25/05/2024

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21 Best Things to Do in England & Places to Visit

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21 Best Things to Do in England & Places to Visit

If you find yourself interested in visiting England, you’ll find that this country is bursting at the seams with reasons to visit. The things to do in England are numerous and diverse and can provide a memorable and enjoyable trip for the whole family.

There are bustling cities, peaceful countryside retreats, and rugged coastlines to visit. Whether you’re a nature lover looking for top-tier hiking, a theatre nerd wanting to experience the West End, or looking to smell the sea breeze while you chow down on some fish and chips, England will have something for you.

Many top attractions that might first enter your mind will probably be those in England’s capital, London. But travel a little further afield, and you’ll see the many other cultural hotspots, UNESCO World Heritage sites, rich history, and exciting experiences you could enjoy throughout the country.

As we delve into this adventure, we’ll take a goosey-gander at 21 of the best things to do in England so you can choose whichever ideas might suit you for your next vacation in England.

TL;DR

22 Best Things to Do in England

1. Marvel at Exhibitions at the Natural History Museum

London Ice Skating at Natural History Museum building
BBA Photography / Shutterstock.com

Address: Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD, UK

Whenever I’m in London, I always try to visit the Natural History Museum, a top spot to visit in England. The museum opened its doors in 1881, and it still stands as an iconic landmark of London with beautiful Romanesque architecture and an abundance of appeal to millions of visitors yearly.

Entrance is free for the static exhibits available all year, with regular temporary exhibits to visit for a small fee.

My favorite yearly exhibit the museum holds is the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Each year, it features some truly stunning photography by photographers of varying ages and backgrounds with beautiful, intriguing, and sometimes incredibly thought-provoking shots.

The museum does hold other special events to suit all tastes. For example, have you ever wanted to sleep over at a museum? The Natural History Museum has an event, Dino Sores, featuring different activities for the separate children’s and adult packages. With either age group, though, they feature tours of the museum after dark.

See Related: Best Museums in Europe to Visit

2. Experience Theatrical Brilliance on the West End

Disney Lion King Lyceum Theatre exterior
Kristina Blokhin / Adobe Stock

Of all the things to do in England, attending a West End show is my favorite. It’s an activity to suit the whole family and a wide range of budgets.

Sure, you can splash out on the good seats, but the cheaper seats at the back still provide a fantastic experience! Booking sites like London Theatre Direct are great and trustworthy sites to nab a ticket unless you’d rather purchase at the door.

Anyone can enjoy the theatre in London’s West End. You’ve got the likes of The Lion King Musical, featuring impressive puppetry that any kid (and adult) would love, or you’ve got The Book of Mormon with hilariously edgy humor for the adults.

You could also take yourself away from the stage and learn more about the area in general. Take a self-guided audio tour of the West End and learn about its significant theatrical history.

See Related: Interesting, Fun Facts About London

3. Delve into the Past at the British Museum

British Museum exterior in London
Claudio Divizia / Adobe Stock

Address: Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG, UK

The British Museum is a real treat to delve into the fascinating history of the world. Additionally, like the Natural History Museum, entry to the British Museum is free unless you attend any special exhibitions.

The museum opens into its iconic glass dome, which lets in all possible natural light for a positively grand entrance, then teeters off into different sections to explore the history of the world. The museum holds around 8 million objects, with about 80,000 on public display at any time.

For any eager history buff, consider a guided museum tour. With so much to take in at the museum, having a knowledgeable guide to walk you through will make your visit more enriching and memorable.

The British Museum features some well-executed temporary exhibits throughout the year. I went to a particularly intriguing one, titled Sunken Treasures, a while back that combined my love of diving and ancient Egypt. The exhibit featured ground-breaking discoveries from underwater excavations of the bed of the Nile, and it was 100% worth the reasonable fee to experience.

See Related: The Ultimate Packing Checklist for Traveling to London

4. Visit the World of Harry Potter

The Great Hall  in Harry Potter Studios, UK
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London / Facebook

Address: Studio Tour Dr, Leavesden, Watford WD25 7LR, UK

Harry Potter experiences have popped up worldwide, but the OG studio tour can be found in Watford. It’s a 20-minute train ride from Central London and then a short shuttle bus of about 15 minutes from Watford Station to the studios.

As a Harry Potter fan, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the Studio Tour, which was amazingly immersive. The details of the tour, which is self-guided, are incredible.

The whole atmosphere of the place really draws you in right from the get-go. Of course, the gift shop at the end is a nice extra for treating yourself to some merch to take home.

However, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour is not the only way to include some Harry Potter into your trip to England. You could attend the West End to watch the two-part Cursed Child. Or, you could always take a Harry Potter tour around central London to see some of the sites that inspired J.K Rowling’s work.

See Related: The Ultimate List of Harry Potter Things to Do in London

5. Relive Literary Legend

Front of Globe Theatre, London
coward_lion / Adobe Stock

Address: 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT, UK

William Shakespeare made quite a name for himself during his time. Sure, he stole, or ‘borrowed,’ a lot of his work from other writers at the time, but he’s still an iconic English literary star.

To learn more about the famous bard, visit the Globe Theatre beside the River Thames. The original Globe Theatre burnt down within one hour in 1613, but the new version of today, which opened in 1997, does it justice.

The reconstruction serves as a unique theatrical space in London, with its traditional thatched roof and open-air stage. Attending a play here is an experience in itself, regardless of what play you see. Regular events, tours, and performances throughout the year are worth checking out.

The pet-friendly, 4-star Native Bankside apartments are just around the corner from the Globe. They serve as a close neighbor for your visit to the Globe for easy accessibility should you pack in a few performances during your stay!

See Related: Where to Stay in London: Best Areas & Neighborhoods

6. Visit the Oldest Inhabited Castle in the World

Trail in Windsor Castle
alice_photo / Adobe Stock

Address: Castle Hill, Windsor, SL4 1PD

The oldest inhabited castle in the world is Windsor Castle, Windsor. It’s long been a royal residence for British royalty, alongside the likes of Buckingham Palace, and is open for tourists to visit.

The castle has been in operation for over 1,000 years, so its walls have some history to tell. From William the Conquerer in the early 11th Century to the late Queen Elizabeth II, the castle has hosted much of the royal family. It has been the venue for numerous ceremonial and state occasions like royal weddings.

It’s easy to fit Windsor Castle into a day trip from London, as it’s under an hour away via train. Make time for afternoon tea at the castle, or delve into the state apartments and rooms to see true royal treasures.

If you’d rather stick around, stay at Castle Hotel Windsor in Windsor city center. Windsor Castle is only a few minutes walk away, but it’s also under a 20-minute drive from other great attractions like LEGOLAND and Thorpe Park.

See Related: Best Castles in London You Need to See

7. Uncover Ancient Mysteries at Stonehenge

Close-up of Stonehenge
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Salisbury SP4 7DE, UK

A world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stonehenge is something special. You can get there as quickly as under two hours via public transport from London, even quicker if you drive yourself.

The site was built in several stages. About 5,000 years ago, the first stones were laid down, and then a couple of thousand years later, in the Neolithic period, the unique stone circle we all know today was constructed, and burial mounds followed during the Bronze Age.

Many visitors to this site choose to do so via an organized tour. This is great if you want to learn as much about the area as possible during your visit. But you can easily visit this iconic historic landmark completely free, so it’s a great option if visiting England on a budget.

Salisbury is a lovely place to visit, so you wouldn’t go wrong spending a few days here to explore the surrounding area more. You can find many great apartment rentals within the city center to serve as a perfect base for venturing out to other local attractions like Salisbury Cathedral or the old city center.

8. Indulge in Georgian Elegance at Roman Baths

Roman Baths in Bath, England
bnoragitt / Adobe Stock

Address: Abbey Churchyard, Bath BA1 1LZ, UK

The gorgeous Georgian city of Bath provides the experience of visiting a charmingly preserved city filled with stunning architecture and lots to do. The Roman baths were constructed around 70 AD, and they can boast the title of one of the best-preserved Roman remains in the entire world. While you can’t take a dip in the baths, you can enjoy the museum to learn about its history and admire the stunning architecture.

The baths are a particular draw for tourists to the city. They’re a great shout for families with activity trails to explore and children’s audio guides to hand. They also host various other activities like T’ai Chi on the roof, learning tours, and summer holiday arts and crafts.

If you just so happen to be visiting in summer, you may want to consider an evening visit. The Roman baths have special late openings during the summer, so you can experience this top spot in a new light. With the dimming night sky, the baths are illuminated and take on a new persona.

9. Visit Liverpool: Home of the Most Popular Band in History

The Beatles Statue at night
Matt-T-Lee / Adobe Stock

Liverpool is one of the most exciting cities in England. Home to the Beatles, a strong maritime history, Liverpool football club, a great nightlife and shopping scene, it’s a great port city in England.

The Beatles are a significant claim to fame for the city, and many tourists flock to notable spots around Liverpool for some music history nostalgia. In fact, as soon as you fly into Liverpool, there’s a big yellow submarine just outside the airport (in reference to one of the Beatles’ songs, Yellow Submarine). Deeper into the city, you could visit the Cavern Club or see the statues of the band members down by the river.

While I’ve mostly stayed with family when visiting this vibrant city, I once stayed at the Novotel Liverpool Centre and would happily recommend it. It’s in a perfect location within easy walking distance to Liverpool One shopping center. Rooms are spacious and, more importantly, very quiet for being slap bang in the city center.

10. Go hiking in a National Park

Aerial view of Lake District National Park
David Matthew Lyons / Adobe Stock

England has numerous national parks worth visiting if hiking and nature are your cup of tea. For all the things to do in England, you won’t regret visiting one of its national parks and leaving the hustle and bustle of its cities.

If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the Lake District National Park (the Peak District being a very close second). The Lake District is an area of outstanding natural beauty with more than enough to do to warrant a visit.

The Lake District National Park in the North West of England was a firm favorite of famed British writer Beatrix Potter. Beatrix was a keen supporter of the National Trust in the early 20th Century and helped raise money to save land in the Lake District from development. She has a big part to play in its withstanding beauty today.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in the United Kingdom

11. Unearth Ancient History on the Jurassic Coast

Jurrasic Coast, England
Pawel Pajor / Adobe Stock

In South West England lies the Jurassic Coast. The Jurrasic Coast is one of the places to visit in England that is ideal for history and geology buffs, as its beautiful landscape features incredible geological importance. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site that runs for 95 miles along Dorset and Devon.

The fascinating history that lies on the Jurassic Coast makes it a geological treasure trove, as rocks from the Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Triassic periods can all be found here. In fact, it’s the only place in the world where you can find so many specimens representing 185 million years of our world’s history!

The Jurassic Coast is a brilliant year-round spot if you’re happy to pop the wellies on. From fossil hunting, gawping over the coastal beauty from a boat at sea, or just enjoying the English coastline, it’s a treat for all the family. You could also look to take in as many of the brilliant natural landmarks along the Jurrasic Coast, like Lylworth Cove or the limestone arch of Durdle Door.

As the Jurrasic Coast runs for 95 miles, you can bet there are plenty of great spots to stay. The 4-star option, The Bridge House, is just a five-minute drive from the coast. Classically decorated, the Bridge House is a great shout for families, and I’ve seen rave reviews on brekkie.

12. Escape to Botanical Wonder

Garden in Eden Project, England
PETRA / Adobe Stock

Address: Bodelva, Par PL24 2SG, UK

The Eden Project hit the headlines when it first popped up in 1995 and then opened its doors to the public a few years later in 2000. Set in Cornwall, the Eden Project saw the transformation of a once barren, former clay mine into a remarkable global garden. Now, it provides a great day out to delve into the natural world.

The Biomes at the Eden Project take you on a little journey to the largest indoor rainforest you’ll find on our planet. Even if you’re not a garden guru or flora fanatic, there’s plenty to do at the Eden Project besides marveling at beautiful plant life.

The Eden Project plays host to many events throughout the year, such as marathons, silent discos, Christmas parties, and exhibitions. Also, if you want an adrenaline boost, there’s even the chance to go ziplining above the complex.

Boscundle Manor makes for a luxurious stay a mere mile from the Eden Project. It’s got an indoor pool, spa, and wellness center, all within a wonderfully quiet countryside location.

13. Roam the Historic Streets of York

Shambles in York, England
Alexey Fedorenko / Adobe Stock

Having had the pleasure of living in York for a few years, I can say it’s a very popular tourist spot in England, but deservingly so.

For starters, one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Shambles, is teeming with medieval architecture. In fact, it’s one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in all of Europe. Wandering down the cobbled streets is a real treat as there are many little niche shops alongside some brilliant bars and restaurants.

There’s also York Minster. It’s been an epicenter of Christianity in Northern England since the 7th Century. Many city tours will include the Minster in a list of local highlights and explain how this historical building became one of England’s largest gothic cathedrals.

For staying in York, I would recommend The Grand York Hotel. It’s a 5-star option, only a very short walking distance from the main train station if you want to take day trips out to places like Castle Howard or the Yorkshire Dales.

14. Admire the Grandeur of Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral in England
cloudvisual / Adobe Stock

Address: Minster Yard, Lincoln LN2 1PX, UK

I couldn’t say enough good things about Lincoln, having spent my University years living in the city. One major draw to the city is its Cathedral.

To get to the Cathedral, bring some comfy shoes to brave the infamous Steep Hill, England’s fourth steepest hill. There are many lovely shops and cafes en route, though, should you want a mini break. Otherwise, you could always take a taxi or a bus and go a different route!

The cathedral has appeared in movies like The Da Vinci Code and has stood proudly overlooking the city for over 950 years. The cathedral offers a few great tours to learn more about its history. I can’t recommend the rooftop tour enough for some fascinating insights and the best view of Lincoln you’re going to get.

But don’t forget Lincoln Castle just next door. At the castle, you can see the Victorian prison and the medieval wall walk. The best time to visit would be around Christmas time, as the Christmas markets around the cathedral, castle, and nearby winding streets are wonderful.

See Related: Best Christmas Markets in Europe to Visit

15. Trace Roman Footprints

Aerial view of Hadrian's Wall
drhfoto / Adobe Stock

Hadrian’s Wall is a Roman 73-mile frontier built on the wishes of Emperor Hadrian, and it’s said to have taken at least six years to complete.

This historic wall was a frontier for the Roman Empire for not far off 300 years. After Hadrian’s death, the new Emperor abandoned this fortification for his meager replacement, ‘Antonine Wall.’ This replacement was short-lived, though, and only lasted 20 years before a return was made to Hadrian’s Wall.

It’s estimated that about 90% of the wall has fallen to ruin. This is because of a few things, like people using it as a quarry to use the stones for building works. But we have the likes of John Clayton and John Hodgson to thank, who, alongside other early archaeologists and historians of the mid-19th Century, made an effort to support the preservation of its remains.

16. Explore Picturesque Villages in the Cotswolds

Castle Combe, Cotswolds at dawn
U-JINN Photography / Adobe Stock

England is full of quaint and wonderful villages to visit. The aforementioned Lake and Peak District are great places to visit for quiet country villages, complete with traditional English pubs, quiet country lanes, and rolling hills for days. But there are many more to wander around in England.

Other great spots include the Cotswolds, which are so pretty that photos don’t do justice. Castle Combe in the Cotswolds is a quintessentially English village that boasts the title of “the prettiest village in England.” Ancient cottages and trickling streams call this picture-perfect postcard town their home.

The Old Museum is an exceptional holiday home within Castle Combe, providing optimal accessibility to explore the surrounding area. Moreover, you’ll only be looking at about a 20-minute drive to the Roman baths of Bath or a half-hour drive to Bristol. Both make great choices for day trips if staying in Castle Combe.

17. Enjoy the Activities Aplenty on Cornwall’s Beaches

Aerial view of Newquay Tolcarne beach in North Cornwall
Charlesy / Shutterstock

The seaside along the English coast can be a bit of a hit-and-miss. While some areas are a little run down, if you pick the right spots, you are in for a massive treat! The best beaches you’re going to find in England, though, lie in the south-west of England in Cornwall.

With well over 300 beaches, Cornwall boasts some of the best seaside spots in England. Cornwall beaches can cater to hikers wanting rugged coastline walks, surfers wanting some prime surf, or people just wanting a lounge in the sun (when it’s there).

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary can provide a great family day out to learn more about the amazing work being undertaken to help save the diverse marine life surrounding the Cornish coast. The absolute best time to spot seals off the Cornish coast is May – September, and many tours are available to go freediving to see these guys in their natural habitat.

Otherwise, it’s a great spot to go to if water sports are your thing. Cornwall has some of the best surfing in the UK, and the beaches of Newquay should be your go-to for surfing. Otherwise, the list of water-based activities is seemingly endless, from paddleboarding, diving, kayaking, and coasteering.

18. Blackpool Tower

Aerial view of Blackpool Tower, Blackpool
Jessica Dale / Adobe Stock

Address: The Blackpool Tower, The Promenade, Blackpool, FY1 4BJ

An homage to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, Blackpool Tower is indeed now a famous and significant landmark of England in its own right. Due to its height of just over 518 feet, on a clear day, you might be able to see it as far away as the Lake District, about 48 miles away.

The Tower Ballroom is particularly famous as one of the most spectacular ballrooms in England. As well as hosting the popular British TV Show Strictly Come Dancing (known by the less punny Dancing With the Stars in the U.S.) for a dancing special each season, the ballroom plays host to many other events you could enjoy, such as:

The tower also provides the best views you’ll get in Blackpool. Head up to the Blackpool Tower Eye at the tower’s tip to get a great view along the horizon out to sea or towards the surrounding countryside.

See Related: Best Hotels in Paris With View of Eiffel Tower

19. Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Ferris Wheel in Blackpool Pleasure Beach Pier
albinoni / AbobeStock

Speaking of Blackpool, if you find yourself in the area, you should consider popping by Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach first opened in 1896, and I’ve many a fond memory of visiting with family as a small child. It’s England’s most ride-intensive amusement park, with 125 rides and attractions! Suitable for the whole family with rides ranging from kid-friendly Nickelodeon Land to ICON, the first double-launch roller coaster in the UK.

Blackpool makes for a great day trip from neighboring spots like Liverpool, at just over an hour away on the train, but it’s also a nice spot to have as your main base on your trip. The Gatsby Blackpool – Formerly The Windsor, is a 4-star exceptionally rated hotel close to the beach and about a 30-minute walk away from Blackpool Tower.

20. Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle in Warwick, England
Madrugada Verde / Adobe Stock

Address: Warwick CV34 6AU, UK

Warwick Castle is a popular historic castle in the city of Warwick. This medieval castle makes for a great day out with various activities for guests to enjoy and regular live events.

Originally constructed in the early 11th Century on orders from William the Conquerer, Warwick Castle has over a thousand years of rich history to share. It’s been a royal residence, a stronghold, and even a prison throughout the years, and ownership of the castle has changed many hands between noble families.

A trip to Warwick Castle could involve:

  • Watching a live falconry show to see magnificent birds of prey in flight.
  • Watching a live jousting show.
  • Having a go with some archery.
  • Attending a free history tour led by expert historians.

It’s the standard Renaissance festival hijinks, only considerably more authentic, because it’s all happening in a place where the Renaissance actually happened, and not a field in Minnesota.

Overnight stays are possible within the castle complex. But if you would rather stay a little further afield, Warick itself is a great day trip from London. Otherwise, The Warwickshire Hotel and Country Club is a great spot with its 18-hole golf course, swimming pool, and gym ready to keep you busy when you’re not out exploring.

21. Let Loose at an Amusement Park

Roller Coaster Ride in Alton Towers
Alton Towers / Facebook

There are many amusement parks to visit in England if you want to add a good old bit of fun to your trip. Most of them are pretty small, but there are a few monumental

While I’ve got a lot of time for Thorpe Park and Chessington, my favorite would be Alton Towers in Staffordshire. It’s the biggest of all the amusement parks in the UK, with over 40 rides and attractions spanning 550 acres, and has been a popular spot since it opened in 1980. It’s a park for the whole family, from the nerve-testing rides of “Nemesis” and “Oblivion” to kid-friendly tree-top adventures or visits to Peter Rabbit.

While there are many on-site options for staying at Alton Towers, there are also neighboring properties like The Bay Tree in Alton that are just a short drive from the park but can be a better gateway to exploring the surrounding area. Either option comes highly rated; staying at the park is great for a multi-day visit, and staying further afield is better for a more -well-rounded visit.

FAQs

What is the best time to visit England?

Summer brings the peak tourist season for England. The summertime in England generally brings better weather than the rest of the year, so outdoor pursuits are in full swing. Just be prepared for hiked-up prices and larger crowds, especially in the more touristy areas.

But I would consider England a year-round destination, depending on your trip expectations and preferences. Be prepared for the season, pack accordingly, and make the most of it!

Places like London are great even on ‘dreary’ days, as there are so many great things to do indoors. Moreover, quaint villages in the countryside look like something out of a fairy tale with a fresh blanket of snow, and the national parks are stunning when sporting fall foliage.

How can I travel within England on a budget?

England can be a budget-friendly destination if you can be flexible with your travel plans.

Accommodation prices can drop if you travel out of the peak summer season or stay out of big cities and commute in via train or bus. Traveling outside of summer also has the potential benefit of cheaper tour prices or special deals on attractions.

What are the top tourist attractions in England?

Many of the major tourist attractions in England are in London. The British Museum and Natural History Museum are great rainy-day options. Moreover, spots like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey are all popular tourist attractions.

Move outside of central London, though, and there’s a whole bunch of notable tourist attractions that deserve some attention, like Stonehenge, Warwick Castle, York Minster, the Beatles trail of Liverpool, and sites of natural beauty like the Lake District, all deserving of their popularity with tourists and locals alike.

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