147km (91 miles) NW of London; 64km (40 miles) NW of Oxford; 13km (8 miles) S of Warwick

Crowds of tourists overrun this market town on the River Avon during the summer. In fact, today, Stratford aggressively hustles its Shakespeare connection -- everybody seems to be in business to make a buck off the Bard. However, the throngs dwindle in winter, when you can at least walk on the streets and seek out the places of genuine historical interest.

Aside from the historic sites, the major draw for visitors is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where Britain's foremost actors perform during a long season that lasts from April to November. Other than the theater, Stratford is rather devoid of any rich cultural life, and you may want to rush back to London after you've seen the literary pilgrimage sights and watched a production of Hamlet. But Stratford-upon-Avon is also a good center for trips to Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle, and Coventry Cathedral.