London is one of the great cities of the world—you could easily spend all of your time here and still be hungry for more. But if you fancy a taste of lush English countryside or some breezy seaside, London is also ideally located for a day trip. An hour or two in a car or train will take you to charming seaside towns, historic castles, world-class university towns, heritage monuments, and thatched cottages on picture perfect cobbled streets.
To car or not to car
In central London, having a car is more of a hindrance than a help—it’s hectic, parking is expensive, and there are congestion charges at play in the city core. Save yourself the trouble and use public transport, supplementing with taxis.
If you want to get out of London and head deeper into the English countryside, there are places where a car is a must. (Drive times listed here are approximate—it largely depends on the time of day that you’re on the road.) But equally, there’s no shortage of great destinations reachable by rail; trains out of the capital are frequent and efficient. London has about a dozen rail terminuses (all connected to the Tube network) that serve the surrounding areas, and your destination will mostly determine which one you’ll need. To plot your route, use a service like The Trainline. Buying train tickets weeks (or months) in advance leads to greater savings; train prices below are for a same-day, roundtrip ticket booked the day before. Bear in mind, the very best savings can be made by traveling by coach—that’s British for long-distance bus—at the cost of a longer journey.
Best day trips from London
Hitchin: 30 minutes by train
The lush lavender fields of Hitchin are worth the trip out of London all by themselves—the purple flowers stretch out in every direction, and you can wander through them to your heart’s content, picking as much as you can carry. In addition to about 20 acres of fragrant lavender, Hitchin Lavender Farm also has a sunflower patch and a wildflower field, as well as some lovely walking routes around the area. The town of Hitchin is also worth a few hours of your time, with its pretty cobbled streets and frequent market days. Check ahead to see whether it’s a day for the farmer’s market, the car boot sale, or the antiques market.
How to get to Hitchin from London
Hitchin is about a 90-minute drive from London. Trains to Hitchin are 30 minutes long (£23 roundtrip) from London’s St. Pancras Station. Hitchin Lavender Farm is open during flowering season, which runs from mid-May to mid-August. It’s best to buy your tickets in advance. To get to the lavender field from the Hitchin station, you’ll have to take a 15-minute ride by taxi or local bus, both of which leave from outside the train station.
Oxford: 1 hour by train
The “city of dreaming spires”—as penned by Victorian poet Matthew Arnold—is only an hour away from London. Oxford is the place to go for stunning architecture of bridges, squares and gardens, endless romantic strolls, and world-class educational buildings. The view from the tower of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin is the best in the city—definitely worth the £5 entrance fee. Into Harry Potter? You’ll enjoy a tour of the buildings featured in the films. You can also go punting—this quintessential Oxford habit is a lovely way to see the city by cruising down the river in a flat-bottom boat, using a long stick to propel yourself. Or maybe just hire a punt with a pro to do the work while you relax, take in the scenery, and tuck into a picnic as the world floats by.
How to get to Oxford from London
The drive from London to Oxford is about 90 minutes. Direct trains to Oxford depart from London’s Marylebone Station and take just over an hour (£32 roundtrip).
Cambridge: 1 hour by train
Historic streets, picturesque university buildings, and charming bridges, Cambridge is the quintessential English academia town. Watch out for bicycles, as there seems to be a million of them! Head up the steps to Great St. Mary’s Church for a view of the town that can’t be beat—except for maybe the sight that awaits you inside King’s College Chapel (this is the largest fan vaulted ceiling in the world). Cambridge is another town where punting on the river is a proud pastime; wintertime tours even come with blankets so you can stay warm and cozy.
How to get to Cambridge from London
Trains to Cambridge leave from King’s Cross Station in London (one-hour ride) or Liverpool Street Station (90-minute ride) for around £30 roundtrip. The drive from London to Cambridge takes about two hours.
Rye, Camber Sands, and Dungeness: 1 hour 10 minutes by train
If you’re after that picture-perfect English country lane with cobblestones and timber-framed houses, Rye will certainly deliver. This quaint town’s Mermaid Street is famously pretty—The Telegraph calls it “storybook lovely”. Rye is full of tea rooms, artisan bakeries, and cute shops, just ten minutes inland from Camber Sands, a popular beach with picturesque sand dunes.
If you make it to Rye, don’t ignore Dungeness, a truly unique and somewhat dystopian landscape of shingle beaches and crumbling shacks, perfect for a long walk. Make sure to pop into the Snack Shack for a lobster roll.
How to get to Rye, Camber Sands, and Dungeness from London
Rye is about a two-hour drive from London. From Rye, it’s a 10-minute drive to Camber Sands or 30-minute drive to Dungeness. You can also get to Rye via train, which takes 70 minutes from London’s St. Pancras Station with a change at Ashford (£42 roundtrip). While Rye itself is easy to see on foot, Camber Sands and Dungeness are trickier to get to without a car, although local buses serve the areas intermittently.
Bath: 1 hour 20 minutes by train
The city of Bath has a golden hue, courtesy of the stone used to build it, and it has swoony Georgian architecture and engaging history to boot. Bath is home to natural hot springs; you can visit the 2,000-year-old Temple of Sulis Minerva at the Roman Baths museum (from £23.50). For the modern spa experience, head to Thermae Bath Spa, which uses the same water as the old Roman baths for its heated swimming pool and wellness treatments such as massages and hot-stone therapy. Literature lovers may already know Bath as the home of Jane Austen, lauded author and now the face of the UK’s £10 notes. Visit the Jane Austen Centre (£15 entry) for an interactive insight into her life; in September, the Jane Austen Festival is a highlight here.
How to get to Bath from London
Bath is about a 2.5-hour drive from London. You can also take the train to Bath Spa Station from London’s Paddington Station; the trip takes about 80 minutes (£70 roundtrip).
Margate: 1 hour 30 minutes by train
The loveliest skies in all of Europe, said British landscape painter JMW Turner, are found in Margate. Take a walk across the wide crescent-shaped beach, where the sea and the sky seemingly fade into one, and you’ll see why. This Kent seaside town has had a renaissance in recent years as the choice for young Londoners looking to relocate to the sea. Look out for creative arts exhibits at the Pie Factory or The Margate School, and make sure to drop by Turner Contemporary—this gallery is the driving force for Margate’s creative revival and is known for hosting innovative exhibitions. If you’re an open-water swimmer, make a beeline for Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, a large Victorian sea pool available at low tide. In the evenings, the Dreamland amusement park is where it’s at, with rides and entertainment including roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, dance classes, 18+ festivals, and major musicians (think Bastille and Will Young).
How to get to Margate from London
Margate is 90 minutes from London’s St. Pancras Station by train or slightly more than 90 minutes from Victoria Station (£32 roundtrip). The drive from London to Margate is around two hours.
Avebury: 1 hour 30 minutes by train and bus
Stonehenge draws the crowds, but Avebury is the insider pick—it’s the quirky little sister to the great Henge. Avebury is part of the Stonehenge UNESCO World Heritage Site, and if you’re driving, you can easily see both in a day (they’re a 40-minute drive apart). But unlike the more famous stone circle, Avebury is unfenced and you can get up close and personal with the stones without charge. The town of Avebury was actually built around (and sometimes inside) the curious monument, originally composed of 100 stones, making this a free and easy place to get a feel for history.
How to get to Avebury from London
Avebury is about a two-hour drive from London, and the local carpark has a small fee. To get there by train, travel from London’s Paddington Station to Swindon (one hour, £40 roundtrip), and transfer to a local bus for a 30-minute ride.
The New Forest: 1 hour 50 minutes by train
It’s called the New Forest, but the villages within this national park are historic and the woodlands are literally ancient. Less than two hours outside of London, this forest begs to be explored with a hike, which will reward you with heather fields or autumn leaves depending on the time of year. There’s also a cornucopia of animals, including cattle, acorn-eating pigs, and free roaming New Forest ponies, which are unique to the area. Make dinner reservations at a local pub to cap off your ideal woodland day out—The Crown Stirrup in Lyndhurst cooks with locally sourced ingredients, and the Royal Oak in Fritham is a local favorite with a thatched roof.
How to get to the New Forest from London
Trains from London to the New Forest take about one hour and 50 minutes. There are lots of hiking opportunities—one option is to make it a loop starting and ending at Brockenhurst Station (get there from London’s Waterloo Station for £60 roundtrip). Driving from London to the New Forest takes about two hours. Remember: Animals have the right of way in the New Forest.
Seven Sisters: 2 hours by car
The walking paths along the entire south coast of England are spectacular—but few are more spectacular than where the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs cut a striking figure in the landscape. Located on the coast between fun-time Brighton and old-time Eastbourne, the Seven Sisters are a dramatic sight. Pristine white cliffs contrast the rolling green before dropping straight into the sea—it’s simply a sight to be seen. Be mindful that while there are country pubs around, this is a rural area and food options can be scarce so plan ahead, and consider bringing snacks.
How to get to Seven Sisters from London
Seven Sisters is about a two-hour drive from London. You can pay a small fee to park just a few minutes from the cliffs, or you can make the most of your day trip and the stunning scenery and plan a hike around it (short or long depending on your appetite).
Seven Sisters is a little trickier to reach without a car, but you can get the train from London's Victoria Station to Eastbourne (80 minutes, £30 roundtrip) and take a bus from there. Or you can start your hike from Eastbourne and walk along the coastline to the cliffs, which is about a two-hour hike each way (about 10.5 miles total). On the walk back to Eastbourne, stop by the Beachy Head pub for a well-earned British country pub dinner.
Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick Castle: 2 hours by train
Welcome to Shakespeare’s home turf. Stratford-upon-Avon is the place to get up close and personal with the Bard by visiting his birthplace, his family home, and Anne Hathaway Cottage, the house where his wife grew up. You can purchase tickets to visit all three properties for £25.
Swing by the historic market town of Warwick, just 15 minutes away by car; there’s also a direct train that takes 30 minutes (£7 roundtrip). Medieval Warwick Castle is the star of the show, with dungeons, turrets, and all the ingredients for a Middle Age time warp.
How to get to Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick from London
Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick are about a two-hour drive from London. To get there by train, set off from London’s Marylebone Station, where it takes just over two hours to get to Stratford-upon-Avon with one change in Solihull or Leamington Spa (£36 roundtrip). Alternatively, you can take a train from Marylebone to Warwick, which takes 90 minutes (£36 roundtrip).
Stonehenge: 2 hours 15 minutes by train and bus
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, the prehistoric stone circle in the Wiltshire countryside is a mystery even today. On the summer solstice, the sun rises precisely behind the Heel Stone, before the first rays shine into the heart of the 3,000-year-old monument. This is a place where you truly feel your place in history and nature.
How to get to Stonehenge from London
Stonehenge is about a 90-minute drive from London. You can buy tickets, starting at £23, from the official website; these tickets get you close to the monument but not inside. If you want to get inside, opt for a Stone Circle Experience, which allows you to walk among the stones in smaller groups outside of standard opening hours; at £60, it’s pricier, but it’s a truly unforgettable experience.
To get to Stonehenge via public transport, take the train from London’s Waterloo Station to the town of Salisbury (£50 roundtrip). From there you can join a bus such as the Stonehenge Tour (£18; you can book online, or in summer you can buy tickets from the train station) to take you the rest of the way. Another option is to join a coach tour to Stonehenge from London. A simple web search will bring up several to choose from, starting from £65 depending on what’s included.
The Cotswolds: 2 hours 30 minutes by car
Honey-colored stone houses, rolling green hills, manor houses, and sheep dotting the countryside—the Cotswolds are a slice of old England. This area measures an expansive 800 square miles or so, but it’s still possible to have an extremely charming time if you only have a day; just be sure to make your itinerary in advance so as not to waste precious time. Bourton-on-the-Water is the “Venice of the Cotswolds”, known for its adorable bridges and gardens, as well as its yew hedge maze. Another solid bet is Stow-on-the-Wold, a historic wool town with a charming square, church, and perhaps England’s oldest pub, the Porch House, thought to be over 1,000 years old.
How to get to the Cotswolds from London
By car, the Cotswolds are about 2.5 hours from London (depending on where you’re going). Rent a small car to make the narrow roads and tight parking spaces more manageable, and spring for GPS navigation. If you’re relying on public transport, it’s possible to get the train to nearby towns—like Cheltenham, Bath, Oxford, and Moreton-in-Marsh—and transfer to local buses, but these buses can be infrequent, so you’d likely want to stay in the area for more than a day.
Best day trips from London by train
Bath, Margate, Oxford, Cambridge, and Stratford-upon-Avon are all ideal day trip destinations to take by train. They all have train stations in the middle of town or within a 10-minute walk of the center, and they are compact in size so that they can easily be explored on foot. They also have regular, frequent train services to London, making it an easy day out.
If you’re looking for more great day trip destinations suited to visit from London by rail, there are other options.
Windsor: 30 minutes by train
Windsor Castle—the oldest and largest castle in the world that’s still occupied—was Queen Elizabeth’s beloved main home (and where Prince Harry and Meghan married). It’s open to visitors year round; book ahead for the discounted rate of £28. Windsor also has the Royal Dairy Farm & Shop, which sells produce from the royal estates, as well as a café that serves cream teas with proper English scones.
How to get to Windsor from London
Windsor has two central train stations, so choose the one that aligns best with your starting point. From London’s Paddington Station, ride to Windsor & Eton Central Station (30 minutes), changing at Slough. Or ride from Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside Station (about one hour). Both options are about £15 roundtrip. It takes about an hour to drive from London to Windsor.
Bletchley Park: 40 minutes by train
Discover how crucial codes were cracked during World War II at this brilliantly preserved historic site. Here you can see one of the Enigma machines, used by Alan Turing (the English mathematician who cracked the codes) as depicted in the film The Imitation Game. Make no mistake, this operation was a big one: At its peak, Bletchley Park had over 9,000 people working on cracking codes during the war. Among the fascinating displays is information about the birds trained to deliver messages for the Allied forces.
How to get to Bletchley Park from London
From London’s Euston Station, the train to Bletchley is 40 minutes (£23 roundtrip). From the station, Bletchley Park is a five-minute walk. Book tickets to Bletchley Park online. The drive from London to Bletchley Park is about an hour, and there’s free on-site parking.
Brighton: 1 hour by train
The vintage shopping in Brighton is second to none, although you may end up spending all your time at the seafront, enjoying the delights of the pier, the arcade, and the endless pebble beach. A liberal and freewheeling city, this is a firm favorite for a day out for Londoners—Brighton is always a good idea.
How to get to Brighton from London
To get to Brighton, take a one-hour train ride from London from Victoria, Blackfriars, or London Bridge stations. Fares start at £34 roundtrip. The drive from London to Brighton takes about 90 minutes.
Folkestone: 1 hour by train
An up-and-comer in the day trip game, Folkestone is an increasingly popular destination for Londoners looking for a day out by the seaside. A historic port with an incredible beach, Folkestone also scores high for its quirky arts scene. Come for the fish and chips (we like Sandy’s), and stay for the beachside bars (The Pilot Beach Bar is hard to beat). While you’re here, look for the statue of the human figure, created by the British sculptor Antony Gormley, hidden below the main walkway of Folkestone Harbour—it’s visible only at low tide.
How to get to Folkestone from London
Direct trains to Folkestone Central depart London’s Charing Cross or St. Pancras stations, taking a little over an hour depending on the station (£40 roundtrip). By car, London to Folkestone takes about 90 minutes.
Canterbury: 1 hour 20 minutes by train
Canterbury is a pleasant student town ideal for a day of exploring and losing yourself in the medieval streets. There are punts here too if you want to take a trip on the River Stour. Canterbury was one of the busiest pilgrimage cities in the medieval world, making the Gothic-style Canterbury Cathedral a must-see. Fans of the great English poet Geoffrey Chaucer will get their moment at the interactive Canterbury Tales tour, which brings the 17,000-lines-long pilgrimage story to life.
How to get to Canterbury from London
From London, travel from Victoria, Charing Cross, or St. Pancras stations (starting at £32 roundtrip) to either Canterbury East or Canterbury West—both stations are central. The drive from London to Canterbury takes about one hour and 45 minutes.
Norwich: 1 hour 50 minutes by train
Norwich is officially named “A Fine City”—and the nickname checks out. Centered around medieval Norwich Cathedral, this city has a thriving cultural scene with great art galleries, music, and festivals for everything from literature and architecture to beer. The city has an excellent covered market that’s open daily, serving food, crafts, and flowers, as well as great little restaurants often serving local produce; expect Norfolk lamb, Norfolk pigeon, and Cromer crab from the Norfolk coast. Outside of the city are the Norfolk Broads—Britain’s largest protected wetland. If you have a car, make sure you leave time to explore these gorgeous waterways, the countryside, and the striking open seaside.
How to get to Norwich from London
To get to Norwich, ride from London’s Liverpool Street Station about an hour and 50 minutes (£42 roundtrip). By car, Norwich is just over two hours from London.
Paris: 2 hours 30 minutes by train
A day trip to Paris? The train is only two hours and 20 minutes, so it’s possible! The first Eurostar of the morning leaves London around 6am, and the last return train is after 9pm, giving you a full day to get charmed by Paris. A city that needs no introduction, Paris has plenty to do in a day. Climb the Eiffel Tower, eat macarons (Dalloyau, of course), visit a museum (The Louvre, l’Orangerie, or the Picasso Museum—the list is endless), and maybe even take a quick after-dinner stroll along the Seine before catching the train back to London.
How to get to Paris from London
To get to Paris from London, head to the Eurostar terminal at London’s St. Pancras Station. (Note: Be there a minimum of 30 minutes before departure.) Your passport is checked before boarding so you can just walk off the train at Paris Gare du Nord. Prices vary, but with a bit of luck, it’s possible to book a roundtrip ticket for under £100 by planning it months ahead. If you’re driving from London, Paris is a bit too far for a day trip though, clocking in at 6-7 hours via an undersea tunnel train.