In this series, we’re exploring some of our very favorite city and countryside pairings. In each case, the city and the surrounding region both merit exploration on their own. But when combined, the pairings lay the groundwork for a vacation that leaves you feeling both invigorated and refreshed.
“Some argue that London today is the first truly global city,” writes Mr. Harper, “a metropolis where the populations of Europe, Asia, Africa and North America now all meet and mingle.” Visitors to the capital of Great Britain have no shortage of fine hotels from which to choose. As Mr. Harper notes, “London can boast some of the world’s most legendary grand hotels, many of which have been extensively modernized in recent years.” Some of London’s top sights also recently received major makeovers, most notably the British Museum, which added a new wing last July. The $220 million World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre is one of the largest redevelopment projects in the museum’s 260-year history.
In addition to other museums such as the Tate Modern and the National Gallery, travelers can include a visit to one or more royal palaces, depending on the time of year. Buckingham Palace, Clarence House (home to the Prince of Wales) and Kensington Palace (former home of Diana, Princess of Wales) all have tours available when their occupants are not in residence. Your travel consultant or concierge can help make the arrangements. London has a theater scene rivaling any on earth, and seeing a West End production in a historic auditorium never fails to be memorable. More unexpectedly, London also now ranks among the world’s top dining cities. Mr. Harper goes so far as to argue that “Because London today is so cosmopolitan, the variety of the city’s dining options is incomparable.”
The English countryside offers innumerable possibilities for some relaxed sightseeing after a few days of running around London. One of the loveliest patches can be found in the Cotswolds, which contains a wealth of enchanting medieval villages set amid gently rolling hills. Instead of blockbuster sights, you’ll find “Diminutive cottages built of honey-colored stone surround squares lined with appealing shops and atmospheric vintage pubs,” as Mr. Harper describes. Even though the main towns can be crowded during summer, the back roads and lesser-known villages remain delightful even in high season.
Alternatively, or in addition to the Cotswolds, you could stay in the countryside just outside of Bath, which Mr. Harper calls “perhaps the most beautiful city in England.” His recommended hotels nearby make fine bases for exploring the medieval town of Wells, with its extraordinarily beautiful cathedral, and enigmatic Glastonbury Tor, a hill said by some to be the Avalon of Arthurian legend.