Sometimes overlooked as a travel destination, the North of England is filled with some extraordinary scenery, beautiful historic architecture, a strong cultural identity, and many fantastic attractions and is a region of England definitely worth exploring. It also has the added bonus of being less expensive (and dare we say friendlier!). So, if you find yourself wanting to escape the crowds in London and the rest of the South, here are 20 of the best places to visit in Northern England…
1. York Minster and the rest of York – one of the most stunning places to explore in North England
This is easily one of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Northern England. York is home to one of the most historical buildings not only in the North of England but also in the entirety of the United Kingdom, the city which belongs more to the past than it does to the present day.
With the Minster taking root from its original wooden structure reputably from 627, the modern Minster as it stands today is dated from around 1080, just fourteen years after the invasion of William the Conqueror. With adult prices being at a £14 standard, it is important to take your time, learn, and truly appreciate the wonders of gothic medieval architecture which is in fact, the largest example in Northern Europe.
Or course you can’t leave without exploring the rest of the historic walled city, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in the United Kingdom. It has an elegant charm and fine heritage as well as many fantastic locations to explore including Yorkshire Museum and Gardens, the York Dungeons, York Minster, and Clifford’s Tower. Also just take time and wander the pretty cobbled streets lined with quaint independent shops and tearooms – you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time!
Here’s a great video on how to spend 48 hours in York…
2. Whitby, Yorkshire – one of the most popular places to stay in Northern England
The ever-popular seaside resort town offers a potent mix of charming coastal scenery, fresh salty air, and a good handful of alternative subculture. Also known as where goths gather (probably because Whitby Abbey was Bram Stoker’s inspiration for “Dracula”) this is a seaside like no other.
It’s located in Yorkshire, is split by the River Esk. Also check out the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, in the house where Cook once lived and the photogenic west part of town which is home to West Cliff Beach, lined with colourful beach huts.
3. Harrogate – one of the best cities to explore in the North of England
This is a famously affluent and good looking town with a rich heritage that makes a great place to visit in Northern England. Located to the east of the Yorkshire Dales it was a fashionable spa resort and today still has many fine offerings including beautiful historic buildings, castles, abbeys, and parks.
I would also recommend heading to the Montpellier Quarter and paying a visit to the Royal Pump Room Museum and Moorish-style Turkish Baths & Health Spa. Also don’t miss the famous Betty’s tearoom and Valley Gardens and art deco Sun Pavilion which make a perfect setting for a picnic on a sunny day!
4. Yorkshire Dales National Park – one of the most beautiful places to visit in the north
The beautiful jewel in the crown of Northern England, The Yorkshire Dales National Park is easily one of the best places to visit in northern England.
It covers thousands of miles of absolutely stunning moors, lush valleys, rolling hills, and traditional villages. Must-see highlights include the River Wharfe, Bolton Abbey Estate includes the ruins of a 12th-century monastery, the pretty Malham Village which features a towering cliff, and a limestone ravine with waterfalls.
5. Scarborough – the charming and elegant seaside resort in the North of England
This is a refined and elegant seaside resort with a charming stuck-in-time feel. The seaside’s heyday was the Victorian Era so think old fashioned fun such as amusement arcades, fish and chips, and sticks of rock but with its own flamboyant style.
It’s still a fun and friendly place though and has remained one of the UK’s best-loved beach resorts for many decades. Scarborough is known for its two gorgeous sandy bays separated by a headland which the 12th-century Scarborough Castle is located, its Victorian Central Tramway funicular train, its Rotunda Museum, the Scarborough Spa and The Grand Hotel which dramatically overlooks the cliff-tops.
6. The Beatles Story and the rest of Liverpool – a musical mecca and a city that was once hailed the Capital of Culture
One of the most popular museums within the City of Culture, the Liverpool based museum offers a fascinating insight into the greatest and most successful bands in the history of music. Brimming with interactivity, insight, guitars, and a pair of round sunglasses, the museum is quite simply a tribute to a band that lasted only a decade, but in fact, managed to sell more than a billion records.
While here also take time to see one of the most famous Northern cities in England, Liverpool. It’s a big city with a heart and soul and it’s friendliness also gives it a small-town feel. It’s also a lively university town with a fantastic array of nightclubs, bars and quirky eateries.
Don’t miss the Albert Docks, Sefton Park, the two cathedrals (Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King), The Baltic Triangle, the Central Library, Bold Street (Lonely Planet once rated Bold Street as one of the best shopping streets in the country), and if you have time squeeze in a visit to Anthony’s Gormley’s Another Place on Crosby Beach
7. Saltburn-by-the-Sea – an easy on the eye seaside town with golden sand beaches
Once a haven for smugglers, then a thriving fishing village today Saltburn-by-the-Sea, now the North Yorkshire gem (in Redcar and Cleveland), draws the visitors mostly because of its long wide stretches of beautiful golden sand backed by a dramatic coastline.
It’s also famous for being home to the last remaining pier in Yorkshire as well and having a unique cliff tramway. It’s a place that also manages to combine charming Victorian features with a creative and contemporary air. Now it has a reputation for being an up and coming destination for arts, culture, food, and surfing.
8. Chester – a pretty town with half-timber buildings and historic Roman features
This affluent Northern City is also very easy on the eye. Located in northwest England not too far from Liverpool, it was originally a Roman fortress and today it’s still home to extensive Roman walls made of local red sandstone and even a Roman amphitheater (next to Grosvenor Park). It’s also full of very beautiful historic half-timbered architecture and the city centre is quite breathtaking.
Chester also plays host to a great calendar of year-round events including the Literature Festival, the Royal Cheshire County Show, and the Chester Heritage Festival. Don’t miss Chester Cathedral, the many brilliant restaurants and one of the large number of traditional English pubs.
9. Hadrian’s Wall – the awe-inspiring World Heritage Site
One of the most famous and awe-inspiring historic landmarks of the North is Hadrian’s Wall. Starting from Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne in the east and ending in Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria on the west coast, it stretches a not too shabby 73 miles cutting through some truly stunning English scenery. It was built to protect the wild north-west frontier of the Roman Empire circa AD122.
Today it’s a popular tourist attraction and intrigued visitors travel from all over to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site which is also home to the remains of the forts, towers, turrets, and towns that once kept watch over the historic Wall. Here you can view rare Roman artifacts, check out museums, and or just take in beautiful views of the wild and rugged landscapes.
10. The Theatre Royal and the rest of Newcastle City
Having been opened since 1837, Newcastle’s Theatre Royal is one of the grandest and significant buildings in the North East.
Officially a Grade I listed building, it has had recently a large sum spent on it in order to improve it to the highest standards of comfort, as well as bettering energy and carbon saving efficiency. Currently celebrating its 175th birthday, the theatre is this year showcasing some of the best international acts and has been claimed as ‘Newcastle’s Cultural Temple’ by the BBC.
Also make time to explore this fun and vibrant Northern City, the lively university city located on the River Tyne in northeast England now an important centre for business, arts, and sciences. It’s also a great place to visit for a night out on the town – the city is consistently voted one of the best nights out in the UK.
City highlights include the famous Tyne Bridges, the Historic Quayside, the world-class concert halls, and art galleries as well as some really excellent restaurants and eateries. Enjoy!
11. The Royal Armouries and the rest of the city of Leeds
Opened to the tune of £42.5 million back in 1996, the Royal Armouries is quite simply one of the best museums in the whole of England and is especially enticing if you regard yourself as a bit of a history buff.
One of the most important and recognised exhibits is the Peace – Farewell to Arms? It’s an exhibit which ponders the end of all wars and a world without weaponry – imagine, it’s easy if you try. It’s a free museum located just outside of Leeds so it may be a good idea to try out a local hotel, apartment or B&B and really make a weekend out of your city trip.
Also, stay a while in the fantastic Northern city of Leeds the largest city in the county of West Yorkshire. It’s a modern vibrant city set in a beautiful historical setting and a great place to visit in the North of England if you’re interested in shopping, eating out and bars.
Other highlights of the city of Leeds include the Corn Exchange which is considered to be one of England’s finest Victorian-era buildings, once the world’s largest woollen mill turned into the excellent Leeds Industrial Museum and The Victoria Quarter which is great for upmarket shopping.
12. Keswick Adventure Centre and the rest of the beautiful Lake District
Looking towards more of the natural side of things, in the heart of some of the most beautiful scenery in the United Kingdom, the Keswick Adventure Centre offers some of the most exciting activities in the wildest of places; from climbing, abseiling, and canoeing to rafting, ghyll scrambling and ww tubing, there isn’t much that the centre doesn’t offer.
If you’re looking for a birthday present with a difference, gift vouchers are available from the site and are valid for 12 months.
Definitely take time to explore the rest of the wonderful Lake District, one of the largest and most loved areas of natural protected spaces in England. The area is literally chock full of seriously beautiful scenery made up of high peaks and clean, wide lakes. One of the most beautiful is Wastwater Lake – the most remote lake – which was once voted Britain’s favourite view. Thinking of staying? Check out our Top 15 of the best dog-friendly hotels in the Lake District.
13. Holy Island – the striking tidal island with an important history
This Northumberland tidal island is located off the northeast coast of England and is cut off twice-daily from the rest of the mainland by fast-moving tides. Easily one of the most beautiful islands in the UK Holy Island holds a very important place in religious history. It was where the Christian message was first spread amongst a mostly pagan area and remains a place of pilgrimage even today.
Positioned on a dramatic rocky outcrop overlooking the island is the iconic and much-photographed Lindisfarne Castle, a small fortress dating from 1550. Lying just off the coast of Lindisfarne, Northumberland (the most unspoiled county in the whole of England) the often wild weather in this part of the UK just adds to the island’s intriguing and mysterious aura.
14. Seahouses – a pretty coastal village located in the Northumberland coast’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Gateway to the Farne Islands, this pretty village is a special place which is located in the Northumberland coast’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty filled with wild, rugged and unspoiled scenery.
It makes a great base to explore the rest of Northumberland but also makes a charming place to visit in Northern England for a day or an afternoon.
Laze around on the sandy beach backed by grassy dunes and rocky outcrops, watch the fishing boats return from a long day at sea, or go for a windswept walk along the gorgeous stretch of coastline. Alternatively, stay a little longer and also make time to take a boat to the Farne Islands, which are home to an incredible array of seabirds.
15. The Museum of Science & Industry and the rest of the city of the cool city Manchester
One of the largest museums in the North of England, the Museum of Science & Industry is devoted to exciting exhibits of transport, power, textiles, and computing. A brilliant place for a family visit, the museum offers steam rides on weekends and bank holidays along with a 4D theatre and an upcoming Transport Festival which takes place between the 4th and 12th of August. Like the Royal Armouries and National Coal Mining Museum, admission is totally free.
The city of Manchester is known to one of the coolest cities in England, a cultural powerhouse and England’s unofficial second city, Manchester is famous for being the birthplace of many famous bands and dance scenes.
Don’t miss HOME a centre for international contemporary art, theatre, and film, the lively Northern Quarter, the foodie’s paradise Mackie Mayor (filled with brick-walled food hall vendors), and go for rooftop cocktails before seeing a top band at Manchester’s hottest music venue, YES.
16. Seaham – the lively harbour town located on the beautiful Durham Heritage Coast which is famous for “sea glass”
The upbeat harbour town of Seaham is located on the beautiful Durham Heritage Coast and is most famous for its abundance of unique “sea glass”, which people travel from all over the country for a chance to collect (Seaham Hall Beach is one of the best beaches in the world for collecting sea glass).
It’s also a great place to visit in the North of England for some tranquil coastal scenery and unique beaches.
Sheltered by a long sea wall, it was once a very industrial area but has since undergone several cleaning projects to become a popular tourist hotspot. Poke around in one of the many rock pools, enjoy a peaceful sunbath on the beach, people watch from Seaham Harbour Marina, or be in awe of the dramatic views along the coastal footpath.
17. The Crucible Theatre and the rest of the city of Sheffield
Built in 1971, the Crucible Theatre is the most important venue in the world of snooker with it annually playing host to the World Snooker Championship. Built to replace the Playhouse Repertory theatre, the Crucible Theatre is indeed one of the most iconic buildings in Sheffield and hosts many theatre productions along with other sports including table tennis and squash.
The rest of Sheffield is also worth a visit, a city in South Yorkshire it’s one of the rising star of the UK’s arts and culture scene. Formerly famous for its stainless steel production, now its once-mighty industrial factories house galleries, theatres, and museums.
Also don’t miss the Antiques Quarter, Millennium Gallery, the Winter Garden, Kelham Island Museum, and spend time browsing the many quirky shops and markets.
18. Tate Liverpool, Liverpool – one of the best attractions in North England
Until 2003, the Tate Liverpool art gallery was in actuality the largest gallery of art outside of London in the United Kingdom. Officially the 24th most visited attraction in Britain, the gallery regularly hosts a series of live events as well as differing seasonal exhibits. Definitely one of the stand out attractions in Northern England.
19. The National Coal Mining Museum, Wakefield – a place where you can learn about the North’s once very important industry
Another museum that is totally free entry, the National Coal Mining Museum, found just within the borders of Wakefield, is one of the most interactive museums in the whole of England; if only for the fact that it offers the opportunity to travel hundreds of feet below the ground to a real mine.
Packed with information about one of the most important industries in Britain’s History, the museum is a treat for just about anyone.
Also check out our post on the beautiful motorhome destinations in the UK
Scott started his travelling life back in 1999, when he headed off on a solo jaunt to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia with just a backpack, a camera and a spirit for adventure. After that, the travel bug bit hard and now he is always seeking to head off somewhere new. Over the years he has lived in Italy, Qatar, Ireland, UK and the US but his spiritual home will always be Rome as this is the city which most satisfies his unrelenting craving for culture, good food and great football. Scott loves nothing better than to be behind the camera and also runs his own blog and Instagram page. He also counts Melbourne, Cape Town and Tel Aviv among his favourite places. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @scottbalaam