Common perceptions of England are often of stately monarchs, stunning ancient (and Medieval) architecture, and its vast and glorious former empire. Indeed, much of the draw to England is due to its history, but the traveler will get richly rewarded by connecting with its fascinating people and evolving culture. The English are rightfully proud of their illustrious past, but also take just as much pride in their passions for sport, film, contemporary art, and popular music. While England was most known for its immense global empire prior to WW2, the second half of the 20th century (and into the 21st) has shown the English to be perennial leaders in the arts and popular culture.

For a nation that is roughly the size of Alabama,  England’s influence on the arts far exceeds its modest size. From The Beatles and David Bowie to Adele and Ed Sheeran, the Brits are seemingly always at the cutting edge of pop music. Authors such as J.R.R Tolkien, J.K Rowling, and Neil Gaiman reflect how much importance and value the British place on being master storytellers. Actors like Sir Anthony Hopkins, Julie Andrews, and Tilda Swinton are part of a long lineage of famed performers that go back at least as far as Shakespeare, and England continues to be at the forefront of the film industry.

In spite of its comparatively modest size, England is one of those places where you cannot go just one time and get a deep enough impression of it to do it justice. To be fair, the same can be said for many other places as well, but to me, the layers of this great country are just too many to not keep coming back. While the history, architecture, and famous (and infamous!) historical figures are what initially draw many travelers to England it’s the vibrancy and creativity of its people that are the real stars of the show, and once you get a taste, you’ll be hooked.