Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph have been given city status to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the government said.
The towns beat 23 other applications to win the 'civic honour'.
Armagh in Northern Ireland was granted a lord mayoralty.
The awards have been made by the Queen on the advice of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, following a competition to bid for civic honours launched in December 2010.
Clegg said the decision to award a new city in England, Scotland and Wales, and a lord mayoralty in Northern Ireland, reflected the significance of every part of the United Kingdom in diamond jubilee year.
"Across the United Kingdom, I have been moved by the pride and passion which people have shown in putting their nominations forward," he said.
"The standard of application was very high, and those who missed out should not be downhearted.
"I hope the competition has given the residents of all of the places which applied a sense of civic pride, of collective ownership and of community spirit."
While the title of city is highly sought after, it confers no specific benefits such as funding or powers for local government.
Only 14 new cities were created in the last century.
The last contest was held in 2002 for the Golden Jubilee, in which Preston, Newry, Lisburn and Newport were granted the honour.
This year the losing towns were: Bolton, Bournemouth, Colchester, Coleraine, Corby, Craigavon, Croydon, Doncaster, Dorchester, Dudley, Dumfries, Gateshead, Goole, Luton, Medway, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Southend, St Austell, Stockport, Tower Hamlets and Wrexham.
Civic leaders in Medway in Kent were magnanimous in defeat.
Medway Council leader Rodney Chambers said their losing bid showed the area has come a long way since the 1980s.
"I would like to congratulate the three towns that have today gained city status," he said.
"We know Medway's journey continues, but it is definitely heading in the right direction."