When people think about traveling to England, the first things that come to mind are typically the sights and landmarks. The whole country is filled with them: ancient castles, picturesque countryside, historic churches, and an endless array of burial sites, museums, monuments, and much more. You can easily fill a whole trip to England with a guidebook directing you to the sights you’re most interested in, whether that means Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, or a tour of major castles from the country’s history.
But sometimes the seemingly overwhelming number of things to see in England can mask the fact that this is also a part of the world where there’s always something interesting going on. The English love to celebrate everything from sports, to the arts, to their own culture and history, and the result is that the country is packed with events and activities. If that sounds appealing to you for your next vacation, read on for some of the best annual events to attend in the U.K.
St. Patrick’s Day In London
To a very small extent, St. Patrick’s Day is the same no matter where you celebrate: people wear green, a few people have pilgrim-like leprechaun hats, and everyone has at least a few drinks and gets a little more festive than usual. But you just haven’t had a St. Patty’s Day party unless you’ve done it in London, and specifically at the city’s historic Trafalgar Square. This description pretty much says it all: there just aren’t many holiday parties like this one.
The Grand National Horse Races
Taking place every year just outside of Liverpool, the Grand National is one of the most prestigious horse racing events in Europe—and always a blast for spectators. The horses take center stage as some of the best owners, trainers, and animals in Europe descend on the Anfield Racecourse to compete, but the festivity of the crowds is what really gives the event its character. Most fans who attend the races tend to dress for the occasion, as there’s almost an element of pageantry to it all. But fans also get in on the action by placing bets on the races and getting to know the competitors. You’ll find the latest information on these competitors here as the races approach, including betting guides should the idea of getting involved in that aspect of the event appeal to you. But even if you don’t dress up or place bets, attending the Grand National means enjoying three days of cheerful company, great food and drin
k, and top-notch competition.
Museums At Night
I mentioned museums previously as some of the most popular attractions in England, and London is simply full of them. But visiting them during the day can sometimes feel more like a task than recreation. You’ll feel the need to get through it in a certain amount of time as you’re looking to see the next display, visit the next museum, or avoid the biggest crowds. It’s the curse of being a tourist. But it’s also what makes the Museums At Night event in London so much fun. It’s basically just what it sounds like: a number of prominent museums open their doors at night, allowing for a totally different atmosphere and even facilitating special events like sleepovers, sunset hovercraft rides, and lantern-lit tunnel tours. The whole thing is oddly intoxicating.
Sports are a major aspect of England’s event culture, and really there are any number of prominent contests to choose from. You might attend a major soccer match, an international rugby contest, or even the famous Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race. But no single event trumps the general wonder of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Viewed by many as the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, it elevates the sport to a higher level. There’s just something about the lawns, the knowledgeable crowds, and even the player dress code that makes it feel like the treat of a lifetime to attend.
Robin Hood Festival
Let’s face facts: many of us from the U.S. and elsewhere in the world think of England with a somewhat-romanticized view. We imagine the country’s history as one of knights and nobility—not quite the legends of King Arthur, but probably not quite the accurate picture either. At any rate, with this view firmly in place for many Americans, there’s no sense visiting England without taking in the medieval atmosphere. For some, the castle tours I already mentioned might suffice. But if you really want to dive in to this aspect of English culture, the Robin Hood Festival in Sherwood Forest is an event to put on your travel list. Described as a pop-up 13th century village, the festival is a delightful array of fictional and historical reenactments that are fun for all ages.
These are just a few of the innumerable festivals and events that can be enjoyed throughout England each and every year. But they provide a nice sampling of the variety of entertainment you can enjoy on a trip that doesn’t have to be just about seeing the sights.