When you think about the United Kingdom, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Most people would answer: the weather, the tea, or the royal family – but there’s more to the UK than meets the eye! The cities alone are teeming with incredibly rich history and fascinating culture dating back to Roman times. On the other hand, its neighbouring countryside sets the perfect backdrop for adventurous holiday escapes. From the extensive moorlands of Scotland to the dramatic coastline of Cornwall, there are plenty of things to see on your trip. So, if you’re thinking about gearing up for the UK on your next big holiday break, don’t forget to add these iconic landmarks to your list!

The 15 Things You Need To See When Visiting the UK

While the UK may seem like a small group of islands on the map, it’s not to be underestimated! You’ll need the entire summer just to explore and appreciate all the beautiful spots that the country has to offer. The city of London alone has plenty of landmarks that you can check out. As you venture into the country, you’ll find more unique attractions and exquisite sights that will surely make for a memorable holiday. Whether you’re on a weekend break or a seasonal stay, you’re guaranteed an exciting trip. If you’re visiting for the first time, here are the top attractions to add to your holiday bucket list in the UK:

1. Big Ben, London

Big Ben
“Big Ben”, by Colin, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

When it comes to iconic landmarks, nothing comes close to London’s Big Ben. When it was completed in 1859, it was the biggest and most accurate chiming clock in the world. In 2012, the clock tower was renamed “Elizabeth Tower” in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Big Ben is also famous for its beautiful Perpendicular Gothic Revival architecture which goes hand in hand with the exteriors of the Palace of Westminster. The history of the place alone is worth the visit, especially the inner workings of the tower and its 334 steps. But if you’re short on time, you can stop by Bridge Street to marvel at one of the city’s most enduring landmarks!

2. Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge
“Tower Bridge”, by Diego Delso, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Tower Bridge is a bascule and suspension bridge adoring the waters of the River Thames. Easily one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city, it’s often mistaken for its sister, London Bridge. However, the two structures are different from one another with the Tower Bridge being a Grade I-listed heritage site. With a history dating back to Edwardian times, the bridge is a wonderful sight to behold. It’s one of the five main bridges in the capital and is essential to the traffic and economy of London. If you want to learn more about its history, you can visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition and explore the two towers and its engine room

3. London Eye, London

London Eye
“London Eye”, by Khamtran, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, is London’s biggest observation wheel. Located on the southern banks of the River Thames, the structure towers over 400 feet with panoramic views of the city’s bustling centre. It was first opened in February 2000 and with over a million visitors every year, it has become one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Aside from being an extremely popular ride, the London Eye has been featured in countless television shows, films, and references in pop culture. It’s also close to the city’s famous attractions including the Jubilee Gardens, Westminster Bridge, and Waterloo. For first-time visitors, the London Eye should be at the top of your must-visit list!

4. Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace
“Buckingham Palace”, by Peter S., licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It won’t be a UK trip without a visit to one of the most popular landmarks of British royalty – Buckingham Palace. Located within the borough of Westminster, the palace is the beating heart of London and the centre venue for national events. Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the British monarch since the time of Queen Victoria and is known for hosting the annual Trooping of the Colour. Aside from its famous balcony, the palace also has the biggest private garden in the country and has several state rooms used for hosting foreign dignitaries. Luckily, parts of Buckingham Palace are open to the public where guests can roam the decorated halls and learn more about its history. You can also visit some of the galleries and check out masterpieces and photos from the Royal Collection!

5. Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Stonehenge
“Stonehenge”, by Diego Delso, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

If you want to travel even further back in time, why not pay a visit to the famous Stonehenge? Found within the sprawling grasslands of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, this prehistoric structure has baffled experts for decades. Stonehenge consists of several rings of standing stones, creating a massive monument that coincides with the summer and winter solstices. Scientists have many theories as to the creation of Stonehenge, but while none of them have been confirmed, it can’t be denied that this collection of stones is one of Britain’s famous cultural icons. If you’re not busy decoding the meaning of Stonehenge, you can simply appreciate its amazing views. Even the trip to see the stones is worth it thanks to the exquisite plains of Salisbury!

6. Angel of the North, Gateshead

Angel of the North
“Angel of the North”, by Mike Peel, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Angel of the North is another noteworthy landmark that you should visit in Gateshead, England. Tucked in between Tyne and Wear, it’s impossible to miss this contemporary sculpture. The entire piece consists of a human-like figure with wings similar to an aeroplane, giving the sculpture the name of “angel.” The landmark was designed by Antony Gormley and completed in 1998, becoming one of the most recognised statues outside of London. It’s also highly regarded as a great example of public art and is officially considered Gateshead’s symbol. Visitors are welcome to trek the public trails leading up to the sculpture and enjoy the far-reaching views from atop the mountain!

7. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle
“Edinburgh Castle”, by Daniel Kraft, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Edinburgh Castle is a historical castle built upon the mountains of Edinburgh in Scotland. The castle dominates the cityscape, providing excellent views of the country from its towers. Considered the most prominent landmark in Scottish history, Edinburgh Castle is teeming with local lore, magnificent artefacts, and fascinating stories for curious guests. In addition to being a military fortress, the castle was also used as a royal residence, prison, and national archive. Nowadays, it stands as a functioning relic of Scotland’s colourful past with educational tours and lively reenactments. With millions of visitors per year, it remains the most popular attraction in the country!

8. The Kelpies, Falkirk

The Kelpies
“The Kelpies”, by Daniel Kraft, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

While in Scotland, you should visit the equally iconic landmark known as the Kelpies. The sculptures were completed in 2013 and featured two gigantic horse heads designed by acclaimed artist, Andy Scott. The landmark is hard to miss considering that it’s tucked in between the towns of Falkirk and Grangemouth and is near the River Carron. The Kelpies represent Scotland’s values such as strength, endurance, and hard work. When you visit, don’t forget to check out the neighbouring parkland, The Helix. Visitors are free to roam the manicured grounds, enjoy a delicious picnic, and admire the sculptures!

9. Roman Baths, Bath

Roman Baths
“Roman Baths”, by Diego Delso, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

When in Bath, it only makes sense to visit one of the best-preserved thermae in the world – the Roman Baths. Found in the heart of the city, this major tourist attraction hauls millions of visitors worldwide. During Roman times, the place was used as a public bathhouse and drew water from the nearby Mendip Hills. Nowadays, the Roman Baths serve as a museum and heritage site. While guests are not allowed to dip into the waters, they can explore the preserved halls and imagine what would it have been like in ancient times. The museum also holds exhibitions and education tours where you can view artefacts and archaeological finds on display!

10. Conwy Castle, Conwy

Conwy Castle
“Conwy Castle”, by Nilfanion, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Situated on the northern edges of Wales, Cowny Castle is a fortification best known for its deep 13th-century history. In fact, UNESCO dubbed the castle as a World Heritage Site and considered it one of the best-preserved medieval castles in the world. First built in 1283 by King Edward I, Conwy Castle survived several wars and monarchy accessions until it was sold in 1665. The castle is a marvellous piece of structure, showcasing the longstanding history of Wales and decorating the waters of the River Conwy. If you find yourself in this part of Welsh country, the castle is a must-visit for history buffs. After touring the castle walls, you can also check out the nearby parklands and enjoy the charming countryside!

11. White Cliffs of Dover, Dover

White Cliffs of Dover
“White Cliffs of Dover”, by Immanuel Giel, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

When it comes to natural landmarks, the most iconic one is perhaps the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent. Stretching over eight miles of coastline, the region is known for its white-washed and steep cliffsides, adding a dramatic touch across the Strait of Dover. The cliffs are so famous that they have been incorporated in history, and pop culture, and even featured in postage stamps. As part of the North Downs countryside, the cliffs are considered a special area of conservation. They are also visible from across the ocean in France, which adds even more to its charm. Holidaymakers love frequenting the area for the sights, nature trails, and coastal views!

12. Canterbury Cathedral, London

Canterbury Cathedral
“Canterbury Cathedral”, by Antony McCallum, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Everyone has heard of the Canterbury Tales, but what about the Canterbury Cathedral that inspired the stories? Found in the region of Kent, this stunning cathedral and city are known for being one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in the world. Whether you’re religious or just a history lover, you’ll enjoy visiting the cathedral for its captivating architecture and interesting past. Canterbury Cathedral is also the home of the archbishop of Canterbury who is the leader of the Church of England. Once you finish touring its halls, feel free to explore the city and get to know the place that set the backdrop for Chaucer’s tales!

13. Durdle Door, Dorset

Durdle Door
“Durdle Door”, by Saffron Blaze, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Durdle Door is another natural attraction that’s worth visiting in the county of Dorset in England. As one of the stops in the Jurassic Coastline, the landmark is a limestone arch resting along the turquoise waters. Although the location is privately owned, Durdle Door is open to the public and visitors can walk along its sandy coast to reach the arch. Aside from its beautiful geological shape, the nearby beach of Durdle is also pretty popular. Beach lovers will love soaking in the sun as they test their swimming skills among the waves. When you visit, it’s important to note that it’s a steep descent from the parking lot to the beachside!

14. The Eden Project, Cornwall

The Eden Project
“The Eden Project”, by Suicasmo, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Eden Project is one of Cornwall’s more modern attractions located within the small town of St. Blazey. Built upon a reclaimed china pit, the destination consists of gigantic glass domes housing natural ecosystems and botanical displays. The domes are incredibly iconic thanks to their unique hexagonal design. With its extensive size, it’s able to contain the largest indoor rainforest in the UK. The Eden Project is definitely a haven for nature enthusiasts who love getting lost in the fascinating wilderness!

15. Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Windsor Castle
“Windsor Castle”, by Diliff, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Aside from Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle is the next royal residence and landmark strongly associated with the Royal Family and British history. Overlooking the River Thames, the castle is known for its medieval walls and its iconic Long Walk in Windsor Great Park. It’s considered the monarch’s official country home and occasionally serves as the venue for important events. In 1992, Windsor Castle made it to the headlines after the infamous fire destroyed most of its state apartments. Nowadays, several areas of the castle are open to the public with guided tours and exhibitions. From significant artworks to archaeological works, there are tons of artefacts on display at Windsor Castle!

FAQs

What is the most famous landmark in the UK?

Buckingham Palace is arguably the most famous landmark in the UK. As the primary residence of the current British monarch, the palace is synonymous with the country itself. A close runner-up would be Westminster’s clock tower, also known as Big Ben.

What is the most fascinating monument in the UK?

Stonehenge is the most fascinating monument in the UK. With history going back to ancient times, the murky origins and the true purpose of the stones are the two main allures of the attraction. From the point of its discovery until now, Stonehenge has attracted millions of visitors from around the world.

What is the prettiest natural landmark in the UK?

The White Cliffs of Dover is one of the prettiest natural landmarks in the UK. With its dramatic white-washed cliffsides paired with the idyllic countryside, it’s popular among local holidaymakers and tourists. The spot is so iconic that it can be seen from miles away!

Final Thoughts

From historical enthusiasts to nature lovers, the United Kingdom is a playground for holidaymakers. The country has an endless list of iconic landmarks that you can visit. Whether it’s the iconic facade of Big Ben or the gorgeous natural attractions of Cornish county, you’ll find plenty of spots to explore and enjoy. If you’re visiting the UK for the first time, it’s highly recommended to start your tour with the city’s finest sights. As you venture out of its borders, you’ll discover more sites and landmarks to add to your never-ending bucket list!

Featured Image: “Buckingham Palace”, by Peter S., licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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