If you’re a History buff, this itinerary to the best of the UK historic cities will make a dream trip for you! With each step you take in these places, you’ll find yourself immersed in tales of the past. Fortunately, the country boasts an excellent rail network, making it convenient to explore them by train. In this itinerary, we’ll focus on some of the most captivating UK historic cities to visit.
Travel guide to the best of the UK historic cities
While London may be filled with modern skyscrapers, it remains home to a plethora of historic sites too. As you walk through London, you’ll encounter architectural remnants from the Roman, Tudor, Elizabethan, Georgian, Edwardian, and Victorian eras, beautifully juxtaposed with contemporary 21st-century architecture.
Immerse Yourself in History at Historic Hotels in London
For an authentic historical experience, why not stay in traditional historic hotels? The Langham, welcoming guests since 1865, has hosted esteemed figures such as Charles Dickens and Napoleon III and even features in Sherlock Holmes novels. Another iconic option is Brown’s Hotel, widely regarded as London’s oldest hotel, with a guest list that includes monarchs and presidents. Other historic hotels worth considering include Claridge’s, the Savoy, the Andaz (formerly known as the Great Eastern Hotel), and the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
Must-Visit Historic Sites in London
While London offers countless attractions, let’s focus on some key historic sites:
- Tower of London: Dating back over 1,000 years, this iconic fortress was commissioned by William the Conqueror and houses the Crown Jewels.
- Hampton Court Palace: Once the beloved home of King Henry VIII, this magnificent palace, located on the outskirts of London, showcases state apartments, the King’s private chapel, and stunning gardens and parkland.
- Tower Bridge: This architectural marvel was constructed in the late 1800s. Walk along the glass-bottomed walkways for a unique perspective.
- Museum of London: Delve into the city’s history from its origins to the present at this free museum, temporarily located in Docklands while its new home in Smithfields is being prepared.
- St Paul’s Cathedral: Admire the beautiful interior and panoramic city views from this iconic cathedral. Don’t miss the Whispering Gallery, located 257 steps above ground.
Other noteworthy activities include a Jack the Ripper walking tour, visiting the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, exploring the Cutty Sark, witnessing the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and wandering through the Old Royal Naval College.
Day Trip to Windsor
Windsor makes for a delightful day trip from London! Originally built by William the Conqueror in 1070, Windsor Castle now stands as a magnificent Gothic stone castle, surrounded by a 13-acre estate. Explore the castle precincts, state apartments, and St George’s Chapel, where Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were laid to rest. Afterward, take a leisurely stroll across the bridge into the charming village of Eton, home to Eton College, the prestigious school of choice for the Royals.
To reach Windsor from London, take a train from London Waterloo to Windsor Riverside and Eton station, which usually takes under an hour. Another option is to travel from Paddington, changing trains.
Next on our UK historic cities itinerary is the picturesque city of Bath, located in the southwest of England. Known for its well-preserved Roman-built baths and stunning Georgian architecture, Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Key Highlights in Bath
- Roman Baths: Explore the ancient Roman Baths complex, which includes the remarkably preserved Great Bath, temple ruins, and a museum displaying artifacts from the Roman era.
- Bath Abbey: Marvel at the intricate Gothic architecture of this magnificent abbey, which has stood for over 1,200 years. Climb the tower for panoramic views of the city.
- The Royal Crescent: Admire the graceful Georgian architecture of the Royal Crescent, a crescent-shaped row of townhouses overlooking a lush lawn.
- The Circus: Visit this circular arrangement of townhouses, another prime example of Georgian architecture in Bath.
- Pulteney Bridge: Take a stroll across this beautiful bridge lined with shops and enjoy views of the River Avon.
- The Jane Austen Centre: Delve into the life and works of the beloved author, Jane Austen, who lived in Bath for a significant period. The center offers exhibits, workshops, and even Regency-era dress-up sessions.
To reach Bath from London, you can take a direct train from London Paddington, which takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.
As we continue our journey through the UK historic cities, Oxford, known as the “City of Dreaming Spires,” beckons with its prestigious university and charming medieval streets.
Top Attractions in Oxford
- Oxford University: Explore the stunning college campuses, including Christ Church College, known for its Great Hall that inspired Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.
- Bodleian Library: Take a guided tour of one of the oldest libraries in Europe, which houses an impressive collection of ancient manuscripts and books.
- Radcliffe Camera: Admire the iconic circular building that serves as a reading room for the Bodleian Library.
- Ashmolean Museum: Discover art and antiquities spanning thousands of years in this renowned museum, the oldest public museum in the UK.
- Covered Market: Wander through the vibrant Covered Market, a historic market hall with a variety of shops and eateries.
To travel from Bath to Oxford, you can take a direct train from Bath Spa station, which typically takes around 1 to 1.5 hours.
Our final stop on this UK historic cities itinerary is the enchanting city of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital. From its medieval Old Town to the elegant Georgian New Town, Edinburgh offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and stunning landscapes.
Must-See Sites in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Castle: Perched atop Castle Rock, this iconic fortress offers breathtaking views of the city. Explore its history, including the Stone of Destiny and the Crown Jewels of Scotland.
- Royal Mile: Stroll along this historic street connecting Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Browse through shops, visit historic sites, and soak in the lively atmosphere.
- Holyrood Palace: Explore the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland and visit the beautiful Holyrood Abbey.
- Arthur’s Seat: Hike up this ancient volcano and enjoy panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscapes.
- National Museum of Scotland: Immerse yourself in Scottish history, art, and culture at this fascinating museum.
To travel from Oxford to Edinburgh, you can take a direct train from Oxford station to Edinburgh Waverley station. The journey usually takes around 4.5 to 5.5 hours.
This UK historic cities itinerary takes you on a captivating journey through some of the the country’s most remarkable destinations, each offering a unique glimpse into the country’s rich heritage. So, pack your bags and get ready to immerse yourself in the fascinating history of London, Windsor, Bath, Oxford, and Edinburgh. Happy travels!