The London Eye observation wheel is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom with over 3 million visitors annually.[1]
The London Eye observation wheel is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom with over 3 million visitors annually.[1]

Tourism plays a significant part in the economic life of England. In 2018, the United Kingdom as a whole was the world's 10th most visited country for tourists,[2] and 17 of the United Kingdom's 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites fall within England.[3]

VisitEngland is the official tourist board for England. VisitEngland's stated mission is to build England's tourism product, raise Britain's profile worldwide, increase the volume and value of tourism exports and develop England and Britain's visitor economy.[4] In 2020, the Lonely Planet travel guide rated England as the second best country to visit that year, after Bhutan.[5]

Lockdowns necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic significantly reduced the number of visitors in 2020, and into 2021. As of March 2021, a 10-day quarantine period applies to people entering England from a number of "red list" countries.[6]


The ten English cities visited most by overseas tourists in 2019 were:[7]

Tourist sites

Museums and galleries

The Tate Modern art gallery in London was England's top tourist attraction in 2018[8]
The Tate Modern art gallery in London was England's top tourist attraction in 2018[8]

Unlike other countries, most state-run museums and places of cultural interest in England are free of charge to visit. Museums are an important aspect of English culture, and most cities and towns have a few museums and art galleries. Some of the most visited places are:

World Heritage Sites

17 of the 25 United Kingdom UNESCO World Heritage Sites fall within England. Some of the best known of these include Stonehenge, the Tower of London, the Jurassic Coast, Westminster, the Roman Baths in Bath, Saltaire, Ironbridge Gorge and Studley Royal Park.

The northernmost point of the Roman Empire, Hadrian's Wall, is the largest Roman artefact in the world, running a total of 73 miles in northern England.[9]

Most visited sites

Site Location Visitor count (2009)[10]
Tower of London London 2,389,548
St Paul's Cathedral London 1,821,321
Westminster Abbey London 1,449,593
Roman Baths Bath 1,196,481
Canterbury Cathedral Canterbury 1,013,118
Stonehenge Amesbury 990,705
Palace of Westminster London 963,362
York Minster York 797,100
Chatsworth House Chatsworth 652,969
Leeds Castle Maidstone 646,801
Hampton Court Palace London 541,646
Blenheim Palace Woodstock 537,120
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Portsmouth 532,158
Stourhead Mere 356,816
Beaulieu Palace House and Abbey Beaulieu 351,975

National Parks

Lake District National Park is one of England's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and national parks
Lake District National Park is one of England's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and national parks

Some notable National Parks in England include:

England possesses a wide range of natural environments, and continues to benefit from a significant ecotourism industry.[citation needed] Attractions include:[11]

Preservation trusts

A number of umbrella organisations are devoted to the preservation and public access of both natural and cultural heritage, including English Heritage and the National Trust. Membership with them, even on a temporary basis, gives priority free access to their properties thereafter.

English Heritage has a wide-ranging remit and manages more than 400 significant buildings and Monuments in England. They also maintain a register of thousands of listed buildings,[12] those which are considered of most importance to the historic and cultural heritage of the country.

Travelling within England

A British Rail Class 390 Pendolino train
A British Rail Class 390 Pendolino train

The United Kingdom's bus services offers numerous, frequent and reliable transport around most of the larger towns and cities. Rural areas are less well served and hiring a car is often the best option to explore the countryside and villages.

The next most common methods of transports are taxis and trains. Great Britain's extensive rail network is used to travel between cities significantly more than aeroplanes, with a 2015 survey finding that only 1% of international visitors flew domestically after arrival.[13]


The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism is the minister with responsibility over tourism in the UK.[14]

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

The travel restrictions and lockdowns necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 led to a 76% reduction in "inbound tourism" to the UK that year.(Most reports that provide statistics on tourism cover the entire UK as an entity, although some do provide specifics for England.) The forecast for 2021 indicated an estimate that visits would be up "21% on 2020 but only 29% of the 2019 level". Some increase was expected but slowly at first and the report concluded that tourism was not expected to come "even close to normal levels".[15]

The same VisitBritain report also discussed the effects of the pandemic on domestic within the UK in 2020, citing a significant reduction in spending, for an estimated decline of 62% over the previous year. As of January 2021, the forecast for 2021 suggested that spending would increase by 79% over the previous year and that "the value of spending will be back to 84% of 2019 levels" by the end of 2021.[16]

A report published in March 2021 by the Fraser of Allander Institute indicated that "tourism and hospitality suffered notable losses from the pandemic" and provided detailed specifics for both domestic and international visits.[17] The government announced a £56m "welcome back fund" that month to help councils and businesses in coastal towns prepare to welcome tourists back safely in summer, "as soon as the roadmap allows".[18]

On 5 April 2021, the BBC reported that the restrictions on domestic travel were expected to be loosened during that month, at least for travel within England, Scotland and Wales. (No announcement had been made as of early April by Northern Ireland.) The news item predicted that "hotels and B&Bs [were] set to open for holidaymakers in England on 17 May at the earliest".[19] An article in The Guardian stated that "all shops in England will be allowed to reopen from next Monday [12 April], while pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers outdoors.[20] The VisitBritain website provided more specifics on 5 April as to "COVID-19 restrictions" that were expected to be loosened on 12 April but indicated that there was no confirmation as to whether the rules on international travel, either inbound or outbound, would actually be loosened in mid-May.[21]

On 6 April 2021, CNN published an update as to the tourism situation in the UK for visits from other nations. Any visitors from "red list" countries were still not allowed to enter unless they were UK residents. "There's still not much to do in the UK right now ... although this lockdown is now being eased some restrictions will likely be in place until the summer", the report predicted, with June being the most likely time for tourism from other countries to begin a rebound.[22]

On 5 April 2021, the VisitBritain website discussed a plan to relax some restrictions on visits to the UK from other nations by mid-May.[21] The feasibility of the plan became less certain as of 8 April 2021 when sources in the European Union stated on that a "third wave of the pandemic [was sweeping] the continent"; the B117 variant was of particular concern.[23] Two days earlier, PM Boris Johnson had made it clear that "We don't want to see the virus being reimported into this country from abroad".[24]

Some restrictions on hospitality and domestic tourism were loosened in England on 12 April 2021; pubs and restaurants were allowed to open their outdoor facilities; non-essential stores opened; families were allowed to travel within England "in self-contained accommodation" and travel between Wales and England was fully permitted.[25]

See also


  1. ^ "The London Eye a complete visitor guide". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  2. ^ "International Tourism Highlights, 2019 Edition". doi:10.18111/9789284421152.
  3. ^ "Every UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK". TripSavvy.
  4. ^ "Overview". 10 April 2015.
  5. ^ "Best in Travel 2020". Lonely Planet. 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  6. ^ "UK government in talks over expanding Covid travel 'red list'". Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Travel trends - Office for National Statistics". Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Annual Survey of Visits to Visitor Attractions: Latest results". VisitBritain. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  9. ^ "10 Interesting Facts About Hadrian's Wall | Learnodo Newtonic".
  10. ^ "VISITS MADE IN 2009 TO VISITOR ATTRACTIONS IN MEMBERSHIP WITH ALVA". Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  11. ^ "Discover the UK's Best Eco-Friendly Destinations | HomeToGo". HomeToGo - the search engine for holiday rentals.
  12. ^ "English Heritage". Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  13. ^ "Inbound transport research". VisitBritain. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  15. ^ "2021 tourism forecast". Retrieved 8 April 2021. From mid-March to mid-July, COVID-19 triggered a near-total shutdown in international tourism ... there was an increase in visitor numbers from this low point, although they remained very low, and dipped again towards the end of the year.
  16. ^ "2021 tourism forecast". Retrieved 8 April 2021. forecast assumes a slow recovery in early 2021 before a step change in the spring ... followed by a gradual recovery throughout the rest of the year and beyond.
  17. ^ "Covid-19 impact on the Tourism and Hospitality Sector, an insight from the latest Economic Commentary". Retrieved 8 April 2021. ... health and economic crisis ... In particular, tourism and hospitality suffered notable losses from the pandemic.
  18. ^ "English tourism hotspots to get £56m boost to 'prepare for great summer'". Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  19. ^ "Covid: When can I go on holiday abroad or in the UK?". Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  20. ^ "Travel industry frustrated by lack of clarity on road map to reopening". Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  21. ^ a b "COVID-19 (new coronavirus) - latest information and advice for businesses". Retrieved 8 April 2021. whether non-essential international travel can resume on 17 May, or whether we will need to wait longer before lifting the outbound travel restriction.
  22. ^ "Travel to the UK during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go". Retrieved 8 April 2021. It is too early to say which countries will be on the green list when non-essential international travel resumes
  23. ^ "European travel restrictions: Nonessential travel curbed". Retrieved 8 April 2021. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many countries worldwide continue to restrict entry and most travel remains discouraged.
  24. ^ "Boris Johnson refuses to set hard date for Britain to reopen for international travel". Retrieved 8 April 2021. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many countries worldwide continue to restrict entry and most travel remains discouraged.
  25. ^ "Covid lockdown eases: Celebrations as pub gardens and shops reopen". Retrieved 13 April 2021.