When you think of England, what springs to mind first?
Tea and crumpets.
Correct. But chances are, it’s very closely followed by London.
It’s undeniable that England’s capital, with its unmistakable landmarks like Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace, is a tourist wonderland that everyone should visit at least once in their life.
But that’s not to say that there aren’t a whole host of other enchanting English cities that have sat in London’s shadow for far too long.
Experience the country’s charms that exist beyond the tourist traps in charming seaside villages and bustling Northern cities miles away from London’s metropolis.
Here are the best places to visit in England outside the capital:
Possessing its own language and flag, Cornwall packs enough punch culturally to give London a run for its money. With some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches and fishing villages, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time with its charming laneways and old pubs. That is, until you visit the Tate St. Ives modern art gallery, or visit one of TV chef Rick Stein’s seafood restaurants in Padstow.
For hikers who want to ramble somewhere more scenic than Oxford Circus, the Lake District has you covered. One of the most scenic destinations in the country, this national park in the Northwest of England comprises 16 lakes against a backdrop of stunning woodlands – and although it’s not grand on the global scale, it offers England’s only true mountain range and a number of dramatic hill walks.
This seaside resort in East Sussex just oozes cool with its amazing selection of boutique shopping in The Lanes and wealth of great restaurants and bars. Fatboy Slim is one of the city’s most famous alumni, and as a result the city has a thriving nightlife and many hotspots to party the night away in. It’s also the unofficial gay capital of the UK, with the largest pride event in the in the country and many LGBT pubs and clubs.
This ancient cathedral city offers any North Yorkshire visitors a huge slice of culture, with castles and medieval city walls to scale, snickelways (narrow streets) to navigate, as well as dungeons, museums and Viking centres to explore. And with a whole host of festivals going on throughout the year – food, drink and traditional (Morris) dancing – and a pub for every day of the year, there’s something for everyone.
If you’re going to bypass London, go the whole hog and visit one of England’s favourite cities in the North of the country. The first thing you’ll notice is the change in dialect – the Geordie vernacular can take a little getting used to (even for us Brits). You’ll also want to see how friendly the city is. With incredible shopping, architecture and entertainment, Newcastle is one of the best nights out in the UK.
One hundred miles west of London sits this historic Roman and Georgian spa city, fuelling England’s only mineral hot springs. The architecture here is largely intact, making it a beautiful place to visit, and many of the shop front facades are in keeping with the style. Don’t forget to try a taste of the famous “bath” water, which is served in the restaurant and at the end of the Roman Baths tour.
Birthplace to The Beatles, this Merseyside city has tons to offer fans of the Fab Four. There are plenty of tours you can take that explore the background and childhoods of the famous band, but the Cavern Club – where it all began – is a pretty good place start. Liverpool has great architecture, shopping and nightlife to take in too. Or if you’re a “soccer” (football, please) fan, check out the iconic Anfield stadium. Or Goodison Park, if you’re more blue than red.
There’s something other-worldly about the “city of dreaming spires” and lush green quadrants of Oxford. Do as the locals do and cycle around the campus, stopping by the “Bridge of Sighs,” the Radcliffe Camer,a and climbing up St Mary’s church for a panoramic view of the city. And since Oxford is the oldest University in the English-speaking world, you’ll feel smarter just by being there.
If old English seaside towns are your thing (and they really should be), then don’t miss out Dorset county on your next trip to old Blighty. It may not scream diving, but the Jurassic Coast is a world heritage site where you can do just that. Visit the beach from Broadchurch at West Bay, or Jane Austen fans can make a trip to the historic and unspoiled seaside resort of Lyme Regis.
The birthplace of the world’s most prestigious playwright is not just a treat for theatre aficionados – it’s a walk back through history to medieval times. The former market town offers tours of Shakespeare’s birthplace on Henley Street as well as Ann Hathaway’s cottage – but just walking around you’ll see plenty of original Tudor buildings. Take a rowing boat down the river or check out a RSC theatre performance.