After London, Shakespeare Country is the most popular destination in England. The main attraction is that foremost tourist town, Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare and one of the great meccas for writers, readers, and playgoers from around the world.

Shakespeare's hometown is the best center for touring this part of England. You'll want to take in some theater while in Stratford-upon-Avon and branch out for day trips -- notably to Warwick Castle in nearby Warwick, to Kenilworth Castle, and to Coventry Cathedral.

And then you have the heart of England at your doorstep. The adventure can begin in nearby Birmingham, England's second-largest city. Though abandoned warehouses and bleak factories remain, this industrial city, like the rest of England, is being spruced up. From here, you can branch out to any number of lovely old market towns and bucolic spots. There are the scenic Malverns, the historic town of Shrewsbury, and Worcester, of Royal Worcester Porcelain fame. Those who are truly passionate about porcelain flock to the fabled potteries to visit towns like Stoke-on-Trent. Here, factory and outlet shops sell Wedgwood, Portmeirion, and other fine brands of English tableware at a discount.