The ancient monument of Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s best-known ancient stone circle. It was built around the same time as the Great Pyramid in Egypt, 4,500 years ago.
Located in the county of Wiltshire in England, close to the opulent cathedral city of Salisbury, a staggering 850,000 people choose to visit Stonehenge from London and other parts of the UK each year. This Stonehenge visitors guide will help you to plan for your trip to one of England's top attractions.
The monument at Stonehenge originates from around 5000 years ago in the Neolithic period. It was originally a circular ditch surrounding the remains of 64 cremations, known as the Aubrey Holes, it is the largest known Neolithic cemetery in the British Isles.
The stones themselves didn’t start to arrive until around 2,500 BCE, with the site continuing to grow well into the Bronze Age. The huge sandstone ‘sarsen stones’ were dragged here from Salisbury Plain - it’s thought to have taken around 200 men about 12 days to drag a single stone from the edge of the Marlborough Downs to Stonehenge. The smaller ‘bluestones’ came from the Preseli Hills in the west of Wales, a staggering 250 km away.
At the time, Stonehenge was the greatest temple in Britain. The huge banks, ditches and standing stones were all methodically arranged to align with the passage of the sun and the changing seasons.
The site has continued to evolve throughout history, with people returning here for over 100 generations as a place of worship and to honour their ancestors.
In more recent history, Stonehenge was bought at auction in 1915 for £6,600 by a local man named Cecil Chubb - luckily for us he gave it to the British people three years later. It was restored by the English Heritage and the surrounding lands are gradually being returned to their original habitats by the National Trust.
Nowadays, the number of people allowed to enter the inner site has been restricted, and the nearby road has been removed to aid conservation efforts - the rather unpopular fence surrounding the site was added to protect the stones from graffiti.
Stonehenge visiting hours are 9:30 am to 3:00 pm during the winter months and 9:30 am to 5:00 pm over the spring, summer, and autumn months. Make sure to be aware that the last entry is two hours before closing time.
It’s busiest between 11am and 2pm, and is especially busy during the summer holidays (July and August), so the best time to visit is early morning or late afternoon outside of summer.
The longest and shortest days of the year, also known as Summer and Winter Solstice, are the only times you can actually go into the stone circle itself without booking VIP tickets.
The site is full of visitors during these events and the atmosphere comes alive, but it’s also the busiest time to visit and tickets must be booked well in advance.
There are a few different options when it comes to visiting Stonehenge:
Entry is free to members of English Heritage and members of the National Trust in England, but you still need to book your time slot in advance.
Overseas visitors that aren’t part of a tour can get an English Heritage Attractions Pass which gets you free entry to over 100 English Heritage sites including Stonehenge, Dover Castle, Hadrian’s Wall and Tintagel Castle.
Pre-booking will save you on ticket costs, you need to arrive within the 30-minute time slot you book and can stay as long as you like. Pre-booked tickets for adults cost £20.00, and children (5-17 years) cost £12.00, while concessions are £18.00.
You can check the latest prices and book tickets for Stonehenge on the English Heritage website or through Get Your Guide at no extra cost.
If you want the place all to yourself, book the VIP experience. Visits last for an hour and take place in the early morning or during the evening, you can get up close to the stones and get a much more in-depth look at the site. It's also much less busy as you will be there outside normal visiting hours.
However, there’s limited availability (a maximum of 30 people per session), so book well ahead of time. The Stone Circle Experience is priced at £59 for adults (18+) and £35 for children aged 5-17 (children under 5 years of age are free). There are discounts available for members of English Heritage and the National Trust.
It’s easy to make the trip to Stonehenge by yourself, but to get the most out of your visit it’s best to do a little research and learn about the history of the site at the visitor centre before seeing the stones.
You can download a free audio guide to Stonehenge from English Heritage which will give a lot more context into what you are seeing. There’s also the Stonehenge Skyscape website where you can see the skies above Stonehenge in real time and learn about how the stones are aligned with the sun, moon and planets.
But for a truly unforgettable experience there is nothing like a local tour guide to explain the history of the place - plus if you are visiting from London an organised tour really takes the stress out of visiting Stonehenge. You can either take a half day tour of Stonehenge from London, or combine it with other nearby attractions like Oxford, Bath or Windsor.
One of the best full-day trips from London is the Stonehenge Inner Circle and Windsor Day Trip. You will have an up-close viewing and actually walk between the ancient stones at Stonehenge with an out-of-hours guided tour, as well as a visit to Windsor - home to British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years.
Unless you are taking a tour to Stonehenge, it’s probably best to hire a car. That way you can take your time and explore the other sights in the area. There’s a large car park that’s free as long as you buy a ticket to enter Stonehenge (£5 otherwise).
If using public transport the best way is to get a train to Salisbury, for more information read Wiltshire Council's full guide on how to get to Stonehenge.
Visiting Stonehenge from London takes approximately two hours, which makes it an easy day trip. If you travel by car, the roads are all easily navigable and the site is well signposted. If you're going by train, you will need to head to Salisbury and then get the public Stonehenge tour bus directly to the visitors' centre.
As previously mentioned, the easiest way, if you want to do it all in one day, is by taking a tour - Get Your Guide has a lot of options combining trips to Stonehenge with Windsor, Bath, Oxford and Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Salisbury is the closest city and most accessible place to stay if travelling to other parts of the country by public transport. Welcoming travellers since 1227, the mediaeval city is best known for Salisbury Cathedral, where you will find one of the four original Magna Carta manuscripts dating from 1215 AD.
For somewhere to spend the night, Caboose has comfy rooms, home-cooked breakfast and a cosy bar - plus it’s right next to the main train station and within walking distance of all of the amenities.
Planning a trip to the UK? Read our UK travel guide.
Last Updated 4 September 2023