The Top 20 Things to Do in England

Windsor Castle in England

 Noam Galai/GC Images

While many travelers coming to England spent their time in London, the country has a lot to offer outside the capital, from mountainous hiking to seaside walks to famous theaters. Whether you want to experience history and culture or simply enjoy England's delicious food and drinks, there's something to do for every type of traveler. Here are the top 20 things to do around England.

01 of 20

Take a Walking Tour of London

The London Eye

John Keeble/Getty Images

The best way to see London is on foot. The British capital is very walkable, with many famous attractions within close proximity to the city center. Start in Parliament Square, where you can see Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben. Visitors can also get a great photo of the Thames and the London Eye from Westminster Bridge. From there, it's a quick walk to Buckingham Palace or to Trafalgar Square, where you'll find the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Other nearby attractions include the Churchill War Rooms, Hyde Park, Piccadilly Circus, and the Tate Modern, which can be found across the Thames on Southbank. If it's raining or if you have mobility issues, jump on one of the double-decker London buses or grab a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off London Bus Tours, which drive by many of the iconic sites.

02 of 20

Visit Stonehenge

stonehengejasonhawkes.jpg
Jason Hawkes/Getty Images
Address
Salisbury SP4 7DE, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

Stonehenge is an iconic site for a reason, and its mysterious stones compel thousands of travelers every year. The Neolithic structure, a World Heritage Site, is easily accessible from London, either via car or day tour, and visitors will see the famous stone circle and ancient houses and a museum that details the area's history. It's impressive in itself, but history buffs should include stops at nearby Woodhenge, a historic burial ground, or Old Sarum, home to the ruins of a cathedral and castle, on their journey to Stonehenge. Book tickets for Stonehenge in advance online (look for an off-peak day to save money).

03 of 20

See a Play in Stratford-upon-Avon

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
©Ferne Arfin
Address
Stratford-upon-Avon CV37, UK

Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon, is filled with the legacy of the Bard, including his father's former home and Anne Hathaway's cottage. The Royal Shakespeare Company performs plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre, and it's a great treat to see one while in England. It's common for bigger-name actors, like Sir Ian McKellen, to appear in the plays, but you really can't go wrong with tickets to any local productions. The Royal Shakespeare Company also offers tours of the theaters, which take visitors behind the scenes. There is a special Family Fun Tour for kids to learn about putting on a Shakespeare play.

04 of 20

Stroll the Jurassic Coast

Coastline of Jurassic Coast in Dorset.

John Harper/Getty Images

 

While many visitors may be familiar with the iconic white cliffs of Dover, England's Jurassic Coast offers even more dramatic vistas. The Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located along the English Channel from East Devon to Dorset, stretches 95 miles and reveals 185 million years of the Earth's history in its geology. It's well-known area for fossil hunting, and many of the rocks and fossils found along the coast date back to the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Opt for a guided walk in Lyme Regis or Charmouth to scour for fossils yourself. The Museum of Jurassic Marine Life in Kimmeridge also hosts tours, which are a good way to learn about the region's history and experience the coastline firsthand. There are also several popular walking routes in Dorset, including Old Harry Rocks, which begins at Studland Bay, and a trek from Bowleaze Cove to Smuggler’s Inn.

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05 of 20

Dance at Glastonbury

Glastonbury.jpg
Jim Dyson/Getty Images

England is home to several famed music festivals, but its biggest—and most raucous —is Glastonbury. The five-day festival is held in Somerset on a private farm every June, featuring live music, theater, comedy, and more. Most festival-goers camp onsite, which can get pretty muddy. Tickets sell out very quickly, but Glastonbury is beloved for a reason. It attracts the biggest acts in music, from Paul McCartney to Beyonce to Coldplay, and it's the sort of thing you have to experience to believe. The festival welcomes all ages, although an adult must accompany those under 16.

06 of 20

Eat Seafood in Whitstable

Whitstable Oyster Co

The seaside town of Whitstable, located on the coast of Kent, hosts the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival each summer. Of course, you can chow down on delicious seafood there any time of year at one of its many restaurants. Look for The Lobster Shack, The Marine Hotel Restaurant, and Crab and Winkle to taste the local catches, or grab a table at The Whitstable Oyster Company, which serves up the best oysters in town. The restaurant has views of the beach and its own oyster beds, where the famous Whitstable oysters are harvested.

07 of 20

Watch Football in Manchester

Manchester United match at Old Trafford

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

England's football (a.k.a. soccer) culture runs deep, but it's powerful in Manchester. The northern city is home to several teams, including Manchester United and Manchester City. While it can be challenging to get tickets to Premier League matches, it's a bucket list experience for many travelers, especially if you're a soccer fan. Snag tickets to one of the matches at Etihad Stadium or Old Trafford while in Manchester, or head into one of the city's boisterous sports bars to cheer alongside the locals. Some favorites include Tib Street Tavern Manchester and Cafe Football, which is located in Old Trafford.

08 of 20

Bathe in Thermal Waters in Bath

Uk, England, Bath Abbey In Background; Bath, Young Woman Relaxing In Roof Top Pool At Thermae Bath Spa
Jon Spaull / Getty Images
Address
The Hetling Pump Room, Hot Bath Street, Bath BA1 1SJ, UK
Phone +44 1225 331234

Bath was once home to the Roman Baths, which still exist in ruins, and today visitors can partake in the healing waters of the region. The Thermae Bath Spa, which has a rooftop pool with views of the cathedral, makes for a relaxing day out. There are two mineral baths, and each session lasts two hours. The pools are only for visitors 16 and over, so be sure to find a babysitter if you're traveling with kids. To take advantage of your trip to Bath, book into The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, which is located in the town's famed Royal Crescent, and tour the Roman Baths, which are part historic ruin and part museum.

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09 of 20

Punt in Cambridge

Punting on the Cam in Cambridge
kapowe via Flickr

If you've never been punting, Cambridge is a good place to learn. The River Cam stretches through the center of the university town, and there are various places to hire a boat along the river. Look for companies like Let's Go Punting, which takes visitors on 50-minute private or shared punting boat tours between Magdalene College and Silver Street Bridge. Scudamore's is another popular option for tours, and the company also offers champagne and afternoon tea tours, where you can drink while your guide steers you down the river. Prefer to do it yourself? Rent a boat for a few hours and learn the art of guiding a vessel with a pole.

10 of 20

Explore History in York

The Shambles, York, Yorkshire, England
VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett / Getty Images

Hop on a train two hours north from London to discover York, a walled city that the Romans founded. It's home to a 13th-century Gothic cathedral called the York Minster (be sure to climb to the top of the tower for some serious views) and the Shambles, a very narrow medieval street with overhanging buildings. It's rumored that the Shambles inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, although you won't find any wizarding shops in the area. York has some nice pubs and tea rooms, and its downtown has great shopping. Be sure to take a stroll around the city walls, which extend for two miles and are open daily to the public from 8 a.m. until dusk.

11 of 20

Tour Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

 Scott E Barbour/Getty Images

Address
Windsor SL4 1NJ, UK
Phone +44 303 123 7334

Windsor Castle, home of Queen Elizabeth II, is one of Britain's most iconic landmarks and its proximity to London makes it a must-do on any itinerary. The castle welcomes visitors year-round for paid tours of the castle's rooms and grounds, including St. George's Chapel, where Harry and Meghan got married. Timed tickets can be booked online in advance. Check the opening times, which can vary throughout the year, and be sure to give yourself enough time in Windsor to tour the castle and explore the surrounding town. Tours of Windsor Castle are self-guided with a multimedia guide, and it's a great excursion for kids and adults. The castle is also fully accessible and offers discounts for guests with disabilities.

12 of 20

Drive Through the Cotswolds

Flat-topped Dover's Hill overlooks the pretty Cotswold town of Chipping Campden.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The Cotswolds spans nearly 800 square miles, containing numerous quaint villages and expanses of rolling green hills. The area is one of England's most beautiful and it's best experienced with a car, which allows travelers to visit several towns in one swoop. Some of the favorite villages include Cheltenham, Stroud, Broadway, Burford, and Bourton on Water, which has been called the Venice of the Cotswolds. All of them are equally charming and filled with small shops, tea rooms, and cafes, as well as historic hotels and B&Bs. Stop by one of the National Trust properties, like Newark Park, Chedworth Roman Villa, or Buscot Park, and be sure to spend a few hours exploring Blenheim Palace.

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13 of 20

Surf in Cornwall

Perranporth
Simon Montgomery/Robert Harding/Getty Images

Located on the southwestern tip of England, Cornwall draws surfers worldwide to its scenic beaches. The coast, dubbed the Cornish Riviera, has hundreds of beaches, several of which are famous for catching a wave. Head to Fistral Beach in Newquay or Gwithian Beach in Hayle to spot the experts, or rent a board to try your hand at the sport. If you want some lessons, there are numerous surf schools for beginners in Cornwall, including the Fistral Beach Surf School, which is open year-round. While in Cornwall, don't miss the Eden Project, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Pendennis Castle.

14 of 20

Hike the Lake District

The Lake District - Kirkstone Pass is the Highest Road in the Lake District
©Ferne Arfin

The Lake District, located in Cumbria, is one of England's most picturesque destinations, welcoming travelers to its mountains, lakes, and villages year-round. It's especially compelling for hikers, who will find many trails and routes through the national park and surrounding areas. Summit Scafell Pike or trek the Roman High Street Circuit, which extends along an old Roman road. Those who want a little help learning the routes can join a guided walk, which the Lake District offers from April through October. If you want a real challenge, go for the Three Peaks Challenge, which includes Scafell Pike along with Scotland's Ben Nevis and Wales' Snowdon.

15 of 20

Trail the Beatles in Liverpool

Cavern Club in Liverpool, England

Getty Images

Liverpool, a city in northwest England, located at the meeting point between the River Mersey and the Irish Sea, is best known as the birthplace of the Beatles. And while the city has lots to see and do, it's the Fab Four who really draw visitors. Visit the Cavern Club, a venue that once saw the band onstage, or hop on their Magical Mystery Tour, which stops by the musicians' former homes, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. There's also the Liverpool Beatles Museum and the annual Liverpool Beatles Week, which takes place in August. The Hard Days Night Hotel is the world's only Beatles-inspired hotel, and guests can book themed suites or see live music in the lounge. If you have time between Beatles-inspired excursions, be sure to also stop by the Tate Liverpool, the Museum of Liverpool, Liverpool Cathedral, and the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

16 of 20

Dine in Bray

The Fat Duck in Bray

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images 

Bray, a small village located just outside London on the Thames, is home to several of England's best restaurants, including Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck, which has three Michelin stars. It can be tricky to get a reservation to the pricy Fat Duck (although it's worth it), but visitors have plenty of other options. The Waterside Inn, The Crown, and The Hind's Head, which Blumenthal also runs, are delicious and slightly easier to book. If you want to stay in town, The Waterside Inn has several rooms, or head to nearby Maidenhead, situated alongside the river. It's a must-visit for all foodies, but history buffs will also appreciate the old buildings and small-town charm in Bray.

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17 of 20

Enjoy Afternoon Tea at Cliveden House

Afternoon tea at Cliveden House

Cliveden House

Address
Cliveden Road, Taplow, Maidenhead SL6 0JF, UK
Phone +44 1628 668561

Afternoon tea is one of those British things you can't—and shouldn't—avoid while in England. Most hotels offer a version of afternoon tea, especially in London, and it's also traditional in various tea rooms around the country. But if you're going to partake in an afternoon of milky tea and scones, you should reserve a table at the best possible venue. The historic Cliveden House Hotel, found outside London on National Trust gardens, is just the spot. It's a luxury experience best enjoyed with added champagne (although kids are also welcome). It's held in the hotel's Great Hall on Sundays and in the Cliveden Dining Room Monday through Saturday, and it's best to make a reservation well in advance. Don't be afraid to ask for your leftovers. The hotel will be happy to box up any extra treats later, as is common with most high-end afternoon teas.

18 of 20

Visit the Real Downtown Abbey

Highclere Castle, home of the Carnarvons
Richard Munckton
Address
Highclere Park, Highclere, Newbury RG20 9RN, UK
Phone +44 1635 253210

While Downton Abbey isn't a real place, the castle in the beloved TV series (and movie) is. Highclere Castle, located in Winchester, was built in 1679 and is now home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Highclere, which has expansive, beautiful grounds and gardens, welcomes visitors at different points throughout the year. The visiting times can vary, so check the online calendar for the best time to explore the castle and look for upcoming special events held at Highclere throughout the year. The castle is best accessed by car (it has parking for visitors), but you can take a taxi from the nearby Newbury train station, which connects with London. Don't miss Highclere's tea rooms, which are great for a snack after your tour.

19 of 20

Tour Canterbury Cathedral

West facade of the cathedral of Canterbury
Angel Villalba / Getty Images
Address
Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury CT1 2EH, UK
Phone +44 1227 762862

You could spend a lot of time touring historic cathedrals while in England, but the most famous is Canterbury Cathedral. Part of a World Heritage Site, the cathedral, located in Canterbury, was founded in 597 and rebuilt in the 11th century. It's the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Church of England, and offers services weekly. You don't have to be religious to appreciate the impressive structure's history and architecture, however. A million people per year visit the building to see everything from St. Gabriel’s Chapel to The Great Cloister.

20 of 20

Take a Ride on Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier at Dusk
© Ferne Arfin
Address
Madeira Drive, Brighton BN2 1TW, UK
Phone +44 1273 609361

Brighton Pier first opened on the English seaside in 1899, spanning 1,722 feet over the water. It's hosted visitors and locals ever since, with a particular draw for families. Look for rides like the Turbo Coaster and the Booster, or head to the Palace of Fun to win a prize at one of the games. Brighton is only an hour from London by train, making a great day trip from the city, and the beaches are especially welcoming during the summer months. If you like music, head to Brighton in May when it puts on The Great Escape, a music festival that takes over all area venues.

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The Top 20 Things to Do in England