England may not be a very big country, but it does contain a lot of variety, from white sand beaches to mountainous national parks to lively cities. The country is also home to numerous historical sites and attractions, many of which are essential stops on any British itinerary. Once you've had your fill of London, venture out to one of England's other must-see destinations, from Manchester to Cornwall to Stonehenge.
Windsor Castle, home of the queen, is one of Britain's most iconic landmarks. The castle, located just outside London and near Heathrow Airport, welcomes visitors year-round for paid tours of the castle's rooms and grounds. Inside the walls you can discover St. George's Chapel, where Harry and Meghan tied the knot, and watch the daily changing of the guard. The surrounding town is also worth a visit, with many shops, restaurants and historic pubs at the ready. Book your tickets in advance online to ensure a slot since the castle can be quite busy, especially on weekends or bank holidays.
Hadrians Wall, the Roman's defensive wall build on the northern edge of the Roman Empire, can be followed for 73 miles in England from coast to coast. Along the wall, in various towns and areas, visitors can find the ruins of old forts, towers and turrets, as well as a few museums dedicated to the history of the wall. Look for the Housesteads Fort or Chesters Roman Fort, which was build over 2,000 years ago. English Heritage's website has a map of all the notable places along the wall, as well as various trails you can follow to see its scope.
Stratford-upon-Avon is well known as the birthplace of William Shakespeare and the town still maintains the playwright's legacy today. John Shakespeare, the playwright's father, had a substantial house in the center of Stratford-upon-Avon, and visitors can also find Anne Hathaway's cottage, Hall's Croft and Shakespeare's New Place. The Royal Shakespeare Company performs plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre in town, so be sure to grab tickets to whatever is on when you arrive in the area. The town center is lively and filled with restaurants and shops, and there are several cute inns and B&Bs nearby if you want to spend several days exploring Shakespeare's past.
Canterbury is the spiritual center of England, located 53 miles from London. The famous Canterbury Cathedral is an important place of pilgrimage in itself, but it's also the start of the Via Francigena, a pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome first documented by Bishop Sigeric of Canterbury in 990. Besides the many churches, Canterbury is also home to the Westgate Gardens, Blean Wood Nature Reserve and several cute shops and tearooms.
Stonehenge is one of England's most iconic landmarks and it's a don't-miss for travelers. The Neolithic structure, a World Heritage Site, is easily accessed from London, either via car or on a day tour if you want to keep things simple. Visitors can see the famous stone circle, as well as ancient houses and a museum that details the area's history. Most people will spend a few hours at the site and you can extend your journey to see other nearby attractions like Woodhenge, a historical burial ground, or Old Sarum, which is home to the ruins of a cathedral and castle. Stonehenge is open year-round, with timed booking, so it's best to plan ahead and purchase tickets online in advance.
Less than an hour south of London by train, Brighton is one of England's most famous seaside towns. It's known for its lively pier, expansive beach and the Royal Pavilion, a palace and museum that was once a summer home for the monarchy. Be sure to check out the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and the Brighton Open Market, where you can shop for goods or snacks. The Grand Brighton is the city's most famous hotel and worth a splurge, but you can also look one of the cool boutique hotels in the area, like Artist's Residence Brighton. Those looking for great antiques should head to the Lanes, a collection of vintage and antique shops nestled in narrow alleyways.
The Cotswolds spans five counties, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire, and is notable for its quaint towns and rolling green hills. It's a deeply charming place and easily accessible from London by car, train or bus, and many travelers add on a fews in one of the area's towns when visiting the U.K. A few famous towns include Burford, Chipping Norton and Bibury, and the Cotswolds are also home to sites like Blenheim Palace, Berkeley Castle and Sudeley Castle. Book into a small inn or B&B for the best experience, and be sure to rent a car if you want to fully explore the area's many towns.
Cornwall is England's most difficult areas to access, but also one of the most worthwhile. Enjoy the beaches, which are known for surfing, or stroll along the coast to take in the scenery, which is unlike anywhere else in the country. Head to the Tate St. Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden for some art, or just wander around St. Ives, a low-key town with an artist community vibe. There's also a nude beach, if you dare.
Once home to the Roman Baths, Bath is a scenic town known for its shopping, hot springs spas and cute hotels. Book into historic and luxurious property The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, which is located in the town's famed Royal Crescent. Be sure to explore the Roman Baths, which are part ruins and part museum, and visit the Thermae Bath Spa, where you can relax in a rooftop pool.
The Lake District
Most travelers journey up to the Lake District, located in the north of England, to experience its hiking. There are day hikes or several day treks, and the beautiful national park offers amazing views from the tops of its peaks. There are several towns around the area, including Kendal and Penrith, and you can also pursue outdoor activities like fishing, wild swimming and cycling. The summers can be notably crowded, especially as the park is challenging to get to on the narrow roads, so it's best to book a trip in the fall or spring.
Step back in time with a visit to York, a walled city that was founded by the Romans. Its 13th-century Gothic cathedral, York Minster, is one of the most notable sites (and you can even climb to the top of its towers). It's a really beautiful town, especially in the spring and summer, and there is lots of shopping, nice hotels and historic pubs. Be sure to walk down the Shambles, a medieval street with overhanging buildings that some say inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
Home to one of England's most notable universities, Oxford also draws in a lot of Harry Potter fans as some of the buildings appear in the films. Don't miss the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, the Natural History Museum and the Bodleian Library, which offers both guided tours and audio tours. Many of Oxford's colleges also allow visitors for a small fee, so look for Magdalen College, where you can stroll through a vast park filled with deer. For the full Harry Potter experience, embark on a walking tour with Oxford Official Walking Tours.
Follow in the footsteps of the Beatles in Liverpool, a city in northwest England that's located at the meeting point between the River Mersey and the Irish Sea. The port city has a lot going on, from Beatles tours to the Tate Liverpool to waterfront ferry boats, and it has a thriving nightlife scene. Don't miss the Museum of Liverpool, Liverpool Cathedral and the Merseyside Maritime Museum, all of which are great for kids and adults alike. And, of course, you can't go to Liverpool without seeing some live music, so look for venues like Cavern Pub and Arts Club. Liverpool is easily accessible from London by train, bus or car.
Isle of Wight
Hop a ferry from Southampton to the Isle of Wight, a picturesque island that boasts a history with Queen Victoria. It's best visited in the summer, when you can stroll along the beaches or enjoy the towns that dot the island. Pay a visit to Osborne House, Queen Victoria's scenic holiday home, and don't miss Carrisbroke Castle. For a glimpse of England's impressive natural landscape, head to the Needles, a white rock formation off the west coast of the island.
Spend a few days in the northern city of Manchester, known for its football, live music and laidback attitude. Football fans should score tickets to a match at Etihad Stadium, or explore the National Football Museum, which details the history of the national pastime. The city also features several museums and art galleries, including Manchester Art Gallery, and the central area is full of shops and restaurants. To learn more about gin, another of England's national pastimes, head to the Spirit of Manchester Distillery, where you can book a tour and tasting.
Visit the quaint seaside town of Whitby, located in North Yorkshire along the North Sea. The historical town, known for its fishing and shipping, is notably where Bram Stoker penned Dracula, giving it a literary connection that pops up throughout the shops. On the hill above the town center is the Whitby Abbey, which dates back to the 7th century. It's open for tours (tickets are available at the door or online), or you can climb the famous 199 steps to the abbey to check out the sea views. Don't miss the fish and chips at Fusco's of Whitby, which are known to be some of the best in England. Nearby, the coastal towns of Scarborough and Robin Hood's Bay are also worth visiting.
There's nothing quite like punting in Cambridge, where crowds gather on the waterways during nice weather and enjoy drinks and picnics as they float along the water. While the city is best known for its university, there's also much to do that isn't about book learning. Explore the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, take a walk around Midsummer Common or go shopping along Mill Road. For those who do want to soak up some knowledge, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and The Fitzwilliam Museum are both worth a visit. Cambridge is easy to get to from London, so can work as a day trip for those vacationing in the capitol.
The small village of Bray, located just outside London on the Thames, boasts several of England's best restaurants, including Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck. It's also home to The Waterside Inn, The Crown and The Hind's Head, all of which are worth booking into. While the village itself is very small, the surrounding area is well worth exploring, including the town of Maidenhead and historic hotel and gardens Cliveden House. Bray is a must-do for foodies, but be sure to make your reservations far in advance of a visit.
The white cliffs of Dover are staggering and memorable. Located on the coastline that faces France, the towering cliffs are best seen either by boat or from one of the beaches. You can walk along the cliffs, or explore the Fan Bay Deep Shelter, a tunnel complex built in the 1940s that was used in the war. Grab a pint at The Coastguard in St. Margaret’s Bay, known as the closest pub to France, to get great views, or head to Shakespeare Beach.
Located in the English Channel, the Channel Islands are lesser visited stop on an itinerary of the U.K. However, Jersey and Guernsey are both worth exploring and can be accessed from the mainland via boat or small plane. On Guernsey, peruse the Victor Hugo House or learn about war history at Fort Grey. Or on Jersey, you can explore the Jersey War Tunnels, the Jersey Museum & Art Gallery or visit Elizabeth Castle. And, of course, both islands boast some of the nicest and most scenic beaches in all of England.