The Best Day Trips From London

Erika’s Travelventures is a blog that seeks to inspire more budget backpacking and responsible trekking, and help empower solo female travelers and travel planners around the world. Find out more

London is one of those metropolises where you could spend weeks and months exploring every corner of the city, and still find new things to do. When planning your next trip to London, be sure to consider the many popular day trips from London too. These trips offer a wealth of history, culture, natural beauty, and architecture that make them absolutely worth the small amount of time spent away from bustling city. 

Below are 11 popular day trips from London (plus 2 bonus day trips) to add to your bucket list. Details on key attractions, transportation from London, tour options, and other important information for each day trip are included as well. 

Table of Contents

Windsor

Windsor Castle at sunset

Windsor is home to one of the royal residences of the British monarchy: Windsor Castle. This 11th-century attraction is the longest-occupied castle in all of Europe. Windsor Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions near London and many Windsor sightseeing tours depart from the city each day. With its massive grounds, multiple tour options, and cafe available on site, it’s a great place to spend a day away from London. Windsor Castle is one of Queen Elizabeth’s official residences to this day, and is where the Queen and her late husband, Prince Philip, locked down during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. 

One of the highlights of visiting Windsor Castle is the changing of the guards, a quintessentially English experience which occurs most days at 11:00 AM. A must-see attraction within the castle walls is St George’s Chapel, which was built in the 14th-century and known for its incredible Gothic-style architecture. The chapel has been the site of numerous royal weddings, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank’s. 

Important info: St. George’s Chapel is closed to the general public on Sundays, so plan accordingly if this is high on your list of things to see. Tickets are required for entry to the Windsor Castle grounds.

Making your own way there? Windsor Castle is 22 miles west of Central London, and can be reached in 45 minutes by car or train.

Stonehenge

Stonhenge in Wiltshire

Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world, and is cherished as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stonehenge is a 5,000 year-old circular stone monument, set in the rolling countryside of England. The stones were placed in a way that aligned with annual solar events, including the summer solstice. It is widely believed that it was built by ancient Britons as a religious site and burial ground, but other, wilder theories exist, such as it was built by the wizard Merlin, or that the rocks were transported there by extraterrestrial beings.

The uniqueness of the structure and the mystery that surrounds how and why these monoliths were built there make Stonehenge an unmissable London day trip. Many Stonehenge tours depart from London in the morning and afternoon, and make it easy to reach this remote monument.

Important info: Book tickets in advance of visiting Stonehenge to guarantee entry to the historic site. Visitor numbers are capped for every 30 minute time slot. Online admission tickets can be purchased at a discounted rate.

Making your own way there? Stonehenge is located about 90 miles west of Central London, or around 2 hours by car.

Warner Bros Studio Tour

Diagon Alley at the Warner Bros Studio Tour

Harry Potter fans will not want to miss this popular day trip from London to Leavesden. Leavesden is home to the Warner Bros Studio, where much of the filming for all eight “Harry Potter” movies took place between 2000 and 2010. Post-production at the studio, the sets, props, and costumes of everyone’s favorite (and most despised) “Harry Potter” characters were preserved and are now showcased for all “Potterheads” to admire. 

The Making of “Harry Potter” tour at the studio showcases iconic sets like the Hogwarts Great Hall, the Gryffindor Common Room, and Dumbledoor’s Office. Visitors can also walk through Diagon Alley, take a picture with the purple triple-decker bus, and even try a sip of Butterbeer. 

Important info: Tour tickets are required and should be booked in advance due to the immense popularity of this London day trip. Several gift shops and a cafe are available on site, so it’s a good idea to bring some extra cash. Book entry and transport tickets together to save some hassle on the day of your visit. 

Making your own way there? The “Harry Potter” Warner Bros Studio is about 20 miles northwest of London, and can be reached in 20 minutes by train from London Euston station, or 45 minutes by car. 

Bath

The Roman Baths in Bath

The city of Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to Roman-era baths that were first used over 2,000 years ago. Bath is known for and named after these hot spring baths, and visiting this city makes for a perfect relaxation-filled day trip from London. Due to their proximity, Bath and Stonehenge can be combined on a day trip tour from London. 

The best things to do in Bath are to experience the hot spring baths, just like the Romans did back in the day. Start by visiting the oldest baths, the Roman Baths, which date back to 43 A.D. Although visitors can’t enter the water at the Roman Baths, the museum and architecture showcased there can transport you right back to the Romans indulging in the mineral-rich waters. 

The most famous modern day spa in Bath is Thermae Bath Spa, which is a rooftop hot spring bath that has amazing views over this historic city. 

Bath is also known as the home of famous British author Jane Austen. A visit to the Jane Austen Centre gives visitors a snapshot of what life in one of her novels would have been like, and offers activities like dressing up in 18th-century garments, writing with quills, and enjoying high tea. 

Important info: Spa treatments in Bath should be booked in advance and can vary in price and duration. 

Making your own way there? Bath is about 120 miles west of London, and can be reached in about 2.5 hours by car or 1 hour and 20 minutes by train from Paddington Station in London. 

Tip: Visiting Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath in one epic tour is one of the most popular day trips from London. 

Oxford

University of Oxford

Oxford is a historic town located in Oxfordshire, known for its beautiful historical buildings, Oxford Castle, the University of Oxford, and its sightseeing cruises on the River Thames. 

Top things to do here include visiting the Oxford Castle and Prison. This partially ruined medieval building was established nearly 1,000 years ago and played an important role throughout Oxford’s history. The castle was initially constructed to have several towers, a chapel, and a moat encircling its stone walls. Today, two towers and a converted prison wing of the former castle can be explored in the Oxford Castle and Prison tourist attraction. 

If you’re visiting Oxford on a day trip from London, a tour of the University of Oxford grounds is often included in a walking tour of Oxford led by current or former students. The University of Oxford is the oldest English-speaking university, and still one of the most renowned in the world. The largest of Oxford’s colleges is Christ Church, which was founded by King Henry VIII in 1532. Author Lewis Carroll came to Christ Church to study in 1851, which is where he met the daughter of the college dean, Alice, who inspired his “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” novels. Christ Church is also known today for being one of many filming locations for the “Harry Potter” movies, and the main inspiration for the Hogwarts Great Hall.

Important info: Oxford Castle can only be visited by guided tour, which runs every 30 minutes between 10:30 AM-4:30 PM Monday through Thursday, and every 20 minutes between 10:00 AM-5:00 PM Friday through Sunday. The University of Oxford can be explored independently but joining a walking tour is recommended. 

Making your own way there? Oxford is 60 miles northwest of London and can be reached in 1 hour by train and 1 hour 20 minutes by car.

Stratford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford

Stratford-upon-Avon, or just Stratford, is world-famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and is a must for fans of the poet and playwright. Make sure you don’t miss a single Shakespearean point of interest in Stratford by joining a Shakespeare’s Story tour of this historic town. 

At the top of the list for Stratford-upon-Avon day trippers is a visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the actual house where Shakespeare was born, grew up, and lived with his wife Anne Hathaway in the 16th-century. The wonderfully preserved home is filled with replica items from Shakespeare’s day and age, and pays tribute to his many plays as well. 

Another preserved piece of Shakespeare’s history in Stratford is his old schoolroom, where young William attended his first classic literature and theater classes. Immersing yourself in the exhibits here will transport you to classrooms and schools 400 years back. 

Once you’ve finished steeping in Shakespearean history, check out the many quaint riverside restaurants, markets, gardens, and cafes that Stratford has to offer. If you have time or plan to stay in Stratford overnight, consider attending a theater performance by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (performances also occur in London). 

Important info: Shakespeare’s Birthplace and the Schoolroom are open every day of the week, but it is recommended to book tickets in advance. Royal Shakespeare Theatre productions typically run in the evenings in both Stratford and London.

Making your own way there? Stratford-upon-Avon is about 100 miles northwest of London, and can be reached by car in about 2 hours. 

Cotswolds

Castle Combe in the Cotswolds

The traditional Cotswolds region in the countryside of England is an immensely popular day trip from London, especially for British travelers wanting to get away from the city. The area is dotted with quintessential British stone villages, making it a picturesque place to experience the quiet countryside. Many villages in this area are considered at the top of the list for prettiest English villages, including Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Burford. You won’t tire of going village to village however, because each one has its own personality and offers different highlights and things to do.

Bourton-on-the-Water for example, is known as the “Venice of England”, and has many canals that wind through its stone streets. Burford is known for its high street; a steep street that is lined with old English homes and businesses. It is also home to the 16th-century Tolsey building, a market hall which has been converted into a museum where you can learn about the history of the town and region. 

Important info: Exploring the Cotswolds is all about visiting many different villages over the course of the day, meaning it’s important to either have your own car to get around, or join a Cotswolds tour.

Making your own way there? The Cotswolds is about 90 miles west of London, or 2 hours by car from London city center. Factor in the time it’ll take to drive between villages before planning your day trip to the Cotswolds from London. 

Tip: Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, and Oxford are both near the Cotswolds, so can all be combined on this day trip tour from London.

White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury

England’s south coast white cliffs

The White Cliffs of Dover are one of the most iconic natural landmarks of England. Located on the southeastern border of the country, these dazzling chalk cliffs drop off into the sparkling English Channel. On clear days, you can even see all the way across the channel to France. Visitors can experience cliff-top walks, explore a lighthouse, and see flora and fauna unique to coastal grassland areas during a tour to the White Cliffs from London.

The nearby village of Dover also has an important attraction for history buffs – Dover Castle. It’s England’s longest-serving fortress and played important roles in both world wars. 

Canterbury town, located within easy reach en route to the White Cliffs of Dover, is also worth a visit. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its beautiful medieval architecture, long history and gorgeous Canterbury Cathedral. The narrow cobblestone alleyways have been traversed by pilgrims for nearly 1,000 years

Important info: You don’t need to book tickets in advance for any of the attractions listed above. Entry is pretty much guaranteed, but it’s best to check and book ahead on public holidays. For convenience, join a guided tour so you don’t need to organize getting to and around each of these points of interest. If you prefer to DIY the trip, consider joining a walking tour of Canterbury to learn more about its extensive history.

Making your own way there? The White Cliffs of Dover are about 80 miles, a 1.5-hour drive, southeast of London, with Dover town just next to the cliffs along the coast. Canterbury is 30 minutes inland from Dover, about 60 miles from London.

Cambridge

University of Cambridge and River Cam

Cambridge is another famous university city located a day trip’s distance from London, and home to the prestigious University of Cambridge (a friendly rival of the University of Oxford). Similarly to Oxford, one of the most popular things to do in Cambridge is join a walking tour of the university, led by a student guide. Visitors can explore its impressive academic buildings and landmarks while learning about the university’s significance in English and European history. 

Another unmissable activity during a day trip from London to Cambridge is “punting the River Cam”. Punting is when a flat-bottomed boat is moved along a river by pushing a long pole against the river bed. Due to the shallowness of the River Cam which runs through Cambridge, punting was the preferred method to transport cargo back in medieval times. Many punting tours are available for visitors to the city who want to explore from a different perspective. To punt from one end of the river to the other takes less than an hour, and it’s a great way to learn about punting and Cambridge history while seeing key sights from the river.

Important info: Punting tours can be booked as shared punts or private punts, so be sure to check which tour you are booking. Per person (or per small group) tours are generally cheaper because many groups are combined into one punt, while private tours mean your group will have the punt to yourselves. This Cambridge punting tour has both shared and private options to choose from. If you want to leave the day trip planning up to the experts, consider joining a day trip tour from London to Cambridge (punt hire costs extra).

Making your own way there? Cambridge is located 60 miles north of London and can be reached in under an hour by train, or 1 hour and 20 minutes by car. 

Tip: Combine both iconic university towns, Oxford and Cambridge, in one amazing day trip from London.

Bampton and Highclere Castle (“Downton Abbey”)

Highclere Castle

One day trip from London that has become increasingly popular is to the village of Bampton and Highclere Castle, both of which have been made famous by the award-winning British television series, “Downton Abbey”. 

The story follows the aristocratic Crawley family, including sassy matriarch Violet Crawley, played by Dame Maggie Smith. In the show, Crawley family members reside in a massive estate in the English countryside (the real-life Highclere Castle), and spend time in Downton village (the real-life village of Bampton). The “Downton Abbey” church where a key wedding takes place in the show, is actually Bampton’s St. Mary’s Church

Important info: Bampton and Highclere castle are about an hour’s drive apart, so if you’re day-tripping to these locations from London, it’s best to join a Downton Abbey tour from London or drive instead of taking public transit. Bampton is one of many quaint villages in the Cotswolds region, and can be paired with a day-trip to the Cotswolds from London.

Making your own way there? Bampton is about a 2 hour drive northwest of London city center. Highclere Castle is 1.5 hours west of London. It’s about 1 hour’s drive between the two locations, so joining a tour is recommended to make the most of the day trip. 

Seven Sisters and South Downs National Park

Seven Sisters cliffs

Another popular day trip from London for nature lovers is to the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs at South Downs National Park. The Seven Sisters is home to lesser known (compared to the White Cliffs of Dover) but just as incredible chalk cliffs on the southern coast of England. A stretch of dramatic coastline made up of seven white peaks can distinctly be seen from Flagstaff Point or Birling Gap viewpoints, which make up the Seven Sisters. 

Partway between London and South Downs National Park, is Brighton, Sussex, which is a popular seaside escape for many Londoners and Brits in general. Brighton is known for being an open minded and eccentric town with a large LGBTQ+ population. It’s home to attractions like the Brighton Palace Pier boardwalk and amusement park, the beautiful Brighton Beach, and the massive Brighton Marina. 

One fascinating stop-off during a tour from London to Seven Sisters is the Long Man of Wilmington. This massive, human-shaped chalk monument is located on a grassy slope near Wilmington, East Sussex. He’s surrounded by mysteries, including when and how he got there, what he represents, and who created him in the first place. 

Important info: Ensure you don’t miss out on any key attractions and points of interest mentioned on this popular day trip from London by booking a Seven Sisters tour in advance. 

Making your own way there? Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters are located 75 miles south of London, and take about 2 hours to reach by car. Brighton can be reached in 1 hour from London by train or 1.5 hours by car.

Bonus: Paris

View of the Eiffel Tower

Travelers wanting to tick Paris off their bucket list via London can thank the inventor of high-speed trains, and whoever had the idea to connect the two global megacities by train beneath the English Channel. The Eurostar high-speed train connects London’s St Pancras station to Gare du Nord in Paris, in 2 hours and 16 minutes. This makes Paris a viable day trip from London, without the hassle of going to and from the airport. Paris is a memorable city to visit, and should be considered for a day trip from London if this might be your only chance to visit the romantic capital of France. Leave the day trip planning up to your tour guide by joining a luxury full-day trip to Paris tour, which leaves London at 6:55 AM for Paris and returns at 8:30 PM.

Bonus: Edinburgh

Scotland’s capital city

Another option for a day trip from London is to head north to Edinburgh, Scotland by train. In this epic day trip tour to Edinburgh which starts at 6:30 AM and gets you back to London at 10:30 PM (it’s okay, you can nap on the 4-hour train ride), you’ll discover Scotland’s capital city and its long and turbulent history. There’s no better way to do this than riding a hop-on hop-off bus, then visiting Edinburgh Castle to see panoramic views over the city, both included in the tour price. Edinburgh can be colder and windier than London throughout the year, so pack an extra layer or two.

Erika’s Travelventures is a blog that seeks to inspire more budget backpacking and responsible trekking, and help empower solo female travelers and travel planners around the world. Check her blog here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.