So, you’ve decided to plan a trip to England. You’ve seen all the films romanticising the grey London fog and read all the classic English authors, from Austen to Dickens and you can picture the tranquil country cottages tucked away in the moors. Maybe you just want to check out the distinguished accents.
England has so much to offer (besides London) that it can be hard to map out the perfect itinerary. You could spend years traversing this British nation and still leave countless hidden treasures uncovered. There’s something for everyone on this island, from untouched natural beauty to historic monuments and buildings to 21st century culture and technology.
This list outlines the must-see locations in England for a trip of just over three weeks, highlighting some of the most famous sites as well as directing you to some more obscure, but no less wonderful towns and landmarks. From London, where you definitely should spend at least a few days, you’ll travel in a loop around the country, chasing English heritage along the way. You can take this route by rail, bus, or car, but be careful if driving on the left side of the road is new to you.
Pack your wellies and trench coat and trace your map for your ideal three week England itinerary.
22 The Wolseley- Immerse Yourself In English Culture With Afternoon Tea
Your first day in London should be relaxed and your diary not crammed with half the city’s sites. This day is perfect for trying some of London’s world-class restaurants, from traditional English fare to exotic plates.
While in England, you must at least once dress in your Sunday best and head out for afternoon tea, and what better place to do so than at The Wolseley, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Buckingham Palace? The art deco restaurant features upscale yet laid-back service in a vintage car showroom that’s fit for the Queen herself.
21 London Eye- Check Out London From The Sky
As England’s most popular tourist attraction, you might feel a little like an outsider here, but every visitor to London must ride it once. The enormous Ferris Wheel offers one of the best views of the London skyline, second only to the top of the Shard.
With the Eye’s reputation comes long queues, so buy your tickets before you go and skip the queue.
If you’re afraid of heights, fear not, because the wheel spins slowly and you won’t even feel the ascent or descent in the pods that carry passengers around.
20 Covent Garden- Forget Harrods, Covent Garden Goes Beyond Idyllic Shops
Don’t let its name fool you, Covent Garden is a trendy district in the West End, the artsy theatre area. It’s now home to quirky and luxury shops and the Royal Opera House, but formerly the name denoted a covered fruit and vegetable market.
Aside from endless shopping, the area is famous for its pubs, restaurants, and theatre, so that you can tick a few boxes off your sightseeing checklist in one day. If you don’t make it to the theatre, you can still experience the talent of Londoners by watching the lively street performers who line the Piazza.
19 Buckingham Palace- Can You Make the Guards Laugh?
If there’s one English icon that stands out, it’s England’s line of flashy, elegant, demanding, beloved, and sometimes villainous leaders. Thankfully, they're not concerned with annoying the local serfs anymore, and let visitors tour the extravagant palace.
The love for the family is felt all around the world, and with 23 million viewers of the wedding in May, everyone wants to know what they’re up to.
Although the power has diminished since previous centuries, Buckingham Palace still serves as an administration centre for leaders and politicians alike. Don’t forget to stop by one of the famous guards clad in red and see why they have notoriously good poker faces.
18 White Cliffs Of Dover- Take In The Dizzying Height Of This English Landmark
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of London, head outside the city and take in the rugged natural beauty of the White Cliffs of Dover. These stark white bluffs hang over the southeast corner of England into the Strait of Dover and are easily recognised as the backdrop of many films and television series.
The cliff face, which looks like bleached rock, is near solid chalk, common in other English landscapes. Trails map the area for leisurely seaside walks with France in the distance and while you’re here, Dover is home to a variety of other sights such as Dover Castle, a medieval fortress straight out of a painting.
17 Winchester- See Why This Was England's First Capital
This serene city looks like it could’ve sprung from a historic picture book with its winding cobblestone streets and sophisticated architecture. Winchester was the original capital of England until the 12th century when William the Conqueror rose to power.
The city is home to the imposing Winchester Cathedral, which has stood since the 11th century as Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral. Comfortably set in the city centre, the cathedral is dripping with 1,000 years of history.
Medieval Winchester Castle, contemporary to the cathedral, is equally fascinating, housing the mythical King Arthur’s Round Table in its magnificent Great Hall.
16 New Forest- England's Fairy Tale Forest
The New Forest might at first seem like the ideal home for fairies and dwarves, but it’s got so much to offer beyond its twisted trees and moss-covered floor, including rolling moorland and craggy cliffsides.
Whether you just want to stroll along the forested pathways or go for the full camping experience, the New Forest accommodates all interests. While the park is known for its spectacular array of wildlife, the best part for most are the native ponies that freely wander the area and are so tame they pay no mind to spectators.
15 Stonehenge- Soak In The Most Ancient English History
Though Stonehenge predates the Celts and therefore was not built as a Druidic temple, step up to this prehistoric stone circle and you’ll almost certainly feel an ancient presence hanging over the area.
This monument is shrouded in 5,000 years of history and has seen Neolithic early humans, Celts and Romans, medieval kings, and modern scholars, all fascinated by its existence. Because we may never know who exactly built it or why, it remains one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world, with enough myth and conspiracy to earn it a place next to the Pyramids of Giza.
14 Dartmoor- For Horseback Riding, Hiking, And Scenic Outlooks
The second national park to earn a spot on this list, Dartmoor paints a heavenly picture of Devon, highlighting the county’s moor but putting no less emphasis on its waterways, marshes, and woodland areas. The landscape is set into England’s largest expanse of granite earth, which gives the park its unique flora.
Dotted between natural features are old farmhouses and wildlife centres that attract the curious gaze of visitors and when the day is over, you can rest in luxury or rustic accommodation in the quiet villages around the park.
13 Land's End- Head Further West And You'll Reach North America
The western peninsula of Cornwall is the most westerly point of England. Located just south of Ireland further west, Cornwall is exposed to the Atlantic, with the next land to touch being the continent of North America.
Land’s End—accurately named—is a humble, yet striking clifftop landmark with views of the open sea, and if you’re visiting on a clear day you might catch one of the aquatic animals frolicking below. You can stay and explore the coast along the cliffside trails or head to the port town of Penzance nearby to try a famous Cornish Pasty—a savoury pie folded into a pocket.
12 Tintagel Castle- A Ruin Imbued With The Myth Of Merlin
A crumbling ruin leaning over a rocky ledge, Tintagel Castle is best viewed on a clear day when the sky reflects the teal highlights in the water. While the castle itself is the main attraction as the supposed place of the conception of King Arthur as well as the original site of his castle.
But in the shadow of the castle wall lies the ruins of a 5th century fort that may have served as a royal base, a trading port, or both. Today, the island is connected via a short isthmus that gives a stunning view along the remaining ditch and banks.
11 Bath- Or, More Specifically, The Roman Baths
This town combines the best of city and country life in southern England, just a short distance from Wales and only 1.5 hours west of London. Bath is quintessentially Georgian, its architecture low but broad and elegantly decorated.
While you will find all manner of charming museums, parks, historic buildings, and activities (try the free walking tour of Jane Austen’s Bath), the real pearl of Bath is the Roman Baths. A first century construction, the Roman Bath ruins have been beautifully reconstructed into an accurate representation of the pools Romans would have bathed in, and though it’s tempting, you don’t want to take a dip in a 2,000-year-old pool.
10 Cotswolds- Your Cosy English Cottage Destination
If you’re trying to think of that cute English village you saw in a rom-com, you’re almost guaranteed it was in the Cotswolds, and no, it’s not a Hollywood creation. The best part is that it isn’t just one village, the name “Cotswolds” refers to an entire area spanning five counties and many villages, each with its own individual identity.
Rent one of these golden cottages with the window baskets overflowing with petunias and visit the towns’ markets for a day to slow down time and relax. Take in all the ivy plated stone walls and with breakfast or tea in a courtyard café before carrying on your English adventure.
9 Oxford- Wander The University Grounds (Even If You're Not A Student)
Perhaps you’ll go to Oxford because you’re interested in enlightenment and one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities, or maybe you just want to see this pretty university that looks like Hogwarts—either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Lying in the shadow of its famous university is Oxford city, which regardless of the institution deserves a visit. The city centre is almost exclusively medieval, and one of the best ways to tour the city is by water, on a meandering river cruise. In the evening, discover the city’s vibrant art scene with a theatre performance or music and comedy in a pub setting.
8 Coventry- Save Yourself Time To Pass Through Shakespeare's Hometown
Coventry is easily overlooked by bigger cities and more famous landmarks, but harbours so much more character than its size permits. Unfortunately, its grand cathedral was severely damaged in WWII and, the skeleton that remains is a haunting reminder of the devastation of the war. Coventry is home to an unusual blend of blitz and medieval history that shouldn’t be missed.
On your way, stop in Stratford-Upon-Avon, better known as the birthplace of Shakespeare. The village honours its most famous son in the way of theatres, festivals, and even the childhood house of young William.
7 Manchester- Come For The Football, Stay For The Architecture
If the thought of rowdy football fans organising themselves into gangs and waging war on whether Man City or Man United is better comes to mind when hearing the name Manchester, well, you’re somewhat correct. As two of the best football clubs in the league, Manchester takes its sport seriously, but if you’re not crazy about dedicating your life to football, you’ll find plenty of other things to do.
The Edwardian city was a powerhouse during the industrial revolution, and its Museum of Science and Industry captures the importance modernity played in the development of Manchester. For a rare experience, check out Knowsley Safari or Chill Factore, an indoor snow centre.
6 Lake District- From Historic Villages To Natural Wonders
England’s largest national park is a haven of mountains, where lakes and rivers carve prehistoric valleys through the peaks. Here you’ll find the tallest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, and if you in search of a lasting memory of your English trip, you’ll climb to the top and drink in the unspoiled highland air.
If you’re less confident, there are many free guided walks among the hills, waterfalls, forests, and mountains, as well as ecology classes that teach visitors about the local wildlife. All you need is a day in this stunning natural area to picture William Wordsworth perched on a hilltop, furiously writing romantic poetry.
5 Hadrian's Wall- The First England-Scotland Border
If you’re more into the action of English history, venture out to Hadrian’s Wall, once the northernmost border of “inhabited” Britain. Named after Roman Emperor Hadrian, who commissioned the wall in the second century CE, the wall runs across a strip of northern England 80 miles east to west. The wall was built to separate the “barbarians” in the north from the far more sophisticated Romans.
The wall operated like the Great Wall of China, guarded and patrolled by soldiers until the abandonment of Britain by the Romans. The wall is still intact, and you can even see the remains of some Roman forts along the way.
4 York- Roman Brilliance Refined Ever Since
Travel back south a bit to York, where you’ll find even more roman brilliance. Once a great stronghold for the Romans, York city has played an important part throughout all of history. From its restored Roman outer walls to York Castle built by William the Conqueror, York is proud of its illustrious history.
If you fancy adding another cathedral to your tour, the hulking York Minster is a 13th century Gothic masterpiece. Outside the city walls, in surrounding Yorkshire, you’ll come across delicious moorland and famous Yorkshire lavender fields, 60 acres worth of heavenly scents.
3 Cambridge- Another Historic University Worth Visiting
Like Oxford, Cambridge is home to a prestigious namesake university that dates to the Middle Ages. Some of England’s most brilliant minds studied here, including John Milton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking. You can take walking tours of the campus, the 800-year-old buildings still largely in use.
Off-campus, you can visit Market Square, selling everything from food to antiques for hundreds of years. A short way from the Grand Arcade is a structure not nearly as ancient but wildly detailed—the neo-Gothic Our Lady and the English Martyrs church, a Cambridge jewel worth a visit.
2 Sutton Hoo- Documenting Suffolk's History From The Anglo-Saxons To Edwardians
The arrival of the Anglo-Saxons was the beginning of what would eventually become England, and though it would take a good few hundred years to take shape, these Germanic tribes brought mainland culture and started speaking an early form of English.
In a small corner of Suffolk lies a hidden Anglo-Saxon burial site, special thanks to the extremely well-preserved ship laden with artefacts like tools and its famous masks. While this country estate may not sound like the most exciting excursion, its exhibits provide a look into England’s Anglo-Saxon past, unlike any other museum.
1 St. Albans- Visit One More Historic Cathedral On Your Way Back To London
So, your sophisticated English holiday is coming to an end, and you must start your journey back to London and, eventually, home. Roughly 30 minutes from the city is the quiet town of St. Albans, the perfect spot to wrap up your trip.
See the dazzling St Albans cathedral, and make sure to soak in all its glory as you won’t be seeing another for quite some time. Try some traditional ale at one of the pubs and taste what people in days of yore drank. Walk down St. Peter’s street and through the old-style markets and pick up any forgotten souvenirs and postcards.