What comes to mind when you think of England? Maybe the Queen, Shakespeare, the red double-decker buses, the numerous London sights, the countless pubs, the cute cottages or good music. During an England vacation you will experience a true contrast program, which you probably would not have expected before your first visit.
Vibrant cities, quaint fishing villages, unique coasts, mystical castles, endless hills and historical places with fascinating cultural monuments give the country a unique ambience. When you plan your trip, you are embarking on an exciting journey through time full of surprises! Below we recommend 22 best attractions to visit in the UK for an unforgettable stay.
22. Tower of London
It is a whole complex of buildings that held many different functions: the Tower of London was armory, royal palace, prison, arsenal, observatory, residence of the Yeoman Warders and place of minting coins. Today, the Tower is famous for housing the British Crown Jewels within its walls.
In 1078, William the Conqueror decided to build a wooden fortress on a hill at the edge of the City of London. Over the years, new buildings were erected. During the reign of Henry III, the fortress took on its present form with the extension to the river and the mainland. At that time it also got the name Tower of London.
The fortress consisted of three rings, two of which are still clearly visible in the ground plan. In its center the White Tower looks square – however, all its sides are of different lengths. In addition, various towers, the church of St. Per ad Vincula, the Waterloo Barracks and other buildings are part of the fortress.
The history of the Tower of London is marked by many famous captives and atrocities. Among others, Edward V and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury are said to have been imprisoned and executed in the Tower. And Anne Bolyen, Henry VIII’s wife, was also imprisoned in the Tower for treason and beheaded. Elizabeth I was also imprisoned here for a time.
21. The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths are the most famous attraction in Bath: the complex of bathhouses was already built by the Romans on natural hot springs, from which flows 46-degree water. Today it is one of the best preserved Roman baths in the world. They are located right next to a temple, which is dedicated to the healing goddess Sulis Minerva.
The Roman baths are located below street level. They are surrounded by buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, which are slightly higher. The center of the complex is the large pool with hot spring water. Now it is outdoors, but it is said that originally it was covered.
Attached to the complex is the Pump Room, which was once an important social gathering place. It is a neoclassical hall with a tap for warm thermal water to drink. Tastes a bit peculiar, but is supposed to be healthy. Today there is a restaurant in the pump room.
20. British Museum
The British Museum is one of the largest museums of human history and culture, with over 6 million objects and exhibits. The exhibits come from all continents and show the history of human culture from the beginning until today.
The British Museum is a popular attraction for visitors to London. Not only because of its extensive exhibitions. The large neoclassical building also houses the famous reading room of the former British Library. The inner courtyard of the museum was covered with glass according to the designs of the architect Sir Norman Foster (“Great Court”).
Founded in 1753, based primarily on the collections of physician Sir Henry Sloane, the museum opened its doors to the public in 1759. Today the museum is known for its collection of Egyptian mummies, the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles. Like so many other museums, the British Museum suffers a bit from a lack of space and cannot display many pieces, they lie dormant in stacks beneath the museum.
19. York Minster
York Minster is the largest medieval church in England with a characteristic light clarity. After a construction period of 250 years, it was completed in 1472. The size of the Gothic cathedral can be seen, for example, in the window wall, which is as large as the length of a tennis court. Also impressive are the two towers of the west facade and the mighty square crossing tower that rises above the center of the cathedral.
Because of the long period of construction, the various sections of the church date from different periods of the Gothic period. Thus, in the 13th century the transepts were built in the Early English Style, in the 14th century the nave and chapter house were built in the Decorated Style, and in the 14th/15th century the choir and towers were built in the Perpendicular Style. The cathedral is 175 meters long in total, the nave 35 meters wide and 32 meters high. The crossing tower and the west towers reach a height of 65 meters.
18. Windsor Castle
About 30 km west of the British capital, in the gently rolling countryside of the historic county of Royal Berkshire, lies the small town of Windsor, population 25,000. Here on the upper reaches of the Thames rises one of Britain’s most historic buildings: Windsor Castle. The castle is the official main residence of the British monarch. As exclusive as Windsor Castle is due to this function, it can fortunately also be experienced by guests. Many of the state rooms furnished with precious furniture, the park and the castle chapel can be visited and marveled at. And the city of Windsor itself and other destinations in its vicinity offer numerous opportunities for inspiring encounters with culture and nature.
With a floor area of 5.5 hectares square meters, Windsor Castle is considered the largest British castle and has been constantly expanded and rebuilt during its almost thousand-year history. Incidentally, no other castle in the world has been continuously inhabited for longer than Windsor Castle.
17. Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo is located in Upton by Chester in the English county of Cheshire and was opened in 1931 by George Mottershead and his family. With 51 hectares, it is one of the largest zoos in the UK and has been repeatedly named one of the best zoos in the world.
Over 710 species and over 9000 animals can be found at Chester Zoo. Or sometimes not. The enclosures are very generously laid out, so that some animal species are not to be seen also times, if these do not want it.
After Mottershead began to have more and more animals after World War 1, he began looking for a suitable area. His choice fell on Oakfield Manor and he thus fulfilled his long-cherished boyhood dream of having his own zoo. His vision was an animal park without the traditional Victorian iron cages. Inspired by the ideas of Carl Hagenbeck, who developed the modern zoo concept, Mottershead laid out mostly just moats to keep the animals separated from visitors.
16. Lake District National Park
You’ll find a picture-perfect landscape in England’s largest national park: the 2,172 km² Lake District National Park. Located between Edinburgh and Liverpool in Cumbria, this idyllic spot attracts outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world every year who don’t want to miss the fascinating flora and fauna.
Characterized by the mountain world of the approximately 1,000 meter high Cumbrian Mountains, which is crossed by numerous idyllic lakes, this national park is a true Mecca for nature lovers. The four mountains Scafell Pike (978m), Scafell (964m), Helvellyn (950m) and Skiddaw (931m), which all belong to the Lake District, are the highest in England. It is above all the mixture of mountains and lakes, forests and meadows, and the icing on the cake of picturesque little villages that make the Lake District National Park, also called Lakes or Lakeland, something very special.
The name itself comes from the multitude of lakes that exist here. There are 17 in total, Lake Windermere is the longest of them with its 17 kilometers and also the largest lake in the country. If you take a closer look at this enchanting area, it is not surprising that numerous poets, poets and writers came to this lovely place to get inspiration for their works.
15. Canterbury Cathedral
The construction of the original cathedral and Benedictine abbey began in 1067. However, after the choir burned down in 1174, construction of the current church began the following year, and it was expanded again and again over the coming centuries.
Today, the cathedral with its 75m high tower, the “Bell Harry”, is one of the masterful buildings of the Romantic and Gothic periods and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. Since the founding of the Anglican Church by Henry VIII, the Archbishop of Canterbury has been the spiritual head of the denomination and still crowns the English kings and queens today.
In addition, Canterbury Cathedral has been an important place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages, more precisely since the assassination of the then Lord Chancellor and Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 and his associated canonization in 1173. In the impressive interior are the tombs of some important personalities, such as Henry IV, Joan of Navarre and the “Black Prince” Edward Plantagenet.
14. Liverpool & The Beatles
Liverpool is known for its creative music scene – and as the city where the Fab Four began their career. Fans who want to follow in the band’s footsteps will find countless places here that pay tribute to the legendary musicians.
It is the world’s largest permanent exhibition about the Fab Four: Since 1990, fans can visit The Beatles Story at the Albert Docks. The musicians’ careers are traced in numerous rooms. Photos, films, pieces of furniture and original instruments are just as much a part of the award-winning show as replicas of important stations of success, including the Liverpool Casbah and Cavern Clubs and parts of the Hamburg Star Club.
About a ten-minute walk north of The Beatles Story, the Pier Head on Liverpool’s waterfront is one of the city’s most popular selfie spots. Commissioned by the local Cavern Club, sculptor Andrew Edwards created four bronze effigies of the musicians that are more than two meters high.
A must-see for any fan is a visit to the Cavern Club at 10 Mathew St. The Beatles first performed in the basement club on Feb. 9, 1961. The musicians gave more than 290 concerts here until 1963.
One of the Beatles songs for which John Lennon was inspired by a place in Liverpool is the song “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Strawberry Field is located in the Woolton district – it was the site of a children’s home. Lennon is said to have once played on the grounds.
Both McCartney and Lennon are said to have crossed Penny Lane as children on their way to school. The rather unspectacular street has since been visited by numerous fans – and quite a few have taken the street signs.
13. Eden Project
The Eden Project at St Austell in Cornwall is the most popular visitor attraction Cornwall has to offer. Since opening on March 17, 2001, it has welcomed more than 20 million visitors! At the Eden Project you can immerse yourself in tropical and Mediterranean biomes, with fascinating views towards diversity, ecology and much more.
The Eden Project is undoubtedly all about the biomes, and it is famous for this throughout the world. There are two important and separate areas within the biomes; the rainforest biomes and the Mediterranean biomes, which are connected by means of another biome.
The first plants of the rainforest biome were in 2000. The rainforest biomes create the largest enclosed rainforest in the entire world. It has more than 1000 species of plants that are kept in extremely humid conditions and a temperature of 18-35 degrees.
The Eden Project has undergone constant innovation and is now so much more than the original vision. In recent years, there have been new additions, including the Canopy Walk, where visitors are allowed to walk on a suspension bridge between tree tops.
Recently, the Hangloose Adventure was also added, allowing visitors to try the ‘SkyWire’ Eden Project zipline, a ‘giant swing’ and other adventurous endeavors. The Eden Project is simply fantastic, considering that this area was a former clay pit.
12. The Cotswolds
When talking about classic England, most people do not think of the bustling metropolis of London, but of a green landscape characterized by rolling hills, charming villages and small towns and sheep in the pastures. This landscape really exists and it is called the Cotswolds.
Cotswolds is a region in south central England. The Cotswolds is so quintessentially English that it is often referred to as the “Heart of England”. The region is about 40 km wide and nearly 160 km long, stretching from Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon in the northeast to the famous and fashionable seaside resort of Bath in the southwest. Because of its extraordinary scenic beauty, the Cotswolds received the distinction of being an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” as early as 1966. In Great Britain, this title is only awarded to areas that stand out for their outstanding natural beauty.
The Cotswolds are still a wealthy area today because many rich Londoners own vacation homes there. That is why they are nicknamed Poshtershire. The Cotswolds stretch across 6 counties. Most of the region, which covers about 2,000 square kilometers, lies in the counties of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire and is bordered by Gloucester to the west and Oxford to the east.
11. The National Gallery
Britain’s capital, London, boasts one of the most important art galleries in the world. Founded by the British government in 1824, the National Gallery owns over 2,300 paintings by the most important artists, spanning a period from the 13th century to the beginning of the 20th century. Since 1837, the exhibition rooms have been located in an architecturally interesting building directly on Trafalgar Square. Some of the rooms to be visited today were added in the 19th century by Edward Middleton Barry. The architect also designed Royal Opera House London, among others.
The collection of paintings is divided into epochs and is spread over four rooms. Here you can see such important works as Goessart’s “Adoration of the Magi”, the “Arnolfini Wedding” by Jan van Eyck and van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”. The fifth room of the National Gallery regularly hosts temporary exhibitions on specific painters or periods. In the past, for example, there have been exhibitions here devoted to the Flemish painter Rubens, the Dutch Baroque artist Rembrandt and the French Impressionist Degas.
10. Warwick Castle
As early as 1068, William the Conqueror erected a wooden moth on this site, which was then rebuilt in stone in the 12th century. During the Hundred Years’ War, the side of the castle facing the city was completely rebuilt and today it is one of the significant examples of medieval military architecture.
During the 15th century, the fortress was at the center of the English “War of Roses”. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was obsessed with power at the time, tried to control the destiny of England and influence the crown, using almost any means available to him. Due to his actions, he was also known as “The Kingmaker”. He failed and the castle eventually became the property of the Crown. It was not until the beginning of the 17th century that Warwick Castle returned to the Neville family and was gradually transformed into a country estate.
Inside, visitors are greeted by beautifully decorated rooms that vividly document the splendor and grandeur of the 17th to 19th centuries. The heart of the castle is the Great Hall. Originally built in the 14th century, it too has been rebuilt and renovated over the centuries. The garden landscape, which covers a good 26 hectares, was laid out by England’s top landscape architect, Sir Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
9. Tate Modern
London’s Tate Modern is a museum where even those who don’t usually think too highly of modern art can become art lovers. The Tate Gallery of Modern Art is the world’s largest museum of modern art. What is meant here is the period between 1500 and today. Nowhere else can you experience so many greats of art history – Impressionism, Cubism, Fauvism, Futurism, Expressionism, Dadaism and Surrealism – in one place as in the old power station converted into a museum, which is now the heart of the Tate Modern.
With its tower visible from afar, which shines as brilliantly in the dark as the rest of the museum, the Tate Modern is not infrequently referred to as the “fantastic cathedral of international modern art” in London. And indeed, it is a pilgrimage destination for some 4 million art-loving visitors a year, a place to worship great masterpieces and to marvel in almost unearthly wonder at what artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol have created. They are all represented here, the grand masters of modern art, all united in a single place in London.
8. Jurassic Coast
The 150 km long “Jurassic Coast” begins at Orcombe Point near Exmouth in the county of Devon and extends to the three chalk pillars “Old Harry Rocks” on the Isle of Purbeck. This part of the coast was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001 due to its special nature.
The name “Jurassic” automatically makes you think of a dinosaur park. In fact, however, the name is derived from the geological findings from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous geological systems, which trace the history of this stretch of coastline, and therefore the history of the earth, back over a period of 185 million years.
For hiking enthusiasts, the South West Coast Path along the Jurassic Coast offers spectacular views of the primeval beauty of this landscape. Along the way, there are numerous geological features to discover. Particularly worth seeing, for example, are the red cliffs of the village of Budleigh Salterton in East Devon. Here, the sea turns reddish when there are strong waves due to the sediment that has been washed out. Near Lulworth, on the other hand, there are unique rock formations, such as the Durdle Door, as well as a famous fossil forest, which can only be seen at low tide.
Also amateur archaeologists get their money’s worth here, you are allowed to search for fossils yourself at many places. The only condition: do not use a hammer and leave large fossils at their place of discovery. The best chances for a find are on the beaches of Lyme Regis.
7. Royal Greenwich Observatory
Have you ever been to the place where the East and West of the world divide?
Here at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, you can stand on the prime meridian – one leg in the east and one leg in the west. It divides the earth lengthwise and crosses 8 different countries.
Another attraction on the sprawling grounds is the Time Sphere. It is mounted on the Flamsteed House and rises every day at 12:55 p.m. and falls back down at 1:00 p.m. It is a very special sight. Many inland mariners still set their watches by the globe today.
Flamsteed House was designed in 1675 by world-renowned architect Christopher Wren and was Greenwich’s original observatory building. Today it is an award-winning museum dedicated to the history of astronomy.
Also check out the largest telescope in the UK and the seventh largest in the world. Its onion shape allows you to see almost all parts of the night sky. The lens alone weighs over 90kg. Enjoy the unique view of the Thames and Canary Wharf from the observatory.
6. St. Michael’s Mount
With the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the island of St. Michael’s Mount came into the possession of the monks of Mont St. Michel in Normandy. The church and priory, which can still be found in the center of the castle, were built in the 12th century. When the monasteries were dissolved under Henry VIII, the island became the property of the Crown. His daughter, Elizabeth I, later awarded the island to her close confidant, Robert Cecil. In 1659, St. Michael’s Mount came into the possession of the St Aubyn family.
Their descendant, the present Lord St Levan, still lives with his family in an apartment in the castle. The tour leads through the Christian past as well as through the centuries of history of the St. Aubyn family. The ensemble of buildings is surrounded by beautiful gardens. At low tide you have the possibility to walk over a footbridge to the island. At high tide, a boat will take you to the small island within minutes.
5. Robin Hood’s Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay was first mentioned as Robin Hoode Baye around 1536. The name refers to the folk hero Robin Hood. Legend has it that he once overpowered French pirates here and distributed their treasures to the poor. However, whether he was actually once there is rather unlikely.
The region around Robin Hood’s Bay was settled first by Saxon farmers and later mainly by Norwegians until the Norman Conquest. Then the lands were given by William the Conqueror to Hugh of Chester, who in turn gave the land rights to the Percy family. From the Percy family the land rights passed to Whitby Abbey.
Subsequently, Robin Hood’s Bay developed into a prosperous port town. Famously, Robin Hood’s Bay was also a popular haunt for smugglers. Especially in the 18th century, the business of smuggled goods from the Netherlands and France (mainly alcohol and tobacco, as well as tea) flourished. Otherwise, until the middle of the 19th century, the people of the Bay earned their money mainly from fishing.
Today, Robin Hood’s Bay lives mainly from tourism, especially in the high season the narrow streets of the old village center are quite crowded. Especially the small streets and alleys in the old village center and in addition all the stories about smugglers, thieves, ghosts and the like undoubtedly make much of the charm of the place for many visitors.
4. Holy Island
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a tidal island off the coast of Northumberland. Under the leadership of the Irish monk St. Aidan, an important center of Celtic Christianity developed here in the 7th century. In 793, Vikings raided the island and looted all the treasures of the religious community. The unprecedented brutality with which the Norsemen proceeded shocked the inhabitants of Britain and mainland Europe alike. A good hundred years later and after further Viking raids, the monks, along with the remains of St. Cuthbert, eventually left Lindisfarne and founded the city of Durham on the mainland.
Of particular note is the Lindisfarne Gospel, a particularly richly illustrated copy of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which was produced here in the 8th century. In the second half of the 10th century, an Anglo-Saxon gloss was added to the scripture, creating the earliest surviving Old English copies of the Gospels. The Gospels are now preserved in the British Library in London.
After the Norman Conquest, a Benedictine monastery was built on Holy Island, which lasted until the dissolution of the English monasteries under the reign of Henry VIII. Only ruins of this monastery remain today, but much of the stone was used to build Lindisfarne Castle in the 1540s. This Tudor structure is relatively small compared to other castles, but was primarily used as a fort. In the early 20th century, the castle was restored in the Arts&Crafts style and from then on served as a private vacation residence for Edward Hudson, founder and owner of County Life magazine.
3. Kew Gardens
Since 2003, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew have been designated a UNESCO Heritage Site. The gardens house extensive collections of plants and flowers that have been studied on site since their founding in 1759. Their Millennium Seed Bank contains seeds from thousands of plant species for reintroduction into their natural habitats.
One of the highlights is the Princess of Wales Conservatory, where species from ten different tropical climates are maintained, as well as carnivorous plants. The cast-iron Palm House is also particularly worth seeing.
Also on the grounds is Kew Palace, the surprisingly simple residence of George III. The gardens were already partially landscaped, but the monarch had them further embellished.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are among the oldest botanical gardens in the world.
2. Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral has been a place of prayer and hospitality for almost a millennium. It was built in 1093 specifically to house the shrine of St. Cuthbert and is known for its magnificent Romanesque architecture and unique location in the middle of the city.
Highlights include the 12th-century Galilean Chapel with its original medieval wall paintings, the towering sandstone columns in the nave, and the stunning rose window in the Chapel of the Nine Altars. From the central tower of the cathedral, one has a fantastic view of the city and the surrounding countryside.
The impressive structure has a very interesting history: For a long time, the counties located near the Scottish border had a special status in the English state due to their border security duties. They were governed by prince-bishops who combined secular and ecclesiastical power. Thus the cathedral is also a hermaphrodite between church and fortress.
“Half Church of God, half Castle ‘gainst the Scot”. It is strategically located on a peninsula-like hill, around which the River Wear meanders in a narrow bend.
Monks from the island of Lindisfarne had brought the body of St. Cuthbert here on their flight from the Vikings. In 999 they built a church over his grave. Barely 100 years later it was demolished by the Normans. In its place they built the present cathedral, whose impressive Norman architecture is unparalleled. It is the earliest example of a ribbed vault in Europe, an important intermediate step in the development of the Gothic architectural style.
What may seem inexplicable to some is the fact that this place attracts a large number of tourists to the south of England every year. After all, Stonehenge is not just any stone circle, but according to visitors, an incredibly fascinating place surrounded by a mysterious aura.
After years of research and many theories surrounding this mysterious stone complex, part of the mystery was finally solved almost three years ago. The answer that has been sought for so long is actually hidden underground, directly beneath the stone circles.
Using a novel scanning method, researchers from the University of Birmingham found that there must have been countless tombs and temples around the site. Under the ground, 17 previously unknown wooden and stone structures and countless burial mounds were found. Some of them are said to be up to 6,000 years old.
Located in the middle of a green field, Stonehenge is a structure built in the Neolithic period that was probably used at least until the Bronze Age. According to research, the stone formation is believed to have been erected over a period of 2,000 years. The last cultic uses are dated back to the 7th century AD. According to researchers, the construction period was divided into several phases, which ultimately led to the complete complex, which was even declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The exact age is unknown, but researchers assume that the site is up to 11,000 years old.