One of the most visited countries in the world, England offers travellers endless possibilities when it comes to fun things to see and do. Part of the beautiful British Isles, this small but influential country is simply bursting with fascinating history, exciting cities and rich cultural traditions. Historic sites are found at every turn, from old castles dotting the picturesque countryside and colleges dating back to the Middle Ages to ancient Roman sites and centuries old royal palaces.
England is also extremely easy to get around, and whether you choose to tour the country by car or public transport, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience.
Stonehenge, just 10 mi north of Salisbury on Salisbury Plain, is Britain’s most famous ancient monument, and one of its most popular tourist attractions (the site is so popular visitors need to purchase a timed ticket in advance to guarantee entry).
Covering 8 sq mi, the “hanging stones” were placed here from 3000-1500 BC. The Bronze Age stone circles visible today were in use until the Roman era, when they were destroyed to prevent cults like the Druids from influencing the population. An excellent Visitor Centre is home to informative exhibitions, and includes a shop and café.
2 Tower of London
Prison, palace, treasure vault, observatory, and menagerie – the Tower of London has done it all. Widely considered the most important building in England, there’s enough to see and do at this World Heritage Site to keep visitors busy for hours. The centerpiece is the White Tower. Built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, it’s home to amazing exhibits such as Line of Kings, the world’s oldest visitor attraction (1652) with its remarkable displays of royal armor. Other highlights include the wonderful Crown Jewels exhibition, classic Yeoman Warder Tours, the Royal Mint, and exhibits and displays regarding prisoners and executions. All told, the Tower of London covers some 18 acres, so there’s a great deal of exploring to do.
Location: Tower of London, London
3 The City of Bath
If you only have time to visit one smaller city in England, you couldn’t do much better than Bath. This remarkably beautiful city boasts more fantastic tourist attractions than you could hope to visit in a day. While most famous for the magnificent 2,000-year-old Roman Baths built around the city’s rejuvenating hot springs, it’s equally well known for its honey-colored Georgian Townhouses such as those located on Royal Crescent. Some 500 of the city’s buildings are considered of historical or architectural importance, a fact that has resulted in the entire city being granted World Heritage status. Bath makes an ideal location from which to explore some of England’s most stunning countryside, including the Avon Valley, the Mendip Hills and countless other fantastic Somerset landmarks.
Location: Abbey Chambers, Abbey Churchyard, Bath
4 Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle has served as the summer residence of British Royals since William the Conqueror built the first fortress here in 1078. The largest inhabited castle in the world, Windsor Castle is built around two spectacular courtyards, and entrance fees include admission to the State Apartments (closed when The Queen’s at home, so check whether the royal flag’s flying). Also of note is the wonderful Great Park, a magnificent 6 mi-long park that most North American visitors will already have seen from the air as they fly into Heathrow. And, of course, no visit to a royal palace would be complete without witnessing the Changing the Guard in the Castle Precincts.
Location: The Official Residences of The Queen, Windson
5 Historic Yorkshire
Although Yorkshire is divided into four “ridings” – North, South, West and East Ridings – the habit of referring to the county by its traditional name runs deep in England (a habit picked up by most travellers). Traditional Yorkshire encompasses some of the most beautiful historic towns and cities in England, including Durham, Beverley and York with its magnificent half-timbered homes and shops, medieval guildhalls and churches, and romantic streets surrounded by 3 mi of magnificent town walls. York is also a great base from which to explore the countryside, in particular the rugged beauty of the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.
6 Cambridge University
The old-world charm of Cambridge is a huge draw for visitors to England, and is an excellent (and easy) day-trip from London. Well-known for its university – as famous as its counterpart in Oxford – Cambridge boasts the country’s largest collection of preserved historic buildings, much of it clustered around Cambridge University’s 31 colleges. In addition to its vibrant shopping and dining, Cambridge hosts many excellent cultural events, including the 800-year-old Midsummer Fair and the famous Cambridge Folk Festival.
Location: The Old Schools, Trinity Lane, Cambridge
7 Lake District National Park
Covering some 900 sq mi, the Lake District National Park is a must-visit destination for travellers to England. With 12 of the country’s largest lakes and over 2,000 mi of rights of way waiting to be explored, there’s little wonder the region continues to inspire with its magnificent views and scenery straight out of a painting. Other attractions are the park’s many fells, including Scafell Pike (3,210 ft), the highest mountain in England, lovely little towns and villages such as Grasmere, as well as boat excursions across Lake Windermere and Ullswater.
Location: Murley Moss, Oxenholme Rd, Kendal
8 Canterbury Cathedral
Located in the heart of the historic city that bears its name, Canterbury Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is home to the Archbishop of Canterbury and is the cradle of English Christianity. It all started when St Augustine converted the pagan Anglo Saxons here in 597 when he became the first bishop. But there’s much more to this beautiful medieval city than its cathedral. Canterbury is also a popular cultural and entertainment destination with great shopping, galleries and cafés, as well as attractions such as those focused on Chaucer’s medieval England and the city’s Roman past.
Address: 11 The Precincts, Canterbury
9 Eden Project
The incredible Eden Project is a collection of unique artificial biomes containing an amazing collection of plants from around the world. Located in a reclaimed quarry in Cornwall, the complex consists of huge domes that look rather like massive igloo-shaped greenhouses. Each houses thousands of different plant species in tropical and Mediterranean environments. As well as these stunning displays of plant life, the Eden Project hosts numerous fantastic arts and music events.
Hours: Open daily 9am-6pm (summer); hours vary during spring, fall, and winter
Admission: Adults, £23.50; Children 5-16, £23.50
Location: Bodelva, Cornwall
Accommodation: Where to Stay near the Eden Project – TripAdvisor.com
10 The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds cover some 787 sq mi and encompass parts of some of England’s prettiest counties – Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. And all of it begs to be explored. Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty due to its rare limestone grassland habitats and old growth beech woodlands, the beauty of the Cotswolds has as much to do with its quaint villages and towns, such as Castle Combe, Chipping Norton and Tetbury. Like so much of England, the Cotswolds is perfect to discover on foot, particularly along the Cotswold Way, a 10 mi footpath with spectacular views of the Severn Valley and the Vale of Evesham.
11 Editor’s Pick Chartwell
Chartwell – much-loved home of Britain’s most famous Prime Minister, Winston Churchill – is perhaps not surprisingly one of the most visited of the National Trust’s portfolio of historic buildings. It’s where Churchill sought refuge and inspiration from 1924 until his death in 1965. This sumptuous home has been left as it was when the great man lived here, and is full of photos and mementoes evoking his career and interests (exhibits are rotated annually). Also worth exploring are the gardens, including lakes and looped walking trails through the adjoining woodland. (Please note: timed tickets are required for visits inside the home.)
Hours: Open daily year-round, but times vary depending upon season
Admission: Adults, £12.50; Children, £6.25
12 Warwick Castle
If you’re looking for a truly memorable English family excursion – one that offers a fascinating insight into life in medieval times – you couldn’t do much better than visit Warwick Castle. Located in the beautiful city of Warwick on the River Avon, this impressive fortress has dominated the landscape and history of the region for over 900 years. Today, it serves as a backdrop to medieval-themed events and reenactments, from jousting festivals to fairs and concerts. Warwick is a great base from which to explore the Cotswolds, as well as nearby cities such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Liverpool and Manchester, all just an easy drive away.
Location: Warwick Castle, W