The most popular travel destination in the world, England is known for its incredible tourist attractions and top things to do for locals and visitors alike. A small but influential nation located in the British Isles, this country has an interesting history, exciting cities, and rich diversity in its culture. Many sites are located at different time periods of history, from prehistoric megaliths to ancient Roman sites and from medieval castles to town centers that date back to the Middle Ages.
England is also an incredibly easy place to get around, as its most popular tourist attractions are well connected by well-planned transportation infrastructure. Another option is driving to your next destination on a well-planned system of highways. Whether you choose to tour by car, bus or train, you can’t miss the scenery. To make sure you have a fun and memorable experience, take our list of the best places to visit in England.
Stonehenge, a prehistoric site in Wiltshire, England, is one of Europe’s best-known prehistoric monuments. It has become so widespread that visitors must purchase a timed ticket to guarantee entry. Exhibitions at the excellent Stonehenge visitor center set the stage for the rest of the visit, explaining how the megaliths were erected between 3000 and 1500 BC, and sharing information about life during that time.
After walking around and viewing the viewpoints adjacent to these Neolithic monuments, stop by the authentic replicas of prehistoric homes to see the tools and implements of everyday Neolithic life. Inside the circle, you cannot walk among the stones during normal opening hours, however, you can reserve special early morning and late evening access into the circle from English Heritage, which manages the site.
2. Tower of London
Prison, palace, treasure vault, observatory, and menagerie: the Tower of London is the perfect place for anyone to visit, and it is one of London’s best attractions. The Tower of London is the most important building in England and actually has plenty of things to see and do.
The White Tower is the main focus of the fortress. The castle was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. It is home to an impressive number of exhibits including Line of Kings, the world’s oldest visitor attraction established in 1652.
In addition to the Classic Yeoman Warder Tours and the Crown Jewels, notable displays include the Royal Mint, exhibits, and displays regarding prison and executions. The Tower of London is expansive with its 18 acres, which allows for a lot of exploration.
3. The Roman Baths and Georgian City of Bath
If only you had more time, the best smaller city in England is Bath. The beautiful city boasts of more magnificent tourist attractions than you could discover in a day.
While known primarily for its 1,500-year-old Roman baths, it’s equally well known for its honey-colored, Georgian Townhouses, such as those located on Royal Crescent.
Some 500 of the buildings in the city are considered to be of historical or architectural importance, a fact that has resulted in World Heritage status being granted to the entire city. Bath is the ideal location from which to explore some of England’s most stunning countryside, including the Avon Valley, the Mendip Hills, and countless other great landmarks of Somerset.
4. The British Museum
The British Museum is one of the world’s greatest repositories of antiquities, holding a priceless collection of artifacts from a wide variety of cultures. The most famous ancient artifacts are the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon in Athens and the Rosetta Stone from Egypt.
There are many other wonderful pieces of art here that will captivate visitors to the Heart of the City. The Ancient Egyptian collection is the largest outside of Cairo, while the Mildenhall Treasure, the fourth-century Roman silver hoard unearthed in Suffolk in 1942, is nothing short of spectacular.
If you have the time, be sure to check out our guided tours or take part in a program. Shopping and dining are offered on-site.
5. York Minster and Historic Yorkshire
The magnificent York Minster takes second place in importance to the Church of England cathedral only to the Canterbury cathedral. It is located in the heart of York, and the surrounding buildings contain medieval pubs, shops, and churches.
Also, York’s romantic streets are surrounded by three miles of magnificent town walls, which you can walk atop for spectacular views above the city and its surroundings. While you are here, tour the National Railway Museum. It is a popular tourist attraction.
York provides a great exploration of the northeast, with the scenic natural beauty of the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Elsewhere in this corner of the country, you’ll find some of England’s most beautiful historic towns and cities, including Durham, which houses a castle, and Beverley, which has a minster.
6. Chester Zoo
This zoo is located in Upton, just over a mile north of Chester, in England, and is ranked among the best zoos in the country.
The more than 11,000 animals living at this site represent diversity in species. The zoo has appeal beyond just animal lovers, with splendid gardens as well available for visitors to enjoy. You can explore these extensive grounds on the zoo’s monorail system to reach the penguin pool, the largest tropical house, and the Chimpanzee Island. There are plenty of other fun activities at Chester Zoo, too, so spend your entire day here and have fun.
While in Chester explore the old city walls that are the best preserved in Britain. A time to explore Chester’s distinctive walkways and unique features. The Chester’ Rows are a unique set of half-timbered buildings that run the full length of a medieval city and make for a picturesque setting. Chester Cathedral is a beautiful place to see, but also worth checking out.
7. Lake District National Park
The Lake District National Park covers about 900 square miles and is a must-visit destination for travelers to England. With 12 of the country’s largest lakes and hundreds of miles of trails waiting to be explored, there’s little wonder the area inspires with its magnificent views and scenery straight out of a painting.
Another thing to do in the park is to hike to the nearby peaks including Scafell Pike at 3,210 feet. It would also be a good idea to explore some of the beautiful little villages and towns scattered throughout the region. Finally, if you go for a tour boat excursion across Lake Windermere and Ullswater, you will have the opportunity to see some of the best scenery anywhere in the country.
8. Canterbury Cathedral
Situated in the center of the ancient city that bears the name, Canterbury Cathedral acts as the “cathedral” of the Archbishop of Canterbury and as the birthplace of English Christianity. It all began when St. Augustine converted the Anglo Saxons in 597, which started Anglo-Saxon immigration here in the United States. Excellent guided tours of the cathedral are available, and for a truly memorable experience, consider booking an overnight stay on the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral.
Sadly, the city has so much more to offer than the great cathedral. Canterbury is a cultural and entertainment destination with great shopping, galleries, and cafés, and destinations that focus on Chaucer’s medieval England and the city’s Roman past.
Some of the other areas of Canterbury worth visiting include the old city, the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey, and medieval Beaney House.
9. Eden Project
The incredible Eden Project is a series of unique artificial biomes which contain an amazing collection of different plants from around the world. Designed out of a former quarry in Cornwall, this botanical garden complex features dome-shaped greenhouses that look rather like igloo-shaped greenhouses. Everyone houses thousands of different plant species from tropical and Mediterranean ecosystems.
Besides the impressive botanical exhibits, the Eden Project hosts various arts and music activities year-round. If you have the opportunity, you might try staying at the on-site hostel and/or enjoying a meal in one of the hotels’ restaurants. Attractions such as zipline tours and giant swings are also offered.
10. The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds cover an area of about 787 square miles and contain many of England’s most scenic and picturesque counties. Both of these explanations are here to be discussed. Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty owing to its unique limestone grassland habitats and old-growth beech woodlands, the beauty of the Cotswolds derives from its charming villages and settlements, such as Castle Combe, Chipping Norton, and Tetbury.
The Cotswolds is a wonderful place to visit on foot. The safest route is down the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile mountain bike route with scenic views of the Severn Valley and the Vale of Evesham. This path stretches the length of the Cotswolds and can be reached from several different ways.
11. The National Gallery
The National Gallery contains one of the most comprehensive collections of paintings in the world and is one of London’s most popular museums. The collections contain a wide selection of European paintings from the mid-13th century to the mid-19th century and reveal a strong concentration in the Dutch Masters and the Italian Schools of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the Italian galleries, look for art dating from the Italian Renaissance, including works by Fra Angelico, Giotto, Bellini, Botticelli, Correggio, Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, especially for works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
In the German and Dutch galleries are paintings by Albrecht Dürer, Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other well-known artists. Overall, artists from the 18th century through 1920, like Hogarth, Reynolds, Sargent, Gainsborough, Constable, and Turner, are considered some of the best. French art includes work by Eugène Delacroix, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Camille Cezanne.
There are no costs when visiting the National Gallery, making it one of the best free things to do in London. Guided tours and lunchtime lectures are available for free, and are an essential part of the tour experience.
12. Warwick Castle
If you are looking for a day trip that will provide you with a truly memorable English adventure, you couldn’t do much better than visit Warwick Castle. A medieval fortress located in the beautiful city of Warwick on the River Avon has dominated the region for more than 900 years. Today the castle serves as a backdrop for medieval-themed events and reenactments, including jousting festivals and fairs, concerts, and tours.
Warwick is also an interesting city to visit in addition to the Cotswolds and other nearby towns, famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Big market cities, including the hometowns of rock legends The Beatles, are all relatively easy to reach.
13. Tate Modern
When Tate Modern opened its new 10-story expansion in June 2016, increasing gallery space by more than 60 percent, visitor numbers skyrocketed, making it the most visited attraction in England. One of the newest and largest museums of modern and contemporary art, the Tate Modern shows a wide range of artistic expression ranging from paintings to works on paper to sculpture to films to performance art to installation art.
Among the many well-known artists, there are Picasso, Rothko, Dali, Matisse, and Modigliani included. Experience a more immersive view by visiting the top floor of the building for your 360-degree views of the London skyline and the River Thames far below.
To see what else Tate has in the UK, you should also visit Tate Britain in London, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St. Ives in the hills of Cornwall.
14. Royal Museums Greenwich
Downstream from Tower Bridge, Greenwich is the location of England’s largest historic architecturally preserved areas and the base for the British Navy. And just like those who enjoy maritime attractions, there is more to Greenwich than just ships and boats.
The highlight of the attraction is the Cutty Sark the last surviving tea ship of the 19th century. Built in 1869, the Cutty Sark was one of the finest and fastest ships of its day, and you can visit it to see the clipper in action, from the figurehead to the sailors’ quarters below decks. In addition, have a special afternoon tea overlooking the ship.
The central exhibition at the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre is about more than 500 years of Greenwich’s maritime history. In Queen’s House, the Royal Navy is featured from the Tudor Era all the way through the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
Greenwich Park is filled with beautiful gardens and walking paths, and here you can find the Old Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian Line, and marked by a steel rod in the floor of the Meridian Building. The zero meridian is the dividing line between the east and west hemispheres, with one foot in each. If you are hungry, you should try the great English breakfast at Heap’s Sausage Cafe!
15. Westminster Abbey
The Westminster Abbey has a long history of serving as the church for kings and queens. Since the Middle Ages, it’s been the official coronation church of England – 38 kings and queens have been crowned here. Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana were married here. Less than twenty-five monarchs are buried here. The abbey is filled with monuments to the men and women who made history.