The Best Day Trips from London
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
London! One of my favorite cities and a great way to experience a foreign country for the first time given it's ease of accessibility and non-existent language barrier (for us English speaking travelers). If you've read some of my other posts then you'll know I'm a big fan of making the most out of any city I visit, which means that if I'm in a foreign country for any amount of time, I try to explore places that are close enough to the main city, but that also offer different experiences. What does this mean to me? Day trips!
Here are a list of my favorite day trips from London!
1) Windsor Castle:
My first recommendation is Windsor Castle, an official royal residence in the English county of Berkshire. If visiting London, I'm sure you'll take the time to go to Buckingham Palace and maybe see the changing of the guard, so if you want more royal excursions then Windsor is the place for you. I actually enjoy Windsor Castle a bit more than Buckingham because it's more remote, less touristy and you are actually allowed to access the grounds and tour around. Architecturally it's not as impressive perhaps as Buckingham but I really appreciate the 11th century defensive aesthetic, which allowed the English to defend themselves against the Norman invader William the Conqueror. Once there, take some time exploring the surrounding town and all of the delightful shops and stores. Then make sure you spend some time wandering the grounds, the interior of the castle and even St. George's chapel (where Megan and Harry recently got married). This was my favorite part of the castle, so make sure to dedicate some time to look around and marvel at the medieval Gothic architecture and see some famous resting places for former monarchs and royals like Henry VIII, George VI and the Queen's sister Princess Margaret. Also, if you're there at the right time, you'll also be able to see the changing of the guards as well!
2) Brighton Beach:
Just 47 miles south of London, Brighton is a seaside resort town on the southern coast of England. Think of it as a British version of Coney Island. This was traditionally a seaside escape from the city-dwellers of London, but I love it because it still has that Victorian feel to some of the designs and buildings in the area. Must-sees in Brighton include the pier (think fish and chips, candy floss and carnival rides), the Royal palace (a dazzling pleasure palace), the pebbly Brighton beach and the Sea Life Center (the oldest operating aquarium in the world).
3) The Cotswolds:
The Cotswolds is a region in South Central England which consists of rolling hills and meadows (truly picturesque). The Cotswold aesthetic is memorable because it's one of the only areas that has a bedrock of Jurassic limestone that is quarried to make the golden colored Cotswold stone. Spend time wandering around the historical towns, stately homes and quintessentially English gardens. This would also be a great place to stop and rest for a night and check-in to a cozy English B&B.
Not far from Windsor Castle and London is Stonehenge! When visiting London (or just being in the U.K), I couldn't pass up a trip to Stonehenge, the mysterious, prehistoric monument in Wiltshire England (located on the Salisbury Plain). Believed to have been built between 3000BC to 2000BC (via radiocarbon dating), it's basically a ring of standing stones (each about 13ft high, weighing 25 tons). The origins are still heavily debated to this day, but it was likely a burial ground at one point because human bone deposits were found as well.
One of the most shocking things about getting there is that it's in a pretty sparse, stark area of the country. You drive for a bit outside of London and find yourself in an empty area of land, then suddenly, BOOM! there's Stonehenge, just out in the middle of nowhere. One thing to take note of is that the area is heavily protected (it's actually a legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument and UNESCO's World Heritage Site, managed by the crown). The actual monument is roped off to ensure the land that Stonehenge is built on stays firm, so don't expect to climb on or around the rocks and take selfies ;) Actually, on the day that I went one couple was asked to leave because they were trying to fly their drone over the monument to take pictures or videos (I guess)? Within a few seconds guards and preservation rangers came running up and escorted them out, so make sure to be respectful. Beyond that, you don't need a whole lot of time here as there isn't too much else around the stones but they do have a very nice gift shop, cafe and museum that you can explore.
5) The town of Bath:
About 90 minutes by train from London, Bath is a beautiful Victorian town set in the countryside of southwest England. It's best known for is natural Roman style baths and 18th-century Georgian architecture. The most notable areas to explore are the Bath Abbey, which is best-known for its fan-vaulting, tower and stained glass windows. But for me...hands-down the best area that I spent the most time in, was the Roman Baths (located just next door to the Abbey). I've been an avid bath-taker since I was a kid and could spend hours just soaking in the tub, reading a book :) You can't actually take a bath here but do spend time walking around, appreciating the Roman architecture and exhibits located within. You can also taste a sample of the water, which is a bit warm and rich with minerals. Afterward, you can spend time walking in Jane Austen's footsteps (Bath's most famous resident) and see how she was inspired to write her famous novels. Next, walk by the Circus- a famous ring of Georgian style houses. If you have more time there I would also consider taking a tour of the city, maybe a river cruise or even stay in a hotel (many of which offer their own natural hot spring experience).
6) White Cliffs of Dover:
If you have time to drive through the English countryside, one stop might be to the famous White Cliffs of Dover. It's not exactly a specific location, but a region of English coastline which faces the Strait of Dover and France. The cliff is particularly remarkable because it reaches a notable height of 350 feet and is composed of its striking chalky white appearance.
7) Universities: Cambridge and Oxford:
I'm extremely proud to say that I'm a nerd. I love everything about learning, knowledge, reading, libraries, Harry Potter etc. So when I get the change to explore some of the oldest Universities in the world, I jump at the opportunity. Two of the most famous (and again close to London) are Cambridge and Oxford. These are actually two rival universities (a little over an hour away from each other) and some of the oldest in existence. Take time exploring the grounds and be in awe of the great libraries and halls. Additionally, if you're a fan of Harry Potter you can tour around some of the sites and locations that were actually used in the film!
My last recommendation for day trips outside of London is France! Believe it or not France (specifically Paris) is just a 2-hour Eurorail ride from London. So theoretically you could have an action packed day, get up early, ride the train and find yourself in Paris. If you've never been to Paris, one day really isn't enough but hey fit in what you can or maybe even consider staying a few extra days <3 If you are planning some time there, here are some other posts I've written that are filled with info and recommendations.
These are just a few recommendations for quick day-trips from London. I'd love to hear about any of your travels near and around London and what your recommendations are :)