The past is a constant presence in England due to a story that spans more than 5000 years. These 16 highlights of a trip to England will inspire you to explore urban historic centers, admire mysterious monoliths, walk through scenic landscapes and enjoy rugged coastlines.

Most major destinations are connected by train and bus. Local buses, taxi services, organized tours, and your own wheels are some of the things you may need.

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It's the prettiest city in England.

Bath is the epitome of pretty cities in a nation full of pretty cities. The Romans founded the Aquae Sulis spa resort in order to take advantage of the area's hot springs, but it wasn't until the 18th century that Bath became a modern city. Bath is awash with golden stone townhouses, sweeping crescents and Palladian mansions.

Two young children play in the gardens surrounding huge domes at Eden Project, Cornwall
Be inspired at Cornwall's Eden Project © Radka Crossley / Shutterstock

The Eden Project

It's the best place to learn.

The huge greenhouses of the Eden Project have become a symbol of Cornwall's renaissance. The Eden Project was built to mark the start of the new millennium and is now considered one of Britain's modern architectural wonders. Global warming, rubber production, and chocolate-making are all covered in exhibits. Thebiomes recreate major world climate systems from the lush jungles of the Amazon rainforest to the olive trees, citrus groves and colorful flowers of the Mediterranean, South Africa and California.

Two hikers cross the rugged landscape of the Northumberland Hills
It takes around a week to hike the full trail along Hadrian's Wall © SolStock / Getty Images

Hadrian's Wall

It's the best long-distance walk in the country.

The 2000-year-old procession of abandoned forts, garrisons, towers and milecastles marching across the wild and lonely landscape of northern England is one of the most dramatic Roman ruins. The boundary of civilized order was symbolized by the edge-of-empire barrier, which was to the north and to the south the marauding Celts. You can visit the last stronghold of the wall near the city. If you have less time and your own car, you might want to look at some of the wall's highlights.


The best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer scene in England.

It's only an hour's train ride from the capital, but the seaside city of BRIGHTON has a quirky character. Overlooking the English Channel on England's south coast, it's a city that's long been known for its quirky, alternative character. It's a browser's dream come true to find vegan cafes, espresso bars, chaotic pubs, record stores and bric-a-brac shops in the Lanes. The UK's biggest gay scene can be found here, as well as the region's best nightclubs.

Two friends walk the streets of London with Tower Bridge behind them
You could spend a lifetime exploring London's culture, architecture and history © AzmanJaka / Getty Images


It's the best place to perform in England.

London's rich seam of eye- opening antiquity appears at every turn. Big Ben and the Tower of London are two of the most recognizable buildings in the city. It is a city of ideas and imagination. The British Museum, Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are all world-class museums that are free to visit. Big names perform in the West End and the South Bank of London.


It's the best place for history.

It is England's most famous ancient site. We don't know why this ring of boulders was built, but people have been drawn to it for thousands of years. The visitor center has been renovated and the road has been closed. The result is a strong sense of historical context. You can arrange an early-morning or evening tour to gain access to the inner ring, even if you don't want to look at the 25-ton stones from behind the perimeter fence. It's an ethereal place in the slanting sun. It stays with you.

The Cotswolds

It's the best place for Medieval England.

A tangle of impossibly-quaint villages of rose-clad cottages and honey-colored stone is a region in England. No matter where you go or how lost you get, you'll still end up in a spot with a charming village green, a pub with sloping floors and fine beers, and a view of the outdoors. The hills are perfect for walking, cycling and horse-riding. Some of the best boutique hotels in the country can be found here, and it's easy to leave the crowds behind.


It's the best place to go to in Britain.

Try to go to Oxford while in the Cotswolds. Most of us will get to the brilliant minds and august institutions that have made this city famous around the world. There is a glimpse of this rarefied world in the cobbled lanes and ancient quads. The beautiful college buildings, archaic traditions and stunning architecture have remained the same over the centuries.

A quaint stone bridge over a waterway linking two buildings. A narrow boat with a pilot standing at the back of it passes nearby
Going out on a punt along the waterways is a quintessential Cambridge experience © S.Borisov / Shutterstock


It's the best place to go for a river tour.

A tour of at least one of the ancient colleges and time spent marveling at the intricate vaulting of King's College Chapel are some of the highlights of Cambridge. The best view of the exquisite architecture can be seen from the Backs, the leafy, green lawns behind the city's best colleges. One of Cambridge's many rustic pubs is a good place to get a drink off the day.


The best place to play soccer in the country.

It's hard not to be affected by a person's love for their hometown. For a long time this was a hardscrabble town beset by all manner of social ills, but still the love persisted, finding its expression in a renowned gallows humor and an obsession with football. Taking in a game at either of the two teams is a tradition here. It is once again the heart of the city. A number of top museums can be found at Albert dock, an icon of the docklands. The good and bad sides of the city's history can be found in the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum.

People walking the city walls in York, with a view towards the Gothic Minster
Don't miss the 13th-century walls that encircle the city of York © travellinglight / Getty Images


The best place to view English history is here.

The highlights of English history can be found in the ancient city walls and maze of cobbled streets of York. Each of the narrow alleys of the 13th-century walls is the focus of a ghost story or historical character. One of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in the world is located at the center of the city. York's rich heritage is woven into almost every brick and beam, and the modern, tourist-oriented city is a carefully-maintained heir to that heritage. You can see some of the best views of York from the old city walls.

The Lake District

It's the best place for people who love literature.

The charms of the Lake District were championed by William Wordsworth and his friends. The Lake District is already the UK's most popular national park, but for most people it's the chance to hike the fells and drink in the beautiful scenery that keeps them coming back year after year. Many people visit for the region's literary connections, even though there are a lot of outdoor opportunities. William Wordsworth was one of the many writers who found inspiration here.

A ruined abbey building on a cliff, fronted by long grass meadows and backed by the sea
Whitby is a traditional seaside resort with a Gothic literary connection © Neal Rylatt / Shutterstock


The best place for hauntings in England.

The classic northern seaside town of Whitby has haunted lanes, fossil-hunting, and arguably England's best fish and chips. It was here that 18th-century explorer Captain James Cook earned his sea legs, as evidenced by the huddle of 18th-century fisher's cottages. Whitby's place as a traditional seaside resort complete with sandy beach, amusement arcades and promenading holidaymakers can be found in the genteel Victorian suburb atop the WestCliff. There is an atmospheric ruined abbey that is the inspiration and setting for part of a horror story. There are tales of witchery and ghosts that have haunted the town since Anglo-Saxon St Hilda arrived in 661CE. Two hugely successful Goth Weekends are held in the town each year.

The Peak District

The best district in England for outdoors people.

The Peak District doesn't have a lot of peaks. You will find miles of tumbling moorland, plunging valleys, eroded gritstone crags and ancient pocket-sized villages. On summer weekends, this beautiful landscape attracts a veritable army of outdoor enthusiasts, including cyclists, hikers, cavers and rock climbers, while those seeking more relaxing enjoyment can see the rural market and famous puddings of Bakewell.

Person walking towards a small row of white cottages on a cliff. The white cliffs of Seven Sisters stretch out into the distance.
The stunning chalk cliffs of Seven Sisters roll on for four miles © David C Tomlinson / Getty Images

The Seven Sisters 

It's the best place for amazing views.

The white cliffs of Dover grab the most attention, but the Seven Sisters are a much more stunning sight. This four-mile roller-coaster of sheer white rock rollicks along the Sussex shore overlooking the waters of the English Channel, an impressive southern border to the South Downs National Park and most dramatic at the towering headland of Beachy Head is a must see. Hikes through the grassy clifftop fields give a wonderful view of the sea. The secluded beach in the tiny seaside hamlet ofBirling Gap is popular with locals and walkers.


It's the best place to listen to a sonnet.

William Shakespeare was born and died in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon. The Tudor streets are a living map of Shakespeare's life. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is famous for its large crowds of actors and theater lovers. Take a detour to the old stone church where Shakespeare was laid to rest after visiting the five historic houses owned by Shakespeare and his family.

James March is a destination expert. Some of the content in the print edition has been changed.

The article was first published about a year ago.