As London is home to some of the most frequented airports (and thus, cheapest) for European travel, many euro-trippers make London their first stop at the beginning of their adventure or their last stop on the journey home. Don’t get me wrong, London is beautiful, full of amazing history, and home to some of the best music and art scenes in Europe. Don’t skip London! That being said, don’t stop at London! Bare the cold and cover as much of England as you can. My time in England was spent with friends, just exploring the country. I don’t have much advice as to what touristy spots are worth a visit in England, but I can assure you these listed areas are most than exciting enough places to hang out for a couple of days!
Hopping around England requires something that I usually swear against; planning ahead! Trains (trainline.co.uk) can be incredibly cheap (for England) if booked well in advance. Coach busses (megabus.co.uk and nationalexpress.co.uk) take a while longer, but I have seen fares as low as £1, and £9 to cross the entire country. I would suggest comparing the two methods of transport between 2 cities before deciding, as a £100 train ride could cost you less than £10 by bus.
If you’re going to be taking the train multiple times, it would be worth it to purchase a 18-25 youth railcard, which costs £30 and gives you 30% off all train travel (well worth it in the end). If you’re going to be taking the national express coach multiple times (you probably will), it would be worth it to purchase a youth coach card, which costs £10 and gives you 30% all coach travel, which is again, well worth it in the end. Try to order your railcard and/or coach card a couple of days before you intend to start using it, as it will be need to be delivered somewhere for pickup.
Below, are listed some areas of England that are worth the extra short flight, train or bus:
Coastal England (South):
Must sees: Brighton
A short (1 hour) and cheap (as low as £8) train ride from London. Brighton is home to some of the best fish and chip shops in all of England. Most notorious being Bardsley’s, with a local favorite being Sing Li, owned by an older Chinese couple. Don’t be fooled by Sing Li’s rough exterior, fish and chips are fish and chips, and with a price as low as theirs, who’s to care? Also worth checking out is the famous carnival-esque Brighton Pier, and “The Lanes”. The lanes are tiny shopping streets littered with interesting shops and small all-you-can eat buffets of every kind (even vegan) under £10.
If you have time: Bournemouth, Cornwall
Best accessible by train or bus, Yorkshire is a county of England, and home to uni party towns, Leeds and Sheffield. The two have an abundance of bars and clubs with drinks at ridiculously low prices to cater to the high student population. Yorkshire is most notorious for York (obviously), a city that boasts some of England’s most historic Victorian buildings. Be sure to visit the Yorkshire Museum and Museum Gardens, regardless of how touristy they may sound.
While we’re on the topic of drinking and partying, head north-east to Newcastle if this is what you’re after. I learned the hard way that the happenings of MTV’s “Geordie Shore” could not have been closer in fact to the scene of downtown Newcastle on a night out.
The Lake District may be pricey to access from London, however, if you are already in the Northern half of England it is definitely worth the stop. I would definitely recommend having a car here, as the District is large and there isn’t really any public transit within it. There are tons of cute small towns and castles in surrounding areas you’ll want to check out. Keep an eye out for coach bus fares in advance, especially if you are flexible as to travel dates. I have caught a bus from Brighton to a neighboring town in the Lake District, crossing the entire country,£ for 8 pounds. The Lake District is by far the most picturesque area England (in my opinion) if you’re into nature, hiking, lakes, etc. No matter where you drive, you are surrounded by rolling green hills, sheep farms, and beautiful lakes and rivers. Very Anne of Green Gables. Accommodation can be expensive, as there aren’t any chain hotels, like in major cities. I would suggest looking into AirBnB in a neighboring town, as the Lake District is so big, you’ll probably have rented a car anyways. A good place to end your time in England, the Lake District offers a short (and cheap) train ride to Glasgow or Edinburgh if you’re continuing on to Scotland.
Follow this link for the best hikes/walks in the Lake District: http://www.tgomagazine.co.uk/news/10-best-walks-in-the-lake-district
Oxford & Cambridge
Both would make perfect day trips, as they are only an hour train ride from London. Oxford and Cambridge are home to two of Europe’s most picturesque university campuses. Famous for its renowned movie filming locations, especially for Harry Potter fans, Oxford would be worth a walking/cycling tour. There is also a covered market, worth a visit, especially if the weather turns south. In Cambridge, be sure to visit Cambridge University campus, as well as their Botanical Gardens and King’s College, as well as it’s chapel
You can’t avoid London, even if you want to. Embrace it! This is where your trip to the UK will likely either begin or end (or both). London can be extremely overwhelming. For someone as introverted as myself, the airports themselves are enough to drain me of energy before even entering the city. That being said, it’s probably my favorite city in the world. There is no one way to characterize London, as it consists of dozens of boroughs with COMPLETELY different cultures, architecture and vibes. In my opinion, this is what makes London so special; there is something for everyone. All of the tourist attractions (Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye, etc.) are definitely worth checking out, regardless of the crowds. I would recommend spending one day hitting up all of the “touristy” spots which are all centrally located around Westminster. After that, spend some time in some of the trendier areas of Camden, Shoreditch, Chelsea, Brixton, etc. to get away from (some) of the tourists, and immerse yourself in the incredible amount of vintage shops, restaurants and galleries. There is one commonality in all areas of London, and that is that it is expensive (very expensive, probably the most expensive city I have ever visited). My next article will cover how to do London on the cheap (something I have become very, very skilled at doing).