Best Day Trips From London

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I’ve spent loads of my life living in and around various parts of London.

Because of that, I’ve spent lots of time day-tripping from the city, hopping between beaches, cities, forests, national parks, castles, kids’ attractions and loads more.

So in this guide, I’ve brought you the best day trips from London (or at least my favorite day trips from London). I’ve covered outdoors stuff, towns and cities, ideas for people traveling with kids, and loads more.

Oh, and a quick note before we get started: you need access to a car to visit a small few of these places, but you can visit the vast majority with train and public transport. Public transport in England, especially from London, is great, so it’s really easy to enjoy most of these day trips.

Anyway, enough of all the introductions—here are the top 25 day trips from London

Best Day Trips from London

Best Day Trips from London for People with Kids

1. Brighton

A visit to Brighton is a lovely little mix of lots of different things. You get beaches, a cute city, fairground rides, fun attractions, an aquarium and plenty more.

If you want to visit a beach and city combo that’ll keep both you and your kids entertained, Brighton is perfect. Here, you and your little ones can enjoy fish and chips, seaside dips, a house of illusions, an upside down house and loads of retro seaside excitement and adventure.

One of my favorite places here is Loading, a cafe/bar/funzone with loads of board games, arcade games and retro video games. Equally fun for both adults and kids! When you’re bored of Loading, there are loads more arcade games on the pier.

The city itself is lovely, with loads of independent stories, eateries and cafes.

Oh, and one last thing: the beaches are mostly pebbly, but don’t let that ruin your fun.

  • Distance from London: 60 miles/96km
  • How to get there: Direct train from various London stations
  • Time taken to get there: Around one hour
  • How much time to spend there: All day

2. Legoland

For people with young kids, this is without doubt the best day trip from London.

You probably know this already, but in case you’re confused, Legoland is a big theme park based on, made from, and all about Lego.

The place has around 55 different attractions, separated into 12 different themed zones. Some of the best rides and attractions include the 4D experience, The Dragon (a brilliant rollercoaster), a pirate-themed log flume, a submarine aquarium experience and loads of miniature cities all built out of Lego.

I went a few years ago, and I loved it. And I was in my late 20s. And to be honest, I’d probably go again.

The theme park is in Windsor, so you can combine a trip to Legoland with a trip to the town itself. But more on Windsor later.

  • Distance from London: 25 miles/40km
  • How to get there: Train to Windsor, then a bus from Windsor to Legoland
  • Time taken to get there: Around 90 minutes
  • How much time to spend there: Half a day

3. Margate

Tacky and knockabout but lovable and endearing, Margate is an old-school seaside escape packed with fish and chips, buckets and spades, seagulls and smiles.

Imagine the type of beachside vacation that Mary Poppins might have taken, and you’re imagining Margate. Although, admittedly, it is a little more hip and happening these days.

Some of Margate’s highlights include the legendary Dreamland theme park, the intentionally-dreary Margate Caves, and the weird but fun Crab Museum. You also get adventure golf, sand and sea, and lots of shoreside fun. If you want a proper old-fashioned seaside day trip, you’ll absolutely love Margate.

Once you’ve enjoyed all the tacky fun, Margate is also home to lots of great museums, theatres and galleries. So it’s not all retro stuff!

  • Distance from London: 70 miles/113km
  • How to get there: Direct train from various London stations
  • Time taken to get there: 2 hours
  • How much time to spend there: All day

4. Harry Potter Studios

Most people think Harry Potter studios is in the center of London, but it’s actually lurking on the outskirts.

An award-winning place with a ridiculous number of attractions, it’s an absolute must-visit for any fans of the franchise. That said, if you’re excited about the prospect and you’re older than 12, you need to get a new hobby.

At Harry Potter Studios, you can see some of the real sets used in the films, and look at loads of props and costumes. Some of the highlights include visits to Diagon Alley, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and The Great Hall. You can also see the Potions Rooms, Dumbledore’s office, and the Forbidden Forest, and meet Buckbeak, Aragog and The Basilisk.

And on top of all that, you can ride in the Flying Ford Anglia, take a trip on the Knight Bus, meet Dobby and get sorted by the Sorting Hat.

  • Distance from London: 20 miles/32km
  • How to get there: Train to Watford Junction, then a bus from Watford Junction to Harry Potter Studios
  • Time taken to get there: 45 minutes
  • How much time to spend there: All day

5. Southend-on-Sea

Another traditional old-school seaside getaway, Southend-on-Sea (or just Southend, as most people call it) is pretty similar to Margate.

The only major difference is that while Margate’s in Kent, Southend’s in Essex.

Just like it’s Kent-based neighbor, Southend is all about lovably-tacky nostalgia. You get fish and chips, bright pink candy floss (that’s cotton candy if you’re from the US), arcade games, retro rides, a bustling pier, an aquarium, crazy golf and kid-clad beaches.

Southend is always ridiculously busy, so if you like bustling beaches, head here.

  • Distance from London: 42 miles/68km
  • How to get there: Direct train from various London stations
  • Time taken to get there: Around 1 hour
  • How much time to spend there: All day

6. Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center

Probably the most famous children’s author of all time, Road Dahl is an icon.

If you or your kids are fans of the man and his wacky work, the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center is a lovely way to explore and celebrate his stuff. There are loads of interactive exhibits, and you and your kids (but probably mainly you) can meet all your favorite characters.

One of the cutest things about the place is where it’s located. Nestled in a humble building in the tiny village of St. Missenden (where Roald Dahl lived for over 30 years!), it’s a cute place for a charming museum. The museum even offers countryside walks, where you can wander to some of Dahl’s favorite wooded spots.

For a quiet, secluded, kid-friendly escape from London, this place is brilliant.

  • Distance from London: 34 miles/55km
  • How to get there: Direct train from Marylebone station
  • Time taken to get there: 45 minutes
  • How much time to spend there: 2-4 hours

7. Bekonscot Model Village

One of the UK’s most retro attractions, this is the oldest original model village in the world. It’s like someone took 1930s England, shrunk it down, and plopped it on the outskirts of London for you and your kids to wander around.

Made up of 7 little towns set in 1.5 acres of land, some of its most famous features include coal mines, farms, cable cars, racecourses, zoos, fishing villages, trains and loads more. This place might sound tacky and knockabout, but it’s actually brilliant. With more than 200 buildings and 4,000 living creatures, there’s plenty to point and laugh at.

Even if you’re not traveling with kids, this is a weirdly nostalgic throwback to a time when you probably weren’t even born. But somehow, it’ll still stir up some sentimentality. So if you like unusual attractions, I massively recommend it!

Bekonscot is only around 9 miles (14.5km) from the Roald Dahl Museum, so visit them both on the same day if you can (especially if you’re driving!).

  • Distance from London: 26 miles/42km
  • How to get there: Direct train from Marylebone station
  • Time taken to get there: 40 minutes
  • How much time to spend there: 2-3 hours

Best Outdoors Day Trips from London

8. Richmond Park

Okay, Richmond Park is actually part of London. So it’s not really a day trip.

But it’s on the outskirts of the city, and it feels like an entirely different place, so I’m including it on this list anyway. When you get there, you’ll realize it doesn’t really feel like part of London at all.

Richmond Park measures in at 2,500 acres (that’s around 1,250 soccer pitches), and it takes anything from 2-4 hours to walk around it all. But what it’s most famous for is its horned little inhabitants—since the 1600s, loads of wild deer have been wandering freely around the place.

There are around 600 deer in total, so you’ll always see plenty on a visit. And if you come in May, June or July, you’ll probably see some baby ones!

  • Distance from London: 10 miles (16km) southwest of the center
  • How to get there: Public transport within the city
  • Time taken to get there: 30-60 minutes from central London
  • How much time to spend there: 2-4 hours

9. Bournemouth’s Beaches

Just like all the other beach-based places we’ve already covered, there’s loads of retro fun on offer in Bournemouth. But what sets Bournemouth apart from the rest of London’s shore-centric day trips is the quality of its beaches. People flock to Bournemouth for the beaches themselves, rather than just visiting them on a swift trip to the city.

So if you like good-quality beaches, Bournemouth is the top pick near London. On a good day, the beaches here feel like they’re on a tropical resort.

Some of the best beaches in Bournemouth include Southbourne Beach, Durley Chine Beach and Alum Chine Beach.

You get seven miles of shore (that’s around 11km), so there’s plenty of space to find your own serene little spot.

  • Distance from London: 100 miles/160km
  • How to get there: Direct train from Waterloo station
  • Time taken to get there: 2 hours
  • How much time to spend there: All day

10. The New Forest

Southwest of London, and pretty close to Bournemouth, is the New Forest, a brilliant rural retreat sandwiched between loads of built-up urban areas.

Packed with heather, wild ponies, and vast stretches of basically nothing, the whole area is great for hiking, cycling, outdoor adventures, and visiting cute villages.

Most of the hikes are low-level and wooded, but there’s plenty of variety, with loads of wanders both long and short. One of the largest remaining wildwoods in western Europe, you get 220 square miles of marshes, roads, trails and rivers.

And if you like animals, you’re in luck kid—the forest is home to more than 3,000 native critters, including donkeys, cattle, pigs and deer. Exploring this place is as close as you’ll get to a safari in the UK. So save money on that pipedream Kenya trip, and head to the New Forest instead.

  • Distance from London: 80 miles/129km
  • How to get there: Driving is easiest
  • Time taken to get there: Around 1 hour 40 minutes by car
  • How much time to spend there: All day (but a weekend—or longer—is even better!)

11. Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters are a series of white chalk cliffs just west of Eastbourne, and right on the rocky edge of South Downs National Park. The ridge has seven peaks, which explains the area’s strange name.

Flat, monolithic slabs of chalk, they’re some of the best (and most iconic) cliffs in the UK. To get the best out of them, tackle the 8-mile (13km) circular walk along all seven of the sisters, and through Friston Forest.

If you want to go on a coastal walk near London, come here. It’s one of the best coastal stretches in England, and it’s absolutely beautiful. You get great views and a unique landscape, and the weather’s usually good.

Also close by is Beachy Head, an area with cliffs and a lighthouse. The lighthouse is probably the most famous in England, and the Beachy Head cliff is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain.

The region is a pretty lengthy distance for a day trip from London, but if you like coastal walks, it’s absolutely worth it. Just get up early.

  • Distance from London: 72 miles/116km
  • How to get there: Car is easiest, but public transport is possible
  • Time taken to get there: Around 2 hours by car
  • How much time to spend there: All day

12. The Cotswolds

An officially-designated Area of Natural Beauty, The Cotswolds is probably London’s most famous green getaway.

If you want all the rural England clichés rolled into one southern area, The Cotswolds is great. You get fields, farms, hills, meadows, quaint villages, thatched cottages and warm welcomes.

Obviously, you can’t explore all of the Cotswolds on a day trip from London, because it clocks in at around 800 square miles. The place is best explored over a few days, but for one-day jaunts, the best ideas are the city of Bath (but more on that later), the towns and villages of Bourton-on-the-Water, Burford and Castle Combe, and some of the region’s shorter hikes.

If you’re looking for day hikes, check out the circular stroll from Salford, which takes in the enigmatic Rollright Stones (sort of like a miniature Stonehenge!) or the Cleeve Hill circular starting and ending at Winchcombe.

But, again, if you can spend more than one day in the Cotswolds, you absolutely should.

  • Distance from London: Various, depending on where you go
  • How to get there: Car
  • Time taken to get there: ~2 hours
  • How much time to spend there: All day (but ideally longer!)

13. Dungeness

It’s pretty hard to find really remote adventures from London.

But if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve found it in Dungeness.

Barren and bleak but somehow alluring, Kent’s strange little headland is a shingle beach studded with shipwrecks. Stark and weirdly apocalyptic, Dungeness is beautiful in a strangely desolate way.

Some Dungeness highlights include the RSPB nature reserve (brimming with birds!), the old lighthouse, excellent seafood, and lots of peace and privacy.

A proper under-the-radar location, this place isn’t particularly well known. But one day it probably will be, so get here before everybody else does. Most of the appeal is in the atmosphere, so once this place becomes busy, the charm’ll be gone.

  • Distance from London: 86 miles/138km
  • How to get there: Car
  • Time taken to get there: 2 hours
  • How much time to spend there: Half a day or a full day

Best Town and City Day Trips from London

14. Oxford

Probably the most popular city trip from London, Oxford is lovely.

Most famous for its massive university, the city is one of the most architecturally-attractive settlements in England. It has some of the best medieval architecture in the country, along with a hodgepodge collection of stuff from a load of other eras. You get Georgian buildings, Gothic sites, neoclassical architecture and loads more.

Walking around Oxford makes you feel like you’ve hopped back into the past (a past where prices are ridiculously high, but let’s not shatter the illusion).

If you’re not into architecture, there’s plenty more to enjoy in Oxford. You also get nearby Blenheim Palace, hip hangouts, endless history, and the UK’s oldest botanical garden.

In short, if you want to see a ‘real’ English city (whatever that means), Oxford is a great choice.

  • Distance from London: 55 miles/88km
  • How to get there: Direct train from Paddington station
  • Time taken to get there: 1 hour
  • How much time to spend there: All day

15. Cambridge

Oxford’s old rival, most foreigners seem to think Oxford and Cambridge are next-door neighbors.

They’re not (they’re actually around 150km from one another), but they’re both great.

Both cities are known for their universities, history, heritage and tradition. And in lots of ways, they’re similar. But Cambridge is a little quieter and more relaxed than its rival. So if you like smaller places where you can easily tick off all the sites, you’ll probably prefer Cambridge.

While they’re both cities, Cambridge feels more like a town. Green, leafy and languid, it’s a lovely contrast to London, and it’s a lovely day trip. Highlights include the River Cam, King’s College Chapel and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

  • Distance from London: 64 miles/103km
  • How to get there: Direct train from various London stations
  • Time taken to get there: Around 1 hour
  • How much time to spend there: All day

16. Canterbury

Most famous for its massive cathedral (some reckon it’s the best in Europe), Canterbury is ridiculously charming.

A labyrinthine collection of waterways, medieval lanes, Georgian homes and ancient city walls, the place has a busy little atmosphere that belies its size. And because of that, Canterbury is lots of different things—it’s a student town, a religious centerpiece, a foodie’s dream, and a green little getaway from nearby London. Its riverside areas are particularly beautiful.

If you have lots of time, consider walking from London to Canterbury along The Pilgrim’s Way. A historical pilgrimage route, the jaunt from London measures in at around 90 miles (145km).

(Yes, I know that wouldn’t just be a day trip).

Really close to Canterbury is Howletts Wild Animal Park, which is great for kids.

  • Distance from London: 64 miles/103km
  • How to get there: Best is direct train from St. Pancras station
  • Time taken to get there: 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • How much time to spend there: All day

17. Bath

One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the entirety of Bath is an officially-designated UNESCO site. That’s because of two reasons: its ridiculously beautiful architecture, and its impressive (and well-preserved) historical sites.

The most famous attraction in Bath is… the baths. These Roman relics date back to AD43, and they’re one of the most popular historical attractions in England.

Other attractions include Bath Abbey, the Museum of Bath Architecture, and Royal Victoria Park. Another famous site is The Royal Crescent. A famous row of 30 houses, it’s one of the most iconic streets in England. If you’re interested in architecture, you’ll love it. If you’re not, the street’ll probably bore you to death.

If you like visiting pretty cities, Bath is the best day-trip option from London. It’s absolutely beautiful.

  • Distance from London: 117 miles/188km
  • How to get there: Direct train from Paddington station
  • Time taken to get there: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • How much time to spend there: All day

18. Windsor

Another day trip, another historical city.

We’ve mentioned Windsor above, but it’s way more than just the home of Legoland.

The most famous site here is Windsor Castle, the official royal residence of the Queen. The oldest and biggest occupied castle on the planet, it’s apparently where the woman spends most of her weekends.

Most days in Windsor, you can also see the changing of the guards ceremony, a bizarre musical march through Windsor’s streets. Windsor Great Park is also excellent—a famous royal park with loads of lovely walks, it measures in at almost 5,000 acres. And just like Richmond Park, it has deer!

Over the river from Windsor is Eton, where you’ll see posh little schoolboys who’ll soon become posh little world leaders with no morals.

  • Distance from London: 25 miles/40km
  • How to get there: Direct train from Waterloo station
  • Time taken to get there: 50 minutes
  • How much time to spend there: All day

19. Deal

Little Deal is actually a pretty big deal.

(Yeah, I’m sorry about that pun. But you would have done it too).

You probably haven’t heard of Deal. A quiet Kentish coastal town, this place is always overshadowed by the more famous shoreside spots surrounding London.

But if you like lazy, languid and laid-back, you’ll love Deal. It doesn’t have the crowds of London and its popular neighbors, and it therefore feels much more genuine and traditional. It has a castle, colorful homes, quaint little streets and a lovely pebble beach.

Cosy and quiet, Deal is a great choice if you want to see ‘real’ England without the intrusion and artifice of mass tourism. And if you like languid beaches, you’ll love the place. There’s not a massive amount to do, but that’s sort of the point.

  • Distance from London: 94 miles/151km
  • How to get there: Direct train from London Bridge station
  • Time taken to get there: 2 hours
  • How much time to spend there: All day

20. Bristol

One of the trendiest cities in England, Bristol is a hipster haven, brimming with bohemians, overpriced thrift stores, and lots of avocado on toast.

If you’re looking for a London day trip to an edgy and alternative city, Bristol is your best bet.

Offbeat and leftfield, there are loads of hip hangouts here, so you can easily spend a full day in quirky cafes, eateries, galleries and neighborhoods.

The city’s most famous hero (or anti-hero) is Banksy, the iconic graffiti artist famous for his political street art. In Bristol, you can (unsurprisingly) see loads of it. If you really want to explore his stuff, join a Banksy Walking Tour, where you can learn more about the man, his art, and the city itself.

Other Bristol highlights include Clifton Suspension Bridge, Cabot Tower, and Brunel’s SS Great Britain, one of the planet’s best maritime museums.

  • Distance from London: 120 miles/193km
  • How to get there: Direct train from Paddington station
  • Time taken to get there: 90 minutes
  • How much time to spend there: All day

Other Day Trips from London

21. Stonehenge

Probably the most famous collection of stones in the world, no-one really knows what Stonehenge is or why it’s there. Was Stonehenge a funeral parlour? A star-gazing spot? An ancient healing center?

I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know: lots of people visit on a day trip from London.

You won’t spend very long here, because it’s just a big ol’ bunch of stones. But if you’re the type of person who likes to see the most iconic sites in a country, you’ll probably want to tick Stonehenge off your list.

As an extra little bonus, it’s in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by forests, farms and fields.

  • Distance from London: 85 miles/137km
  • How to get there: Car is easiest
  • Time taken to get there: 2 hours by car
  • How much time to spend there: 2-3 hours

22. Stratford-upon-Avon

Obviously, the big draw here is Shakespeare.

(If you didn’t already know that Shakesepare’s from Stratford-upon-Avon, you do now).

He was born here, he lived here, and he died here. So if you’re interested in the bald bard, you should absolutely visit the town. The place is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company, who regularly produce and present his plays.

Aside from all the Shakespare stuff, the town itself is really pretty. A charming little medieval settlement, you get Tudor architecture, a lovely riverside area, quaint tea rooms, and a laid-back vibe. In lots of ways, the town feels like it’s stuck in the past (and I mean that as a compliment).

If you don’t want to travel all the way to Stratford, but you still want a fix of big Will, go to The Globe in central London. They regularly put on lots of his plays.

  • Distance from London: 100 miles/160km
  • How to get there: Car is easiest
  • Time taken to get there: 2 hours
  • How much time to spend there: All day

23. Leeds Castle

Not really in Leeds, but really a castle.

(Instead, it’s southeast of London, in Kent, next to Maidstone).

One of the most picturesque castles in England, the place sits on a tiny little island in the middle of its very own lake. If you want to see a hugely attractive castle close to London, this is a great choice. It offers lovely gardens, great tours, and a surprising number of things to do.

Leeds Castle is also a decent place to take your kids, as it has mini golf, a castle train, boat rides, a labyrinth, a lovely playground and a bird of prey display.

According to its own website, it’s “the loveliest castle in the world.” So don’t just take my word for it—the place is really really beautiful. So if you want to see a pretty castle, go.

  • Distance from London: 47 miles/76km
  • How to get there: Car is easiest by far
  • Time taken to get there: 1 hour and 15 minutes by car
  • How much time to spend there: Half a day

24. Highclere Castle

Another London day trip, another humongous castle.

An absolutely massive stately home, tours here are really popular, the gardens are lovely, and they (strangely) have antiquities and exhibits related to ancient Egypt.

Loads of Downton Abbey was filmed here, so it’s one of the most archetypally-attractive country houses in England.

A word of warning though, just in case you reckon you’re Downton Abbey’s #1 fan: there are some references here to the TV show, but most of the exhibits and attractions are related to the real people who lived here, rather than the fictional ones. So if you’re looking for Downton Abbey stuff, you’ll probably be wasting your money.

But if you just want to see a really stunning castle, you’ll love the place.

  • Distance from London: 60 miles/96km
  • How to get there: Car is easiest
  • Time taken to get there: Around 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • How much time to spend there: 2-4 hours

25. Hastings

Packed with history and heritage, Hastings is most famous as the site of 1066’s massive battle. This bloody conflict marked the start of the Norman Conquest of England, and ended the reign of the Anglo-Saxons.

Beyond that, there are loads more to enjoy. Some highlights are the massive ruins of Hastings Castle, the Shipwreck Museum, and the Fisherman’s Museum. But one of the best things about Hastings is the town itself. A charming hill-backed settlement made up of quaint homes and orange roofs, it has a lovely old town, some pretty architecture, and cute maze-like streets. And if that’s not enough for you, it has two funiculars! One of them is the steepest in the UK.

And because the town is on the coast, you can have a little wander along the beach, and to Hastings Pier. For seaside adventures, Hastings is one of the most charming and attractive day trips from London, and it’s much more than just a beach-based adventure.

  • Distance from London: 70 miles/112km
  • How to get there: Direct train from various London stations
  • Time taken to get there: Between 90 minutes and 2 hours
  • How much time to spend there: All day

Final Words

Thanks for reading my guide to the best day trips from London!

If you want to know more about traveling in the city, check out my guide to what is London famous for. Or if you’re looking for more UK-based day trips, check out my guides to the best day trips from Edinburgh, and the best day trips from Glasgow.

We also have loads more UK articles on tipping, food, zoos, hikes, cycling, beaches, hotels and more. Whatever you want to know about traveling in the UK and London, we have it here on our site!

Paul McDougal

Paul McDougal

Paul is a handsome and hilarious travel writer and travel journalist from the UK. He’s hiked, hitchhiked and laughed his way through more than fifty countries, and he’s always looking for a new place to call home. Originally from Newcastle, he’s lived all over the UK, spent more than three years in Asia, and most recently lived in Vietnam. Here’s his website.