City home of the King
and St Margaret's Church
One of the great cities of the world. There are so many interesting places to visit, but I really enjoy walking around the city and just enjoying sites outside also. Without spending a farthing, you can enjoy the outside of Buckingham Palace, grab a coffee at Trafalgar Square, walk along the Thames and see The Eye and London Bridge, even visit the British Museum for free.. But, there are also many world class attractions in London which is why London is one of the most visited cities in the world.
Tower of London
Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church
St. Paul's Cathedral
The London Eye
Favorite Places to Visit in London
free museum with a vast collection from around the world. Highlights include The Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures, and an Easter island statue. There are impressive artifacts from places as diverse as SE Asia, Mexico, Europe, Africa...all around the world.
I don't know what it is about Westminster, but I feel like this may be the most solemn church I have ever visited. It just makes reflection natural. Maybe it is due to the fact that this is the burial location of 3300 people, including 16 monarchs. Plus, the history here is incredible and dates back to the 7th century, but the current church dates from the 13th century. It is still the site of weddings, funerals and coronations after all this time. The fact that, after 800 years, the building is still a place of beginnings and ends makes it uniquely special.
Tower of London
It is hard to believe that right here in the heart of London, you can explore a fortress that dates back nearly 1000 years. When you think of William the Conqueror being distant history, here is part of his legacy in living stone.
This complex has been a royal residence, a prison, a treasury and the mint, a public record office.
Tate Modern Art Museum
I am not the biggest fan of modern art, or conceptual art, but I really enjoy this museum. It may simply be the size and variety, so even someone like me that leans towards classical art can still find plenty to enjoy.
Built between 1886 and 1894, this bascule bridge is quite unique. You can visit Bridge itself and the Victorian Engine Rooms where the engines used to be operated by steam.
the National Gallery
located next to Trafalgar Square, it is a world class art museum with collections from the 13th to 20th centuries. They will have all of your favorites, whether it be the Dutch masters, the Italian classics, or the French impressionists.
And, it is free!
London parks and gardens
Whereas cities like Paris create incredibly beautiful open spaces in their cities with an abundance of flowers, sculptures, and manicured forests; London seems to me to focus on the utility of the parks, making them accessible and enjoyable. More of a park to be used, then to just see. Just walk through any of London's large parks on a sunny day, and you will see how many couples are strolling, children playing, and dogs frolicking. It works, people use them!
For a small, quaint park; better suited for picnics, there is St James Park, next to Buckingham Palace.
But, in the same area, just 20 minute walk west; you can have a large usable park in Hyde Park, where you can continue through to Kensington gardens and Palace,
A bit north, you have Regent's Park, with an open air theatre and a zoo. Don't miss the rose garden in the summer.
In the Southeast part of the city, you can enjoy Greenwich Park. Some of he best views of the city, and home to the Royal Observatory Greenwich. If you fancy it, the National Maritime Museum is also right next to the park.
If you want to get to the edge of the city, there are a couple options. Richmond Park, a large walled park that was originally a 17th-century hunting ground and still home to hundreds of deer. Or, of course, the famous Kew Gardens; including he botanical gardens, Queen Charlotte's cottage, and the Princess of Wales Conservatory.
Getting around London
I love walking around London, but it is big. After all, it is nearly a 2 hour walk from Kensington Palace to the Tower of London. So, the Tube is necessary. Easy to use, and stations everywhere.
One cool thing about the London tune if you are vacationing, you can have a contactless Oyster card for fares sent to you before you go to London. Or, you can buy them when you arrive. But, now there is little need. You can now also use contactless credit cards, Apple Pay for Google Pay also. Paying fares has never been easier. Just tap on the yellow reader when you enter, and tap out when you leave. At the end of the day, the metro will add up your charges and bill to your account. Not that the London metro is cheap. The daily max for Zone 1-4 in 2023 is 15.20 pounds (over $19). But, that is far better than taking taxis!
From Heathrow, getting into town is easy on the Heathrow Express to Paddington station which takes just 20 minutes. And, I guarantee you that is faster than driving.
The history of the tower and the Minster go back nearly 1000 years; the tower dates back to William the Conqueror.
But, the town goes back to the Romans and beyond.
The York Minster is an incredible cathedral. The stained glass here is among the best in the world and walking around the cathedral, it just never seems to end. The crypt even shows the Roman stone work at the base. I am still amazed at buildings that go back this many centuries, and are still in use today.
Clifford's Tower's history is less than pleasant, but no less fascinating. a 13th century tower used as a prison and an execution site. Enjoy the York Castel Museum across the street.
St. Mary's Abbey was the favorite part of the day...stopping at the market, grabbing some lunch, and relaxing on the shaded lawn in front of the 11th century ruins. Also, next to the same garden are the Yorkshire Museum, York Observatory and the St. Olave's Church.
And, don't forget to explore the old city walls, the York Dungeon and maybe even the York Chocolate Story.
There is so much to see in this little town. One of my favorite places in England.
An industrial city in the Northwest of England, not really a tourist hotspot. So, there isn't a lot of primary attractions. Much of that they offer still reflects its industrial past that includes canals for hauling coal and cotton production.
To get here, it is just a 2 hour ride on the Avanti West Coast line from London Euston station.
People's History Museum
an interesting, multi story museum exploring the history of labor strifes in Manchester and England.
Science and Industry Museum
In an old train station, the history of science and innovation. The most popular museum in Manchester.
Built in the 13th century, it is an interesting church. Unlike many other churches, this is staffed by some really helpful people that want you to get the most out of your visit.
Manchester Art Gallery
housing a collection of more than 46,000 items, including more than 2000 paintings, this museum is free to enter. It is best represented by 19th century British artists but includes items from as far back as the 15th century.
A city of nearly 800,000 people in the northern English county of Yorkshire. On the south bank of the River Aire, It served me me well as a home base to also explore Manchester and York which are a 1 hour ride and a 25 minute train rides, respectively.
Favorite Places in Leeds
Leeds Art Gallery
Small art gallery of modern and contemporary art. And, admission is free. So, definitely a nice visit.
about a half hour west of Leeds, and easy to get to by public transportation, it is a very interesting abbey to walk around in, with some great information throughout. Across the street, visit the Abbey House museum about the history of Leeds.
18th-century stately home with Robert Adam-designed interiors, priceless art and landscaped garden.
Grand residence standing in parkland and filled with priceless art and antiques plus a working farm
Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK, after London. it has many landmarks from the Industrial Revolution Era that speak to its 18th-century history as a manufacturing powerhouse. It is also home to a network of canals, and those on the southwest side of the city center are now lined with cafes and bars.
Favorite Places in Birmingham
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
The largest of the 9 venues in Birmingham that house over 800,000 pieces, and said to be the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world.
National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham
for the families...including penguins, otters, and the UK's Only 360° Ocean Tunnel
Winterbourne House & Garden
Antiques and extensive gardens with 6,000 plants in industrialist's grand country house built in 1906.
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens
15 acres of flora in elegant Victorian glass houses including a Bonsai garden and a bird collection
Getting around in Birmingham
The metro system in Birmingham is very convenient as it s a pay as you go with contactless payment. Simply tap your contactless card (or Apple or Google Pay), when you board and that is it. Nothing to do when you depart. Also, Birmingham is a city that automatically charges you the daily max if you hit it. Currently, a bus fare is 2 pounds, and the daily max is 4 pounds. The charges appear on your card at the end of each day. So, if you swipe for 4 rides during the day, it will only charge 4 pounds for the entire day.
You can also pay cash to the driver if you like, but they suggest exact change only. So, I found it easier to just tap and board.
There is also a tram system with 3 lines. Paying is the same. Just tap on and board.
One really cool feature of this is that you don't have to worry about zones. One day, I took the bus all the way to Coventry, a 70 minute ride from Birmingham center, and it was still 2 pounds for the ride. What a deal!
Coventry is known for the medieval Coventry Cathedral, which was left in ruins after a WWII bombing and its 20th century replacement. Located in the Midlands, about a half hour drive east of Birmingham; it was founded in the 11th century, and has an economy largely based on manufacturing. There is not a lot here to attract tourism except the cathedral ruins from WW 2 and the new replacement. Also, in the center are the archeological remains of the St. Mary's Priory & Cathedral that were destroyed in the 16th century, and the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum focused on local history. A couple blocks away, you can wander through the small Lady Herbert's Gardens with the rebuilt medieval guard towers.
Hills and Lakes in the Northwest. 5 hours northwest of London, and 2 hours south of Glasgow. A very popular area for holidays and vacations, and well justified. If you like rolling hills and lots of water; this is a wonderful place for hiking in the summer, but gets plenty of snow in the winter.
You can stay in the many towns around the district like Ambleside, Keswick or Windermere.
5000 year old mystery just a 90 minute drive west of London. Walk up the path and around the stones. Then, head to the visitor center and enjoy 250 archeological artifacts.
Devon and Dartmoor
In Southwest England, enjoy the rolling hills and the coastal walks, and the seaside towns. Choose the southern side of the peninsula, or the north side. Personally, I chose the south side.
Dartmoor National park is over 360 sq miles and has plenty of activities include hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, even visiting castles. If you plan to visit rural areas out in the park, bring some coins. There are places where it is paid parking, and the only way to pay is by coins. (no paper and no credit).
For the more adventurous, head to the SW Coast Path. Mostly following the coast line, and through many coastal towns, it continues for 630 miles. I hiked a couple of sections but one of the wonderful things about this path is you don't need out and back or loops. In places, you can do a point to point, then take public transportation back. For example, I went 11 miles from Brixham to Kingswear, then took the #18 bus back to Brixham to get my car.
But, don't miss the many small (and medium sized) towns all around the southwest peninsula for history, beauty, or just some good food and drink.
Dartmoor National Park
SW Coast Path
SW Coast Path
SW Coast Path
Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne is a university city on the River Tyne in northeast England. With its twin city, Gateshead, it was a major shipbuilding and manufacturing hub during the Industrial Revolution.
The castle in Newcastle was built from 1168 to 1178. Today, it is available for visits and commands views over the city and river. Enjoy the great hall and the cellars, climb to the top for the views, then head over to Black Gate to continue the tour.
The Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas is a medieval church next to Black Gate. The only church in England with St Nick as its patron. There was a church built here in 1091, the same time as the original castle. The current church dates to the 14th century. There is plenty of history here from the 14th century font, the 15th century bells, and the 16th to 18th century stained glass.
Laing Art Gallery focuses on local and regional art and houses a nice collection of 18th to 20th century paintings and watercolors. It also has areas for temporary exhibitions. Plus, a little modern art.
From Newcastle, head west for a bit if you want to see Hadrian's Wall, 73 miles of stone wall built between 122 and 126 AD on the northernmost border of the Roman Empire. Pieces of this wall can still be seen in Denton and Heddon-on-the-Wall. The wall remnants are not particularly impressive, but it is interesting to see this building endeavor from nearly 2000 years ago.
Head east about a half hour from Newcastle towards the shore to Tynemouth and South Shields to see the Tynemouth Priory , medieval fortress and priory, on the north banks of the Tyne River and the Arbeia Fort , built by the Romans, on the south banks of the Tyne.
Getting around Newcastle is quite simple. All of the busses, and there are many, accept contactless payment. The only odd thing here is that you have to tell the bus driver what stop you are going to. That information does not change the ticket or fare, but it lets them track ridership.
There is also a metro train system that runs around the city and off to the coast.
If you plan to hop around a bit, the day passes are a great deal. As of May 2023, there is a day bus pass for the city at 4.5 pounds, for the whole area at 5, and for metro train plus bus for the whole area at 9.1.
The River Wear loops around the Romanesque Durham Cathedral and Norman Durham Castle. North of the castle, the 13th century medieval Crook Hall is home to gardens and a maze. South of the river, Durham University offers a Botanic Garden with woodland and tropical plants, and the Oriental Museum exhibiting Asian, Egyptian and Middle Eastern artefacts.