We love the hustle and bustle of London but, sometimes, it’s good to get out of the city! If you’re looking for some easy day trips from London, check out the list below of some of our favourite places to visit…
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Whatever the season, there’s no better way to get away from the crowds of London than with a trip to the great British Seaside. Be ready for all that is British and kitsch – sticks of edible rock, famous wooden piers with their amusement arcades and (when the weather is kind!) sunburnt beach-goers on stripy deckchairs! Here are a couple of seaside gems that are both an easy day trip from London and just a short train ride out of the city centre.
Why go? For its classic seaside charm and legendary LGBT+ scene
Getting there: One easy hour by train from London Victoria, Blackfriars or London Bridge
How much? Off-peak return train ticket to Brighton from £18.70
Brighton is the shiny bright light of British seaside resorts and a very easy day trip from London. With music venues that cater to every taste, interesting eateries (some of the best veggie and vegan food around), quirky boutique shops and fantastic pubs, it’s not hard to see why visitors continue to flock to this famous British seaside town. Brighton is full of life and colour, so if you’re looking for calm and quiet, this probably isn’t the place for you! The vibe, however, is certainly more relaxed than central London. After a walk on the famous Brighton Pier and a hearty portion of Fish & Chips eaten by the sea you’ll go back to London feeling refreshed and revived (Just keep an eye on the dive-bombing seagulls if you don’t want to share your fish supper!)
The LGBT+ scene in Brighton is legendary and the whole city gives a warm welcome. Kempton ‘village’ is the heart of “gay” Brighton. There you’ll find boutique hotels and shops and more great pubs and eateries.
For the best shopping in Brighton head to the Laines where vintage and independent shops abound. Spend the morning or afternoon wandering these quaint streets and then treat yourself to a spot of lunch or dinner afterwards.
Why go? With recent investment and development, Margate is a seaside town on the up!
Getting there: 1hr 25 minutes by train from London St Pancras International
How much? Off-peak return train ticket to Margate from £20
The faded glory of this Victorian seaside town is getting its shine back and is well worth a visit if you want a glimpse of the British seaside of the past that’s heading for an exciting future. Margate was given its initial leg up when the Turner Contemporary Gallery opened in 201l. Trendy Londoners have caught onto Margate’s unique charm and many have relocated from the city, setting up interesting shops, hotels, bars and restaurants. (As soon as you see a craft beer appearing or botanic gins on the shelves of pubs you know that the times they are a changing!)
Dreamland, the traditional British fairground at Margate has been revitalised and no trip to this seaside town would be complete if you didn’t get on board its wooden roller coaster (first built in the 1920’s). Don’t worry, it’s been fully refurbished and is completely safe! Afterwards, bash about on the Dodgems and spin until you’re dizzy on the Waltzers. If it’s culture you’re in the market for, then head for a peek at the Turner Contemporary but make sure you don’t miss out on a pint in a pub or some traditional seaside grub!
Meet the Royals
If you’re a fan of the British Royals or just (shhhh) a secret fan, you’ll no doubt want to pay a visit to Windsor Castle, the place where the British Royals joined with Hollywood as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot. If historic monarchs are more your thing then head to the incredible Hampton Court Palace where King Henry VIII (he who chopped off the heads of two of his six wives) held court way back in the 16th Century. Both Windsor and Hampton court are easily accessed by train, making them both a great easy day trip from London!
Why go? For a right royal day out in a beautiful setting
Getting there: 45 mins by train from Paddington Station
How much? Off peak return train ticket to Windsor from £11.70. Entry to the castle from £20
Windsor itself is a pretty English market town with plenty to keep you occupied for a day. Though, since The Royal Wedding, it has become a magnet for visitors from all parts of the world. So be warned – you won’t be alone! You can wander around the historic centre or head to the beautiful River Thames and take a trip on one of the river boats that meander along the sleepy waterways through this Royal Borough. Or you could make like Harry and Meghan and take a horse and carriage ride through the town and end up at The Castle.
The castle is the heart of Windsor. Huge numbers of visitors come each year so plan your visit ahead if you can. The State Rooms are stunning but are sometimes closed so make sure to check first if you really want to see them. The Chapel where Harry & Meghan said “I Do” is magnificent.
Castle entry is over £20 so you need to make the most of your day. Book ahead online to avoid queuing for tickets – though you’ll still have security checks to go through. Get there early if you can – before the castle opens at 9.45am – to try and beat the crowds. Food and drink is limited in the grounds but your ticket allows re-entry so we suggest popping back into the heart of Windsor for a quick bite to eat.
Visiting London with friends? Have a look at our guide to the best things to do in London as a group.
Hampton Court Palace
Why go? To step back in time and see the luxurious life of British Royals a few centuries ago
Getting there: 35 mins by train from London’s Waterloo Station but there are also river options between April and October
How much? Off-peak return train ticket to Hampton Court from £13.10. Entry to the palace £12 to £20, depending on the season
If you want to step back in time and see how the Royals lived a few centuries ago then there is no better place than Hampton Court Palace. Upon entry, you’ll be offered a velvet cloak to pop on and you’ll already feel that you’re a member of the Court of King Henry VIII.
Henry took a fancy to the palace which wasn’t originally intended to be a Royal residence. He “acquired” it from Cardinal Wolsey – and turned it into the immense pleasure palace it became throughout the Tudor dynasty of British Royals.
It was a truly a palace built to impress and to display Henry’s wealth and power. Henry commissioned sumptuous apartments, a theatre, banqueting halls and ballrooms where he held court. Every conceivable kind of entertainment was there to amuse the king and his courtiers and the many visiting dignitaries and royals. There’s a fabulous art collection and the gardens are magnificent. Don’t miss a visit to the kitchens which demonstrate the unbelievable efforts that went in behind the scenes to create those banquets the likes of which would put the Roman empire to shame. There were 200 staff in the kitchens alone producing up to 1000 meals a day. And not a microwave in sight!
Get an Education
Ever dreamed of going to Oxford or Cambridge? Well now you can – if only for a day! Both scholarly cities are an easy day trip from London. You can bask in the atmosphere amongst the famous spires of Oxford or the beautiful architecture of Cambridge. As you would expect, there are fantastic museums in each city – often smaller than the main London museums and therefore more manageable. Just do a quick google search and you’ll find the ones that hit the mark for you. Do that in the morning and then punt along the river like a first-year fresher in the afternoon!
Why go? To soak up the scholarly atmosphere and enjoy the city’s great bars and restaurants
Getting there: Around 1 hour from Paddington or Marylebone Station
How much? Off-peak return train ticket to Oxford from £19.90
Ok so you can’t easily enroll as a student in this world-famous seat of learning, but you can pay a visit and see where some of the greatest brains of Britain were educated – not to mention dropping into Oxford Uni’s Bodleian Library where many magical scenes from Harry Potter were shot.
The town itself is soaked in the atmosphere of this ancient university. It is like stepping back in time. Students on rickety bikes – some looking incredibly academic and others, surprisingly, just like me and you. Like any good student town, there are great places to eat and drink. You might well be looking at a future Prime Minister in the pub, but ordinary mortals do exist here and they all have to eat and drink! Oxford is a small and easy place to wander around and you won’t get anywhere more English than this. Grab a pint or two in one of the welcoming student pubs and put the world to rights like the many great minds that came before you!
Why go? For beautiful architecture and a nice punt along the river!
Getting there: Under an hour from King’s Cross to Cambridge. (Note there are fast trains and slow trains – make sure you get one of the fast ones or you’ll be stopping at frequent stops)
How much? Off-peak return train ticket to Cambridge from £19
There’s endless rivalry in every sense between Oxford and Cambridge – from the famous boat race between the two universities to the debate over which is the prettiest city. A trip to either will give you a feel of life in these educational apexes. Cambridge is a beautiful city and easy to get around. There is less modern architecture and Cambridge is, in effect, a University with a town attached whereas Oxford is a town with a University in it. Cambridge can be a bit chillier on cold winter days as it’s further east. So take your pick!
If the weather is fine, then you really do have to have a go at punting in either city. A punt is a kind of flat-bottomed version of the Venetian gondola – but unlike in Venice you get to take hold of the pole yourself! What could possibly go wrong? You need a bottle or two of champagne (or supermarket fizz) and a picnic to make like the locals. Whether in Cambridge or in Oxford you will while away time at a very leisurely pace. In Cambridge you’ll be on the River Cam and drift past Trinity College, Magdalene College and the Bridge of Sighs. In Oxford, you’ll be on the River Isis or the River Cherwell and pass its Magdalen College and Christ Church Meadow. No more typical English day was ever spent by Winnie the Poo and Christopher Robin or by the crowds gorging on strawberries and cream at Wimbledon!