London is an amazing place. Forget what some tour guides might tell you – if you wanted to see every corner of the city, you would need months, not days! But, sometimes you want to leave the city and explore what lies beyond its borders. The good news is that there’s plenty to delight and intrigue you if you venture out into smaller English towns or spend a day in the country.
One of the easiest ways to take day trips from London is to travel by train. That’s why this round-up features my favourite day trips from London that are all reachable by rail.
This popular seaside resort is only an hour away from London. It’s small but very picturesque with a great rocky beach and famous Palace pier. On the pier, you’ll find the traditional British seaside line-up of a big pavilion, bars, restaurants and a small rollercoaster.
As well as the beach, Brighton is also home to a vibrant cultural scene. From art galleries to parks, museums and some of the best nightlife in the UK – there’s plenty to keep visitors busy. One of the biggest attractions is the Royal Pavilion, which used to be a Royal residency. Today it’s a museum, so go on in!
Windsor is well known because of the stunning castle there. The castle is the official residence of the Queen Elizabeth II, and a convenient one too, being just 40 minutes from London. Grab a cold beer in one of the many pubs, and enjoy Windsor’s charming views.
If you visit the castle, sightseeing takes about an hour. The east part is off limits – understandably so, though, being the private apartments of the Queen for weekends and holidays. But it’s not only about the castle. You can also visit the Crooked House, Windsor Royal Borough Museum or, if you’re travelling with kids, Legoland is a guaranteed hit.
This world-renowned university town is an hour from London. The prestigious university itself is the biggest attraction and luckily you can visit some of colleges. The most popular is the oldest one – Kings College. Built in the 16th century and boasting the largest fan-base in the world, you can instantly recognize the college by its famous Gothic chapel. Another popular college is Trinity college – a favourite with the Royal family. Don’t miss St John’s college either, with its charming alleyways. Cambridge itself also offers wonderful architecture, picturesque streets and excellent museums to explore.
Oxford boasts the oldest university campus in England, now made up of 38 colleges. All Souls College is the oldest and most prestigious in UK, with its characteristic tower and sun clock. There’s also Christ Church, which offers wonderful architecture and a massive cathedral.
While you’re in this quaint but thriving city, you can also visit the most famous and oldest library in Oxford – The Bodleian Library. With 11 million books lining its shelves, it’s any literature lover’s paradise. Don’t forget Oxford Castle, which dates back 1,000 years and from which you can see the city skyline, the oldest botanical garden in the UK, The Botanic Gardens, Carfax Tower and the multitude of museums and churches.
Stonehenge is one of the most recognized symbols of England, and one of the most important megalithic buildings in the world. This prehistoric monument, built in Neolithic times, is located in Wiltshire, two hours from London. Being a relatively short distance, it’s easy to turn a visit into one of many day trips from London, without needing to stay overnight.
Theories suggest that the stone circles were once used as a huge calendar and a site for astronomical observations. Today, Stonehenge is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the UK, with over one million visitors wandering around the stones every year.
Stratford-upon-Avon is a city in Warwickshire, England, on the River Avon. It was here that the great playwright and poet William Shakespeare was born and died. The best way to see the Stratford-upon-Avon is simply to walk around. Let yourselves get lost in the beautiful streets and soak up the idyllic atmosphere, reminiscent of some of the most romantic places in the world.
You can visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, the places where he spent his last years, and the houses of his mother, wife and daughter. Many local tours and attractions relate to the writer, but the quaint buildings and river views are worth a visit in their own right, too.
Bristol is a city in the south west of England, 185km west of London. It is one of the warmest and sunniest cities in the UK. The biggest attraction is the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge over the river Avon. Did you know that in 1979, the first documented bungee jump happened here?
While you’re planning your day trips from London to Bristol, be sure to allow time to explore the harbour. Bristol Harbour is home to one of the most famous ships in the world, SS Great Britain, and also offers all kinds of relaxed eateries, bars and regular markets, too. Bristol Cathedral and St Mary Redcliffe Church are also especially beautiful.
But, if you time your trip carefully, you’re in for a real treat if you experience the Bristol International Balloon Festival. Taking place every August, hundreds of hot air balloons fill the sky with floating bubbles of colour. Peel your eyes away only to seek out the artworks of famed street artist Banksy, who calls Bristol home.
If you only know one thing about Dover, it’ll be the dramatic white cliffs that line its coast. Just one hour by train, day trips from London are very doable to this south-east destination, where you will also find a port and castle to entertain you.
The cliffs are the centrepiece, though, and deservedly so, stretching across 8km of coastline and towering over 100m high. If you want to experience a real postcard moment, you’ll find it at the white cliffs of Dover.
Stroll along the beach, spot wildlife and soak up the sublime views. If you’re lucky to have sunshine and clear conditions, you might even see the French coast! But, if the weather is poor, why not check out Stone Manor, the ruins of a Roman hotel, or the Church of Our Lady of Dover instead?
Now you’ve got your day trips sorted, it’s time to sort out your plans while you’re actually in the city! Find out everything you need to know about getting around in London here, add these London landmarks to your bucket list, and then choose a few of these hidden gems to make your trip extra special, too.
Need to plan your city break to London on a budget? We’ve got you covered with this guide to purse-friendly plans.