England is a country of many different faces, from the historic city of York with its Gothic cathedral to cosmopolitan Newcastle and picture-perfect Northumberland. It also boasts a rich history in industrial cities such as Manchester and Liverpool.

Explore the best of England with experiences selected by Rough Guides. From off-the-beaten-track adventures in the Lake District to family activities in kid-friendly places like Devon and Cornwall.


Manchester is a booming hub for the arts, business, and culture with many exciting things to do. Located in England’s North region, the city is known for its vibrant music scene and modern lifestyle, but it also boasts a rich history as a powerhouse of the industrial revolution. Today, it is a popular choice for professionals seeking career growth and a sense of community.

Learn about the city’s storied past in museums such as the Science and Industry Museum, where the sights, sounds, and smells of cotton mill life come to vivid life. Discover a range of innovations, from the world’s first steam-powered cotton factory to the splitting of the atom, at this fun and fascinating indoor attraction.

Football fans will love exploring the city’s national sport at the National Football Museum, or catching a game at the Old Trafford or Etihad Stadiums. Other sports and leisure activities include hiking the nearby Peak District, touring historic canals on a boat trip, or taking in a show at the Palace Theatre.

For foodies, the city’s many markets offer authentic cuisines from around the globe, while trendsetting live music venues and pulsing dance clubs draw crowds. Tours by Mountain Goat Tours includes the city’s top sites with a local guide or take a stroll through Piccadilly Gardens, Chinatown, and more on a guided walk.

Manchester’s thriving craft beer scene is well worth exploring at independent breweries like the award-winning Drygate, or try a tasting flight at The Lowry. Alternatively, see the best of Manchester’s thriving arts scene at the Whitworth gallery and park or the Royal Exchange theatre. Those looking for an adrenaline rush can test their football skills at the National Football Museum, or visit the Stockport Air Raid Shelters to explore a labyrinth of dark tunnels.


Liverpool is a cultural destination with a wealth of attractions. It is the second most visited city in the UK and home to an astounding number of art galleries, national museums and historic buildings (more than any other English city outside London).

The UNESCO-listed Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City includes the Pier Head and Albert Dock and features an eclectic array of modern offices, restaurants and shops that complement the historic docks and warehouses. The refurbished Liverpool One shopping area is a hub of contemporary culture, with beautiful 18th-century townhouses and a variety of bars and cafes.

It is also known as the birthplace of The Beatles and is a major music destination, with a number of landmarks associated with the band (including Matthews Street and the Cavern Club on Penny Lane) and a thriving scene for live bands. Musical heritage is celebrated throughout the city, and the Liverpool Museum of Modern Music is worth a visit.

There are a range of activities to enjoy in Liverpool, from touring the renowned cathedrals to taking a scenic sightseeing cruise on the Mersey River. The 50-minute cruise is a relaxing way to see the city’s skyline from the water, and it also provides a unique perspective of the waterfront.

Football fans should plan their visit to Liverpool carefully if they are coming during a match. Liverpool has two professional soccer teams, so the city comes alive with sports fans on game day, making public transport and accommodations busier. Those who are not football fans may want to avoid this time of year.


Newcastle, the capital of the Geordies, is a bustling city with an electric atmosphere, renowned music scene, and exceptional food. Its stunning Quayside setting, dazzling nightlife, and large host of unique bars and restaurants will keep you coming back for more.

Founded as an industrial hub, it still has strong connections to the world of heavy industry today. It is also a city of innovation, from the invention of windscreen wipers to advancements in healthcare. The city boasts several historic sites including Morden Tower, one of the five remaining turrets from the historic town wall built by Tom Pickard and Connie. The tower is now home to a poetry reading room where the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Seamus Heaney, and Ted Hughes have read their work.

For those looking for a little culture, Newcastle is home to the Theatre Royal and offers a variety of art galleries. Alternatively, take in a football match at St James’ Park where the passionate Toon Army cheer on their beloved team. Newcastle is a compact city and can be explored on foot, however if you are short on time book a guided tour of the best sights and sounds with an expert guide.

Learn about the UNESCO-listed Hadrian’s Wall on a day trip from Newcastle. This fortified Roman wall encircled Newcastle during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and is still visible today, particularly to the west of the city. The wall’s importance is evident as it was once a frontline fortification and even acted as an effective defence against Scottish invasions. It is now an intriguing attraction for history buffs.


Among England’s most striking medieval cities, York boasts a wealth of historical attractions. Climb the craggy city walls, scour its labyrinthine medieval streets and take in the Gothic grandeur of York Minster, the cathedral that towers above this compact urban center. And though the past is present here – with quaint pubs, boutique fashion stores and treasure-filled antiquarian bookshops – there’s plenty for modern visitors to do too.

For starters, the 3.4km city walls are one of York’s top attractions. The well-preserved walls were first built in Roman times, then rebuilt in stone during the medieval period. They’re a fun way to get an overview of the city and offer spectacular views. The city walls are topped by Clifford’s Tower, the former castle fortification that served as the main gate to the old city.

Other must-see York sights include Fairfax House, an 18th century townhouse that demonstrates how life was lived in the heart of the city during this time. Then there’s the Jorvik Viking Centre, a popular attraction where you can step back in time and see what the city looked like in 975AD.

There are plenty of free things to do in York too, including a visit to the Museum Gardens and a stroll around the historic abbey at All Saints’ Church. You can also scour five floors of second-hand books at the Minster Gate Bookshop, or sample local produce at the York Farmers Market. And if you’re into live entertainment, you can take in a play or musical at the Grand Opera House, which recently underwent a full renaissance to its original period layout.


The city of Durham is renowned for its ancient history, and you’ll find plenty of museums to explore that tell the tales of its past. The UNESCO World Heritage–listed Durham Cathedral is a must-see attraction, and you can also admire the castle, palace, and other buildings that surround it.

Another great museum to visit is the Durham Museum and Heritage Centre, which has many informative exhibitions on its walls. It’s housed in a medieval church and includes audio-visual shows, brass rubbings, and an array of interesting artifacts. The museum is free to enter, so it’s an excellent place to visit during your trip to Durham.

You can also visit the 13th-century Crook Hall, which is home to a lovely English garden. It’s a short walk from the cathedral and offers guided tours during the day. Other notable gardens to see are the daffodil gardens at Alford and the awe-inspiring 13th-century Lumley Castle garden.

While you’re there, stop by the Bowes Museum. This remarkable French-style building holds a collection of fashion and art pieces amassed by the Bowes family. You can even see the silver swan, an animatronic from 1773 that puts on a show every day at 2pm.

Foodies will be blown away by the Durham restaurant scene, with the area being one of the South’s hottest foodie destinations. Dame’s Chicken and Waffles is one of the top restaurants to check out, and you can’t miss out on trying the local brews at Brightleaf.

If you’re interested in learning more about the region, try Take Walks, which has many walking tours with expert guides.