Let’s face it, London’s hustle and bustle can be quite overwhelming, even for the locals who love this lifestyle.
The good news is, the British capital is close to plenty of cities that are perfect for a bit of escapism. Whether you’re looking for country walks, a cultural experience or seaside air, they can all be reached by train in less than two hours, offering maximum exploring time.
That said, here are some of the best day trips from London for a completely different vibe.
First up, Kent is a good destination for a quick getaway, as the direct train from London to Canterbury takes as little as 53 minutes. Leave your car at Stansted airport parking to have a day all for yourself where you can relax and not have to worry about driving, or your car’s safety.
Canterbury is home to one of the most spectacular cathedrals in Britain. The Historic Canterbury Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a history dating back to the 6th century. It’s where Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in 1170 on the orders of King Henry II.
Another popular attraction is the Canterbury Tales, which was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous work. It provides an interactive and entertaining journey through medieval life.
Then there’s the old town, which is filled with cobbled streets, medieval buildings and picturesque scenery. You can wander along the remnants of the ancient wall, explore the local shops and eateries, or take a stroll along the colourful banks of River Stour. Either way, there’s a lot to see and do that would make your day trip super enjoyable.
Best day trips from London 101: Clifton, which is only an hour and 35 minutes away on the train. This stunning city consists of quiet residential streets juxtaposed with an eclectic mix of independent restaurants, cafes and pubs, and pretty Georgian townhouses.
Start your day by exploring Clifton Arcade, where you will find 17 boutiques filled with intriguing antiques and knick-knacks.
Then grab coffee at one of the countless cute cafes before heading to Clifton Bridge for a gorgeous view across the River Avon. The bridge is one of the oldest surviving iron suspension models in the entire world, and if you want to learn more about its history, check out the Visitor Centre.
The Clifton Observatory is also not to be missed. It has a mythical giant’s cave and a museum featuring a Camera Obscura from Victorian times.
At the end of the day, relax at the Bristol Lido, a restored swimming bath from the 1800s. Here you will find a poolside bar and spa for the ultimate pampering experience.
Have you been to York or Chester before? If you loved your visit, you’ll love Bath (it has the same sort of vibe and beauty). It’s also known for its rich history and unique charm.
If you’re lucky enough to have good weather, don’t rule out the many walking routes. It’s the best way to see the city. For example, Bath Skyline is a short stroll from the city centre, and you naturally pass through meadows, woodlands and orchards.
Somerset’s largest city is also recognised for its literary heritage so it has tons of literature festivals and bookstores. Speaking of stores, the shopping is amazing. From clever concepts such as Found (where you can purchase niche global brands) to boutiquey Nām (recognised for its antique homeware and furniture), there is something for everyone.
Another plus is that the destination is only one hour and 20 minutes away from the capital, making it one of the easiest and best day trips from London. Leave your car at Heathrow parking and catch the train for convenience.
With its cobbled streets and pastel-coloured buildings, Hertford is the ideal location to satisfy weary Londoners looking for shorter queues and fresher air. Here, you will find plenty of local shops with distinctive treasures, like the Women’s Society Boutique.
It’s also a foodie haven with a bunch of individual restaurants and cafes. B&B Number One Port Hill, Hertford Coffee Lab and Giambrone’s are popular options. Then there’s Dog and Whistle, which was once a pop-up cafe but is now a quirky events venue.
If you have time, go on the three-mile walk alongside the River Lea, as this is a lovely area with a myriad of pubs. From there, you can catch the train back to London, which takes just 56 minutes.
Cotswolds, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire
The Cotswolds covers parts of six counties, notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, in south-central England. It takes approx one hour and 56 minutes on a train to get there from London but there’s a reason why Brits love visiting.
Begin your exploration in adorable villages like Bourton-on-the-Water or Bibury, known for their lovely stone cottages and scenic landscapes. Take leisurely walks along the Cotswold Way to breathe in the fresh countryside air and catch panoramic views of rolling hills.
Antique enthusiasts will find joy in exploring the unique shops in Stow-on-the-Wold. You can also put historic sites such as Blenheim Palace or Sudeley Castle on your must-see list to delve into the region’s heritage.
Whether you’re immersing yourself in the timeless beauty of Hidcote Manor Garden or simply enjoying a serene picnic along the River Windrush, the Cotswolds embody a perfect blend of tranquility and timeless charm.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
Lastly, Eastbourne is a charming seaside town on the south coast of England about an hour-and-40-minute train ride from London. It’s known for its pebble beach, Victorian pier and much-loved bandstand, where Abba, Queen, Lady Gaga and Frank Sinatra have played.
Take a leisurely stroll along the iconic Eastbourne Pier, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the English Channel. Are you a fan of watersports? Head to the Sovereign Harbour Marina for sailing or a calming boat trip.
If you’re an art lover, you can browse the city’s many interesting galleries, including the Towner Art Gallery. This has a diverse collection of both contemporary and historic art.
Eastbourne is also home to pretty yet peaceful Victorian gardens, such as the Eastbourne Redoubt Fortress and the Carpet Gardens.
However, what this city is really known for is its famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs at Beachy Head. Hike to the top to see the impressive views that will take your breath away.
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Final Thoughts on the Best Day Trips from London
For those seeking a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of London’s vibrant city life, don’t miss the best day trips from London on this list.
Whether you immerse yourself in the historic charm of Canterbury, bask in the seaside allure of Eastbourne or explore the abundant beauty of the Cotswolds, each destination offers a refreshing change of pace and unique respite.
Which one would you visit?