London is one of a few truly great world cities, with more to see there than some countries have. There is also an abundance of great day trips from London, with a whole range of destinations within reach of the capital, from one of the world’s great universities to one of Europe’s most beautiful cityscapes, to the biggest castle in Europe and the most famous stone circle in the world. Here’s are the best day trips from London which you should add your list for your next visit.
If you are choosing the city of London as your base do check out the best areas to stay in London.
A Guest Post by David Angel from Delve Into Europe.
Bath is one of the most popular day trips from London, an easy hour and a half from Paddington by train. It’s one of the most beautiful and harmonious cities in Europe, largely because it has all been built out of the local golden Bath stone.
The famous Roman Baths are the obvious place to start, and the original bath is incredibly well-preserved. Next door, the 15th century Abbey is one of the most beautiful churches in England, built in a similar style to St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle and King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. On the same street, the Pump Room restaurant was the focal point of 18th century Bath society, and no visit to Bath would be complete without seeing it.
You also shouldn’t miss the other highlights of Georgian Bath – gorgeous Royal York Crescent and The Circus, two of the most beautiful streets in England.
Bristol is probably the furthest you could go from London on a day trip, two hours each way by train, but the largest city in the south-west of England is one of the most rewarding in the country to visit.
The sights are quite spread out, so you clock up the miles around the city. The Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the Avon Gorge is the best photo opportunity, and Clifton village has some wonderful Georgian architecture which stands comparison with nearby Bath.
There’s also plenty to see around the harbor and docks, including the famous steamship SS Great Britain, the At-Bristol science center and the Arnolfini art gallery.
The area of Stokes Croft, to the north of the city center, is something of a counter-cultural hotbed. It’s best known for its graffiti murals, some of which have been painted by Banksy.
The village of Avebury can be visited along with Stonehenge on some day tours from London, but if you’re traveling by public transport, there’s no chance of seeing both from London in a day. The best way of getting to Avebury is to take a train from Paddington to Swindon, then to catch a bus from there.
It’s a medieval village built within three vast stone circles in the Wiltshire countryside. The Avebury circles are part of a bigger prehistoric sacred complex, including the West Kennet Avenue of standing stones and Silbury Hill, a mysterious artificial mound nearby. Avebury is a beautiful country village with a church, thatched cottages and a museum about the discovery and restoration of the site.
Cardiff the capital city of Wales is a port city with several important historic and modern buildings. The two major landmarks in Cardiff are the historic Cardiff Castle and the Cardiff Bay. The Cardiff Castle is a medieval castle and is located in the heart of the city and is at a walkable distance from the main train station.
You can explore the Gothic mansion and its lavish rooms on a guided tour. The rooms are sumptuously decorated with paintings, sculptures and stained glasses. The castle ground is dominated by the Norman Keep, a climb up the tower offers great views of the city and the surroundings. Also must visit are the tunnels in the castle walls which served as the refuges to the people of the city during the WWII. The Cardiff Bay is the most vibrant location in the city of Cardiff. The major point of interest here is the Millennium Center which has theaters, cafes, shops, and restaurants. The center hosts several performances and concerts. There are numerous restaurants around the bay with outdoor seating offering amazing views of the bay. The Cardiff Bay is about 30 minutes bus ride from the city center.
Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric sights in the world, a stone circle on Salisbury Plain around two hours to the south-west of London. The site has been completely remodeled in recent years, the road that ran past the monument is now grassed over, and you now enter via a visitor center 2km from the stones. The whole visitor experience has been transformed so much that, if you’ve been before, it’s well worth revisiting.
It makes sense to tie a trip to Stonehenge in with the nearby cathedral city of Salisbury, the nearest train station.
The 13th-century Salisbury Cathedral is a magnificent Anglican cathedral in Salisbury City in Wiltshire county. The cathedral with an exemplary English Gothic architecture has the tallest church spire in the whole of the UK. Climb up the tower of Salisbury Cathedral for a breathtaking panorama of the city of Salisbury. At a walkable distance from the Salisbury Cathedral is the Salisbury Museum. The museum housed in the 13th-century King’s House displays artifacts on Stonehenge and archaeology of the region. A couple of km from the cathedral is the Old Sarum, the location of the earliest settlement of the city of Salisbury and the Salisbury Cathedral.
London to Salisbury trains takes around 1.5 hours with a very good frequency from several stations. Alternatively, there are buses running from London to Salisbury which tales around 3 hours. Salisbury is about an hour from Bath and around 1.5 hours from Bristol which makes it a popular day trip combined with other popular cities in England.
The world will be watching on 19th May when St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle hosts the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but Windsor has long been accustomed to the spotlight, as the weekend retreat for Queen Elizabeth II.
Amazingly, Windsor Castle has been continuously inhabited since the 12th century, and the current Queen has stayed there regularly since ascending the throne.
The Castle is vast, one of the most impressive in the world. The Upper Ward is more of a palace and includes the opulent State Apartments. The highlight of the Lower Ward is the stunning St George’s Chapel, which is built in the late Gothic English Perpendicular style.
Windsor is one of the easiest day trips from London, only an hour by train from the heart of the city.
Canterbury is a charming cathedral city an hour and a half train ride from London. The major Canterbury attraction is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Canterbury Cathedral dating back to the 6th-century featuring Gothic and Romanesque architectural elements. Do not miss a visit to the underground crypt, Great Cloister, Chapter House, and the gardens.
It became a popular pilgrimage destination after its bishop, Thomas Becket, was murdered in the cathedral and made a saint a few years later. The pilgrims’ journey inspired Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, one of the most important works in medieval English literature.
The city is a medieval charm with ancient city walls built during the Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century, cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses. Another important landmark in Canterbury is the Westgate Towers one of the remaining gates of the city wall. It is located on the edge of the canal bedecked with flower bed. There is a museum on history inside the tower and climb up the tower offers incredible views of the city.
The two prominent museums in the city are the Canterbury Roman Museum and the Canterbury Heritage Museum. While the Roman museum displays mosaic panels dating from around 300 AD, excavated household items, tiles, and other archaeological findings the Heritage Museum housed in a 12th-century Poor Priests’ Hospital display exhibits from pre-Roman to the present is great to learn about the history of the city. The other sights nearby – St Augustine’s Abbey, St Martin’s Church and the Castle – make for a fascinating day trip from London.
Dover is a beautiful coastal town in the county of Kent little more than a hours train ride from London and about 40 minutes from Canterbury. The major landmark of the town is the medieval Dover Castle which sits on a hill overlooking the town and gorgeous coastline. The 11th-century Dover Castle is the largest castle in England. You can take a tour of the Great Tower of the medieval castle and explore its opulent interior decorated with lavish furnishings. Also, visit the Roman Pharos and the Anglo-Saxon church of St Mary. One of the important points of interest at the castle is medieval tunnels built in the 13th-century. The tour of the Wartime Tunnels lasts for 45 minutes and walks you through the history and information on how it served as a shelter during the WW II.
However, the major lure for the tourists and travelers to the town are the White Cliffs of Dover overlooking the English Channel. You can take a walk along the edge of the cliff for stunning views of the sea. The South Foreland Lighthouse is one of the few surviving Victorian lighthouses and sits on the cliffs.
Brighton is one of the easiest and best day trips from London, only an hour away by train from London Victoria on the south coast of England. Brighton grew as a health resort in the 18th century, quickly becoming fashionable. It’s now one of the most progressive cities in the UK, with the biggest gay scene in the country.
Many of Brighton’s sights are close to the seafront, including the beach and two Piers – the one is full of traditional British seaside attractions like fish and chip shops and amusement arcades.
The Royal Pavilion, just back from the seafront, is stunning, resembling an Indian palace with its domes and minarets.
The history buffs who have heard of the famous ‘Battle of Hastings’ of 1066 will not want to miss a visit to the town of Hastings. Hastings is a couple of hours train ride from London. Though the war actually took place a few miles away in the town of Battle the famous battle still gets its name from Hastings Town. Start with the Hastings Castle located on West Hill which is mostly in ruins but one can learn more about the fascinating history of the castle and the battle through an audio-visual program.
Climb down into the Old Town which has some of the remarkable buildings from the early 18th century and half-timbered houses. The Old Town is set along the popular shingle beach called the ‘Stade’. The beach is dotted with several traditional wooden cabins used by fishermen to store their nets. If this has piqued your interest do not miss a visit to the Hastings Fishermen’s Museum housed in a 19th-century chapel. Next to the museum is the funicular station to Hastings Country Park on the East Hill. The summit offers wonderful vistas of the Old Town and the beach.
Club your visit to Hastings with a visit to Battle and Rye. The Battle is the town where the famous ‘Battle of Hastings’ actually took place. There is a Benedictine abbey dating from 1094 built on the site of the battle with a visitor center hosting film and exhibition about the battle. Rye is one of the beautiful well-preserved towns in England.
Cambridge is, along with Oxford, one of the two elite universities in the UK, and the historic university colleges are the main attraction. The star is undoubtedly King’s College, with its soaring fan-vaulted ceiling it’s one of the most beautiful late Gothic churches in the UK. If you’re visiting during term time it’s also well worth attending a choral evensong service to hear the world-famous choir.
Some of the most interesting historic colleges are very close to each other, including St John’s, Trinity, Gonville & Caius and King’s. The river Cam flows behind these, and a favorite local pastime is punting – taking a boat ride – on the river, enjoying the view of the colleges.
Direct trains to Cambridge run several times an hour from Liverpool Street station.
London to Paris
London to Paris is a popular day trip with little over 2 hours train ride on the Eurostar train. Paris has a lot to offer to visitors with museums, cafes, historic monuments and of course the Iron Lady. You will need at least a couple of days to explore the key Paris attractions. If you are planning a quick visit to Paris on a day trip from London we suggest you book a Hop Off Hop On bus tour. You will save time looking for directions and changing metros or buses.
Major sights you should not miss are Arc de Triomphe, Pont Alexandre III, and Notre Dame De Paris. End your day with a visit to the iconic Eiffel Tower and climb up to the summit for a remarkable view of the city and the Seine River.
We suggest you book the tickets online to the Eiffel Tower summit and save time standing in the queue. Later take a cruise on the Seine. We visited Eiffel in the evening so that we could stay back to behold the sparkling tower after dusk. And we took the last cruise so that we could enjoy the city of Paris and its attractions illuminated in golden lights.
Birmingham known as England’s second city offers its visitors with attractions rich in history, culture, architecture and a wonderful nightlife. Most of the buildings in Birmingham date from the middle ages and from the Georgian era. London to Birmingham is only 90 minutes train ride away which makes it one of the easy days trips from London.
There are plenty of museums with an outstanding art collection – Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which includes paintings and the Pre-Raphaelite art collection is something not to miss for the art lovers. The Library of Birmingham with a fascinating architecture is one of the largest libraries in Europe and holds a wonderful collection of books spanning 3 floors. One of the iconic landmarks in the city is the Selfridges Building which is part of the Bullring Shopping Centre.
Birmingham has an amazing network of canals lined with cafes, bars, and restaurants. You can even hop onto one of the boats for a leisurely ride taking in the pleasant views and interesting architectural buildings around.
Cadbury World where you can take a tour of the exhibits on chocolate-making and Cadbury history and the National Sea Life Centre an aquarium with a wonderful display of marine life are two major things to do in Birmingham with kids.
The city of Oxford is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Oxford. Oxford is only an hour away from London and well-connected buses and trains make it one of the popular day trips from London. The University of Oxford is made up of 38 colleges spread throughout the city center. If you are in short of time or if you are visiting for the first time the best would be to take a guided tour which walks you through the important sights and colleges with loads of information.
The major tourist attractions in Oxford are the Bodleian Library, Radcliff Camera, Carfax Tower, Oxford Castle, University Church of St Mary the Virgin and 12th-century Christ Church Cathedral which also serves as the College chapel. The climb up the Carfax Tower and the University Church of St Mary the Virgin offers great views of the city. Oxford Castle is steeped in history and a tour of the castle is recommended for the history buffs.
If you looking to indulge in a shopping spree then head to the historic Covered Market which has a wide range of shops. Wander the streets and lanes lined with historic buildings and marvel at its remarkable architecture. You will find numerous landmarks in the city of Oxford which have been locations for the shooting of scenes from Inspector Morse and Harry Potter. Oxford is also home to numerous museums and galleries, museum lovers do not miss a visit to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ashmolean Museum.
Cotswold is a charming scenic region of England only a couple of hours train ride from the hustle bustle of London. Wandering through the winding alleys of Cotswold, the quaint cottages overflowing with bright colorful flowers surrounded by the lush rolling hills is like stepping into a time warp. The region comprises of several picturesque villages and you will need at least a couple of days to explore the best of the region.
Lacock and Castle Combe are popular for the pretty cottages dating from 14th-century. Painswick and Broadway have some interesting historic buildings and monuments and Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury which lures visitors with its canals and numerous small footbridges spanning the canals and the limestone cottages. There are several cafes, pubs, and restaurants and even antique stores tucked into these pretty stone cottages if you are looking for some unique shopping experience.
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