The Best Day Trips from London

The Queen’s favourite castle, a WWII secret, the Harry Potter set? Day trips from London are a great way of visiting a wide variety of fascinating sights - ideal if you’re on holiday in the UK and short of time.

On a day trip from London you can visit the seaside, go to one of England’s most famous cathedrals or even treat yourself to a journey on a luxury train. Here at, we’ve put together a list of our favourite day trips from London. All the places we’ve chosen can easily be reached by public transport, so you don’t have the hassle of renting a car.

Beside the Seaside

Brighton is a brilliant place for a day out and really does offer something to please everyone. It's also an easy day trip from London. There are clean beaches (okay, they’re stony not sandy, but you can’t have everything), historic buildings, lots of independent shops and some excellent restaurants. There are also family attractions on the Victorian pier, tranquil parks and gardens, and opportunities for coastal and countryside walks.

Brighton became a fashionable resort in the 18th-century and the Prince Regent, later George IV, loved it so much that he had an extravagant residence built close to the seafront. Today the Royal Pavilion, with its lavish interiors and eye-catching architecture, is the city’s ‘must see’ attraction.

Trains go direct to Brighton from London Victoria and London Bridge stations. The journey takes just under an hour, and it’s just a 10 minute walk from the station to the beach.

A Royal Residence

One of the classic day trips from London is to Windsor Castle. This is said to be the Queen’s favourite residence (she is frequently there at weekends) and, as the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, should please even the most demanding history buff. William the Conqueror built the first fortifications here after 1066, and the present stone castle dates back to the 12th-century. You can see the State Apartments (think opulent décor and superb paintings), as well as the gothic St George’s Chapel. You might also catch the Changing of the Guard.

The castle isn’t all that Windsor has to offer. There’s also Frogmore House, where Queen Victoria is buried; the wide green spaces of Windsor Great Park and, on the opposite bank of the Thames, Eton College, where Princes William and Harry were both educated. For young children there’s the Legoland theme park, which is a couple of miles from the town centre.

Trains to Windsor leave from London Paddington and Waterloo, and the journey takes around 40 minutes.

Dreaming Spires

The university towns of Oxford and Cambridge are both easily reached in day trips from London. Cambridge (45 minutes by train from King’s Cross) has always been noted for science – this was where Charles Darwin studied, and where Crick and Watson discovered the structure of DNA. Tours of the university colleges are available – King’s College Chapel is particularly beautiful, while Sidney Sussex College has the ghoulish distinction of being the last resting place of Oliver Cromwell’s head. Other places to visit in Cambridge include the Scott Polar Research Institute and the Fitzwilliam Museum, while a stroll along the River Cam – or a boat trip in a punt – is a must.

Oxford, home of the UK’s oldest university, is an immensely atmospheric place with ancient buildings made of soft golden stone, students cycling through the streets and picturesque riverside setting. Famous writers, broadcasters, actors and scientists have been educated in its historic colleges, many of which offer tours. Children should enjoy a visit to Christ’s College – many scenes in the Harry Potter films have been shot here. It only takes an hour to reach Oxford by train from Paddington station.

The Home of Harry Potter

The most recent addition to the list of great day trips from London, is a visit to Warner Brothers' Studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire where the Harry Potter films were made. The film sets are now being opened up to ‘muggles’ who’ll be able to see sets such as the Great Hall at Hogwart’s, Diagon Alley and Dumbledore’s Office. Trains go from Euston station to Watford Junction (20 minutes) where a shuttle bus will take visitors to the studios.

Historic Cathedrals

It’s now easier than ever to take day trips from London to see two of the finest cathedrals in England. Canterbury Cathedral is an ancient place of pilgrimage, with a history stretching back to the 6th-century. High speed trains from St Pancras reach Canterbury West station in under an hour, and services also go to Canterbury from Victoria and Charing Cross.

Even closer is Rochester (under 40 minutes from St Pancras) which is home to the second oldest Cathedral in England. Rochester itself boasts a charming little High Street (with plenty of tea shops) and many reminders of Charles Dickens, who once lived nearby. One of the buildings, Restoration House, was the inspiration for Satis House in Great Expectations.

The King in the Car Park

If you're into history, then it's well worth considering a day trip to Leicester, where the body of Richard III, the last Plantagenent king, was recently discovered buried in a council car park. The city is about an hour from London St Pancras by train. You can take a guided tour of the city, visit the 'Search for a King' exhibition at Leicester's Guildhall and visit the Bosworth Field battle site. Find out more about visiting Richard III country here.

Wartime Secret

A more unusual day trip from London is a visit to Bletchley Park the country estate that was transformed into a secret base during WWII. This quiet location became the centre for Britain’s code-breaking operations – the place where Germany’s Enigma code was finally broken and where the world’s first semi-programmable ‘computer’ was built. Today, many of the original huts where brilliant people such as Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers worked, are still standing. You can see working re-creations of the Bombe and Colossus, the machines that helped to crack the codes, as well as several Enigma machines. Trains from Euston get to Bletchley in 40 minutes.

The Orient Express

If you really want to treat yourself (or someone else), then you could always take a day trip from London on the Orient Express. You can dress up in your finest clothes, get on the British Pullman at Victoria station and take a round trip into the English countryside. You’ll be served a 5 course lunch in style during the journey. Some of the trips are steam hauled – a real treat. You can also take day trips from London on the British Pullman to Bath or York. These trips include a guided tour of the city, brunch on the way out and a 5 course dinner on the way back.

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