19 Best Day Trips From London

You can go on many day trips from London. 

The British capital is a fabulous place to visit and you will never run out of interesting things to do. London is also an excellent base to explore the South of England, with plenty of destinations that can be reached by train, bus and on guided tours.

Trains in the United Kingdom work really well and take you to even the most remote places. From natural wonders to archeological sites and charming small towns, you have a lot of places to pick from.

If you are keen to find out what places you can visit on a day trip from London you are in the right place: I used to live there, and never missed a chance to get out of town. Continue reading to find the nicest destinations for day trips from London by train, and for tips to plan your day.

Planning a trip to London? Make sure to read my post The Best 5 Days London Itinerary.

Oxford
Oxford is a truly charming city

The Best Day Trips From London

Harry Potter Studio

If you are a fan of Harry Potter, read all the books and saw all the movies, and even more so if you are visiting London with kids, you really should not miss a visit to the Harry Potter Studio – AKA the Warner Bros Studio. You will be let into the secrets of the movies and all the filming. 

The visit will take you through the entire set used in the production, and you’ll see places made famous in the series and which include the Great Wall of Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest, the imposing Weasley’s Wizzard Wheezes (apparently its construction took three full months!); the Hogswarth Express and the famous Platform 9 and 3/4.

Visiting Harry Potter Studio is actually interesting even if you are not going there with your family or you are not a fan of the saga – it’s an enlightening experience if you want to learn a bit more about movie production, special effects (remember Harry’s Invisibility Cloak?) and more.

Harry Potter Studio is located in Leavesden, Watford. It’s just 32 km (20 miles) from the center of London, but I don’t recommend driving as traffic can be quite bad. You can insread take the train to Watford and once there hop on the bus to the Harry Potter Studio.

Otherwise, the best way to go to Harry Potter Studio is on guided day tours from London. You can check this Warner Bros studio tour and transfer from London, which lasts 7 full hours; or this Harry Potter studio and Oxford day trip from London, which also takes you to Oxford. 

Oxford

Oxford

Oxford is the kind of city you’ll never tire of exploring. Home of one of the most important universities in England (established in the 12th century and one of the oldest in the world), the city is truly charming, with gardens, churches and abbeys, beautiful parks and a nice atmosphere.

The highlight of the visit is usually the University, made of 38 beautiful college buildings. The most impressive one remains Christ Church College, where you can see the Meadow Building and the Bodley Tower.

Another place you should not miss is the 12th century Christ Church Cathedral, located in an area aptly named Christ Church. Inside, you can see the shrine and tomb of Saint Frideswide, patron saint of Oxford. The church’s Tom Tower was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and its beautiful gardens are the ones that inspired famous novel Alice in Wonderland.

If you have time, make sure to pop inside the Ashmoleam Museum. Known as the Oxford University Museum of Art and Archeology, this free-to-visit museum was founded in 1683 and has a very interesting collection that also includes Egyptian mummies. Another interesting museum is Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

things to do in Oxford

Finally, make sure to check out Hertford Bridge, known as Oxford Bridge of Sighs (after the original one in Venice). The best spot to admire this bridge – completed in 1914 following the design of Sir Thomas Jackson – is the Bodleian Library.

You can easily explore the city on your own or go on a guided walking tour of the city such as this excellent one (which is run by an Oxford University alumni), or get on the hop on hop off bus – get your tickets here.

With a lot to offer for day trippers, you’ll be delighted to know that it’s really easy to visit Oxford on day trips from London by train, and you have the option to get there by train and even on guided tours.

The city is just 95 km (60 miles from London). Trains to Oxford depart from Paddington station. The journey takes about one hour.

If you’d rather join a guided tour that departs from London, you will have a wide range of options. These are the best ones:

Harry Potter studio and Oxford day trip from London – an extremely popular tour to hit two interesting and fun places.

Full day Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford tour – you literally see the best of England in a day.

Oxford, Stratford and Cotswolds day trip from London – a great tour to a few charming smaller towns.

Oxford and Cotswold Villages day trip – similar to the one above, minus Stratford. 

Make sure to check out my post 20 + Great Things To Do In Oxford.

Statford Upon Avon
Stratford is small but charming

Stratford Upon Avon

Known for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford Upon Avon is a small but extremely pleasant town with lots of buildings built in Tudor style. The main attraction there is Shakespeare house museum, the timber-framed house where he spent part of his childhood and a few years after the death of his father in 1601.

Get Shakespeare’s House tickets in advance here.

While in Stratford, you should also check out Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, famous for being the place where Shakespeare courted his future wife. You will be able to see some original furnishings and wander around the nice gardens.

You should also visit Hall’s Croft, home of Shakespeares’ daughter and also filled with original paintings, art and furniture.

Stratford Upon Avon

Other places of interest include the three theaters property of the Royal Shakespeare Company – the Royal Shakespeare Theater, built in the banks of the River Avon; the Swan Theater, right beside the Royal Shakespeare Theater; and the Other Place, now mostly a center of performing arts.

To explore Oxford, you may want to get a hop-on hop-off bus tour – get your pass here.

Stratford Upon Avon is about 160 km (about 100 miles) from London. Getting there is overall easy, but there are no direct trains. You can leave from Marylebone station and change in Leamington Spa -it takes more than 2 hours.

Given that getting to Stratford can be time consuming, you may want to opt for a guided tour that also goes to Oxford and other nearby places. For example, you could join this Oxford, Stratford and Cotswolds day trip from London.

Cotswolds
The charming Cotswolds

The Cotswolds

Lesser known to foreigners but incredibly popular among Londoners, the Cotswolds is a series of charming, quaint villages where you will feel time has stopped and an excellent place to visit for a day or more.

This is a great area to visit on day trips from London by car, as there are quite a few villages you should go to. Don’t miss Bidbury, a picturesque village with the magnificent Arlington Row, a series of cottages built along the banks of the River Coln. Once a monastic wool store, it was then turned into cottages and it is now property of the National Trust.

Another village not to miss is Minster Lovell, where you’ll find the 15th century – now much in ruins – home of William Baron of Lovell and Holland (it’s known as Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote), built along the River Windrush. Not far from it, Buford is another lovely village where you can spot three well kept medieval bridges.

Pinswick is actually one of the largest villages in the Cotswold. There, you can wander around the charming Rococo Gardens, where you can go to the Cotswold Viewpoint for incredible views over the surrounding valley.

best villages in the Cotswolds

Finally, consider stopping by the so called Venice of the Cotswold – alas Bourton-on-the-Water, one of the prettiest villages in England altogether. It’s a lovely place to explore, crossing the many bridges that take you from one side to the other.

As I have said before, you really need a car to actually explore the Cotswold. The drive from London will take you about two hours. Alternatively, you can opt for a guided tour – many tours will also include stops in nearby places such as Oxford, Stratford or even Downton Abbey filming location. These are the best options:

The Cotswolds guided tour from London including lunch – this is the best option if you only want to visit the Cotswolds, but in depth. The tour lasts 11 hours! Alternatively, you may want to consider this full day tour of the Cotswolds.

Oxford, Stratford and Cotswolds day trip from London – one of the best options as you get to see many places. It may be a bit more rushed.

Oxford and Cotswold Villages day trip – two stops for an excellent tour.

Make sure to also read my post The Best Villages In The Cotswolds.

best day trips from London
Windsor is an easy day trip from London

Windsor

Windsor is one of the easiest and most popular London day trips. It is only 32 km (20 miles) from London, so super easy to reach. Windsor Castle, which still belongs to the royal family and is one of its official residences, is where many kings and queens of England are buries. That would include Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, and even Prince Philip.

The castle often used for official occasions – for example royal weddings such as that of Henry and Meghan. One of the highlights of visiting is observing the change of the guard, which takes place from April to July on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The Castle is open Thursday to Monday, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (March to October) and to 3:00 pm (November to February). Make sure to get tickets in advance to visit the castle. You can get them here. Admission is also included in the London City Card.

Windsor

Once you are done visiting the Castle, you can continue exploring the quaint city – either walk around, or get on a hop on hop off bus. You can get tickets here.

Getting to Windsor is easy. Direct trains depart regularly from Waterloo station. The journey lasts just about one hour. Guided day tours usually go to other nearby destinations as well. These are the best options:

Full day Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford tour – this guided tour hits three of the best tourist attractions in the country.

Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Roman Baths day trip – another excellent guided tour option.

day trips from London

Hampton Court Palace

If you are a fan of Royal history and especially interested in the Tudors, the one to Hampton Court Palace will be one of the best day trips from London by train you can go on. This was the residence of Henry VIII, among others.

A visit will take you to the State Rooms and private apartments of William III; the Great Hall, which was originally a dining hall and later on became a theater, known to be the setting where William Shakespeare also performed its play, and decorated with beautiful tapestries. You will also see the kitchen of Henry VIII, where according to history some 200 people worked every day to provide food for the entire court; and the timber roof that still bears the coat of arm of Anne Boleyn, the Queen that Henry VIII condemned to decapitation.

Located along the banks of the River Thames, this massive palace is surrounded by gorgeous gardens that are especially beautiful to visit in the spring months, when everything is in bloom.

To get tickets to Hampton Court Palace, click here. Admission to Hampton Palace is also included in the London City Card.

Hampton Palace is about 24 km (15 miles) south of the center of London. To get there, take a train to Surbiton from London Waterloo Station, and once there hop on another train to Hampton Court. The overall trip should take you no more than 40 minutes.

Wivenhoe
Wivenhoe is a lesser known place

Colchester and Wivenhoe

If you are in search of a place that is really off the tourist track, get on the train and head to Colchester, in Essex. Unknown to most foreigners and with a reputation for being a rough town due to the barracks, it actually is a charming small city where you will find a beautifully kept castle (one of the best castles in Essex) and – right behind it – a park you will enjoy exploring, especially during the spring and summer months. 

Colchester won’t take you long to explore. Once you are done, get on bus 61 or 74 and go to Wivenhoe – about 30 minutes bus if you get off at Wivenhoe train station. This small former fishing town has a lovely waterfront with an excellent pub (The Rose and Crown) and is a very pleasant place to chill for a couple of hours, especially when the sun is out. 

Trains to Colchester North Station depart from London Liverpool Street and take around 50 minutes. From North Station you will have to take a bus to the center of town. On the way back, you can take the train from Wivenhoe (make sure to ask for this ticket at the counter not to incur in any fines). It takes little over one hour. 

Mersey Island
Photo by RMC42 @shutterstock

Mersey Island

This isn’t the easiest day trip from London, but if you want to get away from everything to a place that is beautiful, relaxing and not crowded with tourists, it really is an excellent option. This small island not far from Colchester is connected to the mainland by a causeway that can flood during high tide, making getting there sometimes a hassle as cars can’t cross when it is flooded. 

Once you are there, you can go for a walk along the beach and for one of the best meals in the area. Just make sure you bring your own bottle.

The easiest way to get to Mersey Island would be by car. If you don’t want to drive, take the train to Colchester and from the city center take bus 67. You need to get off at Blue Row.

Day trips from London
Stonehenge is one of the most popular day trips from London

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the most interesting places to visit in England. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is thought to be a place of pagan worship built in the Neolithic period (Around 5000 years ago) by farmers, but the debate on what it truly was is still ongoing. What’s certain is that building such structures required incredible technique.

The main thing to see there is obviously the Stone Circle, but there also are 5 Neolithic houses that you can visit. Inside, you will find replicas of instruments that were likely used at the time Stonehenge was thriving with life.

Advanced bookings for the site are recommended. Get your Stonehenge admission ticket here.  

Stonehenge is about 145 km (90 miles) from London. To get to Stonehenge you’ll have to take the train from London Waterloo station and get off at Salisbury, from where you can hop on the Stonehenge Tour Bus. The trip lasts about 90 minutes.

Given the cost of train travel in the UK, to which you’d have to add the admission ticket to the site, you may actually be better off joining a guided tour. There are several day tours from London that go only to Stonehenge and some that take you also to other sites. These are the best options:

Stonehenge half day tour – a great guided tour that takes you straight to the site.

Stonehenge and Bath full day tour – a good option to visit two beautiful places.

Stonehenge express half day tour from London – another excellent option. You spend 2 hours at the site.

Stonehenge, Bath and West Country day trip – a highly recommended guided tour. 

Full day Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford tour – a great guided tour to some of the prettiest places to visit in England.

London day trips
Bath is a good destination for London day trips

Bath

Famous for its well preserved 2000 years old Roman baths and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Georgian city of Bath is a truly lovely place to explore for a day. Just picture cobbled alleys, lots of quaint corners, Roman sites and Georgian architecture, stunning churches, terraces and crescents.

The Roman Baths are open for visits, but you can’t actually bathe in there (that’s been the case since 1978). If you wish to spend some time pampering yourself, however, you can go to the much more modern Thermae Bath Spa that was opened in 2006.

Bath

After exploring the Roman Baths, you should continue wandering around the city. Places of interest include Bath Abbey, home of the “ladder of angels” (built to follow a dream of Bath Bishop who saw angels during a dream); the Royal Crescent – 30 Grade I Georgian terraced houses built around Royal Victoria Park; the Circus – again a series of late 18th century houses built in circular street; and Pulteney Bridge, named after the wife of William Johnstone Pulteney.

You can also opt for a guided walking tour such as this one, or get the hop-on hop-off bus tour (get your tickets here).

Finally, you could consider going on a boat tour along the River Avon (you can book that here) and then hit one of the many good pubs scattered around town. 

Bath is located 195 km (120 miles) from London. Trains to Bath leave from Paddington train station. The journey lasts approximately 90 minutes.

Guided tours departing from London usually include stops to other nearby places. You could for example opt for this Stonehenge and Bath full day tour, or join this Stonehenge, Bath and West Country day trip.

Downton Abbey day trip from London

Downton Abbey

Fans of Downton Abbey will be happy to know that they can now visit Highclere Castle and Bampton Village, the filming locations of this popular TV series, on day trips from London. They are actually quite close to Oxford and the Cotswolds so easy to add to a visit if you have your own car.

Highclere Castle is property of the Carnarvon Family and is a fine example of the countryside life of English aristocrats. Not far from the castle, Bampton Village is where you’ll be able to recognize many buildings that you will have surely seen in the series, such as the house of Isobel Crawley, the church (St. Mary’s Church), and Bampton Community Archive, which in the series appears as Downton Cottage Hospital.

Highclere Castle is located about 105 km (65 miles) west of London, and Bampton Village is a further 56 km (around 35 miles) from the castle. Traveling there is easy if you have your own car, but more complicated if you want to visit both filming locations on the same day.

As there are no direct trains departing from London and you’d have to take a combination of train, taxi etc, you are definitely better off joining one of the many day tours from London such as this one.

Blenheim Palace
Photo by ChristianZscheile @shutterstock

Blenheim Palace

This massive palace is so big that a day will feel hardly enough to explore it. The only non-royal country home in England that holds the title of “palace”, Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and is currently the home of the 12th Duke of Malborough. Inside the palace, you’ll be able to see a fine collection of tapestries and antiques.

The enormous gardens were designed by Capability Brown and are particularly pleasant to explore, especially in the spring and summer months. Make sure not to miss the Rose Gardens, the Secret Gardens and the Pleasure Gardens. During your wanderings, you’ll also be able to see the commemorative Column of Victory and the Temple of Diana.

Blenheim Palace is located in Woodstock, around 105 km (65 miles) northwest of London. If you are relying on public transportation to get there, you’ll need to take the train from Paddington to Hanborough, which takes about one hour, and from there hop on a bus to the palace (another 10 minutes).

Alternatively, you can join one of the many guided day trips from London that include a visit to Blenheim Palace, such as this tour that also goes to the Cotswolds and Downton Abbey.

London day trips
The stunning Cliffs of Dover

Cliffs of Dover

Dover is one of the most spectacular places to visit in England and you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to go. As if the sight of the white cliffs were not enough, you can also admire a 800-years-old castle (that’s Dover Castle) beautifully perched on the cliffs. 

The white chalk cliffs of Dover stretch for almost 13 km (8 miles) and are almost 107 meters high (that’s 350 feet). Once an important part of the English landscape for defensive purposes (this was the case during both World War I and World War II), now they are quite simply a place to enjoy a walk with striking views and the possibility of birdwatching.

Dover Castle was built in 1066 upon orders of William the Conqueror. It’s one of the largest castles in England. A visit usually includes a stop at the tunnels and the WWII Underground Hospital.

Get your tickets for Dover Castle in advance here.

Dover is around 129 km (80 miles) southeast of London, and you can easily get there by train.

Alternatively, you may want to join a guided tour. This tour of the White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury also goes to the nearby Canterbury, for a fantastic day out. 

day trips from London

Canterbury

Canterbury is one of the most famous university towns in England, and an easy place to visit on day trips from London by train. The city has a nice medieval center with lots of cobbled alleys and impressive buildings.

The most iconic sight there is the Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site located right in the center of the city, which is a very pleasant place to explore. The church was first founded in 597 and then rebuilt between 1070 and 1077. It’s the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England. Inside you’ll find the shrine of Archbishop Thomas Becket, who was actually murdered inside the Cathedral.

Direct trains to Canterbury depart regularly from London Bridge station, and take about 1.5 hours.

You can also visit Canterbury on guided tours such as this tour of the White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury

London day trips

Leeds Castle

About 32 km (20 miles) from Canterbury, Leeds Castle can be actually seen on the same day. This 12th century castle was built at the center of a lake and is surrounded by a massive garden. Once the private property of six queens of England and then used by Henry VIII, the castle features well maintained rooms. However, its main feature is the Lady Baillie Garden, from where you can enjoy breathtaking views over the lake.

If you want to go to Leeds Castle by public transportation you’ll have to take a train from London Bridge station to Headcorn, from where you can hop on bus n. 12 to Maidstone and get off at the Potting Shed, which is just 2 minutes walk from the Castle. The overall journey will take you about two hours.

If you want to visit both Canterbury and Leeds Castle on the same day you are better off either renting a car or joining a group tour. For more information, click here.

Brighton
Brighton is a truly nice place for a day away from London

Brighton and the Seven Sisters Cliffs

Brighton is a great place to visit on day trips from London if you feel you need to be by the sea. It’s not a small town – there is a university after all. But the presence of the beach makes it a very pleasant place. Once you are done exploring the city center, make your way to the waterfront to visit Brighton Pier and the beautiful Royal Pavilion.

Make sure to get tickets in advance for the Royal Pavilion here.

About 40 minutes drive from Brighton, you can also visit Seven Sister Cliffs and South Downs – a great alternative to the cliffs of Dover. There, you can go for a walk in the Seven Sisters Country Park, and visit places such as Devil’s Dyke, a dry valley which according to legend was created by the devil himself. Another place of interest is the Long Man of Wilmington, an impressive 72.5 meters (235 feet) chalk human figure carved on the side of a hill (one of the only two in England).

Seven Sisters Cliffs

Finally, you should make it a point to stop by Beachy Head, the highest chalk cliff in Southern England (it’s 163 meters, or 565 feet) from where you can enjoy impressive views; and Seaford Head, the best spot for overall views of the Seven Sisters.

Trains to Brighton depart from London Victoria station. The journey lasts about one hour. 

As the Seven Sisters and South Downs are not an easy place to reach by public transportation, this is a good place for day trips from London by car. If you don’t have a car and don’t want to rent one, your best bet is to opt for one of the guided day tours from London that makes several stops – including Brighton and Devil’s Dyke – such as this one.

Cambridge
The lovely Cambridge

Cambridge

There always is a big contest going over which city is prettier – Oxford or Cambridge. I never got the point of it as these university towns are actually very different and both of them are incredibly beautiful. Hardly ever making the list of places to visit on day trips from London by train, medieval Cambridge actually is an easy place to travel to and packed with things to do.

Places you should not miss during your visit include King’s College Chapel, Trinity College (my actual favorite), Queen’s College (these are just three of the whopping 31 colleges in Cambridge) and Wren Library. For swiping views of the city, you can climb up the tower of Great St. Mary’s Church. Make sure to spot Cambridge’s own Bridge of Sighs in St. John’s College; Claire College Bridge and King’s College Bridge. Finally, a walk along the River Cam is a must.

One of the most fun things to do in Cambridge is punting. You can join a tour such as this one

One of the best tours of Cambridge is the guided walking tour with a local graduate – you can book it here.

Cambridge is just 95 km (60 miles) north of London. Trains to Cambridge depart from King’s Cross station. The journey takes between 45 minutes and one hour. 

You can also join one of the many day trips from London to Cambridge that depart daily such as this one.

Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight

The one to the Isle of Wight isn’t among the easiest day trips from London, as it takes quite a bit to get there, but it definitely is very rewarding. White cliffs, beautiful white sand beaches lined with colorful beach huts, a scenic medieval lighthouse are among the main attractions there. 

The Isle of Wight is best visited on guided day tours from London. This one includes all transportation costs and a guide, for a completely hassle free day. 

day trips from London
Not the ideal thing to do, but some people go to Paris on day trips from London

Paris

Paris is a massive city with lots and lots to see, and I honestly do not recommend visiting on day trips from London. Having said that, with the Eurostar the distance between the two cities can be covered in little over 2 hours and you get to spend a good amount of time in the city.

You can read my post The Perfect Itinerary To See Paris In A Day for an easy to follow itinerary that will tell you what to see – the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower are definitely included – and how to organize your day. 

Trains to Paris depart from St. Pancras station. You can also opt for this guided tour which includes train tickets, skip the line tickets to the Eiffel Tower, and a cruise on the Seine. 

Further Readings

Make sure to check out my other posts about London:

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Discover the best day trips from London - via @clautavani

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