Top 10 Places in England to Visit

I’ve been to England a lot.

I visited twice and lived there twice — once for an undergraduate study abroad programme and the other for postgraduate studies at an English university. OK, that’s only four separate times, but it counts as a lot. The only other country I have visited more frequently is Poland.

Each time I visited I made sure to take day trips and explore as much as possible. Fortunately, I have travelled all over the country (I made it to Scotland, Ireland, and Wales as well, but for this post I’m just going to talk about England, not the UK).

Friends often ask what was my favourite place or where would I recommend visiting. So this well-travelled American anglophile will do just that. In classic list form.

1. Bath

Bath Pulteney Bridge

View of Pulteney Bridge from Grand Parade

Bath is the first place in England I visited. It was where I lived for a semester abroad and where I became friends with some of the best people I’ve ever met. It’s where I fell in love with England and where I decided that if I went to graduate school it would have to be in England.

Located in Somerset, 90 minutes west of London by train, it’s beyond gorgeous. It’s idyllic. The architecture is striking — buildings all in yellow Bath stone. Everything about Bath is simply divine.

Top Attractions

  • The Royal Crescent
  • No. 1 Royal Crescent (Georgian Home and Museum)
  • Pulteney Bridge
  • The Parade Gardens from Pierrepont Street
  • The River walk from North Parade to Pulteney Bridge
  • Tour of Bath Abbey and the Bell Tower
  • Tea in the Bath Assembly Room
  • the Circus
  • Roman Baths
  • Jane Austen Centre
  • Royal Victoria Park

Food

When in Bath it’s imperative to try either the Sally Lunn bun or the Bath bun. Personally, I prefer the Bath bun — a sweet bun with sultanas and topped with crushed sugar.

Insider Tip

Get a panoramic view of the city from Bathwick Meadow, accessed by Widcombe Hill.

2. Whitby

Whitby

View of Whitby with the Abbey in the distance

When I went to the seaside town of Whitby in 2011 I didn’t know what to expect. Located up north, in Yorkshire, it’s a picturesque place with lots of history. I’m a sucker for coastal towns and ruins. The photo above was my first look at Whitby and I immediately fell in love.

I’m also a huge fan of Gothic literature. Castle of Otranto, The Monk, and Dracula are among my favourites. Thus, learning that Bram Stoker was inspired to write Dracula after visiting Whitby was another reason for me to love this place.

Top Attractions

  • Whitby Abbey
  • Climbing the 199 steps to the Abbey
  • The Whalebone Arch
  • Lighthouses on the East and West Piers
  • Whitby Lighthouse
  • The Swing Bridge
Whitby Abbey

Hanging out on the ruins of Whitby Abbey

Must-Have Souvenir

Whitby Jet.

I’m obsessed with locally-sourced and locally significant souvenirs. Jet is fossilized wood and the jet found in Whitby is from the early Jurassic period. Jet regained popularity during the Victorian era because the Queen favoured it for mourning jewellery after the death of Prince Albert.

One O Five was the shop recommended to me. They have really nice pieces.

Insider Tip

Bring layers. Believe it or not, the photo above was taken in August.

3. Tintagel

Cornwall

Tintagel Coastline

I’ve been obsessed with the Arthurian legend for as long as I can remember. I think it began after watching Disney’s A Sword in the Stone or maybe it was after seeing A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. Either way, my interest persisted and when I went to university to study English Literature and British History, I took as many medieval and Arthurian lecturers as possible. I was spellbound.

So it comes as no surprise that Tintagel, the supposed birthplace of King Arthur according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, has been on my list for quite some time. Tintagel is a lovely village on the north Cornwall coast. It’s a bit of a trek from London; therefore, be prepared to stay overnight.

Sadly, Tintagel castle was closed due to high winds when I visited. My favourite thing we did was the coastal walk. The views are breathtaking. It rivaled the coastal walks my mom and I did in Iceland.

Top Attractions

  • Tintagel Castle
  • Merlin’s Cave
  • The Medieval Post Office
  • St Nectan’s Glen
  • Coastal Walks
  • Camelot Castle Hotel Bar
Cornwall2

Coastal Walk with Camelot Castle Hotel in the distance

Food

In Cornwall, it’s an absolute must to try a Cornish pasty as well as a Cream Tea. There are two bakeries in Tintagel: The Cornish Bakery and Pengenna Pasties. I bought my pasty from Pengenna — it was delicious.

Lodging

We stayed at the Camelot Castle Hotel. It’s a strange sort of place. The castle’s exterior is striking against the coastal backdrop. The inside, however, is contrived and trying too hard. The reception area has clunky gold framed photographs of the owner with celebrities (it reminded me of Planet Hollywood). The large drawing room has a replica of King Arthur’s Round Table, which is really cool. All the art in the castle is by Ted Stourton. Some of the pieces are nice, but it was too much and the modernised art clashed with the heavy-handed medieval theme. The decor verged on tacky; it was along the lines of gaudy glitter princess. Their restaurant, however, had really tasty food. Plus there is a swanky bar area.

Must-Have Souvenir

  • Buy a jar of the honey marmalade from Tintagel Honey Shop. It’s divine!
  • Cornish pottery is also very lovely.

4. Oxford

Hertford Bridge

Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs at Herford College

Oxford is truly magical. It’s equally as stunning as Bath, plus it’s been used as a filming location for Harry Potter, X-Men: First Class, and The Golden Compass —to name a few.

Oxford University is also home to many famous authors, like Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Philip Pullman, and Helen Fielding.

I love libraries. My goal is to have one of those two level home libraries with a ladder (Beauty and the Beast style). The only thing better than a cool library is an extraordinarily cool medieval library. Read about my tour of the Bodleian Library.

But what about Cambridge? If you’ve scanned this post you’ll notice it’s missing. I’ve been to both Oxford and Cambridge, and while Cambridge is lovely in its own right, it cannot compete with Oxford’s place in my heart. Without getting too metaphysical, they have two completely different feels.

Top Attractions

  • Any of the University Colleges
  • Bodleian Library
  • Radcliffe Camera
  • Sheldonian Theatre
  • Eagle and Child pub
  • Literary Walking Tours
  • Ashmolean Museum
  • Oxford Castle
  • Bridge of Sighs
  • St Michael at the Northgate
  • Oxford Covered Market
  • Alice’s Shop
  • Martyrs Memorial

Must-Have Souvenir

Oxford University gear from the Varsity Shop.

Best Cocktails

Duke of Cambridge

5. Norwich

Norwich

Norwich and the River Wensum

Norwich will always hold a special place in my heart. I spent a fantastic year living here while attending the Norwich Business School for my masters. There is so much to see and do; I’m glad I had the opportunity to call this place home.

My favourite time of year was spring when the trees were flowering. However, Norwich is fantastic year-round. During Christmas they have the tunnel of lights. In the summer there are food and drink festivals. Winter in Norwich is mild compared to New York and New England. I wore my autumn boots all winter! It snowed twice while I was there and I missed it both times. It’s also apparently in the driest county so it received less rain than elsewhere.

Norwich is also one of the safest places I’ve been to. I felt completely comfortable walking home alone after midnight, even through the park.

Currently, I have two posts solely about Norwich. One is about my favourite street art. The other goes in depth about my favourite 3 places in Norwich.

No doubt there will be more.

It’s a bit out of the way, but if you’re heading to Cambridge you can’t miss Norwich.

Top Attractions

  • Plantation Gardens
  • Eaton Park
  • Norwich Castle
  • Norwich Cathedral
  • Riverside Walk
  • Cow Tower
  • UEA’s Ziggurats
  • Elm Hill
  • Dragon Hall

Best Places to Eat

  • Gonzo’s
  • Belgian Monk
  • Vine Tavern
  • Turtle Bay
  • Unthank Arms
  • Lust & Liquor
  • Grosvenor Fish Bar
  • Jive
  • Giggling Squid
  • Library Restaurant & Grill

Best Coffee Shops

  • Roots
  • Cherry Leaf
  • Timberhill Bakery
  • Storm in a Teacup
  • Kofra
  • Bread Source

Insider Tip

Go in the spring to see all the flowers in bloom for fabulous pictures.

6. Winchester

Statue of King Alfred in Winchester

Statue of King Alfred in Winchester

I went to Winchester to visit the Cathedral and see the burial place of Jane Austen. I regret not having more time there. The City Walk is something I really wanted to do.

Top Attractions

  • Winchester Cathedral
  • The Great Hall
  • King Arthur’s Round Table
  • Statue of King Alfred
  • Winchester Buttercross
  • Abbey Gardens
  • City Walk

More about my visit to Winchester

Read about my day in Winchester.

7. Hastings

Hastings

Ruins of Hastings Castle overlooking the city

Hastings is famous for the 1066 Norman Invasion: The Battle of Hastings. Located in East Sussex on the south coast of England, it’s approximately 2 hours from London.

During the medieval times it was an important fishing village; however, after a storm caused flooding and silted up the harbour, it failed to develop into a major port. During the Victorian period it became a popular seaside resort.

The walk up to the castle was steep so bring comfortable shoes. I spent a couple hours wandering around taking millions of photos of the ruins. Honestly, there’s not that much to see, but I’m obsessed with ruins so I was loving it.

  • Hastings Castle
  • Old Town
  • Net Lofts and Fisherman’s Museum
  • 1066 Battle of Hastings Battlefield and Abbey (in Battle)
  • Hastings Pier
  • Walk along the beach
  • All Saints’ Street
  • All Saints’ Church
  • Saint Mary in the Castle

Where I ate

Mungos. This quirky surf-inspired cafe is located near the pier. The proprietor, Liz, is extremely friendly. She gave me a map and some suggestions of things to check out.

Insider Tip

Make sure to take the short trip (about 10 minutes by train) to Battle and see the Battlefield and Abbey.

8. Stratford-Upon-Avon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stratford, chapel where Shakespeare is buried in the distance

Ah, the home of Shakespeare.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man

-Polonius in Hamlet

I remember reading his plays in English class in high school — the editions with loads of footnotes for modern translations. It was slow reading, but they were some of the best pieces I’ve ever read.

One English teacher had us memorise the “All the world’s a Stage” monologue from As You Like It then recite it individually. Another asked us to memorise Hamlet’s famous soliloquy for a test. Hamlet is my favourite. While all the plays have some great passages and quotes, Hamlet wins every time.

Stratford-upon-Avon is a medieval market town located in Warwickshire. If historic places and old architecture are your jam then this town is a must see.

Walking along the banks of the River Avon you’ll see loads of swans — just be careful, Queen Elizabeth owns all the swans in England. Every year there is a swan census, the swan upping, so don’t do anything silly or the Swan Warden might put you in a dungeon (it seems like a fitting punishment for such a medieval tradition).

Top Attractions

  • Shakespeare’s birthplace
  • Anne Hathaway’s cottage
  • Church of the Holy Trinity
  • Hall’s Croft
  • Butterfly farm
Stratford

Anne Hathaway’s cottage

Must-See

Get tickets to see a play at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre or Swan Theatre

9. York

York

City view of York

I’ve been to York twice, but I have to say I enjoyed it so much more the second time. In July, my friend Emily (one of my Bath study abroad besties) visited me from Virginia. We took the train to Nottingham and then York. While Nottingham didn’t snag a spot on this list, York won me over during our visit.

Maybe it was Emily’s infectious enthusiasm about everything because even the rain couldn’t dampen our fun. We had such a great time exploring.

Top Attractions

  • York Minster
  • Clifford’s Tower
  • York Dungeon
  • The Shambles
  • St Mary’s Abbey
  • Indulge in the best hot chocolate
  • Walk the city walls
  • Browse the outdoor market

Lodging

We stayed at the Guy Fawkes Inn. Honestly, it was such a cute place and the breakfast was great. Even though it’s a pub we didn’t hear any noise when trying to go to sleep.

Best Places We Ate

  • Cafe No. 8 Bistro
  • Oshibi Korean Bistro

Best Hot Chocolate

York Cocoa House

10. Canterbury

Refectory Kitchen

Entering Canterbury through the Westgate Towers

Again, as a Literature lover, an English literary pilgrimage would not be complete without visiting Chaucer’s Canterbury. I visited Canterbury twice and both times I spent the majority of my time wandering around Canterbury Cathedral.

Recently, I wrote a post about my visit to Canterbury in September. Check that out for more photos and information.

Top Attractions

  • Canterbury Cathedral
  • Marlowe Theatre
  • Westgate Towers
  • Statue of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Church of St George the Martyr (where Marlowe was baptised)
  • The Old City

Places to Eat

  • Refectory Kitchen
  • Cafe Mauresque

Thanks for checking out my blog! It was tough compiling this list because every place has its own unique feel, but I tried to go by those I’ve repeatedly visited or would go again without debate.

I have a few posts focusing on some of these places in case you want to know more. Plus I have others forthcoming. If you want to hear more about one in particular, leave a comment below.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on my list and how it compares to your own. What are your favourite places in England?

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Until the next adventure,

Jenn

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