With the huge amount of history and culture it offers, it’s no surprise England is one of the most visited countries in the world. Its fascinating past has become the stuff of legend, it’s home to some of the most stunning landscapes nature has to offer, and its thriving cities are perfect for exploring day and night.
There’s so much England offers, it’s almost impossible to see it all in a week – but we like a challenge. If you’re looking to cram in as much as you can into your short stay, this is our ideal 7-day England itinerary.
Day 1 – London
Wherever you’re travelling from, London is the easiest place to start your trip. It’s probably also the city you’re dying to visit most, so let’s get started with a bang.
Start the day nice and early with a trip to Oxford Street. It’s the best place to begin your tour of London because not only is it the city’s shopping haven, but it gets busier as the day goes on. Wander around its world-famous stores and soak up the sights in between, from London’s red buses to the iconic tube station.
From Oxford Street, walk down Regent Street towards Piccadilly Circus. This is the London equivalent of New York’s Times Square, so it’s perfect for a photo opportunity in front of an iconic red bus. Leicester Square and Covent Garden are within walking distance – the former the home of London’s film premieres and the latter a stunning marketplace brimming with cafes, restaurants, and shops. This will be a good time to grab a coffee and a bite to eat, so grab a seat outside at Ladurée and watch the world go by.
Now’s when you start getting into the history of England’s capital. Walk across to Trafalgar Square to pay visit to the iconic Nelson’s Column before taking a quick trip around the National Gallery. If museums aren’t your thing, there are often events taking place on the square which you can partake in. With your history cap still on, Westminster Abby, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben aren’t too far away. These should need no introduction and offer some of the best photo opportunities in the city.
Heading east across the river you’ll find the London Eye, another iconic London landmark. It’s best to get this out of the way before you eat in case you’re afraid of heights, but it’s well worth it for the incredible views you get of London.
We don’t blame you if you’re a bit peckish by this point, so walk across to the London Bridge area for some food. Borough Market is the place to find some of London’s best street food, with dozens of market stalls selling food from all over the world. For another unbelievable view of London walk across to the Shard on your full stomach, which is just next to London Bridge itself.
By this point you’ll be right beside the Thames, and a short walk eastwards will take you to Tower Bridge – not to be mistaken for the less-iconic London Bridge. Just next to it is the Tower of London, where you can visit the Crown Jewels and learn all about the history of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. It’s a great area to end the day, during which you’ve seen some of London’s top tourist attractions.
Day 2 – Bournemouth
Your first day experiencing the hustle and bustle of central London was hectic, so on day two we’re taking you the relaxing seaside town of Bournemouth for some sun and sea.
Catch a train to Bournemouth early to make the most of the day, which starts at the Oceanarium, the town’s aquarium. It’s home to thousands of amazing underwater creatures, including sharks, turtles, and rays, and gives the whole family a chance to get up close and personal with species they’ve probably never seen before.
Take a short walk across to Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum for a dash of culture. It’s brimming with the beautiful objects Merton Russell-Cotes picked up along his travels with his wife Annie, as well as British art and an exhibition centre.
Since you’re so close to the beach and desperate for a rest after your busy day and a half, spend the rest of the afternoon around Bournemouth seafront. Here, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes for lunch and dinner (we recommend Urban Garden for either), as well as ice cream huts for a quick treat. You can split your time between relaxing on the beach and exploring the seafront, with one of the country’s best seaside arcades and mini golf courses for a bit of family fun.
Make sure you watch the sunset on the beach before you put head to pillow – tomorrow involves yet more exploring.
Day 3 – Oxford
Hop on an early train from Bournemouth to Oxford. Don’t worry if you’re tired – a quick trip to The Handle Bar Café – a quirky bike-inspired café in the centre of Oxford – will get you ready for the day ahead.
Start off by getting your must-do photo of Radcliffe Camera out of the way. The 17th building is a staple of the city and one of its most iconic landmarks, so it’s best to get your shot done before the rest of the tourists arrive. Whilst you’re there, take a look around the Bodleian Library – the oldest reading room in the university. 60-minute tours are available if you’re looking for a bit more history and background.
If you decide to take the tour, you’ll naturally end up at the Sheldonian Theatre, the location for graduation ceremonies and a stunning architectural feat. The whole area on which it sits presents a great photo opportunity, with the Bridge of Sighs (Hertford Bridge) more Venice than Oxfordshire.
This should take you into lunchtime, so have a quick bite at a local café or restaurant to fuel up (we recommend Turl Street Kitchen). To walk it off, take a wander around the Covered Market, which still stands almost 250 years after it was built. It’s a great place to find gifts from independent shops and food and drink from local suppliers.
The rest of the afternoon will be spent wandering the grounds of Oxford’s world-famous university. Begin at Christ Church Meadow before exploring Christ Church College, where 13 Prime Ministers and other famous personalities such as Lewis Caroll once studied. If you have time, make sure to visit Exeter College, New College, and Magdalen – all of which are open for walking tours.
It’s been another walking-heavy day, so spend the evening relaxing at one of the city’s pubs (Turf Tavern is one of our favourites) followed by a well-deserved bite out.
Day 4 - Manchester
From Oxford, take a train to Manchester for another university city with a twist. Manchester is a Northern hub and one of the UK’s most populous and popular cities, making it a great way to spend your penultimate day.
If you didn’t have your fill of libraries in Oxford, Manchester has plenty. The John Rylands Library (known as the university library by many) is one of the largest in the UK is more Harry Potter than real life, with stunning décor that dates back hundreds of years. Then head to the Manchester Central Library – one of the oldest buildings in Europe – for a selection of galleries and exhibit halls that detail the history of Manchester.
Close by is Manchester Town Hall, one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. Standing proud on Albert Square, this neo-Gothic building is one of the most important in England, and it’s where the Christmas markets take place on a yearly basis. If you’re visiting in December, we can’t recommend the markets enough.
By this point you’ll be starving, so take a walk towards the city centre for a bite to eat. There’s an abundance of places to choose from, but we recommend going to the bohemian Northern Quarter where you’ll find Trof – it should be more than enough to fill you up for the rest of the day.
Whilst you’re there, take a gentle stroll around this side of Manchester. It’s packed full of independent shops selling all sorts of niche items, and its status as one of the best places to go out in the city means it’s brimming with bars and restaurants. Take a look around the famous Affleck’s for a quick insight into the weird and wonderful side of Manchester.
Just a quick walk is the Arndale – the place to find all of your favourite retailers. Wandering around the whole shopping centre will take up a big chunk of the day, so if you aren’t interested in parting with your cash then head to the National Football Museum – a free museum detailing the city’s affiliation with the country’s most popular sport.
For the evening we recommend Spinningfields in Deansgate, which is lined with high-end shops and restaurants. Our personal favourite is Tattu, though for a cheaper option Thaikhun serves up delicious Thai food at an affordable price.
Day 5 – The Lake District
The last two days have been city-heavy, so for our final day we’re going to explore the great outdoors. The Lake District provides some of the most stunning sights in the UK, so will be a great way to end your tour of England.
Start at Windermere, where you’ll be able to visit one of the UK’s great lakes. Walking around Lake Windermere is a great way to spend your morning, and there are plenty of cafes for a drink and bite to eat if you need to stop. However, we think the best way to experience the lake is by boat – trips run for about an hour or so and give you some perfect photo opportunities.
From Windermere, take a train to Keswick – a quaint market town filled with independent shops and eateries. Take a look around stores you won’t find anywhere else before you have a well-deserved late lunch (our favourite spot is Fellpack). If you’re still feeling peckish, head to Roly’s Fudge Pantry for some morish treats.
The rest of the afternoon will be spent at Honister Pass for one of the Lake District’s most iconic walks. There are many different routes to take through and around the pass, but our favourite is the Honister Pass Circular Route, giving you all the different sights in one walk. It’s a long climb through the pass before you circle around Fleetwith Pike and Black Star to finish where you started.
If you’re a fast walker you can also pay a visit to the Honister Slate Mine. It has a museum detailing the history of the pass with a small café to grab a drink and admire the stunning views of the pass – an amazing way to finish what’s been a busy five days in England.
There are so many things to do in the UK, so don’t forget to check out our itineraries for South Devon, Scotland, and Cornwall. If you’re looking for some more specific activities, you can also find some of the best zoos, the best castles, the best theme parks, and the best water parks the UK has to offer with CrossCountry.
Exploring England via train is an excellent option, and CrossCountry has services across the county running from all over the country. You can buy tickets on our website or Train Tickets app, and remember to check out our cheap tickets page to see how you can save money on your travel with CrossCountry.