When asking yourself "Why visit England?", you only need to look at its hugely diverse regions. Many destinations suit active urban explorers, while others have rail links to the glorious local countryside. Take a look at the top places to visit in England and enjoy carefree travel by train.
The UK capital is a truly global city and a clear choice for many travellers. Few destinations match London's sheer number of landmarks. These include Big Ben, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, and St Paul's Cathedral, just to name a few. London is also a superb destination for shoppers, with enough on Oxford Street alone to keep avid shoppers busy for days. Luxurious Bond and Regent Street, plus distinct markets including Brick Lane for fashion and Borough for food, offer even more choice. Major train stations include London Victoria, King's Cross, and Paddington.
"London by the Sea", as it's often called, has been a popular destination since Victorian times. Today, Brighton is a bustling city famed for its liberal atmosphere, cracking choice of pubs, cheerful seafront, and buzzing nightlife. Brighton is well worth a weekend or longer, to explore its charming Laines (cobbled market streets), the thrilling rides on the Palace Pier, and sights including the iconic Royal Pavilion. You can travel by train from London to Brighton in under an hour.
Leeds is the North's largest city by population, with no fewer than five universities adding to its fresh, vibrant atmosphere. Experience the county of Yorkshire in one of its prettiest cities. For a unique experience in Leeds, celebrate one of England's most popular soap operas with a tour of the Emmerdale Studio Experience. Leeds is also the perfect jumping-off point for a trip to the Yorkshire Dales national park. Take a ride on the famous Leeds-Settle-Carlisle train line to take in views of the lush hills and valleys of the Dales. Stop off at Malham Village and follow the paths to Gordale Scar, a rugged limestone ravine with waterfalls. Cross the breathtaking Ribblehead Viaduct, stop off at England's highest station (Dent), take in the charming town of Appleby, or stay on until the terminal station, Carlisle, a historic town boasting a medieval castle and a cathedral.
Famed for its university, this is one of the country's prettiest and most historic towns. Many of the sights are on the university campus itself, including the Bodleian Library (one of Europe's oldest) and the Radcliffe Camera, a gorgeous domed building. You don't need to be a student to witness the amazing architecture and grounds of this great university. Another unique activity to make the most of your visit to Oxford is punting, where you'll hire a gondola-like boat for pleasant trips across the river. Visitors can travel from London to Oxford by train in just over an hour.
Cambridge is also famed for its university, which features the King's College Chapel and the campus Botanic Garden. The city is also home to a branch of the Imperial War Museum and stately homes such as Anglesey Abbey. Cambridge is a delightful mix of city and rural life, with its market sitting in plain view of the nearby hills. The Scott Polar Research Institute, dedicated to studying the globe's polar regions, is another site adding to Cambridge's reputation as a city of science and knowledge.
Home to sporting history and distinct neighbourhoods, Manchester is a magnetic city of the North of England. It's surprisingly quick to reach from the capital by train – London to Manchester takes a little under two and a half hours. Football fans can catch games at Old Trafford stadium, the home ground of Manchester United. The National Football Museum is also located here. Those less interested in the beautiful game can go shopping at the great Arndale Shopping Centre, or head for a drink or a concert in the city's vibrant Northern Quarter, where street art and quirky bars are the order of the day.
Home of The Beatles, this city was the European Capital of Culture in 2008, and has a wide range of music halls and museums to its name. Fans will love the Beatles Story, a centre dedicated entirely to the iconic band. Head to the Merseyside Maritime Museum to learn about the city's heritage as a trading port. Visit the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra Hall for an evening of high culture, or head to the lively pubs for an unforgettable night out.
Sitting just a few miles from the Welsh border is this distinct and alluring English town. Hereford is famous for its beef and cider, so head to the local restaurants for sublime steak, best washed down with a locally brewed tipple. Inside Hereford Cathedral, you can view the Mappa Mundi, a fascinating map showing the known world in the 14th century. You can take the train from Hereford to Worcester, another charming historic town, in just 45 minutes.
An oft-overlooked gem, Truro is the capital of the county of Cornwall. This distinct part of the country boasts its own cuisine, from treats like the Cornish pasty to delicious Cornish fairings (biscuits). Take high tea at the traditional cafés in Truro city centre, and savour the views of this gorgeous county as you travel here by train. Visit the nearby harbour town of Falmouth, or enjoy the breathtaking scenery on a train ride from Truro to Penzance for a look at the rugged Cornish coast.
Another hidden treasure in England, this time back in the North. Chester is fabulous for family trips, offering Chester Zoo, the medieval Chester Castle, the Roman Amphitheatre, and plenty more for everyone to enjoy on a visit. Travel by train from Liverpool to Chester in just 45 minutes. With a calmer feel and gorgeous historic sights, this is an excellent choice for a tranquil visit to the North of England. Chester also has an impressive concentration of shopping centres and boutiques on the high street for a city of its size.
See more of beautiful England when you travel by train
When looking at activities to do in England, you can decide on your specific priorities, be it history, local culture, sightseeing, shopping, family fun or more, and pick the town based on your tastes. While London remains England's most-visited city, and boasts a huge array of attractions, there's plenty more to discover by train in the country. Pick a region you would like to see, choose a city as a departure point and use our website to see how you can discover the surrounding area by train. Staying in cities such as Liverpool or Brighton will give you quick, easy access to a number of other destinations. Crossing off your bucket list of things to do in England is simple when you travel by train.