Best Day Trips 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 in the capital, there are so many day trips and places you can visit in close proximity.
London has fantastic transport connections and lots of cities, villages, castles, beaches and famous landmarks can reached in a short one-day trip from London by train, car or bus.
If you live in London, or are keen to visit and see more of England, these are some of the best day trips which can be reaching by car, bus and train.
1. 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 as seen in the image above.
This is 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, be sure to take a stroll alongside the river.
Time from London: Approximately 30 minutes by train.
2. 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.
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.
Journey Time from London: Approximately 30 minutes by train to Sevenoaks, and then a short taxi ride.
6. Bournemouth – for the beach
Bournemouth is one of the best places to visit in the UK mainly due to the amazing white sandy beach. If you are looking for a really relaxing break from London with totally different surroundings then Bournemouth should be high on your list of places to go.
During summer thousands of people flock here every day and it is easy to see why. You can sunbathe, go swimming, surfing, paddlying and enjoy amazing outdoor activities. This is possibly the best beach near London.
Time from London: 1 hour 45 minutes by train from London Waterloo or 2 1/2 hours by car or on the National Express bus.
7. Stonehendge - for ruins
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, two miles west of Amesbury. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 feet high, seven feet wide and weighing around 25 tons. Lots of tour operators offer day trips here daily from London.
8. Bath - for the history
Bath is the largest city in the county of Somerset and famous for its Roman-built baths. Bath became a World Heritage site in 1987 and you will love visiting this city. There is a really old Abbey and the amazing Roman Baths which is one of the main highlights.
Bath is 1 hour 30 minutes by train from central London.
9. Cambridge - for the university
Cambridge is a similar destination to Oxford, with a famous university, ancient architecture and photo opportunities around every corner.
Cambridge is home to the prestigious University of Cambridge, dating to 1209. You can visit the university and see exhibits on archaeology and anthropology, polar exploration, the history of science and zoology.
Cambridge is 1.5 hour drive or bus ride from London and around 1 hour by train with regular departures daily.
10. Stratford-upon-Avon - for Shakespeare
Stratford-upon-Avon is a great day trip from London especially if you are a fan of William Shakespeare.
This a medieval market town is located in England’s West Midlands and is the birthplace of William Shakespeare who wrote famous plays like 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Hamlet'.
In Stratford-upon-Avon you can see where Shakespeare was born and visit lots places including his house. The town itself is interesting with lots of shops and cafes whilst the Royal Shakespeare Company performs his plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and adjacent Swan Theatre on the banks of the River Avon.
Stratford-upon-Avon isn't the cloest destination from London with journey times between London Marylebone and Stratford-Upon- Avon around 2 hours 27 minutes but if you are a fan of Shakespeare, you won't be disappointed.
The Cotswolds is such an underrated destination and not really known to most international visitors. The Cotswolds is an area in south central and south west England comprising the Cotswold Hills, a range of rolling hills with little scenic villages.
You will get to see very idyllic locations, rolling green hills, limestone buildings, gardens and ye olde English pubs. You can reach The Cotswolds by train from London or book a full day organised tour.
12. Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio
If you’re a Harry Potter fan then one of the best day trips you can do is to do the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour.
You will be able to walk in the footsteps of Harry Potter and explore the wonders of the wizarding world. You'll see how the films were made, props and costumes from the films and sets.
The Warner Bros Studio Tour is located just outside London at Leavesden, Watford. The nearest railway station from London is Watford Junction from where an official shuttle bus to the Studio.
13. 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.
Depar early, spend a day sightseeing and you’ll be back in London before bedtime.
Time from London: Approximately 2 hours.
By Laura Reynolds