Not been to Stoke-on-Trent (did not realise it was as big as it is) or Cardiff (as an adult - went when I was about 8 so not counting that) personally. Must try and remedy that.
Feels like there’s something in the British psyche to default label a lot of cities ‘shit’, whereas every one I’ve visited without fail has had some interesting stuff. Anyone want to go in to bat for some of the UK’s lesser loved gems (Birmingham has more roundabouts than Venice don’t you know)?
I’ll start with Hull - literally the punchline to every shit city joke. I genuinely enjoy visiting the place. Has a lovely geographical otherness to it, and there’s no denying that bridge is damn impressive. The old town/marina area is genuinely attrative - don’t know how much of it is original and how much was rebuilt after the WWII bombing but there’s a ton of nice streets and buildings. Got good green spaces, loads of pubs, good museum and gallery plus the world’s only ‘submarium’ (IDK ). Also, it is well cheap. Hull
Suffers quite badly, as you say, because of its polycentric nature - its a bunch of towns rather than a city - but also probably because its got big cities (Birmingham and Manchester) 45 minutes either side of it.
The one and only time I ever went to Crawley was for a secret Menswe@r gig when they were full hype but hadn’t actually really learned how to play properly yet so had to cut their teeth away from Camden
It was in some weird Country & Western style roadhouse bar/restaurant venue - wagon wheels on the wall, gingham curtains & table clothes, varnished pine woodwork