The United Kingdom, comprised of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is a diverse, traditional, and unashamedly modern place, mixing centuries of history and industry with some of the most cutting edge buildings and entertainment venues in the world. Whatever your preferences, you can just as easily travel back to the time of Shakespeare and before, or enjoy the best of the eclectic nightlife in cities all over the region. Also not to be missed is the local food and produce, often unfairly maligned and now experiencing something of a resurgence as culinary traditions and recipes are finding their way back onto menus all over the United Kingdom. Let’s have a look at the best places to visit in the UK!
In the famous words of Samuel Johnson, ‘When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.’ The capital city of England, London is one of the most diverse and exciting cities on earth, easily blending historical landmarks with cutting edge bars, restaurants, and nightlife. Come for all the classic hits like Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and Big Ben, as well as a trip on the London Eye to take in the views over the River Thames. At night enjoy some of the finest dining in the world with a whole host of Michelin starred restaurants, or if you are interested in traditional culinary treats then go for a cream tea complete with scones and clotted cream. Also see our guide to the best things to do in London.
Visitors flock to Cornwall to experience over 300 miles of blustery coastline complete with rolling sand dunes, craggy cliffs, and medieval architecture. Rambling, climbing, or simply picnicking on secluded beaches or in flower strewn meadows are all popular pastimes here, or the adventurous can go surfing or body boarding, as Cornwall is known as the premium surf destination in the United Kingdom due to its churning seas and perfect barrels. The area has long been the favorite haunt of artists, painters, and writers who have taken inspiration from the romantic and rugged surroundings and you may just feel like the main character from a great British novel as you stroll along the deserted and stunning moors.
3. The Lake District
Often considered the place to come if you want to experience the most beautiful scenery in England, the Lake District doesn’t disappoint, with lush green valleys and sprawling woodlands. The area is of course famous for its glacial lakes, so if you are a fan of the great outdoors then you can choose a gentle stroll around the countryside, or more strenuous hikes and rambles across rolling hills. As you travel around the region you will find charming towns and villages full of local inns, pubs, and restaurants serving local fare, and the light in the Lake District has long attracted artists and painters, meaning that you will find a whole host of art galleries if you want to take a piece of the region home with you.
Brighton is a famously eclectic city that will at once show you a traditional seaside experience of restored piers, seaside games, and classic treats like Brighton rock. Visitors here can stroll along typical British beaches complete with donkey rides, and enjoy fish and chips overlooking the sea. On the other hand however, Brighton is also a relaxed and tolerant city that is the host of the annual Gay Pride March, and home to bohemian areas that host flea markets and alternative pop up events.
Bath takes its name literally from the Roman Baths that dot the city and which were once the favorite holiday destination of the British elite who came here for the supposed healing properties of the waters. Visitors here can still experience the preserved baths, as well a wealth of small museums housed in restored traditional buildings, usually the cities iconic Georgian terraces such as One Royal Crescent. Bath is rapidly gaining fame as a place with some serious fine dining that will delight visiting foodies, but for something more classic try the famous Bath buns, sweet dough balls sprinkled with sugar.
The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is a seamless mix of old and new, at once a city that still hosts medieval architecture and the dominating Edinburgh Castle that watches over the city, as well as exciting nightlife, festivals, and contemporary museums. In addition to Gothic buildings and the Old Town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will also find up and coming restaurants that represent the best of traditional Scottish cuisine like haggis with a modern twist, and Edinburgh is also famous for literary and arts festivals such as the Edinburgh Fringe. If you enjoy nightlife then there is a vibrant clubbing and bar scene in the city, or if you happen to be visiting at New Year you can witness Hogmanay, the traditional Scottish celebration that includes fire balls and a parade.
As the United Kingdom’s second largest city, Birmingham, in the Midlands, has something for everyone to enjoy. A famous industrial zone, Birmingham may be light on period architecture and picturesque sights, but it makes up for this with a wealth of shopping opportunities and modern buildings with often quite eccentric design elements such as the Selfridge’s building. The arts are strongly represented in Birmingham with art galleries, museums, and festivals, and there is a throbbing nightlife scene on the city. If you want to try some of the local cuisine, then Birmingham claims to have invented the Balti curry, and you can head to the Balti Triangle that comprises over fifty curry houses to try this regional delicacy firsthand.
Often referred to as England’s ‘Second City’ or the ‘Capital of the North’, Manchester is of course home to the Manchester United football team, making it the perfect place for sports lovers to visit, but it is also one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the united Kingdom, meaning that there is something for everyone to enjoy here. Dating from the 1970s, Manchester is home to a large Chinatown that has some of the best Chinese food in the country, and there is also the famous LGBT part of town that centres around Canal Street, known as ‘The Village’, one of the largest established gay communities in Europe. If you want to try Indian food, more popular in the United Kingdom now than fish and chips, then you will love the Curry Mile, a line of Indian restaurants than spans over 800 metres.
Llandudno’s claim to fame is that it is the largest seaside resort in Wales and with this in mind come here to experiences rugged beaches along the North Shore and Llandudno Bay. As you would imagine there are a wealth of seaside pursuits to enjoy such as Llandudno Pier that features all the traditional seaside games like arcade games and fairground rides, as well as shops and stalls that sell Welsh seaside snacks. If you want to go on a historic walk through the city then you can follow a tour known as the Town Trail, or if you prefer the more contemporary side if things you can head for the main artery of Mostyn Street for shopping and dining options aplenty.
The capital city of Northern Island, Belfast has a long and proud history that means that there are a wealth of activities for visitors to enjoy here. To learn all about this history and culture you can head to the Cathedral Quarter where you can wander around to your heart’s content, or simply stroll along the cobblestone streets that line this city as you take in the atmosphere. Not be missed is a trip to a local pub to sample the famous black beer, Guinness, that really put Ireland on the map. If you are equally interested in the local food then make sure to try Irish stew.
The largest island in Wales, just of the north-west coast, Anglesey is covered in historic places of interest, from unspoilt beaches to quaint period towns. If you head to the town of Beaumaris you will find King Arthur’s Seat and Beaumaris Castle, or you can indulge in some nautical history at the Skerries Lighthouse in Holyhead. For those who enjoy outdoor pursuits then there are hills and mountains aplenty in Anglesey such as Holyhead Mountain, perfect for either short or long hikes. As you are by the sea, check out the aquatic life of this region at the Anglesey Sea Zoo, or if you fancy doing something off the beaten track then head for Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a village that is said to have the longest name in the whole of the United Kingdom.
12. The Cotswolds
Known for the quaint villages that are spread over the area, many of which are made of honey-coloured stone, visitors flock to the Cotswolds for a slice of traditional British life, and there are parks, inns, traditional pubs, and farms all over this part of the United Kingdom. Farmers markets and orchards are commonly found here if you want to experience the best and freshest of local ingredients, and there is also a strong commitment to arts and crafts. Antique shops and small independent bookstores are well represented, as well as small businesses like bakeries, so you can truly sample the best of British produce here as you explore this rural gem.
Designated as the ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2008, Liverpool is famous for producing a long line of famous British institutions, from the Beatles to Liverpool Football Club, and is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Pier Head Waterfront. Visitors can see a piece of iconic Liverpool at Albert Dock, also home to the Beatles Story Museum, as well as shopping and dining options around the traditional dock area that reminds everyone that Liverpool was a famous harbour and trade area. Often thought of as one of the friendliest cities in the United Kingdom, Liverpool has a mix of traditional features such as cathedrals, museums, and period buildings, as well as a flourishing modern art and music scene, that also includes some excellent nightlife and cutting edge clubs.
Canterbury is perhaps best known for its cathedral, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the famous ‘Canterbury Tales’ by Geoffrey Chaucer, written in the 14th century. There are a huge number of historical places of interest in Canterbury including the remains of the city walls, a castle dating back to Norman times, and St Augustine’s Abbey. The city is small in scale compared to many others in the region, but is still home to an abundance of museums and theatres including the Marlowe Theatre that hosts music, theatre, dance, and stand up performances throughout the year.
The Scottish city of Glasgow has long been known as an industrial city that is now experiencing something of a resurgence. In recent years Glasgow was designated as the UNESCO City of Music and there are a wealth of performances and concerts on offer here that mix traditional Celtic folk music with the latest local talent. If you are interested in Victorian, Edwardian, Gothic, and medieval architecture then you can check out some of the fine buildings in the city such as the cathedral, the City Chambers, and the Glasgow Cross, or if you are more interested in dining you can try some of the local delicacies such as deep fried foods that include haggis or fish and chips.