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17 easy day trips from London

Most Beautiful Cotswolds Villages

Rumour has it that one is never more than 60 miles from the beach in Britain; indeed, the island is quite compact but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is entirely homogeneous. Quite the contrary! On any of thse 17 day trips from London below, you are guaranteed to discover a sliver of the complex English history and identity.

Whether you opt for a seaside getaway, a Harry Potter themed excursion, an urban exploration or a combination of the three, England is at your doorstep.

HELPFUL TIP: If you plan on doing several independent day trips, a Brit Rail England pass might be worth your while. Otherwise, I always book return tickets with trainline.com.

Brighton

day trips from London
Sunsets in Brighton

Counter-culture and forward-thinking dispositions explain why Brighton is light-years away from the quaint fishing villages of coastal England.

Here, you’ll find the UK’s biggest gay scene, the most shocking venues, and the Channel’s best clubbing, along with the myriad of hipster cafés and vintage shops in Brighton Lanes. The beach, however, with its chippy stands and its whimsical Brighton Pier, truly is for everyone.

Oxford

day trips from London
Christ Church College in Oxford

How do you summarise a city steeped in a thousand year of academic history? Oxford is indeed quite privileged, being home to the world’s most famous university, but also utterly elegant and charming. Tour the colleges, have a pint where C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien used to hang out, geek out at the Harry Potter filming locations, explore the quiet cobbled lanes, go up the Radcliffe Camera, hire a punt, go further afield at Blenheim Palace, walk in the footsteps of Prime Ministers and poets…

The possibilities, in lovely Oxford, really are endless.

I cannot recommend a walking tour highly enough – only pro guides are familiar with the details and hidden stories of this town.

Liverpool

Beatles in Liverpool
John Lennon’s childhood home

Liverpool has been working very hard to shed its reputation as a rough, rowdy, boring city, and I was pleased to see the result on my last visit. Albert Docks are quite lovely and the impressive cultural heritage is only enhanced by everything pertaining to the legendary Beatles.

York

 

An immaculate circuit of 13th-century walls encloses a medieval spider’s web of quaint pedestrian streets – at its heart lies the immense, awe-inspiring York Minster, one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in the world.

The extraordinary historical wealth is prominently featured, as it should be, in the city’s plentiful pubs and cafés. York is amazing, and you really shouldn’t miss it.

Bath

day trip from London - Bath
The stunning Roman baths in Bath

Bath is best known for three things: being home to sophisticated 18th-century Georgian architecture, as demonstrated on the Royal Crescent; being home to one of the world’s best-preserved Roman bathhouses, as the town sits on top of natural hot springs; and, lastly, for being one of the prettiest and kindest cities in the heart of the rolling countryside of southwest England.

Stratford-upon-Avon

day trips from london
Stratford-upon-Avon

Not only is this market town Shakespeare’s birthplace, it’s also chock full of 800+-year-old buildings that would have been familiar to the Bard. It’s even possible to visit the very hall where he was first introduced to theatre!

Paris

day trips from london
Eiffel Tower views for a day!

Maybe not the most obvious choice for day trips from London, it’s actually an easy option. If it’s your first trip to Europe, why not kill two birds with one stone and add Paris to your visit?

Thanks to Eurostar, central London and central Paris are now linked by a direct 2.5 hours train ride. Of course, there’s no need to list all the reasons why a day trip to Paris is a good idea!

Stonehenge

day trips from london
Historic Stonehenge

Stonehenge isn’t bad at all – the sheer fact that these rocks were probably hauled all the way from Wales back in 2000 B.C. is actually very impressive, to say the least. To this day, specialists still don’t agree with its vocation: was Stonehenge a healing temple, a  sun worshiping place, a burial site or a life-size calendar? No one knows for sure.

Note: I highly suggest getting either an early or a private entry to Stonehenge, as you’ll be able to get closer to the rocks that way. I did the regular tour and regretted it, as the stones are quite far.

Dover

day trips from london
Dover

Dover is a great discovery. Do walk the scenic North Downs Way, a trail that follows the famous white cliffs. If you want to see those cliffs from another angle, hop on the Dover-Calais ferry and enjoy the views (prices vary).

Another jewel of Dover is its castle, one the most ancient Roman construction of Britain, built 2000 years ago. Known as the “Key to England” because of its military history, it was last used during the WWII (check out the Secret Wartime Tunnels part of the Castle). But don’t spend all your time indoors; get out and smell the fresh air!

Windsor

day trips from london
Windsor Castle

Visit the Queen’s favourite weekend home – the world’s oldest, largest inhabited castle! Just an hour from London and easily combinable with other landmarks in the area.

Cotswolds

Rolling gracefully across six counties, the Cotswolds are a delightful tangle of glorious villages, thatch-roofed cottages, rickety almshouses and ancient mansions of honey-coloured stone. These gentle yet dramatic hills are perfect for walking, cycling, and even horse riding, crisscrossed by the 102-mile Cotswold Way. My favourite villages are Bourton-on-the-Water, Castle Combe, Bibury, and Chipping Campden.

If you would rather have a guided tour, there are plenty of options departing from central London every day.

Downton Abbey

I wrote about my day trip experience at Highclere Castle (the castle’s actual name), which also included stops in Oxford and Bampton, which acted as Downton Village. If you’re a fan of the series this expedition is definitely a must-do!

Leeds Castle

day trips from London
Leeds Castle

Is Leeds Castle the prettiest in England? Quite possibly.

A noble property, surrounded by a moat and only accessible by a drawbridge, with imposing stone towers and lavish gardens, perhaps? Because that’s exactly what the Leeds Castle looks like. A picture perfect portrait!

Another lovely part of the castle grounds is the beautiful garden. You can actually tell when you get closer to it because the smell of flowers is very strong and very appealing. Peonies, poppies, lad’s love, roses, lupins, and about a dozen other flowers await in a classic English garden design.

The Best Day Trips From London: Places I Haven’t Been To But Look Amazing

  • WhitstablePicture-perfect fishing hamlet on the north coast of Kent dotted with weatherboard houses and a pleasingly old-fashioned main street. Truly lovely.

  • LacockTake a step back in time! The village of Lacock, which dates from the 13th century and has many limewashed half-timbered and is remarkably free of modern development. It was used as a location in the TV and film productions of Pride and Prejudice and Emma. The Abbey also featured in the recent Harry Potter films. Can easily be combined with visits to Stonehenge, Avebury, and Bath.

  • RyePossibly Southern England’s quaintest town, Rye is a little nugget of the past, a medieval settlement that looks like it’s been left untouched on a shelf for all to admire. Expect cobbled lanes, inviting tea rooms, and crooked timbered Tudor buildings.

  • GloucesterCompact Gloucester (pronounced glos-ter – you’re welcome) is mostly known for its massive and beautiful cathedral, built to house the grave of Edward II in medieval times. This is still the main reason to visit today, along with the pretty historic centre and «market town» feel.

Marie-Eve

Marie is a native Montrealer trying to balance a deep love for her hometown and an unquenchable thirst for travel and discovery. She has been to more than 36 countries, lived abroad in both France and the U.K., and is always on the lookout for authentic experiences wherever she travels -- especially if it involves chocolate.