With plenty of historic castles, loads of cozy pubs and the possibility of a royal sighting, it’s no wonder Great Britain is a top travel designation. To fully immerse yourself in British culture, put the kettle on and add these must-do British experiences to your U.K. itinerary.
Visit a Pub
While stopping off for a drink might seem like an uneventful act, in England, it’s a true cultural experience. Pub trivia night is a frequent event where visitors test their knowledge among their fellow patrons. It’s not uncommon to see folks carrying in their own game or deck of cards to play with mates. The British pub is much more than simply a place to down a beer. It’s considered an extension of one’s own living room.
Many pub patrons will bring their loyal pups out for the evening. Canine companions will dutifully wait for their owner’s last sip of ale. Many pubs will have doggie treats and water bowls on hand for their four-legged guests.
Just be aware, though, that if you grab a table at one of these establishments and expect a waitress to appear you’ll be sadly disappointed. All orders are taken at the bar. In British culture, it would be considered quite intrusive for the bartender to make mention. A traveler is quite likely to still be thirstily waiting way past last call.
Gastropubs have gained in popularity in recent years. This is more of an upscale dining experience than one found at a local pub. The decor is typically tastefully done with a menu offering a variety of culinary delights beyond the typical pub grub. You will be seated and served by wait staff, so the typical pub ordering etiquette doesn’t apply here.
Gastropubs are a great option for an evening of fine dining, but nothing truly compares to the classic pub experience. Most pubs have been in existence for several centuries. There is a certain charm to those low ceilings and sticky floors.
Shop the Street Markets
The concept of the London street market dates back to the Middle Ages. Today, these fairs are a great way to pick up a few souvenirs or hunt down that unique antique. Check out these popular markets dotted around London. Each location puts its own unique twist on the tradition.
(Camden Lock Place, London)
Take the Northern tube line to Camden Town and be treated to one of the quirkiest and most eclectic experiences the city has on tap. Camden Market, near Regent’s Canal, has a hip, bohemian and punk-like vibe. It features stalls of some of the most interesting artisans found around the world. Camden Market offers both an open-air market along with an indoor shopping venue, known as Stable Market.
Shoppers can browse handmade jewelry, clothing, household goods and unique crafts. It’s best to dedicate an entire day of your itinerary to fully experiencing this vibrant section of the city. Visitors will find plenty of ethnic food options to choose from at mealtime. Be sure to allow time to grab a pint and settle in for some of the most interesting people watching around.
(Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London)
Located in the trendy neighborhood of Notting Hill, made famous by the film starring Julie Roberts, Portobello Market is one of the city’s most popular street markets. The fashion, accessories and antiques spill out from the shops onto the sidewalk. Be sure to get there early for the best selection of treasures.
Old Spitalfields Market
(16 Horner Square, London)
Just a short walk from the Liverpool tube station, Old Spitalfields Market offers a rotating selection of merchandise throughout the week. The market is open all week long but the best days to visit are Thursday through Sunday.
If you’re on the hunt for a one-of-a-kind English antique then Thursday is the ideal day to visit. Visitors will have their choice of so many ancient treasures that an additional suitcase may be required.
Friday is the best shopping day for clothing and art. Twice a month on Fridays the streets are bustling with visitors attending the Record Fair. Are you likely to come across a Beatles album signed by the Fab Four? Most likely not, but the possibility alone is worth the visit.
Wander Around Covent Garden
There is so much to see and do around Covent Garden, visitors could dedicate several days of their itinerary to this landmark area. Covent Garden piazza is brimming with charming restaurants, pubs and shops. The area offers some of the city’s best architecture with intriguing arches and detailed gargoyles.
There are plenty of Instagram-worthy photography options in this section of town. Neal’s Yard is a nearby charming cobblestone courtyard. The window frames of the buildings provide a unique canvas where each one is painted in a different vibrant color.
Broad Court hosts a row of several of London’s iconic red phone booths creating an ideal photo op. There are endless interesting alleyways to roam with camera in hand for what are sure to be some of your most memorable travel snaps.
Visit a Castle
Walk in the steps of Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace or visit the childhood home of Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle. When approaching Windsor Castle, remember to take note if there’s a flag waving atop this landmark. It will signify whether the Queen is present or not.
Kids and adults alike enjoy a Beefeater Tour of Tower of London. View the eerie dungeons and listen to stories of eyewitness hauntings in and around the tower’s grounds. These are just a handful of the castle tours to add to your travel itinerary.
Take a Day Trip
While visitors could spend weeks taking in all the sites London has to offer, a trip to the tranquil English countryside is not to be missed. Here are a few of the attractions for visitors to experience outside city limits.
Head to the Northwest section of England for one of the best ways to experience the English countryside. With majestic lakes and breathtaking mountains, this area offers plenty of options for the outdoor enthusiast. Nobody waits for sunny skies to enjoy the outdoors in this part of the world. Just grab your umbrella and head outside for a day of hiking, biking or jogging. It’s no surprise this area inspired authors like William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.
Located on England’s east coast, at the closest point to continental Europe, sits the highly photographed White Cliffs of Dover. History buffs will enjoy a tour of medieval Dover Castle where wartime tunnels are still in existence.
At England’s Southwestern peninsula is a cluster of quaint seaside villages known as Cornwall. Some of the most breathtaking harbor views can be captured at this popular English retreat. The area is well-known for some of the best surfing around. Don’t let the year-round chilly temperature discourage you from hanging ten. Plenty of wetsuits are always on hand at Cornwall’s surf shops to keep you toasty warm in the crisp waters.