Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of London for a bit? We share the Best Day Trips From London so you can do just that.
London, the English capital, is a fascinating city packed with infinite possibilities. There’s no lack of attractions here and there are enough things to see and do to keep you busy. But no trip to England would be complete without exploring at least some of the beautiful towns that surround London and that are easy to reach by train, bus or car. Some are known for their historic past, others are famous as university towns and others because of their mixture of interesting attractions.
If you’re planning a trip to London soon, wouldn’t it be nice to add a couple of day trips to your itinerary? We’ve compiled this thorough list of towns for the best day trips from London so that you only have to decide which one you’ll love to visit first.
Best London day trips
One of the easiest and most popular day trips from London is the one to Cambridge, a picturesque university town. No matter what your London itinerary includes, you will find a vast contrast to the city in Cambridge. Situated on the River Cam, it is surrounded by stunningly beautiful scenery that is the perfect backdrop to the cobbled streets, parks, museums, and university buildings. Cambridge is a pedestrian-friendly city and, being only an hour from London, offers the perfect escape from the buzz of the cosmopolitan capital.
Needless to say, university colleges are a must-do. Visitors flock to King’s College, Christ’s College, Clare College, Queens College with its iconic Mathematical Bridge, Trinity College, and Corpus Christi. There are walking tours available and you’re advised to take one to learn more about their construction, history, and most famous students. The King’s College Chapel is one of the most recognizable buildings in town; it features a huge fan-vault ceiling that dates back to the early XVI century, colorful stained-glass windows, elaborate carvings, stone flowers, and hidden animals carved into the walls.
You can also enjoy a traditional punt along the River Cam, one of the best ways to enjoy the river and see the city from a different point of view. You can either try putting yourself or lay back and relax while a professional punter does the hard work, either way, this is a great way to spend a day in Cambridge with kids.
The city is also home to very interesting museums. Amongst them we can mention the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, the University Museum of Zoology (a kids’ favorite) and the Cambridge Science Centre _ which offers many workshops and activities for children. The Fitzwilliam Museum is a beautiful art gallery that is also family-friendly. Take your time to explore its different exhibition halls and discover more than half a million artifacts including Egyptian galleries and the masterpieces by Monet, Titian and Rubens.
If you’ve been to Cambridge and still haven’t had enough of traditional university towns, then you can’t miss enjoying a day trip to Oxford. Located by the river Thames, which is named Isis within the city, it’s home to the University of Oxford, one of the most prestigious in the world. There are lots of landmarks to visit as you take an Oxford walking tour.
Oxford is known as the “City of Dreaming Spires’ and features over 1500 listed buildings showcasing just about every period of English architecture after the XII century. It’s really easy to explore on foot.
If you love history, you can’t miss visiting the city’s splendid museums. The Ashmolean Museum and the Bodleian Library (one of the oldest European libraries) are must-sees and The Story Museum is a favorite amongst families. Other compelling attractions include the Radcliffe Camera, the Oxford Castle, and the Pitt Rivers Museum. The Oxford Museum of Natural History is another must-visit if you have children as it offers plenty of attractive hands-on experiences.
No visit to Oxford would be complete without visiting at least any of the 38 colleges that are part of the University of Oxford. Both Merton College and University College can trace their history back to the XIII century and they are the oldest ones of the University. Christ Church College was featured in many of the Harry Potter films. New College connects with the city’s old walls, All Souls has spectacular towers and Exeter College boasts a gorgeous Victorian chapel. Others include Worcester College and Lincoln College.
There are plenty of places to stay in Oxford and we recommend the city center for first-time visitors.
As the only UK city protected by UNESCO, Bath is one of the destinations that you can’t miss on a day trip from London. Bath is known around the world for its well-preserved remains of Roman baths and because of the plenty of things it has to offer, it also makes a great weekend trip from London too. It’s a place where you can enjoy thermal hot springs, wellness, and a spa, where you can admire the ancient architecture, and where you can follow the steps of Jane Austen. It’s a Georgian city founded by the Romans.
Start your adventure with a visit to the Roman Baths complex, which will take you through the Bath House, the Roman Temple, the museum, and the Sacred Spring. Next, stroll around the XV century Bath Abbey, a medieval church and former monastery. Lastly, visit the Royal Crescent and Pulteney Bridge, two Georgian gems in the city.
The Roman baths are the most visited attraction of the city. They are heated by natural hot springs and, even if you can’t take a dip in the waters, you can admire the gorgeous architecture from the times of the Romans.
Bath Abbey, also known as the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, is a Gothic cathedral founded in the VII century and another stellar piece of architecture in Bath’s skyline. Take your time to admire its large stained-glass windows and columns of gold stone. You can take the Bath Abbey Tower Tour to see a different side of this iconic landmark. If you climb up the 212 steps to the top, past the ringing chamber to the bell chamber, and have a chance to stand above Abbey’s vaulted ceiling and sit behind the clock face. Once on the roof, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the city.
The Royal Crescent is Bath’s most impressive piece of architecture. It’s a set of 30 crescent-shaped Georgian houses that were built in the XVIII century. They are famous for their near-perfect symmetry and Ionic columns overlooking historic architecture.
Literature lovers are invited to follow the steps of Jane Austen. A visit to Jane Austen Centre is a must-do as there you can delve into the life of this British author. There are exhibits and costumed characters that tell the story of Austen’s life during her stay here between 1801 to 1806 and the impact that this experience had on her work.
Chances are that you’ve heard about Stonehenge, a megalithic structure and prehistoric monument consisting of stones placed in a circle that fascinates scientists and ordinary people still today.
You should bear in mind that there isn’t much else to do here apart from this captivating structure so you are advised to consider visiting some other interesting attractions nearby such as Old Sarum or Salisbury Cathedral.
Located in Wiltshire, Stonehenge is probably the most famous prehistoric monument in the world. The site is 5000 years old and it is one of the most iconic attractions in England. It can be easily reached by train or car from London; there are many tours available and you’re advised to book yours in advance.
There’s still something mysterious about Stonehenge as scientists cannot agree whether it is a pagan worship site or an astronomical observation site. You can’t touch the stones to prevent them from erosion but you can stroll around them through the alleyways. It’s the most famous example of a Neolithic stone circle and it dates back to 5000 years.
Before admiring the megaliths, spending some time in the visitor centre is a great idea to learn more about the stones and the people who built them. There you can admire beautiful exhibits and more than 250 ancient artefacts and replicas of Neolithic houses so that you can have a glimpse of what life was like then.
Even though it’s not that far from London and you can reach it by car, you’re advised to book any of the tours to Stonehenge.
Exploring The Cotswolds is discovering one of the most picturesque countryside areas in England and a romantic place to visit in the UK. Proclaimed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the main characteristic of this rural landscape is the distinctive golden-colored Cotswolds stone on which the villages are built..It spans over 2038 km and several counties such as Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, and Wiltshire. It’s the second largest protected area in the UK and it stretches over 6 counties. That said, it’s impossible to explore it completely in a day but you can take a peek at the most attractive sights. It’s a great idea to rent a car so that you can explore the area at your own pace. In fact, it’s even more convenient if you can stay there over a weekend or overnight to really explore it.
The Cotswolds are the postcard-perfect image of England. It’s a stunning collection of quaint-thatch-roofed cottages and ancient stone bridges, surrounded by rolling green hills. For the quintessential Cotswolds experience, you can’t miss Castle Combe! Nicknamed “the Prettiest Village in England”, it’s a movie-set-like village that has an ancient charm with limestone cottages, floral hanging baskets, and stone-tiled roofs.
Bourton-on-the-Water, Bilbiry, Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter, Chipping-Campden and Cirencester are amongst the most beautiful areas in the Cotswolds. Other highlights include Blenheim Palace, the 1000-year-old Sudeley Castle, Berkeley Castle and the Pittville Pump Room. Other fascinating historic sites throughout the Cotswolds include the awe-inspiring Warwick Castle, built in 1068 by William the Conqueror.
If you’d like to know how the royal residence looks and the first thing you did on your arrival to London was head to Buckingham’s Palace, then a day trip to Windsor is what you’re looking for. Located in Berkshire, and around 35 km from central London, it’s one of the most attractive day trips especially if you want to learn more about the history of the English royal family. Windsor Castle is the unmissable attraction here, the longest-occupied palace in Europe that dates back to the XI century.
Wondering what to do in Windsor? Well, peeking through the gates of Windsor Castle is obviously a must-do. The palace is open to visitors daily and it’s really easy to book a tour anytime. Go through the Long Walk that leads to the castle; if you’re lucky, you may spot a deer or two. Other highlights of your visit are the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, St George’s Chapel (where Harry and Meghan got married), and the Albert Memorial Chapel. Admire the lavishly decorated rooms with paintings by Rubens, Michelangelo, Canaletto, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Rembrandt, the fine furniture, and the beautiful gardens that surround the building.
Windsor Castle is also a great family activity. A free family multimedia tour is offered and Scorch the Dragon leads an Activity Trail. If you visit the Castle on a Saturday, children get the chance to hear historic stories, step back in time into dress-up costumes and chivalric knightly armor and get creative in arts and crafts workshops.
Lego fans have another important reason to plan a road trip to Windsor: Legoland. As one of the 10 most visited theme parks in Europe, Legoland is an unmissable highlight for families. There are rides, shows and plenty of shops that will keep everybody happy and entertained.
Canterbury is an important historic English city and it’s one of the oldest ones in the UK. Depicted in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, its most famous sight is the protected Canterbury Cathedral but the city has plenty of ancient buildings that contribute to the charming atmosphere. Amongst them, we can mention the City Walls, the West Gate, the Roman Museum, and the Crooked House.
Canterbury is one of Britain’s most famous religious cities. It’s here where Thomas Becket was infamously murdered and it became a site of pilgrimage since then. In medieval times, it was connected to Rome by the Via Francigena.
Canterbury Cathedral is an absolute must-see. It’s the main religious building of the Church of England and the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the global Anglican Church. From an architectural point of view, it’s a stunning building with lots of decorative details and religious symbolism.
Other relevant religious places are the UNESCO-listed remains of St Augustine’s Abbey and St. Martin’s Church, an old Roman Shrine and the oldest still-used church in England.
Visit the remains of Canterbury Castle, take a boat ride along the River Stour and admire the collections in the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. In fact, there’s so much to see and do here that you can’t get bored!
Whether you ride a direct train to Stratford- Upon-Avon or decide to drive there, you’ll have plenty of time to explore Shakespeare’s hometown. Here you can immerse yourself in the university of England’s greatest playwright: you can visit his birthplace, his bride’s cottage, Mary Arden’s Farm (his mother’s farm), his daughter’s home, his schoolroom, or his grave. Apart from that, you can visit the Tudor World, a museum that focuses on all things Tudor, and you can admire Harvard House, the medieval home of the founder of Harvard University.
Mary Arden’s farm is a fun and friendly attraction for the family. There are many farm animals and people dressed in authentic Tudor outfits greet the children and invite them to take part in different crafts and activities including falconry and archery.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace is an absolute must-see. The half-timbered house dates back to the 1500s and has been carefully restored to reflect life in Shakespeare’s time. There are period furnishings and the glove-making workshop where William Shakespeare’s father worked and earned his living. The adjacent Shakespeare Centre is home to artifacts, documents, and different exhibits related to the renowned playwright.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is another major highlight in the city. You can explore the thatched-roofed farmhouse of the lady who would be Shakespeare’s wife and see the parlor and kitchen that are filled with the original furniture. The cottage itself is beautiful and charming and you can’t help but fall in love with it.
Finally, head to Holy Trinity Church to visit his final resting place.
Besides all these Shakespeare-related attractions, Stratford-Upon-Avon has much more to offer There’s an interesting museum called Tudor World that focuses on the XVI-century history of the UK during the Tudor reign. There are ghost tours on offer that are really great.
If you love theatre, don’t miss the chance to watch any production made by the RSC at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the banks of the River Avon.
And when you need something to eat, head to any of the cozy pubs and restaurants in town. The town is also home to the UK’s largest tropical butterfly attraction: Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly Farm. Here you can wander through exotic plants and beautiful waterfalls while hundreds of colorful butterflies fly around you.