20 Cities in England

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Despite its relatively small size as a country, England is packed full of interesting, historic and exciting cities just waiting to be explored. England is a varied country in terms of culture, dialect, cuisine and local lore. Each city will welcome you with ancient architecture perfectly contrasting against modern glass structures, winding streets, popular shops and cosy pubs.

Creativity and innovation are hugely important in England, with each city offering a range of museums covering science, history and the arts. Many of England’s cities have excellent nightlife, from hidden bars to some of the best live music venues in the world. As England’s cities are very well connected through public transport or rail links, seeing more than one major city during your trip to England is possible. Here are 20 cities in England that you cannot miss.

Cities in England

Top Tours

20 English Cities To Visit

1- London

Beautiful night view of London city
Of all the cities in England, if you haven’t been to London, the capital should be at the top of your list.

London is England’s largest, most vibrant, culturally diverse and popular city.

London is visited by millions of tourists from across the globe each year, and it is easy to see why.

The city perfectly blends ancient traditions and architecture, modern and towering glass skyscrapers, cutting-edge fashion, excellent museums and delicious street food.

First-timers to London should take the time to see the most popular sights: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

If you have visited before, explore London’s villages, small neighbourhoods across the city packed with independent shops, restaurants, cafes and some of the city’s best museums.

2- Leeds

Leeds is ideally placed to experience bustling city life in close proximity to the natural beauty of some of England’s best national parks.

When in the city, take to the streets and shop.

Leeds has an excellent range of stores from designer boutiques like Louis Vuitton and luxury department store Harvey Nichols to beautiful Victorian shopping arcades Grand, Queens and Thorntons.

A popular museum is the Royal Armouries, which has more than 8500 items from Britain’s armoury history, including items used in combat during the middle ages and armour for horses.

Top tour: Leeds: Emmerdale Village Set Guided Tour.

3- Birmingham

The West Midlands city of Birmingham has a rich history in manufacturing that dates back to the Industrial Revolution.

Today the city is filled with museums, cultural venues and spectacular parks.

Visit the National Sea Life Centre to immerse yourself in the magic of the oceans.

The aquarium has the only 360-degree aquarium tunnel in the UK, where you can see their giant green turtle, guitarfish and rays swimming serenely.

Those interested in literature or steam trains should board the unique Shakespeare Express, a British steam train that transports visitors from Birmingham to Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon.

You will see spectacular countryside views during the journey and enjoy a delicious meal.

Top ticket: Winterbourne House and Garden Admission Ticket

4- Manchester

woman looking at St Peter square in Manchester City
Manchester is one of the largest on the list of cities in England.

Manchester has introduced the world to some of the best musicians and bands to come out of England, such as Oasis, The Smiths and The Stone Roses all come from Manchester, and their musical legacy can still be found in many of the city’s music bars and concert venues.

If you are a football fan head to one of Manchester’s two world-famous football grounds; Old Trafford for Manchester United and the Emirates for Manchester City.

Tours of both stadiums are offered, allowing visitors exclusive access to press areas, dressing rooms and dugouts.

Spend some time exploring the city’s Chinatown, located a few minutes walk from St Peters Square.

This area of the city is filled with bakeries, restaurants, shops and more linking to Chinese culture.

Grab a turtle-shaped pineapple bun from Wong Wong bakery for a delicious and authentic sweet treat.

Top tour: Manchester City Center Canal Cruise.

5- Liverpool

aerial view of Liverpool
Liverpool is one of the larger northern cities in England.

You cannot visit Liverpool without immersing yourself in Beatle Mania because The Beatles came from the city and many of its attractions centre around their ascent to fame.

Visit the Cavern Club, originally a jazz club that soon became a hub for rock and roll bands of the 50s and 60s, to see where the band performed many of their first UK gigs.

If you haven’t had your fill of the Beatles after visiting the Beatles Story and Cavern Club, head out on a Beatles Magical Mystery bus tour to take in their world.

Immerse yourself in arts at Tate Liverpool, in the historic Albert Dock.

The museum is filled with some of the best examples of British art from as early as the 16th century.

Plenty of modern art pieces are inside, and occasionally some sculptures appear on the docks themselves.

Top tour: City and Beatles Tour with Hop-On Hop-Off Ticket.

For more ideas around England, read:

6- Newcastle

Newcastle Upon Tyne keyside and suspension bridge
Newcastle Upon Tyne is a cool city in the north of England.

Spend time in the north of England in Newcastle, which sits along the banks of the River Tyne.

Uncover the history of Newcastle and the surrounding area at the Great North Museum: Hancock, which is housed in a building dating back to the late 1800s and has one of the most important collections of natural history in England.

For some of the best views over the city, walk across the iconic Tyne Bridge and look downriver towards the Gateshead Millennium, a pedestrian bridge connecting the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts to the city.

Top ticket: Newcastle: Castle Entry Ticket.

7- Nottingham

View of city centre dome from King Street
Nottingham may not be one of the largest cities in New England but it’s rich in history.

Nottingham attracts thousands of tourists yearly to its streets in search of the famed legend Robin Hood.

Visit the Robin Hood Statue close to Nottingham Castle for a photograph with the iconic character.

Stop for a bite and a drink in one of the oldest pubs in England.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is believed to be dated from 1189 and is built into the rock face beneath the castle.

The pub takes advantage of several caves which were once used to brew the beer for the castle.

Take a short walk or bus ride from the city centre and call into Stonebridge City Farm.

This cute, volunteer-run farm is filled with friendly animals, including their resident cows and pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs that can be held, and a newly opened tortoise house for their 17-year-old tortoise, Kevin.

8- Leicester

Uncover the mysteries of space at the National Space Centre, just outside the city, where you will find plenty of interactive exhibits, equipment used during space missions, rockets, and the chance to sample some astronaut food.

Learn about Britain’s royal history at the King Richard III Visitor Centre, which was opened in the city following the discovery of the body of the lost king in a car park.

The visitor centre has many displays documenting the king’s reign and the circumstances surrounding his death.

After indulging in history, enjoy some sweet treats in St Martins Square.

The square has many restaurants and cafes, including the award-winning Gelato Village, which serves authentic Italian ice cream.

Choose from a range of flavours, including Italian classics stracciatella and tiramisu, to more unique flavours such as lemon and basil or saffron.

9- Brighton

View of Brighton Pier in Brighton East Sussex
Brighton is one of the most famous beach cities in England.

Enjoy the best of city life and the traditional English seaside in Brighton.

The city looks out across the English Channel, filled with Victorian seaside charm.

Make the most of this seaside destination and enjoy the attractions on Brighton Palace Pier.

The pier is packed with fairground rides, stalls selling candy floss and hot sugary doughnuts, and beautiful views across the sea.

For even better views, brave the journey to the top of British Airways i360, a 138m (452.76ft) high tower with a unique doughnut-shaped pod that slowly travels up to the top of the tower, offering increasingly beautiful views as you climb.

10- Bristol

aerial view of Bristol, United Kingdom
The first British city to be named a European Green Capital, Bristol has many attractions.

Marvel in the culinary delights of St Nick’s Market in the city’s centre, where you will find street food vendors selling everything from freshly pressed juices to Japanese gyoza.

The market also has many quirky stalls selling fabrics, second-hand books and fresh flowers.

Bristol is home to Banksy, who is a well-known street artist.

Explore the city independently or on a Banksy walking tour to find the pieces of his work still in the city.

Look out for ‘The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum’ and the eery ‘Grim Reaper’, which is displayed inside M Shed.

M Shed and the surrounding harbour should not be missed when in Bristol.

Take in the art on display in the gallery before exploring the waterfront and enjoying a meal with a view from one of the many eateries by the water’s edge.

11- Lincoln

Potter Gate, Lincoln and blue sky
Lincoln is one of the smaller cities in England. Pictured here is Pottergate Arch.

Lincoln is one of England’s historic cities and remnants of its past can be found everywhere, from its architecture and landscaping to the narrow and winding cobbled streets.

Venture up Steep Hill, the 4th steepest hill in the country, to experience a truly picturesque street.

This cobblestone street is frequented by photographers trying to capture the beauty of the street, which is lined with independent shops and cafes and features old crooked buildings.

A must-visit site in Lincoln is the Cathedral, built in 1072 and one of the most iconic buildings in the city.

It’s one of the cathedrals that has caught the eyes of Hollywood with its classical Gothic design used in The Da Vinci Code and Young Victoria.

12- Norwich

Norwich Market colourful canopies
Norwich is another interesting city in England to explore.

Visit the Norfolk city of Norwich and enjoy its winding cobblestone streets and 16th-century architecture.

The city is filled with historic buildings, including 33 churches from medieval times, a Norman cathedral and, of course, Norwich Castle.

Today, the castle is a museum and art gallery with more than 1 million exhibits inside its walls.

You will find everything from stuffed polar bears to mummified cats within the museum and plenty of artworks from various British masters.

If you are feeling peckish, look no further than Norwich Market, the largest covered market in Europe.

The market is topped with colourful roofs, and inside, you will find various delicious foods like English chips with plenty of salt and vinegar.

Top tour: City Sightseeing Norwich Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour.

13- Bath

Aerial view of Bath
Bath is one of the best cities in England to explore.

Bath is the only UNESCO World Heritage City in the United Kingdom.

This beautiful city was founded by Romans and still has their original 43AD Roman baths open to explore.

While you can’t bathe in the original Roman baths, as the city has unprecedented access to natural hot springs, you can enjoy the thermal waters at Thermae Bath Spa.

The spa has a range of treatments accessing the natural thermal waters and includes a beautiful view over the city from its rooftop pool.

While in the city, make the most of its links to literature by walking in the footsteps of Jane Austen.

A dedicated museum to the author offers a glimpse into what life was like for the author as she penned some of her most famous books.

Top tour: 1.5-Hour Walking Tour with Blue Badge Tourist Guide.

14- York

York cityscape England Sunset
York is one of the top cities in northern England to explore.

York is considered one of England’s most historic and haunted cities and is perfect for exploring over a weekend.

If you are interested in all things paranormal, explore the city on an evening ghost tour, taking you to some of the city’s spookier sites.

Spend some time in the basement of the Treasurer’s House on a shorter ghost experience to learn about the Roman Soldiers who have been sighted there.

You can even take your own cute ghost home with you at The York Ghost Merchants, located on the narrow and cobbled The Shambles street.

Indulge in a delicious afternoon tea at traditional Yorkshire tearoom Betty’s.

Prepare to wait in a long queue before entering the beautiful art deco space and sampling a range of delicate sandwiches, sweet tarts and scones with plenty of jam and cream.

Top tour: River Ouse City Cruise.

15- Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury is a small cathedral city in England.

Canterbury is a traditional cathedral city and a famous pilgrimage site, so it’s unsurprising that one of the best things to do in Canterbury is to visit the Cathedral, founded in 597.

The cathedral is predominately Gothic in style, however, it features Romanesque touches in the chapels and in many of its stained glass windows.

Walk along the old Canterbury city walls to get a feeling for the city during its founding.

The Romans built the walls during the 3rd century, with large stretches of wall and 24 towers remaining today.

To learn more about the Roman rule of Canterbury, visit Canterbury Roman Museum.

The museum is filled with artefacts found on a number of archeological digs across the city.

Top tour: Canterbury Guided Walking Tour.

16- Durham

View along the River Wear to the Cathedral in Durham
Durham is one of the cities in north east England.

Take the time to reflect and admire the beauty of Durham Cathedral, which sits atop a small hill and looks out over the city and the river below.

Inside the cathedral are many beautiful stained glass windows, paintings and statues.

Be sure to visit the cathedral quadrangle used in the Harry Potter films.

Wander down the cobbled streets towards the city’s centre, exploring its myriad of independent shops, cafes and restaurants.

Vennels, a fond favourite of locals, is a small independent cafe tucked away up a narrow passage just off Saddler Street.

Here you will find a range of freshly baked bread for sandwiches, filling-packed quiches and delicious cakes.

Arrive early to ensure you get a seat.

Round off your time in Durham by strolling along the River Wear to Crook Hall Gardens, a relaxing green space that feels miles away from the city.

Top tour: Local Legends & Cathedral Self-Guided Audio Tour.

17- Cambridge

Aerial view of Cambridge
Cambridge is one of the best cities in England if you’re looking for university cities to explore.

Cambridge is one of England’s most famous university cities, with its main campus buildings dating to 1209.

Explore the campus and its incredible buildings on a university tour, which takes in the spectacular Kings College Chapel and the ornate Italian Rood Screen, a gift from Anne Boleyn to her husband, King Henry III.

Punting along the River Cam has been a favourite pastime for residents and students in the city.

Book a punt tour and relax as you gently cruise past some of the city’s most beautiful buildings and bridges.

Top tour: Cambridge Alumni-led Colleges Tour & King’s College Option.

18- Oxford

Oxford city skyline with Radcliffe Camera
Oxford is one of the most famous university cities in England.

Another of England’s most famous university cities and rivals to Cambridge is Oxford.

The architecture surrounding Oxford University is unlike any other, with its numerous towering spires and turrets, ornate facades and overall grand appearance.

Visit the unmistakable Bodleian Library on a guided tour to explore one of the oldest libraries in Britain.

Some of the library’s buildings date from the middle ages, and its collection is equally antiquarian.

Once you have had your fill inside, be sure to take plenty of pictures outside. Look out for the domed roof of the Radcliffe Camera, located nearby.

Unwind with a cream tea at The Grand Cafe, a beautiful tea room built on the site of England’s oldest coffee house.

Your cream tea is quintessentially English and consists of large, warm scones, plenty of jam and cream, and of course, a pot of tea or coffee.

Top tour: Oxford University and City Walking Tour with Alumni Guide.

19- Colchester

Norman Castle in Colchester
Colchester is one of the lovely cities in England to visit.

Colchester is famed for its ties to Roman Britain and is considered Britain’s first city due to its importance during Roman rule.

Within the city are many surviving ruins of buildings and sections of the old Roman wall that surrounded it.

Continue uncovering Colchester’s history at Colchester Castle, which was built for William the Conqueror in 1070 on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius and today houses a museum dedicated to the city’s colourful history.

20- Salisbury

Salisbury is another beautiful medieval cathedral city in England.

The city is close to Stonehenge, a prehistoric stone circle still actively used by pagans during festivals today.

Call into the cathedral to admire the Magna Carta, a document that formed the foundation of the British constitution during the middle ages.

Wander the streets of the city centre with its cobblestones and 16th-century architecture.

Here you will find the city’s medieval market place which is still used each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and plenty of cosy pubs and cafes to call into. 

Top tour: Stonehenge, Windsor, Bath & Salisbury Tour from London.

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sarah holmes travel writer
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.