All Articles 8 best cities to visit in England and what you can do in each

8 best cities to visit in England and what you can do in each

Brighton Beach in England
Image: Westend61 / Getty Images
Amelia Ang
By Amelia Ang25 Jul 2022 5 minutes read

Planning a trip to England? Don’t just dip your toes into London. While the English capital is certainly a treat to explore, England has so much more to offer. From wild moors to football stadiums, England’s cities boast a wide variety of landscapes, attractions, and cultural experiences. We’ve narrowed down a list of eight top cities in England that you should add to your itinerary.

1. Brighton

A crowd at a beach in Brighton
Image: Ben Guerin / Unsplash

Described as the U.K.’s hippest city, Brighton is a seaside resort on the south coast of England. The pebbled Brighton Beach may deter some sunbathers, but there’s plenty to do at Brighton Palace Pier, from amusement rides to restaurants. Join a walking tour to explore the rest of the city, from the quirky Royal Pavilion to the eclectic independent shops in The Lanes and North Laine. This food tour will introduce you to more hidden gems and local hotspots.

When to visit: May to September for warmer and drier weather. Avoid July and August, when it’s peak tourist season.

Getting here: Traveling by train is usually the fastest way to get to Brighton from London. If you’re flying, Gatwick Airport is a 20-minute train journey from Brighton Railway Station.

Where to stay:

2. Manchester

Empty street at Manchester
Image: Joe Cleary / Unsplash

Located in northwest England, Manchester is a city of many talents. Not only is it the world’s first industrial city, but Manchester is also home to a thriving arts and music scene as well as two major English football teams. Immerse yourself in Manchester’s culture on this walking tour, or learn more about the city’s long history through its food. Football fans, don’t miss out on the National Football Museum and the Manchester City Stadium Tour at Etihad Stadium. The John Rylands Library is also worth a visit—its stunning Gothic architecture will make you feel like you’re in Hogwarts.

When to visit: June to August for festivals and fine weather; September to December for football season.

Getting here: Land in Manchester International Airport, or take the train from London to Manchester Piccadilly or Victoria.

Where to stay:

3. Bristol

Clifton Suspension Bridge with hot air balloons in Bristol
Image: Nathan Riley / Unsplash

Bristol is a quirky port city situated on the River Avon with a hilly landscape. It was a key city during the Industrial Revolution when engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel built and designed the Great Western Railway, the world’s first great ocean liner, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Today, you can still visit many of these Victorian-era landmarks and learn more about the historical figures who put Bristol on the map. Sail around the Bristol Harbor on a ferry boat, enjoy a night of magic and comedy at Smoke & Mirrors, or soar over the countryside on a hot air balloon—you’ll quickly understand why Bristol has been named one of the best places to live in the U.K.

When to visit: Late spring and early fall for comfortable weather.

Getting here: Bristol Temple Meads is the largest rail hub in west England, and Bristol Airport welcomes flights across Europe.

Where to stay:

4. York

River at York with red boats
Image: Sarah / Unsplash

History buffs might know York as the ancient Roman city of Eboracum. Today, York is one of the most popular cities in England, with people all over the world traveling here to admire its medieval buildings. Stroll through York’s historic streets with a guide or embark on a hop-on hop-off bus tour to conveniently explore sights like York Minster, Shambles, and the York City Walls. For an alternative history of York, this award-winning tour will regale you with tales of witches, queens, and murderers.

When to visit: York sees maximum sunshine from May through July. If you can put up with random cold snaps, the city is also exceptionally stunning in spring.

Getting here: The closest international airport is Leeds Bradford International Airport, but it’s far more convenient to travel from Manchester Airport via the TransPennine Express.

Where to stay:

5. Durham

Umbrellas hanging in the streets of Durham
Image: Charlie Green / Unsplash

Nestled on the River Wear, Durham is a charming small city in northeast England. Discover how Durham rose to spiritual prominence and visit Durham Cathedral, which has been a center of pilgrimage for close to a thousand years. This self-guided audio tour is also an easy and convenient way to explore Durham’s highlights and history. Durham Castle, built by William the Conqueror, served as a strategic stronghold to defend England from Scottish armies. Today, the castle is home to Durham University, the third-oldest university in England.

When to visit: Temperatures in Durham are cold for most of the year, so it’s best to visit between June and September when it’s comfortably warm.

Getting here: Durham station is situated on the East Coast Main Line, while Newcastle Airport is 30 minutes away from Durham.

Where to stay:

6. Dover

People siting on green grass field in Dover
Image: Silviya Nenova / Unsplash

With natural landscapes and historic architecture, Dover is one of the most scenic cities in England. Known as the “key to England,” Dover Castle was founded in the 11th century and has stood tall through multiple wars. Explore the ferry port on a minibus tour, take a breezy walk along St Margaret’s Bay Beach, and hike the magnificent White Cliffs of Dover, where you can spot the iconic South Foreland Lighthouse and discover the cliffs’ hidden tunnels.

When to visit: Avoid autumn and winter, when rain and wind will prevent you from venturing outdoors.

Getting here: Direct trains lead from London to Dover in just 55 minutes, and cruise ships and ferries dock at the Port of Dover.

Where to stay:

7. Liverpool

View of the Albert Dock in Liverpool
Image: Conor Samuel / Unsplash

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes…” In the 1960s, the Beatles catapulted Liverpool into international fame. Today, visitors can walk in the Fab Four’s footsteps, pose for a picture by their iconic statue, and dive into the story of the band’s rise to fame. This award-winning hop-on hop-off bus tour will also take you to sights like Strawberry Field and John Lennon’s childhood home. But there’s more to Liverpool than just the Beatles. Learn about the city’s vast history on a guided tour around Royal Albert Dock, admire the grand Liverpool Cathedral, and join the LFC stadium tour of Anfield Stadium.

When to visit: January for snow; April to August for festivals and warm weather.

Getting here: Liverpool’s main station is Lime Street station. Cruises dock at the Port of Liverpool, and the Liverpool John Lennon Airport connects the city to the rest of Europe.

Where to stay:

8. London

View of the Big Ben in London
Image: Dominika Gregušová / Pexels

Whether you’re on a solo trip or traveling with family, you’ll never feel bored in London. The biggest and most populous city in England, London is a diverse metropolis that celebrates its past while racing towards the future.

Where else can you explore a 1000-year fortress and climb a skyscraper all on the same day? And if you ever feel like getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city, there are plenty of other sights in the vicinity. You can even see Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford in a single day on this guided tour.

When to visit: Check out our guide to the best times to visit London and plan your itinerary around these annual events.

Getting here: Most international flights land at Heathrow Airport or Gatwick Airport. London is also the center of the National Rail network, connecting to the rest of England via King’s Cross and Euston.

Where to stay:

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Amelia Ang
Amelia is a writer and traveler based in Singapore. Some of her favorite cities include Tokyo, New York, and Taipei. Amelia is fluent in English, Chinese, basic Korean, and intermediate Japanese.