The UK is a small country, packed with history, culture and natural beauty. Explore charming villages, ancient castles, picturesque towns, and beautiful countryside on the best London day trips.

By: Mark | Last Updated: 9 Mar 2024 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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London is our hometown and one of the world’s great cities.

But, when you are looking for a mini break, the sheer variety of day trips from London is extraordinary.

Within an hour you can see the oldest occupied castle in the world, or two renowned university towns. Just a little further and you can be strolling charming English villages.

A mere 2 hours brings you to the best seafood in the UK, hiking picturesque white cliffs or strolling the halls of Downton Abbey.

Each of our day trips are within 2 hours and 15 minutes of London. We have included information on how to get there via car, public transport or private tours.

IN THIS GUIDE

BEST DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON


under 1 hour by train

WINDSOR // OXFORD // CAMBRIDGE // HARRY POTTER // HENLEY // CANTERBURY

around 1 hour by train

DOWNTON ABBEY // BRIGHTON // DOVER // RYE // WHITSTABLE

around 1.5 hours by train

COTSWOLDS // BLEHNEIM // BATH // STONEHENGE // SEVEN SISTERS // ARUNDEL // MARGATE

around 2 hours by train

YORK // PARIS

1 – WINDSOR CASTLE

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It has been the home of British kings and queens for over 1,000 years.

The highlight is the castle itself. Standing proud on the banks of the river Thames, this imposing fortress was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England.

Inside the grounds, St George’s Chapel is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England. The chapel has held many royal weddings and contains the tombs of 11 monarchs.

Windsor Great Park surrounds the castle, and it’s one of our favourite walks near London.

HOW TO GET TO WINDSOR

Windsor is 30 minutes by train from London Paddington Station.

Tour to Windsor – We recommend this organised tour to Windsor which also includes Stonehenge. Other tours include Bath, which we think is packing way too much into to allow enough time to appreciate everything.

2 – OXFORD

The University of Oxford is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Founded in the 12th century, it has educated 57 British prime ministers, 2 US presidents, and 12 saints.

Known as the “city of dreaming spires” it’s a wonderful mix of cobble-stoned laneways and golden architecture.

There are plenty of wonderful things to do in in Oxford but the highlights include the Radcliffe Camera, Duke Humfrey’s Medieval Library and Christ Church College – the inspiration for Harry Potter.

HOW TO GET TO OXFORD

All the details including how to get there, plus the best tours can be found in our Oxford Day Trip guide.

3 – CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge University was established in 1209 when students left Oxford to escape rioting townspeople. It hasn’t looked back since.

Some of Cambridge’s great inventions include IVF, Artificial Intelligence, computer games, and football. Famous alumni include Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, and Ali G.

Exquisite late-Gothic architecture towers over cobbled streets and immaculate greens. Punters glide along the River Cam surrounded by magnificent colleges. Students negotiate wonky lanes on bikes.

It is, quite simply, the most beautiful city in England.

GETTING THERE

Cambridge is 50 minutes by train from London Kings Cross Station or roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes by car. There are Park & Ride facilities or several multi-story parking lots in the city.

More details are available in our Cambridge Day Trip guide.

CAMBRIDGE OR OXFORD?


Cambridge and Oxford are both excellent day trips from London. If you have time, it is well worth visiting both.

However, in our opinion, Cambridge is overall a prettier city with beautiful colleges along the river.

Oxford, on the other hand, has more notable buildings and it’s especially good for Harry Potter fans.

4 – HARRY POTTER STUDIO TOUR

Harry Potter fans will not want to miss the Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter. 

This self-guided walking tour takes you through the sets, props, and costumes used in the Harry Potter films. You can see the Great Hall, Platform 9 3/4, Professor Sprouts Greenhouse, and other iconic sets.

Make sure you book in advance (if you’re not taking an organised tour) as tickets can sell out, especially in peak season.

GETTING THERE

The studio is in Leavesden, on the northern edge of London. To get there, take the train from London Euston to Watford Junction Train Station (20 minutes), then the studio shuttle bus (10 to 15 minutes).

The studio shuttle bus leaves from Watford Junction Station every 30 minutes and costs £3. Alternately, catch the number 9, 10, or 20 bus from Watford Junction station.

Driving from central London takes about 1 hour. Parking is free and directly outside the studio tour.

Harry Potter Tour – Rather than getting yourself to the studio, this organised tour to the Harry Potter Studios departs from London Victoria Bus Station. Entry tickets are included.

5 – HENLEY-ON-THAMES

Henley is a pretty market town perched on the edge of the River Thames under the flanks of the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Wander the independent shops on the market square then have a pint in a cosy pub. Henley was used in the Midsomer Murders TV series and you’ll find information about filming locations dotted around the town.

One of our favourite walks near London is the Henley-Hambleden hike. The trail follows the river along to the beautiful village of Hambleden before returning to Henley. It’s a great thing to do on your Henley day trip from London.

GETTING THERE

Henley-on-Thames is 40 minutes from Paddington Station changing at Twyford. If you are driving, it’s 1 hour by car from central London. There are 3 car parks in the town.

6 – CANTERBURY

Canterbury has been attracting visitors for centuries since it became an important pilgrimage site in England following the murder of Thomas Becket on the orders of King Henry II.

Today three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a charming medieval centre make it a wonderful day trip from London.

The highlights include the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral and the Old Weavers House. Taking a guided punting tour along the river is a cool way to see the town.

For a detailed 1-day itinerary read our Canterbury day trip guide.

GETTING THERE

Canterbury is 50 minutes by train from St Pancras Station or around 2 hours, 30 minutes by car.

Tours to Canterbury – This Canterbury Tour also includes Dover Castle and White Cliffs.

7 – DOWNTON ABBEY

The abbey used in the TV show Downton Abbey was Highclere Castle, the country seat of the Earls of Carnarvon.

Built in 1679 and largely renovated in the 1840s, the castle was converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers in World War I. Much like in the show. It also provided a home for dozens of evacuee children during WWII.

Highclere offers different tours throughout the year and most require booking in advance.

Downton Village was largely filmed in the village of Bampton which is around 1 hour’s drive from Highclere Castle.

HOW TO GET TO HIGHCLERE

To get to Highclere via public transport, take the train from London Paddington to Newbury Station (the fastest journey time is 40 minutes). From Newbury, it’s a 15-minute taxi to Highclere.

By car, it’s around 1 hour 30 minutes from central London to Highclere. Use the postcode: RG20 9LE in Google Maps and follow the brown tourist signs.

Downton Abbey Tours – This Downton Abbey tour also includes the village of Bampton.

highclere downton abbey
HIGHCLERE CASTLE

8 – BRIGHTON

Brighton is one of our favourite day trips from London that combine the nostalgia of the Victorian seaside era with a youthful vibe.

It has all the excitement of the British seaside including amusement arcades, fairground rides, and food stalls. A lovely pebble beach is backed by Victorian and Georgian facades and the Brighton Pavillion – a quirky former royal residence – provides a historic alternative to the lazing in the sun.

Narrow lanes and alleyways with independent shops and cool cafes give Brighton a Bohemian vibe complete with record stores, vintage emporiums, and art spaces.

HOW TO GET TO BRIGHTON

Brighton is 1 hour by train from London Victoria Station or London Bridge Station. It’s around 2 hours by car.

Read More – Further details are in our Brighton Day Trip guide.

9 – DOVER CASTLE & WHITE CLIFFS

Dover is not the prettiest town in England, but it has two excellent sights that make it worth visiting on a day trip.

The first is Dover Castle, England’s largest castle.

Founded in the 11th century, it has been described as the “Key to England” due to its defensive significance. Towering high on a rocky hill above the narrowest part of the English Channel, it’s still a mighty fortress.

The second sight is the White Cliffs. A good coastal path runs from the castle along the tops of the cliffs. It ends at the National Trust Foreland Lighthouse (1 hour and 30 minutes’ walk from Dover Castle). Go as far as you want and then head back.

HOW TO GET TO DOVER

Dover is 1 hour 10 minutes by train from London St Pancras Station or 2 hours 15 minutes by car.

Tours to Dover – This organised tour from London to Dover includes Canterbury and the White Cliffs.

10 – RYE

In medieval times, Rye supplied ships to the Crown in exchange for certain privileges. Those privileges made Rye wealthy and walls, gates, and towers were built to defend the town.

What remains is one of the finest and unspoilt medieval towns in England.

Perched on top of a hill, its tiny, cobbled alleyways, enchanting inns, and half-timbered houses are well preserved. The remnants of its fortifications include grand gates and defensive towers. 

Rye is a charming day trip from London. The centre is so compact that it is easy to stroll around and it’s only five minutes from Rye train station.

HOW TO GET TO RYE

Rye is 1 hour 10 minutes by train from St Pancras Station changing at Ashford International, or 2 hours 30 minutes by car.

Read More – Our guide to the best things to do in Rye includes how to get there and what to see and do.

11 – WHITSTABLE

In the Middle Ages, Whitstable served as a port for pilgrims making their way to Canterbury. Today, it’s the best day trip from London for seafood lovers.

Relaxed, rustic shacks sell fresh oysters and lobster straight from the water. Michelin-starred restaurants serve Whitstable’s prized seafood in refined settings.

Excellent local ales and old-school pubs on pebbly sands complement the overall experience.

The high street has independent shops, art galleries, and great cafes.

HOW TO GET TO WHITSTABLE

Whitstable is 1 hour 10 minutes by train from London St Pancras Station, or around 2 hours by car.

Read More – Our guide to the best things to do in Whitstable includes tips for what to book ahead and the best restaurants to try.

12 – COTSWOLDS

The Cotswolds is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the southwest of England. It covers an area of 787 square miles and it’s famous for rolling countryside, honey-hued villages and historic manor houses.

It’s one of the most beautiful places in England and a popular day trip destination from London given the proximity.

However, train connections from London are poor and the prettiest villages spread about. The best way to visit is to drive yourself or get a tour.

OUR COTSWOLDS GUIDES

COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP ITINERARY

If you have your own car, a good day trip itinerary is to drive to Bibury, followed by Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter, and Stow-on-the-Wold. Total driving time is 4 hours.

Cotswolds Tour – This organised Cotswolds day trip includes Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold. It’s a good taste of the area, without packing too much in.

13 – BLENHEIM PALACE

Located in Woodstock on the edge of the Cotswolds and a few miles from Oxford, Blenheim Palace is one of the greatest stately homes in England.

Set in 2000 acres of landscape parklands, it’s the only non-royal, non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace.

Its rich baroque architecture and sumptuous interiors are so impressive it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Highlights include the State Rooms, the Long Library and the intricate formal gardens.

Blenheim Palace is Winston Churchill’s childhood home and it has been used in Harry Potter and The Crown TV series. It’s one of the most impressive homes in the UK and it’s easily accessible from London.

HOW TO GET TO BLENHEIM

Blenheim is 45 minutes by train from Paddington Station to Oxford, then 45 minutes on S7 bus. It’s much easier to driving, taking around 1 hour and 30 minutes by car with plenty of free parking on site.

Blenheim Tours – This Blenheim Palace day tour also includes Bourton-on-the-Water and Bampton Village from Downton Abbey fame.

14 – BATH

Bath is an elegant city blessed with Georgian architecture, Roman remains, and rustic medieval back streets.

The towering Bath Abbey is one of the main attractions. But Bath is most known for having the best-preserved Roman bathhouses in the world.

Part hipster, part posh, Bath straddles the divide between quirky and glamorous. 

Bath is another of the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and it’s one of the best historic day trips from London.

HOW TO GET TO BATH

Bath is 1 hour 20 minutes by train from Paddington Station, or roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes by car. The most convenient way to park is use the Park & Ride services.

More – All the details are in our Bath day trip guide.

15 – STONEHENGE

Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world and a British cultural icon.

It’s a very popular day trip from London but something we highly recommend doing.

To visit, you can either purchase general admission ticket with an audio guide, or join the Stone Circle Experience which allows you in the Inner Circle. Only 30 people are allowed in the Inner Circle per session so book well in advance.

It only takes an hour or two to explore Stonehenge so it’s worth visiting other places on your day trip. These could include Windsor, Oxford, or Bath.

HOW TO GET TO STONEHENGE

Stonehenge is 1 hour 30 minutes by train from London Waterloo to Salisbury, then a 12-mile taxi ride. Alternatively, there is an hourly Stonehenge Tour Bus that leaves from Salisbury station.

If you’re driving yourself, it’s around 2 hours by car from London with plenty of parking on site.

Stonehenge Tours – This day trip to Stonehenge includes Windsor, plus access to the inner circle.

16 – SEVEN SISTERS

The Seven Sisters are a series of chalk sea cliffs that run between the River Cuckmere near Seaford and Beachy Head near Eastbourne. Rising 200 metres, they are the most dramatic and beautiful white chalk cliffs in the UK. 

With a blanket of green grass on top, the glow of the sea below, and the luminance of the cliffs blazing in front, the Seven Sisters are spellbinding.

The Seven Sisters is one of the most scenic day trips from London.

The entire walk along the cliffs is around 18 kilometres. But there are plenty of great viewpoints near Cuckmere Haven.

HOW TO GET TO THE SEVEN SISTERS

The train from London Victoria to Seaford Station takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you are driving, it takes around 2.5 hours. All the details about the walk are in our Seven Sisters guide.

Tour – This full-day Seven Sisters tour by train and minibus includes Long Man of Wilmington, Beachy Head and Seven Sisters Cliffs.

17 – ARUNDEL

Arundel has everything you need for a great day trip – a mighty castle, a charming market town, a pub by the river, and landscaped gardens perfect for gentle strolls.

England’s second largest castle, Arundel is a medieval fortress almost 1,000 years old. Come in April and the castle grounds are bursting with colourful tulips. 

The High Street is one of our favourites in the country with independent shops and cafes. There’s a great farmer’s market on the third Saturday of each month.

A great way to see it all is to combine the visit to the castle with a half-day hike through its landscaped gardens and then along the river Arun. You can find all the details on our best walks near London guide.

HOW TO GET TO ARUNDEL

Arundel is 1 hour 25 minutes by train from London Victoria Station, or 2 hours by car. There are 3 car parks in the town.

18 – MARGATE

Twenty years ago, Margate was another English seaside town struggling to compete with cheap flights and foreign sun. However, over the last decade, it has been undergoing a regeneration.

The small Old Town is now home to cute boutiques, quirky stores, and some good brunch spots. It’s a wonderful destination for a day trip from London.

In 2011 the Turner Contemporary art gallery opened on the seafront with exhibitions that rotate every 3 or 4 months.

The beach has always been an excellent swathe of golden sand and that hasn’t changed.

The coastal path linking Margate with Broadstairs is one of our favourite walks near London.

HOW TO GET TO MARGATE

Margate is 1 hour and 25 minutes by train from London St Pancras Station, or 2 hours and 20 minutes by car.

19 – YORK

York has many strings to its bow. Originally a Roman settlement it transformed into a walled medieval city and then a lively cultural hub. Today it’s a wonderful mix of old and new.

Ancient and medieval buildings stand next to smart restaurants and buzzing bars.

It has one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe and the 2nd largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.

The highlight is ambling along The Shambles and pottering into Harry Potter-themed stores.

There’s also a host of museums for the whole family. Experience York’s Viking invasion at the Jorvik Centre and the gruesome York Dungeon. 

HOW TO GET TO YORK

York is 2 hours by train from London Kings Cross Station thanks to the high speed rail line. It’s a 4 hour drive so it’s not really an option to take your own car for a day trip.

20 – PARIS

Paris deserves more than a day, but at 2 hours and 15 minutes on the Eurostar, it’s a feasible day trip from London.

For a great overview of the city, follow day 1 of our 3-day Paris Itinerary. This covers the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe.

This is a great way to get a taste of Paris if you’re visiting on a day trip.

OUR PARIS GUIDES

HOW TO GET TO PARIS

Paris is 2 hours 15 minutes from London St Pancras Station. Check for cheap Eurostar tickets.

MAP | DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON

All our day trips are within 2 hours 15 minutes of central London. However, many of them are much closer. This map includes them all.  

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


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