England is the largest and, with 55 million inhabitants, by far the most populous of the United Kingdom's constituent countries. A 'green and pleasant land', England is home to much more than this famous description implies. From urban bustle to rural idylls via spectacular coastline and dramatic natural scenery, England has an incredible variety of landscapes and attractions to experience. Historical sites and cultural attractions abound here, whilst modern architecture and exciting technological innovations litter England's largest cities; many of which have seen successive programmes of regeneration from the mid-19th century (or earlier). A diverse and culturally-rich country, with immigrants from the world over, visitors to England can seldom help being entranced by its charm, character, and unique culture.
Southern England is roughly the area south of The Wash and the Bristol Channel.
MidlandsThe English Midlands are roughly the area east of Wales and across to the North Sea.
Northern EnglandNorthern England is anywhere north of Staffordshire in the west and roughly north of the River Trent in the east, up to the Scottish border.
England has many large cities. Listed below are nine of the most popular:
READ THIS ==> READ THIS ==> This list is meant to be only a SMALL REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLE of
READ THIS ==> cities in England, not a complete list of all the interesting ones.
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- London — the largest metropolitan area in Western Europe, with a range of attractions so rich, varied and – well – bloody enormous, you won't know where to start
- — England's second largest city in the country's heartland; "workshop of the world" it was, now boasts super shopping
- Brighton — Regency seaside resort and university town with quirky shopping, good eating, rich culture and eclectic gay nightlife
- — vibrant music scene, lovely historic buildings and an attractive waterfront, with many festivals to enjoy in the summer
- — booming cosmopolitan city, famous for its grand landmarks, world-changing music heritage and footie-mad population
- Manchester — the north's cultural, sporting, entertainment, shopping and media hub is often viewed as Birmingham's main rival to second-city status
- — seriously good nightlife and "Geordie" inhabitants warm enough to offset the north-eastern chill
- Nottingham — the "Queen of the Midlands" is home to Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest and Nottingham Castle
- — ancient capital of Yorkshire, with Roman, Viking and Medieval architecture
- Hadrian's Wall — the Romans built this 87 mile wall to protect their province of Britannia from northern raiders.
- — magical archipelago of tiny islands off the south western coast of Cornwall.
- Lake District National Park — glorious mountains, lakes and woodlands; the land of Wordsworth.
- — one of the few remnants of the great oak and hornbeam woodland that once covered southern England.
- North York Moors National Park — with heather-clad hills, woodlands, impressive sea cliffs and secluded beaches, this area is one of the true English gems.
- — rugged moors and hills in the north, secluded dales and limestone escarpments in the south.
- South Downs National Park — the gentle rolling chalk downs of southern England, which culminate at the coast in massive white cliffs.
- — the iconic Neolithic and Bronze Age monument; as mysterious as it is famous.
- Yorkshire Dales National Park — charming, picture postcard villages set in some of the finest landscapes anywhere in Britain.
OrientationDon't confuse "England" with the larger "Britain" or "United Kingdom"; see the United Kingdom article for details. Within the island of Great Britain, Scotland sits to the north of England and Wales is to the west. Northern Ireland (also part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland lie across the Irish Sea to the west of England (and Wales). France and the Channel Islands are across the English Channel to the south, and to the east is the North Sea.
Northern and western parts are usually wetter than the rest of England due to the prevailing wind from the north west bringing down cold moist air from the North Atlantic, and the sunniest and warmest areas are in the far south and south east.
Winter and autumn are usually the wettest seasons where the weather is often very changeable and at times quite windy, especially in the north and west, where cold Arctic winds arrive. Spring conditions are very changeable: a day of hot sunshine is likely as not to be followed by a week of cold wind and rain; and vice-versa. Occasional snow even as late as May is not unheard of in northern England, but it will melt quickly. Snow is particularly rare in the south east. Summer is generally warm in the south with average highs usually ranging from 18-23°C, but be prepared for unsettled weather at any time of the year and make sure to check a weather forecast if you plan to be outdoors.
Hot spells of weather can occur from May to September where temperatures may reach 30°C in the warmest areas of England, typically London and parts of the South East. Central Europe has very hot summers and very cold winters, but England is both less extreme (surrounded by water) and milder in the winter (influenced by the warmth of the North Atlantic Drift). If it were not for the North Atlantic Drift, England would be much much colder.
Heavy, prolonged, snow is rare and temperatures are rarely below freezing for more than a few days. Some years there will be a few days of road and rail disruption from snow - even the slightest amount of snow often causes delays on public transport, especially rail. Very severe weather conditions are rare and remedial action is usually taken promptly. Flooding and droughts are unlikely to affect the traveller. High winds occasionally disrupt travel, most often outside summer.
English people are said to have a passion for debating the weather: actually this is usually just an opening gambit to start a conversation with a stranger. Often, these conversation openers are heard among the elderly members of society. Most discussions that do involve weather usually include criticisms of it - including (though perhaps not at the same time) both that it's "too cold" and it's "too hot". Well-known conversational gambits (with due acknowledgement to Peter Kay) : "It's too cold for snow"; "It's that fine rain that soaks you through".
The English are well used to foreign visitors and you can expect them to be friendly and polite. One thing to bear in mind is that many (mostly elderly) English people are terrified of causing offence and dislike lying, and so will try to avoid potential pitfalls by sticking to safe (often boring) topics of conversation. They will occasionally attempt to avoid offence by evading a question which worries them, while also trying not to offend you by point blank refusing you an answer. This sort of thing generally wears off as people get to know you. The younger generation are often more open with their opinions and emotions, but you can still expect them to be polite.
Big cities and even some rural areas, as in any country, have their social problems, but England is predominantly an affluent country with little visible poverty. Rough areas see their fair share of petty and semi-serious crime: muggings, car theft, and other street crime are unhappily common in some districts of many towns and cities, but England is by and large a very safe country as long as you use common sense. Unless you are in a very touristy area (such as Covent Garden in London), you the traveller are no more likely to be targeted by criminals than is anyone else. However in places that are very popular with visitors, less careful tourists can sometimes be victims of scams and crimes such as pickpocketing. Don't be one of them!
In tourist destinations you will meet mostly friendly people who will take the time to answer a stranger's question, and who may speak English in a colourful or accented way but will usually be willing to standardise and simplify their speech if you make it clear that you're struggling to understand. Some say that there is a north-south divide with regard to friendliness of people, with people in the North seen as more friendly and approachable, while those in the South (particularly in urban areas such as London) tending to be less willing to stop and speak to strangers. Remember not to take offence, however; most people you see on the streets will usually be rushing to get to somewhere (e.g. work) and simply don't have the time to talk. However in rural areas, particularly East Anglia and the West Country, people can be more inclined to spare their time to have a chat with strangers. You should bear in mind that these are generalisations and do not apply to all people in the areas mentioned. In any case, you will usually find that if you are polite and friendly, you'll get the same in return from anybody you speak to.
London itself is a very international city where you may meet a variety of nationalities, depending on what part of the city you are in.
Unsurprisingly, English is the main language in England, though it is spoken with many different accents throughout the country. Generally, English accents can be broadly divided into Northern and Southern accents. However, within these two main 'regions', accents can vary widely between different counties, towns and cities. For example, natives of Liverpool (called 'Liverpudlians' or more informally 'Scousers') have a distinctive accent that is easily distinguishable from that of someone from nearby Manchester (called 'Mancunians') and even from the surrounding countryside. Some cities even have multiple accents depending on the area of the city and the social class of the speaker. For example, working class 'Cockneys' of the East End of London sound very different to more well-heeled denizens of west London. England is generally considered to have the greatest variety of accents in the English-speaking world, even when compared to a much larger country like the United States.
In Cornwall, a very small number of people speak Cornish, a Celtic language similar to Welsh and completely separate from English. However, with fewer than a couple of hundred speakers of the language, any experience of Cornish you get is likely to be confined to road signs or information boards.
No other languages are widely spoken, but with widespread immigration to England from other Commonwealth and European Union countries in the past few decades, you might also hear other languages spoken in the big cities. You may hear (and even see signs in) Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Polish, Italian, Greek, Turkish and varieties of Arabic. Largely because of links with Hong Kong and the overseas Chinese community in Malaysia, many Chinese Cantonese speaking people live here; London, Manchester and Sheffield in particular have thriving communities.
The English are not known for being particularly fond of learning foreign languages, and often rely solely on English when they travel abroad! French (and to a lesser extent Spanish, Italian and German) is usually taught in schools, but they are no longer compulsory. Few English people are fluent in a foreign language but they may remember enough to be willing to help a stranger in difficulties (if they can get over the embarrassment of being seen to "show off"). For this reason, you should be prepared to have to use English to make yourself understood.
There are some peculiar words and phrases that even a native speaker of another variant of English may not understand. For example, when an English person says "Meet me at half five", they mean "Meet me at 5:30". If the directions say "go to the top of the road", that means the end of the road. Some words mean one thing to Americans and something else entirely to English people. When an English man says he shared a "fag" with his "mate" that means only that he smoked a cigarette with a friend. If he adds that they also had a "gorgeous" meal, it means it was followed by a nice dinner. Then there are the words unique to British English; a sneaker or tennis shoe, for instance, is called a "trainer." The expression "cheers!" is used both when drinking with somebody and as a substitute for "thank you."
Another English peculiarity is the use of terms of endearment for strangers such as "darling", "pet", "love", "hun", "duck", "bab", "mate", "sweetheart", "flower", "queen" and a few others. It can be confusing, or perhaps even embarrassing, for somebody who is not accustomed to this to be called "darling" by a total stranger and it can also contrast quite sharply with the popular image of English people as being very reserved. However, this is something which is nowadays mainly used by the older generation and found less in the younger generation except for between friends, although some younger males may call a woman "Darlin". This is usually either as a form of cat calling (and can often be followed by derogatory demands or language but is often harmless) or directed towards a female friend.
You will hear English people say "sorry". This is not down to guilt or self-consciousness but simply because it is synonymous with "excuse me", and is used to get somebody's attention. Alternatively it can be synonymous with "pardon". Any comments along the lines of "What are you sorry about?" are pointless and likely to be received with blank looks.
As London is one of the world's most multicultural cities, you will be hard-pressed to find a major world language that is not spoken by someone there.
Accents and dialectsThe diverse history of England, and the constant influx of various cultures and peoples over the centuries (e.g. Vikings, Normans, Romans, Celtic peoples, all the way up to recent immigration from Commonwealth and EU countries), have produced a wide range of accents, and there are still traces of regional dialects (vocabulary and grammar). Best not to imitate the accents, you will be seen as mocking.
An accent will usually reveal where someone was brought up — sometimes to within quite a small area (there exists an urban legend of criminals being caught because their accents on recorded phone calls were traceable to a single neighbourhood). Today, even well-educated professionals are happy to keep their regional accent: the unhappy days when people from outside the South East felt that they had to hide their accent to "get on" have gone. It is now only people who go to public (i.e. private, fee-paying) schools who learn to speak in a "geography-free" way (the "upper-class accent" of colonial rulers, well-known from old British films, or modern parodies). Differences in accent are very real: a visitor who is expecting a particular accent they are familiar with from the cinema or television (perhaps "Dick van Dyke Cockney" or "Hugh Grant Silly Ass Upper Crust") will usually have to wait a day or two to get really accustomed to the real accents they hear around them. Even English people, familiar with other accents from TV or by knowing neighbours or colleagues who have moved from other areas, can still struggle when far from home. "Geordie", the accent/dialect of Tyneside, is a famously strong accent when spoken quickly among a group of people who do not know that a stranger is trying to tune in. Most people are happy to tone down (or slow down) their accent when a stranger is in difficulty. When encountering a broad Geordie accent it can be quite difficult for someone who is not accustomed to it to understand it, and there are still various dialectic words in common use such as hyem = home, gan/gannin = going, wor = our, divvint = don't and howay = come on. Many of these regional terms are similar to words in modern Scandinavian languages due to the Viking influence on the area.
Dialects exist, but to the traveller this should be a matter of interest, not confusion. People across England would expect to understand anyone from anywhere else in England, because the few everyday dialect words are usually well known from TV. Some examples from the north of England: "ey up" ("Hello"), "aye" ("yes", as in Scotland and the North of England); "tha" ("you", as in thee and thou, still common in Yorkshire). Real differences are subtle and of little consequence these days: for instance, people growing up in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield use "jennel", "jinnel", and "ginnel" respectively as the word for a particular type of narrow alley between houses. Other common words are "wee", "bonnie", "lass" (small, beautiful and girl, respectively in the north east, as well as over the border in Scotland).
A few useful words which may help you understand the English (particularly in the Midlands and North):
"ta" = thank you, "ta ra/ta ta" = goodbye, "summat/summit/summink" = something, "nowt" = nothing, "owt" = "anything", "dunna/dunno" = don't know, "canna/cannit = cannot.
From outside Great Britain
- From mainland Europe. - there are a wide variety of routes and operators from various countries. Ferry routes to British Mainland
- From the Channel Islands. Services connect Jersey and Guernsey with the south of England.
- From the Isle of Man. Services connect Douglas, Isle of Man with the north west of England
- From Ireland. There are only limited car ferry services connecting Ireland directly with England. Alternatively it is possible to take a ferry from Ireland to Wales or Scotland and then continue the journey by road to England.
See "by boat" for further details.
- From France. Eurotunnel run a frequent train service from Calais, France, to Folkestone which carries vehicles and their passengers.
From elsewhere in Great BritainA number of roads cross England's borders with its British neighbours. These roads range from the simple country lanes to motorways. There are no border controls with Scotland or Wales; indeed, on smaller roads the border may not be noticed at all.
There are no tolls to cross into England; however, motorists need to be aware that crossing from England into Wales via the M4 and M48 Severn Bridges will need to pay a toll. Also, there is a M6 toll road to bypass the congestion of Birmingham (England's second largest city) on the main M6 motorway.
The most important road connections into and out of England are.
- A1 from Edinburgh to Eastern Scotland
- M4 from South Wales
- M74/A74/M6 from Western Scotland
- A55 from North Wales.
By planeMost people flying to England from outside Europe are likely to land in London Heathrow, London Gatwick or Manchester. Those flying from inside Europe have a great many options with low cost carriers connecting large European cities with many regional airports within England. Flying to England from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland is popular, although there are almost no flight connections from Wales.
London and the South East
- London Heathrow (LHR) - By far the largest airport in UK, it is also the third busiest in the world.
- London Gatwick (LGW) - London's second most important airport
- London Stansted (STN) - Important low cost carrier airport near Cambridge
- London Luton (LTN) - Smaller airport to the north west of London
- London City (LCY) - Small airport in the centre of London, mostly targeting business travellers who want to get into the city's financial districts quickly
The South: Southampton and Bournemouth are on the south coast.
The South West: Bristol, Exeter, Newquay and Plymouth mostly serve domestic and European destinations.
The East Norwich
The Midlands: Birmingham International, and East Midlands Airport
The North: Manchester International (MAN), Liverpool John Lennon, Newcastle International, Leeds-Bradford, Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Humberside, Durham Tees Valley and Blackpool
Eurostar links mainland Europe to England. Its high speed trains run from Paris, France and Brussels, Belgium as well as other cities in France (Avignon, Calais, Lille, Lyon and Marseille), crossing into England via the Channel Tunnel (and often stopping at either Ebbsfleet or Ashford) before continuing to St. Pancras Station in London. Occasional services run from other destinations in France. Book as early as possible as fares can be considerably more expensive if trying to book at the last minute.
The rail system with Wales and Scotland is fully integrated, with regular services crossing the borders into England. In addition to regular daytime trains, sleeper trains link Scotland and England. As they are subject to franchising and the current contract runs to 2030, they are unlikely to share the fate of many continental European night trains which were cut and withdrawn since the 1990s.
BritRail Passes are also available to non-UK citizens which allow the traveller unlimited rail travel in England on one ticket.
By boatWith so much coastline and so many ports, England has extensive shipping links with many countries worldwide. Major ports are Dover, Folkestone, Harwich, Hull, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Liverpool, Ipswich and Newcastle. See Ferry routes to British Mainland.
By busWhile Britain has had long distance buses for decades and many of them serve various points inside and outside of England, France only opened its long distance bus market in 2015. Of course, several companies have jumped at the opportunity and London-Paris (via the Chunnel) is probably the most obvious international route, which is offered by several companies, including French ouibus, British Megabus or German Flixbus. While travel times are usually a lot longer than by plane or train, the prices tend to be rather low and fares below are not unheard of.
There are taxi firms everywhere (many are by booking only—find the phone number of the local company and phone ahead), and every town has a bus service. 'Black cabs' are also common in cities and can be hailed from the side of the road. Sometimes in city centres, usually just after the nightclubs have closed, there will be queue for taxis which will sometimes be monitored by marshals or police.
To be safe, make sure you take a registered taxi or black cab; despite government action, many unlawful unregistered private taxi drivers exist—these do have a reputation for being unsafe, particularly if you are a woman.
England has one of the highest densities of railway lines per square mile in the world. There has been much improvement and investment to the railway network and rolling stock but delays and cancellations do occasionally occur. Overcrowding can be a problem in large cities, especially at 'rush-hour' times (7AM–9AM and 5PM–7PM, Monday to Friday) so it is best to avoid these times when tickets can be expensive as well. See also Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Buses are numerous, frequent and reliable in most of the larger towns and cities and an ideal way of getting around. Rural areas are less well served and hiring a car is often the best option to explore the countryside and villages.
The roads are of generally excellent quality (although can deteriorate in rural areas) and the signs and markings are clear. The main problem with driving in England is the sheer volume of traffic on the roads. Unfortunately this is not only limited to rush-hours and large cities, and even cross-country motorways can slow to a stop as they pass urban areas. Prepare for travel times being longer than you'd normally anticipate in relation to the mileage. The speed limit, unless otherwise stated, is 30 or 40 mph in built-up areas, 50 or 60 mph (approx 95 km/h) elsewhere and 70 mph (approx. 110 km/h) on motorways and other controlled-access roads. Speed cameras and traffic police are numerous so caution is advised. The traditional British 'reserve' and politeness may occasionally dissolve under the stress of congestion on the major routes, especially with the traffic problems in some of England's larger cities, but generally driving around Britain is an enjoyable experience and it is polite to acknowledge the courtesy of another driver with a nod or the raising of the hand as a form of thank you. Drivers will often flash their headlights to indicate that you are clear to pull out, or otherwise to give way to you, and it is considered polite to say thank you by giving a wave or a quick flash of your headlights.
Flashing your hazards (i.e., both indicators at the same time) is only used as an indication of danger. Usually it's used to indicate that the car has broken down or to warn other drivers that there's a hazard up ahead. But flashing your hazards a couple of times is another way of saying thank you.
Brown road signs with white text indicate nearby tourist attractions, and the blue i sign denotes Tourist Information.
The UK isn't as cycle-friendly as some other European countries, but cycling is still a great way to get around. You'll see a lot more from a bicycle, have the freedom to stop wherever you want, no parking headaches and once you've got the bicycle there is nothing to pay. It is unquestionably the fastest way around London and other major cities–it does have its dangers but it's well worth the risk.
There are many lovely cycle paths where you can avoid the traffic and soak in the cityscape or countryside. Rough examples of journey times at moderate speed: Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge: 20 minutes; Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle: 2 hours; Central London to Oxford: 5 hours. A national online route planner can be found at Cycle Streets
You can hire a bicycle from some local bicycle shops, or purchase a decent one privately for less than £100 secondhand as the UK has a surplus of old bicycles. Make sure you get a helmet, particularly for city cycling, and lights, especially in winter as the days are very short. Helmets aren't compulsory but the police will fine you for not using lights when it's dark. A decent lock is also essential, particularly in the cities; bicycle theft is a common problem—do not leave your bicycle unattended, not even for a minute.
Most of the London underground trains and local buses do not accept cycles, but overground trains and long-distance coaches will normally let you on with a bicycle, as long as they're not too full. Arrive early for coaches so you get a space in the luggage hold.
If short on time, you may find it more convenient to base yourself in a regional city and take day trips to the National Parks, coast and smaller towns. If you have plenty of time, then you could base yourself in a B&B (Bed and Breakfast) in any of the above. You will find that public transport to and within cities and large towns is acceptable, but that in smaller places off the beaten track then you should research your journey carefully, or consider hiring a car.
Popular places to visit include the counties of Yorkshire and Cornwall, the National Parks listed above, and the historic cities such as York, Bath and Lincoln.
If short on time, you can use larger cities as a base for day trips, either by train or coach. For example Leeds, the largest city in Yorkshire, makes a great base for day trips to the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire Moors, York and Whitby, whilst offering its own selection of attractions such as the Royal Armouries, famed nightlife, theatre and designer shopping in stunning Victorian-era arcades.
Similarly Plymouth makes a good base for exploring Dartmoor and making day trips to Cornwall, whilst offering its own range of attractions and museums.
If you have a little longer, you may be able to spend a week more locally based, for example staying in Ambleside in the Lake District.
England, together with the other parts of Britain, was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th to 20th centuries. Though many industries were shut down in the late 20th century, there is still much to see of Industrial Britain; mines, factories, and heritage railways.
Preservation trustsA number of 'umbrella' organisations are devoted to the preservation and public access of both natural and cultural heritage. Membership with them, even on a temporary basis, means priority free access to their properties thereafter—travellers to England seeking to see a large number of sights would do well to join one or more of them:
English HeritageEnglish Heritage has an especially wide-ranging remit and manages more than 400 significant buildings and monuments in England. They also maintain a register of thousands of "listed" buildings, those considered of most importance to the historic and cultural heritage of the country.
The National TrustThe National Trust manages over 350 properties and over 950sq miles of land. Many of the country's manor houses are under the trust's ownership and management.
- Walking/hiking: England has many places for walking in the country, which may be called hillwalking or fellwalking in some areas. The Lake District and Peak District are some of the places for more serious walks—see also the itinerary Hikes in the Lake District. The Pennine Way (463 km) and Coast To Coast Walk (309 km) are the best-known long-distance walks. There are public footpaths and public bridleways all over the country, and most areas of open land are now generally designated for unlimited access (more noticeably in upland areas). People have the right to walk along these and local councils are obliged to maintain records of the routes and keep access open, but do not maintain the paths. Paths are usually signposted where they meet a road, but may not be marked across fields. The paths are shown on the Ordnance Survey Explorer (1:25,000) and Landranger (1:50,000) maps. Enquire locally for details of the best walks, and what kit (boots, waterproofs, etc.) you will need.
- Beaches: Cornwall and Devon have some spectacular natural beaches that would rival those of Australia and California, although they are often much colder.
- Music: See Music in Britain and Ireland.
England has for many decades held an often-deserved reputation for bad food. However, England's food scene has been revitalised and the bad food reputation is disappearing. Nowadays you can generally expect pubs and restaurants to provide decent and well-presented meals. It is nonetheless advisable to 'do your research' before going out, scout establishments in person, check out online reviews, see what Wikivoyage has to say about them! If in doubt, ask the locals where's best to eat.
A meal out is the usual way to celebrate a special family or social event, and people expect the meal to live up to the occasion. Cooking programmes are now among the most popular on the television, supermarkets have turned many previously unknown foods into everyday items, and farm shops and farmers' markets have surprised all the commentators by becoming extremely popular weekend "leisure" destinations where people can buy excellent local meat, fruit, vegetables, cheeses, breads and other delicacies.
What to try
See also: English cheese
Here are some traditional meals which are usually referred to as "national dishes" and which you can reasonably expect to find anywhere in England.
- Fish and chips — deep-fried, battered cod, haddock or another white fish with chips . This is best bought from specialist fish and chip shops, known colloquially as "chippies", "fisheries" or "frieries" in different parts of England, where it is usually better than the fish and chips on a general restaurant or pub menu. Available throughout the country, but best eaten out of newspaper while overlooking the waves on a beach. The default fish is typically cod in the South and haddock in some parts of the North, but better quality chippies will usually offer a choice.
- Full English breakfast — At its fullest, it might consist of fried bacon, fried eggs (the two basic elements essential to any "fry up"), fried sausages, fried bread, fried black pudding , fried bubble and squeak , hash browns, mushrooms, scrambled eggs, baked beans in tomato sauce, and toast and butter - washed down by a large amount of hot strong tea or coffee with milk. Served in less refined versions in truckers' stops, and posher versions in hotels, where there will often be a buffet of these items from which you can help yourself. It is sometimes said that this meal is only a legend foisted on tourists, because the English are now too busy and too health-conscious to regularly consume such a huge breakfast. There is a certain element of truth to this, as the English now perceive the breakfast to be a weekend or holiday treat, or as a suitable meal to consume when hungover after a night of drinking. Any inexpensive "greasy spoon" café will have "all-day breakfast" on the menu, as do many more upmarket establishments.
- Lancashire hotpot — a hearty vegetable and lamb stew from Lancashire
- Roast dinner, also known as the "Sunday roast", due to the day it is traditionally consumed is considered by many the archetypal English meal. The dish consists of a roasted meat (usually chicken, turkey, beef, pork or lamb), served with roast potatoes, and between two and six other roasted, boiled, steamed or braised vegetables. This meal is inevitably more popular in the colder half of the year, and the exact components often depend on the season (turkey is the traditional meat consumed around Christmas, while lamb is most popular in the spring, and each vegetable has its particular season). The roast is available on Sundays between lunchtime and early evening in virtually any English pub serving food. Quality can vary greatly depending on how freshly cooked the food is, with home cooked being invariably better.
- Sausages and mash, often called bangers and mash — hot sausages and creamy mashed potato, often served with vegetables and a slightly sweet onion gravy. There are many kinds of sausage available in England, from the peppery, spiral-shaped Cumberland, and fat, sagy Gloucester to the short, herby Lincolnshire, via beef and lamb varieties and pork mixed with almost anything you can think of (apples, leek, chives, chillies, paprika, nutmeg, ginger, Stilton cheese, breadcrumbs, ale, cider, chocolate, stinging nettles...), not forgetting the humble plain pork "banger" which is most common. The English take their sausages very seriously, maybe even more so than the Germans, and there are numerous national and regional contests where butchers and enthusiasts alike can enter to battle for the prestigious title of 'champion sausage' in various categories.
- Savoury pies — are meat and / or veg usually in a sauce or gravy served in a pastry case. Among the most popular varieties are steak and ale, steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom and meat and potato. Slightly different, but similar, is the Cornish pasty — beef and vegetables in a pastry case
- Toad in the hole — sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter
- Yorkshire pudding — a batter pudding served with a roast (usually beef); originally used instead of a plate and eaten with the meal. In Yorkshire and neighbouring parts of northern England, giant versions often appear on pub menus as a main meal item, with a filling, e.g. Giant Yorkshire Pudding filled with beef stew.
There are many other regional dishes and foodstuffs which are covered in the relevant region articles.
Where to eat
Pubs are a good place to get reasonably priced food, though most stop serving food at around 9-9:30PM. Others may stop serving food between lunch and dinner. Pub food has become quite sophisticated and, as well as serving the more traditional hearty English fare, more exotic dishes are now prepared in the majority of the larger pubs and specialist "gastropubs".
English food has undergone a revolution with many larger cities having award-winning restaurants run by the many famous TV chefs who have now become part of the English obsession with food. London has 60 Michelin-starred restaurants, almost as many as Paris' 77. Eating out at a high-quality restaurant can be an expensive experience: at the very top end (Michelin-star level) expect to pay £100 (at least) per head including wine. A decent three-course meal out at a respectable restaurant will normally cost around £30–£40 per head including wine. It is possible to dine for cheaper than this, but the quality usually drops when the bill is below £20–25 per head.
If good-quality and cheaply priced food is more your choice, try one of the many ethnic restaurants such as Chinese, Asian or Mexican. Eating a curry or balti in an Indian restaurant is tantamount to an English obsession. These restaurants are found everywhere—even the larger villages have them—and usually the food is of good quality and they will cater for most tastes. A good curry with side dishes can be had for around £10–15 per head, and some without liquor licences allow you to bring your own alcoholic beverages in. Eating a curry out is a social occasion and often you will find the men try to challenge their own taste buds to a duel, opting for spicier curries than they find comfortable! In the towns and cities these restaurants are usually open late (especially on a Friday and Saturday night) to cater for people eating after the pubs have closed. It is at this time that they can get very busy and lively, so if you want to avoid the crowds then visit the restaurants before the local pubs shut.
Unlike many other European countries, vegetarian (and to a lesser extent, vegan) food is widely available and appreciated in pubs and restaurants, with several dishes usually appearing on the menu alongside the more normal meat and fish options. However, vegetarians may still find the variety of dishes rather limited—particularly in pubs, where certain dishes such as "veggie" lasagne or mushroom stroganoff feature all too regularly.
Tipping is generally expected in restaurants unless a service charge has been added to the bill, with a tip of around 10% considered to be the norm. Tipping in bars and cafes is less common.
The pub is an English institution, though a declining one. Tastes are changing, smoking has been banned inside pubs, beer is ever cheaper in supermarkets, drink-driving is illegal and a social taboo, and pub landlords are often squeezed by sharp practice by the big firms that supply beers to and own many pub buildings.
There are many different kinds of pub. Some are traditional 'locals', and a real part of the community. In most neighbourhood pubs you will find all generations mingling together, which often gives patrons a feeling of community. It would not be uncommon to see three generations of one family congregating in a neighbourhood pub. Nevertheless, pubs can vary widely in character. Depending on the area, you can find a warm and friendly welcome, or drunken youths spoiling for a fight.
However, pubs are becoming more and more specialized. In city centres, many have been taken over by big chains; some are soulless, some are moderately pleasant. Some independent pubs have become wine bars or cocktail bars; perhaps the least pleasant are those pubs which pack in customers on their way to a nightclub, with loud music, no space, and super-cheap spirits to make sure their clients are as drunk as possible by 11pm.
However, many pubs are evolving in a more healthy direction. There are now many pubs that pride themselves on serving 'real ales'—beer brewed on a smaller scale to traditional English methods and recipes. Any visiting beer lover should track these down. Many pubs, both in the countryside and in cities, have moved towards serving good food. And while most pubs will serve food, it's in these 'gastropubs' that you'll find well-prepared food, generally a mixture of traditional English dishes and international influences. The prices will tend to match.
Pubs have a little of their own etiquette. At any proper pub, service is always at the bar. It's polite to strike up a conversation with anyone else who is standing or sitting at the bar. And if someone buys you a drink, you will be expected to 'stand your round' later on, buying for whoever you're drinking with. If you're planning to leave promptly, or don't have enough money, then you should politely decline the offer.
Although traditional pub licensing laws severely restricted their hours of operation, laws enacted in 2005 allow pubs to request more flexible opening hours. Few pubs have requested anywhere near the "24-hour drinking" that is theoretically possible: as a general rule more traditional pubs will close at 11PM still. Some of the more trendy bars will close nearer to 1AM, filling a niche in the market between traditional pub and nightclub. However in most cities and many towns, centrally located pubs and bars will stay open any time from 2AM till 6AM, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Also, at public holiday times, many pubs extend their closing times—especially on New Year's Eve.
If you abstain from alcohol, you need not worry; many pubs also serve non-alcoholic drinks.
Alcoholic drinksEngland is home to a huge variety of alcoholic drinks; the drinking age in England is 18, and those that appear under 25 will theoretically (rarely implemented) be asked to provide ID such as a passport or driving license. As well as wines and spirits (mainly imported, but some local), all pubs sell several beers and at least one cider. The main types of beer you will come across are lager, bitter and stout. Real ale is not a separate classification, it refers to beer made and served by traditional methods.
Lager — Predominantly the pilsner type: pale, fizzy and cold. Because of the popularity of this type of beer among the young, there are many mass-market national brands brewed in the UK (and widely advertised with "having fun" type ads) which may disappoint anyone wanting more than simply cold, fizzy, alcohol. Some national brands are much better, and often stronger, and may be sold in bottles as well as on draught. Purists often prefer imported European-brewed lagers.
Bitter — The most common example of the English type of beer that is classified as "ale". They are typically darker than lagers—they are called bitter because they have more hops than "mild" (another less-common kind of ale). Again, there are well-advertised national brands for the mass market, usually less strong than lagers. Most are now not "real ales": they are not matured in the barrel; they are often called "smooth" or "cream" (which means that they are infused with nitrogen to give a small-bubbled head) and are often served very cold from a small tap on a tall, illuminated stand.
Stout — A dark, heavy, usually very bitter beer. Originally called Porter, Arthur Guinness decided he could do better and made Guinness which he branded a Stout Porter. Guinness is one world-famous Irish brand that is available almost everywhere in England, often in "normal" and "extra cold" versions.
All of the mass-market types above can be bought in cans—often with a "widget" that when the can is opened, forces nitrogen bubbles through the beer to simulate "draught" beer.
Real Ale — The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has been a very successful consumer campaign; its aims have been to ensure that mass-market beers do not completely force out beers made in the traditional way. CAMRA created the term "Real Ale" to summarise the type of beer they wanted to keep alive: it must be allowed to continue maturing after it leaves the brewery (i.e. not be pasteurised or filtered to remove living yeast; be stored and served without additional gas (i.e. does not have carbon dioxide or nitrogen forced into the beer); and be served at the appropriate temperature for the style: traditional ales are not generally served warm, as many people believe, but at the temperature of the 'cool' cellar they have been maturing in for several days (ideally, 8–12°C) . Most real ales are served from the distinctive "handpumps" which allow a pint to be "pulled" from the cellar by several full-length strokes requiring visible effort on the part of the server. Most "real ales" served in ordinary pubs are bitters, but these come in a wide range of strengths, colours, and bitterness. A majority of pubs now serve at least one or two national brands of real ale, and perhaps one or even two local ones.
"Real ale pubs" — At a pub which especially caters to lovers of real ale, or at a beer festival, there will be more local brands (and "guests" from some distance away) and a wider range of bitters, and even a good choice of other types. Expect to see summer ales, winter ales, exotic beers (containing ingredients such as heather, honey or ginger), light milds, dark milds, lagers, stouts and, increasingly, porters (like a stronger dark mild, or a lighter, sweeter stout). These will be served from a long row of handpumps or (even more traditionally) straight from barrels sitting on the bar or (especially at beer festivals) in racks. There will also be a wide range of "bottle-conditioned" beers ("real ale in a bottle") usually either versions of English bitters, often called "pale ales", or very strong beers from France or Belgium. There will also be several ciders and perries.
Cider — In England this means an alcoholic drink made from apples (often much stronger than beer). These are generally brewed in the West Country, Herefordshire and Suffolk. The West Country is more known for the traditional cloudy, still 'scrumpy' cider, whereas the other regions produce more clear, fizzy cider. The more commercial brands of cider, served from pressurised kegs and so available at any pub, are clear, fizzy and cold, and quite strong (they are usually moderately or very sweet, so the high alcohol content may go unnoticed by a novice). A real ale pub will usually sell at least one "real", unpressurised, cider, perhaps from a barrel sitting on the bar. This may may be clear or slightly cloudy, but will almost certainly be still, not too sweet, and very strong (7% alcohol is only average for this type of cider). The most traditional cider is called scrumpy and is usually very strong, very cloudy and possibly rather sour. Some commercial ciders have "scrumpy" in their name, but these are not quite the same as a gallon jug bought at the farmhouse door.
Perry — Similar to cider but made from pears (is sometimes called pear cider, especially if imported). Farmhouse perry was always difficult to get hold of outside the West Country, but this is improving, and there will nearly always be some available at a beer festival. Keen perry-spotters might notice the sweetish "undercover" commercial versions: advertised nationwide with a "girls night out" theme and sold in wine-shaped bottles with "inexpensive white wine"-type labels bearing the legend "Perry" in small letters.
Coffee is as popular as tea. Instant coffee (made with hot water, hot milk, or "half and half") is much used at home and work, and in inexpensive restaurants. If it is made with just hot water, then it is "black coffee"; with added cold milk it becomes "white coffee". Percolators are little used, and machines with paper filters are less common than they once were: they often fill a restaurant with a coffee aroma, but a mediocre restaurant will often leave the made coffee heating for too long. Therefore, at dinner parties or good restaurants, the "french press" (cafetière) has become the standard way to serve "real" ("ground") coffee: the customer can leave the coffee infusing until it is as strong as they like, then press the filter down to stop the brew and restrain the grounds from getting into the cup. The drinker then adds their own milk (hot milk is often provided; cream less often) and sugar. Seattle-style coffee bars serve the usual types of espresso-based coffees (but with a less-bewildering choice of combinations of coffee, milk, sugar, and flavourings). Decaffeinated coffee is available, but not standard. A pub may serve coffee, and indeed chains (especially Wetherspoons) invariably do, but "bar" type of pub (at a non-busy time of day) is a better option. International coffeeshop chains such as Starbucks, Costa's and Caffe Nero are very common in large towns and cities. These often serve a wide range of coffees, teas and hot chocolate. The traveller may have a more rewarding experience in an independent coffee house, where the drinks are often better, and there are homemade cakes and pastries available.
Hot Chocolate is usually made with cocoa powder (or occasionally chocolate syrup) and milk is also common.
Fruit juices are popular, particularly apple, and the ever-present orange. Smoothies are becoming big too, and you will find many varieties available.
England offers the usual Western assortment of sleeping options, including:
- Hostels Both private institutions and those part of a hosteling network (which may require membership so check ahead) usually offer dorm-style accommodation, sometimes with a simple breakfast included (think toast and tea). Many hostels in popular destination cities fill up during the busy summer season, so try to book ahead or at least call before you arrive.
- Bed and Breakfasts can range from a single room in a private home to large historical buildings with dozens of rooms. In many towns the tourist office has a list of rooms available and can help you call around.
- Hotels in cities and towns, and near motorway junctions, as well as some grand Country House Hotels. Budget hotel chains include 'Travelodge' and 'Premier Inn'; these are simple, yet clean and comfortable.
- Motels Mostly in the form of large chains such as Travel Inn and Travelodge, with hundreds across the country.
- Camping There is a widespread network in country locations of campsites that welcome tents, caravans, or motorhomes. Sites may welcome some or all of these. But don't expect to find many close to cities and major tourist attractions.
- Universities It has been possible to get accommodation in some Universities and Colleges out of term time for a while. However University Rooms is a bit better than most previous sites, in that it provides good information and tips about the places it covers, which include Oxford and Cambridge. However it does not cover all the places where accommodation is available.
While the rooms are generally comfortable, rooms at the lower end of the price scale may be small and usually come without air conditioning, cable TV, coffee machines, and other amenities. In very inexpensive accommodation, for example in dormitory-style hostels, towels and soap may not be provided.
Most hotels that provide breakfast will offer a choice between a full English or continental style breakfast. The continental normally consists of bread rolls, croissant, cereal, pain au chocolat and cold meats such as ham and salami. Beverages such as fresh fruit juice, tea, coffee and hot chocolate are served too.
Credit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted, though debit cards with the Maestro logo are also taken. American Express cards are accepted in fewer establishments, but most restaurants will accept them. Credit cards with a Chip and PIN have become nearly compulsory. Credit card agreements mostly require merchants to accept cards with a swipe and signature; however, it is wise to carry enough cash in case the retailer does not comply.
One thing to keep in mind is that due to credit card surcharges, some establishments and shops will only allow cards (including debit cards) to be used for purchases over £5 or £10. While others, notably smaller shops and convenience stores may charge around £0.40 below a certain amount or forbid them entirely. It's worth checking the sticker on the shop window to see what's permitted.
Most shops are open M-Sa from around 9AM to 5PM. Supermarkets, newsagents and corner shops often open earlier and stay open until 8PM or later most days. On Sundays, larger shops are only permitted to open for 6 hours, which is often 10AM to 4PM and sometimes open early for "browsing", when you can look but not buy.
Students from countries within the European Union/Switzerland do not require a visa to study in England. University fees have two tiers: a home fee for UK and EU students, which is capped at £9250 per year, and a higher tier for students from outside of the EU, from £10,000 to £18,000 per year.
Citizens of countries belonging to the European Union (Germany, France, Spain, etc.) do not require a permit and are free to live and work in England; however, certain restrictions apply to certain new EU member states (such as Bulgaria, Romania, etc.), so you will need to check this out on the UK Border Agency website before travelling.
Visitors on a student visa can work up to 20 hours per week while in full-time education and 40 hours per week while on break.
If you need to contact the police when an emergency response is not needed, call the 101 police non-emergency number (e.g. property or car has been damaged or stolen or to give the police information about crime or a general enquiry.
England by and large is a safe place to live and visit; violent crime against tourists is rare, but you should always use general common sense to ensure you keep out of trouble. In most of the major cities, you will find outlying suburban and inner city areas where poverty, crime and gang violence are common. These areas can be quite risky (by western standards) and should be avoided. Again, common sense is the best way to stay safe, and a visitor would be very unlikely to end up in such areas anyway. In a situation where you feel uncomfortable out on the street (for example, if a gang of youths block your path and are behaving in a rowdy manner), it's usually fine to simply cross the road and walk past and not to respond to them as they are not generally interested in harassing people as they may appear and will ignore you in most cases.
Crime rates are generally very low in rural areas, although some small poorer towns can be surprisingly rough. Having said that, caution is advisable when travelling alone in remote areas. You should always try to tell somebody you trust where you're going; even if they are not in England themselves, they can alert the UK police if you encounter problems. Take care when driving on country lanes as they can become very narrow and the lesser travelled ones are often in poor condition.
It is worth taking care on some public transport at night, as rowdy drunks can be a problem. Also, in some cities, there have been incidents of street gangs carrying out robberies on buses and trains at night. Visitors should not be too concerned, however, as these are very rare occurrences.
Some town and city centres should be approached with caution during the later evening on Fridays and Saturdays in particular, as high levels of drunkenness can be rife. Many English drunks can all too often become aggressive, and outbreaks of unprovoked violence have happened, but again, common sense can help avoid problems with drunken people. At night it is also recommended that you use licensed taxis or licensed mini cabs. Taxis are available at taxi ranks or by phone, while mini cabs are by phone booking only—asking at the bar will usually provide you with numbers. Unofficial/unlicensed mini cabs that cruise the street looking for fares have a reputation as dangerous for lone females (and in rare instances, males); the most common incident is the passenger is driven to a secluded area, and then raped. In any case, it is completely within the passenger's rights to ask to see a taxi driver's licence and to turn down the service if he or she cannot show it.
In a medical emergency, dial 999. These numbers are free of charge from any telephone. For advice on non-emergency medical problems, you can ring the 24 hour NHS 111 service on 111 or check their website for advice.
Emergencies can be dealt with under the NHS (National Health Service) at any hospital with an A & E (Accident & Emergency) department. At A&E departments, be prepared to wait for up to 2–3 hours during busy periods before being given treatment if your medical complaint is not too serious. Obviously, more serious ailments are usually treated immediately. Evenings are normally busiest, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays and in city centres.
Walk-in centres also provide treatment for less urgent conditions on a first come first served basis. They often have longer opening hours than GP surgeries. Who you see and what treatments or advice you are given will depend on your condition. You may be seem by a nurse. See NHS Walk-in Centres for further details as to what services they can provide.
Many GP practices are under great pressure, there being more patients than GPs to cope with demand. Many practices have long appointment waiting times, some over 3 weeks. In more urgent cases most practices will make an effort to find an appointment or direct you to other treatment services.
Online private GP/doctor consultation services are starting to be available in the UK. These services use a Smartphone app and enable you to consult a medical professional online. Consultations are paid for through a subscription or on a one-off basis. As such services progress more providers are likely to enter the market and services will adapt depending on demands. For example, Babylon Health.
Dental care is mixed NHS and private. Many dental practices reserve a few appointments each day for urgent and emergency treatments. These appointments are normally made on a 1st come 1st served basis on the day to people who are in need of urgent treatment and often they will all be filled soon after the clinic opens. For emergency out-of-hours dental care (e.g. weekends), call the NHS Direct 111 number and they will check if your condition warrants emergency care and if it does give you the number of an emergency dentist (which may be some distance away).
To find nearby medical, walk-in, dental, pharmacy services use the NHS online service finder
For advice on minor ailments and non-prescription drugs, you can ask a pharmacist (there are many high-street chemists). These are increasingly using green signs similar to ones seen in Europe to identify them. Small pharmacies are also found inside many larger supermarkets. Major pharmacies are Boots and Lloyds: at least one of these can be found in any city or large town and quite often some smaller towns too. These two firms can issue drugs prescribed by a doctor as well as any over-the-counter drugs. Superdrug, Semi-Chem, Bodycare and Savers do sell some over-the-counter medication but are not to be considered as places to go for advice about minor ailments. A smaller range of medication can also be found in most supermarkets. ID is usually required when buying medication if you look under 25.
Smoking is prohibited in all public buildings, and the ban is almost universally enforced. All enclosed workplaces are lawfully required to be smoke free. Some restaurants provide separate outside areas for smokers and many pubs now have outdoor beer gardens where smoking is permitted, while many places will have a group of people standing outside the front door or off to one side to smoke.
The English are said to be reserved, and this is often thought to mean that they are reluctant to communicate with strangers. This is a misconception. You will find that most people are happy to talk to strangers; it probably won't be a deep conversation, but mostly small talk about where you come from, if you're enjoying your visit, etc. The weather and football (more among men) are easy conversation starters.
It is said that the English invented queueing, and they become very annoyed if anyone jumps the line, although this is probably the same for most countries. Don't be surprised if you get shoved to the back of the line. (The same "patient queueing" applies in pubs and waiting in traffic jams as well: don't use the horn excessively as most people in England seemed to have grasped that it doesn't make the traffic go any faster and it is seen as impatient and rude.)
When you find yourself in a restaurant or being invited to someone's home for a meal, just general table manners apply. Normally when visiting a house, the host will say "shall I put the kettle on?" or "would you like a brew?" which means you are being offered a cup of tea, or another type of drink. Depending on the house you are visiting, manners can be either extremely important (you can be seen as a disrespectful person) or it can cause you to be looked well upon. Bring a small gift such as a bottle of wine or chocolates to show your appreciation, though this isn't mandatory when visiting an English household. In some cases, bad table manners can be seen as uncivilised and as indicative of a bad upbringing. Regardless, it is generally important to have good table manners in any situation. Remember also to let your host know if you are vegetarian or vegan, as most English people will invariably cook a meat dish unless told otherwise.
Once your plate has been served, it is customary to wait for your host to sit down and eat before you begin eating, unless otherwise indicated by the host themselves. It is considered rude to put your elbows on the table whilst eating, it is rude to speak whilst eating or eating with your mouth open (eat with your mouth closed). Always ask for an object on a table, do not reach over someone to grab it. Use both the knife and fork whilst eating, with the head of the fork facing down. The host may offer you a second plate of food (if in his/her home), and it is not necessarily considered rude to decline the offer as long as you express it in a polite manner (say something along the lines of "Thank you that was delicious but I'm full", then the host will not take offence as a satisfied guest is what they are aiming for). When leaving the table, always ask permission if you can leave; a simple phrase such as "May I be excused for a moment?" will suffice.
In the United Kingdom, area codes are three, four, or, rarely, five digits long (after the initial zero). Regions with shorter area codes, typically large cities, permit the allocation of more telephone numbers as the local number portion has more digits. Local customer numbers are four to eight figures long. The total number of digits is ten, but in a very few areas the total may be nine digits (after the initial zero). The "area code" is also referred to as an 'STD (code)' (subscriber trunk dialling) or a 'dialling code' in the UK.
The initial digits of the area code provide information about the type of number and cost of the call. Area codes starting 01 and 02 are standard geographic numbers; those starting 03 are non-geographic numbers charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers; those starting 07 are normally mobile numbers; those starting 08 are special services where the price can vary e.g. 0800 freephone numbers e.g. 0870 which are charged at higher rates; those starting 09 are premium rate services.
The code allocated to the largest population is (020) for London.
See 'Contact' entries under individual cities for local information.