The UK may be a small country, but across the British Isles, you can find an entire continent’s worth of unique and exciting cultural experiences. England, the largest of the four countries of the United Kingdom, is steeped in millennia of history, culture, and tradition. As the country changes and new people arrive, new traditions start sprouting up like spring flowers. If you’re planning a trip to England any time soon, here are the best cultural experiences you can only enjoy there.
1. Spend a Cozy Evening in the Pub
This one is pretty easy to achieve, considering there are around 50,000 pubs in England alone, with closer to 65,000 across the whole of the UK. Pubs come in all shape, sizes, and vibes and are a uniquely British tradition to be enjoyed at any time of the year. There are countless pubs which are older than the United States, as well as new ones which cleverly blend the traditions of the pub with a more contemporary feel. Whether you’re snuggling up by the fire with a pint of bitter on a winter evening or standing outside on the pavement with a cider on those long, hot summer nights, there are few things more enjoyable than an evening at the pub.
2. Explore the Lake District
There are hundreds of “areas of outstanding natural beauty” across England, where anyone at all is entitled to rock up with a picnic hamper and a tent, but if you only have the time to explore one of these areas, make sure it’s the Lake District. This sprawling area stretches across the north west of England and is located primarily in the county of Cumbria. Here you’ll find hundreds of idyllic lakes, adorned with islands hosting elegant Victorian mansions, as well as rolling hills and lavender fields as far as the eye can see.
3. Attend a Horse Race
You know that springtime is fast approaching in England when everybody starts preparing for the races. There are several horse racing events across the UK which have taken place every spring for hundreds of years and are treated like national holidays, where everyone goes to dress up, place a bet, and drink some Pimms. The biggest of these by far is the Grand National, which takes place in Aintree every April. Millions of pounds are wagered every year, with everyone from royalty to street cleaners using platforms like Oddschecker to scope out the best odds, in the hopes of winning big. If you attend this year’s Grand National, choose your bet wisely – Tiger Roll is favorite to make it two-in-a-row this year.
4. Get in Touch with Your Inner Pagan at Stonehenge
England is traditionally considered a Christian country, but its spiritual roots go back much further in time. The country was predominantly pagan for centuries before the arrival of Christendom, with followers worshiping the sun and dabbling in human sacrifices. While those days are long gone, people across the world descend on the Stonehenge monument every summer solstice to pay tribute to the sun gods and welcome the return of summer. The whole thing feels much like a giant party, with an atmosphere that you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.
5. Shake Your Body at the World’s Largest Street Party
Every August the London neighborhood of Notting Hill comes alive with color, music, revelry, and dance, as close to two million people arrive to celebrate the Carnival. Unlike other Carnivals around the world, this one has nothing to do with Lent. Rather, it’s a celebration of diversity, inclusion, and multi-culturalism led by Britain’s long-established West Indian community. Everyone from A-list celebrities to street performers join in the action, with much of London shutting down for two whole days as people gather on the streets to drink rum and Red Stripe and dance to Caribbean beats.
6. Experience the Mud-Soaked Joy of a Music Festival
Sure, you can find music festival everywhere in the world, but there’s something about a British music festival which is truly unique and memorable. Major world-famous music festivals like Glastonbury, Creamfields, and Park Life may be well known for their ability to attract the biggest music acts in the world, but it’s the atmosphere which is really worth experiencing. Most people just set up a tent in a nearby by field, along with plenty of food and booze brought from home, before spending several days partying in the mud and making friends with people from across the globe. It may be messy, but you certainly won’t regret it.
7. Stuff Yourself with a Real Full English
There are few things more replenishing than a calorie and cholesterol-packed Full English breakfast. One of these will cure any hangover and set you up for the entire day. Typically consisting of sausage, bacon, toast, beans, mushrooms, eggs, tomatoes, and black pudding, you can grab one for surprisingly cheap prices at pretty much any cafe in the country. The history behind the Full English is sketchy, but most people agree that the tradition goes back to the Middle Ages, when it was served to keep farm labourers full of energy for a day’s work in the fields. It’s the perfect way to start your day after a night out – simply rock up with some friends to a so-called “greasy spoon” and enjoy the comforting, fatty goodness.
You won’t be able to experience all of these on your next trip to the UK, unless you’re planning on staying for a while, but make sure you tick as many of these off your list as possible and experience local culture at its most fun.