One Week in England: The Perfect Itinerary

red double-decker busses driving traffic on Westminster Bridge with Big Ben in the background
Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

While it would be a daunting task to see everything England has to offer in the span of only a week, it's possible to hit many of the countries highlights during a week-long itinerary. This seven-day visit to England includes the best of London, Manchester, and Liverpool, as well as stops in the historic town of York and the seaside destination of Brighton.

Using London and Manchester as the main bases for the trip, with one overnight in York and taking advantage of England's amazing train network, it's possible to get an in-depth look at numerous iconic destinations in just a single week. Opt to go by rail rather than renting a car to save time on travel and embrace the walkability of English cities to get the most out of your visit. Whether you're traveling as a couple, solo, or as a family, this itinerary can help guide your planning.

01 of 07

Day 1: London

A cobble street in the West End of London

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba

Welcome to Blighty, as they say in England. After arriving, likely at Heathrow Airport, head to central London. There are plenty of public transportation options from London's airports, including commuter trains, the Tube, and taxi services. Your best bet for a hotel location is somewhere in the heart of the city, like Covent Garden or Marylebone. At the hotel, drop off your bags and get ready for some sightseeing.

The best way to see many of London's famous sites is on foot. Start in Parliament Square, where you'll find Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. There are great views from the center of Westminster Bridge, which connects the area to Southbank (home of the London Eye). From Parliament Square, walk east along St. James Park to find Buckingham Palace. The palace is open to the public during specific times of the year, so check online ahead of your trip.

Head to nearby Soho for some lunch (the area has dozens of restaurants to pick from) before making your way to the British Museum. The museum is free to enter, except for special exhibitions, and it's great for visitors of all ages and interests. Don't miss the Rosetta Stone and the Egyptian mummies. Other museums in the area include the National Portrait Gallery and the London Transport Museum.

Use your first evening in London to have dinner at one of the city's beloved pubs or take in a West End musical. At the end of the night, check out one of the many high-end cocktail bars, from the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel to Kwãnt.

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02 of 07

Day 2: London and Windsor

Windsor Castle

TripSavvy / Jess Macdonald

Windsor makes for a great half-day trip out of London, so grab a train from Paddington station to Windsor, via Slough, in the morning. Windsor Castle welcomes visitors for tours most days of the year, but you need to book a timed ticket in advance, either online or by phone. Allow two hours to stroll through the castle and around its grounds, including St. George's Chapel. The surrounding area, known as Windsor Great Park, also makes for a nice place to walk if you're not as much of a royal enthusiast. Down the road from Windsor, you'll find Eaton, home of the Eaton Mess.

Head back to London and venture west from Paddington station to find the charming neighborhood of Notting Hill. Known for its colorful row houses and great shopping, the area is a good place to stop for lunch or an early afternoon ice cream at Gelateria 3BIS on Portobello Road. From Notting Hill, it's a quick walk or bus ride south to Kensington Palace, which allows visitors into some of its rooms, as well as its special exhibitions, with a paid ticket. If you'd rather not see two palaces in one day, explore Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, which often hosts events and concerts during the summer. The Kensington Palace Pavilion, located in the gardens, also offers a high-end afternoon tea (which you should book in advance).

For dinner, venture east to Shoreditch, a thriving neighborhood filled with bars, restaurants, and shops. Some local favorites include Dishoom, Gloria, BRAT, and Home Slice. After dinner, grab a drink at the scenic bar at Duck & Waffle, which is located on the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate.

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03 of 07

Day 3: Day Trip to Brighton

England, Sussex, Brighton, View of beach at Brighton Pier
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Get a taste of the English seaside with a day trip to Brighton, located less than an hour south of London by train. Trains regularly leave from London's Victoria and London Bridge stations and tickets are typically inexpensive. The train brings you right into the center of town, with the beach less than a mile walk south. There is plenty of space to lie out on the sand or play in the water, but if it's not particularly sunny or warm, there are many other things to do in and around Brighton. Look for the Brighton Palace Pier, which boasts games and rides, or take a ride on the BA i360, which is billed as the world's tallest moving observation tower.

Those who like shopping will find a lot to uncover in the North Laines, where you can dig through racks of vintage clothes and accessories. For lunch, go traditional at Captains Fish and Chips, found right on the seaside, and don't skip the mushy peas.

Because London is so close, you can decide when you've seen enough of Brighton and head back into the city. If you haven't had a chance to attend a West End play yet, this could be your night. While some productions, like "Hamilton," require tickets booked far in advance, many theaters offer day-of rush tickets. TKTS, which has a booth in Leicester Square, is another good option for discounted or last-minute seats. London also boasts a huge array of live music and concerts, from small blues clubs to major pop concerts, if live music is more your thing.

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04 of 07

Day 4: York

York Minster from the City Wall
Jez Campbell / Getty Images

Hop on an early morning train from London's King Cross station to York, about two hours north by rail. Tickets can be booked in advance or at the station via LNER, and it's significantly faster and easier to travel by train than by car when venturing out of London. York's train station is within walking distance of the town center, and there are several nice hotels around the city (Principal York, across from the station, is an excellent choice). Once you've dropped off your bags, take a stroll around York's Roman walls, which circle the city, and seek out its secret passageways and narrow alleys. The Shambles, a street surrounded by overhanging timber-framed buildings, is like something out of "Harry Potter."

After grabbing lunch at one of York's many restaurants, venture to the top of the York Minister, an 800-year-old cathedral that took 250 years to build. It's hard to miss, and visitors can tour the historical site, as well as climb 275 steps to the top of the 230 -foot-high tower. It's a great way to get a view of the entire surrounding area (and to burn off the calories from lunch). Other fun things to do include a boat tour down the Ouse river or a history lesson at The Jorvik Viking Centre, and train enthusiasts will love the National Railway Museum.

In the evening, book a table at The Judge's Lodging, a gastropub with indoor and outdoor tables, or try contemporary British eatery Skosh. After dinner, you can either opt for a few pints at one of the many historic pubs around town or venture underground to Sotano, a hidden cocktail bar that also serves up tapas. Luckily, your hotel is probably within walking distance, making it easy to crash after a night out.

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05 of 07

Day 5: Manchester

View of a canal and red brick buildings in the Manchester Gay Village
Alberto Manuel Urosa Toledano / Getty Images

Manchester is only an hour and 20 minutes by train from York, with numerous trains running between the two cities daily. Once you arrive at Manchester Piccadilly station, get your bearings and drop your bags off at the hotel. Look for places to stay in the Northern Quarter, a hip area with plenty of dining and shopping options. It's especially easy to access via public transportation, and the area is within walking distance of some of the main attractions. Speaking of which, start your day in Manchester off with a museum or two. Some of the most popular include the National Football Museum and the Imperial War Museum North.

After grabbing lunch at Mackie Mayor, a food hall filled with vendors and communal tables in Manchester's Northern Quarter, explore the nearby shops, ranging from high-end department stores to small vintage boutiques. The designer goods can be found on King Street, Spinningfields, and New Cathedral Street, while the Northern Quarter is best for vintage clothes and record shops. 

For dinner, venture into Stockport Old Town to find Where The Light Gets In, an intimate restaurant located in an old coffee warehouse (be sure to reserve a table ahead of time). The area has lots of cool bars, restaurants, and pubs, and it's worth exploring some places outside the center of town. It's an easy car ride back to your hotel at the end of the night.

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06 of 07

Day 6: Day Trip to Liverpool

Liverpool UNESCO waterfront skyline
P A Thompson / Getty Images

Liverpool may be best known as the birthplace of the Beatles, but the port city has lots to see and do even if you aren't a big music fan. It's less than an hour from Manchester by train, so you can decide how much time you want to have to explore Liverpool and how late you want to stick around in the evening. Start the day by embarking on a Beatles tour or exploring the Beatles Museum. Afterward, don't miss the Tate Liverpool, little sister to London’s Tate Modern, and the International Slavery Museum, where you'll learn more about Liverpool's past as one of the world's major slave ports.

In the evening, seek out more Beatles action at the Cavern Club, where the band first got their start. Resident tribute band The Cavern Club Beatles—who have been given the seal of approval from locals—are on hand to entertain most Saturdays and Sundays, making it a great pick for a post-dinner hang. Once you've had your fill of Liverpool, board a train back to Manchester and tuck in for the night.

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07 of 07

Day 7: Return to London

A double decker red bus crossing tower bridge

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba

Trains from Manchester Piccadilly run back to London several times per hour, arriving in Euston station. It's an easy two-hour journey, so you don't have to rush out of your hotel in Manchester in the morning. In fact, if you have time, grab breakfast at Ezra and Gil, a coffee shop with an all-day brunch menu, before heading back to London. Back in London, drop your bags off at your hotel or opt to store them for the afternoon at Euston's Excess Baggage Co, which is open until 11 p.m.

Spend the afternoon exploring South Bank, including the Tate Modern, Borough Market, the London Eye, and the National Theatre, which often has exhibitions available even if you don't see a play. At the Tate, be sure to head to the 360-degree viewing platform, which offers incredible views of the Thames, St. Pauls Cathedral, and even Wembley Stadium. It's a great place to cap off your week in England.