With so many interesting places to visit in England, it's easy to see why this country brings over so many tourists from all over the world. Although the majority of them stop in the gorgeous capital city of London, we believe there are many beautiful places in England worth adding to your itinerary.
We lived in England for close to ten years and we had the opportunity to do several road trips all around the country to explore some of its many cities. We cycled in the countryside, learned its history in small villages and relaxed in the meadows. Known for its rolling hills, England features an array of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which are visually stunning due to their significant landscape value. From London to Manchester and from Bristol to the White Cliffs of Dover, England will deliver a trip of a lifetime.
Whatever draws you in, this guide shares some of our favourite places to visit in England.
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Bookending most travellers’ trips to England, London inspires with its James Bond-cool image, its iconic snapshot sights (from red London buses to black cabs), and enough sights to make any guidebook bulge.
If it’s your first time and you want to ‘cover the classics’, make sure you take in Big Ben, a show in the West End, a curry on Brick Lane, a spot of shopping on Oxford Street, and a royal tour that covers Buckingham Palace, the crown jewels at The Tower of London, and the changing of the guards at Horse Guards Parade.
If you’re not new to the city, why not try out one of the less touristy neighbourhoods, like cool Camden, buzzing Notting Hill, or trendy Shoreditch for a more local London experience.
The city that brought the world the author JK Rowling, the artist Banksy and the Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams isn't just famous for its alumni. Arguably the West Country’s capital, its maritime history (which saw it as a trading point for everything from cotton to slaves) left behind stories of a local pirate, Captain Blackbeard, and helped inspire Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Voted the Best City to Live in Britain in a Sunday Times guide in 2017, this is no ‘stuck in the past’ city, with Michelin starred restaurants and new attractions like the manmade surfing lagoon, The Wave. It even has its own currency (although don’t worry, they do accept pound sterling too).
One of the main reasons travellers leave London and head west, Bath is a city that deserves its reputation. The elegant honey-hued Georgian houses of the Royal Crescent, the photo-favourite Pulteney Bridge, and the stained glass windows and fan-vaulted ceiling of Bath Abbey all make Bath’s top visited sights.
But you haven’t experienced Bath properly if you haven’t sunk yourself into one of the city’s thermal pools, fed by the natural springs which drew in Roman travellers back in AD43. Some things never change.
Don’t let the name fool you, the Lake District may be home to 16 breathtakingly beautiful lakes (or meres), but England’s largest national park frames these with more than 150 peaks, including the nation’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike.
This makes it a mecca for walkers and climbers wanting to tick off the peaks or seek out waterfalls. But there’s still plenty to do if you haven’t packed your hiking boots (plus we think mountains look better from the bottom anyway). There are steam train rides. There are grand castles and country houses. There are Beatrix Potter-inspired sights. And there are lake cruises and water sports on the bigger meres like Windermere and Ullswater.
One of the hottest places to head in northern England, a trip to York gives you whistle stop tour of England’s history.
You can see it in the Gothic beauty of York Minster, on a stroll down The Shambles (a labyrinth of cobbled medieval lanes, now lined with cute cafés, bars, and boutiques), in a visit to JORVIK Viking Centre, as you walk on top of the 13th century city walls, and in the city’s cute tearooms and old-fashioned pubs, with their traditional ales, low-slung beams, and cosy fires.
If you’re happier in the great outdoors, England’s cities may only tempt you for a few days. But the Peak District could keep you captive forever. This northern nirvana sits between Manchester and Sheffield but is a world away from their industrial spirit and urban delights.
Here you can lose yourself in market towns like Bakewell (be sure to try the eponymous cake) and spa towns like Buxton. You can go beneath the peaks into the famous cavern networks like Castleton caves. And you can get out into the national park’s landscapes with walks, bike trips, and horse rides – with Kinder Scout the highest point and the must-do ramble for the hardiest of visitors.
One of England’s coolest seaside towns, Brighton is an ever-evolving city just over an hour’s train ride from the capital. It still has its Regency seafront homes and Royal Pavilion (an OTT palace that’s well worth a visit). It still has its Victorian pier and retro shopping quarter, The Lanes. And it still has the hip image bestowed on it during its ‘Quadrophenia’ days, which brought in the Mods and the Rockers.
But all this has been added to with funky boutique openings in The Lanes, madcap attractions like the British Airways i360 viewing spire, and a thoroughly modern attitude that’s evident in its dining, entertainment, and nightlife scene.
When Englanders are looking to ‘escape to the country’ (for a retreat or a retirement), Dorset is often their ‘go to’ choice.
It’s got the endless rolling countryside. It’s got the captivating coastline (whether you prefer the golden sands of busy Bournemouth or the dramatic coastal viewpoints like Durdle Door). And it’s got English history in spades, with forts like Purbeck’s Corfe Castle, churches like Sherborne Abbey, and old-world towns like Dorchester and Shaftesbury.
Dipping into rural English life, Devon brings together the fishing villages and beaches of The English Riviera, charming bucolic towns like Totnes, and off-the-proverbial-beaten-track scenery in the wild wildernesses of Dartmoor and Exmoor.
It’s not all peaceful pastures and quaint village life here though, with exciting tales of pirates and smugglers to be found. But even those blood-curdling stories have nothing on the age-old argument with its neighbour, Cornwall, over how to serve scones. In Devon, they say it’s cream first. In Cornwall, they plump for jam first (so the cream’s closest to heaven). We suggest you try it both ways – just to be sure.
One of England’s less-known national parks, Exmoor has all the dramatic mist-draped landscapes, wild walking routes, and quirky inns you’ve seen in those brooding English dramas. You can easily picture yourself in an 18th-century novel, as you stand in the heather-carpeted moors, as the wind whips over your face and wild Exmoor ponies graze in the distance.
If you’re after a bit more human company, Exmoor also comes with tourist-favourite Ilfracombe, the quaint coastal towns of Lynton and Lynmouth, and a neighbouring heritage steam railway.
If one picture could sum up England, it would be of The Cotswolds. Postcard-pretty villages. English country gardens. Grand manor houses. Stately castles.
You can experience the chocolate box charm, virtually for free, by driving around the countryside and stopping off at honey-coloured hamlets and villages like Bourton on the Water, The Slaughters, and Bibury.
But I’d still splash out on a day at a Cotswolds classic, like Blenheim Palace, Westonbirt Arboretum, or the Price of Wales’ own Highgrove Gardens.
Stratford Upon Avon
Shakespearian sights come thick and fast in Stratford Upon Avon, birthplace of England’s most treasured playwright. Official historic hotspots include Anne Hathaway’s cottage, Shakespeare’s timber-framed birthplace, and Holy Trinity Church, where the bard was buried.
You may pay a little more because of the location, but the experience of watching a Shakespeare play in his home town is well worth the extra pennies – especially as there are three Royal Shakespeare Company theatres in town.
Only open to England’s elite scholars, Cambridge might be hard to access as a student, but for the right fee you can visit many of its 31 colleges as a traveller, and taste student life at this historic university. The most famous are Trinity, King’s, and St John’s, which might feel familiar thanks to its cameos in the Oscar-winning The Theory of Everything.
If you want the city to live up to its romantic image, make sure you ride bikes through the old streets and take a punt along the Backs (literally where the colleges back onto the River Cam) and under the covered Bridge of Sighs.
On the map thanks to its world-famous university, Oxford’s not just for students. Its campus and surrounding city streets give travellers the chance to stroll around the uni’s botanic gardens, punt along River Cherwell, take peace under the vaulted ceiling of Bodleian Library, and amble around the artefact-packed Ashmolean Museum.
There’s no escaping the history here (and you wouldn’t want to), but every new generation of scholars adds a modern layer to this city, with cool cafés, eclectic restaurants, and contemporary exhibitions at Modern Art Oxford.
The London of the North (although don’t let any Mancunians hear you saying that), this city is home to two of England’s most famous football clubs, one of its best-loved soap operas (YouTube Coronation Street if you want to gen up on local-ish life here before you visit), and a multi-cultural spirit that defies its size.
Topping the travel book tick lists in Manchester are stadium tours for footie fans, shopping in the bohemian Northern Quarter, and dinners in one of the scores of restaurants on Curry Mile, before a night out on Canal Street in Manchester’s buzzing Gay Village.
A popular pitstop on any reputable tour of England, Stonehenge is a perennial favourite thanks to the mystery that surrounds it (and thanks to its proximity to Salisbury).
One mystery is how the unfathomably large stones that make up the prehistoric circle were transported – with many coming from more than 150 miles away in the Preseli Hills. Another mystery is why it exists at all – with theories including a Druid temple, a coronation site, and even an astronomical device for predicting solar events. Keeping with the solar theme, the most magical times to visit are sunrise and sunset if you want to snap stunning photos.
Most come to England for its history, but not many expect the sights to be 185 million years old. The 95 mile Jurassic Coast snakes along the south, linking the seaside town of Exmouth (with its rock pools and golden sands) with Old Harry’s Rocks on the Isle of Purbeck (where chalk cliffs create a dramatic finale).
Between the two, layers of sedimentary rock and fossil finds on the beaches take you through the history of England. You can even scavenge for your own fossils in spots like Charmouth. But make sure your eyes aren’t just focused on the floor, the views at Durdle Door, the shopping at Dorchester, and the seafront of Lyme Regis are well worth a break from the fossil hunting.
If anything’s going to bring in the tourists, it’s a royal wedding. And last year’s nuptials of Meghan and Harry put Windsor firmly back on the global travel circuit. And, let’s face it, if it’s good enough for them…
Only an hour from the capital by train, Windsor Castle tops the town’s attractions. Open to tourists (when the Queen’s not in town), this regal relic dates back more than 1,000 years to William the Conqueror. You can follow in Meghan and Harry’s tracks with a horse carriage ride down the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park. Or hop in a boat to sail along the River Thames past another English Institution, Eton College, where the boys still wear tailcoats and most royal children are educated.
A pilgrimage place for Beatles buffs and football fans, the city of Liverpool is much more than Penny Lane and Anfield. Under the watch of the Liver Birds that perch on the city’s Royal Liver Building, it’s Instagram-ready with its monolithic cathedral, photogenic Albert Docks, and gorgeous Georgian town hall.
Of course, if you’re there for the Fab Four, you might just use up all your memory by shooting snaps on a Beatles tour, taking in the Penny Lane street sign, Strawberry Field, the childhood homes of McCartney (on Forthlin Road) and Lennon (on Menlove Avenue), and The Cavern Club.
The go-to corner of England for Brits on holiday, Cornwall is packed with pretty seaside towns, wave-washed surfer’s beaches, and perfect spots for ice creams, Cornish pasties, cream teas, and fish and chips.
In recent decades, the locals’ recognition of their enduring tourist trade means big-ticket attractions have been added to the historic fishing villages and the long-time lure of Lands’ End, including the domes of the Eden Project eco-park and the rediscovered Lost Gardens of Heligan.