In 2017, nearly 20 million travelers headed to London, making it the third most-visited city in the world, behind Hong Kong and Bangkok. Thanks to sights like the London Eye, Big Ben, and Covent Garden, and its role in popular films, such as Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones’ Diary, travelers can’t seem to resist a trip to London. But there’s more to England than its capital! If you want a less-crowded, more relaxed vacation, check out one of the other equally-incredible cities on this England bucket list.
1| Manchester: Football Fanatic Heaven
Often referred to as the UK’s “second capital”, Manchester absolutely needs to feature on your England itinerary. This city is located in the Northwest of England and is well-loved among football fans. Visitors can explore the Manchester United and Manchester City stadiums, and learn about the history of the sport at the National Football Museum. If you’d rather chase deals than a ball, check out one of the city’s many malls, including the Trafford Center, the second-largest shopping center in the country. While you’ll find popular chains in this huge mall, you’ll need to head to Manchester’s Northern Quarter if independent boutiques are what you’re after. This district is also home to quirky bars, delicious restaurants, and Manchester’s Craft and Design Center, where you can buy beautiful, unique gifts from local artists.
While it’s easy to get around Manchester on foot, you should also try a trip on a canal boat. The canal was originally built during the Industrial Revolution to transport coal, but is now used by visitors and locals alike to see the city and its surrounding areas. If all this exploration has worn you out, head to Manchester’s Chinatown, the second-largest Chinatown in the UK, for a delicious meal. Try to visit during Chinese New Year, when the area really comes alive with festivities.
2 | Brighton: A Seaside Escape
Located in East Sussex in the South of England, Brighton is the country’s LGBT+ capital, and is home to a huge array of exciting things to see and do. Fancy some retail therapy? Head to The Lanes, a series of narrow, cobbled streets in Brighton’s Historic Quarter, famous for independent shops and boutiques. If you’re more interested in the city’s history, don’t miss out on the Royal Pavilion, which was built in the 1700s for King George IV to use as his seaside holiday home.
Once you’ve explored the Indian-style building and its beautiful gardens, head down to the seafront and walk along the Brighton Palace Pier. Originally opened at the end of the 19th century, this 525-meter-long pier is home to a traditional amusement arcade, making it a must-see for any travelers who want a taste of quintessential Britishness. Once you’ve re-energized with some cotton candy or a stick of rock, stroll to the British Airways i360. Travel up this 137-meter-high tower in a glass pod for incredible panoramic views across the sea, and the picturesque county of Sussex.
3 | Cambridge: From Punting to Parks
Cambridge, in the Southeast of England, is known for its world-renowned university, so don’t miss out on visiting one of the 30 stunning colleges. The most iconic of these is King’s College, which was originally founded by Henry VI in 1444. If you’d rather visit a less-busy college, why not try Corpus Christi, which dates back even further than King’s, or Queen’s College, which was founded by Henry’s wife?
If you’re not too tired from strolling around the beautiful colleges, try punting down the River Cam. Visitors can hire their own boat, if they’re feeling brave, or relax with a classic glass of Pimms and lemonade and some fresh strawberries, while letting the professionals do the hard work. After punting, relax in the city’s botanical gardens, with over 8,000 plant species, or take a short trip outside of the city center to Wandlebury County Park, which is home to over twelve kilometers of walking trails, as well as the ruins of a fifth-century fort.
4 | Newcastle: Angels Above and Tunnels Below
This famous city is located in Tyne and Wear in Northeast England. Its most popular sight is the Angel of the North, a 20-meter-high, and 50-meter-wide sculpture, which has stood proudly on Birtley Hill since its completion in 1998. Another modern must-see is the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the world’s only tilting bridge, which connects Newcastle to the neighboring area of Gateshead.
If you’re more interested in the city’s older history, check out Newcastle Castle. William the Conqueror’s son was the first person to build a castle on this land; however, parts of the building are much older, with archaeologists estimating that certain remnants date back more than 2,000 years. For more history lessons, head underground to explore the Victoria Tunnel. This four-kilometer-long tunnel was originally built to transport coal, but was then used as an air-raid shelter during the Second World War. Once back on ground level, check out one of the city’s many great nightlife venues in areas such as Quayside and Bigg Market, which is home to over 20 bars and pubs.
5 | Leeds: Sports, Shops, and More
Often known as the capital of the Northern county of Yorkshire, Leeds is one of the best cities in the country for sports fans. Football fanatics can watch Leeds United Football Club play at Elland Road Stadium, while Carnegie Stadium hosts exciting cricket and rugby matches. While in Headingley, check out some of Leeds’ best pubs, many of which feature in the famous pub crawl, the Otley Run. There’s also great nightlife in the city center, including the Lower Briggate (Leeds’ gay area), and Call Lane.
While Leeds’ city center has great bars, shops, and one of the biggest choices of independent restaurants outside of London, a trip to the city would be incomplete without visiting its surrounding sights. Just northwest of the center, you’ll find Kirkstall Abbey, a ruined Cistercian monastery, built by monks in the 1100s. The 24-hectare surrounding park is a great spot for a picnic, and is also where you’ll find a monthly market selling local food, and arts and crafts. The abbey is also just next to the Leeds to Liverpool canal, making it a great walking spot. Another Leeds must-see is Roundhay Park, located just five kilometers outside of the center. Here, you’ll find 700 acres of parks, lakes, and woodland, as well as cafés to re-energize, and playgrounds to entertain the little ones.