rapidly increased in the city increasing from 700,000 to over 4,500,000 in 1901.

Attractions to visit in London: The London Eye, Big Ben, The Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.

Population: 7,556,900

So, here you have everything you need to know about the biggest cities here in the UK. Where will you be visiting next?