Things to do in South East England

Things to do in  South East England

Dramatic natural landscapes

Poised between the English Channel and London, and comprising nine counties—Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and West Sussex—South East England is the most populous region in the country, and home to many of its most notable natural and cultural attractions. Exploring cities such as Oxford and Brighton, landmarks including Leeds Castle and Canterbury Cathedral, national parks from the New Forest to the South Downs, and the landscapes of both the Cotswolds and the White Cliffs of Dover are among the top things to do in South East England.

Top 15 attractions in South East England

Windsor Castle

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Windsor Castle is the largest occupied castle in the world still used by resident monarchs. William the Conqueror built a wooden fortress on the site 900 years ago—and Windsor has been a royal palace and residence since. Despite its daily use for royal business, much of the palace is open to the public and well worth a visit.More

St. George’s Chapel

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Situated within Windsor Castle, this 15th-century church is a stunning example of the Perpendicular Gothic style, with its slender pillars, and pinnacles all soaring skyward. Many British royals—including monarchs such as Henry VIII and Charles I—are buried here and it’s also where Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in 2018.More

Bibury

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One of the most charming villages in the Cotswolds, quaint Bibury offers respite from the bustle of London and Oxford. Stroll along the banks of River Coln, explore the historic buildings—including the 14th-century weavers cottages of Arlington Row—and visit natural attractions such as Rack Isle, a water meadow filled with plants.More

Bicester Village

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A luxury shopping destination located just outside the city of Oxford, between London and Birmingham, Bicester Village tempts shoppers with more than 160 stores—from high-end, designer outlets to mainstream brands. Bicester Village is one of the most popular shopping destinations in England, with more than 7 million visitors each year.More

Dover Castle

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Built in 1066 by William the Conqueror above the striking White Cliffs of Dover, the 11th century Dover Castle is the largest castle in England. Climb the Great Tower, marvel at the oldest surviving Roman lighthouse in the country, and stop by Saint Mary in Castro church, then tour the castle’s hidden wartime tunnels.More

Jane Austen Centre

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A museum dedicated to one of Britain’s best-loved authors, the Jane Austen Centre in Bath is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in the life and work of the 18th-century writer. Housed in an authentic period property, with actors in costume bringing the museum to life, the center immerses visitors in the days of the Regency era.More

Eton College

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Founded by Henry VI and boasting a history dating back almost six centuries, Eton College is one of England’s oldest and most prestigious boarding schools. One of only four remaining boys’ boarding schools in the UK, the exclusive college has been attended by politicians, actors, literary icons, and royalty.More

Hever Castle

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The childhood home of Henry VIII’s ill-fated second wife, Anne Boleyn, this restored 13th-century castle is now open to the visiting public. Discover grand paneled rooms, Tudor portraits, tapestries, and antiques, and wander the grounds, which encompass formal gardens, two outdoor mazes, and a boating lake. More

Burford

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Perched on the banks of the Windrush River, Burford is a small English town that’s often referred to as the gateway to the Cotswolds. Highlights of the town include a medieval bridge and an abundance of Tudor and Georgian buildings that have remained unchanged over centuries. More

Bletchley Park

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Bletchley Park, once home to the World War II Codebreakers, is now an interactive and informative heritage destination. Stop by the Codebreaking Huts before learning about radio communications technology at the National Radio Centre. Then, explore the beautiful grounds and gardens of the 19th-century mansion.More

Rochester

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Located on the River Medway in Kent, the town of Rochester is located just a quick commute from London. Celebrated for the 12th-century Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral (whose history dates to the year 604, Rochester was also frequented by writer Charles Dickens, and various festivals and events are held in his honor.More

Isle of Wight

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Sandy shorelines, white cliffs, and lush countryside come together on the Isle of Wight, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and one of England’s largest islands. Once the preferred holiday destination of Queen Victoria, the Isle of Wight is now popular for its annual music festivals, impressive dinosaur fossil quarries, and scenic walking trails.More

Cogges

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Located just a quick trip from Oxford, Cogges is one of the prettiest corners of the Cotswolds (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A Scheduled Ancient Monument, Cogges has over 1,000 years of history. Today, the area is a popular tourist attraction, thanks in part to its Grade II listed Cogges Manor Farm.More

Bodleian Library

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Located in central Oxford in a complex of historic buildings, the venerable Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. It’s the main research library for the University of Oxford and also a copyright library, housing every book printed in the UK and Ireland, a collection of more than 12 million printed items.More

Highclere Castle

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A neo-Gothic masterpiece, Highclere Castle is best known for doubling as Downton Abbey in the much-loved TV series of the same name. The turreted, sandstone mansion was created by Sir Charles Barry, the architect behind England's Houses of Parliament. The site upon which it stands has been in the hands of the Carnarvon family since the 17th century, and the Earls of Carnarvon now welcome the public to explore the lavishly decorated interior, the Egyptian Exhibition, and the 1,000-acre (405-hectare) Capability Brown–designed grounds.More

Top activities in South East England

Call the Midwife Location Tour in Chatham
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Cotswolds Private Day Tour

Cotswolds Private Day Tour

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Dover Shore Excursion:Post-Cruise Tour to London via Canterbury and Leeds Castle
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Stonehenge and Salisbury / Magna Carta Private Tour from Southampton
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Stonehenge and Salisbury / Magna Carta Private Tour from Southampton

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$470.02  $94.00 savings
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All about South East England

When to visit

There’s never a bad time of year to visit South East England, a region comprising nine different counties. However, it is at its busiest and most popular during the summer high season since the area boasts some of the country’s most popular seaside towns, including Brighton, Margate, Bournemouth, Poole, and Whitstable. Autumn, however, is also an atmospheric time to visit—time your trip with Bonfire Night in November, and head to Lewes in Sussex to witness the traditional celebrations.

Getting around

The South East England region includes a number of major urban centers and towns. mainline trains make cities including Brighton, Bournemouth, Poole, and Canterbury easily accessible, as do National Express and Megabus bus lines. London’s two major airports, Gatwick and Heathrow, are located on the edge of the region’s borders, while international Eurostar trains stop in Ashford International and Ebbsfleet International. Ferry services from multiple ports also connect the UK to France.

Traveler tips

While few think of England as having a comparable wine scene to France, the South East has seen an explosion in the number of high-caliber wineries in recent years. It helps that its chalky terroir is very similar to what’s found in the Champagne region, and warming temperatures make it easier for grapes to ripen. Visitors should seek out the region’s top-drawer wineries such as Chapel Down, Gusbourne, and Tillingham, and enjoy the rather exceptional English sparkling wines.

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People Also Ask

What is the South East of England famous for?

Rolling countryside, coastal cliffs, national parks, castles, seaside towns, and great cathedrals characterize England’s South East, which comprises nine counties, from Kent to the east to Oxfordshire in the north. Highlights include Oxford’s medieval spires, Dover’s White Cliffs, Windsor Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, fun-loving Brighton, and the charming Isle of Wight.

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What cities are in South East England?

South East England boasts seven cities, each with a rich history and distinct personality. Oxford revolves around its medieval university, while Winchester centers on Regency architecture and its cathedral. Further east are the historical maritime port cities of Portsmouth and Southampton, hip-and-happening Brighton, and Canterbury, home to 11th-century Canterbury Cathedral.

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What are the popular things to do in South East England?

Among South East England’s top attractions are Oxford’s stone architecture, Canterbury Cathedral, and Windsor Castle. It’s popular to visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to see the Tudor-built Mary Rose battleship and HMS Victory. Tours of Brighton Royal Pavilion and hiking in New Forest and South Downs National Parks are also pastimes.

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How long should I spend in South East England?

Allow seven to 10 days for a grand tour of highlights including Oxford, Canterbury, Windsor, and Portsmouth. Alternatively, take about four days to explore a destination such as Winchester or Kent, the latter home to Dover’s White Cliffs and dubbed the garden of England for its orchards and hop farms.

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What shouldn’t I miss in South East England?

Don’t miss Windsor Castle, the burial place of a dozen English and British monarchs. History buffs should see Oxford’s butter-colored buildings, including Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera. Canterbury Cathedral, the Mary Rose (a Tudor warship at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard), and Dover’s castle atop its White Cliffs are other musts.

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What’s the best way to get around South East England?

A car is best for navigating South East England. Motorways link London to cities such as Canterbury and Oxford. And connecting rural and coastal roads weave through history-steeped countryside, villages, and towns. If you’re based in one place, traveling by train and using rail and buses to explore works, too.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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