Are you visiting or living in London and are considering a day trip? Well, you’ve come to the right place. After having lived in London for 2 years, I can confidently say that it’s one of my favourite cities in the world. And what’s also great about it is that there are so many day trips from London to get out of the bustling city and into the quaint English countryside.
I want to share with you some of my personal favourite day trips. I visited some of the most popular day trips destinations such as Windsor, Oxford and Brighton. But I also visited some lesser-known places like Rye, Dover and Canterbury. As an added bonus, London is so well connected that every town on the following list are all completely accessible by train!
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⏰ 1-1.5 hour train ride from London
🚂 There are 2 stations in Canterbury, the East and the West (look for which is cheaper/quicker – both are 10 minutes walk from the city centre)
✅ Visit if you’re a history buff
Canterbury is often overlooked when choosing a day trip from London but I personally spent a really nice day there. It’s a medieval walled city and it’s particularly known for its massive Cathedral. Honestly though, the Canterbury Cathedral is MASSIVE and full of history! It was in the walls of this cathedral that many important historical events took place such as the planning of the Magna Carta.
I found the houses to be a super cute mix of timber framed and classic brick English homes. There is a lovely walk along the Great Stour River and plenty of museums and shops to keep you busy. When I was there, I stumbled across a print-making shop where I got to meet a local artist as she explained the purpose behind the print I was buying! It was such a memorable experience!
⏰ ~2-hour train ride from London
🚂 It’s roughly a 30-minute walk from the train station to the White Cliffs of Dover
✅ Visit if you want an outdoorsy day
Thinking you’ve heard of Dover before but not sure exactly why? Well, it’s famous for its cliffs! It’s WHITE cliffs to be exact! Dover is one of the most perfect day trips from London if you want to really experience the coastal greenery of England!
I didn’t really know what to expect by visiting the Cliffs of Dover. I thought once you see it, you see it and it’s done. But that wasn’t the case. We spent several hours hiking along the coast, watching the peaks of white chalk poke through the green hills. We spend more time along the coast, lying in the sun and listening to the waves than walking around the town. You can also visit Dover Castle to learn more about its unique history being located directly on the English Channel!
⏰~1-hour train ride from London
🚂 It’s roughly an 11-minute walk from the train station to the university
✅ Visit if you want to visit some of the campuses that inspired Harry Potter
Oxford is another classic day trip from London because the university is iconic! But what’s super cool is that the campus itself and so many of the buildings were also used for several movies. One of the most notable is the first Harry Potter movie! I could recognize some of the spots instantly! You can also go for a tour inside the colleges. The one I went to, in particular, was Christ Church and I also visited the Divinity School!
⏰ ~1.5-hour train ride from London
🚂 It’s roughly an 18-minute walk from the station to the university
✅ Visit if you’re wanting to visit an iconic university
Cambridge was one of my personal favourite day trips from London. The town is wonderful, the school is gorgeous, the food was amazing and there is a river that runs directly through campus! I highly recommend visiting Cambridge for the day.
And on top of that, I strongly encourage you to go punting! A punt is a flat, square-shaped boat that you use in shallow waters. The person driving the boat uses a pole to push the boat along the river. It’s the quintessential British activity, plus it’s the best way to take a tour of the campus! The river runs directly around the campus so you are gifted with a view that you might have been able to experience on land!
⏰ ~1.5-hour train ride from London
🚂 It’s roughly a 20-minute walk from the train station to Brighton Pier
✅ Visit if you’re interested in a classical sea-side town
Brighton is a really fun day trip from the city and is insanely popular during the summer months! It’s known for its pebble beaches, local shops and its colourful pier! The Brighton Palace Pier is equipped with carnival rides, games and a pretty large arcade! There is a tonne of local and vintage shops around the Brighton Lanes. You’ll also find a really unique, palace-looking Royal Pavilion that is now being used as a museum! It’s the perfect place for a day by the beach!
⏰ ~1-hour train ride from London
🚂 It’s roughly a 6-minute walk from the station to the centre of town
✅ Visit if you’re looking for a more rural, small town
Rye is another underrated day trip from London. But I can’t recommend this adorable, cobblestone street town enough! The town is as quaint as you can get. The streets are lined with timber-framed houses and the community is surrounded by farmland. In the summer, flowers and greenery litter the streets as people pop in and out of local shops. What more could you want? This is the perfect day trip if you are interested in experiencing a rural village in England.
Pro tip: walk up the bell tower of the Church of St. Mary to get an incredible view of the town!
⏰ ~1-hour train ride from London
🚂 It’s roughly a 6-minute walk from the station to Windsor Castle
✅ Visit if you want to see an iconic castle
I won’t lie, I did visit Windsor as part of one of those group tours from London where you visit 3 or more towns for the day. From my experience, as cool as it was to see a bunch of places in one day, I didn’t have enough time to fully appreciate Windsor! If you can, visit on your own and take your time!
Windsor Castle, of course, is a must but there is also a massive park and the famous Ascot Racecourse. You can take a boat ride on the River Thames, wander around the town of Windsor or see a show at the Theatre Royal. There is quite a lot to do! Plus, they recommend that you typically need 2.5 to 3 hours to visit the castle to have the best experience and we only got around 1 hour to explore. Regardless, Windsor was a really worthwhile visit from London!
Fun Fact: The late Queen Elizabeth II was at Windsor when we were visiting and she was spotted on the grounds!!
Harry Potter Studio Tour
⏰ ~1-hour train trip from London
🚂 The closest station is Watford Junction (which you can access by Overground or Train). From there, they provide free shuttle buses!
💰Tickets cost £51.5 per adult. BOOK YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE! You’d be surprised how quickly tickets are sold out!
✅ Visit if you’re interested in movie magic (and of course, if you love Harry Potter)
Last but not least, a list of day trips from London is not complete without mentioning the Harry Potter studio tour! Even if you’re not a big fan of Harry Potter I HIGHLY recommend visiting Harry Potter World. You learn so much about the making of a film and such a successful series that it’s honestly interesting for all! We spent over 3 HOURS in Harry Potter World – it is massive!
There are tours that take you here directly from London but I don’t think you necessarily need it. It was very easy to visit by public transportation. You simply that the Overground or Train to Watford Junction and they provide shuttle buses directly from the station. The cost of the shuttle bus is included in the cost of your entrance ticket! For more information on how to get there, there is detailed information on their website!
This is one of the MOST POPULAR day trips from London, so book your tickets in advance!!
Which of these day trips from London should you choose?
In summary, these were all of the DAY trips I’ve taken from London over the course of 2 years living there! I loved them all for different reasons. So, if you’re working with limited time and can only do one or two, think about what experience are you looking for. Are you looking for a coastal town? An outdoorsy day? A cute, quaint village? I’ve included in this list, what I think the best ‘vibe’ or experience you can get out of each of these day trips from London!
I hope that this list inspires you to travel outside of London more often. London is one of my favourite cities in the world but there are so many more beautiful spots around the UK worth exploring! Stay tuned for more UK and London posts coming soon!
In the meantime, you can check out my Thatch guides dedicated to exploring London! I have a selection of FREE guides such as Foodie Finds in North London. I have also put together a PERFECT day itinerary exploring the top sites in London! Enjoy!