England — Attractions
The biggest attractions in England are the great nation’s rich and varied history, and the abundance with which it is served. Museums, castles, lavish country homes, and centuries-old pubs appearing on every street corner seem to have their own story. Whether you are riding through the East End of London on a double-decker bus or cycling along the narrow, cobblestone alleys of York, it is difficult not to be in a permanent state of awe. However, not everything in England is centered on the past. The now famous London Eye, with its spectacular views of the capital, and the space age-looking Eden Project are subtle reminders that England is one of the most modern and bustling cities in the world.
Tower of London
This infamous tower with its brutal and bloody history is one of the most iconic symbols of England and the crux of any tourist’s trip to London. Commissioned during the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-87), it originally served as a castle; however, it is best-known for its later purpose as a prison and execution site. The most notable victims of the tower include: two wives of Henry VIII (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard); Lady Jane Grey, once a contender to the throne; and the two sons of Edward IV, who are reputed to have been murdered by their uncle Richard III. The complex is also home to the Crown Jewels, which include the Imperial State Crown, adorned with 2,868 diamonds and many other precious stones and the crown of the Queen Mother, which includes the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond.
Address: Tower Hill, London
Although it feels like a permanent fixture of the capital’s skyline, the London Eye has only been in existence since the turn of the Millennium. Located in the South Bank-based Jubilee Garden, the giant, 135 meter Ferris wheel offers unrivaled views of England’s capital city from the 32 glass-enclosed oval capsules. The ride, or flight as it is called, takes a pleasant 30 minutes, and from the top you can see 25 miles (40 kms) in all directions. Since opening on New Year’s Eve 1999, the attraction has welcomed more than 40 million visitors.
Address: Jubilee Garden, South Bank, London
Another brainchild of William the Conqueror, Warwick Castle, which has undergone numerous transitions since opening in 1068, is the quintessential English fortress. Traditionally home to the Earls of Warwick, the castle has played a significant role in the country’s history, instrumental in the Barons’ wars of the 13th century to its grisly past as one of England’s most feared medieval prisons. Nowadays, the castle is run by the Tussauds Group, the people behind the famous waxwork museum in London and features a number of live attractions which bring the period to life.
Address: Warwick, Warwickshire
Phone: +44-870 442 2000
One of the most significant and mysterious prehistoric sites in the world, Stonehenge attracts throngs of tourists by the day. The ancient circle of stones is believed to be over 5,000 years old and endless theories, varying from a sacrificial site to an astrological observatory, have been put forward regarding its original purpose. However, experts remain in the dark. If you’re in the country, one of the best times to visit the Megalithic monument is during June on the eve of the summer solstice festival when thousands gather to see the longest day of the year.
Address: Amesbury, Wiltshire
A city which dates back to the days of the Viking invasion in CE 850, York is one of England’s most intriguing places. Surrounded by domineering 13th century walls and teeming with culture, the city is a microcosm of a bygone England, with a maze of narrow cobblestone alleyways, medieval taverns, museums, and the world’s finest Gothic cathedral. York was the political and cultural heartbeat of Northern England for centuries, and while other cities in the north like Manchester and Liverpool are racing towards the future, this awe-inspiring destination seems more than happy to languish in the past.
Address: North Yorkshire
County Durham’s most famous attraction and one of the most iconic buildings in Northern England, the cathedral dominates the surrounding area and is probably the best remaining example of Norman craftsmanship in Europe. Originally built to house the remains of the revered Saint Cuthbert, it was also significant in stamping Norman authority near the border and later fortified to keep out the marauding Scots. Inside, you will find exquisite architectural designs such as the impressive nave and piers, 12th century wall paintings, and the tomb of one of England’s first major historians, the Venerable Bede. A number of scenes from the Harry Potter movies were shot here.
Address: Durham, County Durham
A feast for the senses, the ancient city of Bath was first established almost 2,000 years ago around the site of natural hot springs. Over the course of the Roman occupation, it was gradually built up to become a bustling citadel that included some of the finest Roman baths in the empire. After the departure of the Romans, much of the original architecture was abandoned. Although the springs continued to be used, it wasn’t until the 18th century Georgian era when England’s emerging high society turned to city life and Bath once again thrived. It is now rich in breathtaking Georgian architecture with a countless number of listed buildings standing alongside stunning relics left by the Romans.
The Beatles Story Exhibition
The award-winning Beatles Story museum located in Albert Dock is a must-see for any fan of the Fab Four. Take the trip through the lives of Liverpool’s favorite sons from their humble beginnings to superstardom, passing through the renowned Cavern Club, their famous Abbey Road studio and everything in between. Other impressive sights include John Lennon’s original oval glasses and George Harrison’s first guitar, worth around US $800,000. The museum takes a few hours to traverse, so set aside a gray, rainy afternoon and take a trip down Penny, sorry, memory lane.
Address: Albert Dock, Liverpool
Natural History Museum
Journey back to the land before time via one of the most celebrated prehistoric collections in the world at London’s Natural History Museum. The first thing you’ll notice in the central hall is the huge, hanging diplodocus dinosaur skeleton, a true highlight of the gallery. In addition, there is the capacious Darwin Centre, which contains some 450,000 jarred specimens collected from all corners of the globe. The exhibitions are endless and children and adults alike could happily spend hours wandering around this time capsule to the past.
Address: Cromwell Road, London
One of the London’s most spectacular buildings, Westminster Abbey is an integral part of England’s long and illustrious history. More than just a place of worship, the church is where many of the nation’s monarchs have been crowned, married, and buried alongside the likes of Chaucer, Dickens, Newton, and Handel. Some parts are free for visitors to enter including the 900-year old College Garden and the Cloister. The abbey also contains a museum located in one of the oldest parts of the abbey, which features exhibits that include the royal effigies of Henry V, Edward III, and Henry VII.
Address: City of Westminster, London