The best British cities for outdoor dining

The top 10 cities in the UK that offer the most al fresco dining options per inhabitant


Having been deprived of our beloved date night dinners and drinks with friends for many months, British people up and down the country are now revelling in the chance to get a taste of normality back again. With the months ahead looking like they will be filled with pre-booking tables in advance rather than spontaneous outings, arguably the most important information to ask ourselves is – which cities offer us the most choices?

Holidu, the search engine for holiday rentals, decided to carry out a study to determine which British cities offer the most outdoor dining options per inhabitant. We have also provided you with our top restaurant and bar tips for each city. Get ready to plan your staycation with this in mind!

1. Brighton – Score: 10/10

Brighton is officially the best city to head to this summer if al fresco dining options are at the top of your priority list! And where better to spend our summer open-air cocktail nights than by the glorious British coastline? This seaside destination is an absolute favourite every year, and it’s not hard to understand why. Quirky bars, chic cafes, rooftop gardens and country pub gardens – what’s not to love?

Al Fresco Dining Tip: The Salt Room – with incredible views of the Brighton seafront, this modern British seafood restaurant is exactly where you want to head to this summer. Do you fancy a Barbecued Cornish Monkfish, washed down with a refreshing alcoholic beverage of your choice?

Find a holiday rental in Brighton here

credit The Salt Room

2. Cambridge – Score: 9.82/10

The quaint university city of Cambridge scoops second place. Cambridge is known around the world for being a city brimming with learning and culture, and this definitely extends into its culinary and entertainment offerings, being a thriving food and drink community in its own right. It is also known for having the best craft beer scene that is gaining recognition not only in the UK but worldwide. It’s time to choose one of Cambridges’ delightful pub beer gardens to try for yourself!

Al Fresco Dining Tip: The Varsity Hotel – head to this stylish rooftop terrace and you will not be disappointed! Unbeatable cocktails paired with a daily BBQ menu; this is the perfect spot for a summer’s day.

Find a holiday rental in Cambridge here


credit The Varsity Hotel

3. Oxford – Score: 9.55/10

In third place we have Oxford. Get ready to enjoy the fresh air whilst sipping on refreshing cocktails or a cold beer with the best views possible. Like Cambridge, Oxford is world-famous for its renowned education, and with everything revolving around the university, this has subsequently allowed the city to develop amazing restaurant and bar options. From high-end restaurants to student-friendly bars, there is something for everyone here and plenty of terraces that are awaiting your visit!

Al Fresco Dining Tip: Plough at 38 – a hit with people-watchers, the outdoor seating at this historic independent micro-brewery pub & restaurant is where you should head to so you can enjoy some delicious beer whilst observing passers-by going about their daily lives in the heart of Oxford.

Find a holiday rental in Oxford here


credit Plough at 38

4. York – Score: 9.52/10

Home to the York Food Festival Weekend and a thriving street food scene at the Shambles Market Food Court, the charming city of York is a foodie’s dream. Here you will find a wide variety of cafés, restaurants and bars, many of which offer al fresco dining options on stunning terraces and rooftops.

Al Fresco Dining Tip: Lucia Wine Bar & Grill – the flagship restaurant of this business is located in the heart of York, minutes away from the iconic sightseeing landmarks. The heated al fresco courtyard is ideal for colder evenings, enjoying dinner and drinks when the British weather isn’t entirely reliable.

Find a holiday rental in York here


credit Lucia Wine Bar & Grill

5. Worcester – Score: 9.40/10

As the birthplace of the famous Worcestershire sauce, it’s only right that the city of Worcester is up to scratch where its culinary options are concerned! From traditional British pub grub to exotic Mediterranean delights, there are many great places to book into and enjoy an al fresco evening meal.

Al Fresco Dining Tip: The Mug House – wood-fired pizza, BBQ and hot dogs are just some of the delights you’ll find here. Their cosy courtyard is ready to host your next meal out!

Find a holiday rental in Worcester here


credit The Mug House

6. Chester – Score: 9.05/10

Complete with city walls, the oldest racecourse and a 1000-year-old Cathedral with Europe’s finest example of medieval carvings, Chester, a cathedral city in Cheshire in the North West, is also a great place for al fresco dining options and secures the 6th place spot. Dining and drinking locations are dotted throughout the city and many of them offer some stunning views.

Al Fresco Dining Tip: The Boathouse Chester – this family pub in the heart of Chester is only five minutes from the city centre. Choose from their floating beer garden, beach huts or beer garden tables and soak up the sun as you look out onto the river.

Find a holiday rental in Chester here


credit The Boat House

7. Exeter – Score: 8.20/10

In seventh place, we have Exeter, a city in Devon in the South West. This small city dubs itself as one of the most vibrant, attractive and historically interesting cities in England. It has a very varied cultural scene and offers a diverse mix of eateries, giving it a reputation as one of the best foodie cities in the region.

Al Fresco Dining Tip: The Double Locks – a gorgeous pub situated on the beautiful Exeter Ship Canal – dine al fresco in the stunning beer garden whilst enjoying the Best of British seasonal menu. This pub is even dog-friendly too!

Find a holiday rental in Exeter here


credit Double Locks

8. Norwich – Score: 8.13/10

Known for being the most complete medieval city in the UK, Norwich is steeped in history as well as cultural delights such as arts, music, shopping and of course, dining options. Lively bars and restaurants scattered throughout the walkable city centre mean that you are never short of options of spots where you can go.

Al Fresco Dining Tip: Bowling House – this ultra-cool destination is a cocktail bar, karaoke venue and restaurant as well as a ten pin bowling alley, all rolled into one! Head to their funky terrace for 2-for-1 cocktails and some tasty food.

Find a holiday rental in Norwich here


credit The Bowling House

9. Lincoln – Score: 7.48/10

In ninth place, we have Lincoln, a small cathedral city in the East Midlands. Famous for its medieval Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle, this is the perfect place if you wish to enjoy history as well as having plenty of outdoor spots to grab a pint and a bite to eat!

Al Fresco Dining Tip: The Barge – for a truly amazing dining experience, head to The Barge, a unique on-the-water floating restaurant. This restaurant and bar is located on an 80-year-old vessel, with seafood and steaks, plus a sun terrace.

Find a holiday rental in Lincoln here


credit The Barge, Lincoln

10. Bournemouth – Score: 7.11/10

Taking the final spot in the top 10 is Bournemouth. Not only well-known for being one of the best seaside cities in the South West, but it also boasts some stunning al fresco dining options. From traditional beer gardens to rooftops with panoramic views, there is something for everyone here.

Al Fresco Dining Tip: LEVEL8IGHT Sky Bar – this divine bar is the highest bar in the South West and offers guests dreamy views of the Bournemouth coastline. Head there for a classy evening and expect fine wines, premium spirits, cocktails or even an elegant afternoon tea!

Find a holiday rental in Bournemouth here


credit LEVEL8IGHT Sky Bar


All British cities with a population of over 100,000 were considered for this study. Data from Google Maps was extracted using the keywords ‘beer garden’ and ‘outdoor dining’. Results with less than 5 reviews were omitted, and the results were sorted through manually to exclude any results without relevant tags, e.g., ‘bar’, ‘restaurant’ or ‘cafe’. The total count of results with either ‘beer garden’ or ‘outdoor dining’ was finalised (and any duplicates removed), the number was then divided by the population to get the density score. The density number was normalised to get a ranking from 0 to 10, with 10 being the best.

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