The best day trips from London

If you’re like me, you have been to London more times than you can count. Maybe it’s time to leave the city and see some sights around the city. Whatever your reason, I can only encourage you to plan some day trips when you’re staying in London. There’s more than enough to see and you can get to most places within two hours. Super easy! Here’s my guide for the best day trips from London!

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Cambridge

How far is Cambridge from London: 1 hour

Cambridge is a university city, and a beautiful one! I visited Cambridge on a beautiful sunny spring day, and of course I couldn’t resist a boat tour through the canals. This is the only way to see some of the most beautiful universities as they aren’t accessible any other way (unless you study at Cambridge, in which case: how smart are you?!). Aside from the beautiful and romantic sights, your guide (and punter) is most likely a local student trying to make some extra money by sharing the history and tales from his city with you.

Aside from the mandatory canal tour, there is also lots of shopping to be done in the city, and there’s too many affordable cafes and bars to count! Overall I found the atmosphere really relaxed, the city beautiful and I really considered whether I should move to Cambridge :-)

Tour: If you’re keen to visit both Cambridge and Oxford in one day, and you have no transport, it might be worth checking out this tour which will take you around both cities with a qualified tour guide. It departs in London and ends there too. 

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Oxford

How far is Oxford from London: 75 minutes

Obviously, Oxford is the other famous university city of England. Rivalry is still alive and kicking: in London I went to a charity event with a goat race (in stead of the famous boat race). I mean, come on. Oxford is a lot smaller than Cambridge, and after a few hours I had seen everything. But as far as visiting universities goes it’s much more accessible than Cambridge, and if you want to experience the real Harry Potter vibe (parts of the film were filmed here!), you have to be in Oxford!

Tour: If you’re keen to visit both Cambridge and Oxford in one day, and you have no transport, it might be worth checking out this tour which will take you around both cities with a qualified tour guide. It departs and ends in London.

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Brighton

How far is Brighton from London: 75 minutes

Brighton is the sea side town all Londoners flock to when the sun starts to shine. I’ve been there twice. Brighton not only has a famous pier, but it also has a really colorful and artistic city centre. During the sixties a big group of hippies established themselves in Brighton, which makes the city a beautiful hodgepodge of hip & high class people. Because don’t be mistaken: the houses over here cost a fortune. Brighton is a really cool choice to get some fresh air at the beach, eat at great restaurants and shop till you drop. I always liked visiting.

Tour: Brighton is a lovely, relaxed place and if you’d like to discover more of it, it’s worth checking out this bike tour. You’ll get to cycle around all the lovely spots with a qualified tour guide showing you the way and telling you the history about the places you’ll visit. 

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Bath

How far is Bath from London: 1,5 hours

If you want to visit a real classic English city, Bath is the place to go. It’s actually possibly my favourite English city after London. It’s just that pretty. Bath is stylish with beautiful Victorian houses, and offers a lot in terms of dining and shopping. Make sure to bring your wallet though :-) The biggest attraction in Bath are the Roman baths of course, which are really interesting to visit. Highly recommended!

Tour: If you’re keen to visit both Bath and Stonehenge (below) in one day, and you have no transport, it’s worth checking out this highly rated tour which will take you around both cities with a qualified tour guide. It departs from London, and ends there again too. 

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Stonehenge

How far is Stonehenge from London: 1,5 hours

What can I say… you have to have seen this centuries old icon at some point, right? At least that’s how I feel. So to visit Stonehenge during our road trip through South England was a no-brainer. I was actually more impressed than I thought I’d be. Just thinking about these stones that have been put here thousands of years ago, without the technology we have nowadays… it’s very special. After about 90 minutes you’ve seen everything at Stonehenge, so you can still choose to explore nearby Salisbury (where your train will arrive and depart from).

Tour: If you’re keen to visit both Bath and Stonehenge in one day, and you have no transport, it’s worth checking out this highly rated tour which will take you around both cities with a qualified tour guide. It departs from London, and drops you off there too. 

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Cotswolds

How far is Cotswolds from London: 1,5 hour

If you’re going to Cotswolds, you’re best off reserving a whole weekend for the pleasure. But if you really want to, you can still see a lot in just a day. Choose about three city towns you’d like to see, enjoy the nature on your way there, and submerge yourself in the vibe of the cute and quiet English countryside villages. You’d have to rent a car if you want to explore the area.

You can read my blogpost about my trip and my tips for visiting the Cotswolds here!

Tour: If you’d like to visit the Cotswolds but you have no transport, I can highly recommend checking out a tour. You’ll depart in London and get to experience the beautiful area with no stress of navigating traffic and be joined by a qualified tour guide.

Option 1: On this highly acclaimed tour you’ll visit some of my favourite towns AND have a two course lunch in an old coach inn.

Option 2: If your main focus is visiting Blenheim Palace (which I LOVED visiting), I would recommend this popular tour which ensures a guided visit to Blenheim, as well as a tour of the Cotswolds. 

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Windsor

How far is Windsor from London: 45 minutes

Personally I only spent two hours in Windsor, and sadly did not get to visit the castle which is undoubtedly the highlight of your visit. But even so I could already tell Windsor is a really nice place to visit. It has a vibrant city centre full of pubs and eateries and you can also sit and stroll along the river. Alternatively, you can get a beautiful 2 hour boat ride through Windsor over the famous Thames river. Of course Windsor is mostly known because of the castle where the royal family is often staying. The castle is publicly accessible and you can check ticket prices here.

Tour: If you’d like to visit Windsor but you have no transport, I can highly recommend checking out a tour. You’ll depart and return in London while spending a lovely day in the quaint town, flanked by a qualified tour guide.

Option 1: For a quick half day tour from London, this tour is your best option. It comes included with the admission to the Castle and its gorgeous gardens. You’ll be back home in time for a relaxed afternoon and evening.

Option 2: If you’d like to experience the best of England in a day (yes, really) I found this great tour for you. It’s highly rated, and brings you to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath. Three birds with one stone! Pick up and return is to London, and you’ll have a lovely guide with you on the comfortable bus. 

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Manchester

How far is Manchester from London: 2 hours

Just like the Cotswolds, Manchester is best when you spend the night there. But if you leave early in the morning you could still make it into a day trip. Let me start by saying Manchester is not necessarily a beautiful city. But it’s definitely a nice city where the atmosphere is really vibrant and fun. You’ll mostly find this in hip restaurants and a countless number of pubs. The city also has a huge shopping mall if that’s the thing you’re looking for.

Read my post on what to do with one day in Manchester here.

A last tip for traveling by train: make sure to book your train seats as early as possible, especially when you’re going to Manchester. Otherwise the route will be very expensive. To check out train schedules and tickets for day trips from London you can visit Trainline.com.

Want more inspiration on day trips? Read this great post on cultural daytrips from London, from my friend Raphael.

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4 comments

  1. LisaLDN / Fjords & Beaches

    One of my favourite London day trips is actually quite close to the city; a visit to Hampton Court! In the summer, the gardens are the perfect place to roam around, the maze is always good fun, and I love the little plays they put on through-out the day! :)

    Reply

  2. DAY TRIP: How to spend 1 day in Manchester

    […] more UK day-trip inspiration you can read my article here! You can also book a tour with a local, who will listen to where you want to go and will show you […]

    Reply

  3. Julia

    Thanks for this list! I’m studying abroad in Liverpool next spring and this gave me a good place to start when planning my weekend excursions.

    Reply

    1. Explorista

      You’ll have an amazing time I’m sure!

      Reply

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