Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in South East England
Windsor is a handsome town in Berkshire, southeast England, with an ancient heart, a setting along the River Thames and a connection by bridge to Eton, home of one of England’s oldest and most prestigious public schools. St. George’s Chapel sits next door to Windsor Castle, which is both the largest permanently occupied castle in the world and one of the official homes of HM The Queen. The chapel was founded in 1348 by King Edward III and is a fine example of Gothic styling with flying buttresses, glorious stained glass and a vaulted interior of exceptional grandeur, as befits the place of worship of the Royal Family.
It is the burial place of 10 English kings including Henry VIII and George III, as well as many other members of the monarchy, and is also home of the Knights of the Garter; this is one of the oldest chivalric orders in the world and the highest ceremonial accolade in the UK. Members currently include the Queen, Prince Charles and former leaders of the armed services, captains of industry and ex-Prime Ministers; their heraldic banners hang high above the choir in the chapel. St. George’s is closed to visitors on Sunday, but all are welcome at any of the services throughout the week; they are held daily at 8:30am, 10:45am, noon and 5:15pm.
The 12th-century Leeds Castle is among Europe’s best preserved medieval landmarks, with more than nine centuries of history represented in the building and grounds. Sprawled over 500 acres (202 hectares) and surrounded by a regal moat, the stone castle and its gardens offer a peek into the past as well as a variety of present-day, quintessentially English events and activities.
With its imposing stone brick towers, double moat and elaborately sculpted greenery, there’s no doubt that Hever Castle is a home fit for royalty, or at least future royalty. The castle’s most famous former resident was Anne Boleyn, arguably the most notorious of all King Henry VIII’s wives, and the future queen was born and raised on the magnificent estate.
Today, the remarkably restored 13th-century castle is a popular tourist attraction, with the grand paneled rooms decorated with antique furnishings, dazzling tapestries and a fine collection of Tudor portraits. Highlights include two of Anne Boleyn’s own books, an exhibition of her life at the castle and an impressive selection of armoury and weapons. The 125-acre Castle Gardens are also a big draw, including a formal Italian garden, an English Rose Garden, an enormous boating lake, tree and water mazes, an adventure playground and the tree-lined Anne Boleyn Walk.
The observation tower British Airways i360 offers a whole new perspective on Brighton and the south coast of England. In a futuristic glass viewing pod, you’ll glide gently up to 450 feet (138 meters) above ground for 360-degree views across the city, the South Downs and—on the clearest days—all the way to the Isle of Wight.
A neo-Gothic masterpiece, Highclere Castle is best known for doubling as Downton Abbey in the much-loved TV series of the same name. The turreted, sandstone mansion was created by Sir Charles Barry, the architect behind England’s Houses of Parliament. The site upon which it stands has been in the hands of the Carnarvon family since the 17th century, and the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon now welcome the public to explore the lavishly decorated interior, the Egyptian Exhibition, and the 1,000-acre (405-hectare) Capability Brown–designed grounds.
Located in central Oxford in a complex of historic buildings, the venerable Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. It’s the main research library for the University of Oxford and also a copyright library, housing every book printed in the UK and Ireland, a collection of more than 12 million printed items.
The oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford is the main draw to the riverside town of Oxford. With a history dating back to the 11th century, the university’s many colleges offer a wealth of gorgeous historical architecture—not to mention settings for movies including theHarry Potter series.
A luxury shopping destination located just outside the city of Oxford, between London and Birmingham, Bicester Village tempts shoppers with more than 160 stores—from high-end, designer outlets to mainstream brands. Bicester Village is one of the most popular shopping destinations in England, with more than 7 million visitors each year.
Built in 1066 by William the Conqueror above the striking White Cliffs of Dover, the 11th century Dover Castle is the largest castle in England. Climb the Great Tower, marvel at the oldest surviving Roman lighthouse in the country, and stop by Saint Mary in Castro church, then tour the castle’s hidden wartime tunnels.
Bletchley Park, once home to the World War II Codebreakers, is now an interactive and informative heritage destination. Stop by the Codebreaking Huts before learning about radio communications technology at the National Radio Centre. Then, explore the beautiful grounds and gardens of the 19th-century mansion.
More Things to Do in South East England
Built in the early 18th century, this stately home is one of Britain’s grandest historical estates. It was gifted by Queen Anne to the Duke of Marlborough, General John Churchill, for his role in defeating the French at the 1704 Battle of Blenheim, and Britain’s beloved wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill was born here in 1874.
Discover a national symbol and gain insight into England’s history at the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Canterbury Cathedral. Dating back to 597, the site has held religious significance for centuries, drawing pilgrims to the location of Thomas Becket’s murder and visitors interested in its medieval towers, chapels, and stained-glass windows.
Located in the heart of Oxford, the Radcliffe Camera is one of the city’s most recognizable and photographed landmarks, with its unusual shape and impressive dome. Completed in 1749, it was the first rotunda library in England, and today it is one of the main reading rooms of the Bodleian Library complex.
Looking at the stately red brick mansion of Chartwell, with its gabled roofs and vast gardens overlooking a swimming lake, it’s easy to imagine it as the residence of someone important, and few British politicians are as revered as Sir Winston Churchill. The legendary Prime Minister lived at the country estate with his family from 1924 until his death and today its interiors have been preserved in his honor.
As well as strolling through Chartwell House's immaculate rose garden, learning about the estate’s history at the Visitor Centre or stopping for tea at the onsite café, visitors can admire the house’s lavish décor, explore Churchill’s studio, where more than 100 of his paintings are on display, and peek at Churchill’s personal belongings and books.
Attended by leading luminaries across the centuries—and in possession of an art museum, soaring cathedral, and stately quad—Christ Church is among Oxford’s largest, grandest, and most prestigious colleges. Famously used as a set for theHarry Potter films, it is now also a pop cultural attraction.
A museum dedicated to one of Britain’s best-loved authors, the Jane Austen Centre in Bath is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in the life and work of the 18th-century writer. Housed in an authentic period property, with actors in costume bringing the museum to life, the center immerses visitors in the days of the Regency era.
Located just west of London, Windsor is one of England's most popular towns to visit. It is most known for the famous Windsor Castle which is a huge castle built during the time of William the Conqueror. It is also the oldest castle in continuous occupation in the world. Visitors can explore the castle with a tour or an audio guide in order to learn about the castle's fascinating history. Another big draw is the traditional changing of the guard, so plan your visit accordingly.
Aside from the castle, Windsor boasts the Windsor Great Park, one of the country's best green spaces, as well as the Savill Garden, which covers 35 acres of manicured lawns and flowerbeds. You can also take a ride on a riverboat along the River Thames to view the town from the water. There are dozens of restaurants, pubs, and bars in town, and you can take in a show at the Theatre Royal Windsor. If you're traveling with children, consider a trip to the Legoland Windsor Resort.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is an important site for the British Royal Navy, having played a part in the war against the Spanish Armada, the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars, and both World Wars. Although the dockyard is still a working naval base, many of its historic ships have been converted into museums.
Founded by Henry VI and boasting a history dating back almost six centuries, Eton College is one of England’s oldest and most prestigious boarding schools. One of only four remaining boys’ boarding schools in the UK, the exclusive college has been attended by politicians, actors, literary icons, and royalty.
With more than 2 million annual visitors, LEGOLAND® Windsor is the second most visited theme park in the United Kingdom. Just about everything in the park incorporates multi-colored LEGO® bricks, from adrenaline-fuelled rides and interactive entertainment zones to cars and building workshops.
Explore nearly 1,000 years of history at Oxford Castle & Prison, located near central Oxford. Originally built in 1071 by Normans who came across with William the Conqueror, the castle was later turned into a prison. Now a museum and tourist site, it also offers stunning panoramic views over Oxford from one of the city’s oldest buildings.
Established in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is the oldest public museum in the UK and one of the oldest in the world. It’s home to one of the most important collections of art and archaeology in the world, spanning civilizations both Eastern and Western and from the Neolithic era to the present day.
One of Oxford’s most recognizable landmarks, the Sheldonian Theatre is a neoclassical building dating to 1669. Designed by the celebrated architect Sir Christopher Wren, the venue is used for ceremonial events by the University of Oxford (including graduations), as well as lectures, concerts, and other publicly accessible performances.
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