England Holiday Planning Guide
A trip through England is a trip through world history, and few places on the planet offer such a diverse variety of attractions, activities, and experiences. The sprawling and stately capital offers countless sightseeing opportunities, such as museums and historical sites, as well as some of the best shopping, nightlife, and culinary options in the world. To truly experience this nation steeped in centuries of history, devote part of your England itinerary to exploring the sweeping countryside, where you can enjoy the warm hospitality of small villages and explore the ancient remains of once-powerful societies. England boasts an outstanding transportation system and many visitors find that even a short train ride through the landscape of rolling hills and plains can be a highlight of their entire vacation. However you choose to move about, remember that in this compact country you’re never very far from a bustling town, where modern pubs, shops, and restaurants await to be explored.
Places to Visit in England
Regions of EnglandYorkshire
: A proud county with its own distinct identity, Yorkshire is referred to as "God's Own Country" due to its spectacular scenery and rich heritage, evident in its plethora of historical attractions.Devon
: A favorite destination for holidays in England, Devon's coastline plays host to quintessentially English resort towns while market villages populate its verdant interior. Cornwall
: Boasting a rugged coastline and vibrant Celtic roots, picturesque Cornwall is a land of ancient castles and timeless fishing villages.Somerset
: Rural and welcoming, Somerset delights visitors with its rolling hills, friendly locals, and world-famous exports, including cheddar cheese and hard ciders.Lancashire
: The northern county of Lancashire combines glitzy seaside attractions with a traditional rural heartland.Kent
: Described as the "Garden of England," Kent offers travellers lazy days spent wandering its coastline, relaxing in meadows, and sampling the county's famous ales. Hampshire
: Hampshire's rich history, bustling port cities, and swathes of unspoiled forest make it an England tourism hotspot.East Anglia
: Predominately a gentle landscape of meandering rivers and wide sandy beaches, East Anglia is also home to cosmopolitan cities and some lively seaside resorts.Dorset
: Home to one of Britain's most scenic and archaeologically interesting stretches of coastline, Dorset makes an ideal England vacation spot for outdoor adventurers, with superb hiking and kayaking opportunities.Cumbria
: A rugged border region between England and Scotland, Cumbria is best known for its breathtaking Lake District, but those venturing further afield will also discover dramatic beaches and a smattering of historical cities.
Cities in EnglandLondon
: An international capital of culture, fashion, food, and politics, the diverse metropolis of London is, understandably, one of the world's top destinations and the starting point of many tours of England. Liverpool
: The Beatles, soccer, and the distinctive scouse accent are considered by many to define Liverpool, but this maritime city has lots more to offer, including the largest national museum collection outside of London and several World Heritage Sites. York
: Surrounded by 13th-century walls, the compact city of York is packed full of historical attractions and boasts an irresistible old world charm.Blackpool
: The glitzy, and at times garish, city of Blackpool is England's most famous seaside resort, visited by over 12 million people a year. Bath
: One of the Isles' most beautiful and ancient cities, Bath has served as tourism hotspot for over 2,000 years, attracting visitors with its thermal waters.Manchester
: The unofficial capital of the north, Manchester has emerged from its industrial heydey as one of Europe's most vibrant cities, with shopping, dining, and nightlife spots to rival those of London. Birmingham
: Birmingham has undergone a massive regeneration project and today the streets of Britain's second-largest city glisten with modern museums, hip galleries, and lively bars. Brighton
: Quirky, colorful, and undeniably cool, the seaside city of Brighton is home to legendary nightlife spots, vegan cafes, and a host of vintage stores.Bristol
: Though it suffered an intensive bombing campaign in World War II, Bristol remains one of the country's most attractive cities, where fine Georgian buildings meet colorful works of street art.Oxford
: Made famous by its ancient university, Oxford boasts elegant architecture, cultural attractions, and a student buzz that make it a popular weekend trip in England.Newcastle upon Tyne
: Once an industrial powerhouse, Newcastle upon Tyne is now known for its lively nightlife and no-nonsense locals, referred to as Geordies.
Things to Do in England
Popular England Tourist AttractionsBritish Museum
: The British Museum boasts one of the largest and most revered collections of artifacts in the world; its 8 million items include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Sculptures, and several mummies from Ancient Egypt.The Roman Baths
: A glimpse into the ancient spas that put Bath on the map, the Roman Baths Museum exhibits a public bathhouse from around 2,000 years ago. Alton Towers
: With an aquarium, a 4D cinema, and a host of adrenaline-pumping rollercoasters, the massive Alton Towers theme park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in England.Warwick Castle
: An imposing fortress with 1,000 years of history, the Warwick Castle complex includes a dungeon, giant catapult, and great hall.Churchill War Rooms
: At the Churchill War Rooms, visitors can explore the remarkably preserved complex from where the Prime Minister and his inner circle directed the British war effort in World War II. Tower of London
: One of history's legendary castles, the Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 and today protects some of the nation's most valuable treasures, including the Crown Jewels.Victoria and Albert Museum
: The Victoria and Albert Museum boasts the largest decorative arts and design collection in existence: a colorful conglomeration of glass, textiles, furniture, photographs, and much more.York Minster
: Northern Europe's largest Gothic cathedral, York Minster is as old as it is stunning, with a millennia-long history.Lake Windermere
: Set among rolling hills and lush forest, a boat trip on Lake Windermere provides a perfect taste of the English countryside.Camden Market
: Camden Market encompasses hundreds of stalls selling food, clothes, knickknacks, and more, making it the ideal place to pick up some offbeat souvenirs of your England vacation.
Planning an England Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in England with Kids
With a wealth of attractions aimed specifically at little ones and many others offering child-friendly facilities, it's easy to plan an England holiday that the whole family can enjoy. London
plays host to some of the world's best museums, renowned not only for their wealth of artifacts but also their interactive exhibits designed to engage young visitors. The capital also encompasses a number of expansive of metropolitan parks, such as Hyde Park
and St. James's Park
, meaning that your kids can still run and play in this busy city.
For something a bit slower-paced, turn to England's ample coastline. Here you'll find a number of perfect vacation bases offering wide beaches and amusement arcades alongside heaps of family-friendly pubs and eateries. Blackpool
are well-established favorites with a traditional English feel, while hip towns like Whitstable
have a more upmarket feel, with prices to match.
Things to Do in England with Kids
No matter what part of the country you explore on your England trip, you're bound to find plenty of fun things to do with your children. The large historical sites scattered throughout the country allow kids to immerse themselves in another time and learn about British history in an engaging way. Lots of kids enjoy seeing fairy-tale castles, such as the moated Bodiam Castle
or formidable Bamburgh Castle
, while Leeds Castle
hides an adventure playground, maze, and aviary on its scenic grounds. If you need a break from kings, queens, and knights, include some zoos, theme parks, or farms in your England itinerary. DairyLand Farm World
gives kids a chance to interact with some adorable critters while gaining an insight into life in rural England.
Tips for a Family Vacation in England
If you and your family are eager to tour England's picturesque countryside, you should consider renting a car for your vacation. While the country's urban centers boast excellent public transportation links, local buses outside of cities are scarce and often pricey. When buying tickets for attractions, make sure to check if admission is reduced, or even free, for kids and students.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in England
Cuisine of England
Though British food suffers from a bad reputation internationally, there are plenty of tasty dishes and excellent quality produce to sample on your England holiday. Meals traditionally consist of meat (usually lamb, beef, chicken, or pork) accompanied by potatoes and one other vegetable. However, the expansiveness and longevity of the British Empire means that food in the Isles encompasses lots of diverse flavors from faraway lands.
Some of the nation's most famous meals include fish and chips, afternoon tea (sandwiches, cakes, scones, and tea), roast dinner (roasted meat and vegetables), and a full English breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, and toast). If you plan on including Cornwall
in your England itinerary, be sure to try their renowned pastries, while Lancashire
visitors should enjoy a warming hotpot.
England's major cities boast restaurants serving up nearly every cuisine imaginable. Whether you're in the mood for American hot dogs, Vietnamese pho, or Ghanaian chichinga, you're bound to find an eatery to satisfy your cravings in London
. Indian food is the most popular and plentiful international cuisine available in England, and many dishes that are thought of as Indian actually originate from the UK, including chicken tikka masala and balti dishes.
Shopping in EnglandLondon
is recognized across the world as a shopper's paradise, offering everything from high-end boutiques to organic farmers markets and trendy thrift stores. If you plan on visiting the capital on your England vacation, make sure to do your souvenir shopping in one of its bustling markets, such as Borough Market
, a foodies' delight; alternative Camden Market
; or Spitalfields Market
, the haunt of hip young designers.
Though few destinations anywhere can match London
for quality and diversity in the shopping department, the rest of England still offers excellent opportunities for retail therapy. Pay a visit to some of the country's butchers, cheesemongers, and bakeries for a delicious culinary experience and be sure to pop into some quirky independent stores for a glimpse of English creativity and eccentricity.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to England
History of England
England's long and complicated history is packed full of wars, wanderlust, innovations, and invasions. Though it became inhabited more than 800,000 years ago, historians consider the 5th-century CE Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain to be the origin of England and the English people.
On October 14, 1066 the Battle of Hastings took place, commencing the Normans' successful invasion of England and half a century of their rule. Include Battle Abbey and Battlefield
in your England itinerary to visit the site of this historic event and learn more about the hugely significant campaign. The House of Plantagenet inherited the English throne and reigned for three centuries. This period saw a number of significant changes in England, including the signing of the Magna Carta, which you can view at The British Library
, and the conquering of neighboring Wales.
The 14th century was a dark era for England, ushering in both the Hundred Years' War with France and the Black Death epidemic, in which almost half of England's inhabitants died. It was also the century in which one of Britain's most famous dynasties, the Tudors, came to power. The Tudors began the process of England's transformation into a world colonial power. Get a sense of this period with a tour of England's oldest Tudor palace
Tudor King Henry VIII is not only known for having had six wives, but also for breaking communion with the Catholic Church over issues relating to his divorce of Catherine of Aragon. This break introduced the Anglican Church of England, which remains the official church of England to this day. You can visit a number of interesting Anglican churches on your tour of England, but Canterbury Cathedral
is one of the oldest and arguably the most important.
A civil war broke out in 1642, fought between supporters of Parliament and those loyal to King Charles I. The Parliamentarians were successful in their campaign, executing the monarch and establishing a series of republican governments. However, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 constitutionally established that the king and Parliament should rule together, although Parliament would have the real power. In 1707, England officially united with Scotland, creating a new sovereign state called Great Britain.
The Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries led to profound social and economic change in England, including a large population shift from the countryside to cities. If you're making a stop in Manchester
on your England holiday, be sure to visit Museum of Science & Industry
to learn more about how the revolution affected this northern city. At the same time, Britain's overseas trade continued to develop, paving the way for the British Empire. In 1922, at its height, the Empire held sway over one-fifth of the world's population--but economic, political, and cultural forces spurred a process of decolonization throughout the mid- and late 20th century.
Customs of England
The English have a well-earned reputation as some of the politest people in the world, so make sure to say "please," "thank you," and "excuse me," on your England vacation to avoid causing offense. The order of lines, called queues, is also highly respected; take your place at the end and wait your turn patiently, or prepare to receive a tirade of tuts and even a few angry words in your direction. In most parts of the country, people will wait in line for buses, though the bustle of London makes this capital city an exception.
English people are typically reserved and will not appreciate a lot of questions about their personal lives, such as how much money they make. Physical contact is also more restricted than in most of Europe and a handshake is the most appropriate way to greet a new acquaintance.
Pubs are an important part of social life in England and when buying a drink it is polite to ask if anyone else in your party would like one. They are expected to buy you one later in return.
Holidays & Festivals in England
The established religion in England is the Anglican Church of England and as such the country observes Christian holidays throughout the year, such as Easter and Christmas. There is a long build-up to these occasions and on the actual days most people will enjoy a day or two off work with many businesses being closed.
Saint George's Day, held on April 23, is a celebration of the country's patron saint. While at-home celebrations of the holiday are rare, public events take place up and down the country, typically in pubs. If you tour England during this time, you will notice lots of English flags and may be able to catch a traditional morris dance performance. In autumn, you can admire the fireworks and bonfires of Guy Fawkes Night (November 5), a celebration of the fact that King James I survived the notorious 1605 Gunpowder Plot.
Music festivals are incredibly popular in the UK and many multi-day outdoor events, such as the famous Glastonbury, Bestival, and Creamfields, are the main draw during summer trips to England. Literature and food festivals are also a common occurrence in England's warmer months.
England Travel Tips
Climate of England
Although the locals spend much of their time bemoaning the English weather, the country actually boasts an agreeable temperate climate, with temperatures rarely dipping below freezing in winter or exceeding 32 C (90 F) in summer. However, the weather is unpredictable and can vary considerably from day to day or even hour to hour. When sightseeing in England, it's always a good idea to bring an umbrella and sweater with you, even if you're visiting in summer. The north of the country is generally cooler and wetter, while the south is warmer and dryer. Cornwall
proudly bears the title of mildest and sunniest place in the UK.
Transportation in England
Thanks to the country's compactness and excellent transportation links, it's easy to get around on your tour of England. For intercity travel, the train or long-distance bus (called a coach) is your best bet. England boasts an extensive and efficient railway with a number of historical and atmospheric journeys on offer--which is hardly surprising from the country that invented the locomotive. Coaches often take considerably longer but are generally much cheaper. For shorter journeys, however, local buses are expensive and infrequent outside of England's major cities. If you don't have access to a car, you may have to rely on taxis to reach some more remote attractions.
Language of England
English is the official and most spoken language in England. Despite being a fairly small nation, accents and dialects vary significantly across the country and are often regarded as an indicator of social class.
Tipping in England
In England, tips are considered an expression of gratitude for good service, as opposed to an obligation. It is common to leave a 10- to 15-percent tip at a restaurant and some establishments will automatically include a gratuity charge in your bill, particularly if you have been dining in a large group. Taxi drivers and hotel staff are unlikely to expect a tip but will certainly appreciate one. It is very unusual to tip in a pub or cafe.