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Preston has only been a city since 2002, but its history stretches back far further - it became a market town way back in 1179, and boomed when the Industrial Revolution super-charged its textile trade. That explosion of wealth has left many grand 18th and 19th century buildings in the town centre, balanced by modern shopping and a youthful student population. With the coast and the Lake District nearby, Preston is an underrated regional city that's well worth exploring.

Preston has a good retail offering, and it starts from right outside the station. Head up Fishergate Hill and into the indoor Fishergate Centre for a great range of big-name shops. Further up you'll find even more in the St George's Centre, and along Cheapside and Friargate.

It's also worth exploring the cobbled streets north of Winckley Square, which is home to some interesting independent shops and restaurants. From here head to the Grade I listed Harris Museum and Art Gallery, the cultural centre of Preston. It's collections and exhibitions cover everything from fine art to fashion to local history. The Museum of Lancashire is another must, touching on the county's early history, its industrial heritage, and even its legendary sense of humour.

When it's time for afternoon tea, head to The Mystery Tea House. A popular haunt for both students and locals, it offers literally hundreds of teas from all over the world. Fanaki's coffee shop and the Equator Arts Cafe are similarly top-notch - Preston may not be a pretty country town, but it definitely knows how to do tea.

Finally, escape from the bustle of town with a stroll in the peaceful Avenham and Miller parks, which form a large green space on the banks of the River Ribble.

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