England is famous for a variety of things and there are certain things that will pop up instantly like the iconic double-decker red bus, fish and chips, pubs, cream tea, castles, football, the Beatles and many more great things.
Make sure you add some of these to your list when visiting England! Whether it’s experiencing the pub culture whilst drinking some English beer to soaking in the historic sites, there is something for everyone!
Pubs play a big part in English culture and across the UK. Whether you are going to meet a friend for a drink, going out for a meal or to enjoy the famous Sunday roast, there is always a reason to go to a pub. There are roughly 39,000 pubs across England and some date back quite a few centuries.
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There is always a debate about which is the oldest pub in England and they will come up with an inventive way of saying they are the oldest for something. Here are some of the famous claims!
- The Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham claims it’s the oldest pub as it was established in 1189, however, there is no documentation to prove this.
- The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping says it’s the oldest riverside pub, opening in 1520. The pub is in a Tudor style and served scholars such as Charles Dickens and Samuel Pepys. If you’re in London it’s well worth adding this to your list of pubs to visit.
- The Adam and Eve in Norwich is said to be the longest-running establishment but of course, there are no official records to confirm this. Staff claim that the earliest known reference of the pub is in 1249 when it was a brewhouse owned by Benedictine monks.
- The Porch House’s is an Inn located in Cheltenham in the Cotswolds. Their claim is that they are the oldest Inn with evidence of a pub since 947AD. It’s now a five-star hotel and they have kept some of the original features like fireplaces, windows and oak doors.
Beer has been brewed in England for hundreds of years and the beer they are most known for is a real ale (fermented cask beer). The beer is served from the cask via a hand pump at cellar temperature (between 10–14 °C (50–57 °F). Depending on where you’re from this style is very different from keg style beer which is carbonated and served cold.
The most common types of casks beer are bitter, mild, brown ale and old ale. There are other options like stout, porter and IPA.
When ordering for the first time I suggest asking for half a pint, just in case, it’s not your style! It’s often the cheapest beer available in pubs so it can save a bit of money on drinks.
Interested in learning more about English pubs and beers? Why not take a historical pub walking tour in London. You will stop by 4 pubs, have a few pints and learn all about the history of these alehouses.
Fish and Chips
Fish and chips originated in England and it is a well-known classic, especially when visiting the seaside! In my experience, each seaside town will have at least two fish and chip shops so you will have a choice. Of course, the locals will argue their favourites. It’s a must to try on your travels.
When fish and chips were first combined is unknown but Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant, opened the first recorded shop in 1860. Followed by Mr Lees who opened a shop Mossley in the North of England in 1863. In the middle of the 19th century, this dish started to become popular in London and South East England.
Local’s refer to fish and chips shops as “chippy” so add this to your slang list!
Stonehenge is arguably the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has always been shrouded in mystery, and speculation of its meaning and significance continue to develop today.
It was built by Neolithic people around 5000 years ago, about 2500 BC and Archeologists are still trying to figure out all the mysteries behind these stones. I highly recommend when visiting buying a ticket so that you can get a free audio guide which explains the history and findings around the stones.
As it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions outside of London during the summer it can get really busy so booking tickets in advance is recommended. For residents of England, you can English Heritage membership, which gets you free entry to Stonehenge and many other benefits. Otherwise, I recommend a Stonehenge tour as this will be the easiest route to get there.
Afternoon tea is a long-standing British tradition that was introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1840. As the name implies, afternoon tea is tea and snacks in the afternoon. It started with the Duchess getting peckish in the afternoon and had a tray of bread and butter and cake brought to her room.
After a while this became a habit and the Dutchess extended an invite for her friends to join her. Later the afternoon tea became a fashionable social event. Now there are plenty of classic tea rooms across England to choose from. Here are some examples:
- Afternoon Tea Buses – add some sightseeing with your afternoon tea with a bus tour of London. Harrods or B Afternoon tea buses are a great choice.
- Afternoon Tea for Two at James Martin Manchester – Named one of the Sunday Times top 100 restaruants in Britian, you know you are in for a treat. With free flowing prosecco and delicious treats like sticky toffee éclair, ginger chocolate and hazelnut mousse, and melt-in-the-mouth scones.
- Traditional Afternoon Tea for Two at Oakley Court, Windsor – Located in a beatiful Victorian manor a few miles away from Windsor castle is the Oakley Court Afternoon Tea. Nothing beats freshly made scones with clotted cream and seasonal homemade fruit preserves. Once you’ve finished enjoying all the food you can explore the magnificent grounds or enjoy relaxing in the manor.
- York Afternoon Tea Cruise – All aboard the Captain James Cook! You will sail through York city and then downstream to Bishopthorpe Palace whilst enjoying home-made sandwiches, delicious finger dessert and of course, scones.
The Royal Family
The Royal Family is probably the most famous thing about England, not least because historical eras are referred to by English monarchs even in other countries outside of the commonwealth.
Our present Queen, Queen Elizabeth the Second has been on the throne since 1952 and her long reign followed on from a few turbulent years for the country. Queen Elizabeth did not expect to one day become Queen; her Uncle Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936 and Elizabeth’s father, next in line to the throne became King George VI. Suddenly the lives of Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret changed.
The royal family is celebrated by the English people and a large number of ceremonies and rituals take place at regular times in connection with the royal family.
A few of the London Landmarks are famous and just like the Sydney Opera House or the American White House or The Taj Mahal are instantly recognisable to people as being that particular country. Along with Big Ben, The Tower of London and The Houses of Parliament Buckingham Palace is one of the famous landmarks that signifies England.
Buckingham Palace, which is in the Westminster part of London, is known around the world as the home of the monarch, the main offices for the monarchy and as a backdrop for state occasions.
England is well known for its castles, the most famous is probably one of the alternative homes of the Queen; Windsor Castle, which in turn is famous for its beautiful long driveway of almost 3 miles, with its long straight.
Windsor is the oldest castle in the world that is still occupied and the Queen famously spends a lot of her spare time there. Parts are open to the public and for private tours.
Other famous castles that are instantly identified with England include:
- The beautiful, romantic Leeds Castle that is in Kent, near Maidstone.
- Studley Castle in Warwickshire is an impressive building that is instantly recognisable due to being one of the Warner Leisure Group’s adults hotels.
- Bodiam Castle in East Sussex is a fine example of a 14th Century castle and with its moat, and towers has captured the imagination of many children for history projects.
Did you know that you can stay in Castles around England? Here are 15 castle hotels in England you can stay in.
England is famous for its architecture: We all have different favourites, but there are some stunning ancient cobbled, thatched cottages; timber framed Tudor buildings of Stratford-Upon-Avon and other places too; honey coloured stone cottages; higgledy-pickledy seaside cottages; proud Portland Stone buildings; ancient farmhouses and geometrically perfect Georgian homes; Edwardian terraces; Victorian houses often identifiable by their high V shaped roofs; arts and crafts buildings with individual style.
As well as the homes above English Stately homes of various styles and splendour are English icons.
England has a long history and famous “landmarks” in the history of the nation include Queen Victoria; the industrial revolution; the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII; the sealing of the Magna Carta; the battle of Hastings; the war of the roses; the gunpowder plot; the battle of Waterloo; Admiral Lord Nelson and his ship HMS Victory.
The English were the Inventors of the telephone, the steam engine and the power loom.
England has produced many famous writers, poets and playwrights. Most notably:
the Bronte sisters
J R R Tolkien
D H Lawrence
A lot of tourists seek out the homes, birthplaces and inspiration locations for many of these famous literary stars, consequently, Stratford-upon-Avon, famous as the home of William Shakespeare is a draw for tourists and many of the buildings connected to Shakespeare remain and are maintained for prosperity and tourism. Other places include the Lade District’s connection to Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth and much of Dorset is known as Hardy’s Dorset.
The Beatles from the 1960’s are still one of the best known pop groups in the world. They grew up in Liverpool and changed the world of music in Britain and influenced the rest of the world.
Everyone knows the Beatles’ story right, so I won’t bore you with too much detail here. In the early days, the band went through name changes and line-up changes before they were signed by George Martin and released their first single in 1962, closely followed by Please, Please me. The Beatles became known for their falsetto harmonies, Harrison’s guitar work and of course the Lennon and McCartney song writing. Within a year of their first single release The Beatles, known as the Fab Four were the biggest artists throughout Europe and they were setting fashion and hair trends almost as fast as they were selling music.
Interested in learning more about the Beatles? Why not take a Beatles Tour by Taxi in Liverpool. You will visit iconic sites such as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields and learn what inspired this great band.
Author J K Rowling dreamt up Harry Potter and the stories that surround the character when on a train. Little wonder then that the Hogwarts Express features so strongly in the psyche of the books.
‘Jo conceived the idea of Harry Potter in 1990 while sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London King’s Cross. Over the next five years, she began to map out all seven books of the series. She wrote mostly in longhand and gradually built up a mass of notes, many of which were scribbled on odd scraps of paper.’ (Rowling J K 2016).J.K. Rowling
Just like the Beatles, Harry Potter is synonymous with England and the wonderful, creative writing by Rowling was captured so well in the films that the allure of Harry Potter reached a far larger audience than it might have done had it only been available in print.
Potter and his friends’ adventures were filmed partly in the studio and partly on location and there are many places in England that Potter fans can visit to see first hand where some of their favourite scenes were filmed. Oxford featured heavily as a film location.
The real Kings Cross Station is the setting for platform 9¾ where the students caught the train to go to school at Hogwarts. London City Hall, Millennium Bridge and Claremont Square are just some of the London locations used as locations for filming the stories. Other locations include Alnwick Castle, Durham Cathedral, Lacock Abbey and Hardwick Hall.
The Making of Harry Potter Studio tours always sell out in advance so make sure you book this ahead of time to avoid being disappointment. You can also do a Harry Potter London walking tour or see the filming locations in Oxford.
The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts
To give it its full title!
Probably the most famous music festival in the world the Glastonbury Music Festival started as the Pilton Pop, Talk & Blues Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset. The tickets were priced at just £1.00 and included free milk!
The 2019 festival carried a ticket price of £248.00. The festival gained popularity among music fans and as it grew features more and more genres of music. Being televised by the BBC increased the popularity of the event onto the global stage.
The Music Scene
England is well known for its music scene, the love of music the country has and for the stars from there such as the Beatles mentioned above and other bands including:
- The Spice Girls
- One Direction
- Little Mix
- The Rolling Stones
- The Smiths
- Black Sabbath
and singers such as:
- Cliff Richard
- Amy Winehouse
- David Bowie
- Robbie Williams
- Freddie Mercury
- Katie Perry
- Joss Stone
That English music influences musicians elsewhere in the world is undisputed and that the style of music is frequently distinctive and instantly recognisable is probably one of the reasons why England is so well known for music.
English actors don’t only star in English films, many of them also appear and star in films overseas. The Royal Shakespeare Society is also world famous as a training ground for classical actors, especially for stage work. Many alumni from the college go onto perform in films as well.
When in England it is well worth seeing a Shakespeare play performed or to seek out a live play that includes an actor you have seen and liked in a film.
State and film acting are a huge part of the British economy and are a draw for visitors.
Some of the current well know faces of stage and screen:
- Colin Firth
- Hugh Laurie
- Tom Hardy
- Jude Law
- Michael Caine
- John Cleese
- Christian Bale
- Keira Knightly
- Kate Winslet
- Helen Mirren
- Emma Watson
- Helena Bonham-Carter
- Amelia Fox
- Michelle Dockery
England is very well known for the little airplane that changed the course of World War 2.
There is a very good reason why the Spitfire captured the imagination of so many of our grandparents and great-grandparents, the little aircraft represented hope, romance and courage.
For his book Spitfire – A Very British Love Story, Author and pilot John Nichol interviewed many people who flew, worked on, or otherwise remember the Spitfire to create an incredible account of the development of the aircraft and what it meant to so many people. Nichol explains how the aeroplane spanned a full global deployment to find fame during WWII.
The National Trust
The National Trust was founded in 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and the Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley. Hill was a social reformer and a determined, strong-minded person:
‘We all want quiet. We all want beauty … we all need space. Unless we have it, we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently.’Hill, O
The above quotation by her is a statement that would have raised a few eyebrows in 1895 amongst the upper echelons of society. The three founders all believed that nature, beauty, history and historic places are for everyone and that historic places should be preserved for everyone. The National Trust was born.
The quote is as true today as it was then and the National Trust is a protector of open spaces and beautiful places.
In 2020 The National Trust celebrated its 125th anniversary and is one of the UK’s largest charities. The National Trust cares for historic places, buildings and countryside in the UK and is actually the largest conservation charity in Europe.
Many of us enjoy a look around a stately home or a walk to the grounds or parkland. The Trust though looks after miles of coastline, common-land and less auspicious historical properties that are of national importance and of interest to Brits and overseas visitors alike.
Here are some National Trust buildings I recommend adding to your list:
- Montacute House, Somerset
- Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
- Wray Castle, Cumbria
Want to explore more? Here are 15 National Trust places you need to visit in England.
The Mini Car
Born in 1959, the little car with a wheel at each corner remains today a celebrated icon of 1960’s Britain. The car was as British as it could be, the car was designed with women in mind and early marketing described the mini as perfect for going shopping in.
The mini features a lively performance, easy handling, and is easy to park. By 1965 a million of them had been made and sold. Today they are a classic cars and enthusiasts preserve them with a passion. They are fuel-efficient and quick, making them a fun car for those who want something different.
The Mini name for new cars is now owned by BMW and they make a modern car called Mini that bares only a passing resemblance to the original.
The great thing is about the Classic Mini is that it can be fitted with an electric motor, so people who love the style of the little old car can still drive one with a clear conscience.
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Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.