England - Vibrant Heritage & Culture
England continues to thrive as one of the hottest international destinations for tourists.
You'll have the chance to learn about English culture through a variety of remarkable historical and cultural treasures, including monuments from the Neolithic time period, widely renowned cathedrals and abbeys dating back to the 11th century, preserved Roman architecture and prehistoric artifacts. England also has a wide array of shopping, art galleries, restaurants, and theaters for different interests.
If you are a first-time tourist, you'll want to see many of the rare attractions in London, Cambridge, Leeds and York. You'll spend a great deal of time exploring some areas by foot, with options to take a short boat cruises for a different view of the landscape.
As Europe's biggest city and capital of the United Kingdom, London is a lively place that draws crowds year round. Begin the day at St. James Park, the oldest Royal Park in London. Enjoy its serene landscape and magnificent wildlife. Take a self-guided tour through Buckingham Palace, the office and London residence of the Queen. You'll be able to view the lavishly furnished state rooms in the heart of the working palace, which contain many of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection.
Embark on a deep journey into medieval Britain's history at the Westminster Abbey, a timeless masterpiece and shrine to several great leaders. It holds valuable remnants of the monastic, gothic and modern architectural styles, exhibiting three centuries of development in response to the changing religious influences. Visit the Temple Church, where you'll learn of the Knights Templar, the infamous order of knights founded on the avowed mission of protecting Christian pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem during the Middle Ages.
Next, wander through the Spitalfields and Brick Lane Markets, two neighboring street markets with a rich diversity of antiques, foods, home accessories, electronics, furniture and everything else in between. Uncover stories of past kings and queens at the Tower of London, an iconic symbol of Britain and home of the Crown Jewels, which still remains the greatest working collection of crown jewels in the world. Up until the 19th century, it was maintained as a fortress against enemies, place of imprisonment and execution and base for royal power. Travel across the River Thames and experience the life and art of Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre. You may choose to watch a Shakespearean classic performed in the circular arena modeled after his original Renaissance theater. Or discover the remarkable stories of the famed poet/playwright and the magic he brought to the stage at Shakespeare's Globe Exhibition.
Your vacation isn't complete without visiting the University of Cambridge, which has thrived for 800 years in extraordinary academic excellence and original research. The King's College Chapel features an exquisite Gothic design, the world's largest fan vault and more than 20 arched stained-glass windows stretching to the high ceilings. "The Backs," an expansive area of gardens that runs next to the River Cam, offers a spectacular view from the rear grounds of five colleges. The best way to view this area is from a punt, a flat-bottomed boat that is poled along the river.
At the Queens' College, behold five centuries of classical, elegant architecture preserved in the Old Hall and Chapel. The Cambridge Botanical Garden is a 40-acre oasis of charming gardens and glasshouses right in the heart of the city. Take on the passage through Cambridge history at the Fitzwater Museum and Cambridge Folk Museum, piecing together the stories of the town and the everyday life of its people since 1700. Stroll through the lush green paths at the Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, Britain's oldest nature reserve and haven for wild ponies, otters, rare butterflies and a colorful variety of birds.
See the Ely Cathedral, an Anglo-Saxon monastery that flourished for centuries as a refuge for medieval pilgrims. Travel north to Peterborough, where you'll find England's most beautiful Norman cathedral. An important sanctuary for Christian worship for 1,350 years, the cathedral contains an original wooden ceiling in the nave (one of the few remaining in Europe) and modern Gothic architecture.
Leeds offers a wide selection of fine arts, cultural experiences and nightlife for travelers. Spend some time at the Granary Wharf, located next to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. A continually developing area, the public square on the Wharf has a good selection of waterside bars, restaurants, glamorous shops, waterway walks and boating excursions. Just up the road is the Kirkgate Market, housed in impressive Edwardian buildings famous for their ornamental dragons and huge open-air market featuring more than 800 traders. Leeds is also a great shopping destination with popular fashionable clothing stores and one-of-a-kind craft shops in the Harewood/Eastgate Quarter, The Light, Trinity Shopping Quarter, Harvey Nichols and Victoria Quarter.
You're in for a unique cultural affair at the Quarry Hill Cultural Quarter, the site for the West Yorkshire Playhouse (an internationally renowned producing theater), Leeds College of Music, Yorkshire Arts and BBC Leeds. If you enjoy performing arts, the Opera North is another popular place with many spellbinding operas and musical theaters. The cultural center of Leeds city, Millennium Square is amidst some of the city's most important buildings, including the Town Hall, Civic Theatre and Leeds General Infirmary. The square is an innovative space for outdoor theater, pop concerts, orchestral performances, civic ceremonies, fairs and markets and home to several pieces of public art - including a pair of bronze owls, a well-known symbol of Leeds.
Travel back in time to get a glimpse of early English monastic life at Kirkstall Abbey, a Cistercian monastery on the outskirts of Leeds that was founded in 1152 and remains one of Britain's best preserved abbeys. Visitors will see many of the original carved arches, pillars, stone coffins and traditional ideals of austerity and simplicity found throughout its structural design. Perched on the hillside is the Abbey House Museum, where you'll find a wealth of historical artifacts from the Abbey.
A stunning city bustling with 2,000 years of history and award-winning attractions, York is an unforgettable destination central to Britain's colorful heritage. York Minster is a breathtakingly beautiful site that is renowned around the world as an artistic masterpiece. Explore its vast history through Roman, Norman and Viking remains, its hand-carved Gothic design and gargoyles. At the top of the Central Tower, you'll have an incredible view of the city's ancient streets and surrounding countryside. Next, uncover the fascinating tales of the Vikings, a wave of ship-born warriors that swept across medieval England, at the Jorvik Viking Centre.
Walking the York city walls is a very popular activity for tourists and local residents. Start at Micklegate Bar, the main entrance into the city. It was also the famous place once decorated with traitors' heads to discourage rebellion. Stop by the other three main gates - Monk Bar, the most elaborate of the city gates, Walmgate Bar and Bootham Bar. You'll spot the Multiangular Tower, a notable Roman remain and the most intact portion of the walls that stands 30 feet tall. Go north to Clifford's Tower, an unusual four-lobed keep that is now the principal surviving stonework remnant of William the Conqueror's castle.
Visit the York Castle Museum to understand how citizens used to live through a large recreation of the rooms, shops, streets and common possessions in England from the 17th - 20th centuries. Also see some of the museum's feature exhibitions on World War II and the abolition of the British slave trade. Go inside the private world of stonecutters, glassmakers and builders at the Merchant Adventurers' Hall, one of several guilds that were sweeping across Europe in the early Middle Ages. Wander through the three attached buildings and learn about the hall's traditional business, social and religious functions. If you have time, go to the National Railway Museum and discover more than three hundred years of world railway history, from Japanese Bullet trains to Queen Victoria's favorite carriage.
A travel agent can personalize the perfect vacation to England - complete with top-rated hotel reservations, flight arrangements, custom sightseeing tours of the spots you choose and all of the special details that make the trip one you'll never forget. Get started today by contacting a travel agent near you.