England is a great place to visit, whether travelers are making their first or umpteenth trip abroad. That’s partly because the language barrier isn’t there for English speakers, though one can hear languages from throughout the world spoken here. First-time visitors may just want to hit the highlights in England, such as Westminster Abbey or shopping at Knightsbridge in London and perhaps visit a university town or Stonehenge. Return visitors might opt for hiking on the moors, investigating the nooks and crannies of picturesque villages, or digging into their English heritage. The best places to visit in England truly offer something for everyone.
Brighton, on the Sussex coast, has been a popular beach resort since the mid-19th century. Much of its popularity is due to the proximity to London, making it popular with day trippers. The beachfront is lined with graceful old Victorian homes that today provide tourist accommodations. Visitors will want to walk out on the famous Palace Pier or admire the traditional English gardens. The city has a vibrant night life, and is home to many entertainers and athletes.
The Lake District in northwest England’s Cumbria is home to the country’s largest national park. The mountainous region is known for hikes and mountain climbing. It’s a popular tourist destination, attracting more than 15 million visitors annually. The park has the highest mounting in England, Scafell Peak, and the longest lake, Windermere. Others may prefer more gentle walks through the valleys while they contemplate the works of William Wordsworth, a famous 19th century poet, or riding a steam train through the scenic are.
Located on the coast, St. Ives may be a former fishing town but it still has the only port in southwestern England’s Cornwall. Today this picturesque town of almost 12,000 is such a popular holiday resort it was named the Best UK Seaside Town in 2010 and 2011. Comfortable walking shoes are a must to get up the hilly, narrow cobblestone streets that are lined with quaint buildings housing boutiques and art galleries.
Bath got its name because that’s what it was when it was founded by the Romans in 60 AD, who built baths here because of the hot springs. It reached its popularity peak in the Georgian years when the wealthy flocked here for spas. Besides being famous for its waters, the city also is an excellent example of Georgian architecture. The city has an active cultural scene today, with live theatre and fine dining. This southwestern English city makes a good base from which to visit the monolithic Stonehenge.
Cambridge is an historic city about 80 km (50 miles) north of London that is home to the University of Cambridge, one of the top universities in the world. It was founded in 1209; its students make up almost 20 percent of the city’s 123,000 population. After touring the university, travelers may want to take a boat ride on the River Cam, visit the Fitzwilliam Museum with its huge collection of antiquities, or walk across the Mathematical Bridge that some claim is better than bridges in Venice.
Fossil hunters may want to make a beeline for the Jurassic Coast, a section in southern England that runs roughly from Bournemouth to Exmouth. The rocks date back 185 million years to when the continents were crunching up against each other and then drifting apart. Museums along the way explain each region; Charmouth is the best place to find fossils. Fossil hunters, and all visitors, should take time to walk the beaches or visit the small charming towns along the way. Take care when walking near cliffs since rocks can fall at any time.
Oxford dates back to Saxon England when it was known as Oxenaforda or a place where oxen crossed a river. Today it is known as home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford University, which dates back to the 12th century. This southeastern England town, the county seat for Oxfordshire, also boasts the remains of Norman castles, and the Christ Church Cathedral, a college chapel and cathedral rolled into one building. Because students come from all over the world to study here, Oxford is an ethnically diverse city.
York is a walled city with a rich heritage located where the River Foss meets the River Ouse. Plenty of exciting sights compete for visitors’ attention as they stroll along the city’s cobblestone streets. One of the city’s landmarks is York Minster. This commanding stone cathedral is filled with remarkable works of art. The medieval Clifford’s Tower, which was built by William the Conqueror and rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th century, is a great vantage point for panoramic views around the city.
One of the most popular places to visit in England, Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument found in Wiltshire. From about 2500BC, Neolithic and Bronze Age man started to bring gigantic stones from Wales and the Marlborough Downs. It was not until 1600BC that Stonehenge came to be completed. A trip to Stonehenge is best combined with a trip to prehistoric Avebury to the north, which has an even bigger stone circle, with fewer restrictions, and far fewer tourists.
No superlative is too great when it comes to describing London, the capital of England and the UK. This bustling city is history personified from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace – be sure to watch the Changing of the Guards. Shopping, from Knightsbridge to Carnaby Street, is a must as is riding a red double-decker bus and the “tube,” or subway where one is constantly reminded to “mind the gap.” London is also famous for live theatre; be sure to stop in at local pub for a pint after a performance.