Top 10 English tourist destinations


The results are in – just what visitor attractions are people willing to spend their money on?

The top 10 English tourist attractions in 2012 include famous London sightseeing destinations, theme parks, two World Heritage Sites and plenty of outdoor activities.

1. Tower of London


The top spot goes to the Tower of London, one of the world's most famous fortresses and home to the priceless Crown Jewels. Built as a royal residence and prison nearly 1,000 years ago, there are some fascinating stories within its walls.

Visitors today can take a guided tour from the famous Beefeaters, witness the centuries-old Ceremony of the Keys, which takes place daily, and learn about the Tower's more unusual ex-inhabitants - including a polar bear...

2.  Hylands House and Estate, Essex


Exquisite architechture and beautiful gardens have given Hylands House, near Chelmsford, Essex, the second spot on the list.

The 300 year old manor house is fully open to the public today, and you can visit spectacular rooms like the Drawing Room and the equally decadent Banqueting Room. The real jewel in its crown, though, is the surrounding 574 acres of landscaped woods, lakes and colourful gardens. Perfect for a leisurely stroll.

3.  St Paul's Cathedral


The iconic cathedral has witnessed many significant events in Britain’s history, including the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill and the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

A visit to St Paul’s Cathedral offers 1,200 years of history as well as the chance to climb the 237 steps to the top of the spectacular Dome. On your way up, you can witness the Whispering Gallery, where a whisper can be heard from 100 feet away, before admiring stunning views of London's skyline.

4.  Westminster Abbey


Just behind St Paul’s in the top ten is another London sightseeing spot, Westminster Abbey – the venue of the most famous wedding of 2011!

Trace the final footsteps of Kate Middleton before she became the Duchess of Cambridge, admire renowned Gothic architecture, and marvel at the Abbey's beautiful memorials to history's great kings and queens.

Did you know? Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are among the 3,000 famous figures buried at Westminster Abbey.

5.  Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo, Yorkshire


With rides, a zoo, live entertainment and a variety of restaurants and bars, Flamingo Land is suitable for just about everyone!

Over 140 species live at the zoo, including red pandas and penguins, while the theme park has rides for the whole family; a perfect two-in-one day out.

Why is it called Flamingo Land? The graceful pink birds were some of the park's first inhabitants, and today it champions a successful conservation programme for them. 

Photo by Karen Vernon [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

6. Chester Zoo


Chester Zoo houses the largest Orangutan exhibit in Europe and the most extensive zoo-based butterfly house in the UK.

Not only is it home to 11,000 animals - including some of the world's most endangered species - there are also 110 acres of award-winning gardens to explore. Visit a Himalayan rock garden, play some mini golf, or get your face painted like your favourite animal.

7. Windermere Boat Cruises, Bowness


Set within the outstanding beauty of the Lake District National Park, Lake Windermere is the most popular tourist destination in Cumbria.

Peaceful, wild and surrounded by misty mountains, Windermere is Britain’s largest natural lake. Its surface is dotted with boats all year round - what better way to take in the exceptional scenery than with a tranquil cruise?

8. The Royal Academy of Arts, London


Right in the heart of London’s West End, the Royal Academy of Arts is the oldest fine art institution in Britain – and it’s an oasis of calm in the busy city. The Academy's world-class permanent collection includes famous works by Turner, Constable, Waterhouse and Hockney, to name just a few.

Seasonal exhibitions change regularly and entrance fees vary, but with installations, fine art and regular special events there’s something to suit any taste.

Photo by Tony Hisgett [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

9. Stonehenge


Part of an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stonehenge is one of Britain's most famous sightseeing spots.

Believed to date from as far back as 3000BC, historians are still baffled by how the huge slabs of Stonehenge were transported. Weighing up to 50 tons each, it would’ve taken 600 men to move just one.

But what is it?! No one has managed to answer that question with 100% certainty, and the mystery of the stones can certainly draw a crowd.

10. The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben


Gazed up at by visitors for 150 years, it’s no surprise that the iconic Big Ben has made the list. A visit to the adjoining Houses of Parliament will leave you captivated by the vast, intricately carved Westminster Hall, built in 1097!

You can also see the Queen’s fabulous robing room, and of course, the famous Lords Chamber, where Britain’s laws are hotly debated.