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The Best Cities To Visit In England
England has a lot of history that dates back more than 800,000 years ago when the British Isles were first inhabited. Today, you can explore England’s rich history in museums, galleries, and other attractions.
Here are the best cities to visit in England.
London is a 21st-century city with a history stretching back to ancient Rome. As the capital of England, it’s one of the most visited cities in Europe. Every year, over 27 million people visit London. The city is home to 9 million people. Every district has its own neighbourhood with several attractions and rich history.
One of the attractions is Hyde Park. As the most famous park in London, it has a significant history. For many years, the park has played host to protests and demonstrations such as protests by the Suffragettes. It’s also home to several memorial features and landmarks such as the Serpentine and Diana Princess of Wales fountain.
Another must-see attraction is the iconic London Eye. It offers panoramic views of the city. At night, it’s lit in seasonal colours. Next is Westminster, the political hub of London. It is home to the world-famous Big Ben and Houses of Parliament.
You can also find Westminster Abbey, open to the public most days. Other attractions in London include Camden, Soho, Baker Street, Piccadilly Circus and more.
Like London, Durham has lots of historical and architectural significance. One of its attractions is the Durham Cathedral. The cathedral is a mix of Gothic and Roman architecture. Built around the 12th Century, it has semi-circular arches joining the Gothic pointed ribbed vault. Besides the Galilee Chapel, you can explore the:
- Chapel of Nine Altars
- Tombs of St Cuthbert
- The cloister (which appeared in Harry Potter movies.)
Recently, the cathedral launched the Open Treasures exhibition. Here, you can view a world-class collection of religious artefacts. Another must-see attraction is Durham Castle. Built in the 11th Century, it acted as a defence against the Scots and kept the unruly region in check. Since 1840, the University College occupied the castle, but you can take a 50 minute guided tour.
Crook Hall is a manor house that dates back to the 1300s. As a living timeline of noble architecture, you can explore the Medieval Hall, Jacobean and Georgian extensions. The gardens cover five acres and designed as garden rooms. You’ve a walled garden, rose garden, silver garden, moat pool and more.
Get acquainted with Durham by taking a walk along the Wear. The city has built a three-mile circular path that gives you fantastic views of the cathedral. Stop for refreshments at the Half Moon inn or the Tudor Pub.
Portsmouth started as a naval base thanks to its natural protection by the Isle of Wight. As the only island city in the UK, it’s a naval base. So, if you love military history, head to Portsmouth.
At the Historic Dockyard, you’ll find the HMS Victory. This was a British Navy flagship where Lord Nelson died in the Battle of Trafalgar. You’ll also get to explore the 16th Century Mary Rose, which has been carefully preserved. At the Historic Dockyard, you can board other famous vessels like HMS Warrior, HMS M33 and HMS Alliance.
In front of the HMS Victory is the National Museum of the Royal Navy. The museum documents 300 years of British Naval history. No 10 storehouse and No 11 storehouse are 18th-century monuments linked by a glass atrium.
At the Nelson gallery, learn more about Lord Nelson’s fabled naval career. Next is the Sir Donald Gosling Victory Gallery. It has insight into HMS Victory and its crew. There is a walkthrough where you get to meet Napoleon and Nelson.
Other must-visit attractions include the Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays, Harbour Tour and more.
Nestled in a sheltered bay in the picturesque county of Dorset is Bournemouth. There are seven miles of sandy beaches plus:
- Amusement arcades
- Play parks
- Beach huts
- An oceanarium
At the Bournemouth seaside, there is a retro pier lined with attractions and arcades. As a must-see attraction, the Victoria pier has an amusement arcade, a café, and a gift shop. There is also the RockReef climbing centre that will get your adrenaline pumping.
Next, take a boat tour from City Sightseeing or a bus tour. This is a great way to sightsee the city. Tickets usually start from £13, and you can get off at any point to explore. Visit the Upper, Lower and Central gardens that date back to the Victorian era. Filled with lawns, trees and flowerbeds, this is a perfect place for a leisurely walk.
Next is the Russell Cotes Museum, a seaside villa given by Merton Russell Cotes to his wife as a birthday present. This Grade II listed property is quirky and open to the public. To explore more of Dorset, take a tour of the Jurassic Coast.
Bath is a beautiful, welcoming town in the southwest of England. With a population of less than 90,000, the city welcomes more than 4 million visitors every year. As a UNESCO World Heritage City, there is plenty to see and do.
Start with the Roman Baths that date back to 60 AD. Explore the Great Bath, Temple to Sulis Minerva remains, and the sacred spring. As a first-rate museum, you can get an audio guide explaining the significance of the site.
Down the street from the Roman Baths is Thermae bath spa. Here you can take a dip in the modern spa complex. The complex has an open-air rooftop pool and a giant relaxation pool overlooking the city. There are steam rooms, an on-site restaurant and spa treatment rooms.
On your list of places to visit should be the Bath Gin Company. In the local distillery, you can sample their small batch of gins. Or take a gin making class and leave with your own custom gin.
As the second biggest city in England, Manchester was first settled by the Romans in 79 AD. Today, it’s a vibrant urban spot with spectacular arts, culture and nightlife. Surrounded by the gorgeous Pennine mountains, the city has an excellent history, including science and music.
Manchester is home to several museums like the Manchester Museum. As the country’s biggest university museum, it has 4.5 million items in its collection. Housed in a striking gothic style building, the museum has galleries that showcase fossils, art, and others from around the world.
Next is the Manchester Art Gallery in the city centre. Built in 1823, it has an extensive art collection by artists, such as Gainsborough, Pissarro and Turner. If you’re a Manchester United fan, a visit to Old Trafford is a must. You can book a tour for a unique experience through the grounds, on-site museum and backstage.
Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of William Shakespeare. So, if you love Shakespeare’s works, a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon is a must. Visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, a two-story complex built in the 16th century. It’s timbered with the rooms carefully arranged with period furniture. One of the rooms houses the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s works.
Adjoining Shakespeare’s birthplace is Shakespeare’s Centre, the headquarters of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It has study rooms and a library. One mile west of the town is Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Behind the gardens is a lovely park with examples of trees mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. Other attractions at the cottage include:
- Music Trail
- Greenwood Singing Tree
- Butterfly Trail
- A sculpture trail
Next is the home of John Harvard’s mother. John is the founder of Harvard University. Neighbouring the home is Garrick Inn, a 16th-century place richly embellished with wood carvings. You can visit for a meal and meet the townsfolk.
If interested in learning about the Tudor times, visit the Tudor World attraction along Sheep Street.
Like Manchester, Liverpool is home to another popular football club, Liverpool FC. It’s also home to one of Britain’s industrial heritage. The town has its roots in the industrial revolution. As a major hub and port, many people travelled into England via Liverpool.
One of the most popular docks is Albert Dock. Made up of warehouses and docks along the waterfront, it’s a heritage site that attracts more than 4 million people every year. Back in the day, it was the most innovative docks and a front runner in technology thanks to the use of hydraulic cranes.
The World Museum is a must-visit attraction. It showcases exhibits on historical culture, space, natural science and more. Built in 1851, it also houses an aquarium. If you’re a fan of outer space, visit the Spaceport. The centre has several rooms with different themes, including space pods and solar system. Finish your trip with a visit to St George’s Quarter, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool Cathedral, and the Cavern Club (home of the Beatles).
Bristol is full of surprise and quirkiness. You can take a hot air balloon ride over the city with Bristol Balloons and Bailey Balloons. Or you can stay on the ground and marvel at animals in the Bristol Zoo. As the perfect escape from the city hustle and bustle, the zoo has a variety of animals. They include gorillas, penguins and more.
From there, wander around the Bristol Aquarium. Start your journey at the Sunken Shipwreck exhibit, then to the Bay of Rays, Coral Seas, Underwater Tunnel and more. At the Windmill City Farm and St Werburghs City Farm, see farmyard animals such as goats, pigs, sheep and chickens. Entry is free, and it’s also an opportunity to buy fresh jams, gifts and more.
You can also shop at the Harbourside Market. It runs every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. The market sells artwork, jewellery and handcrafted gifts. Take a leisure walk through Leigh Woods or walk across the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It’s free to cross on foot but costs £1 by motorbike or bicycle.
Norwich lies on the little River Wensum and is within reach of Norfolk Broads. The county town has more than 30 medieval churches, such as the Norwich Cathedral built between 1096 and 1145. It has a striking 315-foot tall spire which is the second-highest after Salisbury Cathedral.
To explore old Norwich, head to Tombland Alley. There are two gates, Erpingham and St Ethelbert. They lead to the idyllic tranquillity of the Cathedral Close. The site is close to Elm Hill, a medieval cobbled street with tiny old houses. Most of the houses are now cafes, restaurants and shops.
The Norwich Museum has a collection of art from Dutch and English masters of the 17th and 18th centuries. There’re guided tours along with workshops for visitors. Within the castle is the Royal Norfolk Regiment Museum. It has a great collection of paintings, medals and uniforms.
A few minutes walk from the museum is the Norwich Market, City Hall, 15th Century Guildhall and Central Library.
Brighton is one of England’s party capitals. It pulls holidaymakers and day-trippers from across England, UK, Europe and the world. One of the major landmarks in Brighton is the Palace Pier. Opened in 1899, it has a bucket and spade stalwart. It’s an amusement park over the water with traditional games, fairground games, two arcades and a soft play area.
Still at the seafront, you can relax at the 5.4-mile long pebble beach. It’s full of Victorian glamour, bars, clubs and youthful energy. Embark on a 20 to 25-minute ride in a large pod at the 162 meter British Airways i360. When the Sun’s out, you should see the Isle of Wight 50 miles away and the cliffs at Beachy Hotel.
For a little history about Brighton, visit the Brighton Museum. It holds:
- Decorative art
- Fine art
- Natural sciences
- World art
- Films and more
They are all presented in absorbing galleries. Behind the Royal Pavilion is the hip shopping district – North Laine. It has over 300 shops, music stores, vintage shops, trendy cafes and music stores.
Ancient Romans founded the walled city of York. Today, its walls form a walkway on both sides of the river. The 3.4 km circuit of medieval stone walls provides a great way to orient yourself about the city. It takes about two hours to cover the whole circuit. On the wall, there is a great view of the Micklegate and Minster.
Visit the imposing Clifford’s Tower, the last remaining structure of York Castle. The tower sits on a small hill giving you a view of the city. It was originally built by William the Conqueror before getting burned to the ground and rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th Century.
To learn more about York history, head to the York Castle Museum. You can find recreated Jacobean dining rooms, toy exhibits, geological and archaeological collections. Experience Viking life at Jorvik. In the 1970s, excavations revealed a Viking settlement. This site now houses the Jorvik Viking Centre. A ride takes you through the reconstruction of the village.
Located an hour from London, Cambridge is one of the most popular university cities. Its history dates back to the 1st Century AD. Founded in 1209, Cambridge University is the second oldest university after Oxford University. It consists of 31 colleges, each founded between 1284 and 1596.
Another must-see attraction is Trinity College, where attendees included Isaac Newton and others. The college has produced over 33 Nobel prize winners to date.
The King’s College with its huge expanse of lawns offers lovely views of the Backs and grounds. Here, you can visit King’s College Chapel renowned for its 12 bay interior and breath-taking fan vaulting. The Fitzwilliam Museum is a masterpiece of architecture. It houses a collection of English china and pottery, Egyptian, Roman and Greek antiquities. Other places of interest include:
- Cambridge Museum of Technology
- Pembroke College
- St John’s College
- Corpus Christi College and more.
The port city of Hull is home to the Hull Maritime Museum. It explores the city’s seafaring heritage. The museum has a collection of paintings, fishing equipment and models. Exhibits extend from the Bronze age to the present day.
At the heart of Hull’s Old Town area is the birthplace of William Wilberforce. The redbrick building is now a museum with exhibits from the 18th and 19th centuries. Wilberforce was popular for his opposition to slavery, and the museum tells the story of the Atlantic slave trade to its abolition.
East Riding Museum tells the story of Hull – from its geological origins to its settlement – over 10,000 years ago. Its located in the Museum Quarter and is home to the Hasholme Logboat, a vessel dating from 400 BC. Buried 33 feet underground is the Deep, a submarium with a main tank. This is the deepest aquarium in Europe with over 6,500 fish and offers superb viewing opportunities.
A visit to Nottingham allows you to explore Sherwood Forest, home of Robin Hood. To view the bronze statues of Robin Hood and his merry men, head to Nottingham Castle. It is home to Sherwood Foresters Regimental Museum and the Nottingham Castle Museum. They both house impressive collections and treasures such as:
- Medieval ceramics
- Alabaster carvings and more.
A few yards away is the Museum of Nottingham Life. It’s a collection of 17th-century cottages portraying the history of Nottingham and its people. Underneath Nottingham, there are numerous caves, including the 22 foot long Mortimer’s Hole. As part of the City of Caves attraction, there are more than 450 caves used for storage and defence.