It’s no secret that England has some of the most quaint and charming towns you can find. Having spent a whole lot of time in England, with extensive travel to all corners of the country, I’m always on the hunt for those cute towns with the cobblestone streets that seem to transport you back in time. While of course there’s a million quaint villages to visit, I wanted to focus on the more popular (and easily accessible) towns. So here you go: ten charming towns to visit in England!
Durham is perhaps one of my favorite towns in England, located far up north (and the northernmost town on this list). The town boasts an impressive cathedral, a castle that doubles as a university (your dorm room could be in the 900-year-old keep!), and a student population that keeps it from being sleepy. The town is set in a picturesque area with a river flowing through the center.
I’m not living in York yet, so I’m not biased! But York is undoubtedly one of the top tourist attractions in the north with plenty to keep you busy for a few days. The stunning York Minster is worth a visit in and of itself (it has the largest collection of medieval stained glass anywhere in Europe), but don’t miss the City Walls, which date back to the Romans, and the Shambles, a picturesque and narrow cobblestoned street with timber-framed buildings.
Another of the north’s hidden gems, Chester is charming town you can’t miss. Similar to York, it also has City Walls that were originally built by the Romans, and has a fine attraction in Chester Cathedral. Probably the most postcard-perfect part of Chester is the Rows, the two-level shopping area that has beautiful black-and-white Tudor-style buildings.
The town is synonymous with one of England’s most famous celebrities: William Shakespeare. Stratford-Upon-Avon sees an incredible amount of tourism for its links to this great Elizabethan playwright—mainly his birthplace and his gravesite at Holy Trinity Church. It is a quaint little town, and absolutely try to get tickets to see a Royal Shakespeare Theater Company show if you do visit.
Topped by a magnificent cathedral on a hill, Lincoln is a maze of cobbled medieval streets begging to be explored. The twelfth-century cathedral is massive, and the nearby castle dates back to William the Conqueror. A note of warning: wear good shoes, as it’s a long and hard walk up to the cathedral.
One of the most prestigious university towns in the world, Cambridge oozes academic charm. The town has beautiful buildings, a rich history, and tons of quirky university traditions. If you visit only one building while you’re here, it should be King’s College Chapel—some of the most remarkable fan vaulting in the country. Join the students and punt along the river, or stroll along the Backs to see the Bridge of Sighs at St. John’s.
Cambridge’s biggest rival, Oxford is another of the most well-known universities in the world. It’s also a charming place to visit with gorgeous architecture to match. Don’t miss Christ Church College, where parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed, and the Radcliffe Camera (a circular library and reading room).
If charm is what you’re after, you absolutely won’t be disappointed in Bath. A beautiful town with some of the finest Georgian architecture in the country, it also has a long history that dates back to the Romans—which you can see at the Roman Baths, still pumping out water at 46˚C. The Royal Crescent, the Circus, and the Pulteney Bridge, are can’t-miss Georgian sights.
Located in southwest England, Winchester also dates back to the Roman era and today draws visitors in with its stunning cathedral and bustling university. Check opening times for everything if you go in winter (I speak from experience).
Canterbury is simply one place you cannot miss in southeast England. Famous for both Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and its positively magnificent cathedral, there’s plenty of history, narrow cobblestone lanes, and the old gate towers, the only remaining medieval gateway in the city. If you plan on visiting Canterbury Cathedral (which you absolutely must), give yourself at least 1-2 hours to do it justice.
What is your favorite charming town in England?