The Most Cultured Towns and Cities in the UK
The UK is home to an abundance of history and culture, making it ideal for tourist visitation. From spectacular fine art exhibitions to highly sought-after theatre productions, the UK is littered with cultural hotspots just waiting to be discovered.
In a bid to reveal which UK locations are home to the most culture per capita, we analysed 500 UK towns and cities. We investigated the number of art museums, art galleries, independent cinemas, theatres, libraries and Michelin star restaurants in each city and town before calculating the number per 100,000 population. From this, we gave each location a possible score out of 100 for each cultural factor before being tallied up and given an overall score out of 600 and ranked.
The Most Cultured Cities and Towns in the UK
According to our research, with a score of 566 out of a possible 600, Farnham in Surrey is the most cultured settlement in the UK. With a population of 27,056, Farnham is home to one art museum (score of 97.1 of 100), one art gallery (score of 94.3 of 100), one independent cinema (92.9 of 100), three theatres (score of 97.5 of 100) and three libraries (86.7 of 100). In addition to this, the broader Sussex area is home to an impressive four Michelin star restaurants.
Chichester in West Sussex is the second most cultured UK area per capita with a score of 553 out of 600. In addition to its population size of 31,831, it currently holds one art museum (95.3 of 100), three art galleries (98.9 of 100), one independent cinema (90.1 of 100), three theatres (96.5 of 100), three libraries (81.9). Meanwhile, the general West Sussex area hosts three Michelin star restaurants, resulting in a score of 90.3 of 100 for this factor.
Ranking in third for culture is Winchester in the county of Hampshire. A population size of 48,530 and other high scoring culture factors means that Winchester pulls in 519.8 points out of 600, all thanks to its four art museums (99.5 of 100), three art galleries (97.5 of 100), one independent cinema (81.1 of 100), five theatres (97.1) and five libraries (84.1).
Following closely behind in fourth position with a score of 519.6 out of 600 is Herne Bay, Kent. With a population of 40,450, the locality boasts one art museum (93.3 of 100), one art gallery (88.9 of 100), one independent cinema (84.7 of 100), two theatres (83.3 of 100) and four libraries (83.3 of 100). Not to mention, you can find three Michelin star restaurants in the Kent area, contributing to Herne Bay’s rank as one of the most cultured towns and cities in the UK.
Stealing the position of the fifth most cultured is Carlisle in Cumbria, scoring 505.8 out of 600 for cultural activities. The city’s fifth place is attributed due to its population size of 74,916, two art museums (93.9 of 100), one art gallery (82.3 of 100), one independent cinema (75.3 of 100), six theatres (93.3 of 100), and five libraries (68.3 of 100). Alongside this, Cumbria is home to eight Michelin star restaurants, so fine dining is always nearby.
Cambridge ranked as the sixth most cultured town and city in the UK, with the academic city scoring a total of 486.7 out of 600 for culture. The area is home to one art museum (84.1 of 100), five art galleries (92.7 of 100), five independent cinemas (90.9 of 100), 11 theatres (91.5 of 100) and 13 libraries (78.5 of 100). Meanwhile, you can also find one Michelin star restaurant in Cambridgeshire.
Scoring 481.9 out of 600, Ashford in Surrey ranked as the seventh most cultured town or city. Although the town has no art museums (0 of 100), the high score is boosted by its small population size of 28,676, three art galleries (99.7 of 100), one independent cinema (91.9 of 100), four theatres (98.9 of 100) and five libraries (94.5 of 100). The wider Surrey area is also home to four Michelin star restaurants, which contributes to its fantastic overall score.
Ranking slightly below its academic rival, Oxford in Oxfordshire ranked as the eighth most cultured town or city, with a total score of 481.2 out of 600 for culture-related amenities. The hub is home to five art museums (93.1 of 100), three art galleries (85.5 of 100), one independent cinema (68.1 of 100), 14 theatres (94.9 of 100), and an impressive 15 libraries (80.7 of 100). What’s more, you will find three Michelin star restaurants in the Oxfordshire region.
Scotland’s most cultured city, Edinburgh, ranked as the ninth most cultured in the entire UK, with a score of 466.6 points out of 600. The capital city has a population of around 488,050 inhabitants with nine art museums (90.5 of 100), a whopping 46 art galleries (99.1 of 100), three independent cinemas (68.3 of 100), 67 theatres (98.7 of 100) and four Michelin star restaurants in the broader Edinburgh area (50.5 of 100).
Rounding off the list of the top 10 most cultured towns and cities in the UK was Manchester, which hosted three art museums (83.1 out of 100), nine art galleries (83.5 out of 100), one independent cinema (64.5 out of 100), 38 theatres (90.7 out of 100) and nine libraries (97.5). Greater Manchester was also home to one Michelin Star restaurant.
The Scores in Full
The UK Cities and Towns With the Most Art Museums per Capita
When it came down to the towns and cities scoring the highest for the number of art museums per 100,000 population, Bury in Greater Manchester came out on top, with an immaculate score of 100 out of 100. Following in second is Chester in Cheshire with a score of 99.7 out of 100, meaning that both of the top scorers for this factor were situated in North West England.
Winchester in Hampshire boasted the third highest score out of 100 for the number of art museums per capita, at 99.5 out of 100. It was followed shortly by Bath, in Somerset, which scored 99.3, putting the south-western city in fourth for the number of art museums.
With a score of 99.1 out of 100, Buxton in Derbyshire placed as the fifth top-scoring location in the UK when it came to art museums, placing the East Midlands town comfortably among the areas in the UK with the most art museums per capita.
The UK Towns and Cities With the Most Art Galleries per Capita
When looking specifically at the UK towns and cities with the most art galleries per capita, Arbroath in Scotland ranked the highest, with a perfect score of 100 out of 100. In fact, many of the UK towns and cities with the most art galleries per capita could be found in Scotland, with Glenrothes, Edinburgh, Dunfermline, Stirling, and West Dunbartonshire all placing respectively within the top ten for this specific attraction.
Meanwhile, Ashford in Surrey was home to the second most art galleries per 100,000 population, scoring 99.7 out of 100 for this feature. Yet another town or city from the South East also placed within the top ten, with Chichester’s 98.9 out of 100 ranking in sixth for art galleries.
The UK Towns and Cities With the Most Independent Cinemas per Capita
Hereford in Herefordshire, West Midlands, placed as the UK town or city with the most independent cinemas per capita, boasting a solid score of 100 out of 100 for this amenity.
It was swiftly followed by Gainsborough in Lincolnshire and Sudbury in Suffolk, which had respective scores of 99.7 and 99.5 out of 100 for their number of independent cinemas in proportion to their populations.
Falmouth in Cornwall placed as home to the fourth most independent cinemas per capita, with a score of 99.3 out of 100. Meanwhile, Frome in Somerset, which is also based in the South West, had a score of 99.1 out of 100, leading it to rank in fifth.
The UK Towns and Cities With the Most Theatres Capita
When analysing the number of theatres in accordance with town and city populations, our study revealed Stratford-Upon-Avon to come out on top, with the West Midlands locality scoring 100 out of 100.
Frome in Somerset placed second, with a score of 99.7 out of 100 for its number of theatres and population combined. Neighbouring Truro, in Cornwall, placed as the UK town or city with the third most theatres per capita, flaunting a score of 99.5 out of 100 for this attraction type.
Meanwhile, Newport in the South East and Dumfries in Scotland placed in fourth and fifth respectively, with 99.3 and 99.1 based on the number of theatres.
The UK Towns and Cities With the Most Libraries Capita
For those with a keen interest in academia and literature, Bury in Greater Manchester is the place to be. The North West locality scored 100 out of 100 for its number of libraries paired with its population.
Placing second was Chester, which is also situated in the North West. Chester scored 99.7 out of 100 when it came down to the number of libraries in proportion to its population – the second highest total.
Horley and Windsor, both based in the South East, followed closely behind. Horley was awarded a score of 99.7 by the study when it came to libraries, whilst Windsor boasted a score of 99.3, placing fourth.
The UK Towns and Cities With the Most Michelin Stars Capita
Our study can reveal that Workington in Cumbria scored the highest, with a perfect score of 100 out of 100, due to its low population and high number of Michelin star restaurants nearby.
Whitehaven, Kendal and Barrow-In-Furness, each based in Cumbria, followed, with respective scores of 99.7, 99.5 and 99.3 out of 10 for nearby Michelin star restaurants. Meanwhile, four Surrey-based towns and cities also ranked among the top 10, including Caterham, Reigate, Godalming and Windlesham.
The Most Cultured Regions in the UK
Crowned as the most cultured region of the UK was London, with an average total of 410 for its cities combined. However, it would appear that the South is the most cultured in general, since both the South West and South East followed respectively, with average total scores of 264 and 244 – significantly lower than the score awarded to London on average, but nonetheless impressive, rendering them among the most cultural regions in the UK.
Yorkshire and the Humber placed as the fourth most cultural region on average, with an average total score of 226 for its cities combined. This was followed shortly by the North West, which had an average total score of 203 out of 600 as a region when it came to culture.
With an average total of 190 out of 600, Scotland was awarded the title of the sixth most cultural UK region, followed by the East with a total of 183 out of 600 on average and Northern Ireland, which had a cultural average total of 177 out of 600, ranking it as the seventh most cultured region in the UK.
North East, East Midlands, West Midlands and Wales all followed, with average total scores of 172, 170, 160 and 145 out of 600, respectively.
- To establish the top UK cultural cities and towns per capita, DIYS.com gathered a list by population from https://www.thegeographist.com/uk-cities-population-1000/.
- DIYS.com created a selection criterion to establish the six cultural factors influencing the scores of each UK city and town. These factors include art museums, art galleries, independent cinemas, theatres, libraries and Michelin star restaurants.
- By scraping https://www.museums.co.uk/, DIYS.com were able to locate 119 art museums across the UK.
The number of art galleries, independent cinemas and theatres per city and town were filtered from https://www.list.co.uk/.
- The number of public libraries per city and town was sourced from https://librarytechnology.org/libraries/ukpublic/.
- Using https://trulyexperiences.com/blog/michelin-star-cities/#Areas-with-3-Michelin-Stars, DIYS.com analysed UK areas with Michelin star restaurants. The list shows the UK area. Therefore a city is allocated the number of stars if it is located in the corresponding area.
- All UK cities and towns were controlled for population difference by calculating the values as per 100,000 population.
- The resulting dataset per cap values were normalised using the percentrank.inc function in Excel. This ranks each value from 0 to 100 based on its relative position within the sample.
- The final score was amalgamated as a sum of all six normalised factors for each city and town. Therefore the maximum final score is out of 600.