England is one of my favorite destinations in all my worldly travels. There is a reason it is one of the most popular tourist destinations, especially for Americans.
The most visited city in England is London, and for good reason. It’s an amazing city with something for everyone; amazing museums, gorgeous parks, historic castles and plenty of family-friendly attractions.
I love London so much, I actually named my son, “London.”
There are plenty of other cities to experience England, however. Topping the list of my favorites, are Chester, Bath and Oxford. York is certainly at the top of my list as well. Beatles lovers won’t want to miss Liverpool (which oddly enough, is where I’ve had the best pizza of my life.)
Major cities aside, there are also countless countryside destinations that shouldn’t be missed. The famous Cotswolds can be seen by train, but are worth the trouble of renting a car for a better experience. In fact, this is just one of the UK’s “Areas of Outstanding Beauty” which are spread out across the country.
During my 2020 visit to England my itinerary was completely unplanned (thanks to an unpredicted global pandemic) but ended up being the experience of a lifetime. Here was our trip:
- London city & Henley Upon Thames (greater London) 3 months
- Oxford (a few days)
- Bath (2 days)
- Cotswolds (France Lynch and various small towns) 1 week
- London again (Kingston Upon Thames near Hampton Palace)
- Northern Wales (2 days)
- historic Chester (3 days)
- Liverpool (1 day)
- Northern Ireland; Belfast (3 days) (Still UK, folks!)
- Republic of Ireland, Waterford & Dublin (1.5 months) (Not UK, folks!)
- Greater London again, Kingston Upon Thames (2 months)
- Cambridge (1 day)
- Warwick (Warwick Castle & Birmingham) (2 days)
- York (2 days)
- Newcastle (2 days)
- We eventually ended up in Inverness & the Scottish Highlands followed by Edinburgh (months – we’re still here!)
As you can see, I spent a good amount of time exploring England and all the country has to offer. As much as I loved London, seeing the rest of England left me in awe that it had taken me so long to see more.
While I realize most people don’t have months to roam England, it’s still possible to see so much simply because the country is so compact. It’s possible to see London and hop a train to endless nearby destinations including Stonehenge, the Cotswolds, Lancaster, Oxford, York, Norwich… the options are endless.
When I’m asked now, which are my must-see cities in England, the list is easy:
- London (especially if you are traveling with kids)
- Bath if you want to be overwhelmed by medieval architecture, cobblestone streets and ancient Roman history.
- Chester if you want to step back in time to the Tudor era in this beautifully preserved mini-city. There are also amazing ancient Roman ruins here, a city wall stroll, a touching medieval abbey, and a short drive to countless North Wales castles. A trip to England just to see Chester, is in my opinion, a worthy trip even without London.
- York for the Shambles and the Shambles Market. This is a fabulous city for walking, shopping, and taking in the beautiful river views.
- Cambridge if you want history, charm, jaw-dropping gorgeous parks with roaming cattle and endless photo opportunities.
My favorite experiences in England are:
- The London Tower (just, omg.)
- Hampton Palace
- Warwick Castle (the kids will LOVE this) & the town of Warwick
- Mountfitchet Castle & Norman Village (outside of Cambridge, 2 hrs outside of London)
- The York Shambles
- Chester, Cheshire
What’s still on my list to see in England
At the time I visited, we went through the Covid19 lockdown in London, and much of England was still heavily restricted. Because of this, I opted to wait on seeing a few areas, since most attractions weren’t yet open.
- Bath’s Roman Baths (sadly the site was closed due to covid lockdown when we were there. On the positive side, it’s a reason to go back to this amazing city.)