There’s no shortage of cliché-ridden ideas about England: From double-decker buses, thatched cottages and country houses, cream teas, eccentric aristocrats and cold, grey and rainy weather.
Visitors however will find that it doesn’t rain as much as they had heard, that Indian restaurants far outnumber fish-and-chip shops and that there are a surprising amount of great tourist attractions in England packed into a relatively small area.
And then, of course, there is the good old British pub. You can’t beat a good old pint of bitter!
Over the years we have been lucky enough to have seen quite a bit of Blighty. So in this article, we want to tell you about our favorite things to do in England.
On this list, we have included something for everyone, so are confident you will find something enjoyable to doing.
In this post, we'll cover:
28. Bodleian Library
If you are a book lover then you should definitely pencil in a visit to The Bodleian Library at Oxford University.
Contrary to what its name suggests, it is not just one library. Rather a series of 28 different libraries whose collective works span over 400 years of academic history.
Incredibly, the library was founded in 1602 by Sir Thomas Bodley and has 13 million items in its collection. Some of its treasures include the original manuscripts of the Codex Bodley, the Gutenberg Bible, and Shakespeare’s First Folio.
If you have time when visiting Oxford, we recommend you take a guided tour of the library and its various buildings. The books are quite rare and the architecture is absolutely stunning.
Oh, and if you are a fan of Harry Potter movies, you will surely recognize some of the rooms. They were used as filming locations for them.
27. St Michael’s Mount
Cornwall is such a beautiful spot, you could literally pick anywhere and have an amazing time. But if you can only get to one place, we would suggest St Michael’s Mount.
One of the county’s most stunning attractions, it sits on a small tidal island. You can get to it on foot during low tide or by boat at high tide. On top of the island is a wonderful castle and a medieval church, both of which create a real ‘wow’ factor.
If you go there, you’ll be able to explore the castle, as well as its beautiful gardens. You’ll also be able to wander around the cute village that is located on it too.
This village has lots of charming narrow streets that are lined with traditional cottages and cafes. We had wonderful Cornish Tea Scones when we were there (jam first!).
26. Brighton Pier
Ok, so some people think Brighton Pier is a little tacky, but we love it. Any structure that survives two world wars, numerous storms, and devastating fire (in 2003) is pretty cool to us!
Constructed in 1899, the pier is located on the south coast of England. Back in the day, it was one of the country’s leading seaside destinations with many rich people from London coming here for a holiday.
Today the pier is an iconic symbol of Brighton’s seaside heritage. It features traditional arcade games, fairground rides, and booths selling classic seaside treats. You simply have to try the fish and chips, Brighton rock and ice cream.
On a clear day, it also offers stunning views of the English Channel and the Brighton coastline. You’ll want to take lots of selfies at both for your Insta.
25. Tower Bridge
Take it from us, Tower Bridge is one of those iconic landmarks you will never tire of seeing. We’ve walked along that bridge several times and always seem to notice something new about it.
One of the most recognizable bridges in the world, it is a stunning example of Victorian engineering and design. Apparently, it only took eight years to build, officially opening in 1886.
As you walk along the bridge you will see fabulous views of the Thames River and the London cityscape. However, if you really want to be impressed by them, then go on a tour of the bridge’s towers.
If you do this you will be able to see them from the high-level walkways. You’ll also be able to tour the bridge’s engine rooms. You are also sure to get a thrill as you watch them being raised and lowered!
24. Magical Mystery Tour, Liverpool
Love The Beatles? Then going on The Magical Mystery Tour is a must-do experience for anyone visiting Liverpool. In fact, this guided tour is one of the most entertaining things to do in England and we had a lot of fun.
During it, you’ll go to all the main places that inspired the band and their songs. This includes the likes of Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and the childhood homes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Along the way, you’ll hear stories about the band’s history and the cultural significance of their music. You’ll also get to hear plenty of songs and get to visit the iconic Cavern Club. This famous club was where the Beatles played some of their earliest gigs back in the day.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to go on a ‘Yellow Submarine’. But you’ll pretty much go ‘Here, There and Everywhere’. What’s more, you are sure to have a fantastic time along the way.
23. Leeds Castle
First things first, Leeds castle is not in Leeds. It’s in Maidstone in Kent! Yep. That caught us out too.
It’s actually been called the ‘loveliest castle in the world’ and it’s hard to argue against that claim.
The castle is very impressive. Built on two small islands, it is surrounded by a picturesque moat and beautiful gardens. Apparently, it was completed around 1119 and despite its age, it is still in remarkably good condition.
Visitors can tour the castle’s many rooms, including the grand staterooms and the underground grotto. They can also take in breathtaking views of the Kent countryside from the higher levels of it.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you might be able to see outdoor concerts. They even have jousting tournaments and Christmas markets too.
22. Maritime Greenwich
If you have the time, a really cool thing to do in London is visit Maritime Greenwich.
Located in southeast London, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Comprising beautiful parkland and stunning architecture, it has some fascinating attractions.
Some of them include the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum, and the Queen’s House. All of which are worth checking out.
Once you’ve done that, you can stroll through Greenwich Park. This is a lovely spot for a picnic on a warm day. It also provides wonderful views of the Thames River and the city skyline.
Best of all, you can even get to stand on the Prime Meridian. This is the line that marks the division between the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth. So you’ll be able to have one foot in both at the same time!
21. Eden Project
While St Michael’s Mount was our first recommendation for Cornwall, if you have a bit more time at your disposal whilst there, you should check out The Eden Project.
You might better recognize it as those two giant biomes which often get shown on TV in programs about the natural world and sustainable living.
In the biomes, there is a variety of plants to see from around the world. These include tropical rainforests and Mediterranean landscapes. It is also a fantastic place to learn about sustainable practices and eco-friendly living. Especially as the site produces its own renewable energy and recycles water.
It even grows and uses local and organic food in its cafes and restaurants. Which from our experience, creates some fabulous meals.
20. Chester Rows
If you manage to visit Liverpool, it is worth making the short journey over to Chester. There you will be able to see the magnificent Chester Rows.
Located close to the border with Wales, Chester was a Roman settlement back in the first century AD. While some of this heritage remains, one of the key attractions of the city is the Chester Rows. This series of medieval architecture was actually built on top of ancient Roman Ruins in the 13th century.
The architectural feature is quite striking and incorporates a series of covered walkways. They run along the first floor of medieval buildings, providing sheltered access to shops and businesses.
You’ll no doubt take lots of pictures of the rows. But it is also worth checking out the city’s vibrant arts, culture and foodie scene.
19. King’s College Chapel
While Oxford University has the Bodleian Library, Cambridge University has the spectacular King’s College Chapel.
The oldest surviving building within the university complex, this magnificent Gothic structure dates back to the 15th century. Seeing it for the first time on our visit to Cambridge, we were blown away by the intricate detail of its incredible stained-glass windows. Its intricate stone carvings, and spectacular fan-vaulted ceiling were very impressive too.
Whilst there, we took a guided tour to learn more about its history and architectural features. It was fascinating and we would urge you to do the same when you go there.
If you have time you might also want to see a performance by the world-famous choir that sings here. By all accounts they are sensational.
18. Durdle Door
In a country with so many areas of outstanding natural beauty, Durdle Door still manages to stand out.
Situated on the Jurassic Coast in South Dorset, this natural limestone arch is jaw-dropping. Apparently, it is one of the most photographed landmarks in the country. It certainly brought out the Ansel Adams in me!
We could look at that arch for hours, such as the beauty of it and the surrounding coastline. However, that is not the only thing to do here. If you want you can also go for a swim in the crystal-clear waters (too cold for us!). Alternatively you can explore the surrounding hills and cliffs.
It is also worth popping into the nearby Lulworth Cove Visitor Centre. There you’ll hear fascinating tales about its history and folklore regarding smugglers and shipwrecks.
17. Royal Shakespeare Theater
Just like Beatles fans need to go to Liverpool, Shakespeare fans must make a pilgrimage to The Royal Shakespeare Theater.
To do this, you will have to plot a course to Stratford-upon-Avon. This was where the bard was born and the world-famous theater is located.
The theater is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company, which regularly presents many of his plays. Occasionally, it performs those by other famous playwrights as well. These shows are in classic and modern forms. So there is something for scholars of his work and those not familiar with his old English writing style.
As well as watching a performance, you can also go on behind-the-scenes tours of the theater. You can also attend Shakespeare-related talks and workshops.
16. Surf in Cornwall
Did you know the Cornish coastline is around 679 km long? We didn’t either.
But this impressive length makes Cornwall one of the best surfing destinations in the UK. People of all skill levels, from first-timers to the pros, come here to tackle the swell.
If you want to catch a wave, there are a lot of very good spots you can head to. This includes Fistral Beach and Watergate Bay in Newquay. It also incorporates Sennen Cove on the west coast and Porthmeor Beach in St Ives. Polzeath on the north coast is another noted spot.
Wherever you surf, these places provide wild and rugged backdrops, with towering cliffs and secluded beaches, to do so. They are also lovely towns to visit when you’ve had your fill of the waves.
15. Durham Cathedral
The North East of England is a very beautiful area. We would urge you to go there if your schedule permits.
If you do, be sure to add Durham Cathedral to your itinerary. This stunning building is one of the region’s most iconic and important landmarks.
The cathedral has been critically acclaimed as one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Europe. We were certainly impressed with what we saw!
Its Romanesque arches, vaulted ceilings, and ornate stone carvings held us in awe. But it is the incredible stained-glass Rose Window – one of the world’s biggest – that steals the show.
Dating back to 1072, the castle is steeped in history and spirituality. If you are so inclined, it’s worth attending a service or going on a guided tour there.
14. British Museum
If you only get to visit one museum on your England trip, make it the British Museum in London.
Situated on Great Russell Street, it showcases two million years of human history and culture in its fascinating collections.
Ideally, you need two or three days here to see everything, as the museum hosts some incredible exhibits. This includes the likes of the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles and the Parthenon Sculptures. It also incorporates Hoa Hakananai’a and the ancient Egyptian mummies. However, if you don’t have that time available, there are some whistlestop tours available. These will show you the main highlights in a couple of hours.
Best of all, the museum is completely free. So this is a terrific place to bring children or a large group of friends.
13. Whitby Abbey
There’s something quite mystical about Whitby Abbey. Or at least we think so.
Maybe it’s the stunning location this ruined Benedictine abbey occupies on East Cliff overlooking the seaside town of Whitby. Or maybe it is because of its extraordinary, towering Gothic arches and intricate stonework. It might just be because the Abbey inspired Bram Stoker to include it in his famous novel ‘Dracula’.
Well, whatever it is, we can’t endorse it as a must-see destination highly enough. Founded by Saint Hilda back in the 7th century, the Abbey has a huge historical significance.
It is also worth checking out because Whitby is reputedly home to the best fish and chips in England. We certainly thought they were good!
12. Canterbury Cathedral
If you are not all cathedraled out, it is worth checking out Canterbury Cathedral as well.
Those raised as Anglicans will want to visit as it’s the mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It is also the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the Church of England.
Remarkably, the cathedral dates back over 1400 years ago and boasts stunning examples of Romanesque, Gothic, and Perpendicular architecture.
The cathedral houses a magnificent collection of art and artifacts. These include beautiful stained glass windows, ancient manuscripts, and historic vestments. It also runs fascinating guided tours and audio tours, and regularly holds special events.
If you have time, its beautiful gardens and grounds, are well worth exploring. Canterbury is a charming city to check out too.
11. White Cliffs of Dover
It’s not difficult to see why Dame Vera Lynn waxed lyrical about The White Cliffs of Dover. They are without doubt one of the most striking and beautiful sites we have ever seen.
Rising 350 feet above sea level, these cliffs provide a spectacular backdrop to the English Channel and surrounding countryside.
A natural landmark, these cliffs are a national treasure. They have played an important role in the defense of England throughout history with fortifications dating back to the Roman era and World War II.
If you visit this breathtaking landmark, there are a number of guided tours you can go on. There are also interactive exhibits, and historic sites, including the imperious South Foreland Lighthouse to see.
10. Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle is just a 15-minute drive up the road from Stratford-upon-Avon. So it is worth combining it with a trip there if you choose to see a Shakespeare play.
At more than 1,100 years old, the castle is a stunning example of medieval architecture. It features impressive ramparts, towers, and battlements. Inside, its interiors are also beautifully decorated with period furnishings and artwork.
Aside from guided castle tours, one of the best things to do here is to witness jousting tournaments. Additionally, falconry displays, and historical reenactments are regularly put on.
The castle also has extensive gardens and grounds that are beautifully landscaped. We very much enjoyed walking around them. Though next time we’ll bring a picnic and maybe even give boating a go.
9. Lake District
Someone once said to us the further up north you go in England the more beautiful it becomes. Well, we don’t know if that’s true. But we can tell you that The Lake District in northwestern England is incredibly pristine.
This area has a landscape of rolling hills, tranquil lakes, and rugged mountains. Infact it looks like something out of a Gainsborough painting! It is also a wonderfully idyllic and peaceful setting which makes for the perfect place to relax and unwind. Especially after an intense period of sightseeing.
As well as its spectacular landscape, The Lake District has a rich cultural and historical heritage. This includes ancient stone circles, Roman ruins, and buildings like the stunning Castlerigg stone circle, and Beatrix Potter’s house.
It’s also a haven for those who enjoy hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking, sailing and being at one with nature.
8. Hadrian’s Wall
We were very excited to visit Hadrian’s Wall because it is a structure that dates back to AD 122. The fact it was built to separate Roman Britain from the barbarians of Scotland fascinated us. As it is still standing today we couldn’t wait to see what it was like. It did not disappoint us when we finally saw it.
Hadrian’s Wall has been touted as one of the most impressive Roman monuments in the world. Overall, it stretches for over 73 miles and swathes through some of England’s most beautiful and dramatic landscapes. This includes rolling hills, craggy cliffs, and rugged moorland.
It is a great place to hike and there are lots of interesting structures to explore along the way. You’ll also find plenty of local museums and visitor centers to pop into for exhibits and presentations. At both you will find out about the ancient Britons who lived in the area.
7. Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is probably the most famous castle in England. So no trip there is complete without a visit to this iconic royal residence.
Dating back to around 953, the castle is an architectural masterpiece. It boasts a range of stunning buildings and features that showcase different styles and eras. Notably, Gothic, Tudor, and Baroque.
Located not far from London, Windsor is one of the oldest and largest occupied castles in the world. Having been home to many kings and queens over the centuries. It is also one of the most popular to visit. So expect a long wait if you plan to go inside.
It is definitely worth it though, as the castle is home to an extensive collection of art and artifacts. These include works by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Canaletto. It also showcases priceless objects such as royal crowns and ceremonial regalia. (But unfortunately, you can’t try them on!).
6. The Cotswolds
If you can’t get to England’s north, for its sheer scenic beauty it’s worth heading out to The Cotswolds.
Like the Lake District, it is impossibly beautiful. Possessing a breathtaking landscape of rolling hills, meandering streams, and lush green countryside. It is also an area with its fair share of medieval castles, stately homes, and quaint villages. As well as charming market towns, which are all rather enchanting.
If you are into walking or biking, this area is the perfect spot for you. There are several roads and paths you can traverse to explore the region. However, should that sound too much like hard work, then you’ll be pleased to know The Cotswolds is known for its delicious local produce, which includes cheeses, meats, and wines.
It’s also known as cider country. So you should definitely find a quaint local pub in which to try this brew.
5. York Minister
You’ve probably realized by now that England has a lot of cathedrals. Well, one more to add to your list of England attractions is York Minster.
Unlike Leeds Castle, this iconic structure is actually in York! It dates back to around 1386 and is renowned for its eye-catching Gothic architecture. It also is known for its elegant carvings, and magnificent stained glass windows.
The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of York and is known for being an important cultural landmark.
You can choose to take a guided tour here and, of course, attend a service. But the thing we would recommend most is to climb its 275 steps to the top of the tower.
From there you will be rewarded with scintillating views of the beautiful city of York and the surrounding countryside. Both of which are definitely worth the exertion.
4. Westminster Abbey
It’s hard to pick the top attraction in London, simply because there are so many. But Westminster Abbey would definitely be included in most people’s list.
Boasting over 1,000 years of history, Westminster Abbey has been the site of many important events in British history. The Queen’s coronation took place here in 1953. There have also been 17 royal weddings, including most recently Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. The abbey is also the final resting place of many notable figures. This includes the likes of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and William Shakespeare.
Westminster Abbey is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture. It features soaring ceilings, intricate arches and sublime stained glass windows. A guided tour is definitely the best way to experience this attraction. You will learn so much about its history and overall significance.
3. Roman Baths
One of the most unique sites we visited in England was the Roman Baths.
Conveniently located in Bath – for those who might not be sure where it was located! – they were built nearly 2,000 years ago. This makes them one of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world.
If you go there, you will be able to explore the ancient ruins and discover more about the Roman way of life, including their social customs and beliefs.
The Roman Baths are fed by natural hot springs, which were believed to have healing properties by the Romans. In fact, you can still see the steam rising from the waters today.
Up until fairly recently, you could swim in the baths, but unfortunately, that is no longer possible due to a dangerous amoeba being detected that can give a form of meningitis. However, it is still a place of huge cultural significance that is worth checking out.
2. Tower of London
Not far from Tower Bridge, the Tower of London is somewhere you simply have to check out.
A spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site, it boasts impressive architecture. Most notably this includes the White Tower, which dates back to the 11th century.
Over the years it has served as a royal palace, a prison, and a place of execution and if you take a tour inside (which we would urge you to do) you will learn more about its colorful history.
You will also get to explore the towers, battlements, and ramparts, and even see the Crown Jewels. The highlight of which is the famous Imperial State Crown. Remarkably this has 2,800 diamonds, pearls, and other precious stones!
Another thing you have to do is have your photo taken with a Beefeater. These Yeoman Warders, are an iconic symbol of the Tower of London. They have been guarding the site since the 14th century.
Stonehenge is one of the most incredible things we have ever seen. Even now we can’t get our head around how they were constructed with only rudimentary technology. Or even how it came to be in the first place.
Located on Salisbury Plain, these unique stones were believed to have been constructed around 4,500 years ago. But no one is quite sure why.
Some people believe they were used for religious ceremonies, while others claim it was for astronomical observations.
One thing is for sure, those stones are pretty darn heavy, weighing up to 25 tons. Which of course begs the question of how were they erected.
For many people, Stonehenge has a spiritual significance. Though for others it’s just a place of mystery. It is also a place surrounded by beautiful countryside. So it is worth taking the time to really immerse yourself in this fascinating attraction.