England may be a compact country, but its sprawling cities boast a fascinating and rich potpourri of history, culture, cuisine and entertainment. Here are five you need to visit.
York is the epicentre of England’s Roman and Viking legacy, and everywhere in its handsome 2,000 year old streets you’ll find evidence of an enthralling, frequently turbulent history. Visit the Jorvik Viking museum for an in-depth glimpse into York’s past. Walk the scenic city walls, visit the glorious mediaeval Minster which dominates the skyline, and explore tiny ancient cobblestone lanes around the Shambles. York boasts numerous independent shops and breweries plus a plethora of excellent eateries. Treat yourself to a rather civilised afternoon tea at Betty’s Tea Rooms, a Yorkshire institution. After dark, join an atmospheric ghost walk around Europe’s most haunted city!
A bustling bohemian hub, Bristol is renowned for its maritime past, stunning architecture and cutting edge art, music and food scenes. Tour vibrant street art including works by elusive local boy Banksy. Sample creative street food in St Nicholas Market and enjoy locally sourced menus and craft beers at Harbourside’s trendy gastropubs and gourmet eateries. Roam the upscale neighbourhood of Clifton where you’ll find glorious sweeping terraces of Georgian architecture, hip restaurants and independent boutiques. Enjoy a free tour of spectacular 250 foot high Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by engineering maestro Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which straddles the Avon Gorge. Canoe, kayak or SUP at Bristol docks. Tour SS Great Britain, Brunel’s majestic ground breaking steamship built 1843, which now resides in a dry dock. You can climb the rigging if you’ve a head for heights!
Liverpool boasts more museums and galleries than anywhere in the UK outside London. The city’s attractive, regenerated Albert Dock area is home to some big hitters including the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Beatles’ Story, along with Tate Liverpool. This modern art gallery focuses on British and international contemporary works, and current exhibitions include Louise Bourgeois and Lucian Freud. Visit the city’s majestic cathedral, the UK’s largest church. Take a free guided tour of the interior and climb its 330 foot high tower for splendid vistas. To escape the crowds, head to Sefton Park, a 235 acre verdant oasis of leafy gardens, lakes and waterfalls, historic statues and a beautiful Victorian palm house.
Colourful characterful Brighton is a dynamic seaside resort on England’s south coast. Scour the trendy shops along North Laine for retro finds and unique souvenirs. Visit the grand Royal Pavilion and admire its ostentatious architecture. Wander the narrow cobbled alleyways, boutiques and galleries of the historic Lanes area. For spectacular panoramic views, take the elevator to the top of the BAi360, a 450 feet high glass viewing pod located on the beach. Enjoy wonderful panoramic views of the city, coastline and the beautiful South Downs countryside. Explore Kemptown, Brighton’s thriving LGBTQ hub of markets, cool bars and cafes juxtaposed with elegant Regency architecture. Take an evening stroll along the pebble beach, have a paddle, and watch the sun set behind the distinctive skeleton of West Pier.
Europe’s most visited city draws 27 million tourists a year, and boasts a profusion of cultural, entertainment and culinary delights to drain your wallet! The Tower of London is a must for history fans, along with the UK’s most famous abode, Buckingham Palace.
Many of London’s top museums and galleries thankfully offer free entry. Amongst the best are the excellent Tate Modern, and South Kensington’s National History Museum and V&A Museum. Don’t miss the superb collections in the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, and the magnificent British Museum, home to Egyptian mummies and ancient Greek statues. Enjoy a top class show in the legendary West End theatre district, and browse the shops, bars and restaurants of nearby Covent Garden and Soho. If you’re a foodie, make for lively Borough Market on the South Bank. After all that, chill out amidst the ponds and greenery of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com