England is the most enormous and most populous of the United Kingdom’s four “home nations.” During the course of its colorful and vibrant history, the land has served as the birthplace of a plethora of contradictions. Seen by many as a shining symbol of freedom and democracy, England also serves as an icon of class oppression as well as the seat of a long-standing empire. Consisting of a fascinating mix of tea fanatics, avid gardeners, cricket fans, hard-core rock musicians, shopkeepers, and a few other eccentrics, the people of England are as extraordinary as the place they live in. If you’re planning to go on an excursion you’ll reminisce until the end of your days, England is definitely the ultimate destination. Below is all the information you need for your trip to England:
Getting To and Around England
Before you can even dream of visiting this fairy tale land, which is also home to the world-famous Mr. Bean, you need to make the appropriate travel arrangements. Nationals from the European Economic Area or EEA can thank the heavens as they aren’t required to have an England visa to enter the nation. American citizens can enjoy the same privilege as long as the length of their stay doesn’t exceed 6 months. The same goes true for the citizens of Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. However, some nationalities may be granted permission to stay for only 3 months.
If your country isn’t one of those mentioned above, you can always refer to the UK Border Agency website, consult other diplomatic representatives, or check with your local British Embassy for more information. Make sure you get a hold of the latest visa information as the rules constantly change.
The immigration authorities of the United Kingdom may be a bit stern. In order to dispel doubts of your reasons for visiting England, you may be asked to provide the details of your travel itinerary along with proof showing that you have enough money to support yourself throughout the entire trip. Personal letters from the individuals you’ll be calling on and return tickets also go a long way towards getting the authorities off your back. Once you’ve got the go signal to visit, you’re ready to take the next step – getting to England.
If you’re itching to get there as soon as possible, there’s no better method than by flying in. London is a humming hub for international transport; you can choose practically any point of origin throughout the world and be able to fly hassle-free to England. What’s even better is that a lot of airlines now offer superb deals on tickets, which means you get to save a lot on your travel costs. Of course, you’ll have to do with fewer frills and perks when you go for discounted seats, but you’ll be able to reallocate the money saved for more worthy expenses during the trip itself so you don’t need to feel deprived at all. You can buy your airline tickets directly from the airline, or you may check with a travel agency for such a purchase.
Riding the ferry is the other main alternative if your point of origin is mainland Europe. You can either choose the port-to-port option or the one that involves a long-distance bus ride. Although this means of transportation is less damaging to the environment compared to air travel, you might want to reconsider as the amount of savings isn’t that huge, and the entire voyage can be quite long. You’ll do better to book yourself a seat on one of the international trains, which are as environment-friendly and as comfortable as you can expect. Land travel by bus or train is also another pleasant option if you’re from nearby Wales or Scotland.
With the entire country being well connected by sea, land, and domestic air routes, roaming England won’t present many problems in the way of transportation. Everywhere you turn, you’ll see taxi firms, most of which accept only bookings, so do your homework on the local company’s phone number, and ring them in advance. In the major cities, you’ll find “Black Cabs” willing to take you to your desired destination. There’s no need to book them; hailing them from the road side will be enough. Just be sure to take a registered cab as being driven by an unregistered private cab driver can be quite unsafe, especially if you’re a female.
If you aren’t keen on cabs, you can always ride on the buses. Every town has them, and they’re ideal for getting around. The country’s excellent railway system also offers another way for you to travel from one place or another. The recent years have seen a huge improvement in the railway networks, but cancellations and delays are still possible. Cycling is also an option for the health-conscious and “green” tourist.
The Best Time to Visit
If you’ve heard the slightest thing about British weather, you’ll know that it’s bound to play a huge role in your plans to travel. With the changes in global climate over the past years, the weather in England has become even more unpredictable. Despite the fickleness of British climate, there are few things that continue to characterize each season. Summer is when you’ll find the country at its driest and hottest, while wet and cold winter is when it’s best to just snuggle under the covers the entire day. The best weather can be experienced in the shoulder seasons.
Taking into consideration everything, the best time for you to visit England is from late April to September. The peak summer period, particularly from late July to August, is when you’ll see the nation at its sprightliest, when the holiday traffic reaches the pinnacle. The period between October and Easter tends to see reduced opening hours, with some shops completely shut down for the entire wintertime. However, if you plan to visit just London and other major cities, you’ll have plenty to occupy your time regardless of when you take the trip.
Famous Places and Tourist Attractions
No trip to England is complete without setting foot in this bustling and vibrant capital city. As a place hailed as a center of finance, fashion, education, music, culture, and politics, the places and attractions London can offer a tourist are absolutely endless. Here are some of the major tourist magnets found in this wonderful metropolis:
Saint Stephen’s Tower
The name may not sound familiar, but you’ve surely heard of this clock tower. Stories set in England never fail to feature this world-famous landmark more commonly known as Big Ben. In the mid-19th century, at the time it was installed, the clock found inside the tower was the most enormous in the entire world. The clock has five bells, four of which are used to signal the quarters of an hour, while the largest is used to usher in the hour. This hour bell, the largest of the five, is the actual Big Ben.
Sporting a Victorian Gothic design, London’s Tower Bridge is one of the world’s most recognizable and most distinctive bridges. The hatching of the plans to build the bridge could be attributed to the rising need for a bridge across the Thames in 1876, around the time when the number of people residing in the east of London became considerable. After several years of designing and constructing, the initially disliked design found its fruition and earned a well-deserved reputation for being one of the capital’s most renowned symbols.
Anyone who wants to see what a palace worthy of housing royalty looks like will get his wish when he feasts his eyes on the Buckingham Palace. Built by John Sheffield in 1705 as a country house and bought by King George III in 1761, the palace now serves as the Queen’s official London residence. When the Royal Family isn’t in residence during the summer, you can join a tour through some of the gorgeously decorated rooms inside. However, even if you don’t get to see the interiors, the exterior of the palace will be more than enough to write home about. Don’t forget to check out the time-honored ritual of the changing of the guard, which happens in front of the palace every day at about 11 in the morning.
Although it was constructed just recently as part of the city’s millennium festivities, the London Eye now enjoys more than its fair share of tourists and visitors. Situated on the South Bank’s Jubilee Gardens, this humongous observation wheel offers panorama-loving tourists a breathtaking 360-degree view of London. The lines for buying tickets and for embarking can be quite long, so be sure to purchase tickets well in advance. You can also visit the landmark at night if you aren’t into mobs of people. Not only are the crowds thinner by then, but the sights are also more stunning.
You’ll find this busy square, sometimes likened to the legendary Times Square, at the core of lively London. Built by John Nash in keeping with King George IV’s ideas to join Carlton house with Regent’s Park, Piccadilly Circus is now open to pedestrians. Since a lot of entertainment and shopping areas are nearby, the Circus has become a favored spot for individuals to meet up before they head to Chinatown, Soho, and Leicester Square.
Shopping addicts won’t be disappointed in the very least with this popular tourist attraction. With a wide assortment of goodies and products sold over 7 floors summing up to 80,000 square meters, the luxurious department store truly lives up to its motto of “Everything, for everyone, everywhere.” As if the merchandise itself isn’t impressive enough, the building is also lavishly decorated. You’ll be amazed at how beautifully designed every hall and department is.
If you’re looking to take a break from all the gleaming buildings and urban spots, you can head to the Kensington Gardens, where the landscaping and greenery will afford your eyes some much-needed relaxation. Aside from the wonderful scenes of nature, there are other equally captivating features you can check out. The Kensington Palace, Princess Diana’s former home, definitely deserves some of your time. You might be interested in the Diana Memorial Playground, which has a Peter Pan theme, as well. The 53-meter high Albert Memorial, the large Long Water Lake, the Serpentine Art Gallery, and the various garden statues are worth looking at, too.
Your England trip shouldn’t be limited to just the city of London. There are plenty of other cities and counties that can offer you equally exciting spots to visit. York, whose history can be traced back to even before the Roman times, has some of Europe’s most well-preserved historical architecture. Here are some of the sites in York worth visiting:
For hundreds of years now, this gorgeous and gigantic Gothic Cathedral has towered over every other structure in York. Inside the York Minster, you’ll find your gaze captured by the exquisite, lovely, and well-known stained glass windows – the Undercroft, Rose Window, and Ceiling Bosses. If your health is up to it, you can even climb up the innumerable steps of a spiral staircase to the top of the cathedral where you’ll be amazed at the sight of York’s rooftops.
Jorvik Viking Centre
For an entirely new and unique experience, set foot in the Jorvik Viking Centre, where you’ll be able to learn all you can about living as a Viking. Turn back the hands of time, and travel in an extraordinary cab as your senses are overwhelmed by the smells, sounds, and sights of a fantastic and out-of-this-world Viking city.
At the heart of the city, you’ll find a street consisting of ancient Tudor structures – The Shambles. Join a tour, and let the guide literally and figuratively walk you through the street and its history. You’ll find that the Shambles has a few really marvelous gift shops as well.
Apart from all that has been mentioned, other tourist attractions in York include the National Railway Museum, Clifford’s Tower, York Castle Museum, York Dungeon, and a lot more.
Bath is another England city you shouldn’t miss out on. Here are the top attractions you might want to see in this historical city:
Museum of Costume and Assembly Rooms
If you have your heart set on viewing an awe-inspiring collection of clothes and jewelry worn by Royalty, then a trip to this museum is just what you need. Walk through the Assembly Rooms which embody the true meaning elegance, and you’ll find yourself in a setting right out of a Jane Austin novel. Founded by one of the 20th century’s most known costume collectors, the museum owes its fame to the collection’s founder, Doris Langley Moore.
Another must-see attraction for tourists is the Roman Baths, constructed thousands of years ago by the Romans and revived by the Victorians later on. Fed by the only mineral hot springs in the country, the Roman Baths, along with the wondrous Georgian, Medieval, and Roman architecture, are truly a sight for the eyes.
There are plenty of things to see, do, and even eat in this eccentric and fascinating land. All you have to do is unleash your sense of adventure, and open your mind to the endless possibilities. Let the British experience begin!