Places in England for History & Culture: You’re Spoiled for Choice
When you travel and write full-time for a living, you get to know the parts of the world that have the most intriguing cultural and historical echoes. In this post, some of the world’s best travel bloggers reveal their favorite historical and cultural sites in England – a country where you’re spoiled for choice!
From the north of England (and you can’t get further north than Hadrians Wall) to the Isle of Wight, make sure you include some of these fascinating places on your next trip to England.
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Eyam, Peak District
In 1665 a flea-infested bundle of cloth arrived from London for the local tailor of Eyam. This single flea led to the spread of the bubonic plague throughout the village. To prevent the spread of the disease, the entire village was quarantined (a rather apt topic considering the events of 2020).
The plague ran its course over 14 months and at least 260 villagers died, with only 83 surviving out of a population of 350. However, the plan worked and the plague was contained.
The tragic history of this village has not been forgotten and a visit here is one of the top things to do in the Peak District. Plaques by houses and gravesites dotted around the village are a stark reminder of those who lost their lives, and inside Eyam Parish Church of St Lawrence, which dates back to Saxon times with an eighth-century Celtic Cross, there is a book with all the names of those deceased from the plague. Eyam Museum is a good place to visit to learn more about this tragic time, and there’s also a small free information center next to the village stocks.
by Jenny from peakdistrictkids.co.uk
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The city of York has a long and colorful history, spanning thousands of years, countless rulers, world wars, and even the Viking invasion. As King George VI once said; “The History of York is the history of England”.
One of the best things to do in York is to wander through the streets, it is a literal walk through time, with ancient city walls, Roman baths, a Viking settlement, medieval churches, and beautiful Georgian architecture mixed with more modern additions, such as the British National Railway Museum, Cold-War bunkers, shopping malls and plenty of pub culture. York has played backdrop to many significant historical events; the Roman conquest, Viking Invasion, visits from Constantine and William the Conqueror, the famous ‘War of the Roses’, the birth of Guy Fawkes (to name a few), all of which have left their mark on the city.
The York Minster, one of the most famous landmarks of the city, has been a sacred site since the Roman times (there are Roman ruins underneath the building) and the current Gothic-style cathedral has been standing since the mid-13th century. York Minster is not only stunning but an incredibly important landmark. From there, wander through the ‘shambles’, the narrow, winding medieval laneways full of quirky stores and historical residences (don’t forget to look for the cats, through to the York Castle Museum. Wander through a life-sized recreation of a Victorian-era village complete with costumed guides, or visit one of the other fascinating exhibits. If you are on a budget, there are plenty of free things to do in York.
by Jenna from iknowthepilot.com.au
When it comes to British and world history, if there is one UK city that played a major part, that would be Liverpool.
Located in North West England, Liverpool was one of the most important ports in the world. Its development was mainly due to the triangular trade as a lot of products coming from America would first land in Liverpool. The mercantile city of Liverpool, now a UNESCO site, was a cornerstone place. It was the world’s first port to use wet docks which allowed a way quicker turnaround of ships. Almost all the cotton production back then would transit through Liverpool before going to Manchester to be manufactured.
Liverpool is also world-famous for being the birthplace of the Beatles! If you head to Matthew Street, you can go to the Cavern Club, where the Beatles used to play.
The music scene and culture is very important in Liverpool and if you are a music lover, you will find plenty to do there!
You will also find many museums. As a matter of fact, it’s the city in the UK with the most museums (after London).
I particularly recommend going on a walking tour. Liverpool is quite a small city and easily navigable. If you choose to go on a walking tour, you will discover very interesting cultural facts about Liverpool.
by Pauline from beelovedcity.com
Stratford Upon Avon
Stratford-Upon-Avon is a beautiful market town and a delight to walk around. On a sunny day, the river glimmers, ice cream, and entertainers are easy to find and the music from the bandstand drifts along the pathways.
Take the chain ferry, which has been operational since 1937, across the river and you stumble into theatre central. If you are lucky, you may spot Dame Judy Dench or David Tenant wandering around. Stratford has many theatres owing to being Shakespeare’s stomping ground. It is worth going if you can get tickets, but if not, it is still worth enjoying a free exhibition in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and then taking the Tower Tour for great views across the town.
If you want to know about the history of Stratford and the bard, you won’t be disappointed. There are multiple historic walks and these take you via all common attractions so you can decide which to visit. My favorites include Shakespeare’s birthplace and his schoolroom. Also, if you walk a picturesque mile outside of Stratford, you can visit the 15th Century cottage where Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife, was born. It’s definitely worth packing your things and going to explore.
by Laura from whimsynook.com
Tower of London
One of the most significant places in British history is located right along the Thames River and it’s no coincidence. The Tower of London was begun by William the Conquerer in 1066 but it used the existing wall, known as the Roman wall, as part of its structure.
Throughout the years the Tower of London played a major role in the defense of the city, served as a royal residence, and even a zoo! Yet, it’s most famous internationally as the place where important political prisoners were kept. Of course, you have the most famous prisoners of all of Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, and Thomas Cromwell, all who went on to be executed. Other famous Tower prisoners include Guy Fawkes, Henry VI, and Sir Walter Raleigh.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the tower is a must-see for anyone interested in royal history during their time in London. Make sure you give yourself enough time to explore and come early in the day when you’re fresh. There is so much to see and experience here that you don’t want to come when you’re already tired. Whilst you are in London, there are plenty of stylish city breaks within 2 hours of London.
by Stephanie from historyfangirl.com
Hampton Court Palace
As marvelously spectacular as it is macabre, one of the best places to get a dose of British history is Hampton Court Palace. Located on the border between London and Surrey, this Tudor-style palace was first erected in 1515 by then-Cardinal Wolsey but what made it particularly famous is the connection to conflicted figure, Henry VIII.
Henry was particularly attracted to the Palace, bringing all six of his wives to the property and making it his home. But the palace was an unhappy place for the king – his third wife, Jane Seymour, died in childbirth within its halls, and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was arrested for adultery and treason while at the palace. Legend has it her ghost still haunts the corridors of Hampton Court…
Nowadays the Palace offers much in the way of guided tours as well as absolutely magnificent gardens that are free between 9.00 – 10.00 am each day. The main attraction is also the Maze, a large intricate maze made of yew hedges where thousands of visitors get lost each year. This iconic London landmark is also a stone’s throw from Bushy Park, Henry’s old hunting grounds from his reign.
Because Henry often called the property his ‘pleasure palace’, it still maintains it’s reputation today as it plays host to a music festival and a flower show each year, as well as a rotating display of the country’s finest art.
by Lee from thetravelscribes.com
The United Kingdom is filled with so many historical and cultural sites. The adorable UNESCO site of Bath is no exception. This town was founded in the 7th century as a religious center. Later, the Roman Empire made it thrive and turned it into a “spa town.” The Romans believed the springs around the town had curative properties and therefore everyone wanted to take a bath in this magical water.
As I am a history teacher, the history of these baths intrigued me and made me want to visit. On your visit to Bath, make sure to visit the Roman Baths Museum, where visitors can view the ancient Roman Baths.
Another site to see is the Bath Abbey, which was once a Benedictine Monastery. Visitors can opt to take a behind the scenes tour and head up the bell tower for views of the surrounding area.
Lastly, Jane Austen fans will enjoy the Jane Austen center, a museum dedicated to the life of Jane Austen in Bath. A visit to Bath will take you on a journey into the past and is a must-visit stop, especially on a ten-day England trip.
by Francesca from homeroomtravel.com
Stonehenge is one of the most famous monuments in England and all of Europe. Even today, this prehistoric site baffles scientists who are still unsure of its true origin and purpose. It seems to be a celestial object because it aligns with the solstice of the winter sunset but also the sunrise of the summer solstice. Whether it was a place of the dead or a place of healing is unknown, as human and animal bones have been found here that date back to 3000BC.
This historic site dates back to the Neolithic age and is estimated to be at least 4500 years old. It has been listed as UNESCO world heritage since 1986 and is located close to Salisbury in South West of England.
The stone circle and massive megalithic stones is a masterpiece of ancient engineering and make us realize just how advanced this civilization must have been.
It is recommended to come here on a guided tour as you’ll learn a lot more when you’re accompanied by an expert who can tell more about Stonehenge and the people who built it. And try to arrive here in the morning at 9:30 am when it opens to avoid the crowds, or late in the afternoon when most of the tours have arrived and left.
by Alex from swedishnomad.com
England’s ancient capital and the former seat of King Alfred the Great, Winchester is one of the UK’s most historic cities. Head to this city and you will find a good mix of history and legend. From Winchester Cathedral (one of Britain’s greatest cathedrals) to The Great Hall (which is home to the legendary Arthurian Round Table) and from Winchester College (the oldest continuously running school in the UK) to the ruins of Wolvesey Castle, the city is steeped in history.
If you are visiting Winchester for the first time, I would recommend starting at the City Museum that tells the story of the city and then a tour of the places mentioned above.
If you are interested specifically in Tudor history, then you could do the Winchester Tudor Trail which takes in a number of Winchester’s popular landmarks from the Tudor time (The Great Hall, City Mill, St Mary’s Abbey, St John’s Hospital, the Buttercross, Winchester Castle, etc.)
For those with an interest in military history, there is a military walking trail as well as six inspiring museums that are housed in the Peninsula Barracks and trace the city’s military past right from the Iron Age up until today.
Winchester is pedestrian-friendly and with the free maps available in the City Museum, visitors can easily explore the town on their own. If you prefer guided tours, then you can explore the city’s rich heritage with qualified guides who run regular tours from the Winchester Tourist Information Centre. Whichever way you choose to experience the city, as a history buff you will love Winchester.
by Deeptha from theglobetrotter.co.uk
Osborne House is found on the stunning Isle of Wight, a short ferry journey from Portsmouth or Lymington off the south coast of England.
Osborne House was the home of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, built together as their rural retreat and summer residence. It’s now owned by English Heritage and is a vast mansion that stands in a gorgeous spot, overlooking the sea.
As Queen, Victoria had many houses to choose between, yet she chose Osborne House to spend the last forty years of her life. She once said: “It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot”
The house is richly furnished and, wandering around the labyrinth of rooms, you get a real sense of the tastes and style of the Victorian age. You get to see the rooms where Queen Victoria entertained heads of state, princes, and princesses and ruled the vast British Empire. It’s quite an experience.
There is a lot to see and English Heritage recommends at least 3 hours for a trip. We had our children with us when we visited and, as a result, our visit was conducted at race pace through the house! The Swiss Cottage, the woodland house Victoria and Albert built for their children in the gardens, was more to our 4 -year old’s taste as there are lots of kid-friendly things to touch and play with.
We really enjoyed our visit and would highly recommend putting Osborne House on your must-do list.
by Clare from epicroadrides.com
If you want to explore history in the UK, one of the best places to visit is Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. Tintagel Castle is where the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is based – there’s even a cave with a carving of Merline the famous wizard.
Whether you believe the myth or not, there’s no denying the incredible castle ruins which still stand on the edge of a cliff, surrounded by wonderful views out over the sea. We visited Tintagel as part of our Cornwall tour and it was definitely one of the highlights.
You can walk around the ruins, learn about the various parts of the Castle, and what they might be used for. It’s an English Heritage site so you either need to be a member or pay admission. A word of warning – there are a lot of STEEP steps up the hillside – and there’s no access for anyone who cannot make those steps. Also, bring some water with you are there is no shop or other facilities at the top – everything is at the bottom!
It is definitely worth the climb though as Tintagel is one of the most famous landmarks in UK culture and history and well worth the effort to visit.
by Kat from wandering-bird.com
The northernmost boundary of Britannia and the whole Roman Empire around 2000 years ago was a hilly, windy but picturesque stretch of northern England.
The Romans didn’t have much luck securing Scotland and so in 122 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian used 15,000 men to build a 73-mile wall from one coast of England to the other. Forts, gates, and towers were built along the wall.
For 300 years Hadrian’s Wall, as it became known, was the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately in the following centuries, Hadrian’s Wall was a terrific source of stones and essentially used as a northern England quarry. This stopped in the mid-1800s but it wasn’t until a century later that UNESCO designated Hadrians Wall a World Heritage site in 1987.
Much of the wall remains in wonderful repair and Hadrian’s Wall walks have become sone of the world’s most popular walks. There is also a Hadrian’s Way cycleway and it is a breathtaking part of the world – standing beside the Wall on a blustery spring day, it’s possible to imagine the Roman soldiers manning these forts and towers.
Interactive displays, museums, and information displays help this precious British heritage come alive. It’s a not-to-be-missed part of England’s rich cultural history.
Other historical places to visit in England
Whether you’re interested in historical landmarks in England, historical places in London, or just the most popular tourist attractions, here is a list of the most popular historical places to visit:
Further Links and Information
Northern Ireland has a brooding and troubled history. See the most important cultural and historical landmarks set against dramatic scenery here:
Planning a trip to Scotland? See the most iconic and some of the most surprising historical and cultural landmarks in this ruggedly beautiful country here:
There are so many things to do in England. See all of the best things to do in the UK, from Get Your Guide here
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