You will be glad to learn that the UK is packed with plenty of beautiful spots to escape to, many of which are just a short train journey from central London. Whether you’re looking for quaint villages, beautiful countryside, or historic castles, here are some of the best day trips from London.
Travel Time from Central London: Around 1 hour (Trains from Blackfriars, London Bridge or London Victoria). 2 hours if driving
Price from Central London: £13 return
Brighton is perhaps one of the most convenient day trips from London. It is especially popular in summer as it is one of the closest beaches to London. The train takes around an hour from central London and return tickets can be purchased for less than £10 if ordered in advance.
A great day in Brighton starts with an exploration of the quirky shops. The Lanes is a bustling maze of independent shops in the centre of Brighton, selling everything from Vintage clothing to antique homeware. This area is bursting with incredible art and is particularly well known for its many amazing jewellery shops.
Once you’ve finished browsing the many shops Brighton has to offer, it is time to hit the beach! The iconic blue and white striped deck chairs line the sprawling pebble beach. If you’re lucky enough to visit on one of the UK’s rare sunny days, grab a bottle of prosecco from one of the local shops and spend an afternoon kicking back on the beach, watching the world go by. Every perfect Brighton day ends with hot sugary doughnuts on the pier, enjoying the beautiful sunset.
Oxford – Most Popular Day Trip From London
Travel time from central London: 55 minutes on the train from London Paddington. 2 hours to drive
Price from central London: £12 return
The UK’s most famous university town is straightforward to access from London. Oxford is quintessentially British and provides a much sought-after escape from the capital’s chaos.
Architecture buffs will love it here, and the many colleges and other university buildings are wonderful to marvel at for hours. You can choose which college to visit and take a self-guided tour for a small fee. Alternatively (and recommended), you can pay for a guided tour around a selection of the buildings by one of the current Oxford students. These offer an excellent insight into university life and the history of this world-renowned establishment.
You simply cannot visit Oxford without trying your hand at punting. This Oxford tradition dates back to the nineteenth century and involves propelling yourself and your friends down the waterways in a long, thin boat. Punts fit up to five people and provide a unique and entertaining way to see the city.
Read the full guide: What to Do in Oxford for a Day
Cambridge – Best Day Trip From London
Travel time from central London: 50 minutes by train, around 1 hour 30 minutes to drive
Price from central London: £30 return
A Cambridge day trip from London should be a must-visit while in the capital: another university town, but a much smaller, quieter version of the perhaps better-known Oxford.
Cambridge University is the main attraction, comprised of 31 separate colleges spread across the city. Although you can admire the architecture from the outside, a walking tour is the best way to get a full insight into the building and learn more about the university’s history.
The Kings College is the most instantly recognisable, and so if you’ve only got enough time to squeeze in one tour – this is the one for you!
Punting is also hugely popular in Cambridge, and visitors are invited to test out their skills on the water. Fear not, though, if you’re not confident with your skills to navigate the waterways, you can hire a chauffeured punt.
If you fancy breaking a sweat and admiring the city from a new angle, climbing up St Mary’s Tower is a great choice. One hundred twenty-three steps lead up to excellent 360-degree views of Cambridge – tickets cost £6 per adult and £4 per child.
Margate – Best Sandy Beach Near London
Travel time from central London: 1 hour 45 minutes (Trains from St Pancreas and Stratford International). 1 hour 45 minutes to drive
Price from central London: £22 return
Margate is certainly a tale of two halves. Around the train station, you would be forgiven for stating that the area has seen better days. Many of the shops are vacant, and it’s a popular hangout spot for local teenagers.
However, a short 5-minute walk along the main coastal road, and you’ll find yourself in a trendy beachfront destination. In fact, Margate is one of the best sandy beaches near London and is unbeatable on an English summer’s day.
Margate has a beautiful, spotless sandy beach and surprisingly clear (albeit freezing) waters. The beachfront is lined with quirky cafes and plenty of places to grab a drink. Margate is also an excellent place for vintage shopping, and you’ll find heaps of antique homeware shops to grab yourself a bargain.
No trip to the English seaside is complete without a fish and chips lunch. Beach Buoys is a simply incredible offering here, with amazing gluten-free and vegan options.
If you fancy a slice of culture, be sure to check out the completely free Turner Contemporary art gallery. Whether you’re visiting with children or not, Dreamland retro theme park is a must-visit. Be sure to check their website before your visit, as they regularly host event nights and gigs.
Rye – Best for Wine Vineyards Near London
Travel time from central London: Around 2 hours (Change trains at Ashford International). 1 hour 45 minutes to drive
Price from central London: £32 return
When looking for the best day trips from London by train, look no further than Rye.
Although a little more challenging to get to than the others mentioned on this list, it is well worth the effort. Rye is located just five miles from the south coast and is one of the best-known wine regions in the UK.
The town itself is quaint, with plenty of old pubs and trinket shops to while away an afternoon or two. However, the real star of the show is a wine tasting at a vineyard.
We opted to visit Tillingham, a recently renovated farmstead that blends new technologies with traditional techniques. The tour lasted around 90 minutes, the perfect length to share all the knowledge yet keep the group engaged. At each stage, we were taught about a different element of the wine-making process (and, of course, given a taste)
After the tour, we enjoyed leisurely glasses of our favourite wines overlooking the fantastic English countryside. There is also an onsite restaurant selling rustic pizzas, which look divine.
Note: I would recommend pre-booking taxis, especially if you are visiting in the height of summer or over the weekend. The area is very rural, and taxis can be challenging to find at short notice.
Camber Sands is also just a short bus ride away from Rye, which boasts the only sand dune system in East Sussex. It’s a gorgeous beach, but the area leaves a little to be desired. Therefore, if you’re lucky enough to have the weather, I recommend packing a picnic and enjoying a day on the sand.
Where to Stay in Rye
We stayed at the Fig, a gorgeous modern B&B above a fantastic café. The rooms were decorated beautifully, with one of the best bathrooms I have seen in a B&B. Be warned though, these rooms are very, very loud. As someone used to central London noise, it still woke me up multiple times during the night. However, the company did pre-warn us about this and kindly provided earbuds on arrival.
Travel time from central London: 1 hour 30 minutes, or 2 hours 30 minutes to drive
Price from central London: £50 return
Bath is one of the most popular day trips from London by train and is widely considered the most beautiful city in the UK.
As you would expect, every fantastic day trip to Bath starts with a visit to the Roman baths.
The Roman baths are open until 6 pm, seven days per week, and tickets cost £25 (£27 on weekends). There is so much history to soak in at the baths; therefore, I recommend joining a walking tour or at least grabbing an audioguide to get the most from your trip.
Bath is an exceptionally picturesque city, and you should undoubtedly allocate a few hours to simply wandering the beautiful streets. Make sure to visit Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey and Pulteney Bridge, which are all interesting landmarks and great photo spots.
If you’ve got enough time, you can take a boat trip along the river to take in all of the sights from a unique angle.
Travel time from central London: 1 hour 30 mins, or around 2 hours 20 minutes to drive
Price from central London: £45 return
Eastbourne is one of the most underrated day trips from London by train, with two distinct sides.
The first is ideal for those who love walking and the outdoors. Eastbourne is known for is stunning white cliffs and breathtaking coastline. The famous Seven Sisters trail is a challenging 20km hike, but the views are truly spectacular. If you want a taste of the action but don’t fancy braving the whole course, opt for the Eastbourne to Birling Gap route, which is roughly half the distance.
Fear not; you don’t have to exert yourself on your day trip to Eastbourne. Instead, kick back on one of the best beaches near London – soak in the atmosphere, enjoy an ice cream, and even have a paddle in the sea if you’re lucky enough to visit on a warm summer day
Whitstable – Best Day Trip From London
Travel time from central London: 1 hour 30 minutes or 1 hour 45 minutes to drive
Price from central London: £25 return
Now, you will regularly see Whitstable named as one of the closest beaches to London and the best day trips from London. However, it isn’t actually my favourite day trip from London.
Walking along the beach and wandering the many trinket shops is fun. You absolutely must try some famous Whitstable oysters, and there are plenty of great places to have a sit-down seafood meal.
However, if you want to enjoy a beach day close to London, I recommend the short extra journey to Margate.