8 Best Things to Do in Stonehenge
The megalithic monument of Stonehenge is, without a doubt, one of the essential visits for all those who travel to England. Located in the south of the country, thousands of people come every year attracted by its halo of mystery and spirituality.
Stonehenge is one of the most iconic Stone Age monuments on the planet. Located just 140 kilometers from London, its origin has given rise to a multitude of theories, more or less eccentric. According to archaeologists, its oldest remains are more than 4,000 years old. To walk among its remains is to immerse oneself in history and try to guess how the stones that compose it were erected.
In addition to the beauty of the monument itself, part of Stonehenge's charm lies in the myths about its purpose. Among the existing theories about its use are those that claim that it was a funerary monument, an astronomical observatory from which the seasons were predicted or a sanctuary where the sun was worshipped.
If you are looking for information, here you can find the most interesting parts and various activities and tips to make the most of your visit. Add a visit to Stonehenge to your list of things to see and do on a visit to London.
1. Stone Circles
Stonehenge's main attraction is obviously its stone circles. Although experts have been studying them for decades, it is still not known exactly what they were built for or what function they served.
Equally unknown is how those ancient builders were able to carry the heavy stones that compose them from a considerable distance.
In short, these circles are a legacy of our ancestors shrouded in mystery and well worth a trip to Stonehenge from London to contemplate them.
2. Stone Circle Experience
Since the entrance to the interior of the aforementioned circles is not allowed for security and conservation reasons, almost all visitors can only observe them from behind ropes placed for that purpose.
However, the English Heritage Society, responsible for the operation and care of Stonehenge, organizes organized tours from Salisbury in which you can access the interior of the stones: the so-called "Stone Circle Experience" or Experience of the stone circles, in English.
Please note that it is essential to book in advance, as access is limited to certain times in the morning and afternoon. The maximum number of participants in this experience is 30 people and it is strictly forbidden to touch the stones.
As a negative point, in addition to the difficulty of finding space on the tour due to the high demand, this visit does not have a guide. For this reason, it is sometimes easier to book an excursion to Stonehenge from London with a guide included.
Also of interest within the grounds of the Stonehenge complex today are the replicas of 5 houses from the Neolithic period. All of them were recreated from the findings dated to that period made in excavations carried out in Durrington.
Various objects have been placed in them so that visitors can try to understand how people lived some 4,500 years ago. To enhance this didactic part, several volunteers explain to visitors various aspects of life in that period of prehistory.
4. Stonehenge Exhibition
If you want to deepen your knowledge about Stonehenge and its possible builders, it is essential to visit this exhibition.
In it you will be able to learn about all aspects related to the monument, from its stones to the people who lived there at the time, through the landscape and, of course, the possible meaning of the remains.
All this information is presented with a combination of ancient objects and audiovisual presentations. In total, about 250 archaeological objects are on display, such as pottery, tools, jewelry and some human remains.
Joaquín Travel Tip
Although it depends on the taste of each one, my recommendation is not to miss the forensic reconstruction of a human face made from the bones found in the area. It is supposed to have belonged to a man who lived about 5500 years ago.
5. Special Exhibition
If you were left wanting to learn more about Stonehenge and its inhabitants, you can always enter a special exhibition that opened in 2015.
This exhibition, named "Wish You Were Here," shows the development of the Stonehenge monument over the years. It also presents the process by which the remains have become an icon around the world.
The exhibits in this exhibition are part of the personal collection of the famous British archaeologist and radio and television presenter Julian Richards, author of several books on Stonehenge. Other objects on loan from the museum in nearby Salisbury and the Wiltshire Museum can also be seen.
If you return to London and want to delve deeper into the history of Stonehenge, the British Museum (one of the best museums in London) has announced the opening of The World of Stonehenge exhibition, with more than 400 objects.
6. Virtual experience
Although Stonehenge is totally related to the life of man in prehistoric times, visitors will also be able to use the most modern technologies to enjoy their experience even more.
Thus, at the Stonehenge Visitor Center you can enjoy an audiovisual experience capable of surprising anyone. It is a real journey through time in which, using a 360º view, you will be able to experience how the change of seasons is seen from inside the monument and how the surrounding landscape changes as the winter and summer solstices approach.
7. Stonehenge and the summer solstice
As mentioned above, Stonehenge has for many visitors an important spiritual component. This has meant that, for a long time, the area was filled with people performing ceremonies of various kinds, especially related to the ancient Druids.
All this spirituality increases at certain times of the year. The most important is the summer solstice at Stonehenge on June 21, the longest day of the year.
The Stonehenge complex and surrounding area usually receives a large number of visitors with the intention of contemplating the sunrise behind the well-known Heel Stone.
Proof of the importance of this day has been the decision of English Heritage to digitally broadcast live these celebrations. It is also a perfect time to enjoy one of the best excursions that can be done from London, which can also be combined with other nearby attractions.
8. Around Stonehenge
Although Stonehenge is by far the best known monument in the area, there are many other nearby attractions near the Stonehenge monument that are worth a visit. These range from more prehistoric remains to very interesting churches.
Those interested in prehistory are in luck if they can visit the whole county. In fact, the area called Salisbury Plain was declared a World Heritage Site because of the large number of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains.
In short, these are the main attractions you can visit after enjoying Stonehenge:
- Old Sarum: it is a hill with a spectacular history: hunters' refuge during the Neolithic, farmers' settlement, fort during the Roman rule and Norman castle.
- Amesbury History Centre: the locality appears in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest settlement in England. Its museum is located at the entrance of Stonehenge and is well worth a stop.
- Stonehenge Stone in Salisbury3: the esplanade is full of Neolithic remains with a similar chronology to Stonehenge. The finding of furniture and other similar pieces makes the experts affirm that it could have been inhabited by upper class people.
- The Abbey Church of St Mary and St Melor: this church is located in Amesbury, quite close to Stonehenge.
- Salisbury Museum: it houses collections with many archaeological finds found in England, especially at Stonehenge. It has a part dedicated to children, so if you have gone with children to London, this can be a good visit for them.
- Wiltshire Museum: it also houses many remains found at Stonehenge, especially from the Bronze Age.
- Bath: is one of the most beautiful cities in the country and has been declared a World Heritage Site. From London you can book excursions that combine the visit to Bath with Stonehenge.
Where Stonehenge is and how to get there from London
The Stonehenge complex is located in the southwest of England, about 140 kilometers from London. The monument is located in the county of Wiltshire, about 3 kilometers west of Amesbury.
As I tell you in the article How to get to Stonehenge from London there are several possibilities depending on your tastes and the type of trip you want.
- Use a private vehicle as long as you have no problem adapting to driving on the left. In this case, it will take you about an hour and a half to reach your destination.
- Take public transportation. You can choose between the National Express bus (3 hours journey time) from Victoria Station. Remember that you will have to change at Salisbury.
- The train also forces you to stop in Salisbury, but it is a comfortable option and allows you to go more relaxed.
Recommendations to make the most of your visit to Stonehenge
Regardless of the type of transport you use, the first thing you should do when you arrive at Stonehenge is to visit its Visitor Center. This, a modern building but quite well integrated into its scenic surroundings, is located about a mile from the monument.
In this building you will find both the cafeteria and the souvenir store, as well as a kind of interpretation center.
Joaquín Travel Tip
To visit the monument with the necessary information to enjoy it, it is very convenient to stop at the aforementioned interpretation center to learn details such as what are the megalithic monuments.
How long does it take to visit Stonehenge?
In case you have decided on an excursion from London, the most popular option among tourists as it is one of the best you can do from the capital (especially if you travel to London for 6 days or more), usually the visit to Stonehenge is extended for about two hours.
Stonehenge opening hours
Although it is always advisable to be informed of possible changes, the opening hours of Stonehenge during the low season starts at 9:30 am and closes at 17:00. During the summer, you can visit until 8:00 pm. Remember that, if you go on your own, it is essential to make a reservation in advance that includes the arrival time
When is the best time to visit Stonehenge?
The weather is a major concern for those wishing to visit Stonehenge, as the monument is located outdoors. Because of its geographical location, rain (or even snow) is quite common, so the best time to visit Stonehenge is usually in the months of June, July or August.
Is Stonehenge a good monument to visit with children?
Children can greatly enjoy their visit to both London and Stonehenge. Although their interests and age should always be taken into account, the environment and the large stones are usually very appealing to them.