You'll find no better example of the Early English pointed architectural style than Salisbury Cathedral. Construction on this magnificent building began as early as 1220 and took only 45 years to complete. (Most of Europe's grandest cathedrals took 300 years to build.) Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most homogenous of all the great European cathedrals.

The cathedral's 13th-century octagonal chapter house possesses one of the four surviving original texts of the Magna Carta, along with treasures from the diocese of Salisbury and manuscripts and artifacts belonging to the cathedral. The cloisters enhance the cathedral's beauty, along with an exceptionally large close. At least 75 buildings are in the compound, some from the early 18th century and others from much earlier.

Insider's tip: The 121m (404-ft.) spire was one of the tallest structures in the world when completed in 1315. In its day, this was far more advanced technology than the world's tallest skyscrapers. Amazingly, the spire was not part of the original design and was conceived and added some 30 years after the rest. The name of the master mason is lost to history. In 1668, Sir Christopher Wren expressed alarm at the tilt of the spire, but no further shift has since been measured. The entire ensemble is still standing; if you trust towering architecture from 700 years ago, you can explore the tower on 1 1/2-hour guided visits costing £6.50 for adults, £5.50 for children and seniors. Between March and October there are two to four tours a day depending on demand. From November to February there is only one tour a day at 2:15pm.