England may be small in size, but England’s history is world-famous and celebrated across the country. With buildings hundreds of years old and war relics well-preserved, this country is the perfect destination for those who appreciate learning about the history and culture of the places they visit. As avid traveler Jeremy Wien observed during his trip, “It’s tough to overstate the interesting historical sites in London and England at large—remnants from the ruling centre of the largest empire in human history and one of the oldest monarchies on the planet; you can explore the history dating back centuries while also enjoying the contemporary aspects of one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.”
Below are the top sites to visit for history buffs in England.
Hadrian’s Wall is a perfect place to visit for history lovers as well those who enjoy the views of the English countryside. Today, Hadrian’s Wall sits peacefully among rolling grass hills but it was once a defensive fortification built by the Romans from AD 122 onwards. The wall is named after Emperor Hadrian, who advocated for and supervised the building of the wall. Visitors can almost feel its historical value on site as the wall also served a point for levy taxation and a customs post. Hadrian’s Wall is truly a magnificent site and appears never-ending as it stretches from Ravenglass on the west coast to Wallsend on the east coast. Because the wall is so massive, not all parts have survived throughout the years and much of it was reconstructed during the 19th century by John Clayton. However, there are still some portions still present from when it was built for visitors to admire.
The Durham Castle sits majestically on top of a hill in the Durham Peninsula. This castle was erected during the 11th century and was initially a strong-point for King Norman. More specifically, the Durham Castle served as a way for King Norman to display his power and prestige throughout the northern regions of the country. Today, the building has evolved to become a part of the local university, University College, Durham. The architecture of the building is still in its classic 11th-century form and is a perfect example of an early bailey and motte style castle. Because the college understands the historical importance of this castle, it is open to the public. However, visiting requires a pre-booked guided tour so make sure to plan ahead. This castle is definitely worth the hassle of booking as not only is its history and architecture fascinating, but it offers beautiful views over the River Wear and across to Durham Cathedral.
The British Museum
The British Museum is an obvious addition to this list but a necessary one nonetheless. Established in 1753, the British Museum plays host to numerous permanent collections of artifacts that not only hold value for English history, but also the world. More specifically, these collections consist of over 8 million pieces in all, meaning this museum holds some of the most prestigious and comprehensive collections hailing from every continent around the globe. The British Museum offers audio guides or alternatively local tour companies offer personal guides at a reasonable price as well. There is a wealth of knowledge in this museum and each exhibit has in-depth explanations of the pieces they are showcasing, but it helps to have some more information for those who are curious. As far as specifics, the doors open daily from 10 a.m. and close at 5.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. on Fridays. Entry is free of charge.
The York Minster is considered one of the finest cathedrals in all of Great Britain. As the largest cathedral in Northern Europe, this building is absolutely breath-taking and visiting is an unforgettable experience. The York Minster has many highlights for history buffs including the chapter house and the Gothic nave. These two areas house incredibly detailed and beautiful stained glass windows which date back to medieval times. All of the stained glass artwork is incredibly compelling but The Five Sisters Window is always a favorite for locals and tourists alike. This window stands out as it stretches over 52 feet (16 meters) in height. It is a rare experience to view a piece of art of such magnitude that also has such bright and vibrant colors. There are many authentic (and original) gothic and unique cathedral features of York Minster as it was originally constructed in the 14th century as a way to demonstrate a clear Christian presence within England (and beyond).
Shakespeare’s Warwickshire Home
Stopping by the endearing county of Warwickshire is a must for all those who value the way in which Shakespeare influenced English, and world, culture. William Shakespeare’s home is located in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire and is available for the public to visit. The sizable living quarters have been surprisingly well-preserved over the centuries since his birth in 1564. In fact, you can still witness various remnants pertaining to the life of this outstanding poet, whom many regard as the most celebrated writer in the world of English literature. Walking through Shakespeare’s home is thrilling as it is a powerful experience to be in a space where such brilliant and influential work was created. This is an underrated site for tourists to visit, but to be in the home of one of the world’s greatest minds is a unique experience that everyone should take advantage of.