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The Best Places to Visit in England

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Let’s face it: London has received enough press. The U.K. capital is practically the official first stop on any American’s European tour circuit. While it offers plenty of charms, it’s just one slice of the country—and branching out is the best way to experience a broader swath of English culture. Some of the best places to visit in England lay beyond London’s borders.

Whether your goal is to dive into history, get outdoors, or just eat and drink your way through the U.K., your itinerary should definitely include a few stops around England. For a truly immersive trip, consider these destinations. 

The 10 Best Places to Visit in England 

IMAGO / robertharding

This might be England’s northern capital of cool: Manchester is a funky university town offering a slate of out-of-the-box entertainment options. Search for street art in the Northern Quarter, then swing by Afflecks, a sprawling market filled with an eclectic mix of vendors. Hungry? Brunch like a boss at food hall Mackie Mayor: There are nine vendors to choose from, including Mumma’s fried chicken and brioche donuts at D G H N T. For a whimsical take on traditional afternoon tea, head to the Richmond Tea Rooms, a red-velvet and melting-clock adorned tribute to Alice in Wonderland.

Of course, you should also make time for the other classic English drinking sport—pub crawling and people watching. The Old Wellington, built in 1552, gives plenty of opportunity for both.

Finally, if you can time your trip right, you’ll be in for a treat: Every two years, the city hosts the Manchester International Festival, a massive event featuring visual art, dance, music, and more. It routinely draws high-wattage talent, including creators like David Lynch, Yoko Ono, and Yayoi Kusama.

Where to stay: Established by the cult beer brand Brewdog, Doghouse Manchester lives up to its name with in-room beer taps, shower beer refrigerators, and an upstairs bar with tacos and—you guessed it—more beer. Bonus: Like all its breweries, Doghouse is dog friendly.

IMAGO / robertharding

A quick train ride away from the capital, Brighton is the perfect add-on to your London trip, even if you’re not able to commit to an overnighter. Long considered a refuge from the more expensive prices of England’s capital, the city harbors lots of creativity. Head to indie music venues The Hope and Ruin or Green Door Store to see a variety of up-and-coming bands as well as poetry readings and other events. Snap Polaroids among the kitschy delights of Brighton Palace Pier, which features a mini amusement park, or shop for your own retro souvenirs at Snooper’s Paradise, a 7,000-square-foot flea market filled with 90 vendors selling everything from clothes to vintage postcards, books, and records.

You can also just wander the city’s lanes, where you’re likely to find any number of antique shops, tattoo parlors, or fish and chip stands. Bonus: Residents of Brighton spend more money on coffee than any other part of the country, so if tea isn’t quite your thing, you’re never more than a short stroll from your next cup of the strong stuff. Sidestep the city’s more touristy areas by stopping for a cup at local favorite Tilt.

Where to stay: Hotel Pelirocco features nineteen pop-culture inspired rooms, each with a different theme, including nods to Dolly Parton, David Bowie, and Bettie Page. Cheeky room add-ons include koibito love hampers, massages, and boudoir photography sessions.

IMAGO / alimdi

Bristol is considered the gateway to the South West. Take in stunning views from the Clifton Suspension Bridge (free for pedestrians and cyclists), or keep your feet on the ground and hike through the “lungs” of the city at the lush Clifton Down. Bristol is also considered to be the U.K.’s first cycling city—so rent a bike at Cycle the City or Bristol Electric Bike Hire and make proper use of all those bike paths. Pedaling is both a great way to explore and a great way to earn your happy hour. For libations, head to local breweries Bristol Beer Factory, Moor Beer and Wiper and True.

And if you fancy adding another country to your travel itinerary, it’s a short hop to the Welsh village of Chepstow, known for its jaw-dropping nature, historical sites like Tintern Abbey, and the award-winning Silver Circle Gin Distillery.

Where to stay: While hotel chains often get a bad rap, The Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel is a noteworthy exception: It has a great location, reasonable rates, and it maintains the charming ambiance of the 160-year-old Victorian building it occupies.

IMAGO / Shotshop

Birmingham is an under-the-radar English city that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves outside of the U.K. Visitors here have a wealth of options for things to do and see. Brum, as the city is known, is reported to have more canals than Venice, so make the most of them with a long walk, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a kayak trip. Architecture nerds and bookworms alike will love the Library of Birmingham (photo above), a massive glass-walled building that opened in 2013, and there’s plenty of unique history in this town: Explore it with a walking tour hosted by the Black Heritage Walks Network. When you’re hungry, settle in for a Michelin-starred meal at Indian street food spot Opheem.

Where to stay: If it’s good enough for Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, chances are you’ll like it, too. The Grand Hotel lives up to its name with its decadent Victorian design and convenient central location.

IMAGO / robertharding

Blackpool is known throughout the U.K. as the place where you take your seaside holiday. Keep that in mind when booking—this is a highly specific stop. Blackpool Pleasure Beach is England’s version of Six Flags, and it’s a big draw here. In addition, every year from September to January the city lights up (literally) with the seasonal illuminations, a tradition that dates back to 1879. They’re free, so pop on your walking shoes and travel from Starr Gate (Squires Gate) to Red Bank Road in Bispham to take in the twinkling display.

Wandering is key to appreciating the city, so for more kitsch, point yourself in the direction of Blackpool Tower, the city’s most notable landmark (and formerly the tallest manmade structure in the British Empire). Now it’s home to a number of attractions, including the local circus, an immersive dungeon experience, and a truly ornate ballroom. The city takes fish and chips very seriously (and there are restaurants serving the meal all over town). But if you’re craving something different, try Hauze, located right next to the Blackpool North Pier. It offers elevated pub fare and even sushi, so there’s something on the menu to please everyone.

Where to stay: The Big Blue Hotel, located right next to Pleasure Beach, has booking options that include a free ticket to the park. Not only will you be you right next to the action—you’ll be the first in line.

IMAGO / Zoonar

If Somerset, a county in South West England, is somehow lodged in your mind, it might have something to do with Glastonbury: The five-day musical blowout that has been held here periodically since the 1970s. Even if you’re not in town to see world-famous musicians (past Glastonbury headliners include Elton John, Lizzo, and Arctic Monkeys), there’s still plenty to do in this region. The area is a spelunker’s paradise: If caves are your thing, check out Wookey Hole and Cheddar Gorge in the Mendip Hills for some sweet stalagmite action. (Both offer ticketed entry and tours, so you won’t be left up to your own to find your way out.)

Above ground, Exmoor National Park straddles the border between Somerset and the neighboring county of Devon, and it encompasses 267 square miles of picturesque valleys, winding rivers, and quaint villages begging for exploration. Hike through the Valley of Rocks for stunning seaside views, hit the trails on horseback at Burrowhayes Farm Riding Stables, or even catch a movie at the charming one-screen Lynton Cinema.

Where to stay: Embrace England’s upscale vibes with a stay at The Castle Hotel in Taunton. Yes, it’s an actual castle—and a family-run castle at that. If you’re feeling really celebratory, ask about the hotel’s champagne teas and private penthouse dinners.

IMAGO / Panthermedia

Yes, the Beatles are the main attraction here. You won’t have to work hard to find them—the band’s legacy is imprinted over what seems like every inch of the city. But even if the Fab Four isn’t your obsession, there’s still plenty to see. Discover Liverpool’s shipping legacy with a tour through the Royal Albert Dock, a repurposed warehouse turned food court and museum hub. Want to get on the water? Easy enough: Hop on a ferry across the River Mersey to appreciate the city’s notable views.

When you’re ready for a break, head to the nearest Tesco supermarket to pick up supplies for a cheap picnic—and don’t forget the single-serving bottles of wine. Then venture over to St Luke’s Bombed Out Church, a community garden and gathering space which also hosts plays, open-air markets, and concerts.

Where to stay: Tip your hat to Liverpool’s history as a shipping hub by spending the night at the Titanic Hotel. It’s located in the former North Warehouse, where the White Star Line was founded in 1845. The level of luxury here might not quite live up to that of its doomed namesake (even if the building’s original windows do evoke the era), but you can unwind like the upper-class in the hotel’s Maya Blue Spa.

IMAGO / Joana Kruse

Bath is where England keeps the history. Simply strolling through the center of town will bring you face-to-face with the iconic 250-year-old Pulteney Bridge, the ornate Bath Abbey, and Roman baths that date back thousands of years. 

For a brisk workout, join a tour to climb the 154 steps to the top of the Bath Abbey Tower, which will give you expansive views of the city and its historic stone buildings. (The tour also gives you access to other parts of the abbey, including its clock). Once you’re back on the ground, make your way to the Roman baths, which were constructed in 70 AD and are fed by natural geothermal springs. You’ll need to get a ticket ahead of time, but once you’re in, you can explore the Great Bath, see the sacred spring, and view the museum’s extensive collection of Roman artifacts.

Be sure to find an equally historic snack at Sally Lunn—the bun maker has been providing sweets to the city for hundreds of years.

Where to stay: Bath is famous for its spas, so you’ll want to stay in a spa hotel. Splash out (yes—pun intended) at the upscale Gainsborough Bath Spa for luxury accommodations and opulent bathing pools. 

IMAGO / blickwinkel

Oxford is famous for its eponymous university, and there are lots of great ways to get a behind-the-scenes look at its incredible architecture and history. First, get your bearings with a walking tour around town. The itinerary includes a stop at the famed school to gawk at the institution that gave us Stephen Hawking, Oscar Wilde, and British romcom hero Hugh Grant. For another unique take on Oxford, book a space on the Harry Potter locations tour, which highlights buildings and places featured in the films.

Or you can skip school all together and head for the water. The Oxford canal runs for an impressive 78 miles, and companies like Oxford River Cruises are there to help you explore it, cruising cocktails included. Finish off your night with a movie date at Ultimate Picture Palace, a staunchly independent single-screen cinema.

Where to stay: Malmaison is currently experiencing its second life. The former prison is now an upscale boutique hotel: Its heavily reinforced walls, metal stairways, and vaulted ceilings provide a unique contrast to the plush rooms and suites. 

IMAGO / agefotostock

Cornwall has some of the best surfing and pasties (traditional pastries filled with meat and vegetables) in the country—meaning you already have your activity and snack figured out before you arrive here. For the best waves, head to Fistral Beach, Polzeath, and Bude. Bring your own board or grab what you need for a day on the waves at Wavehunters, Gwithian Academy of Surfing, or Fistral Beach Surf School (these locations offer surfing lessons as well). 

Water not your thing? Try exploring the Eden Project. The reclaimed china clay pit was once totally barren, but now it’s home to several massive greenhouses that contain the world’s largest indoor rainforest. Wander through the golf ball-like enclosures to learn about some of the world’s most interesting plants, view art installations, and more.

If all that nature time makes you hungry, you’re in luck: According to those in the know, Sarah’s Pasty Shop, St. Ives, and St. Agnes are the best places to feed your cravings with delicious pasties.

Where to stay: An ocean view is a must-have for lodging along the Cornish coast. Not only does Fistral Beach Hotel have postcard-worthy views, it’s also home to a sizable day spa and a bar that offers cocktail making classes.


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