Taking day trips from London is an amazing way to see unique sites without straying too far outside of the city. London is an incredible place to visit, but several other exciting destinations are only a short train journey away.
Whether you’re after a beach holiday, a bit of history, or some royal architecture like Windsor Castle, there are plenty of day trips from London that will provide a great cultural experience.
As a London local, I’m here to help you plan your day trip and have created a list of the best day trips from central London that are easily accessible. And while you’re here, bookmark my guide to where to stay in London.
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21 Best London Day Trips
🗺️ Distance from London: 50 minutes to 1.5-hour train ride from Liverpool St. Station or Kings Cross St. Pancras Station | 📍 Google Maps | Cambridge Website | 👉 Book a Cambridge University Tour led by Alumni
Cambridge is an incredible city filled with history and green spaces. It’s home to one of the world’s most famous and prestigious universities, Cambridge University, and offers a wide range of attractions, all within a very picturesque setting.
Punting is a great activity to do on a sunny day, whether you’d like to attempt the trade yourself or prefer to sit back while someone transports you along the river. The punters are normally well-versed in their knowledge about the city, so you’ll leave with a couple of exciting facts to share with family and friends.
While exploring Cambridge University, make sure you visit King’s College Chapel, the most iconic and recognizable building in Cambridge.
🥐 Local Tip – Make sure you stop by Market Hill for lunch in Cambridge, as you will not be disappointed with the diverse range of street food offerings.
One of the UK’s most sought-after beach destinations, the seaside town of Margate is one of the very best day trips from London. Located on the coast of Kent, Margate offers a little bit of everything from sandy beaches to top-notch fish and chips and modern art.
While you’re in town, be sure to check out the Turner Contemporary, a world-renowned art gallery that boasts both modern and historic art. If you’re interested in attending, be sure to book in advance to guarantee your time slot. Margate also has a thriving theatre scene, sure to give you your fill of arts and culture.
If you decided to take this day trip for more of an outdoorsy adventure, there is plenty to see with a few ideas including cycling the coast, walking the Isle of Thanet, or taking part in beach yoga.
🏖️ Fun Fact – This is one of the only spots in the UK where you’ll find a sandy beach instead of a rocky beach.
An iconic landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stonehenge is one of the best historical day trips from London. The outstanding natural beauty held by this unique prehistoric monument is just a short drive from Salisbury train station.
While you’re out on this day trip, it’s worth taking part in the Stone Circle Experience, where you can get up close and personal with the monument and learn more about it from an expert guide. This experience takes place outside of normal visiting hours to ensure you get to capture the true beauty of Stonehenge without being surrounded by several other tourists.
👉 Did You Know? This UNESCO world heritage site attracts over a million visitors per year.
Bristol is another UK city that makes for a great day trip from London. Known for its alfresco dining and growing list of award-winning eateries, Bristol competes with even the best London restaurants. You won’t struggle to find a bite that appeals to your tastebuds. There are several Michelin-starred restaurants in the city.
A great way to see the city is by taking part in a Bristol walking tour, where you can hit all of the main sites during your day trip. The view of Clifton Suspension Bridge is a sight worth seeing, especially from the nearby hills. There are also several boat trips you can take around Bristol if you prefer to tour the city by water.
👉 Local Tip – If you’re a cider fan, be sure to stop by ‘The Apple’, a lovely cider pub on a moored boat that serves a variety of unique local craft ciders.
Being the UK’s most well-known beach town, it would almost be a crime not to consider Brighton when looking into day trips from London. Beyond the infamous Brighton Palace Pier and pebbly shores, Brighton is known as a positive and inclusive city with plenty of activities and events taking place regularly.
If you’re in search of some fresh sea air during your day trip, look no further than this cute spot. The city center offers several boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes and will guarantee an enjoyable day or weekend.
Brighton is also home to a wealth of arts and culture, and if you visit on a day trip from London in early August, be sure to participate in the Pride celebrations. They are world-renowned!
When you picture a cozy cottage nestled in the heart of the English countryside, I can almost guarantee you are thinking of the Cotswolds. After having visited in 2021, I can confirm that the Cotswolds were exactly how I had imagined. This area is one of my favorite day trips from London because it provides a completely different atmosphere, despite only being a 2-hour drive away.
If you have a keen interest in the Tudor era, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is a must-see attraction. It’ll give you insight into the place where William Shakespeare’s wife grew up, which was built over 500 years ago.
Located in Stratford-upon-Avon, you can go at your own pace as you wander through the breathtaking cottage gardens and orchards, where you’ll find a sculpture trail inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.
Of all the coastal day trips from London, Southwold is special in the sense that it almost classifies as an island. Although it may seem like a bit more of a trek surpassing the 2-hour journey mark, I can assure you it is worth the drive.
The charming town offers many coastal delights including brightly colored beach huts, a llighthouse, an award-winning pier, a harbor, a cliff-top canon, and the glorious beach. With its seaside flair, it naturally offers some of the best fish and chips in the whole of the UK.
Plus, Halesworth Golf Club is a lush course less than a 20-minute drive away. More on the arts and culture side of things, check out The Cut Arts Centre to partake in some music, drama, and films.
The enchanting town of Windsor on the River Thames is home to the British Royal Family. If you love history or are a royal knowledge buff, then you will certainly want to add Windsor to your list of day trips from London.
Situated in Southeast England, Windsor Castle is home to 1000 years of royal history and is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the entire world. There is so much to see at Windsor Castle alone, from the changing of the guard to the moat room, St George’s Chapel, the state apartments, and much more.
You can purchase tickets in advance from the Royal College Trust website, and they even offer a family discount. Windsor Castle is a landmark worth visiting to learn a thing or two about British history.
The largest city in all of Somerset, England, Bath is named after its key attraction: the Roman Baths. The city itself is gorgeous and is one of the top day trips from London, with many activities on offer.
Visiting the Roman Baths is a must, as these are an icon within the city. There is also an incredible rooftop spa that includes both hot and cold pools and provides the best view of the historic city from above. After you’re finished at the spa, head into town for afternoon tea to make the most out of the day.
A bohemian seaside town filled with fresh local seafood, beer gardens, a stony beach, shops, and galleries, Whitstable is one of the best summertime day trips from London. Whitstable West Beach is dog friendly, making this day trip pooch-approved, or check out Tankerton Beach if you’d like to try your hand at windsurfing.
In this charming coastal town filled with many fun attractions, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye. For some of the freshest seafood in town, be sure to stop by the Lobster Shack for a meal and a pint.
👉 Related Reading: 11 Best Travel Backpacks for Europe, 2022 (Tested & Ranked)
A known academic rival of Cambridge, Oxford is another of the best day trips from London. Within the medieval city, the prestigious Oxford University is comprised of 38 colleges filled to the brim with history, culture, and architecture. Church College is one of the most picturesque and notable university buildings worth checking out.
Although it’s a university town, there are many other attractions you can explore while you visit Oxford. These include the Oxford Botanic Garden, Arboretum, Museum of the History of Science, Oxford high street, Harry Potter films location tour, and so much more.
If you’d like to wander off the beaten path into the countryside, I would highly recommend visiting Blenheim Palace, the only non-royal Palace in England, which is just a short drive from the city.
Seven Sisters, Eastbourne
If you’re looking to escape London and bask in nature, the Seven Sisters Cliffs walk in Eastbourne is a great option for a day trip from London. The Seven Sisters Cliffs are a beautiful coastal walk characterized by chalk cliffs along the sea.
This area has something for everyone and if you’re looking for a more simple walk and a picnic with family, you’ll want to check out the family coastal walk for views of the Seven Sisters and the lighthouse. If you’re up for more of a challenge (and workout), you can brave the Cliff Top Walk from Birling Gap to take in the breathtaking cliff top views.
👉 Local Tip: The Seven Sisters Cliffs walk is 14 miles long. It is recommended to have plenty of water, snacks, and drinks to enjoy along the way.
Another well-known university town, Bournemouth is very popular amongst young adults year-round but is especially known for its summertime attractions. As far as beachy day trips from London go, look no further than Bournemouth beach.
A great thing about this picturesque town is the fact that it appeals to so many different people. It’s a great spot to bring kids on a sunny day to play on the beach, visit the pier, and partake in the funfair. You can take surf lessons, relax with a cold one on a boat, or visit one of the many museums and galleries the town has to offer.
Paris is one of the most iconic cities in the world and its beauty speaks for itself. In my opinion, the croissants and flaky pastries alone are a good enough excuse to make the day trip from London.
Some of the city’s highlights include the infamous Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre. The activities are endless in this romantic and beautiful city, making it a great day trip or a weekend getaway with a group of friends or a partner.
Beyond the amazing attractions, Paris has an incredible food and drink scene that is unique to each neighborhood. Check out Le Cafe Du Commerce for a traditional Parisian meal in an architecturally and aesthetically pleasing setting.
Known for its culture and Flemish roots, Lille is a vibrant, yet underrated, city in northern France near Belgium. Similar to Paris, it is super accessible by train from London. You will be amazed by the character that the historic center brings with its cobblestone streets and large central square.
Vieux Lille is known as the ‘old town’ of the city, paved with history and heritage. As you wander cobblestone streets, take in the baroque architecture and stop at one of the unique local shops, trendy cocktail bars, or terraced restaurants in the area.
If you’re looking for the best view, head over to the Town Hall (Belfry), the exemplary bell tower and one of Lille’s UNESCO world heritage sites, to get a panoramic glimpse of the city.
👉 Related Reading: Backpacking Europe: The Ultimate Guide
Hampton Court Palace
Located in Richmond upon Thames, listed as a Grade I Royal Palace, and the once-home of Henry the VIII, the heritage of Hampton Court Palace is extensive. Steeped in Tudor history and less than an hour away from London by train, Hampton Court Palace is definitely a place you want to add to your UK travel list.
Greeted by a wealth of lush greenery and beautiful gardens upon entrance, it’s worth taking a second to admire the beauty of the palace before entering. Your ticket will include access to the great hall, magic garden, Hampton court gardens, Henry VIII’s kitchens, great watching chamber, and so much more.
There is so much to explore at the palace that you like won’t be able to tackle everything in one day, so planning is recommended.
🌳 Fun Fact: If you’re a fan of Bridgerton, you’ll be excited to know that several scenes were shot at Hampton Court Palace.
Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour
🗺️ Distance from London: 1 hour by train from London Euston | 📍 Google Maps | Warner Bros Studio Tour Website | 👉 Check out this Top Rated Harry Potter Tour of Warner Bros. Studio
A day trip from London for die-hard Harry Potter fans, the Warner Bros. Harry Potter studio tour is a deep dive into the films. Located in the town of Leavesden where several Harry Potter filming locations exist, you’ll have the pleasure of stepping onto some of the most famous sets in film history.
With the likes of the Forbidden Forest, Platform 9 ¾, and Diagon Alley, all of your wizarding dreams will come true as you walk in the footsteps of Harry Potter. With your ticket, you’ll have the opportunity to have an insider look into original costumes, sets, props, and special effects.
Following your tour, there are several dining locations within the premises where you can try the infamous butter beer along with other tasty delights. And if you’re wondering what hotel you should stay it for easy access, check out my where to Stay in London guide!
In existence since 857, the majestic Leeds Castle stands proudly on islands in a lake. The castle has seen many purposes over the years, including as the private property of six medieval queens, a Tudor palace, a Jacobean country house, and more.
There is plenty to see at Leeds Castle and you can certainly make a day out of your visit. Touring the castle is a must, but the gardens that exist on over 500 acres surrounding it are also worth a stroll.
There is also plenty of wildlife surrounding the castle for animal lovers, making this a great spot to head to with the family.
🗺️ Distance from London: 2 hours by car | 📍 Google Maps | York Website | 👉 Book this Ouse River Sightseeing Cruise for a relaxing tour around the city
Located between London and Edinburgh, York is a walled city in England that was founded by the Romans. One of the most iconic buildings in the city is York Minster, a large 13th-century cathedral with two bell towers decorated with medieval stained glass.
This cute city is steeped in Viking history and offers adventures that cater to everyone. Including 30 world-class museums, an incredible race course (that is arguably the best in England), and a wide variety of indie shops and restaurants.
For the sweet-tooths out there, York has a heritage in chocolate and confectionery and is the home to the famous confectioner of the chocolate orange, Terry’s. Follow the York Chocolate Trail to taste test each of the city’s finest cocoa offerings.
👉 Local Tip: The train journey to York is a bit longer so it is recommended to do this day trip by car. Check out Discover Cars to book your rental in advance.
If you’re looking to have a wholesome family day trip from London, then look no further than Norwich, Norfolk. Known as the ‘city of stories’, Norwich has it all when it comes to attractions, including the historic city center, castles, an array of great shops and restaurants, and the peaceful River Yare.
Cruise along the river on a boat tour and take in the colorful picturesque buildings that line the water for a peaceful afternoon adventure. If you’re interested in seeing one of the most popular parts of the city, then head to the Norwich Lanes, a collection of small alleyways and stone streets filled with independent restaurants, boutiques, galleries, churches, and more.
Near the East Sussex coast, just two miles from the sea, Rye is a very small and quintessentially English town that is characterized by cobbled lanes of medieval houses. Nearby the town is the Camber Sands, a beach featuring the only dunes in East Sussex. There’s a trail that connects the town with the beach that’s accessible year-round.
While here, explore the adorable Mermaid Street and enjoy the local food and drink scene. Take the time to stop by Rye Castle’s Ypres Tower or climb the bell tower at St Mary’s Church to get a great view of the town.
Thanks for reading my picks on the best day trips from London. Happy exploring!
(Cover image: Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock)