England’s green and pleasant land has a rich historical tapestry and cultural heritage that rivals almost anywhere else in the world, but modern England is far, far more than just its past. Diverse and celebrated regional identities, world class shopping and nightlife, gastronomic delights, cultural wonders, iconic, world famous attractions and more UNESCO world heritage sites than you can shake a stick at, England holds its head up high as one of the Western world’s best tourist destinations.
Whether you want to explore England’s green and pleasant land on a staycation or as an international visitor there will always be something new to captivate your imagination and excitement! England has always had an endless capacity to surprise, charm and excite, despite its stubborn stiff upper lip, and if you can afford the eye watering prices, there is something here for everyone!
Culture and Etiquette.
English culture and etiquette is extremely nuanced and influenced by wide regional idiosyncrasies, but will still be familiar to most visitors thanks to the UK’s influence in almost every aspect of the world stage, from trade to media, culture and beyond.
The English stiff upper lip is not as infallible as it used to be but manners and decorum are still widely respected and gregarious displays of emotion invariably dismissed as something our American cousins do. England is wonderfully multiultural and there is very little hesitancy in claiming curry as one of our national dishes alongside the more traditional fish and chips or Sunday Roast, and you can explore a wide range of cultures here alongside the many regional differences that somehow all come together to loosely define what England is.
Visitors to England, as in the rest of the UK, will have very little trouble acclimatising very quickly and the UK as a whole is extremely welcoming of all visitors and has a diverse, multicultural population that will make most travellers feel at home.
What You Need To Know.
EU, EEA and Swiss citizens can travel to the UK for holidays or short trips for anything up to 6 months without needing a visa, there are exceptions to this dependent on your residency status in the EU so always double check on your official embassy website. Irish citizens can continue to enter and live in the UK.
Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries can visit for up to six months but cannot work unless they apply for a separate work visa. Citizens of other countries outside of the visa free list must apply for the relevant visa dependant on whether they intend to be a general visitor, family visitor, business visitor or any other relevant category.
There are no specific immunisations needed to visit England. Reciprocal healthcare arrangements between the whole of the UK and many countries throughout the world allow for free or at least subsidised treatment. Everyone will get free care at the point of delivery via the NHS. Despite this it is still essential that you have valid and comprehensive health insurance.
Crime and Safety.
England is generally very safe with relatively low crime rates. This does not mean that crime does not occur at all, but reasonable common sense precautions for your personal health and safety are enough to keep you safe.
Costs and Money.
The currency in England is the Pound, which is divided into 100 pence. There is no getting around it, England is extremely expensive – especially in London and the South – with high prices and one of the strongest currencies in the world. An extreme budget traveller will struggle to get by in England on less than £50GBP a day in much of England, more in the South. Mid range accommodation throughout most of the country will cost you upwards of that entire budget per night on average so for a mid range budget you are looking at an average of £75 – £100 per day. There are ways to save money and stick to your budget at least. There are a variety of free activities such as cathedrals, museums and art galleries and eating at pubs or smaller eateries can be a lot cheaper than restaurants. You should always book train or coach transport as early as possible too as fares on the day can be extortionate and disproportionate.
When To Go.
England is a generally temperate country with relatively mild winters and summers and intermittent cold snaps and heat waves. In general the best times to visit are Spring and Autumn, as this maximises the weather and keeps you out of the high seasons of the summer holidays and Christmas period, but there really is no telling what the weather will be like from month to month.
Places To See.
England’s capital is unmissable. One of the worlds greatest capital cities and an absolute highlight of any UK or Euro trip, it makes the perfect city break for a few days. You simply can’t come to England without spending a few days here at least. Great shopping, uncomperable heritage and iconic attractions, not to mention the world class gourmet restaurants, nightlife and fantastic West End shows, London has it all. It will eat into your budget very quickly though if you are not careful.
England’s second city and often seen by the locals as culturally separate from the rest of England, Liverpool has so much more to offer that the cultural music scene and the Beatles that it is so famous for. Visit the Albert Dock and the Maritime History Museum to get a taste of how vital Liverpool was to the British Empires early expansion and growth or explore the World Museum to see some fascinating exhibits and collections from around the world. Liverpool has a whole host of amazing attractions, so take advantage of the world class eating and shopping at the upmarket Liverpool One or the famous city centre, and enjoy the famous hospitality and sense of humour of the locals, one thing is for sure you will not regret coming to this fantastic yet always underrated city.
The engine of Britain’s industrial revolution, Manchester has risen from it’s grimy smoke filled sprawl with high rise skyscrapers, concert halls, theatres and a wide range of ingredients that all fit together to make this Phoenix of a city a great staycation option. Not quite as good as Liverpool, obviously, but still a great one! With one of the UK’s largest student populations outside of London Manchester boasts an impressive nightlife and foodie scene and plenty of options to keep anyone entertained whether it is a short weekend break or a longer staycation.
The Lake District.
This is one of the most beautiful and scenic spots in the English countryside and is famous for its walks and hiking opportunities. There are tons of quaint, picturesque villages to explore and stay in once you have visited the beautiful Lake District National Park and there are enough adventure activity opportuinities to keep every adrenaline junkie and outdoor enthusiast entertained. If you want to see some of the English countryside at its best, then you should come here!
The New Forest.
For lovers of nature or adrenaline loving adventure travellers, the New Forest is a little bit of a well known but still hidden gem in England. Featured in the Domesday book, proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conqueror and still one of the largest areas of heathland and forest in the UK today, taking up large parts of both Hampshire and Wiltshire. It is a natural habitat for thousands of rare species and its unique eco system makes it a nature lovers paradise. Hikers and naturalists can hike for days through the forest looking for birds and bats, and if they are really lucky may come across Britain’s largest land mammal, the fallow deer, as well as otter, polecats and of course a fox or badger too. It’s a real life Animals of Farthing Wood! Except for the destruction of course, because it is fiercely protected. As well as the gentle hiking there are also a wide variety of cycle trails for all ages and levels of fitness, and there are plenty of adventure companies offering horse riding, archery and bushcraft to get back to your ancient medieval roots, not to mention the water sports activities on the many lakes.
Shropshire deserves special mention in any list of UK staycation ideas because not only is it one of England’s largest counties, it has a unique mixture of countryside charm and distinctive industrial history. Divided by the river Severn, Shropshire is home to the UK’s very first iron bridge, and the county’s contribution to the UKs industrial revolution is celebrated in the famous Ironbridge Gorge by a series of museums, from the Ironbridge Gorge Museum itself to the Coalbrookdale Museum, each one celebrating a specific aspect of Shropshire’s industrial past. Blist’s Hill Victorian Town is one of the UK’s best hidden secrets. This huge open air museum is essentially Victorian Britain come to life in a recreated Victorian village where visitors can step back into a bygone era and experience what life was like at the start of the industrial revolution. The actors bring everything to life and make sure you step inside some of the workshops! Shrewsbury brings you back to modernity a little bit, but only just! The picturesque Tudor architecture holds beautiful shops and tearooms, and unique churches and even Shrewsbury castle are all framed perfectly by the River Severn. Just a short distance away there are walking and hiking trails along the Long Mynd, taking you through some of the most attractive parts of the county.
Okay, hear me out. This may not be many people’s first choice for a staycation, but Essex is far more than its stereotypes of Sugar Huts, TOWIE stars and less than favourable pop culture references. If you take the time to look beyond all of that you will see that Essex is filled with rolling medieval villages and picture perfect countryside perfect for hiking or a bit of glamping. The Dedham Vale area of natural beauty is home to Constable country, named after the artist famous for his paintings of the English countryside in the romantic tradition. Fans of the artist can even spot one or two of the landscapes still largely unchanged!
Newcastle Upon Tyne is a UK regional city that is famed for its nightlife. Second only to their western Scouse cousins in the friendliness, Geordies really know how to have one hell of an epic night out and it is easy to just let Newcastle rest on that reputation, but it has so much more to offer too. Alongside the famous nights out is an epic foodie scene, world class concert halls and art galleries, some impressive industrial heritage and ancient British history behind it all and a great swathe of stunning countryside and coastline to explore.
The Cornish coast is famous among UK holidaymakers for over 400 miles of stunning, rugged coastline, and almost half of that specifically designated as Heritage Coastline by the Countryside agency of England and Wales. The world famous Eden Project and the UNESCO heritage mining sites are slightly inland, but the beaches and the coastline are the real draw with Portcurno and St Ives beaches packed with traditional seaside charm, and the lesser known local spots like the Pentire steps filled with local lore and legend.
Looking for a traditional English seaside holiday? You can’t beat getting some ice cream or candyfloss and walking along the Grade II listed Southport Pier, the oldest iron pier in the UK standing for over 150 years, and taking in some of the 22 mile stretch of beach! The quaint English seaside atmosphere continues away from the beach at Southport Pleasureland funfair, or you can relax on a pedalo on the Marine Lake or stroll around the Kings Gardens. The coastline is a haven of hiking paths and heritage trails, Marshside bird watching areas and Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is nearby too, and the famous ‘Another Place’ installation by Antony Gormley is just a short drive away on Crosby Beach. And if all of that is too much for you, head back to the traditional Victorian Pier and have a cup of tea, some fish and chips and play some of the penny slot arcades! Southport is an ideal seaside staycation spot with a lot to see and do, but without the crowds of nearby Blackpool!
Another ideal city break option and easily reachable from either Manchester or Liverpool, Chester is steeped in ancient Roman history which you can see before you even enter the city! The two mile long medieval and Roman walls that surround the city are like an open air museum, easy to walk along in sections and spotted with Roman ruins and archaeological treasures. Once you get inside the Tudor and Victorian buildings take you instantly back in time and let you explore the narrow cobbled lanes and shop filled rows.
Things To Do.
Explore The Countryside.
Get outside of the cities and explore some of England’s famous countryside, from the beaches of Devon and the ancient forest of Sherwood to the hills of the Lake District, England is still a green and pleasant land for those who want to explore it.
Visit The Harry Potter Studio Tour, London.
One of England’s premier tourist attractions, this celebration of one of the country’s biggest literary successes rivals anything available in Universal Studios or any other premier tourist attraction around the world. This huge tour gives you a glimpse into the detail that was put into the making of the films as it allows you to tour the sets and see the props and special effects used. I can’t stress enough how amazing this tour is, and it is fantastic value for money too. It is an easy train ride from London and the Warner Brothers bus picks you up right outside the train station to take you to the studio. Book ahead though, as tickets can sell out quickly, especially in the holidays. There is no need to stay with the tour either, which is aimed primarily at children, you can break off at any time and explore at your own leisure. Any fan of Harry Potter should check out Platform 9 and 3/4 at London’s Kings Cross Station too!
Visit The Royal Armouries, Leeds.
This museum displays not only the national collection of England’s arms and armour from the dark ages onwards, but has an unmatched collection from around the world. For anyone interested in the art, beauty and history of arms and armour, this is an absolute must see.
Go To The Zoo.
England has a lot of Zoo’s, with Chester Zoo, Blackpool Zoo and London Zoo being among the best. Perfect for those travelling with families, or simply those who just have a love of animals and conservation. Edinburgh Zoo even holds the UKs only pandas! Either way there are a lot of options to choose from. There are also plenty of world class aquariums to discover too, such as Blue Planet in Chester or the Sea Life London Aquarium.
Visit The Real Downton Abbey.
Highclere Castle is one of the finest country houses in England. Built in the Jacobethan style in the 19th Century and surrounded by curated grounds designed by Capability Brown in the 18th Century. In and of itself the castle is a great day out but it is best known as the setting for the blockbuster TV series Downton Abbey. There are almost 300 staterooms and ballrooms in the castle saloon and guided tours can take you through some of the rooms actually used as sets in the series. Even more impressive for history lovers is the Egyptian exhibition which houses treasures from the 5th Earl of Carnarvon’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Go Back In Time At Blists Hill.
One of ten museums in the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge, Blists Hill Victorian town is an ideal day out. Recreating the sights, sounds and smells of a 19th Century Victorian town at the birth of the industrial revolution this town is tailor made to capture a specific period of Shropshire’s history. Take a step back in time and enjoy the workshops with the ironmaster and traditional candlemaker, enjoy the quaint old fashioned shops and learn about the lives and livelihoods of a time long past.
Get Locked Up!
England’s very own entry on the worlds most famous dark tourism sites, Shrewsbury prison is so much more than just a fascinating insight into a working prison. The prison is an essential part of the darker side of UK heritage and offers a unique glimpse into prison life from the late 18th Century. You can explore Victorian prison wings that were still in use up until its closure in 2013, descend into Georgian cells and listen to tales and stories from the ex prison guard tour guides that will tell you the dark history of all those who were sentenced to death by hanging in these walls. It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as the prison also offers axe throwing and escape rooms, movie location tours of all the films and TV shows that have been filmed here and you can go ghostbusting on a very unique ghost hunting tour and if you have ever wanted to try out your very own prison break, there is no better place to do it than an actual prison!
Get Close To The Queen On A Tour Of Windsor Castle.
Windsor Castle is Britain’s crowning achievement as far as ancient fortresses are concerned. The oldest castle in the world that is still inhabited by the royal family, it is the official residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and has been home to English Royalty for over 1000 years. You can tell if the Queen is in residence if the Royal Standard is flying from the round tower.
Although it is still used as a Royal residence and military barracks, and holds state ceremonies and events regularly, visitors can still explore parts of the castle including the state rooms when not in use, a variety of museum collections including a suit of armour worn by Henry VIII and of course the Royal Chapel itself which anyone will recognise if they have seen a royal wedding. The changing of the guard is a popular tourist attraction too. Tours officially recommend 2 to 3 hours, but you can easily spend a full day here if Royal history is your thing.
Or Catch Her At Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace is one of the UKs most iconic sites. Technically it is the London residence and administrarive headquarters of Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family, but much more than that Buckingham Palace is a focal point of national pride, celebration, state occassions and even national mourning. There are numerous tours that you can take that show you around a select part of the palace, including permanent and temporary exhibitions of the Royal Family and Royal artefacts.
Marvel At Stonehenge.
This monument needs no introduction, England’s very own ancient wonder in all but name, this prehistoric monument is shrouded in myth and legend and still has archaeologists arguing over its true origins today. Based in Wiltshire, it is just a short 2 miles from Amesbury, although many people head through Salisbury to get there.
Hike The Hadrians Wall Trail.
Hadrian’s Wall is one of the UKs most impressive historical attractions. Stretching over 73 miles from coast to coast, it was once the final frontier of the Roman Empire, built to defend Roman occupied England against the wild Celtic Picts. Now it is one of the most important Roman remains in Britain and one of the most iconic features of northern England, serving as one of the UKs premier hiking trails with plenty of staycation options along the way.
Explore England’s Heritage.
One thing that England does well is heritage, and it is easy to get a glimpse of that on your visit here by exploring the plethora of castles, cathedrals, museums and historical sites. Even more good news for travellers trying to stick to a budget is that many of the best museums and cathedrals are free to enter.