England See And Do
England NW3 1TH
Tel: 44 207 435 6166
Tube: Hampstead Heath
Opened by the National Trust, the body charged with preserving British buildings, this is one for you Modernists. It's the 1930s residence of Ernö Goldfinger, containing a great collection of contemporary furniture, paintings, and sculpture, including works by Henry Moore, Bridget Riley, Max Ernst, and Marcel Duchamp.
Closed Dec–Feb. Open 12 p.m.–5 p.m. Thurs–Sat, Mar–early Oct; Saturdays only Mar and Nov.
England BA2 7BD
Tel: 44 1225 460 503
Eighteen rooms furnished in the manner of the period illustrate how Americans lived from colonial times to the 19th century. A permanent exhibit (opening in spring of 2007) will focus on artifacts of the time, such as war weapons. Claverton Manor is worth a visit in its own right, with gardens modeled on George Washington's at Mount Vernon, and gorgeous views over the Limpley Stoke Valley.
Closed Mondays and October—March. Open daily in August.
St. Ives , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1736 796 226
Barbara Hepworth was one of a group of influential 20th-century abstract avant-garde artists who settled in and around St. Ives. Hepworth's studio has been converted into a small museum managed by the Tate. The subtropical gardens are full of her bronze, stone, and wood sculptures. If you're visiting both the Tate St. Ives and the Hepworth Museum, purchasing a joint site admission ticket will save you a few bucks.
England BA1 1LT
Tel: 44 1225 422 462
A church has stood on this plot of land next to the Roman Baths since the eighth century, though the current exterior dates from the 15th century—commissioned by God, says the legend, to bishop Oliver King in a dream. Edgar, one of England's first kings, was crowned here over 1,000 years ago. Note the angels climbing Jacob's Ladder on the restored West Front.
Open mainly for services on Sundays.
Bideford , Devon
Tel: 44 1237 472 366
Surely this is the world's only theme park dedicated to sheep. There are sheep races (they're ridden by toy lambs in racing colors), mini sheepdog trials (an oddly compelling sport), sheep-shearing demos, and, to vary the pace, duck roundups and horse whispering. Then there's Ewetopia, an indoor adventure playground useful for rained-out kids, a farmer's market, and restaurants. Such is the success of the place, they keep adding new stuff: mini self-drive tractors, adult off-road go-carts, and outdoor laser games.
Tel: 44 1263 738 030
One of the great Jacobean houses of England, Blickling is known for its spectacular long gallery as well as fine furniture, oils, and tapestries. The extensive parkland (open year-round), with a lake, woodlands, and formal gardens, is also notable.
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Great Russell Street
England WC1B 3DG
Tel: 44 207 323 8299
Tube: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Russell Square, or Goodge Street
One of the single greatest museums in the world, the British Museum houses collections that date from the prehistoric to the modern—in sum, the works of mankind. The Egyptian rooms are famous for their mummies and the eventual key to deciphering hieroglyphics, the Rosetta Stone. Then there are the controversial Elgin Marbles, stolen from the Parthenon, and countless other Greek and Roman antiquities. The leathery, ancient Lindow Man, preserved for centuries in a Cheshire bog after having been ritually slaughtered, and the treasures from the seventh-century Sutton Hoo royal burial grounds are also here. If you only have a few minutes to spare, trot in to see the 2000 addition—Sir Norman Foster's spectacular two-acre interior Great Court with its glass-grid roof. The museum is free, though special exhibitions are not.
Sat–Wed 10–5:30, Thurs–Fri 10–8:30.
England SW1A 1AA
Tel: 44 207 766 7300
Tube: Victoria, Green Park, or Hyde Park Corner
The queen's London pied-à-terre is not the most beautiful of palaces, but it's big. Most of the year, all you can do is peer through the iron railings at the guards in busbies—those silly two-foot-tall black fur hats—and check the flagpole to see whether Brenda, as Private Eye calls her, is at home (the standard only flies when she's in residence). But from late July to September, even commoners can enter those gates. The Throne Room, Picture Gallery, Ballroom, and 16 other state rooms are open, as is (a bit of) the south side of the unbelievably huge palace gardens. The Royal Mews, with working stables and display of fancy state vehicles, is just around the corner and also worthy of a visit, as is the Queen's Gallery.
Head straight for Camden Town if you're in your early twenties and on the lookout for leather—take that how you will, it's all here. The weekend markets by the tube station and further up the high street in Camden Lock are seething with humanity and lined with bars and music venues. To the east, in high contrast, is largely Georgian Islington, with its neighborhood restaurants and independent boutiques for the well-to-do. And its Saturday market, Camden Passage, to the east of Islington Green, is all about antiques. The Almeida Theater here is consistently great (Almeida Street, Islington, N1; 44-207-359-4404; www.almeida.co.uk).
4 miles northeast of King's Lynn off the A149
Tel: 44 1553 631 330
One of the most famous 12th-century castles in England, with a magnificent stone keep and massive earthworks. It's been in the Howard family since 1544, and today is owned by a descendant of the Norman earl who raised the castle, William D'Albini II.
Open daily AprilOctober; closed Mondays and Tuesdays NovemberMarch.
The medieval Knights of St. John gave way—over a few centuries—to the new denizens of the hot restaurants and bars of St. John Street: designers and architects, stylists and photographers, and so forth, as far as the eye can see. Apart from Wapping and some other dockside areas, this is the only part of the city where factory and warehouse loft conversions abound, giving it all a distinct modern vibe. Groovy shops merge into Smithfield, the meat market, and hence to what used to be called, not un-snobbishly, the East End. The latter is now better known as the hipster hangouts of Hoxton and Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Whitechapel, and Bethnal Green.
The area where a fruit-and-vegetable wholesale market once stood—and where Eliza Doolittle met Henry Higgins—is now one of the most touristy parts of London. Even so, the Piazza and adjacent Jubilee Market are not unpleasant at all with their array of upper-end high-street stores and market stalls that now sell crafts and clothes instead of cabbages and roses. South of the Piazza is where you find most of the West End theaters; while the Royal Opera House, which was expanded in 1999, is to the north (Bow Street, Covent Garden, WC2, 44-207-304-4000, www.royaloperahouse.org.uk). Plus, the little area around Endell and Monmouth streets and "Seven Dials" (look for the sundial monument just south of Shaftesbury Avenue) is great for hip clothes shops.
The only truly new neighborhood in London is Canary Wharf, a complex of offices and shopping malls centered around the city's tallest building, César Pelli's One Canada Square. There are few clues that this used to be a blighted area, part of the Isle of Dogs (a peninsula and former dockyards)—Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket was filmed here after the demolition, before the building began. Take the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf station (a modern cathedral-like structure designed by Sir Norman Foster), and wander down to the river. Get a good view of this futuristic neighborhood as you leave aboard the elevated monorail, the Docklands Light Rail, which winds its way between the buildings back to central London (www.tfl.gov.uk/dlr).
St. Austell , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1726 811 911
In 2001, this exhausted 34-acre china clay pit became a kind of geodesic dome eco-theater, a global garden illustrating the relationship between plants and people. "Biomes" demonstrate disparate climates: Mediterranean with citrus trees and olives, rain forest (housed in the world's largest greenhouse), and an outdoor garden planted with maize, lavender, tea, and hemp. It's a surprisingly fun way to get eco-educated. When the Biomes are lit up at night, the Eden Project also makes for an atmospheric venue for gigs—past performers have included Moby, Goldfrapp, and Brian Wilson.
1 The Cloisters
Exeter , Devon
Tel: 44 1392 285 983
The center of a cobbled square lined with bars, cafés, and shops is quite the cosmopolitan place for a 12th-century cathedral. Originally built of pale local stone in the Norman style, it was rebuilt beginning in 1270 in the highly decorated Gothic manner you see today (though the reconstruction kept the original square towers intact). The cathedral was badly damaged by bombing during the World War II, but repairs uncovered more of the original Norman building as well as parts of the Roman city.
Falmouth , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1326 313 863
One of the Southwest's premier museums, Falmouth Art Gallery houses an impressive permanent collection, including works by the Victorian British Impressionists and Old Masters, as well as contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries. It also shows temporary exhibits and holds interactive family workshops.
England NR11 8PR
Tel: 44 1263 837 444
Felbrigg Hall is of the finest 17th-century country houses in East Anglia, with its original furniture intact, an outstanding library, the famous Walled Garden, and a park with magnificent old trees and a tearoom.
Open late March–October; closed Thursdays and Fridays.
The subtropical Trevarno Gardens are at the center of a 750-acre estate that dates to 1246—grounds that also encompass a lake with a Victorian boathouse, and acres of woodlands for peaceful ambles. Visit in April and May, when the valley becomes a sea of bluebells (Trevarno, Crowntown, near Helston, Cornwall; 44-1326-574-274; www.trevarno.co.uk). In a 26-acre ravine, Trebah Garden is filled with palms and banana trees, streams, and waterfalls. Views extend to a beach on the Helford River 200 feet below (Mawnan Smith, near Falmouth, Cornwall; 44-1326-250-448; www.trebahgarden.co.uk). The Lost Gardens of Heligan were considered one of the finest plantings of 19th-century England, but the grounds fell into decline during and after the two World Wars (only a few members of the 22-man garden staff survived World War I). In the 1990s, a restoration program began resuscitating the land, and today, 80 acres of restored formal gardens, entwined with paths and dotted with period features, such as the original summerhouses, are open (Pentewan, St. Austel, Cornwall; 44-1726-845-100; www.heligan.com).
136 Kingsland Road
England E2 8EA
Tel: 44 207 739 9893
Tube: Old Street or Liverpool Street
A row of 18th-century almshouses in Shoreditch contain this excellent (free) museum of everyday life. In a series of English domestic interiors from 1600 to the present—a trendy loft apartment!—the museum showcases ordinary middle-class life, albeit in slightly Martha-ized versions. The rooms extend into a contemporary wing and then continue outside in a sequence of period gardens. It is, in short, the perfect day out for real-estate addicts and shelter-mag subscribers, especially since the place is located in the midst of East End hipness (plus, the Columbia Road Flower Market is nearby on Sundays).
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 am to 5 pm, Sundays noon to 5 pm.
Greenwich is a bustling little market town in its own right, colored by bucketfuls of maritime history. Most importantly, it's where time begins. No, seriously, it does: At the top of a hill in Greenwich Park, a brass line marks longitude 0 degrees, the starting point of every time zone in the world—better known as GMT (Greenwich Mean, or Meridian, Time). The Royal Greenwich Observatory is up there, too, and for the effort of walking up a gentle hill, you'll be rewarded with excellent views. Down below are architectural gems: Georgian houses, the National Maritime Museum—designed by Inigo Jones, it displays Admiral Nelson's coat from Trafalgar, complete with the fatal bullet hole in the left shoulder (44-20-8858-4422; www.nmm.ac.uk)—as well as the stunning University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The Cutty Sark, the last clipper ship to be built (dating back to 1869), has rested in a dry dock in Greenwich since 1954 and is currently being restored. Until it's completed in Spring 2010, you can only view the ship from the nearby souvenir shop; see the website for more details (44-20-8858-2698; www.cuttysark.org.uk). Nearby is the glazed cupola entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs under the Thames. Alternatively, in keeping with Greenwich's nautical roots, catch a boat back up the river to central London.
At the west end of Hardknott Pass
Nine miles northeast of Ravenglass
Tel: 44 870 333 1181
To escape the congestion of Ambleside and Langdale, head to this well-preserved fort. Known in Roman times as Mediobogdum, it was built at the same time Emperor Hadrian began his great coast-to-coast wall to the north. The fort commands a vast panorama from the mountains to the sea, and the lichen-mottled foundations are still a good vantage point for viewing the River Esk below. The site is owned by the National Trust and administered by English Heritage.
20 Dean's Yard
England SW1A 0AA
Tel: 44 207 219 4272
The mother of all parliaments, the Palace of Westminster comprises Big Ben (which is the bell, not the tower) as well as the chambers of both Houses, Commons and Lords. The Gothic Revival building you see today, built between 1840 and 1888 on the site of the original 11th-century palace, was designed to blend in with nearby Westminster Abbey. During the early-August to late-September summer recess, you get to roam through it all (and skip the line with an advance tour reservation by calling 44-870-906-3773 or through the website). When parliament is in session, visitors can stand on line outside the St. Stephen's entrance to view debates in either house from the public galleries.
August: Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat 9:15–4:30; Wed–Thurs 1:15–4:30; Sep–Oct: Mon, Fri, Sat 9:15–4:30; Tues–Thurs 1:15–4:30.
The neighborhood of Hoxton, in the city's northeast, has had more influence on cutting-edge art, music, and fashion than its small size and homely appearance might suggest. In the early 1990s, it was home to the likes of fashion designer Alexander McQueen and pop musician Jarvis Cocker, and generally a stronghold of the YBAs (Young British Artists), who lived in the warehouses. The pub-and-club scene along Curtain Road was the haunt of everyone who was anyone. News spread, property prices soared, and the artists moved. While no longer part of the vanguard, it's still a good place to hang. Try Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, a concrete and glass place typical of the area's urban style with a clientele of grown-up hipsters (2-4 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, N1, 44-207-613-0709). There's a small terrace from which you can watch the goings-on in Hoxton Square, once the epicenter of the scene and still a bustling area with a patch of much-needed greenery in the middle. It's where you'll find Jay Jopling's contemporary gallery White Cube, which represents Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, among others (48 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, N1, 44-207-930-5373, www.whitecube.com). These days, locals tend to lump Hoxton under the general heading of Shoreditch, a larger neighborhood that's retained its edge…for now.
England W8 4PX
Tel: 44 870 751 5170
Tube: High Street Kensington
Members of the cult of Diana need to come here to view where the People's Princess lived (more or less—her quarters are not open to the public), and to see one of her gowns, along with royal outfits through the ages, in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection. The palace itself, which predated Buck House as the royal abode, is worth a look as well—the rolling exhibitions are always imaginative (from Mario Testino's portraits of Diana to live actors and musicians recreating the lives of previous royal inhabitants), and it lacks the interminable lines for the brief August opening of the current Queen's house. The King's Apartments, with its Old Masters (including Tintorettos and Van Dycks) and a lot of booty from the Stuart-Hanoverian periods, are highlights. Afterward, take tea in the lovely Orangery, and should you be trailing kids, take them to the adjacent Princess Diana Memorial Playground—a forest of wooden climbing apparatuses.
Open daily Mar–Oct: 10–6; Nov–Feb: 10–5.
Devon + Cornwall
Soft light and dramatic landscapes have long drawn artists to Devon and Cornwall, but these counties have a strong literary heritage, too. A number of English Riviera locations have figured prominently in Agatha Christie's books (see www.theenglishriviera.co.uk/english-riviera/agatha-christie.asp for details). You can catch the historic Greenway Ferry (www.greenwayferry.co.uk), which has run for more than a thousand years, up the picturesque River Dart in Devon to crime writer Agatha Christie's house and gardens (Greenway Road, Galmpton; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-greenway.htm). Daphne du Maurier lived in the small town of Fowey for 60 years and used the area as the backdrop for many of her books, including Rebecca. Kenneth Grahame was similarly inspired by Fowey to write the children's classic The Wind in the Willows. The area is also associated with King Arthur. Just outside the town, archaeological excavations have revealed the remains of a village as well as Castle Dore, which is believed to have been built by the Cornish King Mark of the Arthurian legend. The Literary Center in Fowey concentrates on Daphne du Maurier but also provides information on other local authors (5 South St., Fowey; 44-1726-833-616; www.fowey.co.uk/directory/literarycentre.htm).
55 York Road
England SE1 7NJ
Tel: 44 207 928 3132
You could take a double-decker–bus tour; you could hop on a tourist boat at Charing Cross Pier; or you could combine land and water in an amphibious DUKWS, a 30-seat craft built for the World War II D-Day landings, refitted with an environmentally friendly 10.6-gallon diesel engine, safety equipment, and a screaming duck-yellow paint job. It starts out on wheels, driving from Waterloo by the London Eye around Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, St. James's, and Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and so on, to Vauxhall. There, the duck bus dives dramatically into the Thames and, now a duck boat, continues the tour by water. The whole affair takes 75 minutes, includes commentary, and ends up at the Florence Nightingale Museum(44-207-620-0374 www.florence-nightingale.co.uk).
Riverside Building, County Hall
Westminster Bridge Road
England SE1 7PB
Tel: 44 870 500 0600
Tube: Waterloo or Westminster
The 443-foot-high London Eye, designed by husband-and-wife architects David Marks and Julia Barfield, is the largest observation wheel in the world. Perched on the banks of the Thames, more or less opposite the Houses of Parliament, it has become a capital-L Landmark since it appeared for the millennium festivities. The real point, of course, is the view from inside the 32 glass capsules, which, on a clear day, extends 25 miles and is quite spectacular.
Open daily May, June, and September 10 am to 9 pm, July and August 10 am to 9:30 pm, October through April 10 am to 8 pm
The genteel streets of Marylebone lie just to the north of Oxford Street (and south of Regent's Park)—hard to believe, when you're trapped in pedestrian gridlock around Selfridges and Topshop. The area is mainly residential, with narrow, cobbled streets and some of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the city. Marylebone High Street and its surrounding lanes—rechristened Marylebone Village in keeping with the relatively tranquil vibe—are lined with small specialty shops, organic cafés, and boutiques. You'll also find some classic London attractions in the neighborhood, including the Sherlock Holmes Museum on (where else?) Baker Street (44-207-935-8866; www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk), and Madame Tussauds (Marylebone Road, 44-870-400-3000, www.madame-tussauds.co.uk).
Penzance , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1736 810 181
It's unlikely you've ever experienced a theater quite like this one. Situated 200 feet above the sea, these 750 open-air seats were carved out of a cliff edge in the 1930s, in the style of a Greek amphitheater. May through September, performances might include anything from plays (Shakespeare's Twelfth Night) and operas (Carmen) to musicals (Man of La Mancha) and recitals. Even if you don't fancy catching a performance, you can explore the theater on nonperformance days (check the website) and check out the view (look for sharks basking in the beautiful Porthcurno Bay below).
150 London Wall
England EC2Y 5HN
Tel: 44 870 444 3851
Tube: Barbican, St Paul's, or Moorgate
If you want to learn about the capital, the Museum of London is the place to go (it's free, too). The museum tells the story of the city over the past two millennia, and after a $33-million revamp completed in 2010, five wonderful new interactive galleries (called the Modern Galleries of London) have brought this institution bang up-to-date. Highlights include a Victorian shopping street replete with original storefronts and a pub, and the Lord Mayor's gaudy gold State Coach. The Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666 are also commemorated, with models, videos, objects, and paintings. Sections of London's actual Roman city walls are incorporated into the building. After a visit, take a wander in the neighboring East London neighborhoods of Smithfield, Farringdon, and Clerkenwell, where restaurants and trendy bars abound.—Giovanna Dunmall.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 5:30 pm, Sundays noon to 5:30 pm.
England WC2N 5DN
Tel: 44 207 747 2885
Tube: Charing Cross
Up there with your Louvres and Uffizis, this huge gallery takes you through the history of Western European painting from 1250 to 1900. Botticelli, Leonardo, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Turner, Ingres, Van Gogh…they're all here. An excellent computer system at the museum lets you research and locate points of interest, and even print out a personal tour before a visit. The museum is free, apart from special exhibitions in the Sainsbury Wing. Next door is the National Portrait Gallery, a rewarding, relatively intimate tour through portraiture (iconic, royal, obscure, even criminal) in all media featuring Brits of all ages (St. Martin's Place, 44-207-306-0055, www.npg.org.uk).
Thurs–Tues 10–6; Wed 10–9; free admission.
Falmouth , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1326 313 388
Devoted to all things maritime, the NMM gives context to Cornwall's boating and fishing heritage. Don't dismiss it, even if seafaring lore isn't your thing; the purpose-built building is very cool. In the Flotilla Gallery, there are weird and wonderful watercrafts, such as Olympic gold medal–winning boats and a bathtub that one man rowed across the English Channel. There's a lot of interactive stuff for kids, such as a life raft and lifeboat they can climb aboard, and a lighthouse-inspired lookout tower.
Devon + Cornwall
Devon's two national parks both have native wild ponies and granite outcrops called "tors," and are excellent places for horse riding, hiking, and cycling. Exmoor, which runs into the neighboring county of Somerset, is on a high exposed slice of land, with woods, rivers, and a tough coastal walk. Tarr Steps, a beautiful spot with a prehistoric bridge, is one of the park's highlights. Exmoor's proximity to the coast means that it gets hit with the most unpredictable weather (www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk). The larger of the two parks, Dartmoor, covers an expanse of 368 square miles of wilderness between Exeter and Plymouth. Highlights include the stunning Lydford Gorge and the remains of a medieval village at Hound Tor (www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk). Both parks have their fair share of creepy ghost stories: A spectral dog that's said to haunt Dartmoor was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Cornwall has its own extensive moor at Bodmin, covering 80 square miles. Equally dramatic, its highlights include granite tors, prehistoric stone circles, and Dozmary Pool, home to the Lady of the Lake according to Arthurian legend. At 1,377 feet, the curious sounding Brown Willy (thought to originate from the Cornish for 'high hill') is Cornwall's highest point (www.countryside.gov.uk/LAR/Landscape/CC/south_west/bodmin_moor.asp).
Gweek , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1326 221 361
Set on 42 acres on the picturesque Helford estuary, the Marine Animal Rescue Centre is the most important of its kind in Europe. See the injured wild animals fed and tended to in the S.O.S. seal hospital, and visit with the resident seals and sea lions, and the unwanted goats, otters, and ponies also given a home here. Kids, needless to say, love it.
England SW7 5BD
Tel: 44 207 942 5000
Tube: South Kensington
This is just one of the three huge galleries (all free) off Exhibition Road in South Kensington, the others being the Science Museum and the V&A. With its Victorian architecture and huge 85-foot-long dinosaur skeleton in the central hall—known affectionately as Dippy the Diplodocus—this is exactly what you'd expect a natural history museum to look like. Be careful not to trip over the tiny children who stare up wide-eyed and open-mouthed at Dippy as they enter. You'll find spouting volcanoes, quaking fault lines, and a massive model of the world in the Earth Galleries; or, take a closer look inside your own brain and step back into the womb with a giant baby model in the Life Galleries. It's debatable whether 2005 addition Archie, a 28-foot giant squid discovered near the Falkland Islands and now preserved in a huge tank, will ever become as famous as Dippy, but he's worth a look, too. The Darwin Centre, a new $117-million, eight-story wing, opened in 2009. This giant cocoon structure, encased in a glass box, includes 17 million creepy-crawly specimens.—Updated by Giovanna Dunmall
Open daily 10 am to 5:50 pm.
West Norfolk's 100-mile network of Broadland waterways was created when medieval peat diggings formed shallow lakes that were joined by cuts and dykes to the rivers Yare, Bure, Wensum, and Waveney. Now, plenty of riverside pubs, craft centers, and museums line the Broads. You can spend an entire vacation on a narrow boat, but for just a taste of the canal life, Broads Tours organizes river trips. Or be your own skipper and charter an electric picnic boat or cruiser for the day (The Bridge, Wroxham; 44-1603-782-207; www.broads.co.uk).
Tel: 44 1603 493 625
Norwich Castle, built by the Normans as a Royal Palace 900 years ago, is now a great, slightly barmy museum and art gallery, with child-friendly interactive exhibits in the keep. The exhibits here span multiple centuries and include the world's largest collection of ceramic teapots, an Egyptian tomb with mummies, collections of Norwich School paintings, and Lowestoft porcelain. There are also displays of Iceni gold—the Iceni were an indigenous Celtic tribe that occupied the region between about the first century B.C. and the first century A.D.—and rides on a reproduction Iceni warrior chariot.
Open Monday to Friday 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m.–5 p.m.
62 The Close
Tel: 44 1603 218 300
For more than 900 years the splendor and tranquility of Norwich Cathedral have attracted pilgrims and visitors. Founded in 1096 as part of a Benedictine priory, the Cathedral is one of the finest complete Romanesque buildings in Europe, with the second-tallest spire and largest monastic cloisters in England. It has one of the great treasures of medieval art in its collection of more than 1,000 carved roof bosses, and the Close is one of the most charming in the land.
Open daily 7:30 a.m.6 p.m.
Once the byword for bohemian, Notting Hill is simply posh and aspirational now. It encompasses Portobello Road and its famous market—whose northern extremities past the Westway to Golborne Road still retain vestiges of seediness—but Westbourne Park Road and Lonsdale Road are as much the centers of gravity these days, with expensive, desirable designer wares behind every vitrine and superbly dressed moms wheeling infants. Lining the confusingly curvy streetlets are massive stucco wedding cake-style Edwardian and Victorians, many with private communal gardens secreted behind. North of Westbourne Park Road, smaller brick terraced houses predominate. The weekend market is still worth a visit—better for bargains on Friday mornings—and the huge Notting Hill Carnival that takes place on the Bank Holiday at the end of August is a phenomenon where the entire neighborhood momentarily reverts to the Jamaican-bohemian enclave it was 30 years ago.
England SE1 8NB
Tel: 44 870 060 6628
Tube: Southwark, Waterloo, or Lambeth North
The boards of this charming theater, a city landmark, were graced by the likes of Sir John Gielgud and Sir Laurence Olivier. Built in 1818, its exterior is classical Georgian, while the ornamental tiered auditorium is an eclectic mish-mash of styles. The National Theatre (now at the South Bank), considered one of the best schools of acting in the world, was founded here in 1963 by Olivier. Kevin Spacey took over as Artistic Director in 2004 and has appeared in some successful high-profile performances, including Richard II and Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten. While the British press has not been kind toward his stewardship, Spacey is fighting to develop the Old Vic as a leading popular theater. As well as catching a show there, it's also possible to take a backstage tour, which includes Olivier's dressing room (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to score a spot). Who knows, the theater's very own ghost might make an appearance.
England NR2 6HRA
Tel: 44 1263 820 800
Operating vintage steam and diesel trains, the North Norfolk Railway (to give it its proper name) has been a summertime favorite since it was built in 1887. It starts at the seaside town of Sheringham, wending its way through five and a half miles of bucolic countryside to Holt, where a bus (in the high season, a Routemasterthe scarlet double-deckers recently phased out of London) greets passengers and returns them to the starting point. The timetables are impossibly byzantine: Check the website if you're planning to ride.
Primrose Hill, the peaceful enclave around the eponymous park, has become scarily trendy in an expensive way, thanks to an influx of rock and Hollywood. But it's still nice to window-shop Regent's Park Road's boutiques, have a pint and a meal in a gastropub, and if you can score a kite, fly it in the park. North of there, past mostly-residential Belsize Park, is Hampstead. The sizeable neighborhood arranged around the Heath has always harbored some of London's prime real estate and it's easy to see why—it's all cute cottages, Georgian mansions, leafy Victorian terraces, and picturesque cobblestoned alleys. In good weather, meander—and shop—your way up the high street, down Flask Walk and Well Road, stopping in at one of the historic pubs. Then go for a hike on Hampstead Heath—all in all, a great, and not too touristy, way to spend the day.
Great Pulteney Street is the longest, widest, grandest Georgian street in Bath, and part of a great scheme that was never completed. Consequently, its side streets lead nowhere and are almost comically short. Past Laura Place at its western end is shop-lined Pulteney Bridge, England's answer to the Ponte Vecchio and the great Robert Adam's contribution to Bath.
England BA1 1LZ
Tel: 44 1225 444 477
Built by Thomas Baldwin and John Palmer in the late 18th century, the elegant Pump Room is a great place to take tea and get a taste of Georgian Bath. In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen wrote: "With more than usual eagerness did Catherine hasten to the pump-room the next day...Every creature in Bath...was to be seen in the room at different periods of the fashionable hours; crowds of people were every moment passing in and out, up the steps and down..." The scene today is just as chaotic, but hordes of retirees and teens with iPods hardly have the same stylish effect.
Buckingham Palace Road
Tel: 44 207 766 7301
Tube: Victoria, Green Park, or Hyde Park Corner
Who has one of the most important and valuable art collections in the world? Yes, the Queen of England. Only a fraction of her pieces, which include paintings by Dürer, Rubens, and Van Dyck as well as works by Fabergé, can be displayed at any one time, but at least the $40 million expansion of HRH's Gallery in 2002 has managed to get more of the Royal Collection out to the plebs. There are also temporary exhibitions—and a secretly great shop for those ironic royal-themed gifts.
Open daily 10 a.m to 4:30 p.m.
The gallery will be closed through March 2007 as a new exhibit is installed.
England BA1 1LZ
Tel: 44 1225 477 785
One of the best-preserved Roman sites north of the Alps comprises a temple that was built over a sacred spring, plus a great bathhouse that attracted visitors from all over the Roman Empire. You can see some of the 12,500 coins they offered to the goddess (Britain's largest votive deposit) in the museum here. Also on view: the largely intact Roman plumbing and drainage system and the atmospheric, green, and murky Great Bath with its Victorian colonnades. It's next door to the new Bath Spa. After you visit, take tea in the Pump Room.
1 Royal Crescent
England BA1 2LR
Tel: 44 1225 428 126
Designed by John Wood the Elder and built by John Wood the Younger, this masterpiece is an awe-inspiring curve of 30 houses anchored over 538 feet by 114 Ionic columns. It was built to be approached from Brock Street, the angle of which shields the crescent from view until the last minute, for maximum drama. Number 1 is a museum.
Only slighly less grand than the Royal Crescent is the adjacent Circus, a massive Georgian traffic circle that was once the nucleus of Bath. Built by John Wood the Younger from his father's plans, it features a frieze and three tiers of impressive double columns.
Duke of York's HQ
England SW3 4SQ
Tube: Sloane Square, Victoria
The collector who pretty much invented the concept of the YBA (Young British Artist) and launched the careers of so many big names—such as the infamous Damien Hirst—and then married England's domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson, has moved his gallery three times in the past 25 years. In 2008, Charles Saatchi's free gallery settled in the Duke of York's Headquarters on the King's Road in Chelsea; 70,000 square feet, over four floors, were expensively renovated for the occasion. The former barracks turned temple to art opened with a bang and an excellent exhibition dedicated to new Chinese art. Works in the permanent collection include pieces by Hirst, the Chapman brothers, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume, and Chris Ofili. There's also a café/restaurant called Gallery Mess attached to the venue, which Mrs. Saatchi highly recommends (reservations, 44-20-7730-8135).—Updated by Giovanna Dunmall
Open daily 10 am to 6 pm.
University of East Anglia
Tel: 44 1603 593 199
On a campus packed with examples of contemporary architecture stands this gem: Lord Norman Foster's first notable public work, which was extensively renovated (by the architect) and reopened in 2006. Behind the glamorous hangarlike walls is an incredible museum of modern and world art that's open to the public. Permanent collections include works by Henry Moore (check out his Mother and Child stylized stone sculpture), Francis Bacon, Corbusier, Sol LeWitt, and Alberto Giacometti. There are also centuries-old artifacts from the Americas, Africa, and the Pacific, medieval European pieces, 20th-century ceramics, and an extensive Art Nouveau collection on display every three years (sorry, you just missed it, the exhibit closed in mid-June, 2007). Visiting exhibitions are always worth catching: Alien Nation, a sci-fi exploration of racial, cultural, and ethnic otherness by 12 contemporary artists, will be on display between early October and early December 2007.
Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Tel: 44 1553 772 675
Built in 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra), Sandringham is now the country retreat of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. You can tour the main ground-floor rooms, which are full of the porcelain, jade, and crystal oriental figures that queens Alexandra and Mary were apparently addicted to collecting. The museum in the old stables and coach houses contains, among other things, the royal motorsfrom the first car owned by a British monarch, a 1900 Daimler Phaeton, on. There's also a 600-acre public park carved from the Queen's private estate with a visitor center, gift shop, restaurant, tractor tours, and, naturally, a tearoom.
Open mid-April to late October.
The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (44-122-971-7171; www.ravenglass-railway.co.uk), the oldest narrow-gauge railway in England, was built in 1875 to carry iron ore seven miles from the mines at Boot to long-gone furnaces on the coast. Since the 1960s, the railway has carried tourists in a little steam train that provides a neat way for those without a car to travel from the main rail network, via Ravenglass station, into the heart of the hills. It is also handy for getting to gentle walks through the woods and fields of lower Eskdale. Trains run daily from April to late October, on weekends and for holiday weeks (Christmas, Valentine's) the rest of the year. The scenic Cumbrian coastal railway, part of the National Rail system, links up with the West Coast Main Line at Lancaster and Carlisle (44-207-278-5240; www.nationalrail.co.uk).
England SW7 2DD
Tel: 44 870 870 4868
Tube: South Kensington
Covering all aspects of science, technology, and medicine, the Science Museum is the star of the trio of museums on Exhibition Road (the others are the V&A and the Natural History Museum). It contains over 300,000 items, including the only Black Arrow rocket in existence, examples of Charles Baggage's attempts at the first computer dating back to the 1830s, the Apollo 10 command module, and an Iron Age skeleton. It's big on interactive exhibits: In the SimEx Simulator, experience an explosion in space or a dinosaur ride. The mulituser game In Future is a window into what the world could become. For the grown-ups, there's the Dana Center, a café bar and venue where you can join a heated debate on the controversial side of science, or see a heart-bypass operation shown live via video link.
Bishop's Boats ferries depart Blakeney Harbour or Morston Quay daily to view a 500-strong colony of common and gray seals in their natural habitat, then land on Blakeney National Nature Reserve if the tide allows. Knowledgeable crews give commentary along the way; the trips take between one and two hours, depending on the tides. The boats operate year-round, with reservations advisable in July, August, September, and at Christmas. Be sure to collect your tickets from Blakeney Quay 30 minutes before sailing time, and wear something warm and waterproof (Turnstone Cottage, Westgate Street, Blakeney; 44-1263-740-753; www.bishopsboats.com).
Wood Farm Visitor Centre
Tel: 44 1263 820 550
Particularly famous for the spectacular mid-May-to-June rhododendrons and azaleas, this park with mature woodlands, lots of well-marked hiking trails, and viewing towers for gorgeous coastal panoramas is one of the greatest masterpieces of 18th-century landscaper-supreme Humphry Repton.
13 Lincoln's Inn Fields
England WC2A 3BP
Tel: 44 207 405 2107
A wonderful fun house designed and inhabited by Sir John Soane (1753–1837), Royal Academy professor and architect of the Bank of England, among other buildings. He designed it to suit himself and his incredible collections of art and antiquities, which fill every spare inch, and then some. Certain walls open out like Chinese boxes to reveal more pieces secreted beneath. In the basement is a sarcophagus from 1370 BC he was especially proud of—so much so that when he acquired it, he threw it a two-day party. Despite his dry job description, Sir John was a character—and could teach us a bunch about decor, too. The first Tuesday of each month is a great time to go, when parts of the museum are atmospherically lit by candles.
Tues–Sat 10–5, first Tuesday of the month until 9; free admission.
Its fortunes as London's nightlife neighborhood have waxed and waned repeatedly over recent years, but you always seem to end up in Soho for one reason or another, mainly due to the great and plentiful restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops (Carnaby Street remains popular, despite the tourist hordes). Bordered by Oxford Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Regent Street, and Charing Cross Road, Soho is home to London's Chinatown, a much-reduced red-light district (it peaked during the 1970s), and thriving gay bars and businesses centered around Old Compton Street. It's also home to the British film industry—production facilities are concentrated here—and the twin anchors of literary-media–luvvies life: the Groucho Club (45 Dean St., W1; 44-207-439-4685 ; www.thegrouchoclub.com) and Soho House (45 Greek St, W1; 44-207-734-5188; www.sohohouse.com). Both are strictly members-only—but wangle an invite if you can.
England WC2R 1LA
Tel: 44 207 845 4600
Tube: Temple (not Sun), Charing Cross, Holburn, or Covent Garden
Somerset House isn't principally a skating rink—it's the home of an important art-history faculty, the Courtauld Institute's art gallery, the Gilbert Collection of decorative arts, and the Hermitage Rooms, which contain treasures from St. Petersburg. But the skating rink that appears, scenically, in the Courtyard during December and January has become one of London's favorite fun days out—right by the Thames in the West End. (Open daily late November through January, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
The ice-rink craze during the festive period continues to grow. Some other favorites include:
Kew Gardens Ice Rink (www.rbgkew.org.uk/skating/): London's biggest, overlooking the gardens of the Victorian Temperate glasshouse.
Tower of London Ice Rink (www.toweroflondonicerink.com): Situated in the dry moat beneath the castle's outer wall.
Hampstead Heath Ice Rink (www.hampsteadheathicerink.com): Held at Parliament Hill Fields, great for open views.
England SE1 8XX
Tel: 44 871 663 2501
Tube: Waterloo or Embankment
The Southbank Centre is a thriving complex of theaters, galleries, and public arts spaces, including the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery, sprawling along the Thames near the London Eye. If, on your visit to London, you're planning to attend a major dramatic production, a comedy festival, or a musical performance of any stripe, from classical to jazz to hip-hop, you're probably coming here. Originally constructed in the 1950s and '60s, Southbank Centre is approaching the final stages of an overhaul begun in 2005, which, among other things, included a new building for the British Film Institute; a swank new eatery, Skylon; and the creation of several public riverside parks. Alas, Southbank itself has long been the subject of a heated ongoing debate about the merits of modern architecture: On one hand, the bulky concrete structures, connected by a maze of split-level walkways, are upheld as among the few remaining examples of the ultramodern Brutalist style. Southbank's detractors argue that the complex is ugly, hard to navigate, and a whole lotta concrete. Given the sheer concentration of artistic merit bottled up in this set of buildings, Southbank may be definitive proof of the old saw that true beauty is on the inside. Check the online calendar for a complete listing of events.—Siobhan Adcock
Devon + Cornwall
A cliff-top path with hair-raising views runs 630 miles around the sometimes wild and rugged, sometimes rolling and gentle, southwest coast of Britain from Minehead to Poole Harbor. The path is well signposted with an acorn icon. These walks can be challenging for experienced hikers, but there are easier walks for those who prefer views to strenuous activity (check the website for details).
St. Paul's Churchyard
England EC4M 8AD
Tel: 44 207 236 4128
Tube: St. Paul's
Sir Christopher Wren's No. 1 work is this, the cathedral church of the Diocese of London. With its green dome, St. Paul's is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks. It's actually this site's fourth cathedral, built between 1675 and 1710, after its predecessor was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London. Nowadays a visit to the church, taking in the Crypt, Ambulatory, and everyone's favorite, the Whispering Gallery, is easily combined with a trip to one of London's newer essential sights, the Tate Modern—the way isn't well signed, but it's very near nevertheless. Exit St. Paul's Tube station, cross the redeveloped Paternoster Square next door, drop in on the cathedral (St. Dunstan's Chapel on the north side is always open for praying, and free of charge), then head across the Millennium Bridge to the south bank.
Devon + Cornwall
You can't turn a corner in Devon and Cornwall without bumping into an ancient castle or grand stately home. Some have huge historical significance, while others simply have attractive architecture and grounds. Lanhydrock mixes a neo-Jacobean exterior with a Victorian interior. The surrounding 450 acres of dense woods and green parkland run down to the Fowey River (Bodmin, Cornwall; 44-1208-265-950; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-lanhydrock.htm; closed Mondays). Tudor-styled Cotehele dates back to 1485 and contains the oldest known—and still functioning—domestic clock in England. The clock has occupied its position in the house since 1525 (St. Dominick, near Saltash, Cornwall; 44-1579-351-346; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-cotehele/). Prideaux Place is an Elizabethan house owned by a Cornish family, the Prideaux-Brunes, for more than 400 years. It's crammed full of portraits, period furniture, and the Prideaux porcelain collection (Padstow, Cornwall; 44-1841-532-411; www.prideauxplace.co.uk). At eerily beautiful Berry Pomeroy Castle, the same site encloses the ruins of a 15th-century Norman castle as well as a 16th-century mansion built by the Seymour family (Jane Seymour was the third of Henry VIII's many wives, and the only one to produce a male heir) (Devon; 44-1803-866-618; www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.238). Dartmouth Castle is a 15th-century castle built with one square tower and one round one so it would fit on the rocky headland at the mouth of the River Dart. It provided protection from French pirates (Castle Rd., Dartmouth, Devon; 44-1803-833-588; www.englsh-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.251). Pendennis Castle is a Tudor castle built to defend Henry VIII's England from France and Spain (Falmouth, Cornwall; 44-1326-316-594; www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.296). Across the estuary is the smaller but most complete of the king's surviving coastal forts, St. Mawes Castle (44-1326-270-526, www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.307).
Devon + Cornwall
You'll catch some excellent waves on the north coast of Cornwall and (less so) Devon. Good surfing beaches run south–west from Harlyn down past Newquay and Portreath, as far as Porthmeor in Cornwall. In Devon, visit Croyde Bay and Woolacombe Bay beaches. The British Surfing Association website provides a list of approved surf schools in all of these areas (www.britsurf.co.uk).
England SW1P 4RG
Tel: 44 20 7887 8888
Tube: Pimlico, Westminster, Vauxhall
Tate Britain might not get the same attention as its glitzy little sister, Tate Modern, but to miss it would be a mistake. Built in 1897, Tate Britain displays British art from 1500 to the current day and also shows the oft-controversial annual Turner Prize. The permanent galleries house the likes of Constable and Gainsborough, Hogarth, Reynolds, and Stubbs. In the adjoining Clore Gallery, visitors can see the largest single display of Turner paintings in the world. This prestigious institution also holds some moderns, such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, and Antony Gormley. Temporary shows celebrate major British artists of the past and the present, such as Henry Moore and Chris Ofili. In short, this is where you'll find the world's greatest collection of British art. Visit Tate Modern in the morning and then ride the Tate boat here in the afternoon. (It also stops at the London Eye and provides a spectacular view of the Houses of Parliament from the river.)—Giovanna Dunmall
Open daily 10 am to 5:50 pm (until 10 pm the first Friday of each month).
St. Ives , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1736 796 226
The London contemporary arts institution opened an outpost in Cornwall in 1993. It aims to offer an introduction to modern art with creative display of the works and an emphasis on West Country and Cornish traditions.
England SE1 9TG
Tel: 44 207 887 8888
Tube: Blackfriars or Southwark
Sometimes it seems this former power station fashioned into a showy landmark by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron is the center of the city. There is something very glamorous about the vast space, let alone the amazing holdings, which range from Matisse to Matthew Barney. Entering is a thrill—a slope almost as wide as the building descends into aircraft-hangar–sized Turbine Hall. It's become known for site-specific installations on a barely conceivable scale. Anish Kapoor's 2002 "Marsyas," a slightly menacing, sinuous scarlet PVC membrane stretched over the entire volume of the hall like a mammoth Venus flytrap or some invertebrate sea monster from 1,000 fathoms deep. Then, with 2004's "The Weather Project," Olafur Eliasson seemed to make the sun rise and set inside. People were drawn to it like moths, prostrating themselves on the concrete as if to sunbathe—it was that magical. It's possible to catch the Tate catamaran—it's the one with the Damien Hirst polka-dot design—up the Thames to the now unfairly neglected Tate Britain. (It also stops at the London Eye and provides a spectacular view of the Houses of Parliament from the river.)
Sun–Thurs 10–6; Fri–Sat 10–10; free admission.
Hot Bath Street
England BA1 1SJ
Tel: 44 1225 335 678
The thermal springs are the reason Bath exists. Over 264,000 gallons of 113° water rise through a geological fault called the Pennyquick every day, though its source remains a mystery (recent hi-tech attempts to locate it notwithstanding). It's been claimed that the mineral-rich waters aid maladies ranging from arthritis and rheumatic disorders to asthma and infertility. They've been considered curative for as long as 10,000 years—nobody knows exactly when the ancient Celts discovered the springs, but we know they established here a shrine to their goddess Sul (later co-opted by the Romans who fused her with their own medical goddess, Minerva).
After almost 28 years of closure, the area around the springs was renovated and reopened to the public in 2006. The ancient Celts' sacred Cross Bath is one of five heritage buildings incorporated into the new complex, the centerpiece of which is the New Royal Bath: a glass-walled edifice containing a great Bath stone cube (designed by Nicholas Grimshaw, architect of the Eurostar terminal at London's Waterloo Station). Inside are various pools and showers and baths and steam rooms; the pièce de résistance is a warm rooftop pool from which you can admire the adjacent abbey. Alongside the traditional taking-of-the-waters and bathing facilities, there are long menus of modern spa treatments.
Tel: 44 1485 210779
One of the most-visited outposts of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, this place is the highlight of all North Norfolk coastline highlights for the birderwho is going to be very happy around the area in general, especially during the spring and fall migration periods. Especially likely to be spotted from one of the observation hides or during a guided beginners' session are marsh harriers and avocets in summer, wigeons and brent geese in winter. Top "scores" include bitterns and bearded tits. Arrive early between August and October to ensure a space in the parking lot.
England EC3N 4AB
Tel: 44 870 756 6060
Tube: Tower Hill
How can you not see the Bloody Tower? Founded by William the Conqueror in 1066, this huge fortified palace-jail-treasury-arsenal is the source of some of the most-famous tourist photo ops in all of England. View the Crown Jewels—so costly they're officially beyond price and therefore uninsured—the Tudor prisoners' graffiti in the Beauchamp Tower, and the site of royal beheadings. Gawk at the fashion-forward Yeoman Warders, or Beefeaters, in their black-and-scarlet 14th-century livery, and at the ravens, without whose continuous presence, so Charles II was told, the Tower and the Kingdom would crumble.
Mar–Oct: Tues–Sat 9–6:, Sun–Mon 10–6; Nov–Feb: Tues–Sat 9–5, Sun–Mon 10–5.
Tel: 44 207 942 2000
Tube: South Kensington
The V&A is the tamest of the three massive Victorian edifices in South Kensington (the others are the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum), but kids like the music galleries, where you can pull out case after lit-up case of rare and strange instruments, and the Cast Courts' reproductions of buildings and monuments from around the world. For adults, it's a wonderland: 35 galleries, containing thousands of pieces that make up the permanent collections, include centuries of couture and the Great Bed of Ware (sleeps 16) in the British Galleries, and there's the Ardabil carpet, considered to be one of the most beautiful to have survived from the 16th century, in the Asia collection (there's a copy in 10 Downing Street). There are also the hugely popular Medieval and Renaissance galleries, which opened in December 2009; they occupy an entire wing of the museum and display over 1,800 works dating from the fall of the Roman Empire to 1600. Temporary exhibitions have included retrospectives of the work of fashion designers Gianni Versace and Vivienne Westwood and the most complete presentation of photographer Diane Arbus's work ever assembled. Museum admission is free.—Updated by Giovanna Dunmall
Open Saturdays through Thursdays 10 am to 5:45 pm, Fridays 10 am to 10 pm. Note, some of the galleries are currently closed for refurbishment; check the museum's Web site before visiting.
In just a 30-mile stretch, the area boasts a breathtaking range of tarns (lakes), fells (hills), becks (brooks), and forests, not to mention a variety of beautiful walks.
Footpath Holidays runs tours at all grades of difficulty from June to September, both guided and self-guided (16 Norton Bavant, Near Warminster, Wiltshire; 44-198-584-0049; www.footpath-holidays.com). Its seven-day hikes through the Lake District include the waterfall at Skelwith Bridge, Castlerig stone circle, and Easedale Tarn, as well as scenic walks along Loughrigg Terrace and Jenkin Crag.
Contours Walking Holidays also offers six-to-nine-night treks for all levels, including the 70-mile Cumbria Way, which goes right through the heart of the Lakelands from Ulverston to Carlisle (Gramyre, 3 Berrier Road, Greystoke; 44-176-880-451, www.contours.co.uk).
If you're aiming for the high fells, such as the summits of Great Gable or Scafell Pike, check the weather forecast, take waterproof clothing, and wear boots. It may be helpful to have the following map from the Ordnance Survey series on hand: The English Lakes, South Western Area, number OL6 (44-845-456-0420; leisure.ordnancesurvey.co.uk; closed Saturdays and Sundays).
England W1U 3BN
Tel: 44 207 563 9500
Tube: Bond Street or Baker Street
A treat along the lines of the Frick in New York, wherein the setting is as much of a draw as the art, the Wallace Collection is spread out over the 28 rooms of a gracious mansion in the West End, as if it were still a private home. Amassed by the third and fourth Marquises of Hertford, plus the illegitimate son of the latter, Sir Richard Wallace, the collections consist of a great deal of French 18th-century paintings, furniture, and porcelain, plus oils by Titian, Canaletto, Rembrandt, and Gainsborough. There are also some arms and armor and a notable cache of miniatures. Look in the listings for the chamber-music concerts that sometimes take place here.
Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; free admission.
Tel: 44 1328 820 250
A guided tour is the best way to experience Walsingham's Holy House, on the grounds of the ruined Augustinian priory, and the Modern Shrines. Tours are available May through September. More extensive tours of North Norfolk churches, including North and South Creake, Walsingham, the Glaven Ports, Holkham, Raynham, Houghton, and the Burnhams, are also available by request.
Tours MaySeptember, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Winter and custom tours by appointment.
183 Euston Road
England NW1 2BE
Tel: 44 207 6112222
Tube: Euston Square, Warren Street
The Wellcome Collection is a high-tech, free museum located within the headquarters of the Wellcome Trust (the second largest medical-research charity in the world). It's home to a unique permanent collection, a world-class library, a café, and a bookshop. Over his lifetime, American-born pharmacist, philanthropist, and businessman Henry Wellcome collected over a million and a half weird, disturbing, and wonderful objects, some of which (amputation saws, a human heart, ancient Japanese sex toys, a mummified Peruvian body) are on display here in modern surroundings. The bold program of temporary exhibitions—dedicated to eclectic themes such as Addicts and Apothecaries or plain old dirt—tends to get a lot of attention, and rightly so.—Giovanna Dunmall
Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 10 am to 6 pm, Thursdays 10 am to 10 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 6 pm.
England SW1P 3PA
Tel: 44 207 222 5152
Tube: Westminster or St James's Park
Westminster Abbey, the huge Gothic church beside the Houses of Parliament, has been the setting for every coronation since 1066, as well as a burial site for monarchs, aristocrats, writers (Charles Dickens), musicians (Henry Purcell), generals, politicians, scientists (Charles Darwin), and pretty much anyone who it was felt deserved the honor. The lines are extremely long in summer for a shuffle past Poets' Corner, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Coronation Throne—although the mystical Stone of Scone (renamed the Stone of Destiny) that underpinned it for nine centuries is now back in Edinburgh where it belongs. The lines have probably been swollen by Da Vinci Code fanatics, in which the abbey has a cameo—though a starring role in the film was turned down when the powers that be decided that it was "wayward and inappropriate."
Open daily Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 9:30–3:45; Wed 9:30–7; Sat 9:30–1:45; Sun worship only; times are subject to change, see website.
77–82 Whitechapel High Street
England E1 7QX
Tel: 44 207 522 7888
Tube: Aldgate East
An essential stop on any contemporary art lover's tour of London, the Whitechapel Gallery reopened in April 2009 after a major expansion and renovation of its exhibition and archive spaces in East London. The Whitechapel Gallery's history of groundbreaking contemporary art exhibitions is almost unparalleled. Picasso's Guernica was displayed here during its first and only exhibition in England, and the gallery hosted the first solo U.K. shows of such luminaries as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Jasper Johns. At its opening in 1901, the Whitechapel Gallery was the home base for contemporary Jewish art in London, and the gallery's archives house a marvelous collection of notebooks, sketches, and drafts in Hebrew by early 20th-century Jewish artists, portions of which are on display. The gallery's commitment to emerging artists extends to its use of the new space: One international artist each year will be awarded a fellowship to create artwork specifically for a newly designated exhibit room.—Siobhan Adcock
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 6 pm. In addition, the Whitechapel Gallery participates in First Thursdays, during which over 100 galleries in East London stay open till 9 pm on the first Thursday of each month.