Amongst folklore and fairy tale, this is a country with more than 5000 years of history, and it is home to several of the world’s best museums and art galleries. For such a little country, just 874 miles from top to bottom, there is so much diversity. From the wild and untamed highlands of Scotland to the sandy white beaches of the Cornish coast, the landscape changes dramatically as you travel across the island. A must-visit for any anglophile, Great Britain is a beautiful place with a unique charm and a cultural heritage like nowhere else.
Dive into our (free) travel guides below!
The Key Info
There are so many different names used to refer to the Emerald Isles but they do not all mean the same things. Great Britain is the biggest island, which includes England, Scotland, and Wales. The United Kingdom includes these countries, as well as Northern Ireland, the surrounding British islands and the Channel Islands. Welcoming more than 25 million visitors per year, the UK is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world for a reason.
Country in numbers
- Population number: 66.04 million
- Total size of the country: 242,900 km
- Capital city: London
- Currency: Pound Sterling (£/ GBP)
- Language: English
- Religion: Christianity (59.5%), Non-Religious (25.7%), Islam (4.4 %) Other Religions (3.2%)
The 5 Largest Cities in Great Britain
One of the most visited cities in the world, London is an iconic city. A sprawling capital that is jam-packed full of iconic buildings and landmarks, such as Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. If you like your history on the darker side, you’ll enjoy a trip to the London Dungeons, Tower of London, or one of the Jack the Ripper walking tours.
Plus, don’t miss a visit to Camden, you are sure to pick up some cool and alternative souvenirs at the legendary Market. Whether you are in the mood for Michelin-starred fine dining or jellied eels by the Thames, London is a city of cuisine; providing guests with a multi-cultural smorgasbord of flavors to choose from. The best way to see London has to be via the hop-on and hop-off river cruise but the quickest way to get from A to B has to be the underground.
Although Manchester often claims to be Great Britain’s second biggest city, by population it is Birmingham. Located in the heart of the Midlands, this is a multi-cultural city that was once a manufacturing powerhouse back in the time of the Industrial Revolution. It is not all canals and curries though… Birmingham offers excellent shopping. It is home to one of Europe’s largest public libraries. And if that’s not enough, a trip to Cadburys world is sure to please any chocoholic who knows that Brit sweets are the best sweets.
The next biggest city by population is in Scotland. Glasgow is a vibrant city that is full of character. Although the city does not have the best reputation, a visit across the border to this Scottish gem is bound to impress. Discover museums and galleries, legendary nightlife, and the chance to see work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the famous Glaswegian architect, and designer. For the foodies, the Finnieston neighborhood is the culinary center of the city.
The liver bird stands proudly over the docks of this UNESCO maritime city, which also houses Britain’s largest cathedral and the only Tate Gallery in the north. Liverpool is probably most famous for being the birthplace of the Beatles, with many fans of the legendary band visiting the city to take pictures at Abbey Road, stroll along Penny Lane or hear all about it at the award-winning The Beatles Story museum.
The fun continues in Liverpool when the sun goes down. Go enjoy live music at the famous Cavern Club or head to Seel Street for some of the best nightlife in the UK.
From the cool and cosmopolitan to the industrial or historical, there is nowhere quite like Manchester. Famous for being influential when it comes to the Britpop music scene and being the home of two of the UK’s top football teams, Manchester is the wettest place in Great Britain but still one of its best cities. From the cool northern quarter to the classy and upmarket Deansgate, the nightlife in this city is phenomenal. Head to the library where Karl Marx once wrote or follow the story of Manchester lass Emmeline Pankhurst and the birth of the suffragette movement. Whatever your interests, immerse yourself in the history of this northern powerhouse.
Top Tourist Attractions
1. Tower of London
The most popular tourist attractions in the UK are predominantly in London, and one of our favorites has to be the Tower. Built in 1066 and home to the Crown Jewels, this iconic landmark certainly lives up to its grim reputation. Said to be haunted with the hundreds of spirits killed and tortured there over the years, the Tower welcomes over 2.4 million visitors each year. Take a guided tour with a Yeoman Warder to learn more about the history,
One of the oldest world heritage sites in the world, the purpose of Stonehenge is still a mystery but at over 4500 years old, this peculiar arrangement of stones is thought to be older than the pyramids. The nearby town of Salisbury is also worth a visit; the Cathedral is stunning and home to one of the original Magna Carta documents.
3. Tate Modern
The most visited attraction in 2018 was the Tate Modern in London, and this is officially the most popular art gallery in the world. It is a strange place; staircases lead nowhere, tricks are created with mirrors, and art, photography, performance, film, and live exhibits are placed throughout. The 360-degree viewing platform offers phenomenal views of the city. Any of the Tate Galleries- London, Liverpool or St. Ives- are worth a visit, and they are usually free to enter!
The honey-colored stone architecture that characterizes the Roman city of Bath makes it a picture-perfect city. Although you are no longer able to soak away the worries in the well-preserved Great Baths, there are thermic spas available in the city. Providing the backdrop to several of Jane Austen’s literary works, Bath is a contemporary, vibrant city that has much to see and do.
Scotland is a wild stunning place to visit, with scenery and landscapes that will take your breath away and the capital, Edinburgh is one of the country’s most beautiful cities. It is a city of culture and ideals, down to earth drinking culture, comedy and decadence. If you are feeling brave, head down into the vaults for a tour of Edinburgh underground or take time to learn more about the history of Scotland at the majestic Edinburgh Castle.
Best Time to Travel
Although often portrayed as a wet and rainy country, the weather in GB is relatively temperate. July and August are the hottest months of the years, but it is also the peak tourist time so it can get busy. Whilst there is no specific ‘bad’ time to travel, it should be noted that in more inclement weather, there may be issues regarding transport.
Holidays in Great Britain
- 1 January: New Year’s Day
- 19 April: Good Friday
- 22 April: Easter Monday
- 6 May: May Day
- 27 May: Late May Bank Holiday
- 26 August: August Bank Holiday
- 31 October: Halloween
- 5 November: Bonfire Night
- 25 December: Christmas Day
- 26 December: Boxing Day
People from lots of countries are able to stay in the UK for a short time without needing a visa, including America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, amongst others. However, note that if you do require a visa for your trip, the process can take a while. Most of the visa process is online but you should apply with plenty of time in advance.
At the time of writing, EU citizens can travel without a visa, but the implications of Brexit are still unclear. Check the current information available at the UK Foreign Office website.
The UK uses Pound Sterling, and there are 100 pence (often referred to as pee) to every pound. Credit and debit cards are accepted in the vast majority of places, and if not there are ATMs everywhere. You may wish to carry some cash, especially for smaller businesses and some forms of public transport, particularly outside of big cities.
Wherever you are visiting, you can change your money at the local bureaux de change, travel agents, banks and post offices.
Packing Must Haves
The UK is infamous for rain, so a waterproof jacket, umbrella, and sturdy comfortable shoes are a must at most times of the year. The hottest months are July and August, but even at this time, a lightweight raincoat wouldn’t be amiss. In the winter, you will need a thicker coat and your winter woollies. If you are visiting the coast in summer, you will want to take beachwear. A secure bag or backpack is great. You may also need a UK power adaptor; Great Britain uses Type G (3 prongs plus) 230 V.
DOs and DON’Ts in Great Britain
|Visit the museums: In many of the UK’s cities, the museums and galleries are free to enter.||Forget your round: In the UK, people often take it in turns to buy everyone at their table a drink- known as a round of drinks. Make sure you remember when it is your turn to keep it fair.|
|Try the food: The UK has an undeserved reputation when it comes to food. Don’t just stick to the chain restaurants or the stereotypical fish and chips; sample the hearty stews of the north, the haggis and bannocks of Scotland, rarebit in Wales, and the delicacies from around the island.||Confuse the countries: Whilst everyone who lives in Great Britain may be British, they are certainly not English. A turbulent history between the involved nations and pride in their country’s heritage means that people may not appreciate it getting mixed up.|
|Go outside of London: whilst the capital has a lot to offer, it can only provide the smallest snapshot into British life.||Mess with the guards at Buckingham Palace: Whilst they may look funny stood so straight and still, it’s important to remember that the guards at the palace are working (and are people!)|
|Say sorry: Manners are everything in Great Britain, and it is always important to be polite.||Open up an umbrella indoors: Carrying an umbrella in the UK is pretty essential, but do not open it indoors- it is bad luck!|
Secret Tips from Bloggers
- Witness the awe-inspiring scenery at Loch Awe in Scotland – Kayak
- Visit the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker to add some dark tourism to your trip – A Packed Life
- Hire Boris Bikes for an affordable way of seeing London, says Hand Luggage Only
TOP 7 Instagrammable places
- #coventgarden (1.2M)
- #brightonpier (281k)
- #giantscauseway (265k)
- #tenby (220k)
- #windsorcastle (218k)
- #oxforduniversity (207k)
- #whitecliffsofdover (43k)
Fun facts about Great Britain
Did you know…?
- It is illegal to die in the houses of Parliament
- English people drink more tea than any person of any other nation
- Approximately 80,000 umbrellas are left on the London underground each year
- Stamps first originated in the UK and by law, it is an act of treason to put one upside down
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