England’s rich history and several must-see cultural attractions make it an ideal destination for romantic, family, or lonely weekend getaways. And it’s simple to travel about – the shore is seldom more than an hour away.
England also has something for everyone. History fans are particularly fortunate for options, with wonderful ancient cathedral cities like Canterbury and Durham to explore.
Those interested in the Royal Family may even experience life as a Queen (or King) for a day by taking interactive tours of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
Discover the greatest weekend getaways in England with our list of the top weekend getaways.
London is the ultimate city break and the perfect spot to get your royalty fix. Buckingham Palace, the emblem of the Royal Family, has been the seat of English sovereignty for centuries.
While tours of the palace are offered, visitors may get a sense of the country’s reverence for monarchy by just showing up at the gates of adjacent St. James’ Palace at 11:30am on any spring or summer day. The Changing of the Guard ritual is held here.
This vibrant show of music and marching is one of the best free things to do in London. Afterwards, you can even march back to the military band’s barracks).
Buckingham Palace. Since Queen Victoria’s reign, the royals have lived here in London. Check if the royal flag is raised over the palace to see if the Queen is there. During the summer months, while the Queen stays in Balmoral in Scotland, tourists may get a glimpse of the inside.
While tour opportunities are limited, they are worth participating to view interior features including the State Rooms and the Queen’s Gallery. Royal sights nearby include Westminster Abbey, where royal weddings are held, and the Tower of London, home of the Crown Jewels.
The Rubens at the Palace is the ideal place to stay near to London’s royal sites. This exquisite luxury hotel is the closest overnight option near Buckingham Palace.
The hotel’s elegant rooms and suites, fantastic dining, and evening entertainment will make you feel like royalty. The luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in Knightsbridge has long been a favourite of the Royal Family.
York, North Yorkshire, is one of England’s most charming old city centres. In addition to the beautiful York Minster, the city’s amazingly well-preserved mediaeval cathedral was built on Roman defences.
Many ancient lanes and laneways surround the country’s largest historic church, demanding to be explored.
The Shambles is the most famous of them. A cluster of picturesque timber-framed buildings with higher floors actually hanging over the roadway. Many of these antique structures now house boutique stores and tearooms.
Most enjoyable is a tour of the city’s historic walls These huge walls run about three miles surrounding York’s ancient city centre, affording a rare chance to see vistas that haven’t altered in centuries. You’ll pass across Roman ruins and well-preserved ancient city gates.
Take your time walking the walls. Even better, if you’ve booked a room within the walls (or nearby), you can always divide up your exploration into smaller pieces, returning to the throng when the mood strikes, or even reserving some of it for the sunset behind York Minster.
The stately The Principal York is a superb hotel for a pleasant weekend getaway in this region of England.
Located near the city’s railway station (and the famous York National Railway Museum), this hotel offers good service, a health club and spa, and spacious rooms with huge seating spaces.
The lovely Grays Court Hotel provides a choice of distinctively furnished rooms with en suite bathrooms and complementary breakfasts.
Where better to spend a romantic weekend exploring this island nation’s gorgeous countryside than the stunning Cotswolds? The Cotswolds are a collection of six counties located only two hours west of London.
It’s currently an AONB for its rare flora and animals. Castle Combe, for example, is a lovely site to stay while exploring the various mild walks and trails that crisscross the region. The Cotswold Way is a popular path that passes through several picturesque villages.
If you can tear yourself away for a few hours, the Cotswolds are a perfect starting place for trips to surrounding attractions like Bristol’s historic old harbour and Bath’s Roman baths.
Bath is a great place for a family or couple’s weekend away. Not only is this gorgeous city one of England’s hidden secrets, but it also has some of the world’s best-preserved Roman ruins. Best of all, the same hot springs that caught the Romans’ interest are still available to visitors.
Before you get soaked, explore the wonderfully well-preserved Roman Baths. The Roman Baths and Temple comprise actual objects unearthed during excavation throughout the decades, with the centrepiece being the amazing 2,000-year-old mosaics.
The rest of your weekend may be spent exploring the city’s newer architectural wonders. Include the lovely Georgian-era townhouses on Royal Crescent, one of which (#1) is an outstanding museum revealing a little of life in the late 18th century, upstairs and downstairs.
The intriguing Museum of Bath Architecture also has an outstanding scale model of Royal Crescent and other major city monuments.
Visit Pulteney Bridge, a historic river crossing with boutique stores and eateries. Finally, the six-mile Bath Skyline Walk offers spectacular views of the city and is particularly enjoyable after dusk.
After all that trekking, you deserve a bath. Thermae Bath Spa, right across the road from the old baths, offers an opportunity to bathe like a Roman.
It’s stylish and contemporary without detracting from the historic surroundings. Enjoy stunning views from the rooftop pool, soak in a thermal bath derived from the same hot springs as the Romans, and simply relax.
Alternatively, the adjoining 18th-century Cross Bath may be hired for private bathing.
Many city hotels also offer spa packages. The Gainsborough Bath Spa is our top pick, with stunning suites and on-site spa amenities including thermal pools, saunas, and full-service treatment rooms. The Bath Priory is a stunning Georgian house with distinctive accommodation and spa amenities.
Like its long-time competitor, Cambridge, Oxford is a terrific weekend escape for learners. From London, it’s only a 55-minute train travel to Oxford, where many of the original institutions’ buildings may still be seen.
The majestic Bridge of Sighs, an elegant walkway that crosses a road and connects two buildings of Hertford College, and the iconic Carfax Tower are among the must-see landmarks on a self-guided walking tour.
While many schools restrict access during term time, some give enlightening guided tours of their most notable historic structures, including several utilised in film productions, such as Christ Church College’s dining room, which inspired the Hogwarts Great Hall in the Harry Potter films.
Others have tapped into the increased interest in their past and invite tourists to stay a night or two on campus during the summer (breakfast included).
Alternatively, the beautiful De Vere Oxford Thames Hotel, located a little outside the city, provides spectacular views across its 30-plus acres of gardens close to the same river.
Many of England’s most famous explorers began their journeys to exotic regions from Bristol, less than two hours by rail from London.
John Cabot sailed on his journey of discovery to North America from the city’s protected harbour on the Avon River, easily accessible from the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic.
A weekend in Bristol should include time to tour the harbour. These warehouses and wharves have been transformed into attractive galleries and museums, as well as wonderful retail and entertainment alternatives.
Aside from the Bristol Aquarium, At-Bristol Science Center, and museums like M Shed, which focuses on the city’s rich history, the SS Great Britain is located in the port area.
It was the first iron-hulled passenger ship designed by Isambard Brunel. This ancient yacht is a joy to explore and offers a flavour of mid-19th century voyage.
Walking around the city is simple and enjoyable, especially when combined with the city’s hop-on, hop-off ferries. It’s also simple to get nice central lodging.
Favorites include Hotel du Vin & Bistro, a stylish boutique hotel in an ancient sugar factory, with free parking and fashionable rooms, and Berwick Lodge, with its 18-acre park-like setting, full-breakfasts, and afternoon teas.
The historic city of Durham in the county of the same name is now one of England’s most visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its UNESCO listing encompasses around 600 structures, most of which are in the historic city centre.
Explore the city’s well-preserved mediaeval buildings, including the ancient Town Hall and the city’s main attraction, Durham Cathedral.
This spectacular tower dominates the ancient portion of the city, and getting there is half the enjoyment. Boutiques, galleries, and cafés beckon you to linger.
After seeing the magnificent cathedral (guided tours are suggested), visit some more wonderful tourist attractions.
Popular attractions such as Durham Castle, the lively Indoor Market, the beautiful riverbank, and Durham University’s exquisite botanical gardens are all easily accessible on foot from a central hotel.
With easy access to London (and Europe via the Eurotunnel), Kent has long been dubbed “The Garden of England.” It’s a beautiful country to explore, with some of England’s mildest weather.
Canterbury is an excellent base for a weekend getaway in Kent. Explore this lovely market city’s well-preserved mediaeval atmosphere. The Anglican church’s seat, Canterbury Cathedral, is famed for being the site of Archbishop Thomas Becket’s death in 1170.
And if you can, stay at the excellent Canterbury Cathedral Lodge. Located in the cathedral grounds, it’s a rare chance to unwind in the gardens or hotel lounge after dark.
The interesting Canterbury Tales, based on Chaucer’s famous book, is another enjoyable attraction in Canterbury.
It displays life in mediaeval Canterbury in dramatic detail, while the Canterbury Roman Museum goes back even deeper in time to a Roman-dominated era.
Canterbury’s shopping is enjoyable, especially along the historic King’s Mile, with its boutique stores, galleries, and cafés.
From Canterbury, you can easily tour the rest of this lovely English region. Dover, with its powdery White Cliffs and stunning Dover Castle, is a short drive away. Visit the 13th-century Maison Dieu Halland, now a dormitory for pilgrims heading to Canterbury.
Folkestone, a traditional English coastal resort town, is a bit further south. A stroll along the promenade overlooking the English Channel is a must before entering the town’s fashionable Creative Quarter, home to cafés, restaurants, art galleries, and stores.
Take a 30-minute train travel from London to Windsor on the city’s western boundaries for a delightful weekend getaway.
Windsor, in the picturesque county of Berkshire, is noted for its gorgeous old mediaeval residences and tiny cobblestone streets, but most of all for Windsor Castle.
Windsor Castle, the former home of the British Royal Family, is a wonderful weekend trip, with plenty to see and do.
Spend the first day exploring this top-rated attraction’s indoor parts, and the second day exploring its 13 acres of parklands (though this itinerary could be swapped, pending the often-unpredictable weather).
It was the summer palace for nearly 900 years. The majestic State Apartments, with its dining hall and Queen’s Gallery, both displaying intricate ceiling paintings and woodcarvings, and the burial place of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.
The Great Park grounds are also worth investigating. If the weather permits, stroll through the grounds, pausing for a picnic with the castle as a backdrop.
Few writers have had as much impact on a country as William Shakespeare has on England. The Bard, as he was called, spent most of his life penning his renowned plays in this picturesque riverside market town.
Shakespeare’s birthplace is a lovely half-timbered two-story house typical of the middle class in the 1600s.
There are originals of his best works, as well as graffiti etched into the walls by other greats of English literature, such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, who came to pay their respects.
It’s a short stroll to the 16th century town centre. Aside from exquisite dining and shopping, there’s lots more to do here.
If you travel in the fall, try to arrange your visit to catch the famed Mop Fair, which has been held here since the 15th century. During the warmer months, take a stroll along the banks of the River Avon, or better yet, rent a river barge to explore the river and the region’s canal networks.
The magnificent Hallmark Hotel The Welcombe is a must-stay when exploring this beautiful section of Warwickshire.
This historic estate is nestled on 150 acres of rolling countryside and provides a selection of rooms and suites, as well as on-site restaurants. Hotel du Vin Stratford-upon-Avon, a trendy setting near Shakespeare’s birthplace, with exquisite rooms and suites.
Few places can match Cambridge for a romantic getaway. You probably imagine lovers entangled, being escorted through the city’s canals in a typical shallow-bottomed punt, the ancient shallow-bottomed watercraft used to explore the waters around the city for generations.
On the more picturesque stretches of the River Cam, boats are punted by students from Cambridge who may even point out their college (you’ll pass seven of the university’s 31 colleges along the way).
Some of the most beautiful vistas are saved for the College Backs, a location noted for its large lawns and natural areas.
After that, in addition to walking about the college grounds, add a few more sites to your agenda.
The university’s beautiful botanic gardens, built in 1841, exhibit over 8,000 plant varieties from over the world, and the Fitzwilliam Museum has rare artworks and ceramics from around the world.