The Best Day Trips from London
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Even though I spend a large amount of time not in the UK, I will admit that there are many places worth visiting in the country. I’m from London, one of the best cities in Europe, and it’s the most popular British destination with tourists by a long shot. But there are so many more amazing spots to visit in this country – many of which I haven’t even made it to yet!
But, being from the suburbs of London, I do consider myself to know a thing or two about the best day trips from London. There are hundreds of places you could visit in one day from the capital: England is such a compact yet historically-rich place that there are so many castles, cathedrals and ancient sites just a stone's throw from its capital. And there are plenty of gorgeous natural sites to check out as well.
So let’s dive into some of the best day trips from London: both the famous ones and some local secrets!
The Best Day Trips from London
Stonehenge is the worlds most famous example of a Neolithic stone circle. Dating back over 5,000 years, its mysteries continue to perplex archaeologists and scientists even today. Why was is built? How was it constructed? Whilst nobody is quite sure the answers, visitors can explore the ancient stone circles, as well as the many theories surrounding the site with an excellent audio guide.
How to get there: Whilst Stonehenge is located just a 1-hour drive from London, it is difficult to reach by public transport. That’s why taking a tour to Stonehenge as part of a day trip is a brilliant way to discover the site, with daily excursions running from London Victoria Coach Station.
A picturesque and historic city in its own right, Salisbury is a great spot for a day trip form London. But it is most famous for its Cathedral; it boasts the tallest spire in Britain and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cathedrals in England. Its impressive outside is matched by a breath-taking interior, with incredibly intricate details, stained glass windows and a calved nave ceiling.
Best of all, Salisbury Cathedral is one of only four locations in the world to house a copy of the original Magna Carta, a document that underpins modern-day society, ensuring that all humankind is guaranteed basic rights and freedoms!
How to get there: trains leave London Waterloo to Salisbury station and take around 1.5 to 2 hours.
Stratford-upon-Avon is famous for being the hometown of William Shakespeare, one of the most influential writers in world history. Step back in time with a visit to the home where he once lived, and explore the actual room where he used to go to school, over 450 years ago!
Stratford-upon-Avon is a medieval market town, with weekly markets taking place throughout the year on Fridays and Saturdays. You’ll find plenty of local traders, including a farmers market that offers fresh produce from the region. It is also idyllically perched on the River Avon, with regular sightseeing boat tours offered throughout the week.
How to get there: you will want to head to London Marylebone station where you can book tickets to Stratford-upon-Avon. You may need to change trains in Leamington Spa, and it takes a total of 2-2.5 hours.
Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage City, which was granted this status for its stunning Georgian style architecture and Roman legacy. Visitors can soak up the gorgeous town centre, with rows of houses built in the traditional Georgian architectural style. Make sure to taste some authentic dishes, such as a Sally Lunn Bun or Bath chaps, with plenty of
traditional pubs and charming tearooms in the area.
A visit to the Roman Baths reveals the city’s rich history since this was once an important part of Roman life in Britain. Step into the Baths to better understand how this great civilization once lived, and see some spectacular archaeological remains from the period. There are plenty of other places to visit on a day trip to Bath, including Bath Abbey, the
Royal Crescent and Jane Austen Centre.
How to get there: take a train from London Paddington – it is just under 2 hours to Bath Spa Station. Coaches take around 2-3 hours and leave Victoria Coach Station.
If you want to stay longer, check out my guide to cheap hotels in Bath city centre.
Bristol is my favourite city in the world. I lived here for 5 years when I was at university, and it is just so special. People go to Bristol and end up never living anywhere else!
As far as day trip attractions go, it’s got the SS Great Britain which is one of the world’s most famous ships, Europe’s longest line of independent stores, some of the country’s best street art, beautiful suburbs each with their own character, a charming and historic waterfront and more bars, restaurants and cafes than you could eat at in a lifetime.
If you want to experience a city that’s not London while in the UK, go to Bristol. You won't regret it.
How to get there: trains leave London for Bristol frequently and take around 2 hours. Coaches (which are often significantly cheaper) departs London Victoria for Bristol and take around 3 hours.
Fancy staying a while? I don’t blame you – 4 years living in Bristol wasn’t enough for me! Check out my where to stay in Bristol guide for more information.
The world-renowned university town of Cambridge is one of the most beautiful cities in England. Cambridge centres around its centuries-old university colleges, and many of them are open to the public during the week. Probably the most famous of these is King’s College but other highlights include Queens’ College with its iconic Mathematical Bridge and Trinity College. Make sure to enjoy a traditional punt along the River Cam which runs through the centre of the city, and take a walk
through the city’s bustling marketplace.
How to get there: take a train from Kings Cross or Liverpool Street to Cambridge – it will take around 1 hour 15 minutes. Coaches are also available and often very cheap, taking 2 hours 20 minutes.
Windsor Castle is synonymous with the Royal Family, and is one of the official homes of the Queen! Amazingly, this is the oldest continuously used castle in the world and is a must-see for anyone taking a day trip from London. Make sure to visit the State Apartments, a series of grand and majestic rooms that are used for official events and State Visits.
They are lavishly decorated with paintings by some of the worlds most famous artists, and the finest furniture and furnishings that one can imagine! Other highlights include St George’s Chapel, which is instantly recognizable as the location where Harry and Meghan got married, as well as seeing the colourful Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes
place regularly during weekdays.
How to get there: from Waterloo Station, you can hop on a train that takes you straight to Windsor & Eton Central. It takes around 45 minutes. You can also take a Green Line coach service from Victoria coach station.
One of my favourite castles near London is the wonderful Hever. If you went to school in the UK, you'll know all about Anne Boleyn – she was King Henry VIII’s favourite wife. Henry loved her so much he changed the entire religion of the UK so he could divorce his previous wife and marry her – only to have her beheaded a few years later.
Before that grim ending, she grew up in Hever Castle, and Henry VIII often stayed there while they were courting. When visiting the castle, guests can see all of the historic rooms and learn about the Tudor period, one of the most pivotal times of British history.
On-site, there is also a maze, a water maze (only open in the summer), beautiful Victorian gardens and a really impressive children’s playground that I used to live for when I was eight years old.
How to get there: you can take a train from London Bridge to Hever. It takes around 40 minutes, and then you can transfer to a taxi or walk for the last 1.7 kilometres to the castle.
Still technically in London, but far enough away to be considered an excursion from the capital, Chislehurst Caves acted as the largest air-raid shelter in London during World War Two. An entire community lived underground – there was a school, a hospital and a church – and the shelter saw a few weddings and even the birth of a baby.
The history of Chislehurst Caves stretches back to the Druid and Saxon ages (it was originally built as a mine) and there are a few tales of it being haunted. After the war it became a concert venue – the likes of David Bowie, Pink Floyd and The Who played there!
Its proximity means it is a very easy side trip to pop into your London itinerary.
How to get there: there are numerous trains running every hour from London Bridge, Charing Cross and Waterloo East to Chislehurst Station. Chislehurst is in London zone 5. The caves are a two-minute walk from there.
Possibly the UK’s hippest city, Brighton is a beachside destination with lots of things to do.
While the beaches are all pebbly – so not ideal for sunbathing – people visit year-round to see its Victorian architecture (including the beautiful pavilion which is somewhat reminiscent of the Taj Mahal), the quirky Laines and the world-famous pier.
How to get there: it’s an easy train ride from Victoria, via Gatwick Airport and takes around 45 minutes. National Express coaches are also available from Victoria Coach Station – these are sometimes cheaper but take longer at 1.5-2 hours.
One of Britain’s most famous religious cities, Canterbury is where Thomas Becket was infamously murdered, and since became a site of pilgrimage. In medieval times, it was connected to Rome by the Via Francigena. Popular attractions in Canterbury include its Cathedral, a Canterbury Tales exhibition, St Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Castle, as well as just strolling around the city centre.
How to get there: trains leave from London Bridge and London St Pancras for Canterbury stations, taking around one hour and 40 minutes. You can also take 007 bus from London Victoria Coach Station (yes, that is named after James Bond!).
Another great place for Tudor history near London is Hampton Court. It was the house of Henry VIII (after he ousted Cardinal Wosley, that is!) thus has great historical significance and lots to learn about this pivotal period of English history. There is also second a palace built by William III and Mary I on site.
How to get there: from Waterloo, take a train to Hampton Court Station – it is in Zone 6 of the London transport zones, so your oyster card will work here.
Beautiful Oxford is similar to Cambridge in that it is a university town – there are lots of landmarks to visit that reminisce of its intellectual heritage – and it’s also one of the most beautiful places in England.
You can visit the different colleges to learn more about the university. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, head to Christ Church, which was used in Harry Potter as Hogwarts Great Hall Staircase. Other attractions
are the cities charming old buildings, its many charismatic pubs, and its covered market.
How to get there: the cheapest way is to take the Oxford Tube, which costs just costs £19 return for over 26s and £15 return for 16-26s. It takes around an hour and a half and runs 24 hours. Trains leave from Marleybone and Paddington and take around 1-1.5 hours.
Eastbourne and the Seven Sisters
Eastbourne is a lovely seaside town that gets very popular in the summer. However, many day-trippers like to visit the town to hike at the nearby Seven Sisters. Heading past attractions like Beachy Head, this hike takes in some of the best South Eastern scenery and is known as one of the best day trips from London to enjoy nature. Check out this post for more
information about the Seven Sisters hike as a day trip from London.
How to get there: take a train to Eastbourne from London Victoria – it takes around an hour and a half.
A little further afield, but doable if you have your own transport (you could hire a car for the day or use a driver’s services) is Glastonbury and Wells. Highlights include Glastonbury Tor, the quirky town centre, Wells Cathedral and the beautiful Somerset countryside. Here’s a post I wrote with more information about this day trip from London.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the best day trips from London! If you have, please consider sharing it or following me on social media for more travel tips, funny stories and sustainability inspiration. I’m on Youtube, Instagram and Facebook.