Today I want to share my guide to the best cathedral cities in England with you. From mighty London to pint-size Wells, they range from urban hubs to small centers. But each one has a church with a rich history and stunning artistic and architectural heritage (not to mention religious). I hope you enjoy this look at these cathedral cities. There’s a map, too.

Cathedral Cities in England

Cathedral Cities in England

These cities are some of the top places to visit in the UK. Their cathedrals are often what put them on the map, but they offer a lot more besides.

From cultural attractions to pretty streets, entertainment to nightlife, they have a range of things to do, see, and experience.

I’ve visited most of these cities, some of them multiple times. I can personally vouch for how worthwhile they are to visit. I hope you get a chance to explore them and their cathedrals soon.

St Albans Cathedral, England

1. Canterbury

When it comes to cathedral cities in England, Canterbury is hard to beat. Dating back to 597, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest and most important Christian buildings in England.

It’s the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who’s the leader of the Church of England, and it forms part of a World Heritage Site.

Beyond the cathedral, Canterbury is one of the best cities in England for its mix of religious importance and charming atmosphere.

There’s an abundance of chocolate-box streets, narrow lanes with colorful shopfronts, a Norman castle ruin, old city walls, and a bucolic river with boats floating by.

Canterbury Cathedral, England

2. York

York is another of the most important cathedral cities in England. York Minster has roots going back to the 7th century, and the church has long been at the heart of Anglican Christianity in the north of England.

The cathedral was completed in the 15th century and features stunning Gothic architecture and stained glass.

But there’s a lot more to this city than York Minster. From the medieval city walls to the passages and Snickelways, there’s something beautiful around every corner. The river, independent shops, hilltop castle, and Viking heritage are great, too.

York Minster, England

3. London

I couldn’t make a list of the best cathedral cities in England without including London. The UK capital is home to more than one important cathedral, after all.

St Paul’s Cathedral takes center stage. Skyscrapers have gone up around it over the years, but its iconic dome still features on the London skyline.

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century, St Paul’s Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London and is home to a collection of art by everyone from James Thornhill to Henry Moore.

London is also home to Westminster Cathedral, the largest Catholic church in the UK and the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster.

Known for its candy-cane stripes and unfinished interior, this Victorian neo-Byzantine structure is a unique architectural gem hidden in plain sight in Victoria.

Other cathedrals in London include Southwark Cathedral and a number of Orthodox cathedrals.

Beyond the cathedrals, London is home to iconic landmarks, big attractions, great restaurants, markets, theater, museums, and nightlife.

St Pauls Cathedral, London

4. Chester

Chester is one of the best cathedral cities in England for history and aesthetics. Founded in 1092, its cathedral was rebuilt from 1250 and is a stunning example of architectural evolution. Everything from Norman to Gothic styles can be seen here.

Beyond the church, Chester has Roman walls, a half-timbered high street, and charming side streets galore. It’s one of the most beautiful places in England.

Chester Cathedral Sculpture, England

5. Durham

Durham is another cathedral city in England that deserves a place on my list. Perched on a dramatic hill, Durham Cathedral was built in 1093 and is home to some of the UK’s most intact surviving monastic buildings.

It also houses copies of Magna Carta and is the only cathedral in England to retain nearly all its Norman craftsmanship.

Durham itself is worth a trip for its cobblestone streets, historic castle, and riverside scenery. Brimming with history, the side streets around the university are ideal places to get a glimpse into Britain’s past.

Durham Cathedral, England

6. Winchester

Winchester is another of my favorite cathedral cities in England. Winchester Cathedral is not only stunning to see, but also one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. It has the greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral, and it’s the burial place of Jane Austen.

Beyond the cathedral, Winchester is home to a peaceful river walk, secret gardens, and heritage architecture. The Round Table of King Arthur fame is here, as are a stunning medieval almshouse and the ruins of an old bishop’s palace.

Winchester Cathedral

7. Wells

Out in Somerset, Wells is one of the smallest cathedral cities in England. The present structure of the cathedral in Wells dates back to the 12th century, and some consider it Europe’s first truly Gothic structure.

Beyond the cathedral, Wells is home to charming streets, including Vicars’ Close. One of the most beautiful streets in England, it features stunning rows of original 14th-century residential buildings.

Wells Cathedral, England

8. Norwich

Over in Norfolk, Norwich is another of the best cathedral cities in England. Norwich Cathedral is the most complete Norman cathedral in England and one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe.

Outside the cathedral, the city has a historic market square, hilltop castle, and pretty streets. Elm Hill is full of Tudor buildings, and Norwich Market is one of the oldest and largest outdoor markets in Britain.

Norwich Cathedral, England

9. Leicester

Leicester is next on my list of the best cathedral cities in England. This place is home to a 900-year-old cathedral built on the site of a Roman temple. It’s stunning to see the layers of history inside and out.

One of the most underrated cities in Britain, Leicester is also home to ancient Roman ruins, a Richard III museum that follows the miraculous story of the discovery of the king’s remains, world-class Arts and Crafts Movement art and architecture, and a city center bursting with beautiful historic buildings.

Richard III Statue by Leicester Cathedral in the UK

10. Ely

Under-the-radar Ely is one of my favorite cathedral cities in England. Ely Cathedral traces its origins back to 672. Its historic interiors are stunning, and its exterior can be seen from all over the surrounding area in Cambridgeshire.

Away from the church, Ely has a bucolic riverfront and rich history. It’s brimming with pretty streets, great shops, and bustling markets. It even has a house that was once lived in by Oliver Cromwell.

Ely Cathedral in England

11. Exeter

Out in Devon, Exeter is another of the great cathedral cities in England. Exeter Cathedral dates back nearly 1,000 years and is one of the oldest and most beautiful of its kind in the UK.

Beyond the cathedral, Exeter features ancient Roman walls, elegant Georgian streets, a castle, and a system of vaulted medieval subterranean passageways visitors can explore.

12. St Albans

St Albans is another of the best cathedral cities in England. St Albans Cathedral dates back to Norman times and was partially constructed with ancient Roman bricks. It has the largest and oldest cathedral tower in England.

The city is also famous for its ancient Roman history. St Albans has an impressive array of Roman ruins, from a wall to a theater to the Verulamium Museum.

There are a lot of other things to do in St Albans, too. The city has bustling markets and pretty streets to explore.

St Albans Cathedral in England

13. Lincoln

Lincoln is another of my favorite cathedral cities in England. Dating back to the 11th century, the current structure of Lincoln Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece. Centuries ago it was thought to be the tallest building in the world.

Beyond the cathedral, Lincoln is replete with chocolate-box streets, a Norman castle with an original 1215 Magna Carta, and lots of shops and cafes.

Lincoln is one of the best cathedral cities in England

14. Gloucester

Gloucester is next on my list of the best cathedral cities in England. With roots going back to the 7th century, the present structure dates to the 11th century.

It features a Norman nave and later Gothic flourishes. The stunning cloisters were used as filming locations for the Harry Potter movies, too.

Beyond the cathedral, Gloucester is home to historic streets, restored Victorian warehouses, and The National Waterways Museum.

Cloisters in Gloucester Cathedral, England

15. Worcester

Worcester is another of the most famous cathedral cities in England. Dating back to the 11th century, its Anglican cathedral is known for its Norman crypt, royal tombs, chapter house, Transitional Gothic bays, woodwork, and tower.

Beyond the cathedral, Worcester is home to everything from the Tudor House Museum to the Museum of Royal Worcester, parks, and art gallery.

16. Coventry

Coventry is next on my list of cathedral cities in England. Coventry has had three cathedrals in the last 1000 years, and the current one dates to 1962.

It sits next to the ruins of the previous cathedral, and it’s known for its striking Modern architecture and art by Graham Sutherland, Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink, and other leading 20th-century artists.

Beyond the cathedral, Coventry is known for the Coventry Transport Museum, The Coventry Music Museum, Coombe Abbey Park, the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, and other attractions.

17. Salisbury

Salisbury is another of the most famous cathedral cities in England. Its cathedral is known for having Britain’s tallest spire, and for housing an original Magna Carta (it’s the best preserved of all the remaining ones, too).

Beyond the cathedral, Salisbury is known for its historic streets and its proximity to Stonehenge. It’s easy to combine the two on a day trip.

Salisbury Cathedral Sculptures

18. Chichester

Chichester is one of the best cathedral cities in the south of England. Its cathedral dates back to the 11th century and it features stunning examples of Norman and Gothic architecture.

It’s known for its unique free-standing medieval bell tower, double aisles, and rare medieval sculptures. Chichester Cathedral is also the only medieval English cathedral visible from the sea.

Beyond the cathedral, this coastal city is known for its history. Dating back to ancient Roman times, it’s home to Fishbourne Roman Palace and other historic sites. It’s also loved for its harbor area, which is a great place for Chichester walks.

Chichester Cathedral Cloisters, England

19. Rochester

Next on my list of cathedral cities in England is Rochester. Its cathedral was founded in 604, and it’s the second oldest cathedral in England.

It’s famous for its medieval wall painting of Fortuna spinning her Wheel of Fortune, and the Textus Roffensis, the only existing copy of the first code of English law.

Outside the cathedral, Rochester is known for its eye-catching castle ruin, Charles Dickens connections, and picture-pretty high street.

Rochester Cathedral, England

20. Oxford

Oxford is another of my favorite cathedral cities in England. Christ Church Cathedral is unique in the Church of England in that it’s both the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Oxford and the chapel of Christ Church College at the University of Oxford.

Beyond the cathedral, the colleges in Oxford feature gorgeous heritage architecture, and the city is rife with historic pubs, museums, and markets. Oxford is famous for its Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland connections, too.

Christ Church cathedral stained glass window in Oxford

21. Peterborough

Peterborough is next on my list of cathedral cities in England. Peterborough Cathedral is one of the finest Norman cathedrals in England, and one of the finest surviving Norman buildings in Europe.

Peterborough Cathedral is best known for its three-arch Gothic facade, which is distinctly eye-catching.

Beyond the cathedral, Peterborough is known for its town square, guildhall, Peterborough Museum, and shops and restaurants.

Peterborough Cathedral, England

22. Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Newcastle is another of the best cathedral cities in England. The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas was founded in the 11th century. The current structure is a Gothic beauty known for its awe-inspiring 15th-century lantern spire.

There’s a lot to see in Newcastle beyond the cathedral, too. From Grey Street, which was once voted the finest street in Britain by BBC Radio 4 listeners, to contemporary art museums like BALTIC, the city has a good mix. The nightlife is legendary, too.

23. Birmingham

In the Midlands, Birmingham is another of the top cathedral cities in England. On the newer end of the spectrum, the Cathedral Church of Saint Philip was built in the 18th century and is a rare and important example of English Baroque architecture.

Beyond the cathedral, the city has everything from centuries-old pubs to colorful creative districts and shopping arcades. Its contemporary library is stunning, and the Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery are famous.

24. Leeds

In Yorkshire, Leeds is another of the most exciting cathedral cities in England. It’s home to one of the finest Catholic cathedrals in England.

Completed in 1904, it’s new as churches in England go, but it features stunning Gothic Revival-style architecture.

Beyond the cathedral, Leeds has everything from Victorian shopping arcades like the County Arcade to art museums like the Henry Moore Institute and the Leeds Art Gallery. Visitors can also explore the streets and alleys, and browse at Harvey Nichols.

25. Nottingham

Nottingham may be more famous for its Robin Hood history than its religious roots, but it’s still one of my favorite cathedral cities in England.

The Roman Catholic cathedral was built in the 19th century and was designed by Augustus Pugin, who also masterminded the interiors of the Houses of Parliament in London.

Beyond the cathedral, Nottingham is home to a stunning castle, one of the oldest pubs in England, historic streets, great shopping, and a famous statue of Robin Hood.

26. Liverpool

Liverpool is one of the cathedral cities in England that has two famous cathedrals: an Anglican one and a Catholic one.

The Anglican one is the largest cathedral in Britain and has the world’s highest Gothic arches and the world’s largest organ. The Catholic cathedral is the only circular cathedral in Europe.

Beyond cathedrals, Liverpool features a historic maritime center where the River Mersey meets the Irish Sea.

It also has has great museums like Tate Liverpool, which sits in the historic-meets-contemporary Albert Dock area. Bars like The Cavern Club, the birthplace of The Beatles, are great for live music, too.

27. Manchester

Not far from Liverpool, Manchester is another of the best cathedral cities in England. Built in the Perpendicular Gothic style, the cathedral in Manchester has the widest nave of any cathedral in England.

Beyond the church, Manchester has great restaurants, shops, nightlife, and streets to explore. The Castlefield area’s 18th-century canal system is a great place to take in Manchester’s textile history.

The Salford Quays dockyards are home to the Daniel Libeskind-designed Imperial War Museum North and The Lowry arts center.

28. Bristol

Bristol is one of the best cathedral cities in England for the fact that it has the only hall church cathedral in England. Founded in 1140, much of the current structure is in the English Decorated Gothic style.

Beyond the cathedral, Bristol is famous for its independent spirit. The Harbourside area is home to the contemporary M Shed museum, and converted 19th-century waterfront warehouses shelter restaurants, shops, and art galleries.

Clifton features Georgian townhouses, beautiful crescents, and the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Bristol Cathedral in England

29. Truro

Out in Cornwall, Truro is last on my list of cathedral cities in England. The cathedral was built between 1880 and 1910, and it’s known for its Gothic Revival style. It’s also one of only three cathedrals in the UK with three spires.

Outside the cathedral, Truro has a lot to offer. Its narrow cobbled streets are perfect places to soak up the atmosphere, and the Royal Cornwall Museum is a great place to get into history.

Cathedral Cities of England Map

As promised, below you’ll find a map of cathedral cities in England. If you click on the pins, you’ll find my blog posts about the cities I’ve written about.

Cathedral Cities in England

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these cathedral cities in England and that you get a chance to visit each one someday.

They’re all unique in their own way, from their religious significance to their architecture, culture, scenery, and entertainment venues.

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Cathedral Cities in England

6 Comments on Lady’s 29 Cathedral Cities in England You’ll Want to Visit

  1. Your “Best Cathedral Cities in England” guide was absolutely FANTASTIC!!! Thank You for providing such a thorough and inspiring list of beautiful cathedrals. The photos were great and the information is much appreciated.

  2. This is very informative as I’m planning to visit more cathedral cities in the uk. Look forward to discovering more historic connections to these splendid holy sites.

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