Consisting of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom (UK) has long been one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations. The country's appeal has much to do with its diverse scenery and rich cultural heritage. The best places to visit in the UK include everything from beautifully preserved country estates and castles, to its many world-class art galleries and museums.
One of the greatest pleasures of a UK vacation, however, is just how easy it is to explore this fascinating and diverse country. Thanks to its size - the UK could easily fit into the state of Texas (with room to spare) - you can base yourself in cities such as London or Liverpool and simply take a train, bus, or ferry to explore other areas.
From the nation's capital, a 90-minute train ride is all it takes to access beautiful Salisbury, and a short bus ride or tour from here will take you to one of the country's most recognizable attractions, Stonehenge. And if you want to hop between the Scottish cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, a one-hour train ride will deposit you in the heart of either city.
While it's possible to plan a trip to the UK without visiting London, it's certainly not to be advised. The nation's sprawling capital boasts plenty of attractions to keep you busy and beautiful resorts and hotels to make you comfortable.
For those interested in learning more about the UK's rich history, one of the top things to do in London is visit the Tower of London. Located beside the spectacular Tower Bridge on the banks of the River Thames, this former palace and prison includes highlights such as the iconic 1,000-year-old White Tower, with its fascinating displays of armor and weaponry, and the Jewel House, home to the Crown Jewels.
One of Scotland's most attractive cities, the capital city of Edinburgh is also one of the UK's most visited destinations. Popular for its many well-preserved historic buildings, Edinburgh is perhaps best known as the home of the majestic Edinburgh Castle.
Perched high above the old city on a rocky promontory, this 13th-century royal fortress includes highlights such as the famous One O'Clock Salute, held daily at Half Moon Battery, as well as the Scottish Crown Jewels in the Royal Palace. Also worth seeing are the Scottish National War Memorial and the famous Stone of Destiny (the Stone of Scone), only returned to Scotland after being held for 700 years in London.
From the castle, it's easy to explore the other most important historic sites in the city, most notably the Old Town's Royal Mile with its fine architecture, boutique shops, cafés, restaurants, and art galleries. It's also where you'll find the splendid old Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Although one of the UK's smaller cities, Bath more than makes up for its diminutive size with a multitude of things to see and do. Named after its famous Roman Baths, this beautiful city has been luring visitors to its healing waters for more than 2,000 years.
Gushing from three hot springs, the water-known to consist of 43 different minerals, hence its curative properties-travels upwards some 3,048 meters at a rate of 275,000 gallons per day, before spilling out at a consistent 46.5 degrees Celsius. While it's not possible to bathe in the original Roman Baths, a number of nearby spas — most notably the superb Thermae Bath Spa — offer guests the chance to enjoy the city's famous waters.
In addition to its ancient history, Bath is also famous for its lovely Georgian architecture. The best examples can be seen along the magnificent, curved Royal Crescent, with its palatial townhomes. One of them, No.1 Royal Crescent, is now a museum that offers a fascinating peek into life during Georgian times.
One of the planet's oldest World Heritage Sites, Stonehenge has been a place of pilgrimage for more than 4,500 years. It was believed to have been erected as a place of worship, but these days, the crowds consist of tourists drawn by the sheer scale of this magnificent monument to mankind's ingenuity.
It's a sprawling site, covering an area of more than 20 square kilometers and boasting a state-of-the-art visitor center. Here, you can catch a fascinating glimpse not only into the construction of Stonehenge, but also its history since then. Plan ahead and purchase a timed ticket for the day of your visit.
Be sure to also spend time exploring the nearby medieval city of Salisbury, located just 16 kilometers south of Stonehenge. You'll be rewarded with a chance to visit one of the country's most famous cathedrals, dating back to 1220 and home to an original Magna Carta. Afterwards, be sure to wander the old city center with its many fine churches and historic medieval architecture.
The historic town of Windsor, conveniently located a short train ride west of London, offers plenty of fun things to do for tourists. In addition to its lovely Thames-side setting and the many medieval half-timbered buildings along its quaint old cobblestone laneways, it's also home to spectacular Windsor Castle, the most famous of the UK's royal castles.
This grand old castle has served as the summer residence of British royalty for more than a millennium. It was started by William the Conqueror in 1078, and is the world's largest inhabited castle. Highlights include the splendid State Apartments containing the Queen's Gallery and dining hall, each with magnificently painted ceilings and woodcarvings, and St. George's Chapel, famous as the home of the Knights and Ladies of the ancient Order of the Garter.
When you've had your fill of these historic buildings, be sure to also spend time exploring the castle's large and beautiful grounds, almost 10 kilometers long. You'll enjoy some truly memorable panoramic views over Windsor and its castle.
Covering almost 1,287 square kilometers of pristine countryside, the beautiful Cotswolds is undoubtedly one of the most photographed corners of England. Its unrivaled pastoral scenery has earned it a reputation as one of the most beautiful places in the UK, ranking highly on many a traveler's bucket list.
Easy to get to from London and close to the popular tourist attractions of Bath and Bristol, the Cotswolds includes some of the best parts of the counties of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire.
Located in the northeast of England not far from the border with Scotland, the spectacular Lake District in Cumbria covers an area of 1,448 square kilometers. Not only is it considered one of the most magical places to visit in the UK for its beautiful scenery, its reputation as a place of romance and great culture will forever be associated with its most famous former resident, Beatrix Potter.
In fact, it was Potter who led the way with the conservation efforts that have preserved so much of the Lake District when she bequeathed her estate to the National Trust. Her one-time home near Sawrey, Hill Top, can (and should) be visited for its exhibits and artifacts.
Her legacy also set the stage for the establishment of Lake District National Park. Encompassing 12 of the country's largest lakes (Windermere and Ullswater are the biggest), this beautiful region is another famous place in the UK that's great to explore on foot. All told, the park boasts more than 3,218 kilometers of hiking and walking trails.
One of northern England's most popular tourist destinations, the medieval city of York, long the ecclesiastical capital of the Church of England, boasts one of the country's most magnificent cathedrals. The country's largest medieval church, York Minster can trace its roots back to the spread of Christianity in the 3rd century, although the splendid present Gothic structure was built almost 1,000 years later.
Highlights of a tour include the opportunity to view its 14th-century stained glass windows, plus the richly decorated interiors of the choir and north transept. Also worth a visit is the crypt, which contains parts of the original 11th-century church the cathedral now stands on.
Other landmarks worth exploring are the ancient City Walls, which stretch almost five kilometers around the old medieval city center. Along the way, you'll enjoy excellent views over The Shambles, a narrow 14th-century roadway, famous for its fine old timber-framed buildings, many of which hang over the street below. It's also an area known for its many restaurants and tearooms, as well as its many boutique shops and galleries.
One of the most significant places to visit in UK in summer is the Big Ben. It is, in fact, the name of the clock tower which is located near the Westminster Abbey in central London. The tower, designed by Augustus Pugin, is about a hundred metres tall. The place has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visited by hordes of tourists every year waiting to get clicked in front of it. It is one of the most prominent places to visit in United Kingdom and is often used by artists all over the world to represent the country.
Timings: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Location: Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, UK
Think London and the one thing that pops into everyone’s head is this giant Ferris wheel. Located on the river Thames, this popular wheel offers a panoramic view of London and its horizons, which makes it a huge favourite among tourist places in UK for young couples. The wheel stands at almost 140 metres tall, with 32 capsules at its circumference which is how people reach on the top. The place acts like an observation deck and the ride here is deemed extremely romantic as well, making it one of the best places to visit in UK for couples.
Timings: 10:00 AM to 8:30 PM
Location: Lambeth, London SE1 7PB, UK
A treat for all the history buffs, Stonehenge is a Neolithic site – one of the best places to visit in UK with kids. The site is close to Amesbury, England and is supposed to date back to 3000 BC. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986 and is supposed to have worked as either a burial ground or astronomy site of sorts. The beauty of the place lies in the mystery around it as well as no one exactly knows what the stones stand for or what its purpose exactly was. However, the place is surrounded by different neolithic burial grounds and monuments, which makes it one of the most important places to visit in United Kingdom.
Timings: 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Location: Amesbury, Salisbury SP4 7DE, UK
One of the top 5 places to visit in UK, Hyde is one of the four royal parks in London. Located near the Kensington Palace, the place was used as a hunting ground in the late 1600’s. Today, it is one of the major parks in the country and plays a significant role in the cultural scene of the city. It has become a place to reclaim free speech and also is known for holding music concerts from a long list of artists including Queen and Pink Floyd. The park is well connected with the famous London tube and the main roads, so reaching here is not a problem at all. Picnics here in autumn make it one of the most perfect places to visit in UK in October.
Timings: 5:00 AM to 12:00 AM
Location: London, UK
One of the most beautiful places to visit in UK, this freshwater lake (loch in Gaelic) is known for housing a monster called Nessie. Spread over an area of 30 kilometres, this lake is quite deep with large water volume. Scottish Highlands are also significantly important given their historical background. The place is filled with lush green mountains and is sparsely populated. The highest mountain of the region Ben Nevis is visited by many for hiking, trekking, biking and other such activities. It is one of the best tourist places in United Kingdom to visit in December.