If you were tasked with defining the best tourist attractions in the UK, where would you start?
After all, the capital city of London is packed full of attractions and sights for people of all ages, and that’s before we explore similarly bustling metropolitan areas like Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and, north of the border, Edinburgh.
If you were going to appraise the best attractions in the UK, however, the Tripadvisor website may be the best place to start. So, in the article below, I’ve introduced a few of the most popular and highly rated tourist hotspots in the UK, while asking what sets these apart from similar attractions nationwide.
What are the Best Attractions in the UK?
#1. The Tower of London – London, England
Among all attractions in the UK, it’s the iconic Tower of London that remains the most popular and well-renowned. Understandably, this landmark is ranked as the #1 attraction on these shores, as visitors flock from across the globe to bask in the castle’s thousand years of history and heritage.
Here you’ll find some of the UK’s most iconic sights and items, including the Crown Jewels, the striking ‘Beefeater’ Yeoman Warders and the legendary ravens that historically kept the entire kingdom from collapsing.
The so-called “White Tower’ is particularly fascinating, while it’s also established as the oldest structure in the castle. This is essentially an 11th-century chapel that’s home to extensive historic Royal Armouries collections, while it’s open to the public both for individuals under their own steam and planned-out, guided tours.
Interestingly, you’ll find that access to the Tower of London is included in numerous tourist passes and packages, which may enable you to secure discounts on entry. Otherwise, an adult ticket to the Tower costs £33.60, while children aged between five and 15 can visit for £16.80. Kids who are aged under five can enter for free, and there’s no doubt that this provides an engaging educational experience for those fortunate enough to visit.
#2. The British Museum – London, England
Unsurprisingly, the British Museum is also one of the best and most visited attractions in the UK, while it’s rated as the #2 tourist hotspot on these shores.
Like the Tower of London, the British Museum is also located in London, on Great Russell Street in the leafy area of Bloomsbury. It’s also dedicated to the collation and presentation of human history in its innumerable forms, with a particular focus afforded to art and culture through the ages.
In terms of the latter, it boasts a truly incredible art collection that includes eight million pieces of work, while the sheer scale of the museum’s holdings must be seen to be believed. To provide some context, it’s thought that only 1% of the British Museum’s total collection is on display, despite the venue being home to around one hundred galleries and more than two miles of exhibition space.
Even more astonishingly, this 1% is enough to narrate a fairly convincing history of human evolution and development, while covering numerous fields of knowledge and providing an educational experience that’s second to none in the UK (and indeed, around the world!).
Here, you can also explore more than two million years of human history and evolution, while some of the location’s most valuable artefacts include the Rosetta Stone, some Egyptian mummies and the iconic Parthenon sculptures.
In terms of popularity, last year (2022) saw the British Museum receive a total of 4,097,253 visitors, with this up by a staggering 201% when compared to 2021. Of course, this increase should be presented in the context of the Covid-19 restrictions that were in place during this time, while the sheer number of visitors makes the venue the third-most visited museum of its type in the world.
#3. Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh, Scotland
While the towering Edinburgh Castle is only ranked #4 on Tripadvisors’ list of attractions in the UK, it’s far and away the best north of the border and in the capital of Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle is a popular and world-renowned icon on the landscape of Scotland, and it also forms part of the Old and New Towns of the Scottish capital’s World Heritage Site. Interestingly, it was recently voted as the top UK Heritage attraction during the British Travel Awards, while it’s also the number one paid-for tourist hotspot in Scotland.
The most famous and beloved of all Scottish castles, Edinburgh Castle has a famously complex structural history, with its oldest foundation (the St Margaret’s Chapel) dating back to the 12th century. However, the ‘Great Hall’ was erected by James IV around 1510, while the ‘Half Moon Battery’ by Regent Morton during the late 16th century.
But what can you expect to find within the walls of the castle? Well, it definitely houses the ‘Honours’ (or Crown Jewels) of Scotland, alongside the historic Stone of Destiny and iconic One O’Clock Gun.
Then there’s the infamous 15th-century gun Mons Meg, while the National War Museum of Scotland (which has some truly unique and priceless combat artefacts in its possession) is also located on the site of Edinburgh Castle. This would be reason enough to visit the Castle by itself, as it narrates Scotland’s fascinating military history and details of the nation’s once epic and bloodstained battles with England.
The Last Word and Some Honourable Mentions: Extra Attractions in the UK
A list of this type is highly debatable, and there are ample tourist attractions in the UK that ultimately missed out. Take the relatively recently constructed London Eye, for example, which is located on Westminster Bridge Road and ranked #3 on Tripadvisors’ list of UK attractions for families (but lacks the heritage of other locations featured here).
Tower Bridge and the National Gallery also earn honourable mentions, while the ‘Royal Yacht Britannia’ is another tourist hotspot located in Edinburgh and arguably the second most visited landmark outside of the English capital.
For more popular landmarks, check out our iconic landmarks article.