Best Day Trips to Take From London
London’s a great city, but it can be overwhelming at times. If you need a break from its relentless pace, or just fancy seeing some more of England while you’re staying in the capital, these are some of the best day trips which can be reaching by car, bus and train.
1. Oxford – for architecture
You can buy (fake) University of Oxford hoodies at tourist shops in London, but it’s worth making the trip to Oxford to see the real thing. The city is famous for its ‘dreaming spires’, and rightly so – the architecture, particularly the university buildings, is astounding. You can book tours of the university’s colleges, but a better use of your time is visiting the museums. You can easily pass a few hours in the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, but the real gem is the Natural History Museum.
If you visit in warmer weather, make time to hire a boat and go rowing. If Oxford hasn’t got you under its spell by then, fall down the rabbit hole into the Alice in Wonderland shop, selling all manner of things relating to Lewis Carroll’s book.
Time from London: Approximately 1 hour by train.
2. Windsor – for royalty
Windsor is a regal town just 30 minutes out of central London by train. The gem in Windsor’s crown is Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest castle in the world that’s still lived in today (it’s an official residence of Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family). It’s open to the public, and well worth a visit.
While you’re in Windsor, take a stroll alongside the river.
Time from London: Approximately 30 minutes by train.
3. Brighton – for being trendy
Brighton is often described as “London by the sea” due to its cosmopolitan nature, but that’s where the similarity between the two ends. Once you leave Brighton station, the chaos of London melts away as you find yourself strolling down The Laines, a maze of narrow streets full of independent shops. For more shops, head to Churchill Square Shopping Centre.
The real draw of Brighton though, is of course the sea. The beach is pebbly, so don’t bring a bucket and spade. Instead, head for the pier with its amusement arcades and funfair rides, and while away an afternoon reliving your childhood. If the weather turns, there’s the Sealife Centre aquarium to shelter in.
Time from London: Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes by train.
4. Hastings – for tradition
For a more traditional British seaside town, head to Hastings. Traditional fish & chip shops sit alongside the pebbly beach, interspersed with tourist shops. Again, the beach is pebbly and the sea usually rough. It’s a town that makes a to-do about its maritime heritage – among the weathered fisherman’s huts is a small shop where you can buy fish directly from the fishermen, and a wooden hut houses a fishing museum. Take the funicular railway up to the top of the cliff for views along the coastline and beyond.
Time from London: Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes by train.
5. Chartwell – for history and countryside
Many locals don’t even know about Chartwell, a manor house in the village of Toy’s Hill in Kent. Its claim to fame is that Britain’s wartime prime minister Winston Churchill lived there, but even without the history, the views make it a fantastic place to visit.
It’s owned and run by the National Trust, with rooms including Churchill’s study and dining room open to the public. As thought-provoking as it is to set foot in the room that Churchill once worked in, wait until you get out into the garden and see the views across Kent – it’s a truly delicious slice of the British countryside.
Time from London: Approximately 30 minutes by train to Sevenoaks, and then a short taxi ride.
6. Whipsnade Zoo – for animals
In the Bedfordshire countryside is Whipsnade Zoo, the sister zoo to London Zoo – both are managed by the same conservation charity, ZSL. Many larger species, including elephants, rhinos and sealions live at Whipsnade.
Board the Jumbo Express mini train to get a closer look at the elephants, rhinos, camels and sloth bears.
Time from London: 30 minutes by train to Luton or Hemel Hempstead, then a 20 minute taxi ride.
7. Paris – for va va voom
That’s right, Paris. Visit two countries in one trip with a day in the French capital. Eurostar trains go from London St Pancras station direct to Paris in under two and a half hours, leaving you plenty of time to stroll down the Champs Elysees, get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, and dine on steak et frites before watching the sun set from the top of the Eiffel Tower. You’ll be back in London before bedtime.
Time from London: Approximately 2 hours.
By Laura Reynolds