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If you are planning a trip to England there are so many wonderful and beautiful places to add into your itinerary that you may be struggling to decide. With so many lovely towns, amazing castles, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, museums and more it can feel a little overwhelming especially if you have limited time.

To help with your planning I am going to look at 12 of the best cities in England to visit. There are 51 official cities in England so picking just 12 has been difficult. I have visited all of these cities (by train) and they all offer the visitor lots to do and see.

These are my top 12 cities to visit in England (in no particular order) with information about the main attractions (in and near the city) and travel time from London by train (some of these cities also feature in my article detailing recommended day trips from London by train) as I know London can be a great base for UK travels. It is also designed as an introduction to each city but if you want to know more there are links to additional posts which give more in-depth guides to what to see and do in the particular cities that interest you.

There is a map showing the various locations of the cities at the bottom of the post.

 

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LIVERPOOL


The Beatles statue in Liverpool - best cities in England

 

Distance from London: 178 miles

Time taken by train: 2 hours 30 mins

Leave from: London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street (hourly direct service)

***

Liverpool is the home of the Beatles, a pretty awesome football club (my husband made me write that) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also has numerous restaurants, bars, and museums to visit.

 

What to see and do in Liverpool

 

  • Royal Albert Dock Liverpool

The docks and warehouses which were opened in 1846 now form part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed ‘Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City” With bars, restaurants, shops and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site the Albert Dock is the place to head in Liverpool.

  • Tate Liverpool

Also situated at the Royal Albert Dock is the Tate Liverpool which houses a collection of modern art. The museum is open Monday to Sunday between 10.00 and 17.50. Entry is free except for special exhibitions.

  • Love the Beatles? 

Its been a hard day’s night… head to the Cavern Club arguably (as it states on their website) the most famous club in the world. The Royal Albert Dock is also home to the Beatles Story an exhibition all about Liverpool’s most famous sons. And while at the waterfront don’t forget to take a selfie of yourself posing with the statues of Ringo, John, Paul and George!

  • Another Place

If you are looking for something different to do in Liverpool why not head to Crosby to see Anthony Gormley’s Another Place? The 100 cast iron life size figures standing on a 3 km stretch of Crosby beach are an amazing sight!

 

More information | Royal Albert Dock | Tate Liverpool | The Cavern Club | Beatles Story 

 

Liverpool docks and the Liver building
Royal Albert docks and the Royal Liver Building (a Grade I listed building near the city’s waterfront

 


MANCHESTER


 

Distance from London: 163 miles

Time taken by train: 2 hours 30 mins

Leave from: London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly 

***

Associated with an outstanding music legacy (it was the home of  bands such as Oasis, the Stone Rose and the Smiths) and football Manchester is another great northern city to add into your UK travel itinerary. Manchester was also where my daughter lived for 4 years so I have asked for her top recommendations for visitors.

 

What to see and do in Manchester

  • Northern Quarter

Explore the Northern Quarter a trendy neighbourhood of Manchester with street art, bars and cafes. Pop into Federal for brunch and then Afflecks for cocktails and drinks.

  • Salford Quays 

The Lowry is a theatre and gallery complex situated in the Salford Quays area of Manchester. Take in a show or browse the art.

  • Chinatown

The second largest Chinatown in the UK with lots of great restaurants and shops. Head there for Chinese New Year celebrations and the best bubble tea anywhere.

 

More information | Chinatown | Salford Quays | Northern Quarter | Federal | Afflecks

 

 


NEWCASTLE


A view from the Millenium Bridge towards the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle

 

Distance from London: 247 miles

Time taken by train: 3 hours 

Leave from: London Kings Cross to Newcastle Central Station

***

Situated in the ceremonial county of Tyne and Wear (and the historic county of Northumberland) Newcastle with its industrial heritage, famous nightlife, football team and Brown Ale is also my home city. If you are not from the UK you may find the distinctive regional accent – Geordie – a little difficult to understand but the warmth and friendliness of the people will easily make up for any difficulties.

Newcastle is also a great starting point for a road trip along the Northumberland Coast. With more castles than any other county and the remains of the Roman Wall stretching from Wallsend in the east to Cumbria in the west it is easy to spend a week or more exploring the sights of Northumberland.

 

What to see and do in Newcastle

 

  • Tyne Bridge

The iconic structure and symbol of Newcastle the Tyne Bridge was opened in 1928. Strikingly similar to the Sydney Harbour Bridge (it was designed and built by the same company) it is however 3 times shorter and half the height of its Aussie twin.

  • The Angel of the North

Although technically in Gateshead (a town on the southern bank of the river Tyne) the Angel of the North cannot be missed when visiting Newcastle. Created by the sculptor Anthony Gormley and standing on a hill overlooking the A1 motorway this beautiful landmark welcomes visitors to the region. At 20 meters high and with a wingspan of 54 meters the Angel of the North is reputed to be the largest angel sculpture in the world. It is accessible by both car and public transport.

  • The Quayside

With great restaurants and bars The Quayside is the place to head for a night out in Newcastle. It is also home to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (the world’s only tilting bridge and yes another iconic bridge spanning the Tyne river) If you enjoy modern art the BALTIC art gallery can be found on the opposite bank or if markets are more your thing the Quayside market on a Sunday sells local produce and crafts.

  • Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum

To learn more about Roman Britain head to the Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum in Wallsend.

 

More information | Angel of the North | Segudunum Roman Fort and Museum | The Quayside

 

The Angel of the North in Newcastle

 


DURHAM


Durham Cathedral

 

Distance from London:  234 miles

Time taken by train: 2 hours 50 mins

Leave from: London Kings Cross to Durham

***

The university town of Durham with its magnificent old centre, castle and cathedral (which are also jointly a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is one of England’s most beautiful cities.

Durham is an easy day trip from London especially during the long sunny days of summer. If you are driving I would recommend making use of the Park and Ride scheme as parking in the city is difficult at the best of times. Make sure to head up the hill to the cathedral and castle and enjoy beautiful views over the River Wear.

 

What to see and do in Durham

 

  • Durham Cathedral

Home of the Shrine of St Cuthbert construction of Durham Cathedral started in 1093.  Built in the Norman style with huge stone pillars supporting a stone ceiling the the cathedral contains the remains of two saints – St Cuthbert and St Bede. Although the stained glass which filled the church was destroyed during the Reformation today you can enjoy the beautiful 18th century Rose window.

  • Durham Castle

Opposite the cathedral is Durham Castle. The castle is another Norman construction designed to display the power of William the Conqueror over the rebellious natives who lived in the north. The castle now belongs to Durham University.

  • Beamish Museum

If you are spending a few days in Durham or road tripping round the north of England I would highly recommend a visit to Beamish Open Air Museum just outside Durham. The museum gives visitors a taste of life in the North East of England during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

More information | Durham Cathedral | Durham Castle | Beamish Museum

 

Durham Castle

 


YORK


 

Distance from London: 174 miles

Time taken by train: 2 hours 50 mins

Leave from: London Kings Cross to York

***

This walled city in North Yorkshire with its beautiful Minster, cobbled streets and links to an ancient past involving both Romans and Vikings is the perfect destination for a weekend break or day trip. Easily accessible by train it is a compact and walkable city with great restaurants, quirky shops and lots of museums.

 

What to see and do in York

 

  • York Minster

The Mister which dates back to the 7th century dominates the York skyline. Climb the Central Tower for great views of the city or take a journey through its interactive underground chambers and find out more about the history of York and the Minster.

  • National Railway Museum

If you like trains then a visit to the railway museum in York is a must. Entrance is free and there are some great trains to explore including the Mallard, a Japanese bullet train and Queen Victoria’s favourite saloon.

  • The Shambles

Taking a stroll down the cobble-stoned Shambles is like stepping back in time. Dating back to Medieval England the street with its overhanging wooden buildings is filled with quirky shops.

  • Take afternoon tea at Bettys Tea Rooms! 

An absolute institution in England so make sure you book well in advance. Open since 1936 enjoy tea and cakes in the beautiful art deco surroundings.

 

More information | York Minster | National Railway Museum | The Shambles | Bettys Tea Rooms in York  | Visiting York with kids | Budget travel guide to York

 

READ MORE – 10 MUST-DO DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON BY TRAIN »

 


CHESTER


Chester half timbered houses

 

Distance from London: 163 miles

Time taken by train: 2 hours 

Leave from: London Euston to Chester

***

Chester, like York is a walled city who also has its roots in Roman England. It is a pretty city with loads of character and boasts the most complete city walls as well as the largest Roman Amphitheatre in Britain. Don’t miss the beautiful half-timbered houses on Watergate Street and Lower Bridge Street during your visit.

 

What to see and do in Chester

 

  • The Rows

The Rows are galleries which form a second row of shops above those at street level. They have to be reached by steps and are the only shops built like this in the world. They are found along the main city centre streets and contain shops, bars and restaurants.

  • Chester’s city walls

Walk the 2 mile circuit around the city and spot many historically significant sites along the way including the four main gates into Chester.

  • Chester Cathedral in particular the Cathedral Choir

Don’t miss the beautiful 14th century stalls in the choir area of the Cathedral.

 

More information | The Rows | Chester City Walls | Chester Cathedral

 

Chester street with medieval buildings

 


BATH


The Roman Baths in Bath England

 

Distance from London: 94 miles / 152 km

Time taken by train: 2 hours 28

Leave from:  London Paddington

***

The beautiful city of Bath is one of the most popular tourist destinations in England. With its Roman legacy, stunning architecture and quintessentially English character is merits at the very least a day to enjoy its sites.

 

What to see and do in Bath

 

  • The Roman Baths

Built over 2000 years ago the Roman Baths are one of England’s top tourist attractions. Plan at least 2 hours to explore the Roman Temple, Bath House, Sacred Spring and museum. Don’t miss the Grand Pump Room which is next to the Baths and serves refreshments including afternoon tea,

  • Admire the Royal Crescent

Built between 1767 and 1774 the Royal Crescent is a row of 30 houses laid out in a crescent shape. They are a beautiful example of Georgian architecture and incredibly expensive to buy! Take a selfie at the crescent then head over to the park for an ice cream and a stroll in the beautiful gardens.

 

More information | The Roman BathsGrand Pump Room | The Royal Crescent

 

The Royal Crescent in Bath

 


BRISTOL


 

Distance from London: 104 miles / 167 km

Time taken by train: 1 h 49

Leave from: London Paddington

***

Bristol is the home of Banksy probably the world’s most famous (and richest) street artist. It is also a great shopping destination with loads of independent retailers to enjoy. Food and drink is also topnotch in Bristol with numerous restaurants and cafes to choose from.

Before Banksy stole the limelight Bristol was synonymous with the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Probably the most prolific mechanical and civil engineer in history Brunel built bridges, tunnels, steamships and railways and was one of the greatest figures during the Industrial Revolution.

 

What to see and do in Bristol

 

  • Clifton Suspension Bridge

Designed by Brunel this 150 year old suspension bridge is a toll bridge linking Clifton in Bristol with Leigh Woods in North Somerset.  There are free tours available at 3pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays between Easter and October for those of you with an interest in engineering!

  • Bristol Shopping Quarter

The Bristol Shopping Quarter is home to hundreds of shops, restaurants, cafes and attractions – shop, eat, drink and enjoy!

  • Take a walking tour of Banksy’s art 

If you are a fan of Banksy’s work why not take one of 3 great free walking tours written by some Bristol locals to guide you around the work.

 

More information | Banksy walking tours | Bristol Shopping Quarter | Clifton Suspension Bridge

 

 


OXFORD


The Redcliffe Camera in Oxford England

 

Distance from London: 52 miles / 83 km

Time taken by train: 1 hour

Leave from: London Paddington/ London Marylebone

***

One of my favourite cities to visit is Oxford. It is a compact and very walkable city with wonderful architecture to admire. The world famous Oxford University with its 38 colleges offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into English traditions and a way of life dating back hundreds of years.

 

What to see and do in Oxford

 

  • Oxford University

One of the most famous universities in the world Oxford University is comprised of 38 colleges. Founded in the 13th century its alumni include  international heads of state including numerous British Prime Ministers,  Nobel prize winners, famous authors, and many well known actors.

Wander the colleges and soak in the scholarly atmosphere of this famous seat of learning. Don’t miss the Bodleain Library and Redcliffe Camera at the university.

  • The Covered Market 

If you are looking for a bite to eat head to the Covered Market.  Opened in 1774 there are lots of shops and stalls to browse as well as a great choice of places for lunch.

  • Blenheim Palace

If you decide to spend more than a day in Oxford I would recommend a trip to Blenheim Palace the home of the Duke of Marlborough. It was also the  birthplace of Winston Churchill and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

More information  | Bodleian Library  | Blenheim Palace  | Walking tour with a University alumni guide

 

Oxford University - a queue of people going into the University

 


BRIGHTON


Brighton view of buildings

 

Distance from London: 47 miles (75 km)

Time taken by train: 1 hour 22

Leave from: London Blackfriars/ London Victoria

***

The charming seaside city of Brighton is located on the south coast of England. Popular during the 18th and 19th centuries as a destination for wealthy Londoners (including King George IV during his time as Prince Regent) its Regency architecture, beautiful parks and laid back atmosphere are not to be missed.

 

What to see and do in Brighton

 

  • The Brighton Pavilion

The Brighton Pavilion, built by King George IV when he was Prince Regent and at enormous expense to the country,  is opulently decorated and filled to the brim with exquisite furnishings.

  • Brighton Palace Pier

Brighton’s famous pier was opened in 1899. It is a Grade II listed structure and an iconic symbol of the city.

  • The Lanes

Brighton has a great atmosphere and there is no-where better to enjoy this than in The Lanes. Packed with restaurants, tea rooms, pubs and shops these narrow alleyways are a shopper’s paradise.

 

More information | Brighton Pavilion | The Lanes | Brighton Palace Pier

 

The Brighton Pavilion
The exquisite Brighton Pavilion – a small indication of what to expect inside!

 


Nottingham


 

Distance from London: 108 miles

Time taken by train: 2 hours 

Leave from: London St Pancras International to Nottingham

***

Think of Nottingham and the first thing that generally springs to mind is the legend of Robin Hood. You can visit the Robin Hood pub, eat fish and chips at the Robin Hood fish bar, take a selfie at the Robin Hood statue and even travel back in time with the Robin Hood experience.

 

What to see and do in Nottingham

 

  • Nottingham Castle

At present the castle is closed until 2020 after receiving a huge grant for redevelopment but it promises to be a world class destination once completed. In the meantime here are some other great suggestions!

  • Wollaton Hall

Built in the 1580s Wollaton Hall is set in 500 acres of beautiful parkland. The house itself is a magnificent example of Elizabethan and Jacobean archtiecture. Don’t miss the beautiful deer who roam the grounds.

  • Old Market Square 

The largest market square in England sits in the heart of the city. Visit in December for the visiting German Christmas market.

  • City of Caves

Explore a network of over 500 caves underneath the city of Nottingham. The caves provided shelter during the bombing raids of WWII and have been used since medieval times by inhabitants of the city.

⇒ Read my insider’s guide to Nottingham for more information about what to see and do in this Midlands city.

 

More information | Wollaton Hall | City of Caves

 

Deer at Wollaton Hall in nottinghamshire
Deer roam the grounds of Wollaton Hall

 


LONDON


 

And of course no list of must-visit cities in England would be complete without including the capital London. London is a huge city with so much to see and do starting with the inevitable main sights of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London.

If you enjoy shopping head to Covent Garden, Harrods and Oxford Street which always feature on my itinerary.

 

What to see and do in London

 

There is far too much to do and see in London to include in this short paragraph but I do have a number of posts to read which cover some great places and experiences. I am adding new posts all the time so why not subscribe to receive my monthly newsletter as well as access to my travel resource library? Here are a few ideas –

  • Love Botanical Gardens? Head to Kew Gardens
  • Love history? Head to the Tower of London
  • Love the Royal Family? Head to Buckingham Palace
  • Love shopping? Head to Covent Garden
  • Love museums? Head to the British Museum
  • Love art? Head to the Tate Modern
  • Love markets? Head to Borough Market
  • Love Harry Potter? Head to Leadenhall Market (Diagon Alley) and Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station

 

More information | Kew Gardens | Tower of London | Buckingham Palace | Covent Garden | British Museum | Tate Modern | Borough Market | Leadenhall Market | Platform 9 3/4

 


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Author: Tracy

Over the last 50 years I have lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to many more. I enjoy exploring and learning about new places and meeting people on my travels. History, reading, photography, nature and wildlife are my interests and I am ALWAYS researching and planning my next trip (preferably by train)

With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, I share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help YOU travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Come and join me as I travel the world one country (and train journey) at a time!

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