Buckingham Palace, James Bond, the Beatles, spectacular royal weddings, and red double-decker buses — some of the things England is most famous for, of course. From drinking endless cups of tea to celebrating the royal family, the Old Blighty (yes, that’s what locals lovingly call it) has many quirky traditions and charm.
London, England’s capital city, is one of the most visited cities in Europe and attracts more than 30 million visitors annually. But before you set off on your English adventure, learning some facts about England might be interesting to make your trip more exciting.
18 Interesting Facts about England
Got your cup of tea and a scone ready? Let’s get into some fun facts about England — it’s bound to be a good time.
Now, first things first: just in case you’re a bit confused by the distinctions between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England (like many of us!), here’s a quick explanation: The country of England is part of the UK, which also includes Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Great Britain refers collectively to England, Scotland, and Wales.
England is the largest country in the UK at around 51,320 square miles (132,930 km²). Its population is just over 56 million people, of which 49% are male and 51% female.
When you think of traditional English food, your mind will probably jump to fish and chips, Shepherd’s pie, or Sunday roast with a side of Yorkshire pudding. But did you know that the country’s national dish is widely considered to be chicken tikka masala?
When the British Empire broke up after World War II, a large number of Indian immigrants moved to the United Kingdom for economic and educational opportunities. Many settled in London, one of the world’s most multicultural cities. This is how the flavorful Indian dish became so popular, even though it didn’t originate in England.
English is the official language of England and one of the most spoken languages globally. Most people don’t know that, for more than 300 years, French was the most common dialect in England. In 1066, the country was invaded by William the Conqueror from France, and French became the most spoken language.
When Henry IV took over the crown in 1399, he was the first British monarch in over 200 years who spoke fluent English. From there, it was restored as the official language.
Fancy a cuppa? It’s no secret that teatime is one of England’s favorite traditions. The country is one of the largest tea consumers in the world, and it’s estimated that the average Englishman drinks up to four pounds (1.8 kgs) of tea annually.
How did this come to be? In the early 17th century, the East India Company presented King Charles II with the gift of tea. His wife, Princess Catherine, enjoyed it so much that tea parties became regular, and it caught on among the aristocrats.
At the time, it was considered a luxury for the rich, but it quickly became so popular that it was made accessible to the whole country.
You must know that the FIFA World Cup is a big deal, even with little football knowledge. England has only lifted the trophy once when they beat Germany 4-2 at Wembley Stadium in 1966. The national team might not have won this title since then, but they have dominated in other tournaments.
For instance, the English Premier League is among the most-watched sports leagues globally. Football teams like Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur are known and loved around the world.
The national women’s team is just as popular and talented and won the UEFA European Championship in 2022. So, despite only having one World Cup title, English football is at the top of its game.
6. An English Scientist Discovered What The World Wide Web Was
These days, none of us can live without the internet, but few of us know who to thank for it. The answer — Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist born in England. He invented the World Wide Web in 1989 while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.
Sir Berners-Lee was trying to find the easiest way to share documents and information with his fellow scientists using computer systems. Luckily, his research helped him invent the internet, which we now use for almost everything.
Rock and Roll is just as much a part of English culture as tea and scones. Since the Beatles skyrocketed to fame in the 1960s, England has produced many best-selling bands that conquered the music world in the United States and beyond.
Two massive, chart-topping names in the music industry that hail from England include the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Both these legendary bands have sold between 200 and 300 million albums worldwide, breaking records and earning them spots in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
We also have England to thank for many other best-selling rock bands, including Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, The Kinks, Def Leppard, The Who, and Queen.
It might sound like something from a tale by the Brothers Grimm, but it’s true — there’s a garden in England that holds over 100 species of deadly plants. The Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is one of Northern England’s most popular tourist attractions, attracting over 600,000 visitors annually.
The garden is locked away behind wrought-iron gates with a skull-and-bones warning sign that reads: “These plants can kill.” So, if you visit the garden, remember not to touch or smell any of the plants — it might be a deadly mistake. Some of the toxic plants kept in the garden include:
- Cherry laurel (emits cyanide when stems are broken)
- Coca trees (the source of cocaine)
- Angel’s trumpets (which cause hallucinations and paralysis if ingested)
You might have seen the viral videos of large groups of people chasing something down a hill, falling and stumbling all over the place. Well, what you’re looking at is the annual Cheese Rolling Competition, a traditional event that takes place in Gloucestershire.
Cooper’s Hill is a steep slope near the village of Brockworth. An eight-pound wheel of Double Gloucester Cheese is released at the top and rolls down the hill at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (113 km/h).
The objective is to catch the cheese, but since this is pretty much impossible, the first person across the finish line wins the enormous piece of cheese.
Speaking of quirky English traditions, here’s another: Every year, the small town of Dorking in Surrey hosts the annual Wife-Carrying Race. And yes, you can easily assume from its title what the event is all about.
Husbands, with their wives either on their backs or in their arms, must dash through a 1247-foot-long (380-meter) course that includes obstacles like hay bails and water hazards.
The first couple to cross the finish line wins a prize, usually whatever the sponsors provide. In 2022, the first prize was £250 ($310) and a barrel of locally brewed ale. A fun twist was that the couple who placed last also received a consolation award — a bag of dog food and a cup of noodles.
England is home to world-renowned universities like Cambridge and Oxford. So, it’s no wonder many graduates from these prestigious schools have become influential politicians, authors, and world leaders.
But when it comes to science, England takes first prize, as it’s the birthplace of some of the most prominent and influential scientists in history.
The famous and brilliant theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. But before him came Charles Darwin, whose 1859 publication On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, forever changed the fields of geology and biology.
And last but not least, English scientist Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered calculus and the law of gravitation, also called England home.
All over England, you’ll see flocks of swans in parks, ponds, and riverbanks. These elegant birds have been considered the property of the royals since the 12th century. Legend has it that in the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth I wanted swans in the gardens of royal buildings, including Windsor Castle and Hatfield House.
She was told that local swan owners did not want to give up their birds, and she took the battle to court. The ruling was made that any wild swans on open waters would be considered property of the Crown, a statute that still stands today.
Staying on the topic of royal animals, here’s another fun fact: In 1324, when King Edward II ruled, a statute was passed that declared marine animals in British waters (including the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean) as property of the Crown. This included dolphins, whales, sturgeons, and porpoises.
This 14th-century statute is still considered law, meaning that King Charles III legally owns all the marine animals within a 1.8 mile (2.9 km) radius of England’s coasts. Strange, right?
England has a rich literary history that starts with William Shakespeare in the 1500s. His writings greatly impacted the English language, and he came up with many common phrases we use today. Some examples include “all that glitters isn’t gold” and “it’s all Greek to me.”
Over the centuries, many famous English writers joined the ranks of all-time literary greats. This includes beloved authors like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie, and JK Rowling, to name a few.
Here’s one of the weirder facts on this list: In 1252, King Haakon IV of Norway presented King Henry III with an interesting gift — a snow-white bear. During the Middle Ages, the term “polar bear” didn’t exist yet, and no one in England had ever seen such an animal, so it caused quite a commotion.
Legend has it that the King’s handlers would (carefully) take the bear to the Thames River so it could swim and catch fish. In hindsight, this is cruel and dangerous, but you can probably imagine the huge crowds gathering to see the spectacle. After all, if a polar bear was swimming in your local river, wouldn’t you also want to have a look?
England is separated from mainland Europe by the English Channel in the south and the North Sea to the east. Luckily, traveling between England and France was easy in 1993 when the Channel Tunnel was completed.
The Channel Tunnel runs under the English Channel and provides a direct route from Folkestone in England to Coquelles in France. It stretches over 35.4 miles (57 kilometers) and is used for passenger and freight trains. This means you can travel from England to France underwater in less than 40 minutes. Impressive, right?
17. London was the Capital of the Largest Empire in History
London can almost say it was once the center of the world, as it was the most important city in the British Empire.
The Empire began with trading posts and overseas possessions established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, but by the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was the largest empire in history and, for a century, it was the foremost global power.
In 1913, 412 million people, which accounted for 23 percent of the world’s population at that time, lived under the control of the British Empire. It remains the largest empire in human history, and at its peak in 1920, it covered an impressive 13.71 million square miles (35.5 million sq. km.) – about a quarter of the Earth’s land area.
At that point, it was described as “the empire on which the sun never sets,” as the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.
18. London was also the Ancient Capital of Roman Britain
London might be a modern city today, but its roots go way back to the Roman times.
Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55 and 54 BC as part of his Gallic Wars, which incorporated the territory into the Roman province of Britannia, also known as Roman Britain.
At the time, London was known as Londinium or Roman London, and it served as the capital of Roman Britain during most of the period of Roman rule. Most historians believe Londonium was originally a settlement established during or shortly after the Claudian invasion of Britain, on the current site of the City of London around 43–50 AD.
Due to its crucial location along the Thames River, Londonium became a road nexus and major port, serving as a significant commercial center in Roman Britain until its abandonment during the 5th century.
Still after its abandonment, London redeveloped later in history to become the major global city we all know and love.
So there you have some fun facts about England to make your time in the Old Blighty more interesting. Maybe some of this new knowledge can come in handy to impress your friends at your next Sunday roast or English breakfast.
Next read: Before jetting off to England, check out these five tips to remember when planning your trip to Europe.
LET ME HELP YOU TRAVEL MORE BY GETTING ADDITIONAL TIPS AND INSPIRATION VIA THE MONTHLY NEWSLETTER.
Plus, receive a short e-book with 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Start Travel Hacking!