Europe & Britain | Destination Guides

15 best places to visit in the UK - a first-timer's guide

Recently updated on April 4th, 2024 at 04:34 pm

Heading to the UK for the first time? You’re in for a treat. Whether you want to roam through magical natural landscapes or explore ancient Roman history and vibrant music and art scenes, the UK has it all. From the vibrant neighborhoods of London and the historic gems of Belfast to the breathtaking Scottish Highlands and the golden beaches of Cornwall, here are 15 of the very best places to visit in the UK.

Explore the UK on: Britain and Ireland Grandeur 

1. London

Tower Bridge, photographed on a snowy day, blue sky, bright sunlight

For most first-timers to the UK, London is the place you touch down and begin your adventure. The capital city provides a brilliant introduction, with endless history, culture, art and cuisine to explore. There’s the iconic landmarks like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tower of London, and world-class museums and galleries like the British Museum and Tate Modern. Dive into the world of Harry Potter or catch a theater show at the famous West End. Or get immersed in the vibrant neighborhoods that dish up a world of foodie delights, shopping and entertainment, from the historic streets of Greenwich to the bustling markets of Camden. 

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2. The Isle of Skye 

The Isle of Skye, photographed in evening sunset light

Known for its rugged landscapes, picturesque villages, and medieval castles, the Isle of Skye is one of the Scottish Highlands’ most iconic destinations. The island’s natural wonders like the Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr, and the Fairy Pools, make it a paradise for photographers and hikers. You can also get to know the local culture and history through the island’s museums and in the warm hospitality of the local inns and restaurants. 

Explore the Scottish Highlands on: Scotland’s Highlands Islands and Cities

3. Bath

Aerial photograph of the city of Bath Spa

Named after its well-preserved Roman-built baths, this is an ancient city steeped in history and elegance. Admire the stunning Georgian architecture with buildings along the Royal Crescent and the Circus or visit the thermal spas for your own modern-day bathing experience. From museums, galleries and theaters, to gorgeous cafes and all things Jane Austen, Bath is both beautiful and fascinating. 

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4. The Lake District

England’s largest national park is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Marvel at the stunning landscapes that inspired poets and writers like William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Go hiking and boating on the picturesque lakes, mountains, and forests. Explore charming towns dotted with boutiques and cozy restaurants serving up traditional cuisine.

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5. Edinburgh

Photo of Edinburgh houses overlooking the Water of Leith

Scotland’s cool capital is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in the UK. Edinburgh Castle, perched atop an extinct volcano, offers panoramic views of the city, while the Royal Mile below buzzes with shops and historic sites like St. Giles’ Cathedral. The city is also home to some world-class events including the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, both held in August.

Explore Edinburgh and the UK on: Real Britain

6. Cornwall

Photo of St. Michael's Mount island, Cornwall, taken from the harbour - blue water, blue sky, with white clouds and a small fishing boat in the foreground

When you picture the UK you likely imagine rugged mountains, emerald forests and tinkling rivers. But the UK is also home to spectacular coastal scenery. Head to Cornwall in England to see golden beaches and gorgeous fishing villages and seaside towns, along with historic sites like the majestic Tintagel Castle. Cornwall is also a haven for conservation initiatives like the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, and the region is also famed for its excellent galleries, studios and artistic heritage.

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7. York

Photo of York minster, peeping above the residential rooftops of the City of York

This historic English city holds a rich history encapsulated within its ancient walls. York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe, dominates the skyline, while the cobbled streets like the Shambles, offers a glimpse into the past. The city’s museums, including the JORVIK Viking Centre and the National Railway Museum, give a fascinating insight into the city’s diverse history from Roman times to the Viking occupation and beyond.

Explore York and the UK on: Amazing Britain

8. The Giant’s Causeway

The Giants causeway at sunset, Ireland travelling with kids

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway is famous for its hexagonal basalt columns formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity. Located on the north coast of Northern Ireland, the site is surrounded by myths and legends of the Irish giant Finn McCool who is said to have created the causeway to get across the Irish sea to face his Scottish rival, the giant Benandonner. After wandering around this beautiful site, you can explore the Visitor Center for interactive exhibits sharing the geological history of the area.

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9. Stratford-upon-Avon

Photo of a large thatched cottage, with three brick chimney stacks, surrounded by leafy trees and gardens

Famed as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is a must-visit for literature enthusiasts. You can explore the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties, which include the playwright’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and Mary Arden’s Farm. The town also hosts performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company, offering a chance to see Shakespeare’s plays in his hometown. Even if you’re not a Shakespeare fan, the town is still one of the best places to visit in the UK, with Tudor architecture, medieval cathedrals, and lush parks along the canals.

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10. Glasgow

Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, famed for its Victorian and art nouveau architecture, a remnant of its prosperity from the the 18th to 20th centuries. Start your architectural exploration with the Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow City Chambers, the University of Glasgow, Mitchell Library, Holmwood House, Kelvingrove Art Gallery And Museum, and the People’s Palace And Winter Gardens. If you’re after more art and culture, visit the Scottish Opera and the National Theatre of Scotland.

Explore Glasgow and the UK on: Britain and Ireland Highlights

11. The Cotswolds

Photo of a an old stone bridge over a river, with an ivy-covered house on one side of the bridge and a weeping willow tree on the other

The Cotswolds region is famed for its enchanting English countryside, with rolling green hills, historic towns and castles, and beautiful stone cottages. Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you’ll find peaceful walks, manicured gardens, artisanal shops, and traditional pubs across charming villages like Castle Combe, Bourton-on-the-Water and Chipping Campden. The Cotswolds is the perfect destination for those looking for a classic rural English experience and a step back in time.

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12. Belfast

Northern Ireland’s capital is another city gem offering a mix of unique history and culture. Visit the world-class Titanic Belfast, located in the shipyard where the RMS Titanic was built. This state-of-the-art visitor experience tells the moving story of the infamous ship. Explore the bustling St. George’s Market for local crafts and foods, or visit the city’s murals and the Peace Wall to get a sense of the history. You can also admire architectural treasures like Belfast Castle and Belfast City Hall.

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13. Stonehenge

Stonehenge on a clear day

This prehistoric monument in Wiltshire is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites. With its massive stones standing against the lush English landscape, Stonehenge evokes a sense of mystery and awe. Believed to have been erected from 3000 BC to 2000 BC, the UNESCO World Heritage Site continues to be a subject of research and speculation and you can learn all about it at the visitor centre’s exhibitions.

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14. Cardiff

Photo of a large modern building in the foreground, with a metal facade stencilled with Welsh text. In the background, a large redbrick building and a ferris wheel

As the capital of Wales, Cardiff is another one of the best places to visit in the UK that blends historical sites with modern attractions. Explore the magnificent Cardiff Castle or get to know the city’s rich history at the National Museum. You can also wander along the vibrant waterfront area at Cardiff Bay for excellent dining and entertainment. Whether you wander through Cardiff Market, picnic in Bute Park, or catch a rugby match or concert at the Principality Stadium, there’s plenty to see and do in Cardiff.

Explore Cardiff and the UK on: Best of Britain

15. Liverpool

Cityscape view of Liverpool

Liverpool is a city with a rich cultural heritage and maritime history, most famously known as the birthplace of The Beatles. Scores of music fans make the pilgrimage here to visit sites like the Cavern Club where The Beatles played and The Beatles Story museum. The city still has a lively music and arts scene, and there’s plenty more to see. Visit Albert Dock for Tate Liverpool gallery and the Merseyside Maritime Museum, wander along the Liverpool Waterfront for bustling restaurants and pubs, and admire the city’s magnificent cathedrals.

What are your favorite places to visit in the UK? Let us know in the comments below… 

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