Visiting London is an exciting and captivating experience, a city full of history, literature, and fashion that’s difficult to beat.
However, much of the UK's beauty lies outside of London in the small towns, historical cities, and castles and luckily it’s easy to take a day trip from London and enter a whole different world.
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Day trips from London
Taking public transport in the UK is surprisingly easy but some practicalities will make the whole journey easier namely booking in advance.
Trains are notoriously expensive in the UK and this can be offset somewhat by booking ahead on Trainline or using the Split Ticketing site for potentially finding a deal.
You’ll also find the coach services (National Express and Megabus) particularly useful and very affordable, especially if you’re travelling to other cities.
For drivers, make use of the Park & Rides outside all major cities as it’s much cheaper for parking and you’ll avoid wasting time in the UK's often dreadful inner-city traffic.
Finally, don’t forget to bring wellies and an umbrella for the countryside and just an umbrella or raincoat in general for this notoriously wet and windy climate. Ready?
Check out some of the coolest day trips from London which will make your vacation to the UK an unforgettable adventure.
The city of Bath, just an hour and a half by train from London, is quintessential Jane Austen UK, the famous author herself used to live here and the streets are alive with references from her books.
The Jane Austen Museum is one of the must-visits here if only for the fantastic afternoon tea on offer in the attached tea rooms where you’re served by staff in period costume - the height of elegance.
This is by no means the only place to try afternoon tea in this city, brimming with independent cafes, historical pubs, and tea rooms.
The architecture is truly something special, the whole city is a picture with Bath stone the only material used to build here, the shining example of this is The Royal Crescent, a noble collection of eighteenth-century period homes with an attached museum.
If you love visiting stately homes, this is a must.
The other exciting part of visiting Bath are the bookshops, one of the best places for literature lovers to visit in the UK, apart from the many references to Austen, Dickens etc, you’ll find a book or comic shop on every street.
The award-winning Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights draws people from around the country for their famous book spas, an alternative to the traditional spa involving tea, cakes, and book chats. If real spas and history are more your style, then, of course, a visit to Roman Baths is a must.
Finally, Bath is an independent shopping haven, well known for being a hub for vintage fashion stores and second-hand shops. Most of these will be found near the famous Pulteney Bridge modelled after the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte di Rialto bridges in Italy.
A fantastic city in the heart of the UK and just an hour and a half away from London.
Bristol is one of the key hipster, liberal, and vegan culture hubs in the UK and has a lot to offer for a day trip.
From the bustling city centre offering a microcosm of the UK's best shopping and restaurants (mostly situated in the Cabot Circus shopping centre) to the hip harbourside area where you can enjoy a cocktail or stone baked pizza on the waterfront.
A must-visit in the city centre is the gorgeous St Nick’s Market, a permanent structure filled with stalls selling street-food from around the world, antiquarian books, handmade jewellery, and local artists selling their creations.
Surrounding the market are beautiful cobbled streets, tiny pubs, and cafes.
An alternative route through Bristol would be to start at the Hippodrome Theatre and make your way up Park Street towards Clifton. Park Street is a steep hill lined with independent shops, boutiques, quirky restaurants, cafes, and bookshops.
Along the way, you’ll also find famous architecture spots like Williams Building and Bristol Museum.
Once you reach the Clifton area you can enjoy a miniature version of Bath, with beautiful stone buildings, tiny pubs, and shops as well as the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel to stroll over; the views are fantastic.
Catch the bus back down to the centre and you can spend the evening seeing a West End Show at the Hippodrome, enjoying the nightlife or catching a gig at The Fleece in the evening.
For some sprawling English countryside and rolling hills that the UK is known so well for, you can’t do better than a day trip to the Cotswolds.
Surrounded by some of the UK's major historical cities, like Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford you can easily combine some countryside with a visit to the city.
Visiting the 25-mile stretch of the Cotswolds means you can visit quaint villages, historical churches, and have lunch in a local pub.
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The buildings and stone walls here are built with Cotswold stones making for iconic scenery.
A highlight of the area is taking a traditional cream tea in one of the local tea rooms then walking it off by wandering the crafts shops in the local village.
Most easily accessible by car, as buses ae scare in the area, it is possible to take the train towards Hereford and jump off at your small town of choice.
Harry Potter Studios
The Harry Potter Studios is incredibly fun, obviously if you’re a fan of the books and movies this goes without saying but even if you’re not, there’s a lot to see here and if you’re remotely interested in costume or set design then the sheer amount to see here makes it worth the trip alone.
Easily accessible using the dedicated Harry Potter studio buses in London, you’ll have no problem getting to and from the area.
More than a museum, there are lots of hands-on things to get up to like riding Hagrid’s motorcycle, boarding and getting a picture in the Hogwarts Express, drinking butterbeer in the café, wandering the Forbidden Forest, and trying out the flying simulator.
The gift shop is unreal and you can pick anything from wands in Ollivanders, to model trains, and bespoke jewellery and clothing.
Wander through Diagon Alley and live out all of your Potter dreams in this fun and family-friendly activity.
Oxford is legendary, not only for the prestigious university that lies at the heart of it but for the famous authors that have called the city home.
Under an hour on the train from London, compact and walkable, this is a particularly easy day trip to take while in the UK.
Harry Potter fans will be thrilled since not only is it the filming location for key parts of Hogwarts but you’ll find no shortage of Harry Potter themed shops in the centre, once you’re done shopping don’t forget to take the Harry Potter walking tour around the city.
The city is also well known for Tolkien, C.S Lewis, and Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy and you can visit key places around the city related to these writers and their books including their college halls.
The Ashmolean Museum, Christ Church College, the curious Pitts Rivers Museum and the infamous Bodleian Library are the must-visit places here and will leave you spell-bound by incredible architecture and with your fill of culture, history, and beauty.
Similarly, to Bath, you’ll find an abundance of afternoon tea spots here and it’s definitely something you should do while in the city.
Wandering the cobbled side streets will guide you around the many boutique shops, cosy cafes, and ancient pubs in the city and will inevitably bring you towards the Oxford Camera building.
The historical observatory and the iconic sight of the city.
Like Oxford, Cambridge is very much associated with its prestigious university that has produced 90 different novel prize winners including Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawking.
Since this is such an easy trip from London (under an hour and a half on the train) it’s also become an easy escape for tired Londoners looking for some small town respite.
Explore the 12th-century grounds of the university and enjoy the Hogwarts style vibes you’ll find everywhere, most impressive within King’s College Chapel - a medieval wonder with its fan vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows.
One of the must-tries in the city is punting along the River Cam which is an incredible way to see the historical buildings and bridges from the water.
Floating past the Bridge of Sighs (Queen Victoria’s favourite spot) and the Mathematical Bridge (an arch built from straight lines).
As you might expect for a university city, you’ll find a plethora of cute cafes and afternoon tea spots to enjoy as well as a thriving food stall culture.
Don’t forget the climb St Mary’s Tower for a beautiful bird’s eye view of the city.
The heart of alternative, hip, and environmentally-friendly culture in the UK, Brighton is just simply cool. Everything you’d find in a capital city is here and presented in a charming bohemian style.
Famous authors and singers call this their home and you’ll find no end of music, literature, and arts-based events to enjoy here.
The main attractions include Brighton Pier, opened in 1899 for some old school fairground rides and seaside fun, and The Royal Pavilion - an Asian-style palace built for King George IV now an iconic piece of architecture with gardens to explore.
Catch epic views of the city and ocean with a cocktail in hand at the British Airways i360 observatory or see a show at the Brighton dome for some unique activities in the city.
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Brighton is shopping. Under an hour from London by train, if you’re looking for some alternative UK that can easily be explored in a day then Brighton is ideal.
Seeing one of the wonders of the world and walking in the footsteps of our Neolithic ancestors makes for a pretty incredible day trip and it’s easily done all while seeing gorgeous English countryside along the way.
Getting to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stonehenge from London isn’t the quickest trip on the list - the best way to do it alone is by getting the train to Salisbury (1.5 hours) and then taking the dedicated bus service to Stonehenge (about 20 minutes).
Seeing Stonehenge is an unforgettable experience but it’s worth knowing that you can’t get close to the prehistoric stones as they’re cordoned off.
The gift shop is fantastic for some unique souvenirs but overall you’ll probably only be at the site for around an hour.
York is a beautiful city in northeast England that was founded by the ancient Romans. Taking a day trip from London to see the gorgeous cathedral, York Minster, is worth it on its own. The cathedral features medieval stained glass and two functioning bell towers.
Walk down Shambles for some local shopping and indulge in an afternoon tea. The Shambles is a very old street in York, with timber-framed buildings. Once upon a time, this street was known as the Great Flesh Shambles because the butchers in the area used to display their produce.
With many attractions in York, this city is a true gem of the North.
The weekend getaway home of the Royal Family and the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world Winsor castle makes a great day trip from London.
Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor Castle is an astounding sight and bursting with royal treasures, stately rooms, and historical castle halls to explore.
The Windsor Castle gift shop is particularly special with exclusive gifts and artwork inspired by the Royal Collection which includes China, clothes, toys, and jewellery.
They’re opening a permanent café in the original medieval Undercroft in late 2019 but if you’d like to leave for lunch and return then just pick up a re-entry permit from the front desk.
Whether you’re a fan of the royals or just a fan of incredible castles, this is a perfect day trip from London being under an hour away by train or car.
If you’re travelling with family, you could also combine this trip with a visit to nearby Legoland Windsor for hours of fun.
Just two hours by train from London, you can be in the charming city of Stratford-upon-Avon and the birthplace of William Shakespeare himself.
Visiting Stratford is like stepping in time, particularly in the city centre where Tudor buildings are the main type of architecture, it really feels like you’re living under the rule of Elizabeth I.
A fun addition to wandering the Tudor buildings is visiting Tudor World, an interactive museum which brings the 16th century to life.
For a stylish afternoon, take a stroll (or a ride) along the beautiful riverside lined with rowboats and enjoy a riverside dinner or coffee at one of the many brasseries or chic cafes.
Some of the highlights of the city include visiting Shakespeare’s childhood home which offers displays and a tour around the house.
Afterwards, take a trip to Anne Hathaway’s (Shakespeare’s wife) is an idyllic follow-up.
To carry on the Shakespeare tour, you can visit the stunning Medieval Church of the Holy Trinity and see Shakespeare’s gave and also his Schoolroom & Guildhall and his final home of New Place.
Going to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is always a must here, and if you don’t have time to see a play simply enjoy the fabulous gift shop of literary and historical souvenirs and books.
Before you go, make sure to try some homemade butterbeer using an original Tudor recipe at the Magic Alley & The Creaky Cauldron. A small town, it’s easy to enjoy Stratford in a day.
Mayfield Lavender fields (London)
A particularly excellent day trip to take in the Summer with the peak times being between June-August, this 25-acre lavender field with on-site café and shop is mesmerising.
Whether you’re here to wander and take in the scent of thousands of lavender flowers or get that perfect Instagram shot, Mayfield Lavender farm is like something out of a fairy-tale.
Just 15 miles outside of central London and an hour and a half journey, it’s a beautiful contrast to the bustling city centre.
There are several options for getting to the fields and most involve taking a train to the Croyden area then a short bus.
Cliffs of Dover
The White Cliffs of Dover and the nearby 800-year old Leeds Castle are a sight to behold.
The area is a site of outstanding natural beauty with lakes, forests, and parks all around and the cliffs themselves offer incredible views across the English channel to France.
Escaping the busy city of London to take a serene walk along this famous wartime defence is both a historical and tranquil experience leaving you with views you’ll never forget.
If you’re interested in World War II history then you can visit the Fan Bay Deep Shelter, an underground shelter and time capsule from the war.
Don’t forget to have afternoon tea at the National Trust coffee shop to enjoy those panoramic views with fresh tea or coffee and a scone.