Looking to escape the noise, smog, and stress of the city? Take a look at these 21 escapes near London that make for the perfect day trip or mini-break. From seaside towns to sleepy villages to beautiful old cities, there’s something on this list for everyone. And to make things as easy as possible, all of these London day trips are a breeze to visit by train – because who owns a car in central London?
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Some of the best day trips from London are to the beautiful castles you can find nearby. I’ve written a blogpost about 17 of the most incredible castles that you can reach from London by train, including Highclere Castle (the real life Downton Abbey!) and Hever Castle (the home of Anne Boleyn!). The guide includes everything you need to know and exactly how to get to each one using public transport from London!
Summary of London Day Trips by Train:
- 1 Hour or Less: Oxford, Cambridge, Windsor, Brighton, Winchester, Bletchley Park
- 2 Hours or Less: Margate, Whitstable, Canterbury, Bath, Dover, Lille, The Cotswolds, The New Forest, Rye, Eastbourne, Warwick, Brussels
- Over 2 Hours: Stonehenge, Stratford Upon Avon, Manchester, Paris
1 Hour or Less London Day Trips by Train
The beautiful city of Oxford makes for the perfect day trip from London. The travel time is short and the train station is located in the centre of the city, meaning you can get exploring straight away.
Best known for its university, the city is filled with plenty of picturesque colleges and quaint side streets. Consider taking a tour of one of the colleges to see what could have been (Magdalene is one of my favourites with its impressive deer park) or visit the second-largest library in the UK (the Bodleian). If you want to see the city through a local’s eyes, try a walking tour led by an Oxford graduate.
Oxford is the perfect London day trip for fans of Harry Potter. You’ll find a number of filming locations in the city. Duke Humfrey’s Library was filmed for the Hogwarts library scenes. Bodley Tower Staircases don’t move but are still pretty magical. And you’ll definitely recognise the Divinity School and New College Cloisters! Why not sign on to a Harry Potter Walking Tour?
The city is also home to some amazing museums (my personal favourite being the Pitt Rivers Museum), as well as some great shops (book lovers have to check out Blackwells!).
Distance from London by Train: 45 Minutes
The easiest way to get to Oxford is by taking the train from Paddington Station. The direct train takes 45 minutes. Alternatively, there’s a route that changes at Reading. This one takes just over an hour.
Bus Tour from London:
If you’d prefer to book onto a tour, rather than make your own way to Oxford, check out this tour.
Best Things to Do in Oxford:
- Bodleian Library
- University of Oxford Botanic Garden
- Pitt Rivers Museum
- Ashmolean Museum
- Christ Church College
- Walking Tour
Where to Eat in Oxford:
Another beautiful university city is Cambridge. Some people argue that it’s even prettier than Oxford (although I’m still not 100% convinced on that one).
I can say, however, that it’s one of the best day trips you can take from London. If you’re looking for an escape from hectic London life, then this is the place for you. It’s a small, old city that feels somehow calm, despite the throngs of students.
If you’re thinking of visiting, check out this blogpost I wrote all about Cambridge and what to do there!
One thing you can’t miss is a punting trip on the River Cam. This will take you around the backs of the colleges, giving you a sneak peak you’d otherwise miss. It’s tons of fun and the perfect way to spend a sunny day. Follow this up with a delicious Chelsea bun from the infamous Fitzbillies cafe (it’s a rite of passage!).
Distance from London by Train: 55 Minutes
The easiest way to get to Cambridge is by taking the train from King’s Cross Station. The direct train takes about 55 minutes. Alternatively, there’s a direct route from Liverpool Street that takes closer to 1.5 hours.
Bus Tour from London:
If you’d prefer to book onto a tour, rather than make your own way to Cambridge, check out this tour.
Best Things to Do in Cambridge:
- The Fitzwilliam Museum
- Cambridge University Botanic Garden
- Punting on the River Cam
- King’s College Chapel
- Walking Tour
Where to Eat in Cambridge:
Windsor is the perfect place for a day trip. It has it all: history, culture, quaint streets, and great pubs – what more could you want?
Best known for its castle, an official royal residence and the location of Harry and Meghan’s wedding, Windsor has the feel of a charming countryside getaway with all of the amenities of a major tourist spot. Obviously a visit to the castle is a must. But I’d also recommend a walk in the lovely Berkshire countryside to really shake off the Big Smoke for a day.
Windsor also made it to my 17 Best Castles Near London blogpost (which has a host of other day trip ideas!). Here you can find out all of my top tips for visiting!
Distance from London by Train: 50 Minutes
To get to Windsor, catch the train from Waterloo and change at Slough. Get off at Windsor & Eton central. This should take 45 minutes to an hour in total.
Tour From London:
If you’d prefer to take a tour to Windsor, rather than making your own way there, check out this tour.
Best Things to Windsor:
Where to Eat in Windsor:
Unlike the charming old cities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Windsor, Brighton has more of a modern, cosmopolitan feel. Hence its nickname of London-on-Sea. The colourful lanes, abundance of vintage shops, and the old-school pier arcade make a nice change from Oxford Street – as does the sound of the sea lapping against the pebble beach. But you’ll also find all of the perks of London life: great shopping, incredible restaurants, and fantastic night life.
One of the top things to do in Brighton is visit the Royal Pavilion. This Grade I listed building is a former royal residence and was built in the 19th century Indian style. Its gardens and ornate rooms are incredibly beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
If you haven’t already made a trip to Brighton, it’s time! The sea air will have even the most jaded of Londoners smiling from ear to ear.
Distance from London by Train: 1 hour
To get to Brighton by train, you have a couple of options. You can either catch a direct train from London Victoria or a direct train from London Blackfriars. The London Victoria train is slightly quicker although they both take around an hour.
Best Things to Do in Brighton:
Where to Eat in Brighton:
This beautiful little city in Hampshire is just a short train ride away from London, making it the perfect place for a day trip. Located on the River Itchen, Winchester is full of history. Its romantic streets are full of beautiful old buildings, and you’ll find a mix of fine dining and classic English pubs.
The Anglo-Saxon Cathedral is a stand-out spot in the city, with its impressive high ceilings and colourful stained glass windows. It’s also the burial ground of Jane Austen, who lived nearby. Her home is a 50 minute bus ride from central Winchester on the number 64 from The Broadway and is a must-visit for bibliophiles.
Distance from London by Train: 1 Hour
Catch a direct train from London Waterloo Station to Winchester. This should take about an hour in total.
Best Things to Do in Winchester:
- Winchester Cathedral
- Jane Austen’s House
- The Great Hall
- Winchester Science Museum and Planetarium
- Winchester’s Military Quarter
Where to Eat in Winchester:
Bletchley Park is a hugely historically significant spot. Those who have seen The Imitation Game (starring Benedict Cumberbatch) will know it was home of WW2 codebreaking. During the war, a team of specialists were based here, using new and advanced technology to decode secret German communications.
Many credit this team for the allied success in winning the war. Alan Turing is most notably known for his part in breaking the German Enigma code, although others such as Gordon Welch, Hugh Alexander, Bill Tutte, and Stuart Milner-Barry were also involved.
Much of the film, The Imitation Game, was filmed at the real Bletchley Park, so why not give it a watch before visiting! I promise it’ll make you want to find out more!
Distance from London by Train: 45 Minutes
Bletchley Park is only a few minutes walk from Bletchley train station. You can get a direct train from London Euston.
What to See:
- Code-Breaking Huts: where Enigma messages were decoded and translated
- Hut 11: housed the Turing-Welchman Bombe machines
- Museum in Block B: information about Alan Turing, the largest public collection of Enigma machines, and the Turing-Welchman Bombe machines
- The Mansion: where the codebreakers were originally based + the Library dressed as it would have looked in WW2
2 Hours or Less London Day Trips by Train
Margate is one of the most accessible seaside resorts for Londoners. Just an hour and a half from the bustle of the city is a sandy beach town with a number of great attractions to keep you busy.
Margate has a superb gallery, the Turner Contemporary, named after J. M. W. Turner, who spent much of his childhood there. The project was supported by famous artist Tracey Emin, who grew up in Margate, and showcases innovative contemporary artists.
Another unique spot is the Shell Grotto. Discovered in 1835 and a complete mystery, this 30 metre tunnel is decorated with a mosaic made of 4.6 million shells.
If you’re looking for thrills rather than culture, it’s time to check out Dreamland – a classic resort amusement park filled with coasters and dodgems.
Distance from London by Train: 1.5 Hours
You can catch a direct train to Margate from London St. Pancras International. The journey should take around 1.5 hours in total. Direct trains also run from London Victoria Station, although it takes 15 minutes longer.
Best Things to Do in Margate:
Where to Eat in Margate:
Whitstable is another seaside location that’s surprisingly close to London. A word of warning though, don’t expect to feel soft sand between your toes. Whitstable beach is a pebbled one.
What the town lacks in sand, it more than makes up for in character. The pink facade of Wheelers Oyster Bar is always a crowd pleaser, and the town is home to one of my very favourite book shops, Harbour Books. You’ll also find retro stores, antique shops, and plenty of ice cream spots.
Whitstable is particularly well-known for its oysters, so make sure to give some a try if you’re feeling brave!
Distance from London by Train: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
A few of the London stations provide a direct route to Whitstable. The quickest is London St Pancras International, which takes around 1 hour 15 minutes in total. The route from London Victoria takes closer to 1.5 hours and the train from London Charing Cross takes a bizarrely long 2.5 hours!
Best Things to Do in Whitstable:
- Try Oysters
- Walk along the pebble beach
- Whitstable Castle
Where to Eat in Whitstable:
The historic centre of Canterbury, in Kent, is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its beautiful Cathedral has made it a popular Pilgrim site for hundreds of years (ever read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales?!). Needless to say, the city is filled with unique buildings and an interesting history.
Of course, the Cathedral is a must-visit but make sure to check out some of the other tourist sites in the city. The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge sits in a beautiful Grade II listed building and acts as the central museum, library, and art gallery for Canterbury.
There’s also the Canterbury Roman Museum, which houses a variety of Roman artefacts, including a Roman pavement and the remains of a Roman courtyard house.
Distance from London by Train: 55 Minutes
The time it takes you to travel to Canterbury can vary quite dramatically. There are two different services running from London St. Pancras International. One takes just under an hour and the other takes 1.5 hours. There’s also a service running from London Victoria. This takes closer to 2 hours, so I’d recommend avoiding if possible.
Tour from London:
If you’d prefer to take a tour to Canterbury, rather than make your own way there, check out this tour.
Best Things to Do in Canterbury:
Where to Eat in Canterbury:
Bath is one of the more popular city break destinations in the UK and makes for the perfect London Day Trip. There’s plenty to see and the city itself has a markedly different atmosphere from London. Bath has a lot of history, so I’d highly recommend signing up for a walking tour to get the most out of it!
The city is best-known for its Roman Baths, which receive over 1.3 million visitors annually. Here you can learn all about the Romans and even try some of the thermal spring water for yourself.
Make sure to visit the Jane Austen Centre to take a step back into the Regency era and learn how Bath impacted Austen’s life and novels (did you know both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey are set in Bath?). Or take a stroll around the city on the lookout for Bridgerton filming locations (hint: start at the Holbourne Museum!).
Distance from London by Train: 1 hour 20 minutes
You can catch a direct train from London Paddington to Bath Spa. These leave every half hour or so.
Best Things to Do in Bath:
Where to Eat in Bath:
The port town of Dover in the South of England is best known for its iconic White Cliffs. It’s almost unbelievable that you can get to a place of such stunning natural beauty on a day trip from London but it’s true!
This is another spot I mentioned in my 17 Epic Castles Near London blogpost, as Dover has its very own castle, complete with a Roman lighthouse and a bunker escape room. It’s actually one of the oldest castles in the UK, dating back to the 12th century, and has a long and fascinating history. During World War 2, for example, tunnels were carved into the white cliffs of Dover for war planning purposes.
As you’ll want to get a glimpse of the cliffs, it’s probably best to plan this excursion for a sunny day!
Distance from London by Train: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
When it comes to visiting Dover by train, you have two options. The first is quicker but requires a change. The second takes longer but is a direct route. You can either catch a train from London St Pancras International and change at Ashford International, which will take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Or, alternatively, you can get a direct train from London Charing Cross or London Victoria, which will take you closer to 2 hours.
If you’d rather take a tour than make your own way there, check out this tour.
Best Things to Do in Dover:
Where to Eat in Dover:
Thanks to the Eurostar, when it comes to day trips from London, you don’t even have to limit yourself to the UK. Why not go on a real adventure for the day and explore some of Europe?
The closest and quickest destination to reach using the Eurostar is Lille, France. The old cobbled streets of the city don’t get nearly as much love as they deserve, as most travellers skip over it in favour of better-known destinations. This is a huge shame as Lille is a beautiful city with a quintessentially French atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to lose yourself for the day.
One of the most popular things to do in Lille is visit the beautiful Palais des Beaux Arts, one of the largest museums in France. It’s affectionately known as the Louvre of Lille due to its immense collection of impressive art. Here you can find work by Raphael, Donatello, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Monte, and Toulouse Lautrec.
Distance from London by Train: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
Catch the direct Eurostar train from St. Pancras International. I’d highly recommend booking your tickets in advance (if you can, on one of their sale days!) to get the best price!
Best Things to Do in Lille:
- Palais des Beaux Arts
- Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Cathedral
- Place Charles de Gaulle
Where to Eat in Lille:
I’ve lived just outside of the Cotswolds for most of my life and am forever recommending it to city dwellers who need an escape to the countryside. The pretty stone cottages and country pubs are the perfect place to relax and take things slow.
A lot of people think that its location in the heart of the British countryside makes it a difficult destination to visit by train but that’s not the case! In fact, I’ve written a couple of blogposts that prove you can have an amazing time in the Cotswolds without a car:
Distance from London by Train: 1.5 Hours
Catch the direct train from London Paddington Station to Moreton in Marsh. I have a complete guide to visiting The Cotswolds without a car, as well as a No Car Cotswolds Itinerary!
Best Things to Do in The Cotswolds:
Where to Eat in The Cotswolds:
The New Forest
The New Forest is a beautiful national park in the south of England. The village of Brockenhurst lies in the centre of the parkland and is easily accessible by train from London.
This quaint village with its independent cafes and shops is the perfect place from which to explore nature. There are plenty of walking trails of varying lengths, as well as lots of pubs to keep you fed and watered. This blogpost from She Walks England has some great recommendations of walks you can take from Brockenhurst, ranging from 1.5 to 17.6 miles.
Distance from London by Train: 1 Hour 40 Minutes
Catch the direct train from London Waterloo Station to Brockenhurst, a town in the heart of the New Forest National Park.
Where to Eat in The New Forest:
This chocolate box town in East Sussex always delivers on charm, and often appears on lists of ‘prettiest places in the UK’. It’s quaint cobbled streets and old architecture are certainly a departure from the high rise buildings of London.
Rye is the perfect place for a quiet getaway, where you can enjoy a walk on the beach and some delicious food. Don’t expect anything too groundbreaking or exciting. This is the kind of place that hasn’t changed in years but that’s exactly why you should visit!
Mermaid Street has to be one of the most photogenic roads in the world, so make sure to give it walk! And maybe stop off at the pub of the same name whilst you’re there.
Literature lovers will enjoy visiting Lamb House, which was once the home of Henry James and is now owned by the National Trust. The American novelist discovered Rye by chance when visiting a friend and fell in love with the place. He wrote his most famous novel, The Turn of the Screw, from his home in London whilst Lamb House was being renovated, and wrote his later works; The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors, and The Golden Bowl, from his Rye home.
Distance from London by Train: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Catch the train from London St. Pancras International Station and change at Ashford International. You should arrive at Rye within 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Best Things to Do in Rye:
Where to Eat in Rye:
Eastbourne is Brighton’s little sister. It has a similar vibe to the place with plenty of indie shops and cafes but with less crowds. The glorious Victorian Pier and Art Deco bandstand give it that classic British seaside feel. But you’ll also find an incredible contemporary art museum, as well as lots of lovely walks.
If you’re in desperate need of some sea air, then Eastbourne is a great option with its direct train service from London Victoria. It’s one of the easiest London day trips to take by train.
Distance from London by Train: 1 Hour 25 Minutes
There are two services to Eastbourne available from London Victoria. The first is direct and takes 1 hour, 25 minutes, and the second has a change at Brighton and takes 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Best Things to Do in Eastbourne:
- Eastbourne Pier
- Towner Eastbourne Contemporary Art Museum
- Eastbourne Beach
Where to Eat in Eastbourne:
Warwick is a historic town in the West Midlands, founded in the 6th century. Its crown jewel is Warwick Castle, a major tourist attraction owned by the same people behind Legoland and Alton Towers.
The medieval castle was built by William the Conquerer in 1068 and became a tourist hotspot many moons later in 1978. It’s much more interactive than a lot of similar castles in the UK. You can do all sorts, from getting lost in the Horrible Histories Maze, to visiting the castle dungeon, to watching the trebuchet (a huge medieval weapon!).
Nearby is Stratford Upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare – another great spot to visit!
Distance from London by Train: 1.5 Hours
Catch a direct train from London Marylebone to Warwick. Not that you’ll want to get off at Warwick Station not Warwick Parkway! Warwick Parkway is further out of town.
Best Things to Do in Warwick:
Where to Eat in Warwick:
Casual day trip to the capital of Belgium? Yes please! This has to be one of the coolest London day trips by train.
There’s so much to see in Brussels that a day trip might not be enough for some. If that’s the case, then by all means book a night and stay the weekend! But at only 2 hours away by train, it’s definitely doable in a day. You just might have to prioritise what you choose to see!
You might opt for the lavish Royal Palace. Or perhaps you’ll marvel at Mini Europe.
Whatever you choose, make sure to leave time for food! Belgium is particularly well known for its waffle, fries, and chocolate (the perfect diet?!).
Distance from London by Train: 2 Hours
Catch the Eurostar to Brussels from St Pancras International Station. The journey should take about 2 hours in total.
Best Things to Do in Brussels:
Where to Eat in Brussels:
Over 2 Hours London Day Trips by Train
The mysterious Stonehenge has had people puzzling over it for thousands of years. Located in Salisbury, this 5500 year old stone circle is one of the UK’s most well-known monuments.
No one quite knows exactly how the circle got there or what it was used for. All sorts of theories have cropped up over the years, from aliens to sun worship.
It’s free for National Trust and English Heritage members to visit, otherwise you’ll have to pay for your ticket. If you’re visiting a lot of different spots in the UK, it may be worth signing for a membership, as you could save money in the long run. An annual National Trust membership only costs £36 for those under 25 and £72 for those 26 and older.
It’s important to note that opening times vary throughout the year, so make sure to check the website for more details!
Distance from London by Train: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Catch the direct train from London Waterloo Station to Salisbury (1.5 hour journey time). From here you’ll need to take the Stonehenge tour bush which will take your from Salisbury to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre.
If you’d rather take a tour than make your own way to Stonehenge, check out this tour.
Stratford Upon Avon
As someone who’s spent most of their life living in Stratford Upon Avon, I have to include it on this list. As the birthplace of Shakespeare, it’s one of the top tourist destinations in the UK. And for such a small place, there’s a lot to do.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust owns 5 different properties, each one once owned by Shakespeare or his family. The houses are super interactive and fun to walk around.
You’ll also find the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), a world-renowned theatre that puts on incredible performances of Shakespeare’s plays. The theatre also holds a variety of different tours, giving you the opportunity to learn more about the behind the scenes of putting together a performance.
If you’re not much of a Shakespeare fan, don’t worry! Stratford is still a lovely place to visit. You can go rowing on the river, grab a bite to eat from one of the amazing restaurants, and visit the MAD Museum or Butterfly Farm.
Distance from London by Train: 2 hours 10 minutes
Catch the train from London Marylebone and change at Dorridge. From here get the train to Stratford Upon Avon.
Best Things to Do in Stratford Upon Avon:
- Shakespeare’s Birthplace
- Holy Trinity Church
- Stratford Butterfly Farm
- Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
- Royal Shakespeare Company
Where to Eat in Stratford Upon Avon:
Once a major industrial hub, the city of Manchester has quickly become one of the coolest destinations in the UK. Particularly popular amongst young people, it has a great artistic atmosphere with a large student population. If you want to escape London and explore a cool new city, then Manchester is the place to go.
The city is well known for its amazing bars, restaurants and nightlife. But you can also find a variety of museums in Manchester, including the Science and Industry Museum, and the National Football Museum.
If you’re looking for some serious hipster vibes, then head to the Northern Quarter, which is often labelled as Manchester’s coolest neighbourhood.
Distance from London by Train: 2 Hours 8 Minutes
Catch a direct train from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. It pays to book in advance, as you can find better deals!
Best Things to Do in Manchester:
Where to Eat in Manchester:
The final recommendation on this list is Paris. Yes, you can take a day trip to Paris from London by train. In fact, I’ve done it! And it was amazing!
Obviously you could spend a week in Paris and still not see everything but there’s definitely something exciting about going on a one day adventure there. You’ll have just enough time to fit in your preferred tourist sites. I personally got a very early train there and a late train back to make the most of my day, meaning I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Paris. I’d definitely recommend doing this to get as much time as possible in the city.
I could spend hours waxing lyrical about Paris but you’ve probably heard it all before. It truly is a magical place and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. If you haven’t visited yet, this is a great way to dip your toe in the water. If you have visited before, you’ll probably be itching to go back!
Distance from London by Train: 2 Hours 20 Minutes
Catch the Eurostar direct train to Paris from London St. Pancras International.