Escape the City: 13 Best Day Trips from London

Escape the City: 13 Best Day Trips from London

by George Mouratidis
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Love it or hate it, London is one of the greatest cities in the world. There so much to do in the capital, that you can easily forget about the rest of England. However, as exciting as London might be, sometimes you need to expand your horizons. Especially if you are visiting the city for a week or more, then you should definitely consider a day trip from London.

Discover the Best Day Trips from London

With such an amazing variety of hills, forests and quaint villages around London, you will have no problem escaping from the hubbub of London and its Underground. Take a look at some of the best day trips from London on our in-depth guide below!

Bath

The whole city of Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1987, and it’s easy to see why. Apart from the breathtaking Georgian buildings perched along the streets of the town, the major attraction of Bath is its perfectly preserved (and functional) Roman baths. Torches illuminate the site during the sunset, so plan your visit accordingly to live this humbling experience.

Although the water in the actual baths is not safe to swim in, you can visit the nearby Thermae Bath Spa with its fabulous rooftop pool. After you’re finished splashing about, you should definitely take a walk along the streets of the city, marvelling at the stellar architecture. Bath is also famous for its locally-produced ale, so make sure to stop by a pub before heading back.

  • Distance from London: 110 miles
  • How to get there: 90 minutes with the train from Paddington, 2.30 hours by car.
  • Find luggage storage in Bath

New Forest, Brockenhurst, Fritham

If you love nature and animals, there is no better place to spend an entire day than New Forest. The area is one of the most extensive heathlands in Britain, offering an endless pasture ground for the native pony and cattle species. The New Forest Wildlife Park can be explored by foot, car, buggy or even horse (you can take lessons there). Unsurprisingly, the wildlife is the biggest attraction in the area. So, if you are eager to make some bovine and equine friends (despite their characteristic smell), take some time to explore the area and the nearby towns.

  • Distance from London: 100 miles
  • How to get there: 90 minutes by train from London Waterloo to Brockenhurst; two hours by car.

Bray on Thames

Only a few miles away from London, Bray is one of the most peaceful villages in England. Perched along an idyllic setting on the banks of the river Thames, Bray is filled with Tudor mansions, Gothic cathedrals and the luxurious homes of British celebrities. In short, it is everything that a foreigner would expect the English countryside would be.

Bray is also the unlikely home to half of Britain’s Michelin Star restaurants – The Waterside Inn and the Fat Duck. If you want to try either, you have to book well in advance as the waiting list is unsurprisingly long. After your meal, you can take a pleasant stroll around the village, admiring the pastoral landscape.

  • Distance from London: 30 miles
  • How to get there: 70 mins by train from Paddington to Maidenhead, 60 minutes by car, 2.30 hours by bicycle.

Windsor

Windsor is much more than a charming town in Berkshire, just outside London. While it is not a very touristy place in itself, it is home to the biggest- and longest-occupied castle on the planet, serving as the legendary official residence of British royalty since the middle ages. Due to its proximity to the palace, Windsor gets visitors all year round. However, you can easily spend a whole day here as the town is full of things to see and do.

Although it is not the only thing you should do in Windsor, the castle is undoubtedly the highlight of the area. With its frequent uses for ceremonial and state occasions, this castle offers an impressive visitor tour that gives you revealing access to St. George’s Chapel and Her Majesty’s State Apartments. Its stately halls and rooms are lined with treasures straight out of the incomparable royal collection. These are sure to entertain not only those who love the traditions and glory of the British monarchy but also those who think amazingly preserved castles in general, are worthwhile. Taking a boat trip around the castle is another fantastic way to admire its grandeur from a unique point of view.

  • Distance from London:  25 miles
  • How to get there: 45 minutes from Paddington Station or Waterloo via Slough, 50 minutes by car.
  • Find luggage storage in Windsor

The Cotswolds

With charming villages like Burton on Water, you can hardly go wrong with some of the most picture-perfect scenery in all of Great Britain. The Cotswold Hills is a hugely popular day trip destination in Great Britain and are only a little less known to international tourists. A designated area of outstanding natural beauty, the Cotswolds cover an area of 800 sq.miles, and they are the second largest protected landscape in England.

The villages are easily accessible from London, and any British person will swear by their amazing beauty. The reason for this is because it is best to have a car to see the Cotswold villages properly (unless you plan on doing a week-long walking tour). Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Would and Burford are particular highlights. If you do have a car, you should, at the very least, make a day of it with a morning breakfast/tea, lunch, and afternoon tea before you return to London.

  • Distance from London: 86 miles
  • How to get there: Three hours from Paddington Station, two hours by car.

Box Hill

Nature enthusiasts will love Box Hill in Surrey. This taxing uphill hike was included in the 2012 year Olympics cycling route, so you can easily turn this into a biking trip. You can begin in Richmond Park and bicycle past Hampton Court. The last mile and a half will reward you with some incomparable views of the North Downs when you reach the summit of Box Hill proper.

Here you can enjoy the National Trust Cafe’s cake after lunch at the Tree, home of crumbles and pies made on site. A train station at Box Hill and Westhumble makes it easy to get back to Waterloo Station in London with or without your bike. If you do not want to bike it, alternatively you could take the train to Box Hill and hike to the top by foot. It’s a bit challenging, but the views are absolutely worth it.

  • Distance from London: 22 miles
  • How to get there: 90 mins from London Bridge or Waterloo Stations, two hours by bicycle

Stonehenge & Salisbury

The mysterious Stonehenge monument has a more than 40-century history. However,  nobody was able to decipher the meaning of this obviously human-made rock formation. Whether it was an ancient burial ground, a religious site, or simply a random structure will remain a mystery until the end of times. This iconic and prehistoric monument draws tourists from across the globe eager to see for themselves what this centre of pagan worship is all about (hint: not at all that much).

Although Stonehenge is hopelessly smaller than you’d expect, the journey matters more than the destination. Getting here provides beautiful quintessentially English countryside through Wiltshire, not to be missed, particularly in the summer. After you take in the wonder of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Stonehenge, a walk around the charming town of Salisbury is a great way to relax before heading back to London.

  • Distance from London: 85 miles
  • How to get there: Two hours from Waterloo or Victoria via Salisbury, 90 minutes by car.

Oxford

University towns do not get more iconic, charming, and internationally famous than Oxford. This could be the most romantic city in the entire United Kingdom. It may only lie a few hours from London, but its impressive halls, walls, and towers are worlds apart from the craziness of the capital. For British people, Oxford is one of the top picks when it comes to day trips from London.

The world’s most renowned university city provides towers from which you can climb and take in all of the fairy tale looking spires, colleges, and towers. There are world-class museums here to enjoy like the Ashmolean Museum as well. On the way back to London, you can stop by Stratford Upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare himself, if you have time to take in another romantic city.

White Cliffs of Dover

day trips from london

The Cliffs of Dover have been a national symbol of pride and unity for Great Britain for centuries now. These steep white cliffs come complete with an imposing, grand 800-year old castle sitting astride the incredible, stark chalk cliff face. Be prepared to share it with plenty of eager tourists. The nearby city of Dover is worth a visit as well to complete your day trip from London.

Brighton

Brighton is still renowned as the “London by the sea” city. This resort town somehow encompasses all the best that London has to offer visitors yet in a tiny fraction of the land area. There are regally Victorian seaside hotels and bohemian market streets in The Lanes to explore. It is hard to imagine more diversity in attractions found in such a small area. There is something for everyone to enjoy here.

The signature must-do Brighton activity is to wander the famous pier looking for the perfect order of fish and chips followed by ice cream. Do not miss visiting the immaculately preserved Royal Pavilion. You also have the marina with its world-class quality restaurants and beautiful yachts to ogle along with shows at the Brighton Dome. It is hard to imagine a more rewarding day trip less than an hour from London.

Canterbury

day trips from london canterbury

Another legendary English city around the world is Canterbury. This city has inspired tales and artists since the Middle Ages, going back to literary luminary Geoffrey Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales. The town may be small, but it is justifiably proud of its UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The highlight of the city is the historic English cathedral of Canterbury. The centre of the Anglican Church fascinates foreigners and British visitors alike. You also have plenty of other beautifully preserved buildings and museums to take in here, along with a bustling student scene that gives a fresh breath of air to the ancient city.

Bristol

day trips from London bristol

A famed city sitting on the River Avon in England’s southwest, Bristol provides you with a glimpse into the old imperial maritime glory of the nation on whose empire “the sun never set.” Once a bustling, important city centre port, this is today a hub of culture in the Harbourside.

These 1800’s era warehouses today house shops, restaurants, and all sorts of cultural establishments like the Arnolfini, a renowned contemporary art gallery. Visitors to the city can also take in the M Shed museum that looks at the area’s industrial and social history.

Cambridge

day trips from London - Cambridge

Britain boasts a second amazing university town well worth your time to visit in Cambridge. This among the most famous of British cities offers a beautiful river flowing through the middle of it. Here you can take in the world-renowned Cambridge University and its stunning grounds that include brickwork and buildings from the 1100s. Lovers of Harry Potter books and films may feel they have gone to Hogwarts heaven looking at these college buildings.

The city is always popular with visitors for its many museums, gardens, and parks. There will be no shortage of company as you stroll along the riversides of Cambridge browsing for a range of goods from fresh pastries to seasonal fruit. This day trip is all at once a cultural, architectural, and natural delight.

Day Trips from London

We hope you enjoyed our day trips from London recommendations! If you want to see your favourite destination featuring on our blog, reach out with your suggestions!

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