It's English Tourism week! What better way to celebrate English tourist destinations than by sharing 10 beautiful places to visit in our home country: England. While we love travelling far flung places, we also really enjoy bigging all up the fabulous destinations right here in this "green and pleasant land."
We're putting it out there: London is our favourite city in the world. Vibrant, multicultural and stuffed to the brim with history, music, art and food, it has absolutely everything! Having lived there for many years I suppose we might be slightly biased, so we must admit that as well as a fabulous capital city, England has many other wonderful towns and cities that are a must if you're spending more time in the country. If you'd like to tick off some of the best places to visit in England, here are 10 of our favourites:
Two words: The Beatles. This lively northern city is famous worldwide for being the birthplace of the Merseybeat sound - as well as the Fab Four, 60s exports included Cilla Black and Gerry and the Pacemakers (their hit You'll Never Walk Alone is belted from the stands at Anfield Stadium every week as the anthem of Liverpool FC, one of the city's two top tier football teams), and later hitmakers include Echo and the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Elvis Costello, Dead or Alive, the Zutons and Atomic Kitten.
The city still has a thriving music and nightlife scene and there is so much to explore, including two cathedrals, the Albert Docks, the Beatles Museum and a fun brewery quarter. Don't miss the Merseyside Maritime Museum- it has exhibits about the Lusitania and the Titanic, while the third floor is home to the incredibly moving International Slavery Museum.
Planning a trip to Liverpool? Read our blog about what to do in three days here!
A Long Weekend in Liverpool (includes all the Beatles houses)
York can be summed up in one word: History. Founded by the Romans, you can walk their city walls, travel through 9th century York at the Jorvik Viking Centre, wander through tiny Medieval lanes in the Shambles, climb up to Clifford's Tower, a Norman keep, and marvel at the soaring 13th century York Minster.
As well as its tremendous history, York has some amazing museums: indulge your sweet tooth at York's Chocolate Story and learn about the city's Terry's and Rowntree's factories. Trainspotters, kids and the young at heart will love the National Railway Museum: built around a historic engine shed turntable, the museum has a tremendous collection of trains including a 1960s Japanese bullet train, Mallard (the world's fastest steam train) and possibly the most famous steam locomotive, Stephenson's Rocket. You can even head down into a Cold War bunker, built in 1961 to monitor nuclear explosions and fallout in Yorkshire, in the event of nuclear war. Now run by English Heritage, you'll see blast proof doors and the decontamination room - the bunker was still operational until the 1990s!
A blend of Roman ingenuity and stunning Georgian architecture, Bath is home to some of the most beautiful streets in England and has been a spa town destination for around 1800 years! You can visit the historic Roman Baths, now a UNESCO Heritage Site, but if you want to get into the mineral-rich warm waters you'll need to head to Thermae Bath Spa - such a gorgeous way to spend an afternoon. They have two different aromatherapy steam rooms, an ice room, heated pools and whirlpool baths, and an unbelievable roof top pool.
Another historic building well worth visiting is magnificent Bath Abbey - once part of a Medieval monastery, Bath Abbey was rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries and had a major restoration by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 1860s. The outside is creamy yellow Bath stone, and inside you can't miss the stunning fan ceiling.
Live your best Jane Austen life wandering the Grade I listed townhouses on Royal Crescent and Circus, and check out some Regency fashion at Bath's Fashion Museum. Jane Austen fans can get a snapshot of the life and times of the famous author's books and her years living in Bath at the Jane Austen Centre, and if you're a SUPER fan, you can even attend a summer ball or a 10 day Jane Austen festival!
While you're in Bath, tag on a side trip to Stonehenge - it's only 35 miles away and an easy drive, or you can join a bus tour.
Controversial opinion time: the UK has two famous University towns, Oxford and Cambridge, both known for their beautiful historic colleges. Both are stunning, both a lovely day out, but whisper it... in our opinion Cambridge is the better choice. While Cambridge certainly has a modern high street, train station and shopping centre, if you want to wander through the old lanes and see the magnificent colleges then everything is close together in one lovely historic area and very walkable. In Oxford the colleges are scattered throughout a normal modern city, and while the Bodleian library and Bridge of Sighs are pretty, Oxford also has a lot of less attractive 1960s buildings and modern architecture. In short, Cambridge is prettier than Oxford (sorry not sorry)!
Head to Kings Parade and take your time strolling the narrow streets between the colleges. Red brick St John's looks like Hampton Court (it was founded by Margaret Beaufort, Henry VIII's gran, and he founded Trinity College next door!) and medieval Kings Chapel soars into the sky. Wind your way through to River Cam and have a picnic on the Backs, a huge meadow often home to grazing cows. You could take a tour on a traditional punt, hire your own (don't fall in!), or if you have a kayak or paddleboard you can even paddle through the centre of historic Cambridge yourself! This is a lovely way to see the old bridges and colleges.
Cambridge has a gorgeous botanical garden and some really great museums - we love the eclectic Fitzwilliam Museum (like a mini British Museum), the Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute and the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, home to meteorites and dinosaur skeletons.
If you're planning a longer trip to Cambridge, you could also pop over the Essex border to Saffron Walden, one of the prettiest towns in England. Choc full of Tudor timbered homes, it's only 15 miles away from Cambridge! We've written a complete guide to top things to do in Saffron Walden, Essex.
Head to Yorkshire for a spooky city break. As you wander around ruined Whitby Abbey high on the cliffs and shrouded in sea mist, you can see why this city inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula! Climb the famous 199 steps down into Whitby's old town, full of narrow lanes, old coaching inns and tiny shops. Keep and eye out for jewellers specialising in jet - this shiny black precious stone, found locally, became very popular in the 19th century (and helped to reinforce Whitby's Gothic reputation) after Queen Victoria took to wearing it after her husband Prince Albert died.
Head down to the historic harbour and walk out onto the long pier. You can take a short boat ride along the coast on the Bark Endeavour, a 40% scale replica of Captain Cook’s ship, and be sure to buy your lunch from Magpie Cafe, famous for its fish and chips - legend has it that this is the best chippie in England!
Related content: Fun ideas for a long weekend in Whitby and the surrounding areas.
Head to the south coast for one of England's most popular seaside destinations, Brighton! Nicknamed London on sea, we'd argue that it's more like the capital's cooler, younger sibling. Inclusive and vibrant, Brighton has a thriving LGBTQ+ community, is chock full of fab shops (head to the Lanes and North Laine for gorgeous vintage clothes, jewellery and antiques) and has some magnificent Regency crescents and squares to explore.
While Brighton's beach may be pebbly, it's still a great place to haul out and sunbathe, or you can hire a deckchair and people watch. Take a stroll down the Grade II listed Brighton Palace Pier and try your luck at the arcade games, and wander along the seafront. Brighton's promenade reminds us of California's Santa Monica - roller skaters, street performers, impromptu dance sessions and basketball games, there's always loads going on!
History buffs will enjoy visiting the Royal Pavillion, a Grade I listed former royal residence built in 1787 as a seaside holiday home for George IV when he was still the Prince of Wales. It was also used by William IV and Queen Victoria, before she sold it to the city, preferring to use Osborne House on the Isle of Wight as her seaside retreat. The Pavilion looks outrageous, like a mini Taj Mahal with domes and towers, and the nearby concert venue, the Brighton Dome, was originally home to the royal stables. Today you buy a ticket to explore the lavish interiors and even get married inside!
Finish your visit (or start your night out - Brighton is spoilt for choice with pubs and clubs!) with a drink with a view at British Airways i360. Created by Marks Barfield Architects, the team behind the London Eye, an oval shaped glass viewing pod slowly travels 450ft up a mast, giving 360 degree views of the sea, the city and the South Downs.
You might also enjoy our blog: 18 top, easy day trips from London.
The Jurassic Coast:
This magical stretch of the south coast is a World Heritage Site and home to 185 million years of history, with rocks dating from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. Stretching 95 miles across the Devon and Dorset coastline, the Jurassic Coast is famous for the huge number of fossils found here - you might have heard of palaeontologist Mary Anning, who lived in Lyme Regis in the 19th century and made several incredibly important discoveries including the first correctly identified ichthyosaur skeleton (found when she was only twelve!) the first two nearly complete plesiosaur skeletons; the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany along with numerous fish fossils.
You can do your own Jurassic Coast fossil hunting, but be very careful around the bases of the beaches' dramatic cliffs - the area is notorious for its severe erosion and landslips are frequent and can come from nowhere. We'd recommend the pebbly beaches at Charmouth and Lyme Regis to start looking, and limit your search to the loose rocks on the beach. Digging into the cliffs is forbidden and extremely dangerous! No need to try and split rocks, there is plenty to find just with your eyes on the beach. Oh and check the tide times before you start looking! During busy months, you might see the Jurassic Coast Trust's Fossil Warden out and about, be sure to show them your finds and they can help you identify them!
Beautiful Lyme Regis is a wonderful seaside town to base yourself in for your Jurassic Coast trip. Take a stroll along the beach front, complete with Ammonite street lights, and walk down the 700 year old Cobb harbour wall. Don't miss the spectacular Ammonite Pavement, an incredible set of huge fossils the size of dustbin lids set within the flat rocks at the western end of Monmouth Beach. As well as fossil hunting, you could relax on sandy Front beach, visit the town's museum, explore the narrow streets of little shops selling fossils and antiquities and do some hiking around Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast.
Another beautiful beach you can visit is Lulworth Cove with its blue curved bay and fascinating geology - follow the footpath up and over to visit Durdle Door, and impressive natural Limestone sea arch.
While you're down in Dorset, pay a visit to Beer Quarry Caves, an enormous man made complex of caves dug to quarry the famous Beer stone and used from the Roman times until the 1920s. This beautiful white stone has been used in 24 cathedrals including St Paul's, as well as the Tower of London, Windsor Castle and parts of Westminster Abbey.
Another stunning area in England (in fact it's a designated Area Of Natural Beauty), the Cotswolds are full of chocolate box cute villages, thatched rooves, tea rooms and beautiful country walks.
First stop, head to Bibury, named "the most beautiful village in England" by artist William Morris. It's most famous landmark is Arlington Row, an exquisite terrace of stone cottages built in the 13th century and converted into weavers' homes in the 17th century. If your UK passport was issued between 2010 and 2015, you'll find a picture of Arlington Row printed inside!
Other stunning Cotswolds locations include the villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter (much prettier than their names suggest!), the elegant Bourton-on-the-Water, where 5 stone footbridges span the wide river running beside the main street, Georgian time capsule Burford, whose high street is chock full of 17th and 18th century houses made of golden Cotswold stone and bustling market town Stow-on-the-Water. Cotswolds capital Cirencester is well worth a visit - this historic market town dates back to the Romans! Pop into the award winning Corinium Museum or drive 20 minutes to Chedworth Roman Villa.
Stratford upon Avon:
Famous for being the birth place of England's most celebrated playwright, William Shakespeare, Stratford Upon Avon is a beautiful day out. Fans of the Bard will enjoy visiting Shakespeare's Birthplace (where William was born, grew up and spent the first five years of his marriage to Anne Hathaway) and New Place (the site of his family home for 19 years and where he died - unfathomably knocked down in 1759 and now a beautiful garden). Nearby, you can also have a Latin lesson and try your hand at using a quill and ink Shakespeare's Schoolroom - the very room where a young William sat in the 1570s!
The River Avon flows through the town and is a lovely place to take a stroll with an ice cream to watch the swans. Alternatively you could hire a rowing boat or enjoy an audio guided narrowboat cruise!
Children (and big kids) with an interest in history should head to Tudor World, a living history museum set within a 16th century building. Learn about Shakespeare and his contemporaries, from Henry VIII to Sir Francis Drake, visit a school and a plague house and take a seat on a throne!
Contrary to popular belief, Shakespeare is not buried in London's Westminster Abbey (although he does have a life sized memorial there), but in Stratford's Holy Trinity Church. He died in 1616 on his 52nd birthday and the playwright's grave is inside the church, close to the altar alongside his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandson-in-law. His epitaph is a curse, written by Shakespeare himself as a warning to would be grave robbers:
"Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones."
The bust of Shakespeare nearby on the north wall was erected a few years after his death, while his wife Anne was still alive, and is said to be a reliable likeness of the Bard.
Finish your visit by watching a performance at the Swan Theatre, home to the world famous Royal Shakespeare Company.
Slightly biased here as Emma grew up in Norwich, but it definitely deserves its place on this list. Norwich is the most complete Medieval city in the UK. From its perfectly square Norman castle up on the hill (home to a fantastic museum) to its magnificent cathedral and narrow cobblestoned lanes, this beautiful city is chock full of history. The open air market, famous for its brightly coloured striped covered stalls (open every day except Sundays), has been a Norwich institution for 900 years, and the medieval Norwich Lanes are packed with tiny shops and cafes. Pop into independent department store Jarrolds, a family run Norwich institution since 1823 and head to the Cathedral Quarter to explore cobblestoned Elm Hill, full of Tudor houses and shops. While you're there, don't miss the Bear Shop, home to hundreds of teddies!
On a sunny day, take a stroll and a picnic through Plantation Gardens, a 3 acre Grade II English Heritage registered green space with flowers, woodland, terraces and lawns or head to the River Wensum.
A city break to Norwich also opens up a gateway to world of outstanding natural beauty. In our opinion, the North Norfolk Coast is one of the most beautiful parts of this whole country, full of huge beaches and wide open skies, a massive amount of birdlife and quaint seaside towns: Our favourites are Holkham, home to a gorgeous beach and magnificent Holkham Hall, Wells Next The Sea with its striped beach huts and penny arcades, the blustery wilderness of Brancaster and Thornham beaches and the RSPB reserve at Titchwell, or for old Victorian Charm visit Cromer or Sheringham.
You could also take a boat trip along the Norfolk Broads, a National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and fresh water wonderland, home to otters and bittern.
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