Country guides Europe
United Kingdom Travel Guide
No matter where you decide to travel within the UK, you are bound to be bowled over by the sheer weight and significance of its history; an unending procession of historic towns, cities and important cultural sights await your arrival on the British Isles.
The United Kingdom is made up of four constituent nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of these, England - and particularly, its cosmopolitan capital of London - is the most popular tourist destination, followed by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose troubled political history has until recently kept it largely off the global tourism radar.
England abounds with fascinating things to see and do, from London's celebrated sights of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus (best viewed from the top of an iconic double-decker bus), to the mysterious Stonehenge, to historic cities such as York, Durham and Bath, and the famous university towns of Oxford and Cambridge. Culture-vultures will find plenty of enjoyment in England, with peerless art galleries, West End theatre shows, and a plethora of live music venues.
Scotland's compact and friendly capital of Edinburgh is a constant source of delight to foreign visitors, offering an intriguing mixture of historic grandeur and a modern, progressive social atmosphere. Edinburgh Castle, the symbol of Scotland, is a must-see, and nature-lovers will love walking the untamed hills of its Highlands region. Wales, meanwhile, is undergoing a tourism renaissance of sorts, with its capital Cardiff emerging as a hip and attractive city to rival any in Europe. Wales also remains one of the UK's most unspoilt and ruggedly beautiful places, with a vast network of National Parks and conservancy areas for visitors to enjoy.
Best time to visit the United Kingdom
Without a doubt, the best time to visit the United Kingdom is in the summer (June to August), when days are long, temperatures are warm without being uncomfortable, and the majority of the best festivals and events take place. Rain is possible at any time of year in the UK. The myriad attractions of the country ensure that travel during any season can be delightful.
What to see in the United Kingdom
-Any sightseeing tour of London will take in this proud city's most famous tourist attractions, which include Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and Westminster Abbey.
-The archaeological site of Stonehenge is the most famous megalithic structure in the world.
-The entire city of Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its honey-coloured stone buildings, Roman Baths and Georgian architecture providing a feast for the senses.
-Stratford-upon-Avon features photogenic Tudor houses and is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
-Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland is one of the most spectacular natural attractions in all of Europe.
What to do in the United Kingdom
-Take in some high culture by visiting a selection of London's famous museums and art galleries, including the Tate Modern and the Natural History Museum.
-Enjoy a long, slow driving tour of the Cotswolds - a region of rolling hills and picturesque villages.
-Head to Edinburgh, Scotland's lively capital city, and enjoy the vibrant nightlife before heading further north into the wild moors and misty marshes of the Highlands.
-Take a ride on the London Eye for spectacular views of London's most historic areas.
Getting to the United Kingdom
Cheap flights to the United Kingdom are available from an enormous variety of international destinations. The United Kingdom is blessed with a huge amount of international airports that are served by major airlines and low-cost carriers alike. The most common entry-point to the United Kingdom is London Heathrow Airport, which happens to be the world's busiest international hub for passenger traffic.
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith, and How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn.
The King's Speech (2010), The Young Victoria (2009), The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995), and Bend It Like Beckham (2002).
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips, shepherds' pie, bangers (pork sausages) and mashed potato, and English breakfasts (eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread, mushrooms and baked beans).
Tea, and a pint of locally-brewed beer.
What to buy
T-shirts, key chains and magnets with some of the UK's most iconic sights on them. 'Mind the Gap' t-shirts are also very popular UK souvenirs.
What to pack
The weather in the United Kingdom is notoriously changeable, and visitors should ensure they pack a lightweight rain-slicker to carry around in the event of sudden showers. Cigarettes are extremely expensive in the UK, so smokers might want to bring the maximum allowed with them.
What's on in the United Kingdom
The Edinburgh International Festival (August/September) is the largest arts festival in the world, transforming Scotland's capital into a vibrant arts hub. The Notting Hill Carnival (August) is the second-biggest street party in the world (after the Rio Carnival). The London Marathon (April) draws about 30,000 participants every year to make a scenic tour of England's capital. The Glastonbury Festival (June) is one of the world's most famous outdoor music festivals, attracting top-drawer musicians from all over the world.
Did you know?
-The trip from Leicester Square to Covent Garden is the most popular tube route for tourists in London, despite the fact that this distance is quicker to cover on foot.
-The average Briton drinks more tea than any other national in the world.
-The UK has an official 'most depressing day of the year': Blue Monday, usually the 3rd Monday of the New Year.
A final word
The United Kingdom is a deservedly popular tourist destination, whose rich and mighty history has bequeathed it with a treasure-chest of cultural sights and attractions, that are guaranteed to delight visitors to this proud island nation.