Choosing the best holiday destinations in England is not an easy task. It might not be the biggest country in the world, but it’s got more than its fair share of places worth visiting. From thriving cities to beautiful beaches, rolling hills to royally approved islands, England offers plenty of choices when it comes to holidays.
But we’re here to help you pick the one that’s right for you. We’ve put together a list of places that have been English vacation favorites for centuries. And we’ve got a couple of options for you whether you’re after the seaside, the city, or breathtaking scenery.
We can’t promise you won’t still be spoilt for choice at the end, but at least we’ll have narrowed the choices down for you! So here are our top 9 best holiday destinations in England.
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30 million tourists flock to London every year, making it the clear winner of all the holiday destinations in England. And with good reason. It’s one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth with an astoundingly diverse population, more attractions than you could visit in a year, and new ones being created all the time.
One of the major joys of London is that it can be visited at any time of year, whatever the season – and whatever the weather – you’ll find plenty to entertain you in the UK’s capital city. Equally, whatever it is that you’re looking for from your holiday, be it a walk back through history, an education in art and culture, a high fashion shopping spree, a festival of music, sport or food, you’ll find something to suit you. Just walking the streets of London is an experience, with its red phone boxes, black cabs, and London underground, everything about this city is iconic and you’ll find a famous sight or a new experience around every corner.
Undoubtedly one of the top holiday destinations in England is the beautiful coastal region of Cornwall. It’s famed for its many glorious beaches, which often rank as some of the best in Europe. It’s the place to enjoy a proper British seaside holiday, with sandcastles, sticks of rock, fish and chips, Cornish pasties, and cream teas!
But it’s not just about the buckets and spades; Cornwall appeals to many different holidaymakers. Its rugged coastline and Atlantic swell is a favorite for surfers, while foodies are drawn by the growing numbers of celebrity chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants. Hikers and nature lovers enjoy exploring the wilds of Bodmin Moor and the isolated peninsula of Lands End. History and heritage hunters head there to follow the trails of tin miners, merchants, and smugglers. And of course, numerous stag and hen parties have felt the pull of the bright lights and nightclubs of Newquay.
The Lake District
The Lake District in Cumbria is a place of astounding natural beauty and easily one of the most popular holiday destinations in England, attracting millions of tourists every year. When The Lake District was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2017, the judges praised not only its beauty but also the inspiration it has given to artists and writers over the years. In fact, many visitors to the area come purely for the chance to walk in the footsteps of such greats as Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, Turner, and Constable.
It’s also a firm favorite with nature lovers, campers, wildlife watchers, and hikers who come to scale its many famous peaks. And of course, watersports enthusiasts who sail, SUP board, windsurf, kayak, swim, wakeboard, and generally make the most of the many lakes that give the region its name.
And whatever the reason for the visit, everyone enjoys the wonderful food and drink scene. The Lake District is filled with atmospheric old restaurants and pubs tucked behind dry stone walls, serving real ale, obscure whisky and a mixture of Michelin starred and traditional homemade fare.
The lake district is also very popular with dog owners, who find the accommodation, pubs, and activities to be extremely welcoming to their canine friends.
If you’re looking for the picture-perfect England of your dreams, you’ll probably find it in the Cotswolds. This region of England is home to more pretty villages than anywhere else in the country. The Cotswolds cover an area of almost 800 square miles, stretch across 5 counties, and are a designated Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The region is characterized by rolling green hills and meadows, interspersed with pretty little villages built from the area’s signature golden-colored stone. You should expect to see (and photograph) quaint cottages, stone bridges arching over pretty streams, woolen mills, village greens, market squares, and traditional pubs with idyllic beer gardens.
Like the lake district, the Cotswolds is a favorite for walkers who tackle the miles of designated hiking trails through the hills and farmlands. And for literary types who come to follow in the footsteps of the greats such as JM Barrie, Lewis Caroll, and Graeme Green.
Its also home to one of Britain’s most ridiculous but beloved events, the annual cheese rolling competition at Coopers Hill, just outside of Brockworth, Gloucester. In case you’re unaware, that’s when hundreds of people race down an incredibly steep hill in pursuit of a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese and eternal glory. Yes, really.
Bath’s popularity as a holiday destination began in Roman times when it was a hub of relaxation, wellness, and rest. And they weren’t the only ones who loved this city; it was a favorite of Jane Austen’s too. In her works, the city repeatedly features as the cosmopolitan town her characters visit for a little fashion, elegant society, and some light husband-hunting. While you might not have quite the same aims in mind today, you’ll still find it to be an elegant city, full of fashionable establishments, historic attractions, and unique sights.
Every year over 1 million visitors head to the city to view the original Roman Baths and to bathe in the healing thermal waters of the Thermae Bath Spa. Another major city attraction is the Georgian architecture of such places as The Royal Crescent, The Circus, and the Assembly Rooms. The honey-colored bath stone used for these buildings is one of the reasons Bath is regularly voted one of the most beautiful cities in the UK. On top of that, the entire city has been named a Unesco World Heritage site for its beauty and cultural importance.
Isle of Wight
If it was good enough for Queen Victoria, then it’s good enough for us! Actually, this little island off the south coast of England is a beautiful holiday destination, even without the royal recommendation. But if you love a bit of Royal Family history, you can visit their holiday home, Osborne House.
For everyone else, it’s generally about the beaches and the climate. As one of the sunniest spots in the UK, with an astounding range of beaches, it’s a perfect summer holiday destination. So laze the days away on long golden sand stretches, or head to rugged, shingle beaches better suited for dog walkers and nature lovers. Hikers and cyclists will find plenty of trails crisscrossing the island, and sightseers won’t run out of dramatic coastal scenery, picture-perfect thatched cottages, medieval ruins, and stately homes.
Check the calendar before you visit because this little island hosts a lot of events! There are festivals for everything from garlic to gin, plus Cowes Week for all things yacht-related, and the Isle of Wight Proms for classical music, comedy, and theatre. And, of course, Bestival and The Isle of Wight Festival, which brings world-class headliners and thousands of music lovers to the island every year.
Manchester is England’s (unofficial) second city and the capital of the North of England. It’s a wonderful, vibrant city packed with sights, activities, and the unique spirit of the Mancunian people. This is the city that started the Industrial Revolution, pioneered Women’s Suffrage, educated 25 Nobel Prize winners, gave us Oasis, two of the world’s best football teams, and the world’s longest-running soap opera.
If you’re after an action-packed city break, this could be the destination for you, whether you’re after some retail therapy, a little art and culture, or a bit of urban exploring. Maybe you want to watch a premiership football match or catch a gig at Europe’s largest indoor arena. Or maybe you want to experience some of the best nightlife in the UK. Whatever you’re after, this city can provide.
But it’s not just about the city itself. Manchester is known as the ‘Gateway to the North’ because it’s ideally placed as a base of exploration for other beautiful destinations. The Peak District, Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and North Wales are all within easy distance, as is Liverpool if you fancy exploring another city.
Sometimes known as ‘London by the Sea’, Brighton is a brilliant destination for those who want a seaside holiday with a difference. You’ve got the beach with all its seaside amenities and activities. You can eat ice cream and fish and chips, visit the pier and play on the amusements. You can swim and sail and sunbathe. But you can also enjoy the wonderfully cosmopolitan atmosphere that comes from being only an hour’s train ride from London.
Brighton has long been a popular holiday destination for Londoners, and where the Londoners go, the trends tend to follow. So in Brighton, you’ll find the art, theatre, dining, nightlife, and music scenes of a much bigger city. But it’s not all hand-me-downs from its big city sister. Brighton has a vibrant personality all of its own. It attracts people with artistic flair, hippy spirit, and alternative lifestyles, so you’ll find the city full of quirky bars, independent shops, bohemian street art, and hipster cafes. And of course, Brighton wouldn’t be Brighton without its famously active LGBTQ+ community, diverse population, and inclusive attitudes.
The south coast of England gets a lot of attention, but what about up north? Northumberland is as far north as you can go without straying into Scotland, and it’s one of the most beautiful and under-visited holiday destinations in England.
Northumberland is one of the least populated places in the country. It is a land of wide-open spaces, deserted national parks, and beautiful beaches with barely anyone else in sight – unless you count the seals and the puffins! And the lack of population has another bonus, no light pollution! So you can enjoy some of the clearest night skies in the whole country.
Spend your holiday strolling rugged beaches, watching rare wildlife, hiking through ancient river valleys and heather-covered moors. Go for a stroll along historic Hadrian’s Wall, and explore the many castles – including Alnwick Castle of Harry Potter fame. And when you can’t walk any further, hunt down the most traditional country pub you can find and have a pot of Earl Grey Tea, (created in Northumberland), or a well-deserved pint of local ale.
So, do you think you can pick your next holiday destination from that list of England’s top spots? If you still can’t decide, well, then you’d better visit them all!