15 fabulous places to visit in England (that are not London!)

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London tends to dominate the search results when you’re looking for things to do in England, but of course there are so many wonderful sites, cities and natural wonders to explore in the country away from the capital.

Getting out of the huge London metropolis can bring you to beautiful villages, cities with stunning architecture or even turquoise blue sea and beaches. Places to visit in England are as varied as the many accents you can find in the country too!

All of the sites recommended on this page come after personal experience from the past 20+ years of exploring what England has to offer. Some places I would gladly visit over and over again I love them so much!

I hope that if you’re looking for some inspiration for an upcoming vacation to England that this list of places to see will give you a great starting point. Read on for my favourite sites what you can see there and tips on how to get there from London! Let’s escape the big city!

Tours are great to see a bit more of England without the hassle of public transport of hiring a car.

Short on time?See England in a day with this tour which incorporates a lot of my ideas on this page!

Top places to visit in England (excluding London)

If you’re not familiar with England other than where London is then take a look at this map which includes the places listed on this page. Some are quite close to London and are easily reached, others might require a car or an organized tour (I’ve linked to recommended ones where appropriate). Some might surprise you by how easy they are to get to by train!

Radcliffe building in Oxford is one place in England to visit that is outside London

Oxford

Known for: It’s world renowned university, rowing and rivalry with Cambridge (see below)

Top sites: Radcliffe Camera (domed building), Oxford Castle, ALL the old colleges!

Oxford is known the world over for its famous university, or to be more precise famous colleges that make up Oxford University. It produces some of the top scholars and politicians and it’s rare to have a Prime Minister who wasn’t educated here!

For tourists there’s a lot to see and many of the colleges allow you to have a tour. The buildings are old and have a lot of history!

It’s a fantastic place for literary fans as well – Harry Potter fans will love Oxford for some of the locations of the films are here. JRR Tolkien studied and taught in Oxford and there’s even a bench dedicated to him. His Dark Materials is set in Oxford as well.

How to get there from London:

Oxford is quite easy to get to by train or coach from London although train is the quickest. It only takes around 1 – 1.5 hours to get there. It’s also fairly walkable once there so an easy place to explore.

You can also find plenty of organized tours to Oxford from London if you want to hand over the planning to someone else.

View of the Roman baths in Bath England

Bath

Known for: Beautiful Georgian Architecture and thermal spas

Top sites: Roman Bath, Bath Abbey, the Royal Crescent

Bath is a beautiful city full of rich history. It’s name comes from the fact that there’s thermal springs in the city and it’s been a place for enjoying them since Roman times (and likely well before that too!)

Whether you’re interested in the Jane Austen sites and Georgian architecture, want to spot locations from period dramas or you want to explore the Roman baths you’ll have a wonderful time here.

It’s a small city and easy to get around. It makes a great day trip from the city of London too.

How to get there from London:

Train is best to get to Bath from London. It takes around 1.5 hours.

Many tours include Bath, especially those exploring the Cotswolds and Stonehenge so if you want to tick off some other sites these might be worth looking at.

view of York, England at dusk

York

Known for: Beautiful abbey, medieval streets and chocolate!

Top sites: York Minster, The Shambles, Jorvik

Having lived in the North of England for many years, York has been somewhere I’ve visited a lot and loved. It has a wonderful vibe, it’s small enough to explore in a day, and you can see a vast range of history on show!

From the romans to the vikings through to medieval history it’s all there on show. I love exploring The Shambles which is a small shopping street that looks really crooked – not a straight line in sight! It’s a medieval street and full of lovely independent shops – perfect for souvenirs.

How to get there from London:

York is really easy to get to from London even though it feels so far away in the North of England. There’s a good and fast train on the east side of the country (which takes you all the way to Scotland if you wanted) and passes through York. It’s only around 2 hours by train and so quite easily done as a day trip.

Brighton Pier England seaside

Brighton

Known for: Seaside town, quirky vibes and a thriving LGBTQ+ scene

Top sites: Pavillion, Brighton Pier

Brighton is one of the top places to go to escape the London city sprawl and get some fresh sea air. It has many traditional seaside town features such as a pier, amusement arcades and plenty of fish and chip shops – what makes Brighton different is its personality.

It’s got a real alternative feeling to the place – great for vegans, eco friendly and sustainable travelers and also for LGBTQ+ travelers. It’s friendly, easy to get around and has a beach too – what more could you want!

How to get there from London:

Brighton is easily reached by train in around an hour from London and there are frequent services. Be aware that they can be busy though!

glastonbury tor

Glastonbury

Known for: the festival, hippy vibes and Glastonbury Tor

Top sites: Glastonbury Tor, Chalice Well, Glastonbury Abbey

Home of the Glastonbury festival (which takes place in a field nearby) the town sharing the same name is one of my favourite places in England. I do love a bit of an alternative town with interesting businesses and shops and Glastonbury has this in bucket loads!

You’ll find spiritual shops, places to buy trinkets and all sorts in town. You’ll not go short on organic food either!

For amazing views I recommend climbing up to the tower on Glastonbury Tor – it can get windy up there though!

How to get there from London:

Glastonbury is can be reached by bus and train from London.

Easiest way is definitely by car though – it’s around a 3 hour car journey.

Bakery in Lacock Wiltshire

The Cotswolds

Known for: sleepy, traditional villages. Just how you expect English villages to be!

Top sites: Lacock, Bourton-on-the-water, Castle Combe

If you picture an English village, perhaps from a period film you’ve watched, it will almost certainly be just like some of the villages in the Cotswolds area.

It’s a spread out area of beautiful countryside with farms, forests and rivers. Dotted amongst them are the these quaint villages with thatch roofs, crooked walls and heaps of character!

The main interest is exploring the beauty, sitting down for an English cream tea and pretending you’re in a Jane Austen drama!

How to get there from London:

The nature of the area of the Cotswolds mean that car is by far the best way to get to the pretty villages – they can be quite spread out.

Tours are good if you don’t know where to go and just want to explore the prettiest ones!

Visiting Stonehenge on a winter morning

Stonehenge

Known for: the ancient stone circle!

Top sites: Stonehenge stone circle. Many other ancient sites are scattered in the nearby areas as well such as Avebury

If you have to get out of London to just see one place in England then what can be more iconic than seeing Stonehenge?

The stone circle is a draw for so many people so one downside of visiting is that it can be very busy there. I’ve visited at different times of the year and always felt that it was very much worth the trip, despite the crowds.

If you have your own transport you might even want to look at my tips for visiting Stonehenge for free.

How to get there from London:

The easiest way to get to Stonehenge from London is with an organized tour. You can get them that simply visit the site and some where they’ll take you to other places nearby as well.

If you like to do things yourself then you can also get there via Salisbury, the nearest city. Salisbury can be reached by train or bus? and then there’s a shuttle bus from the city to the stones.

Cambridge river punting
My daughter having a go at punting in Cambridge by the old university buildings

Cambridge

Known for: England’s other university town, punting on the river and rivalry with Oxford

Top sites: The colleges of the University, Bridge of Sighs

Much like Oxford, Cambridge draws in visitors to their historic colleges that form the University of Cambridge. There’s quite the rivalry between the two places!

I love the more rural feel Cambridge and it definitely has a different vibe to it. The river flowing through the centre is often full of students and visitors having a ‘punt’ on it.

There’s a lot to see and do there from museums to exploring the colleges.

How to get there from London:

The best way to get to Cambridge from London is by train – it takes around 1 – 1.5 hours.

Robin Hood's Tree in Sherwood Forest in summer
Major Oak in late summer

Sherwood Forest

Known for: Robin Hood legend

Top sites: Major Oak Tree, Edwinstowe Church

Everyone knows of Robin Hood right? Whether you’re a fan of the Disney fox version, Kevin Costner or you love the medieval tale you might be interested to know that the legend has some truth to it. Or at least the locations are real!

Sherwood Forest is in central England and if you visit you can see one of the oldest trees in the country – the Major Oak. They think it’s around 1000 years old and some tales say it’s where Robin Hood hid out!

The nearby town is also said to have been the place where he married Maid Marian! Whether you believe it or not, the area is lovely to explore and fairly off the beaten track of many visitors to England.

How to get there from London:

Car is best to get to Sherwood Forest from London. The nearest city to explore from would be Nottingham (which has its own Robin Hood connection). Nottingham is reachable by train (1.5 – 2 hours) and then the forest can then be reached by bus from there.

St Ives cornwall on a cloudy day

St Ives

Known for: Beautiful beaches, bright blue sea, art

Top sites: Harbour, Tate Gallery

St Ives in Cornwall (not to be confused with St Ives near Cambridge) is a sight to behold especially after being in the busy cities. It’s a small fishing village in the very South West of England surrounded by crystal clear waters and stunning beaches.

It’s become quite a trendy place to go in recent years and this shows in some of the attractions there. For example you’ll find the Tate museum (yup – like the one in London) here!

Boat trips can take you to explore the coastline from a different perspective and you might be lucky to find dolphins off the coast too!

It can be very busy in high season – probably one to avoid in August – but if you have patience with crowds go for it!

How to get there from London:

Cornwall can be reached via a Sleeper train (the Night Riviera), an incredibly romantic overnight train trip, although you’ll need to change at St Erth to get to St Ives.

Day trains take around 5-6 hours but you have the beauty of the coast to watch from the window!

You can also fly to Newquay in Cornwall and rent a car or get a transfer from there.

Ancient stone circle at Castlerigg in Cumbria, england

The Lake district

Known for: stunning hills, lakes and pretty villages

Top sites: Windermere, Ullswater

The Lake District is one of the most spectacular locations in the UK for countryside, mountains and lakes.

It’s perfect for those wanting a more active vacation with hiking, waterspouts and cycling being extremely popular here.

You’ll find some small towns and plenty of villages – it’s a popular destination for Brits to travel to so always expect crowds.

How to get there from London:

Car is best to get to the Lake District if you want to be free to explore the countryside and walk yourself.

You might be able to find some tours that will take you to some of the most popular spots.

Manchester city centre in England

Manchester

Known for: industrial history, football

Top sites: Manchester Utd & City grounds, Museums

Manchester is part of the Industrial north and it’s history is rooted in this with old mills still being around, although many transformed into offices and apartments!

It’s well known for football and you can visit the famous football ground of Old Trafford if you’re interested in sports.

There are a lot of museums as well which make it a real cultural centre with the science museum being a particular favourite of mine!

How to get there from London:

Manchester is well connected to London by public transport. Trains and buses will get your there in a few hours or if you have less time you could consider a flight – good if you’re exploring more of the north of England.

Buildings in Liverpool England

Liverpool

Known for: Maritime history, Titanic ship building, The Beatles, football

Top sites: Royal Albert Docks, The Cavern club

Liverpool is always synonymous with football for me having grown up with my dad watching it every weekend. I hardly knew of its other attractions till I was much older!

Of course many people know Liverpool from the connection with the Beatles – this is where they are from and you can even visit the club where they first played.

Lovers of history won’t be disappointed with the Royal Albert Docks and a host of museums about the interesting (and often sad) history of the area.

How to get there from London

You can get a train from London straight to Liverpool and it takes around 2.5 hours.

Alternatively you might find some budget airlines fly to the Liverpool airport too.

stratford upon avon

Stratford Upon Avon

Known for: being the birthplace of Shakespeare

Top sites: Shakespeare’s birthplace and school, Anne Hathaway’s cottage

The world’s most famous writer has to be Shakespeare and if you want to know more about him then coming to where he was born is probably a good idea.

Stratford Upon Avon is where he was born and where he went to school – many people joke that it was easier for him – he didn’t have to study Shakespeare! You can visit his birthplace – a wonderful example of a 16th century Tudor building.

How to get there from London

You can get a train from London to Stratford Upon Avon – you’ll need to change as its not a direct line.

Tours sometimes take you to see the home of Shakespeare – it seems he’s loved the world over!

Bury St Edmunds in winter

Bury St Edmunds

Known for: an abbey that’s over 1000 years old

Top sites: Bury St Edmunds Abbey, Theatre Royal

Bury St Edmunds is a town with quite a lot of history – the ruins of an abbey that is more than 1000 years old dominate the place!

It’s a small town but lots to explore within it, especially if you’re interested in English history and the early kings.

How to get there from London:

Car is best but you can also get a train via Ely or Cambridge

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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