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Things to Do in England

England is a small yet mighty country brimming with culture, history, and charm. London, the jewel of England’s architectural crown, reigns supreme over the south and enjoys a close proximity to the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Bath. Elsewhere, Oxford and Cambridge encompass intellectual grandeur; York’s Gothic abbey exudes a ghostly ambience; and coastal gems such as Brighton, Dover, and Cornwall offer family-friendly attractions and the chance to visit Britain’s beaches. Whether you want to experience the bright lights of London, the tranquil beauty of the Lake District, or the deep-rooted history of English cities, England’s cultural diversity offers something for everyone.
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Newcastle Castle
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Newcastle’s oldest building, Newcastle Castle comprises a 12th-century keep and the 13th-century Black Gate gatehouse. Once part of a huge fortress, the two separate, restored fortifications offer the chance to roam ancient chambers, chart the castle’s and city’s history, and soak in sweeping views of Newcastle’s Quayside.

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Salisbury Cathedral
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With its dramatic Gothic facade and Britain’s highest church spire at an impressive 404 feet (123 m), the Salisbury Cathedral is one of the country’s most visited religious monuments, drawing some 250,000 visitors each year. As well as admiring the cathedral’s remarkable 13th-century architecture and exquisite stained-glass windows, visitors can climb the 332 steps to the top of the tower for a magnificent view of Salisbury.

The cathedral’s star attraction is an original copy of the 1215 Magna Carta, one of the world’s most famous and significant documents that remains a cornerstone of British law. An interactive Magna Carta exhibition walks visitors through the historic events of its legacy of social justice. The cathedral also holds the world’s oldest working mechanical clock, which dates back to 1386, and afternoon tea in the Bell Tower Tearooms.

The best way to discover the cathedral is on a 90-minute guided tour of Salisbury, with entrance included. Many visitors opt to visit on a day trip from London, often combined with a visit to nearby Stonehenge or Avebury stone circle.

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Canterbury Cathedral
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Discover a national symbol and gain insight into England’s history at the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Canterbury Cathedral. Dating back to 597, the site has held religious significance for centuries, drawing pilgrims to the location of Thomas Becket’s murder and visitors interested in its medieval towers, chapels, and stained-glass windows.

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LEGOLAND® Windsor
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With more than 2 million annual visitors, LEGOLAND® Windsor is the second most visited theme park in the United Kingdom. Just about everything in the park incorporates multi-colored LEGO® bricks, from adrenaline-fuelled rides and interactive entertainment zones to cars and building workshops.

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Roman Baths
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This first-century Roman bathhouse complex was a meeting point for patricians who came to bathe, drink the curative waters, and socialize. The baths fell out of use with the Roman exodus from Britain but were rediscovered and excavated in the late-19th century. Explore the Great Bath, which is filled with steaming, mineral-rich water from Bath’s hot springs.

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Poole Harbour
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A large natural harbor along the coast of Dorset, Poole Harbour is the centerpiece of its namesake town, flowing into Poole Quay and Upton Lake. With miles of rugged coastline and beaches, the harbor is a hotspot for water sports like windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddleboarding, while Poole Quay is home to an atmospheric promenade, lined with shops, cafés and restaurants.

Poole Harbour is also the starting point for ferries to nearby Brownsea Island, as well as boat cruises along England’s UNESCO-listed Jurassic Coast, affording spectacular views of natural wonders such as Old Harry Rocks, Studland Bay and Swanage bay along the way. For the full experience, you can even combine a cruise to Swanage Bay, with a ride on the Swanage Railway heritage steam train and explore the dramatic Dorset coastline from both land and sea.

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Shakespeare's Houses & Gardens
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The medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of iconic wordsmith William Shakespeare. Visitors can follow in the literary giant’s footsteps by exploring some of his homes and gardens—there are five in town, each offering a fascinating insight into Shakespeare’s life and works.

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Etihad Stadium (City of Manchester Stadium)
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The mighty Etihad, also known as the City of Manchester Stadium, is the home of Manchester City Football Club. Built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the award-winning venue is among the UK’s largest with seating for more than 55,000. In addition to football games, the stadium hosts live concerts, other sports matches, and stadium tours.

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Trinity College
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As the largest of all the Cambridge University colleges, Trinity College is also one of the most prestigious, boasting an impressive list of former students. Alumni include 6 British Prime Ministers, 32 Nobel Prize winners and two members of the British royal family, along with luminaries like Isaac Newton and Lord Byron.

Today, the famous college also makes a popular destination for visitors to Cambridge and many parts of the college are open to the public. Highlights of the college, which was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, include the central Great Court, laid out by Thoman Nevile in the early 17th-century; the Grade I listed Trinity College Chapel; the Great Gate; and the enormous Trinity Hall. The masterful Wren Library is another must-see, designed by Christopher Wren in 1676 and home to busts of many notable writers, as well as a full-size statue of Lord Byron.

Admiring the college’s architectural highlights isn’t the only draw for visitors - Trinity College also hosts a series of public lectures; services and concerts in the Trinity college chapel are open to the public; and the college offers punt hire along the River Cam.

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King's College
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Founded in 1441 by King Henry VI and an integral part of the prestigious Cambridge University, the King's College is arguably the grandest and most famous of Cambridge’s many colleges. With alumni including Britain’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole; mathematician Alan Turing; and novelists Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith, King’s College has a long legacy of academics, but it’s also renowned for its magnificent grounds.

Visitors to King’s College can explore the striking college buildings, which took around 100 years to build, as well as the landscaped gardens and classical lawns that stretch along the River Cam waterfront. The star attraction is the King’s College Chapel, one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the UK, and celebrated for its choral recitals. It’s also possible for guests to spend a night on campus or enjoy a traditional afternoon tea at the university café.

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More Things to Do in England

University of Oxford

University of Oxford

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The oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford is the main draw to the riverside town of Oxford. With a history dating back to the 11th century, the university’s many colleges offer a wealth of gorgeous historical architecture—not to mention settings for movies including theHarry Potter series.

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Brighton Dome

Brighton Dome

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Made up of three unique performance spaces, the Brighton Dome is a pillar of the English south coast’s cultural heritage. First the stable block of a young George IV, then a World War I hospital, the 200-year-old venue is now known as a champion of Brighton’s creative scene.

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Queens' College

Queens' College

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First established in 1448, Queens' College is one of Cambridge University’s oldest colleges, taking its name from founders Queen Margaret and Queen Elizabeth (the Queens of Henry VI and Edward IV respectively). With its grand medieval buildings and prime waterfront location on the banks of the River Cam, it’s a striking and highly photogenic site, making it a popular choice for visitors to the city.

A number of areas at Queens’ College are open to the public and visitors can explore the Old Hall, Chapel and cloisters, and see the President's Lodge, the oldest building on campus. Perhaps the most famous landmark of the Queens’ College is the Mathematical Bridge, a historic wooden footbridge that runs over the River Cam and connects the college buildings on the river’s east and west banks. Built by William Etheridge in 1748, the unique bridge is a remarkable feat of engineering, leading to the popular (but false) legend that it was built by Cambridge University alumnus Isaac Newton – who actually died years before it was built.

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London Eye

London Eye

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The London Eye offers unparalleled views of central London's world-famous landmarks from its prime location on the Thames River waterfront, opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The gigantic, 443-foot-high observation wheel was built to mark the millennium in 2000 and quickly became one of the most popular paid attractions in the United Kingdom.

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York Minster

York Minster

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This cavernous medieval cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece. Focal points include the 16th-century stained glass Rose Window, which was painstakingly pieced back together following a fire in 1984, and the soaring central tower, the top of which offers panoramic views of York.

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Brunel's SS Great Britain

Brunel's SS Great Britain

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Making headlines as the largest ship in the world when it was launched back in 1843, Brunel's SS Great Britain was a revolutionary work of engineering, spearheaded by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Today, the mighty ship remains an important part of Britain’s maritime heritage, now a museum ship that stands proud on Bristol’s waterfront and draws up to 200,000 annual visitors.

Visitors to the SS Great Britain can explore below deck, dress in Victorian costumes, climb the rigging, and peek into the engine rooms, kitchens and crew quarters. Interactive on-board exhibitions tell the story of the ship’s great voyages, including accounts from passengers, crew, and ship captain, Captain Gray; the ship’s many engineering innovations; and its triumphant restoration and return to Bristol in 1970.

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Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

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With its castle-like façade perched on the East Cliff and idyllic leafy gardens sloping down to the seafront, it’s impossible to miss the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. The Grade II-listed heritage building was built in 1901 for Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes to house their growing private collection of art and artifacts. The remarkably preserved Art Nouveau mansion, along with its contents, was gifted to the city of Bournemouth in 1908 and formally opened as the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in 1922.

Today, the striking Art Nouveau building is as celebrated for its unique architecture and attractive gardens, as it is for its lavish interiors and sizable art collection. The gallery’s permanent exhibitions include a significant collection of European and Japanese works, dating mostly from the 19th- and early 20th-century, while the museum hosts a magnificent array of souvenirs collected by the Russell-Cotes on their world travels. As well as visiting the galleries and museum, visitors can explore the beautiful grounds and gardens, or take in the views from the on-site café.

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Alton Towers

Alton Towers

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Alton Towers is a theme park in central England that is famous for its hair-raising rides. Opened in the 1980s, the park quickly became one of the most popular days out in the UK. Visit to enjoy a variety of roller coasters and a water park, as well as mini golf and other family-friendly fun.

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Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral

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Exeter’s Anglican cathedral dates back to the 12th century, though the current structure was completed around 1400. The cathedral’s unique architectural features provide insight into its rich history, including 13th-century misericords, Sir Gilbert Scott choir stalls, and the world’s longest uninterrupted medieval vaulted ceiling.

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Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

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Sitting on a 150-ft (46-m) volcanic outcrop overlooking the North Sea on one side and a cute little town of the same name on the other, Bamburgh Castle began life in Anglo-Saxon times as the fortified home of the kings of Northumberland. By the 12th century the massive stone keep was in place; this is the oldest part of the castle as most of what stands today is a Victorian folly. It is the result of rebuilding in the 19th century by the wealthy industrialist Lord Armstrong, who was also responsible for creating Cragside House nearby, where hydroelectricity was first used in 1863. Today Bamburgh is still the private home of the Armstrong family, and a tour of its interior winds through impressive staterooms laden with decorative arts from Sèvres porcelain to medieval weaponry.

Outside there are Victorian stables, gatehouses and towers to explore as well as the Armstrong and Aviation Museum in the old laundry, showcasing Lord Armstrong’s life alongside aircraft dating from the two world wars. The castle’s Anglo Saxon history is still being uncovered and archeologists work there throughout the summer; a series of family-friendly live events, from traditional craft displays to open-air theater, also take place on the Battery Terrace.

Rated as one of the finest castles in the UK, Bamburgh has spectacular views out to the Farne Islands, which are havens for seabirds, and Lindisfarne, where St Aidan founded a monastery in the seventh century.

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Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle

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A monument to Britain’s past, the grand Leeds Castle is among Europe’s best preserved medieval landmarks, with more than nine centuries of history represented. Sprawled over 500 acres (202 hectares) and surrounded by a regal moat, the stone castle and its gardens offer a peek into the past as well as a variety of present-day, quintessentially English events and activities.

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Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

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A neo-Gothic masterpiece, Highclere Castle is best known for doubling as Downton Abbey in the much-loved TV series of the same name. The turreted, sandstone mansion was created by Sir Charles Barry, the architect behind England’s Houses of Parliament. The site upon which it stands has been in the hands of the Carnarvon family since the 17th century, and the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon now welcome the public to explore the lavishly decorated interior, the Egyptian Exhibition, and the 1,000-acre (405-hectare) Capability Brown–designed grounds.

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The Lanes

The Lanes

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Climbing up the hillside from the waterfront, the maze of shopping streets known as “The Lanes” make up Brighton’s most atmospheric quarter. The pedestrianized area is home to more than 200 independent shops, galleries, and antique stores, along with a great selection of cafés, restaurants, and historic pubs.

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Bodleian Library

Bodleian Library

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Located in central Oxford in a complex of historic buildings, the venerable Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. It’s the main research library for the University of Oxford and also a copyright library, housing every book printed in the UK and Ireland, a collection of more than 12 million printed items.

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