Writing up a single list of destinations or attractions to consider in the UK is nearly impossible. The country is simply packed with interesting places to see and things to do, which is why it’s such a frequent stop for Americans visiting Europe, as well as for other travelers from all over the world. But if the UK is one of the destinations on your list, the tips below should help to paint a broad picture of how you might want to outline your trip.
Be A Tourist In London
There’s really no American city that feels in any way like London, and yet visiting can feel slightly similar to how a tourist might feel in, say, New York or San Francisco. That’s to say there’s an understood list of sights, buildings and monuments you’ll feel almost obligated to check off your list. My tip here: don’t worry about feeling like a “tourist” (after all, you are one), and see the sights that are popularly recommended. In London, they’re well worth the hype.
Parliament and Big Ben, London, England, UK
Visit London’s city attractions guide points out 10 popular favorites that can serve as a nice spread to start with. But I’d add additional landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben.
You’ve seen them in countless films and television shows, but each is pretty stunning in person. The good news is that London can be a very enjoyable city to walk through, and many of these popular landmarks are in close proximity to one another. You can see a lot of the city in a single day or afternoon dedicated to sightseeing.
Tower Bridge of London, England, UK by Moyan Brenn
Take A Hike
A lot of what makes the UK unique is that it has multiple expanses of stunning nature that, compared to much of the U.S. at least, seems almost untouched. A lot of the landscapes in the country have served as the inspiration for popular fantasy novels and poetry, which is as clear an indication as any that there’s really an almost otherworldly quality to some of these areas.
Largely for that reason, the UK is a popular destination for people who enjoy some outdoor activity or adventure on their holidays. In particular there are a number of noteworthy hiking trails that can give you a taste of the country like nothing else really will.
Scottish Highlands, Scotland, UK by Kathleen
The Scottish Highlands, the Welsh Cambrian mountains, the Lake District, and even the coastline in Dorset are all popular spots for hiking outings. Though if you’re really interested in a longer hike, I’d point you toward the north of England and the Hadrian’s Wall Path.
The specific route is outlined at Contours and includes numerous ruins of old Roman outposts and commanders’ quarters along the length of a wall that partially stands nearly 2,000 years after being built.
Hadrian’s Wall, England, UK by quisnovus
Attend A Sporting Event
American sports fans often don’t recognize just how big a deal sports are in the UK. Certainly soccer is the dominant focus, but the truth is the UK is home to a number of fascinating events showcasing deep tradition and often international competition.
Beyond the Premier League — it’s arguably the most passionately followed soccer league on the planet — the country plays host to rugby tournaments, cricket events, major tennis tournaments, and even various horse racing, auto racing, and rowing competitions that much of Europe and the rest of the world tunes in to.
Premier League by Ronnie Macdonald
Any of these events can be wonderful to see in person, but a few in particular showcase the British spirit in a way that a traveler can really appreciate. One is the Cheltenham Festival, the first big horse race of the spring and one of the most prestigious ones on the European calendar.
The event is described at Betfair’s Cheltenham section as consisting of four full days of action, each highlighted by a signature race and each with its own festivities. It’s truly as much a “festival” as sporting event and offers a very unique experience to visitors.
Cross-country chase, Cheltenham Festival, England, UK by Kate
Another event worth singling out, if you can snag tickets, is Wimbledon. It’s one of four grand slam tennis tournaments in the world, and it’s by far the one with the most tradition. Few sporting occasions outside the Premier League capture the nation’s attention like this one.
Wimbledon by fourthandfifteen
Visit Someplace Just Because It’s Beautiful
This ties in a little bit to the idea of taking a hike during your visit to the UK, in that the idea is to get out and enjoy some of that otherworldly beauty present throughout the country.
But even if you don’t end up specifically hiking a trail, spending some time in one of the famous regions or parks in the UK is every bit as rewarding as taking in the London buildings and monuments that in many people’s eyes define the nation.
Lake District, England, UK by Robert J Heath
I’ve already mentioned the Scottish Highlands and the Lake District, and these are certainly among the most popular specific destinations for travelers seeking natural beauty. But there are many other options as well.
The Cotswolds region to the west of London is in some ways the embodiment of many people’s expectations of “English countryside,” filled with rolling hills and idyllic villages; coastal stretches at Dover and in the Cornwall region can be breathtaking.
The White Cliffs of Dover, England, UK by Tobias von der Haar
And the Snowdonia National Park is perhaps a lesser-known alternative to the Lake District with equally stunning views. It really is a whole country full of gorgeous scenery, so it’s worth traveling to at least one of these places just to see the sights.
Snowdonia National Park, Wales, UK by Hefin Owen
Through any or all of these suggestions you’ll inevitably be exposed to some of the historic appeal and modern culture that make the UK so interesting. But for general destination ideas, the suggestions above should help to guide you in planning your trip.