If you’re looking for some awesome day trips from London by train, which let you explore the rest of England with no need to drive on the UK’s congested road system, there’s good news! It’s super easy to make the most of the rail system, and have an easy day trip!
Whether you’re visiting from abroad, or just looking to take some day trips on your UK staycation, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s nice to get out of the urban bustle for a bit. London is one of the greatest cities in the world, but hoo boy, it can get busy. It’s good to get out and just breathe a bit, y’know?
Well, here’s my promise to you: as a local, I’m going to show you just how easy it is to hop on a train, and see some of the very best places that England – and beyond! – have to offer! I’m going to give you the full, juicy details on where to go on a day trip, what to do there, and how to get there with as little fuss as possible.
So let’s look at some epic day trips from London by train, and examine why you’re going to fall in love with them!
How to get your train tickets
Let’s be honest: no-one likes queuing, not even the British (and as a local, don’t even think about jumping the queue for tickets when you’re in London. It’s punishable with a 6-year stretch in the darkest dungeons of the Tower of London, with daily tickle-torture sessions. Okay, not really, but if we could get away with it under international law, we totally would).
So if you’re super savvy, have a look at beloved train website Trainline. This nifty little site is a standard for any regular travellers on the British rail network, thanks to its cheaper prices (as long as you’re booking even just a couple of days in advance), and for the ability to use their app for paperless tickets. No need to keep a tiny scrap of card safe all day; get your ticket on your phone, and swipe your way to victory.
If that just seems like way too much technology for you, you’re going to have to brave the queues. Most stations have ticket machines, but I’ll be honest – unless you specifically know which type of ticket you need (and which will be the most cost-effective), you’ll probably get overwhelmed by the amount of options. Put it this way: I make the same long-distance journey every month, and I still get confused about which option I need on the machines.
If you’re not a regular rail traveller, and just want the easiest way to enjoy day trips from London by train, queue up at the ticket office, and ask the nice employee behind the desk. In my experience, the good folks of the British rail system automatically assume you want the cheapest option, and they’ll happily answer any questions you have about routes or timetables.
Day trips from London by train within Britain
Now you know the best way to get your ticket, let’s check out where you can go!
By the way – although it’s super-tempting, I don’t recommend Edinburgh as a day trip from London. That’s purely because the Scottish capital is so wonderful, you’ll want plenty of time to explore it, and with a travel time of over 5 hours it’s simply not feasible. Do yourself a favour, and spend at least a couple of days in Edinburgh!
Head on down to London Waterloo station, and after a mere 1 hr 20mins, you can be in the beautiful Roman city of Bath – one of the most beguiling cities anywhere in the UK!
The city is most famous for its Roman Baths museum (hence the name!), and it’s a must-do for any history lover. Although the Romans had plenty of bases around Britain – including some little-known town called Londinium – they took full advantage of the natural hot springs in this part of the country, and built a splendid bathing complex. It’s seriously impressive, and you’ll be amazed at how much remains!
Once you’re Romaned out, there’s plenty more of Bath to explore. The city’s other most popular site is the Royal Crescent, a 500-metre long terrace of houses which curves around in a semi-circle, and is one of the best examples of Georgian architecture anywhere in the country. Oh, and it’s extremely Instagrammable too!
If shopping is more your thing, head to the streets around the Roman Baths to explore some truly unique stores. Cake lovers should make a beeline to Sally Lunn’s Eating House and Museum, home of the original – and very tasty! – Bath Bun. On the way, you’ll pass through Abbey Green, where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. There’s definitely nothing monstrous about the buns, though!
Okay, so you can’t take a train direct to Stonehenge. Alas, the ancient druids didn’t bear rail transportation in mind when they built it in 3100BC; short-sighted fools! But a journey of just over an hour will take you from Waterloo station to Salisbury, and Stonehenge is a short bus ride from there!
Probably the most iconic sight anywhere in England, a visit to this World Heritage Site will take you back in time. My first visit here was back when facilities and the visitor centre were a shabby affair: these days, the organisation is top-notch, with a visitor centre located a very respectful distance from the site itself and shuttle buses which transport you to the stones. This results in you feeling like you’re completely in the middle of unspoiled countryside, and able to get the best possible view of the henge.
It’s difficult to describe what’s so magical about Stonehenge – it just is. Come here on a sunny day, learn about the history of the site from the visitor centre, and then head up to the stones as close to sunset as you can manage. I guarantee you that it’ll be one of the most breathtaking sights you’ll ever see in your life. The mystery of how and why the henge was constructed just adds to the appeal.
If you’re not keen on doing Stonehenge by public transport, and you fancy doing Bath and Windsor Castle on the same day – yep, three British icons! – then check out this Stonehenge tour from London!
Being a Sussex resident, I’ll happily admit that I’m biased. But in my opinion, Brighton is one of the best cities in the UK, with a vibrant LGBT scene and a metric ton of things to do!
Head on down to London Bridge train station, and after a travel time of only one hour, you’ll be by the seaside in fabulous Brighton. If you’re looking for quirky day trips from London, this is the place for you: head into the nearby North Laine, and you’ll find more independent shops than you’ve ever seen in your life. Featuring everything from way-out fashion to quiet vegan cafes, it’s the beating heart of Brighton.
If you want to explore the history of the city, the most obvious target is the Royal Pavilion. This vaguely Indian-looking palace was a seaside retreat for George, the Prince of Wales in 1811, and is suitably lavish! In more serious matters, it was also used as a hospital for the Indian Army during the First World War, hence a number of monuments dedicated to the fallen in the grounds.
But one of the real joys of Brighton is to simply walk along the beach, sit on the pebbles, and enjoy some fish and chips or Brighton Rock. You simply can’t go wrong!
One of the most popular train trips from London is to Oxford – home of dreaming spires, and the world’s best-known university. Leave London from Paddington Station, and you can be in Oxford in less than one hour!
So, what’s the big deal? Simply, Oxford is a lovely place to just stroll around and explore. Most of the buildings in the city centre are built with a lovely, creamy-coloured stone which instantly makes them very attractive to look at, and you’ll love just wandering around and seeing the sights. Plus, if you’re so inclined, you can do a Harry Potter tour! Parts of the university were used as doubles for Hogwarts in the movies.
Speaking of, you can take a tour of the university itself, or explore academic buildings and museums such as the Bodleian Library (surely the top contender for the title of “Prettiest Building in Oxford”). There’s also the gorgeous Botanic Gardens and Arboretum, in case you’re feeling like you need to get away to somewhere tropical!
All sounds pleasantly exhausting? Good news: at the end of the day, you can retire for a drink in the Eagle And Child pub – previously a haunt of Oxford’s literary set, including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. If that’s not a pub with a cool bit of history, then I don’t know what is!
Yup, it is possible to visit one of the UK’s most famed beauty spots by train! There’s no denying that you’re going to have to be a little more flexible, and take a few bus services here and there (not a great hardship when the view from the window is as pretty as the ones around here), but it’s most certainly doable!
As well as being mind-blowingly gorgeous, there’s also plenty of things to do. A popular choice is to hike the Cotswolds Way, a 100-mile trail which stretches from Bath to Chipping Campden – but don’t worry; you don’t have to do it all in one go! You can walk as far along it as you fancy, or take in some of the other popular Cotswold walks which amply show off the countryside to its best advantage!
However, the favourite pastime of most visitors to the Cotswolds is to go village-hopping. The villages around here are the very epitome of the phrase “chocolate box”. These are your stereotypical, gorgeous, flower-strewn English cottages, and you’ll immediately be checking out house prices and making plans to move. Lower Slaughter is officially one of the prettiest villages in the UK – a title which is most fought-over – and nearby Blockley runs it pretty close.
Whether you have an active day’s hiking, or simply choose a village to spend the day in and relax, you’ll come back feeling refreshed and recharged!
Again I’m biased, especially because Arundel is my home turf, but it’s definitely one of the best day trips from London by train! Catch a train heading south from Victoria station, and you’ll be living the English countryside life in a bit over an hour.
The best thing about Arundel is that it’s a total hidden gem – not that many people in the UK seem to know an awful lot about it, meaning that you’ll escape the worst of the tourist hordes, and potentially have places to yourself! Arundel Castle is the biggest attraction (literally), looming over the town, and is well worth a visit. If you’re lucky, they may well have a jousting weekend, or historic life demonstrations being held in the grounds!
But even if castles aren’t your thing, Arundel is a fantastic place to just relax. Poke around the shops selling second-hand books or antiques. Have lunch in some of the excellent Italian restaurants in town, such as Pappardelle (my personal haunt). Or grab a beer from the independent Arundel Brewery, and sip it by the river.
Want a good walk? Arundel has you covered there too, with easy trails leading into the South Downs National Park, or just pleasant strolls along the river. By the way, most of those trails end up at a pub, because that’s just how we roll around here!
Seven Sisters Cliffs
Fancy a day trip from London by train which takes in one of the most famous sights in the world? You’ll be wanting a trip to Seven Sisters Cliffs, then!
Again, you’re going to have to do a tiny bit of bussing, but it’s thoroughly worth it to see one of the UK’s most beautiful places. To get to Seven Sisters Cliffs from London, simply catch a train from London Victoria to Eastbourne, then catch a number 12 bus from the town centre (heading towards Brighton). Hop off at East Dean, and you’ll walk for 27 minutes until you reach this splendid sight!
It’s possible to walk a trail along the cliffs (be sure to keep dogs on a lead, and to stay away from the cliff edge, because that tends not to be the safest of places), but it’s also worth visiting purely to take in the views. There’s something about the greenness of the turf, the white undulating cliffs, and the blue sea below which has captured the imagination of visitors for centuries.
Seven Sisters Cliffs is one the the UK’s most spectacular and iconic spots, and should be a bucket list destination for everyone!
Windsor Castle is one the easiest day trips from London by train, and it’s got something for everyone! Whether you’re a local or visiting from abroad, it’s a fantastic experience to see the Queen’s favourite residence in all its glory – and the town of Windsor itself is nothing to be sniffed at, either!
You don’t need to go on a bus tour to see it: take a train from London Waterloo, enjoy a journey of an hour, and arrive Windsor & Eton Central – simple as that! You can take a leisurely stroll through the town of Windsor itself before you join the inevitable queue for the castle (expect to have an understandable bag search and metal detector session before you enter).
You can wander at will through the open buildings, or join a tour – either way, be sure to check out the glorious decor in the State Apartments, where nearly everything drips with gold. History lovers can visit St George’s Chapel, a stunning building and veritable landfill site for royal burials, including Henry VIII and his favourite wife Jane Seymour.
Windsor Castle and the surrounding grounds will provide you with a full day’s interest, entertainment, and beautiful scenery, whilst being a stone’s throw from London itself!
The home of England’s favourite son (that’s William Shakespeare, btw), Stratford-upon-Avon has much more to offer than thespians in tights – it’s a beautiful town in its own right!
You can get direct trains from London to Stratford-upon-Avon from Marylebone Station, and after a journey of a couple of hours you’ll be arriving at the home of the Bard himself! And if you fancy it, you can visit his actual, legit home – Shakespeare’s birthplace is understandably the most popular attraction in town, and a must for any lovers of his work.
If that’s not enough Shakespeare for you, it’s also possible to visit Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, which is filled with the original furniture. The future Mrs. Shakespeare certainly had an eye for a beautiful location, as the cottage itself is so pretty that you’ll immediately fall in love with it! Once you’re Shakespeared out, head to the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm for a visit with some fine flapping friends – it’s incredibly Instagrammable!
Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the brightest jewels in the UK’s box, and it’s utterly perfect for an enchanting day trip with a side-serving of culture!
Hop on a train from Victoria station for a mere two hours, and you’ll arrive in Portsmouth – a city that might not be the prettiest, but has a lot more history going on than people think!
Even without the historic dockyard (and we’ll get to that in a minute), Portsmouth teems with notable residents. Charles Dickens and Isambard Kingdom Brunel were both born there. H.G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling were residents, as was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who managed to juggle being a doctor with playing in goal for Portsmouth Football Club, and somehow finding time to write the first Sherlock Holmes novel. Neil Gaiman completes the city’s literary pedigree.
With all these fine upstanding individuals, it’s no surprise that Portsmouth fairly brims with history, whether it’s taking refuge in an old smuggler’s pub down by the quayside (I recommend the Spice Island Inn), or visiting the dockyards. The star of the show is the Mary Rose Museum, a huge venue housing one of England’s most famous ships, which was wrecked in 1545 and rediscovered and raised in 1982. You can easily spend a whole day viewing the ship, as well as learning more from various interactive displays.
If that leaves you with a taste for things that are nautical but nice, pop next door to the drydock of HMS Victory, the world’s oldest ship which is still in commission (even if it’s more of an honorary thing). This was Nelson’s flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and where he met his untimely demise. You can see the exact spot where he died, and perhaps whisper his reputed last words: “kiss me, Hardy!”
Harry Potter Studio Tour
In just under an hour, you can be immersed in the wizarding world of Harry Potter! To get to the Harry Potter Studio Tour from London, simply catch a train from Euston station to Watford Junction. At the station, hop on a number 10 bus (heading towards Woodside), and ask the driver to drop you off at Ashfields. From there, it’s just a short walk!
Forget other Harry Potter attractions: if you’re a true fan of the movies and books, this should be at the top of your destination list. This is where a lot of the Harry Potter movies were filmed – that means you can walk around the actual sets which were used! Want to visit the Great Hall, the Forbidden Forest, or most excitingly, Diagon Alley? Yup, you really can!
There’s also a plethora of props and costumes for you to gawp at, including potions and the adorable kittens from Professor Umbridge’s office, as well as all the Quidditch uniforms you’ll ever care to see. It’s a true Harry Potter experience, and you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s a massive array of merchandise for you to take home, too!
You’ll have to buy tickets in advance, and each tour takes just under four hours.
Another stupidly simple day trip from London, you can reach Winchester by taking a train from Waterloo station – and you’ll arrive in just over an hour!
Winchester is another of those beautiful cathedral cities, a speciality of the UK, and Winchester Cathedral definitely deserves a visit. It’s over 900 years old, and one of the finest examples of a medieval cathedral in the country. When you enter, you’ll be blown away by the elaborate carvings in the stonework, as well as the preserved medieval paintings – it’s also home to the tomb of Jane Austen, who we’ll be hearing more about later!
If you’re in the mood for more of Winchester’s history (and a perfectly Instagrammable location!), take a walk through the meadows until you reach the Hospital of St. Cross. This former almshouse has an incredibly pretty church, and it’s been used several times as a filming location, most notably in the BBC’s excellent adaption of Wolf Hall. If you like to take awesome photos, and have some good history on the side, this is the place!
Fancy a walk on the wild side? Take a bus to Marwell Zoo. As a big animal lover, I’m picky with my zoos – and Marwell is the best of the bunch. It’s not a “point-and-stare” kind of zoo; it’s seriously devoted to the conservation of rare animals (especially antelopes), and all of the species have huge enclosures (the park itself is in the countryside, and absolutely massive). The zoo and its society do some fantastic work!
Bristol (or “Brizzle”, at it’s known by locals), is one of the UK’s most engaging cities! Catch a train from Paddington station, and you can be there in just over an hour and a half.
There’s so many things to do in the city, but the HMS Great Britain is a good place to start! Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, she’s an absolutely huge ship – by far the biggest of her time – and was designed to be a transatlantic ship travelling between Bristol and America. Her size meant that she was expensive to run, however, and she was scuttled before being raised and converted to a museum in 1970. These days, it’s a fascinating glimpse into day gone by!
If scenery is more your thing, take a trip to another of Brunel’s designs – the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which crosses the Avon Gorge and some appropriately beautiful landscapes. It’s become the symbol of Bristol, and there’s a number of viewpoints and a visitor centre, where you can really make the most of your trip!
Still not enough Bristol for you? Check out St Nicholas Markets, an indoor permanent market with a wide variety of traders offering just about anything you could ever want, especially if it’s a bit quirky! You’ll find everything from Portuguese and Caribbean food, to vinyl records, to Japanese-inspired gifts. It’s great fun, and totally Bristol!
Fancy dipping a toe into another part of the UK? Then consider day trips from London by train that head into the beautiful country that is Wales – specifically Cardiff!
Get on a train at Paddington station, and you’ll be in the Welsh capital in under two hours. Wales is such an underrated part of the UK; it doesn’t get nearly the amount of international visitors that it deserves, and you’ll be able to explore somewhere which is culturally and historically distinct. Although getting into the best of the Welsh countryside might not be possible on a day trip, there’s still plenty to do in Cardiff!
If you love your history, you’ll be well catered for! St Fagans National Museum of History is a gorgeous open air museum devoted to Wales’ past, and it’s a true delight to just wander around. You can see quaint cottages, water mills, and even ye olde general goods stores (with ye olde products!). If that gets you well and truly bitten by the history bug, then Cardiff Castle is also available to you, with some fascinating tales and beautiful grounds.
Not done travelling through time? Well, the good news is that you can take a Doctor Who tour, too!
The Jane Austen Centre
What could possibly be more civilised, and more English, than reading all about Jane Austen before having some afternoon tea? Nothing, I say!
The Jane Austen Centre in Bath will allow you to fulfil all your fantasies of having tea with your personal Mr. Darcy (okay, we can’t guarantee that you’ll meet a smouldering gentleman there), but you will be able to wander through the exhibitions that’ll teach you all about Bath’s most famous resident. Austen loved the city, mentioning it in every single one of her books, and the exhibitions really demonstrate the link between her stories and the city itself.
Once you’re exhausted by all that learning, then it’s time to move into the Regency tea room! The staff are dressed as they would’ve been in Austen’s day, giving you that authentic experience with a nice dollop of elegance (as well as a nice dollop of the most delicious jam and cream with your scones!). A lot of the menu options are named after Austen’s characters, and they’re all mouthwatering!
Once you’ve been fed and watered, move to the gift shop for the ultimate shopping experience for Austen fans, where you can get everything from luxury hardback editions of the books, to jewellery which is in keeping with Regency times. It’s perfect for grabbing gifts for your friends… or just keeping for yourself!
It’s more simple than you may think to visit Blenheim Palace from London! Depart from Marylebone station to Oxford Parkway, then hop on a 7 Gold bus heading towards Old Woodstock. You’ll spot Blenheim Palace a mile off, and the whole journey takes just an hour and a half!
Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightly so – it’s a magnificent pile in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside, and was the birthplace to one of the most famous Britons who ever lived. None other than Winston Churchill took his first, screaming breaths here – you can see the exact room, with objects dating from the time. It’s strangely adorable.
The rest of the Palace (which was a gift for John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough as a reward for doing rather well in various wars) is equally worth exploring, with gorgeous state rooms which are almost the equal of anything you’ll find at Windsor Castle. It has an added interest, because as well as being home to one of the noble families of England, it’s also been pretty well used – there’s nothing stuffy about it, and there’s personal touches which reminds you that this was a living residence.
By the way, remember to check out the grounds. They’re expansive and beautiful, but you’ can also see the lovely Temple of Diana – the spot where Winston Churchill proposed to his beloved Clementine.
It’s super-easy to take a day trip from London to Cambridge, the other of England’s great university cities! Take a train from King’s Cross station, and you’ll be there in a mere 48 minutes. You can’t get many easier day trips from London by train than that!
Cambridge is best-known for its university buildings (of which there are many, and the majority of them are rather pretty), but there’s plenty to see and do without having to go to the rather extreme step of signing up as a student! The Fitzwalliam Museum is the city’s star attraction, with a fantastic collection of antiquities – it’s much like a miniature version of the British Museum. If you love ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese treasures housed in an equally beautiful building, this is the place!
Of course, given that this is Cambridge, punting on the River Cam is also an option! If you’re not familiar with it, a punt is a low-lying boat which is propelled through the sleepy waters of the Cam by using a long pole, gondola-style. You can hire a local (often a student) to chauffeur you along the waters, or you can hire out a punt and do it yourself. Be warned: I’ve seen people fall in!
All sounds like too much effort? Then take yourself along to the Cambridge Gin Laboratory, where you can learn all about one of the UK’s favourite tipples. Oh, and did I mention that you get to blend your own gin, with no appointment needed? Yep, let’s go!
The Isle of Wight
No UK childhood is complete without a trip to the Isle of Wight. If you missed out – no problem! It’s just as good as an adult!
It’s more straightforward to get there than you may think, too! Simply follow the instructions above for Portsmouth, and alight at Portsmouth Harbour station. This is one of the country’s more unusual train stations, as it’s built on a pier over the harbour itself – meaning that all you need to do is go down the large ramp marked with WightLink, and get a catamaran to Ryde!
If you buy a train ticket to Shanklin, then the cost of the crossing and onward journey will all be included. Plus, you’ll be able to explore one of my favourite villages on the Isle of Wight! Shanklin is best known for its beaches, but be sure to check out Shanklin Chine, a dramatic gorge with a waterfall and lush greenery growing around it. Totally not what you expect to find on the Isle of Wight! Also be sure to stop in The Rock Shop, the finest purveyors of rock and fudge anywhere!
Enjoy a lovely walk along the beach northwards, and you’ll soon end up in Sandown. Uapologetically touristy, this is an ideal English seaside resort, and it’s also home to the Isle of Wight Zoo. I have a massive soft spot for this place, because it’s actually just a retirement home for animals who have been rescued from the pet trade or circuses. They have a good number of elderly tigers, who are given as much of a hands-off life as possible, expertly looked-after and clearly enjoying their new lives!
Who didn’t read the Canterbury Tales at school, and think to themselves, “I’d kind of like to do that some day”? Well, catch a train from St Pancras International, and you can be there in less than an hour!
Quite obviously, Canterbury Cathedral is the main attraction in the city. The very destination of Chaucer’s pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales (and I bet they would’ve liked to have done the journey in under an hour…), this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most beautiful buildings in the UK. Ironically, it was able to become this elaborate due to a murder – this is where Thomas Becket became martyred, and the steady flow of pilgrims allowed the church to become very rich indeed!
Once you’ve had a look around, pop next door to the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge. You’ll spend a while admiring the building itself (it looks something of a cross between something from Sherlock Holmes, Enid Blyton, and Harry Potter), but it has some wonderful exhibits. As well as historical curiosities, including an array of penny farthing bicycles mounted on the wall, there’s Rupert the Bear memorabilia, and most excitingly for me, the original Bagpuss!
Canterbury is just a lovely place to wander around, and being so quick and easy to reach, it’s definitely one of the best day trips from London by train!
I do like a good cathedral city, and Chichester is an underrated gem! It’s also nice and easy to get to: simply catch a train from Victoria station (taking care to sit in the front 4 carriages), and you’ll be there in an hour and a half!
Chichester train station is a little bit outside the city centre, but fear not – a walk of ten minutes, which takes you past some rather nice shops and eateries, delivers you right to the Market Cross! This structure stands slap in the middle of the city, and was the place where peasants in Chichester would meet, and be able to sell some of their wares. It’s still very much used as a meeting place, and you can explore some of the city’s quirky shops from here!
Chichester Cathedral is a stone’s throw from the Market Cross, and was completed in 1108. It’s got a couple of claims to fame: it’s the only English cathedral which is visible from the sea (having been on the sea near Chichester, I can confirm), and it’s also the only cathedral in England with a campanile – a separate bell tower. You can see it by wandering out into the rather lovely grounds – if you’re lucky, you might also see the cathedral’s resident peregrine falcons!
Chichester is a lovely, compact city – historically, it’s been possible for all the residents of the city to fit into the cathedral at once – and is great for a quiet amble. Before you head back to the station, check out the area by the canal nicknamed Little Copenhagen, and take a walk down the towpath if you fancy!
Hampton Court Palace
How about a trip back in time to Tudor England? No problem! To get Hampton Court Palace from London, simply catch a train from Waterloo to Hampton Court – it’ll take just under an hour, and is as easy as can be!
Hampton Court Palace was built in 1515 as a residence for Thomas Wolsey, but he fell from Henry VII’s favour and wisely gave him the house to patch things up. It became Henry’s favourite, seeing a lot of the key events of Tudor history: Jane Seymour died there, having given birth to Edward VI, and Henry also learned about Catherine Howard’s affair with a courtier in the palace’s chapel.
These days, there’s probably no better place in the whole of the UK for learning about Tudor history! The kitchens are a great area to visit; they’ve changed very little since Tudor times, and there’s often demonstrations – they still cook meats on a spit over a fire! You can follow the food’s journey by going up to the magnificent Great Hall, where many a banquet was had. You’ll be impressed, both by the decor, and the amount of food they could put away!
Oh, by the way – Hampton Court Palace is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Catherine Howard, who runs through the Gallery towards the Chapel, screaming for mercy. Apparently, this happens every night. Have fun!
The New Forest
If you just want to get away from it all, and walk through one of England’s most unspoilt forests, a day trip by rail to the New Forest is just the thing! Depart from Waterloo station, and you can be in the village of Brockenhurst in under two hours.
The New Forest is the perfect place to go for a walk in the woods. It’s home to many rare animals and birds, as well as wild ponies! You’ll often spot these exceptional equines if you go on one of the many walking trails in the forest, and they’re actually very well cared for. Once a year, they’re rounded up and given a health check, as well as medications to keep them in fine fettle, before being released back to their lives.
The New Forest is also a great place if you’re into classic cars, thanks to the Beaulieu National Motor Museum. 285 vehicles have their home here, including everything from cars dating from the early days of motoring, to the fastest and sleekest Formula One cars around. There’s even an exhibit on toy cars, where you can totally regret throwing away the packaging from that one from your childhood.
For day trips from London by train that get you out into the beautiful green countryside of England, you can’t do better than the New Forest!
Manchester might not be England’s second city (Birmingham just edges it out), but that doesn’t stop it from being world-famous – and it’s well worth a day trip from London!
Catch a fast train from Euston station, and you can be in the splendid city of Manchester in just over two hours. It’s super-easy to then explore the aspect of Manchester which has brought it the most fame in recent years – football! Both Manchester United and Manchester City provide tours of their stadiums. Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium is older, but has more silverware in the trophy cabinet, while Manchester City’s Etihad is state-of-the-art, but lacking in history. Choose your side!
Once you’re finished pretending to be the next David Beckham, pop along to the University of Manchester, and check out the John Rylands Library. Once you’ve entered, taking full advantage of the free admission (yay!), you’ll be blown away by how stunningly beautiful this depository of rare books and manuscripts is. The library looks almost like a cathedral of books, and is easily up there with the most beautiful bookshops in the world! It’s a definite photo stop!
You can easily spend a full day exploring the many museums that Manchester has to offer – the only problem you’ll have is narrowing down which ones you want to visit!
Liverpool is one of the shining lights of northern England – and like nearby Manchester, it’s incredibly easy to get to! To go from London to Liverpool, all you’ll need to do is catch a train from Euston – you’ll arrive in two hours and fifteen minutes!
Also like Manchester, Liverpool is a former port city made famous by its pop culture icons, and you don’t get much bigger than the Beatles! Liverpool’s favourite sons are on display everywhere in the city, but the holy grail for fans is the Cavern Club – the venue where they played and gained their popularity in the early days of their career. You can take a tour of the club, and see the stages where they once stood, as well as take full advantage of their gift shop!
Once you’ve paid homage, pop down to the Royal Albert Dock. This harbour, which was the entry point of the wealth which made Liverpool great, fell into disrepair when Liverpool’s shipping heyday was over, but it’s now been reborn as a vibrant district. There’s shops, restaurants, a Beatles Museum (of course), and even an outpost of the Tate Gallery. It’s definitely the place to be!
If the history of the harbour has you intrigued, check out the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which contains a comprehensive story of Liverpool and its ships. You can learn all about the goods which were imported in, the immigrants who left for the New World, as well as a little-known ship which once made a stop in the city. You might’ve heard of it; she was called the Titanic…
Day trips from London to other countries
Seen plenty of the UK, and fancy a day trip to another country by train? Yup, thanks to the Eurotunnel, it’s most definitely possible!
If you remember to take your passport, and have realistic expectations of it being a fairly long day, taking a day trip from London to Paris, Lille, or Brussels is extremely doable. You can even go from London to Amsterdam by train, but with a journey time of four hours, you’ll have to weigh up just how much usable time you’ll have in your destination.
Wherever you choose to go continental, the Eurostar train departing from St Pancras International is your friend! Check out destinations and ticket prices on the Eurostar website, and remember that the further in advance you book your ticket, the cheaper it’s likely to be!
Yep, it’s true – Paris is most certainly a viable day trip from London by train! With the London to Paris train taking a mere two and a half hours, you can be strolling down the boulevards in the blink of an eye. The public transport system is so good that you’ll waste no time in getting around!
So, where to start? The answer is obvious: the Eiffel Tower. It may seem super-touristy, but you simply can’t visit Paris without paying the Iron Lady a visit, even though it’s visible from most of the city. There’s just something truly magical about seeing it close-up, and realising how elaborate the construction is – and if you feel so inclined, you can even take a tour up the Tower itself!
When you’re done there, it’s time to tick off the other must-do; the Louvre Museum. I highly recommend buying a skip-the-line ticket, especially if you want to see the star attraction of the Mona Lisa – being one of the biggest and most popular art museums in the world, the queues can be quite hellish at the best of times, and you’re going to want to make the most of every minute you have. Plus, it gives you more time to look at the other world-famous treasures held here!
It’s nearly impossible to not enjoy a trip to Paris, but if you really want to make the most of the experience, check out my guide to things to do in Paris, and my primer on Paris for first-timers!
C’mon, let’s give Belgium some love! Often forgotten due to being wedged between The Netherlands and France, and dismissed as being little more than a land of chocolate and Tintin, Belgium is a true hidden gem of Europe. And whilst nearby Bruges may be prettier, there’s plenty in Brussels for an awesome day trip!
You can reach Brussels on the Eurostar in almost two hours exactly, and you’ll wonder why on earth you never thought of coming here before. The centre of the city, and its most impressive sight, is that of the Grand Place – a truly gorgeous town square which surely must be one of the prettiest in Europe. The elaborate architecture will take your breath away, as they were previously guild halls which competed to out-do each other! It’s a perfect place to stop for a beer and people watch!
It would be remiss to visit Brussels without taking in its most infamous (and shamelessly touristy) sight – the Mannekin Pis. Yup, a fountain of a boy relieving his bladder has strangely fascinated visitors to Brussels, ever since it was placed there in 1618. If that doesn’t say something about the human sense of humour, I don’t know what does. But its popularity endures, and you may well see it dressed up in a little outfit!
But how about making the most of your day trip, and seeing the whole of Europe? No, really! Well, kinda. Mini Europe is a popular attraction, located right by the large and distinctive ATOMIUM installation, and it recreates the sights of Europe in miniature. Make future travel plans! Take photos and trick your friends into thinking that you do drone photography! It’s surprisingly good fun.
My friends, you are sooo missing out if one of your day trips from London by train isn’t Lille. It’s brimming with French charm, not over-infested with tourists, and is a stone’s throw from England. Oh, and it’s super pretty, too!
It’s so close that the Eurostar will deposit you at Lille’s rather fancy train station in only an hour and a half. From there, it’s a short walk to the city centre, and a walk around what is a truly underrated French city. My favourite thing to do is just to sit in the beautiful Grande Place – like the one in Brussels, it’s a series of buildings more gorgeous than the next, all clustered around a handsome square. Buy a baguette from the nearby bakeries, and enjoy the scene!
Once you’re ready to get on the move again, simply take a wander around the Old Town (or Vieux-Lille, as it’s known around here). All of the buildings here are just heartwrenchingly gorgeous, a feat even more impressive when you remember that Lille was right in the centre of two world wars. Enjoy gazing at elegant cafes, and bakeries with exquisite cakes and macarons. Stop at a bar or brasserie for a real slice of Lille life.
End up at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, and you’ll be treated to a feast of top quality art, including works by Donatello and Goya. And this is Lille, so obviously it’s in an awesome building which is a work of art in itself! Even if art isn’t your thing, it’s well worth heading here just to look around the grounds, before you head back to the train station to complete a successful day trip from London!
And there we have it! I hope that this has really opened your eyes to how easy it is to see the best of England and Wales (and beyond!) as day trips from London by train. As awesome as London is, the rest of the country is completely different, and just as magical. You’re missing out if you don’t get out there and explore, and travelling by train makes it so easy!
If you did find this useful, as well as vaguely enjoyable, how about giving it a share using those lovely social media buttons on the side there? Simply click them, and you’ll be helping out someone else who’s looking for some nifty day trips from London!
If you’re super smart, save the below images to Pinterest! That way, you get a permanent bookmark back to this page, right when you need it – and you know that you’ll forget half the places on this list, and want to look it up again. Save those images, and it’s so much easier to do!
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Courtney ByrneheimJuly 25, 2020 at 1:14 am
What a great list of London day trips! I have been to London a few times, but I haven’t gotten to escape the city. Saving this list for the next time I’m back. I would love to make it to the Cotswolds, especially. I have heard about how lovely some of these destinations from my local colleagues in London, too!
SaraJuly 25, 2020 at 2:23 am
Great post! I am happy to say I have done 7 of these day trips- guess I will just have to go back and do the rest. love all the good info!
SharynJuly 25, 2020 at 2:35 am
Wow. So many day trips from London. I will need to add an extra month to my next visit!