London dominates discussions of British tourism, and with good reason. It’s an incredible town, and one that as of last year trailed only Bangkok as the world’s most visited city. If you happen to be planning a trip to England and you’ve never been before, you should absolutely make time to see the sights of London. But you also shouldn’t let the popularity of the capital obscure the beautiful and fascinating attractions in so many other cities around the country.
Frankly, even picking out five other cities feels a little bit limiting! But to at least get you a head start on planning a broader British excursion, here are five of the best cities to visit aside from London.
Near Southampton in the southern portion of the country, Winchester is a fascinating place to visit. The idyllic River Itchen provides some of the most charming urban scenery you’ll find in the country (and is often home to a population of adorable river otters that you might catch a glimpse of!). The Marwell Zoo is also a popular attraction if you’d like a more specific activity, though the main draw for a lot of travelers will likely be King Arthur’s Round Table. It’s a replica, of course, given that we don’t know which if any parts of Arthurian lore are based in fact. But it’s a piece of history in and of itself, said to have been decorated by King Henry VIII, and hanging still in Winchester Cathedral.
Bath is perhaps most famous for having once been a Roman outpost, and the Roman influence is still visible in the city’s sights and attractions. This is mainly in the fact that you can visit the old Roman baths that gave the city its name, and see how Roman citizens once relaxed in luxury. To match its history, the city has also become known for its more modern spas (and baths), which means it’s also a great getaway if you’re simply looking for a relaxing weekend. Bath Abbey is another sight worth seeing, having most recently been restored early in the 17th century. And you’ll absolutely want to fit in a glimpse of The Circus, which is not a literal circus but rather an ornate building in a circular shape, built in the 1700s and viewed as perhaps Britain’s best example of Georgian architecture.
It’s not mentioned too frequently, but there are numerous reasons to visit Canterbury. Firstly, if you happen to be a fan of literature, it’s fascinating to visit the city that provided some of the inspiration for The Canterbury Tales. There are also some gorgeous structures around town that exemplify what many think of as old English atmospheres: St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, and Canterbury Norman Castle as well. As if that weren’t enough, you can also enjoy multiple casinos for some more hands-on entertainment nearby, close to the coast. Game developers in recent years have poured time and effort into creating interesting slot games, table games, etc. for internet users, but in much of England, in-person casinos still rule the day. Canterbury is in close range of a few of them.
Manchester is not necessarily England’s most picturesque cities, but it could be one of the most enjoyable. There are great music clubs, fun bars, and awesome museums that can all keep you busy. There are also two soccer teams, Manchester United and Manchester City, that are usually among the best in Britain. Catching a match at either of their stadiums is always a treat. And if you’re really looking for a reason to get caught up in Manchester – and like most people in the world you happen to be a fan of Harry Potter – you might enjoy the simple process of taking the train to London. It’s on just such a journey that J.K. Rowling supposedly got the idea for the series.
This is probably the best city in the country outside of London for those who are interested in the deep and complex history of England. While it’s become a modern city in many respects, it’s still surrounded in part by crumbling, ancient walls, and some of the modern roads were essentially built on top of Roman ones. You can also see part of an old Norman castle that was initially built in 1068, making it a very old structure even by British standards! For more modern attractions, there are numerous museums and opportunities to learn about the ancient periods of Viking and Roman rule.