7 Easy Weekend Trips from London
Already done Big Ben and the London Eye? See what else the U.K. has to offer by hitting the road in search of the country's other treasures. From Brighton to Bath, here are 7 easy weekend trips to put on your radar.
Wales is packed with varied, dramatic landscapes, from beaches and surf-battered cliffs, to rugged mountains and rolling hills dotted with medieval castles. Start your weekend by checking into Castle Hotel, a 17th Century coaching inn in the heart of Conwy. While in town, explore the 13th-century medieval fortification of Conwy Castle; learn how the Welsh became known for their wool by visiting the Trefriw Woollen Mills; go for a swim at Conwy Morfa beach; and check out the smallest house in Britain, which is just 72 inches wide by 122 inches high. From there, it's on to the Italian-esque coastal village of Portmeirion—all pastel cottages and wildflower gardens perched on a cliff above an estuary. If you’re visiting in September, try and get tickets for Festival No. 6, an arts and music festival with something for everyone, from concerts and dance parties to intimate readings, stand-up comedy, and art trails through the woods. Before heading back to London, make a stop by Cardiff to visit the Victorian Gothic Cardiff Castle in the city center, shop through the Victorian and Edwardian arcades, dine along the Cardiff Bay, and if you’re traveling with a Doctor Who fan, experience the interactive, multi-sensory Doctor Who Experience attraction.
With ample music, arts, and nightlife offerings, Manchester can hold its own against flashier London. Get in stride with the city's creative spirit by bedding down at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester, a former music venue where the likes of Bob Dylan, Pinky Floyd and the Sex Pistols preformed. Keep up your cultural edification at Afflecks, an emporium of alternative retail in the Northern Quarter, where you can shop everything from top hats to tattoos. While in the neighborhood, have breakfast or lunch at the Teacup Kitchen (an award winning cafe and restaurant known for its extensive selection of teas), or go for a slice of pizza at PLY, a restaurant and art space with exhibitions and events featuring artists from all over the world. For more art, head to the Manchester Art Gallery in the city center or the Whitworth Art Gallery across the canal, where you'll find works by British sculptor Jacob Epstein, British artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth, Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso. If you're visiting the city in August, don't miss the city's annual Pride Festival; the Gay Village becomes a party hub over the August Bank Holiday Weekend.
Football and the Fab Four— these are the two things for which Liverpool is best known. But the gritty dockside city has plenty more to sample and experience, from contemporary art to high-end cuisine and boutique hotels. Your first stop: the historic Albert Dock, where admission to the Tate Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, and the International Slavery Museum are all free. Take a break from all that culture by having lunch at The Philharmonic, an old-school pub housed inside an ornate Victorian building. After, it's off to the award-winning Beatles Story museum, where fans can find immersive recreations of key locations from the Fab Four’s career (think: the Casbah, Mathew Street), or the famous Cavern Club to watch a tribute band perform the group's greatest hits. Crash at the Hope Street Hotel, a centrally-located boutique where Yoko Ono and Kanye Wes have both stayed.
Just an hour by train from Paddington Station, Oxford is England's most prestigious university town (rivaled only by Cambridge), whose architectural styles range from Saxon and Neoclassical to Palladian and Gothic Revival (it's no wonder the poet Matthew Arnold called it the ‘city of dreaming spires.') Perhaps, the most stunning of all of Oxford's landmarks is the 18th-century Radcliffe Camera, which was originally built as the Radcliffe Science Library. Another must-visit is the 1000-year-old Oxford Castle. Take the tour to wander through a 900-year-old crypt and soak up panoramic city views from the top of St George's Tower. Harry Potter fans will want to sign up for the Harry Potter Tour, a two-hour experience that includes stops at Christ Church College's Tudor dining hall (which inspired Hogwarts' Great Hall) and other shooting locations from the films. Make your home base the Old Bank Hotel, whose 42 clean-lined rooms are done up with contemporary art works.
Britain’s rolling countryside is filled with medieval towns and quaint villages, but most can’t hold a candle to Bath. Travelers have been making the journey to this tiny city for centuries to gaze at its restored Georgian residences, built from honey-colored Bath stone, and explore the 2,000-year-old Roman Baths, a complex of temples and pools fed by three hot springs first built in 75 BC. While you can't go for a dip, the nearby Gainsborough Hotel has as spa with three thermal pools (all fed by natural thermal waters) that are perfect for soaks, as well as 11 treatment rooms. Inside, you'll also find a Johann Lafer-run restaurant and guestrooms done up in soothing shades of blue, brown and white courtesy of New York-based Champalimaud Design. If you find yourself in the city come September, check out the Jane Austen Festival, with 80 Austen-themed events including costumed promenades, dances, balls, readings, talks, and concerts. Die-hard fans will also want to visit the Pump Room, the see-and-be-seen restaurant from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Craving some fresh air? Look no further than the Prior Park Landscape Garden, an 18th-century landscape garden set in a sweeping valley, or the Bath Skyline walk, a six-mile circular route with beautiful woodlands and meadows, an Iron Age hill fort, Roman settlements, and 18th-century follies.
Most travelers don't think of England as a beach destination, but they've probably never been to Brighton. Life in this seaside resort town on England’s southern coast is progressive and light-hearted—and a catch-all for anyone seeking some old-fashioned fun, whether it’s riding a roller coaster on the pier, checking out local art, or hitting the town's legendary pubs. Just minutes from the iconic Brighton Palace is the Kemp Townhouse, an intimate boutique hotel with just nine rooms. Once you've settled in, explore nearby Kemp Town, a boho-chic neighborhood with first-rate restaurants and independent shops, where you'll find everything from vintage frocks to quirky antiques. Rather day-drink? Check out North Laine, home to a handful of outdoor pubs and gastro cafés. When it starts to rain (this is England after all), tour the Royal Pavilion, an Indian-style pleasure palace built for King George IV that's defined by its complex exterior domes and minarets and outlandish interiors, which drip with dragon wallpaper and Mandarin figurines.
The serene Berkshire countryside is the setting for one the oldest and largest occupied castles in the world, Windsor Castle. For a taste of the aristocratic life, bed down at the Cliveden House, a luxury estate on 376 acres that was once the home of the prestigious Aster family. Take an afternoon to explore the property's perfectly manicured gardens and walking trails set along the River Thames. Other must-dos: catch a performance at the Garsington Opera; visit the famous Ascot Racecourse (site of the British Ascot Races, the biggest race event of the year); watch a game at the Emsworth Polo Grounds; and stroll the historical and royal Windsor Great Park with its historical monuments, ancient forests, and rare wildlife and plants.
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