Quirky, beautiful and charming – Glastonbury is a one-of-a-kind town to visit while you’re exploring South West England.
It’s achieved legendary status for its festival and is a spiritual magnet for people who love the weird and wonderful, but it has dozens of other incredible attractions to see year-round, Glastonbury is an unmissable place to visit in Somerset.
If you’re wondering about the best things to do in Glastonbury, look no further!
We’ve detailed Glastonbury’s most popular tourist attractions in this article, including tips for visiting the tor, the best pubs to frequent and where to stay.
Home to beautiful landscapes, Celtic mythology and quirky stores, Glastonbury has something for everyone.
With a population of around 34,000 people, it’s also home to the Glastonbury festival, one of the UK’s biggest music events.
The town has fascinating Pagan and Druid connections, with it being alleged that it was the resting place of King Arthur and that the Holy Grail was buried at the foot of the famous Tor.
Plus, the Abbey was once one of the grandest religious buildings in the west country – sadly, now only ruins remain.
There’s so much history waiting to be tapped into in Glastonbury!
Where is Glastonbury?
Glastonbury is located in Somerset, about 26 miles south of Bristol and 26 miles south west of Bath. This is a beautiful part of the country; south of the Mendip Hills AONB and in the heart of Somerset. Plus, it’s advantageous position makes it the perfect day trip from Bristol or Bath!
How to get to Glastonbury
The easiest way to get to Glastonbury is, by far, to drive.
From Bristol, you’ll drive in a southerly direction on the B3114 through the Mendips and you’ll eventually reach Wells. From here, it’s a short drive to Glastonbury.
It’s south west from Bath; you’ll drive through Shepton Mallet to reach here.
If you’re driving from London, you can drive along the A303 to Podimore and then turn right and drive in a northerly direction.
The Mendip Explorer bus connects Bristol with Glastonbury, but it does take an hour and 35 minutes, so it’s difficult for a day trip if you’re travelling from anywhere other than Bristol!
However, if you’re doing a multi-day trip, you could take a train from Bristol and then catch the Mendip Explorer.
Things to do in Glastonbury
Climb up Glastonbury Tor
Steeped in myth and legend, Glastonbury Tor is nothing short of attention-grabbing.
It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in the West Country, and as it towers over the Somerset Levels, you can see it from miles!
Plus, from the top, you can take in vistas of Dorset, Wiltshire and Wales.
Find the 15th-century church of St Michael at the top.
One of the most spiritual places in the country, Glastonbury Tor was a place of pagan worship. Plus, it has connections with the legendary King Arthur. It’s also called the Isle of Avalon, which is where he was buried.
There are also Christian connections. Joseph, one of Jesus’ disciples, is said to have buried the Holy Grail at the base of the tor.
It’s well worth the walk up to enjoy the immense view from the top! It takes about 15 minutes, and it’s quite steep but is manageable for most people.
Glastonbury Tor is owned by the national trust, but it’s free to enter and walk around.
Have a drink at Chalice Well
Chalice Well is located at the bottom of Glastonbury Tor.
It’s a natural spring that’s believed to have appeared at the location where the Holy Grail (which also means chalice) was buried by Joseph of Arimathea, one of Jesus’. disciples.
As legend goes, Jesus drank from this chalice at his last supper and drops of his blood fell into it during the crucifixion. So, as far as religious items go, it’s one of the most important.
The well also has pagan connections.
Sitting amongst the gardens, Chalice Well is a place for contemplation and relaxation. The water that gushes from the well is rusty red and tastes like iron; this is apparently due to the iron nails at the crucifixion.
It’s believed that they are healing waters, offering health benefits to anybody who takes a sip.
You can also find the healing pools here. These are open for anybody who wants to paddle, and are also a place of healing.
It costs £5 for adults to enter Chalice Well (which is quite impressive when you consider the religious aspect of it!).
The White Spring
Close to Chalice Well is another water source: The White Spring.
This is a calcium-rich well where, legend has it, King Arthur was once healed.
It was then used as a Victorian reservoir and water source for Glastonbury.
It’s free to fill your bottle with water from the white spring, and it’s also a lovely place for reflection and contemplation.
It’s staffed by volunteers, so it isn’t always open, but definitely pop by if it’s open before or after you summit Glastonbury Tor.
Explore Glastonbury Abbey
Dating back to the 8th century, Glastonbury Abbey was once one of the wealthiest and most powerful monasteries in England, reaching its pinnacle in the 14th century.
It controlled most of the Somerset Levels region at one point, and of course, it drew people from all over to the town, and is part of the reason why it developed as it did.
Then, a little something called the Dissolution of the Monasteries happened!
This was when Henry VIII (the king who beheaded two of his six wives) decided to break with Rome and form the Church of England so he could get a divorce (and marry his second wife, who he subsequently beheaded).
Like many monasteries all over the nation, Glastonbury Abbey was a victim. As was Richard Whiting, the last abbot of the monastery, who met a grisly end by being hung on the top of Glastonbury Tor.
After the dissolution of the monasteries, the building was stripped of lead and dressed stones and was passed from person to person, used for a few purposes, until it was declared a ruin in the 18th century.
However, the ruins still stand, and they’re worth a visit while you’re exploring the town!
It costs £11 for adult entry to Glastonbury Abbey, and up to two kids can go free with each paying adult.
Visit Glastonbury’s quirky shops
Glastonbury town is full of weird and wonderful shops.
Here, you can buy goods like tarot cards, crystals and books about phsycics!
Popular shops include:
- The Crystal Man: This is one of the best places in Glastonbury to buy crystals and learn about their healing properties.
- Facets of Avalon: This is a popular jewellery shop.
- Midgard Craft: Purchase lots of artwork here with various designs.
Have a drink at one of the South West’s most historical pubs
Glastonbury’s Pilgrims Inn was, as the name suggests, constructed to house and feed visitors who came to the abbey.
Claiming to be the oldest purpose-built public house in South West England, it dates back to the late 15th century and is a Grade I listed building.
Unfortunately for the landlord at the time, the Dissolution of the Monasteries happened only a few decades after!
Nowadays, it serves up traditional pub grub and local beer. Plus, you can even stay the night at the attached George Hotel!
As Glastonbury sits nestled into some of Somerset’s most beautiful countryside, it’s unsurprising that there are some incredible hiking trails here!
If you’re staying a few days, you can enjoy a few of the best walks in the Mendip and Somerset Levels area.
However, if you’re just looking for one, Monarch’s Way is a long-distance hiking trail that’s about 8 miles or 13 kilometres long. It’s mostly flat, taking in the countryside atmosphere of the Somerset Levels.
Once you reach Wells, you can enjoy all of the attractions there before taking the 77 or 376 bus back to Glastonbury.
Attend Glastonbury festival
One of the best things to do in Glastonbury is, unsurprisingly, to go to the famous festival! Usually regarded as the best festival in the UK, this is a celebration of all different types of music, with lots of other amusements and events.
However, be aware that it’s not an easy festival to get tickets for; usually, tickets open far in advance and tickets sell out in minutes!
In fact, it is such a difficult festival to get tickets for that the phrase “it’s as difficult as getting Glastonbury tickets” is now part of the British vernacular!
If you want to attend Glastonbury festival, keep an eye on their website to see when tickets will be released, and then try to reserve them off of multiple devices at the same time.
Places to visit near Glastonbury
One of the country’s smallest cities, Wells is a short drive or bus ride away from Glastonbury; but it’s world’s away in atmosphere.
While Glastonbury is renowned for its mythical connections and is famous for its historical, grand buildings, with the Cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace and Vicar’s Close, which is the oldest purely residential street in the country, at centre stage.
Sitting in the southern part of the Mendip Hills, Cheddar Gorge is dramatic, vibrant and spectacular.
It’s the biggest gorge in the country, with panoramic views over the nearby lake and the rolling hills.
But that’s not all that’s on offer in Cheddar. The delightful town has a broad range of attractions.
Enjoy plenty of shops and restaurants; the best of which is the cheddar cheese company.
Yes, this is where Cheddar comes from! I’d definitely recommend trying some cave-matured cheddar while you’re here.
The Mendips AONB is a network of hills sprawling from just south of Bristol to Wells and from Weston-super-Mare to Shepton Mallet.
This region isn’t overly touristy (most visitors are Bristol or Somerset locals!) but you can find plenty of wonderful hikes from any parking space.
I recommend Blackdown Hill (the highest point of the Mendips!) or Three Priddy Droves.
A Roman Bath that’s 2000 years old, an Abbey that was restored after the Dissolution of the Monasteries and dozens of Georgian terraces that look like life-sized Bridgerton: Bath has something for everybody.
Bath is famous for its history and architectural beauty, but it’s a wonderful spa break too, with the Thermae Bath Spa and the McDonald Bath Spa hotel, which is the only hotel in the country with naturally heated waters!
Bristol is an underrated city (I know, I lived there for six years!).
Home to a wide range of attractions including the SS Great Britain which was once the biggest ship in the world and street art from Banksy its culture is part seafaring-focused, part modern and quirky.
Bristol has one of the best food scenes in the country, with world foods from every corner of the globe, thanks to its diverse population.
It’s also home to an immense amount of history, spanning from Medival times (the old city still retains its Medieval layout!) to the present day.
Where to stay in Glastonbury
- The Covenstead is a beautiful property with graceful rooms, some of which have four-poster beds. The hotel is rated very highly, thanks to the friendly staff and trendy decor. Click here for more information.
- The Who’d A Thought It Inn is a charming pub with bedrooms. They’re clean and tidy, and each has a bathroom. Click here to read more.
- Orchard Farm Luxury Glamping is a popular holiday park featuring pods equipped with a kitchenette, beds, and some have dining and living areas. Click here for more information.
Is Glastonbury worth visiting?
Glastonbury is one of the most unique places to visit in the UK – so YES, it’s absolutely worth it, whether the festival is on or not!
Its connections with King Arthur, beautiful gardens to explore and Medieval history in the centre all make it very worthy of a place on your South West England bucket list.
The magical town of Glastonbury is worth a visit any time of year! Whether you want to see the beautiful abbey, summit up the tor, have some quiet healing at Chalice Well or walk around the high street, there’s so much to do in the ancient town. Definitely add it to your Somerset itinerary!