From rolling sand dunes to historic castles, cool cities to countryside retreats, here are the best day trips from London by train.
Let’s face it; there is never a shortage of things to do in London.
England’s capital is home to world-class museums, cutting-edge street art, vibrant cultural life and its streets and buildings bear testament to the city’s rich history.
But even I, as a dyed-in-the-wool Londoner, sometimes have my fill of the Big Smoke, especially its crowds, and like to escape for the day. But where should you choose?
To inspire you, with the help of fellow travel writers, I have put together a list of some of the best day trips from London by train. Thanks to its excellent rail connections, London makes a great base from which to explore other hot spots in England.
So whether you want to breathe in a lungful of sea air, explore more of England’s history or to revel in its green and pleasant land, check out these great destinations, all within two hours or so by train from London
At the end of the article, you’ll find a map showing where these great destinations are located, along with some tips for train travel from London.
Best day trips from London by train: Cool cities
By Larch of The Silver Nomad
A trip to Bath is a delightful day out from London, filled with beautiful architecture, ancient buildings, culture and interesting places to eat and drink.
The train from Paddington Station to Bath takes a relaxing hour and twenty minutes. Once you arrive at Bath Spa station you are only a five-minute walk from the centre of Bath itself.
Bath rightly deserves its UNESCO Heritage status and is filled with beautiful Georgian buildings in pale golden limestone. They blend perfectly with the Roman Baths and Temple, which are a must-see.
The queues can be long, so it is better to book ahead. You can choose to join a free walking guide around the baths or go at your own pace with an audioguide. For a treat, visit the Pump Rooms next door for a bite to eat.
Right next to the Roman Baths is Bath Abbey, an imposing Gothic building that towers over the city. You can take a guided tour including the 212-step climb to the roof to take in the view.
A short walk from the Abbey is Pultney Bridge and views over the River Avon. Pultney Bridge has quaint shops and restaurants on top of the three arches. On the far side of the bridge, you can join a cruise down the river.
For an afternoon treat head to Sally Lunns Buns for one of their delicious cinnamon buns and a look around the living museum. Other museums to visit are the Holbourne Museum for art in Great Pultney Street or the Fashion Museum in the Assembly Rooms in Bennett Street.
By Dave of Dave Chant
Sitting in Castle Park on a Monday morning, sipping coffee in a boutique café and watching commuters go about their unhurried business with a smile on their face, you can’t help but feel the harmony of Bristol.
Furthermore, it’s a breeze to get to Bristol from London. Head to London Paddington and you’ll be there in precisely 1hr 38minutes. Make sure to alight at Bristol Temple Meads (not Parkway which is outside the city).
Bristol is a great city just to walk around in.
For the consumers, you can shop at Cabot Circus which is also home to a good range of chain restaurants. You can walk in the parks, explore Queen’s square and maybe grab a cider on one of the boat pubs.
There’s the renovated docks and the M Shed museum. Walking down the river, you can visit the famous SS Great Britain ship. Those that enjoy religious places should see the Bristol Cathedral or St Mary Redcliffe.
Or you can climb the steps of Cabot Tower, perched at the top of Brandon Hill for views over Bristol. Slightly further out is the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Observatory nearby. Or head out to the Ashton Court Estate.
The family will enjoy the Bristol Zoo Gardens, or the Aquarium down by the docks.
There always seems to be something going on in Bristol, and there’s a variety of venues for live music, theatre and so forth, like the Colston Hall and the Hippodrome.
Lastly, there’s a great array of local and unusual places to eat and drink.
One day in Bristol is never quite enough but it will give you a flavour of a city very different from London.
By Anisa of Two Traveling Texans
Cambridge may be best known as home to the famous university, but it has much more to offer. It’s a picturesque city that has something for everyone whether you are interested in history, art, or adventure.
Since the train ride from London’s King Cross Station to Cambridge is only an hour, and many of the main attractions are within walking distance of the train station, it makes for one of the best day trips from London by train.
Cambridge University was founded back in 2019 and is made up of 31 colleges. It’s the second oldest university in the English speaking world.
Try to visit at least one college if you can. My favourites are King’s College, St. John’s, and Trinity College. The King’s College Chapel has some of the most amazing stained glass you will ever see. At Trinity College, don’t miss the Wren Library, designed by Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Additionally, the University runs eight museums that are free and open to the public. My favourites are the Fitzwilliam and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Fitzwilliam reminds me of a smaller version of the British Museum in London because it has a diverse collection.
Punting uses a boat similar to a gondola, where you stand on the back to paddle, but you use a pole instead of an oar. If you’re not brave enough to try it on your own, you can hire someone else to do the punting or go on a punting tour through the lovely area known as The Backs.
By Ella of Many More Maps
Just over two hours away from London by direct train, try spending one day in Leeds to discover why people rave about this city.
The train station is right in the city centre. But if you’re looking to explore the suburbs, the bus system is cheap and easy to navigate.
Situated in West Yorkshire in the north of England, a huge draw for visitors to Leeds is the sheer amount of great vintage shopping you can do. From kilogram sales to the numerous vintage, second hand and thrift stores in the city, you’ll struggle to come away empty-handed, and all for way less than you’d pay in London.
Speaking of paying less than you would in London, one of the most fun things to do in Leeds is to check out its thriving pub scene. You won’t believe how cheap everything is. Head to The Angel pub in the city centre to pick up a pint for as little as £1.80. That’s right. £1.80!
If you’re in the mood for some culture, you won’t have to look far. Kirkstall Abbey, the ruins of a monastery founded in 1152, is absolutely fascinating and free to explore. What’s more, the Royal Armouries Museum, which displays the national collection of arms and armour, is one of the top things to do in Leeds, and could keep you occupied for hours.
By Bisola of Bis To The World
Most travellers make a bee-line for London, not even considering Manchester. But Manchester is 100% worth the two-hour direct train journey from London. It has such a rich history, vibrant culture and the locals are some of the friendliest around.
It’s incredibly easy to get to, making it one of the best day trips by train from London. From the station, grab one of the free city buses to Manchester Cathedral.
Nestled in a very unassuming spot sits the beautiful Manchester Cathedral. It’s had some recent work done to it, but you wouldn’t believe that it dates to 700AD with its amazing condition. And the door is always open for a visit so pop in and explore the city’s cathedral.
Next, walk down to The John Rylands Library, a must-see in Manchester. I know, a library but wait.
This library is like taking a step into Hogwarts for the day. Go up to the gorgeous Reading Room and be wowed by the stunning gothic architecture.
Walk across to Cloud 23 in the Hilton Hotel for sweeping views of the city from above with some English tea, a coffee or even an early cocktail.
Before you head back to the train station, don’t miss exploring the Northern Quarter, Manchester’s hipster neighbourhood. From Arcade game bars to vintage shops, striking street art to even cat cafes, it’s worth a wander.
Stop by Mackie Mayor, a gorgeous indoor food market. Visit even just to appreciate this stunning building.
Have a great time exploring!
By Dagney & Jeremy of Cultura Obscura
Norwich is one of England’s true gems.
Lying less than two hours from London by train, direct end to end from Liverpool Street Station, this beautiful city was once more important than the nation’s capital. With winding lanes full of quaint independent cafés and shops, museums and churches bursting with history, restaurants serving both traditional and modern food, and dozens of authentic English pubs, there’s almost no end of things to do in Norwich.
The city’s cathedral, with its sprawling grounds and stone walls, is almost nine hundred years old – and the second tallest in the country.
Norwich’s marketplace, sitting just outside the city hall with its brightly patterned coverings, is even older, and visitors can still go there to buy goods, foodstuffs and souvenirs. And if you want to be super British, you can grab some fish ’n’ chips from the national award-winning Grosvenor Fish Bar in Norwich’s Lanes.
The best part is, even with all that Norwich has to offer, it is one of the smallest major cities in England, which means you can easily walk around it within the space of a day and truly take in the atmosphere of this historic city.
By Liliane of My Toronto, My World
One of the best day trips from London by train is an Oxford day trip.
Oxford is most known for the university that shares its name and exploring the colleges there is certainly a good reason why you should visit Oxford. Another reason for visiting Oxford is to walk in the footsteps of greats like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.
Start your day off exploring the colleges and seeing where masterworks like Alice in Wonderland were written. You can also see the inspiration for the Narnia books and some of the Harry Potter film locations.
Make sure to see landmarks like the Bridge of Sighs and Radcliff Camera. Once you’ve had your fill of the colleges there’s still plenty left to do.
Oxford is home a number of fantastic museums like the Natural History Museum, the Ashmolean and the Pitt Rivers Museum which is unique in the fact that it catalogues its items by item type as opposed to age or geography.
Make sure to stop by the Oxford Covered Market for some local goods, and to climb to the top of University Church of St Mary the Virgin for a great view of Oxford.
Oxford is located approximately 1 hour from London. Trains depart regularly from Paddington Station and Marylebone Station in London. Make sure to catch the express trains and you’ll arrive in Oxford in about 1 hour. The trains will arrive at Oxford train station which is about a 15-minute walk from Oxford’s historic core.
By Darek of Darekandgosia.com
London is a fantastic city, but you should remember that there are many great places to visit just outside of the capital. If you are looking for an easy day trip from London by train, visit St Albans, a charming and historic English city located northwest of London.
The journey takes 20-30 minutes (depending on the type of train) and the train station is located in the centre so you can just walk there.
There are many beautiful medieval buildings, cute cafes and a Sunday market, where you can buy many local home-made products. Try to visit the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban – key landmarks of the city.
On a sunny day, a picnic in Verulamium Park would be a great idea too!
If you have a bit more time, before going back to London, visit Ye Olde Fighting Cocks – the oldest pub in Great Britain – it really is a nice way to finish your day out.
By Dan of Horo Travel Memories
Shrewsbury is an often overlooked UK destination and not one that everyone has even heard of, let alone visited. Even lesser known is that the daily direct train from London that can get you from the nation’s capital to the county town of Shropshire in just over two and a half hours.
For those looking to escape the bustle of the city, Shrewsbury provides an idyllic slower-paced destination, filled to the brim with beauty and history. The buildings are so varied in their ornateness and style that they rival even the narrow, wonky passageways and steep streets for charm.
Marvel at some of the town’s 660 listed buildings, the oldest of which was constructed in the 15th century. Older still is Shrewsbury Castle, which contains the Shropshire Regimental Museum and is set in beautiful grounds. It dates back to 1074.
You can follow a Charles Darwin trail or tour and learn about the great man and his early life in the town of his birth. If you’re a fan of the other famous Charles, you can still see a headstone with the name Ebenezer Scrooge in the churchyard of St Chad’s from when Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was filmed in the Shrewsbury.
To clear your head after a big dose of fascinating history and stunning architecture, why not try a walk in The Quarry? The 29-acre park offers riverbank walks, regular festivals and events and even a sunken garden called The Dingle, which was masterminded by Blue Peter’s own Percy Thrower.
By Kat of Wandering Bird
If you’re looking for a fun and easy day trip from London by train, look no further than Winchester.
This historic city is one of the oldest in the UK and has picturesque cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and one of the most famous cathedrals in the country.
You can get from London to Winchester easily by train. It takes about an hour and Winchester station is roughly a five-minute walk to the town centre (downhill on the way there; ten minutes uphill on the way back!).
Some of our favourite things to do in Winchester include:
- Winchester Cathedral. Some very famous people are buried here- including Jane Austen. You can also see one of the oldest bibles in the world
- Shopping! Winchester has some great shops on and around the high street.
- Mizmaze. On the outskirts of Winchester is a very old turf maze which you can try and navigate- well worth a visit if you have time
- Visit the Christmas market. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in November or December, you must go to the Winchester Christmas Market. There are hundreds of stalls and even an ice rink.
By Melissa of Meet Me at the Pyramid Stage
Do you want to immerse yourself in almost 2000 years of history – think Romans, Vikings, and Medieval – in a just a day? If so, York is the perfect place to do just that.
Departing from London Kings Cross, the Grand Central service will get you into York in just under two hours.
On arrival at York station grab a coffee and stroll along the City Walls. The Walls run 3.4km around the old city and are the most complete example of medieval walls in England.
Next stop is the Jorvik Viking Centre. Travel back in time to the age of the Vikings. This incredible centre that is also an active archaeological site, offering interesting interactive displays about Viking life, history, and the importance of York to the Vikings.
Lunchtime. If the sun is out, stop for lunch at any one of the cafes and restaurants along the River Ouse.
After lunch, amble down York’s most famous laneway – The Shambles. Fun Fact: It provided inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
This 14th-century laneway is one of the best-preserved medieval streets in the world. From here, wander past Clifford’s Tower, the remains of York Castle built by William the Conqueror, and on to York Minster.
York Minster is simply magnificent. The medieval architecture, the stained glass, the massive pipe organ – there is so much to see and that’s only the ground floor. Join a ‘Hidden Minster tour’ to explore the areas not open to the public.
Finally, to end your day in York ascend the 275 stairs of the tower to take in the spectacular views of York and beyond.
Best day trips from London by train: Cultural & Historical Destinations
By Faith of XYU And Beyond
Bletchley Park is the home of the WWII code breakers and is a fascinating glimpse into the work of these heroes and of the early days of computers.
Bletchley is located just north of London in Milton Keynes and the train takes you almost to the door of this famous estate. It’s around an hour’s journey from most central London points and I highly recommend you taking the day to explore the Park.
Bletchley Park includes the iconic code breaker huts and highlights the work of Alan Turing and his group of code-breakers who cracked the German’s Enigma code machine and helped win the war for the British and Allied troops.
The estate comprises some 581 acres and the house on the site contained many WWII secrets whilst pretending to be a luxury getaway for some of Britain’s most brilliant minds. In the house are displays of the rooms just as they were used during the war and it feels like the people just left that day.
You can tour the huts that Turing and the code-breakers used and see how they broke Enigma. There are interactive code-breaking puzzles to do, as well as exploring how computers have changed the world since that time at the National Museum of Computing which is within the estate.
Housing the world’s largest collection of working historic computers, the museum takes visitors through the development of computers, from the ultra-secret work done during WWII through to the personal computers we use today.
Take a picnic and enjoy the grounds and the small lake where children can feed the ducks. And for adults? You can have a gin and tonic in the sunshine and dance to some retro 1940s or jazz age music on the lawns in front of the house.
By Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan
Travelling from London to Canterbury is certainly not a new idea. Londoners have been making the trip for the past 1,000 years or so, although it wasn’t always possible as a day trip.
Originally, Christian pilgrims made the arduous journey on foot to the Canterbury Cathedral, and more specifically to the spot inside the Cathedral where Thomas Becket was murdered. This popular journey was the inspiration for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, one of the greatest works of English literature.
Things have changed, and nowadays you can hop on a train at St. Pancras station in London and be in Canterbury in less than an hour. One thing that hasn’t changed much, though, is the imposing Cathedral.
It’s still the city’s main attraction, though certainly not the only thing to see while you’re here. St. Martin’s Church and St. Augustine’s Abbey are two other historic religious buildings that are definitely worth a visit.
A good option for lunch is the Lady Luck, which bills itself as a “rock ‘n’ roll pub”. They offer vegan as well as meaty versions of traditional pub grub, so it’s a great choice for vegan visitors to Canterbury.
By Sarah of ASocialNomad
Colchester is an easy day trip from London by train. With regular services from Liverpool Street Station, the journey takes as little as 90 minutes. Alight at Colchester North Station, 15 minutes’ walk from the town centre.
Colchester is England’s oldest recorded town and is the site of the only Roman circus in England, as well as a host of other Roman remains, including one of the most intact Roman walls in the country. There’s even a pub (the Hole in the Wall) built into part of it!
Colchester’s Castle keep dates from 1076, but the dungeons of the castle contain the foundations of the Roman temple of Claudius.
The museum here is well worth a visit, as it contains a number of key finds, including a Roman treasure hoard that was excavated during renovations of a department store on the high street. There’s also an 11th century Augustine priory, St Botolphs, that is free to visit.
There are several free walking tours to take in Colchester. All of these are downloadable with maps; some have audio guides.
When you’re ready for a break you should head to the Tiptree Jam Tea Room– Tiptree Jam is local to Colchester but is famous the world over.
By David of Delve Into Europe
Hampton Court is one of the great buildings of England. Most visit to look around the palace of King Henry VIII, the most notorious English monarch of all, who had a penchant for chopping off his spouses’ heads. But this is only the half of it.
Henry’s palace is magnificent, one of the high points of Tudor architecture. This was among the very last Gothic buildings in England, and the Great Hall is hugely impressive.
It’s also possible to look around the State Apartments and Haunted Gallery, where his wife Catherine Howard’s ghost is said to run screaming for mercy, knowing that execution was likely to be her fate.
The other half of Hampton Court is the superb Baroque palace and gardens added by King William III and Mary, who reigned from 1689 to 1702. This is one of the finest Baroque buildings in England, along with the likes of St Paul’s Cathedral in the centre of London.
Getting to Hampton Court from London is straightforward – trains from London Waterloo to Hampton Court station run every 30 minutes – the journey takes 35 minutes in all. The Palace is just across the river Thames from the station.
Harry Potter Studios
By Pauline of BeeLoved City
Calling all Potterheads for this one! If you are a muggle craving to discover the world of Harry Potter in London, a day trip to Harry Potter Studios will be perfect.
Harry Potter was mainly filmed in North London, at the Warner Bros Studios. Located in Watford, you can hop on a train from Euston or Victoria to Watford Junction. Once you get there, hop on the Harry Potter shuttle bus from the station forecourt that will take you straight to the studios.
It takes a couple of hours from central London so make sure you have enough time ahead of you.
When you buy your ticket, you will have to choose a slot. I’d recommend you book the first one available. Once you are in the studios, you are free to stay as long as you want so the earlier you get there, the longer you can stay.
On average, visitors stay 4 hours in the studios. Make sure you have the whole day ahead of you as you will need it.
In the studios, you will see many sets such as the dining hall, the Gryffindor common room, the Gringott bank, in addition to all the costumes! More importantly, you will discover how the movies were made. Everything from training animals to prosthetic make-up.
There are a couple of restaurants on site. You can even buy butterbeer!
The Warner Bros studios are a truly magical experience (whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not!). The best day trip from London by train for all you muggles out there!
Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)
by Chris of Explore Now or Never
Downton Abbey fans will delight at the opportunity to visit famous Highclere Castle where the wonderful series was filmed.
Highclere Castle is not the easiest day trip from London by train but it is rewarding. Take a train from London Paddington Station to Newbury and then a taxi or bus from the station forecourt.
The castle, which dates all the way back to 749 was rebuilt in the 17th century when it was purchased by the grandfather of the current Earl of Carnarvon (who still resides there with his wife). Just as in the Downton Abbey series, Highclere Castle served as a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War I. During World War II, it was home to evacuees.
Due to popularity, entrance tickets can sometimes be challenging to secure so be sure to book well ahead if you’re visiting independently. (Or plan to spend the night nearby and arrive bright and early for first dibs on tickets).
Alternatively, if you are visiting Highclere Castle on an organised day trip from London the admission ticket will be included. Easy!
Highclere Castle was one of my favourite places to visit in the UK during our month living in Cambridge. Lots of natural light streamed through the beautiful upstairs bedrooms with gorgeous garden views. Shaggy brown-faced sheep cavorted on the green, green lawns. I could’ve stayed forever!
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
Rochester is a town on the Medway in Kent, around 30 miles from London.
The majestic Rochester Cathedral is the second oldest medieval church and also the second most visited pilgrimage site in England.
Charles Dickens lived in nearby Higham and based many of his novels in the area. Stop by the friendly Tourist Information Office and pick up a Charles Dickens trail map for a small fee. Information boards marking key sights on this self-guided walk will also point the way.
Finally, don’t leave town before visiting Rochester Castle. Although just the carcass of the original building remains, the castle’s 12th century stone tower is reputed to be one of the best-preserved in England and there are great views from the top.
Taking a day trip to Rochester from London is super easy by rail. Frequent high-speed trains leave London St Pancras International, reaching Rochester in under 40 minutes. Slower trains depart London Victoria
By Erin of Traveling Thru History
Windsor is one of the best-known cities in the UK due to it being the favourite weekend home of Her Majesty, the Queen of England.
The city of Windsor was officially established by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and is home to just under 1,000 residents along with numerous fascinating historic sites. Situated just 25 minutes from the capital, this historic town is one of the best day trips from London by train.
Along with tours of Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel, visitors can explore Windsor Great Park, the former private Royal hunting ground; Guildhall, where Charles and Camilla wed; St. John the Baptist Church, originally built in the 12th century and reconstructed in 1810; Runnymede, where King John sealed the Magna Carta in 1215; Cliveden House, a three-story Italianate mansion just 15 minutes north of Windsor where the works of Charles Barry reside; and experience the Royal Windsor Horse Show each May, a favoured event of the Queen’s.
If you’re uncertain of what to see or where to go, there are various day tours of both the city and river to give an overall view of the beautiful sites to be found in Windsor.
To get to Windsor from London, there are two trains. The first, and quickest, is the GWR from London Paddington to Slough, changing there to the branch line train to take you to Windsor Central Station. The second, and most direct, is the South Western Railway train from London Waterloo to Windsor Riverside Station.
Best day trips from London by train: Seaside destinations
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
Brighton, on England’s south coast, is one of the most popular and best day trips from London by train.
Home to the UK’s largest Jedi population (!), Brighton is blessed with a broad shingle beach, has a cool bohemian air and one extraordinary building.
The Royal Pavilion is the opulent Victorian pleasure palace of Prince George, later Prince Regent and then King George IV. Indian on the outside and Chinese on the inside, it is as extravagant and eccentric as its first occupant and seems oddly out of place in an English seaside town.
Brighton Pier is a prime example of an Edwardian pier. Take a stroll along its length, fill your face with candy floss and try your luck in one its amusement arcades.
Finally, Brighton is a first-class shopping destination. The Lanes are home to independent shops, including some good antique shops, jewellery shops and boutiques.
Frequent trains depart London St Pancras International and London Victoria for Brighton. The journey time is around 1hr 15 mins.
By Ann of The Road is Life
The seaside town of Dover is full of fascinating English history and is home to some of Kent’s most popular attractions.
Over 3 million tourists per year visit both the White Cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle on a day trip from London. Visiting Dover is a great way to escape the city for the day and see some of the beautiful English countryside.
The quickest way to reach Dover from London is by taking the high-speed train from St. Pancras Station to Dover Priory. The journey only takes 1 hour and trains depart frequently throughout the day. The high-speed train will cost a bit more than the slower train but it is worthwhile to save yourself the hassle of switching trains along the way.
Once you arrive at Dover Priory Station, make your way to the White Cliffs of Dover for a scenic walk on the path that runs along the cliffs. Take in the view over the English Channel from the top of the cliffs; on a clear day, you can see France.
Next up on your day trip is a visit to Dover Castle which is conveniently located near the White Cliffs. With a history of over 800 years, this impressive medieval castle is one of Britain’s finest and most important castles. Inside you can expect to see rooms furnished with beautiful medieval decorations and a panoramic view awaits you at the top of the great tower.
Rye and Camber Sands
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
Spend a day in Rye and Camber Sands to sample two fabulous destinations for the price of one. The journey time from London St Pancras International to Rye is just over one hour with a change of train at Ashford International.
History buffs will adore the medieval town of Rye with its Georgian townhouses and timber-framed Tudor houses. Steep cobbled streets are dotted haunted inns that will set your imagination on fire and there’s even a castle.
To burn off decadent cake calories consumed in one of the town’s excellent cafes, climb the tower of the 12th Century St Mary’s Church.
Rye before checking out its shops and galleries. The town has an impressive selection of small independent shops and a handful of galleries displaying work by local artists.
When you have finished exploring Rye, head to Camber Sands by taking the signposted National Cycle Network Route 2, a three-mile walk. Alternatively, jump on bus #102 which runs between Rye from Camber Sands every 30 minutes.
With its seven miles of golden sand and rolling dunes, Camber Sands has a beach to rival any in the Caribbean., Paddle in the rock pools, collect seashells or embrace your inner child by building sandcastles. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can try your hand at kitesurfing.
You just need to pray that the sun will shine.
By Caroline of CK Travels
Whitstable is a charming fishing and harbour town located on the north coast of Kent, just south-east of London. Getting there from London as a day trip is super easy – the high-speed train from Kings Cross or Stratford takes you there in just over an hour, or you can take a slightly slower train from Victoria.
Whitstable is very famous for its incredible seafood scene and is a great spot for foodies with many oyster shacks in the harbour. The town also holds a popular two-day oyster festival every July featuring hundreds of food stalls, live music and a parade.
Other things you can do in Whitstable include taking a walk along the coast, which is lined with colourful beach huts, or visit the main high street which is filled with cute boutique shops, galleries and cafes.
End your day trip with a drink at the Old Neptune, which is one of the most popular pubs in town. It is located right on the beach, so you can enjoy a delicious pint of locally brewed beer with a beautiful sea view.
Best day trips from London by train: English Countryside
By Roshni of The Wanderlust Within
Known as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the most beautiful Cotswolds villages and makes a perfect day trip from London by train.
In only an hour and a half you can travel by train from Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh, and then catch a local bus #801 to Bourton-on-the-Water. The journey time is 20 minutes.
This quintessential English village is famous for being home to the River Windrush and is surrounded by golden stone coloured buildings and arched bridges. Other than roaming around the quaint streets of the village, the best things to do in a day include exploring the Cotswold Motoring Museum, the Birdland Parks and Gardens, and the famous model village.
However, if you want to go home with a souvenir, visit the esteemed Cotswold Perfumery, and take part in one of the fragrance courses.
If you get hungry, head to one of the many pubs in the village such as the Duke of Wellington, which has a great beer garden.
By Eniko of Travel Hacker Girl
Beautiful Brockenhurst is one of the best day trips from London by train for nature lovers. The town is easily reached by train from Waterloo.
The area is famous for its great cycling network. You can transport your bikes on the train, but it is also possible to rent bikes next to Brockenhurst train station. You will find several bike-friendly cafes and pubs in town.
On the nearby fields, it is common to spot wild horses roaming free. Some local stables offer horse-riding tours and lessons. Complete beginners and children are also welcome.
If you want a place to go hiking near London, this is also a good region for that. There are many paths nearby with hidden wild swimming spots. A popular place for a picnic and swim is by the Lymington River in Brockenhurst. Children especially love the rope swings hung up by locals.
Mayfield Lavender Farm
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
On the outskirts of the capital lies South London’s purple paradise.
Instagram heaven, Mayfield Lavender Farm is a full-blown assault on the senses but in a good way. Wander through a sprawling field of purple flowers, the air perfumed with the soporific scent of lavender.
If you are feeling peckish, treat yourself to a lavender-themed afternoon tea overlooking a sea of purple.
Thirsty? This is your opportunity to sample lavender cider.
For a tasteful gift, pick up homemade lavender products, including soaps and jams, at the gift shop.
Lavender blooming season runs from June through to late August, with peak bloom around mid-July. Check Mayfield Lavender’s website for flower updates and opening hours.
To reach Mayfield Lavender Farm, take a train from London Victoria to West Croydon and then hop on the 166 bus to the farm. A note of caution though; this route can get very busy at weekends (I walked back one stop to make sure I was able to board the bus).
Alternatively, catch a train from London Victoria to Sutton or Cheam and then take a cab/minicab to the farm (this is the fastest route but more expensive).
By Paula of Truly Expat
Saffron Walden was once a market town, but now it is a picturesque village filled with boutique-style shops, charming cafes and restaurants
To get to Saffron Walden from London, take a train to Audley. This will take approximately 1.5 hours in total to Saffron Walden, but that includes the bus or taxi from the station
Here are the best places to visit during a day trip to Saffron Walden from London
Bridge End Garden – Bridge End Garden is best visited when it isn’t raining as the gardens are beautiful. However, the highlight here is the maze, which will keep you amused for hours.
Saffron Grange Vineyard – The Vineyard is a little out of the town centre, approximately 1.7 miles away. If you book online before arriving, you can join the vineyard tour and tasting. Wine tasting is perfect at any time of the year.
Audley End House and Gardens – For a small entrance fee, you can explore this grand Estate.
Every season brings a new experience. My favourite time of year is Spring because I love the smell that Spring brings. Besides the beautiful garden, you still have the mansion and stables to wander around.
Saffron Walden Town Centre – Explore the town centre (weekend you will find great little markets right in the centre), a great spot to have lunch or afternoon tea. The restaurants and pubs all serve deliciously fresh food, so you are spoilt for choices. A great little town to explore
Best international day trips from London
The best day trips from London by train are not confined to those within England. Thanks to Eurostar, some cities in mainland Europe can be reached from London in under two and a half hours. Here are a few for starters.
By Elisa of World in Paris
Thanks to Eurostar, it is possible to travel from London to Paris in only 2.5 hours. Take an early train from London St. Pancras International station and you are set for a wonderful day in Paris. Eurostar trains arrive at Paris Gare du Nord train station, from where you can travel around on the Paris Metro.
What to do during a day in Paris? If this is your first time to the French capital, you should go up the Eiffel Tower, it is a once in a lifetime experience!
Then, I suggest concentrating your next hours in one district so you don’t lose time navigating the city on public transport.
I recommend Ile de la Cité, the island in the middle of the Seine River, where most of the historical buildings are located. Visit Notre Dame (from outside), the Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie.
Also, you can wander around the medieval streets of this isle or walk down to one of the island’s tips so watch the typical Bateaux Mouches sail by.
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
Whilst it does not possess the immediate charms of Paris, Lille is one of the most underrated cities in France. It is also an easy day trip from London by train.
Located close to the Belgian border – the so-called capital of French Flanders – Lille feels more Flemish than French, from its architecture to its food.
Due to its compact city centre, it’s a breeze to explore Lille on a self-guided walking tour.
Walk through its series of large cobblestoned squares lined with extravagant Flemish Baroque buildings. Browse the book market in the Renaissance La Veille Bourse, formerly the city’s stock exchange, a collection of small houses arranged around a porticoed courtyard.
Pay your respects at the Notre Dame de la Treille, Lille’s spiritual beating heart, and an intoxicating mix of Gothic meets contemporary.
If time permits, stop by the Palais des Beaux-Arts, a fine art gallery that is second only to the Louvre in France for size and stature.
Finally, don’t leave town before trying merveilleux, little cakes of light meringue smothered in fresh cream and chocolate shavings.
The journey time from London to Lille by Eurostar is just 1hr 22mins.
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
Courtesy of Eurostar, a day trip from London to Brussels, the seat of the European Union, is both easy and affordable. Take a morning train from London St. Pancras International, and in less than two hours you can be in munching on waffles in the Grand Place.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Grand Place is the core of Brussels’ medieval city centre and is lined with ornate, late Medieval buildings. This is also home to the city’s Christmas markets.
For a stark contrast to Brussels’ historic centre, head over to the city’s east side. Ancient architecture is replaced by sleek skyscrapers, including the headquarters of the European Union.
For something completely different, take a comic trail to discover just how many cartoons were created in Brussels. From The Smurfs to Tintin, Blake and Mortimer to Marsupilami, watch out for the comic
Finally, don’t leave Brussels before sampling one of the excellent Belgian beers and, of course, chocolate.
Best day trips from London by train: Map of Destinations
General tips for train travel from London
- As many Londoners do not own a car (including myself), expect services to be much busier at the weekend, especially to popular destinations like Brighton. To avoid the crowds, if possible try to visit on a weekday.
- However, rail improvement works tend to take place on a weekend, particularly on Sundays. Therefore check for travel disruptions before you set out. Trust me, a rail replacement bus is not a joy.
- Rail travel in England can be expensive but buying your ticket in advance will often save you money. For example, if I wanted to travel to Bath today, a return ticket would cost me in excess of £61 (and this would not be the most expensive ticket on this route!). However, the same ticket booked for five days’ time is only £26.60
- Consider booking two one-way tickets instead of a return ticket as this can sometimes be cheaper. You can check out this option using the National Rail Journey Planner.
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