Escape the hustle and bustle of London and experience the enchanting beauty of England on a day trip. From picturesque castles to charming villages, and ancient ruins to breathtaking landscapes, there’s something for everyone to discover beyond the city limits.
Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply looking for a change of pace, you’re sure to find the perfect day trip from London. So pack your bags and get ready to explore the best of England!
The 15 Best Day Trips From London in 2023
From picturesque castles to ancient walled cities, and lovely little stretches of the English countryside, there’s so much to see and do outside the big city. We’ll show you our top picks below!
- Travel time: 1 hour by car
Windsor’s famous castle has long had ties to the royal family. However, it’s also a historically relevant piece of the United Kingdom, thanks to its massive grounds, great rooms, and exciting history.
The town of Windsor itself is attractive, too, as it sits right on a river and boasts plenty of picturesque charm. Better still, it’s only about an hour away from London, meaning that you can easily spend the morning or afternoon there if you want to see other attractions.
2. Seven Sisters Country Park
- Travel time: 2 hours by car
A mere two hours outside London, Seven Sisters Country Park is one of the most glorious landscapes in the entire country, thanks to the powdery white rock formations that comprise the land.
So if you love hiking, rock climbing, bouldering, or simply want a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of London, take a day trip there.
There are plenty of paths in Seven Sisters Country Park, including South Downs Way, which passes through some of the stunning white chalk boulders of the area. Make the trip on your own, or get a guide from London.
- Travel time: 1 hour 32 minutes by car
Partially a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canterbury is a fairytale destination just about an hour and a half outside London. If you’re a fan of English literature, you might remember the name “The Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer.
But Canterbury is much more than that, with numerous historical sites, including several stunning cathedrals.
Additionally, you’ll find many museums, beautiful paths through the heart of the city center, and quaint, old-time pubs where you can get a cool pint of ale. It’s a smaller town, and you’ll get a good feel for “real England.”
- Travel time: 2.5 hours by car
Two-and-a-half hours away from London, Bath is a more extended day trip, but it’s worth seeing something new and exciting. This enchanting spa town is jaw-droppingly gorgeous with incredible architecture and history.
The famous Roman Baths are one of the top tourist sites, although they’re no longer functional. So dip into the water yourself at Thermae Bath Spa or Gainsborough Bath Spa.
Bath Abbey has plenty of cathedrals, and you can find tons of museums in this spa town, including one devoted entirely to fashion. Those whose ideal day trip includes a fair amount of pampering should be sure to check out Bath.
Bath is also home to a number of museums and art galleries, including the Holburne Museum and the Victoria Art Gallery.
5. Mersea Island
- Travel time: 2 hours by car
Mersea Island is a remote, eastern island with phenomenal seafood and authentic British maritime culture. It gets popular during the summer when you can sit and soak in the sun before feasting at The Company Shed, Mersea Island’s number-one seafood dining spot.
The Company Shed famously serves fish, crab, prawns, and oysters.
You can also attempt to catch fresh fish or crabs, as there’s plenty for the taking. Mersea Island is two hours away by car or about an hour and a half by train and bus, but keep in mind coordinating the schedules can be a little tricky.
We also love that this charming island is home to a number of vineyards and cider farms, which offer both tours and tastings.
6. The Cotswolds
- Travel time: 2 hours by car
People who think of the British countryside almost certainly envision The Cotswolds, a stretch of ancient towns in rural England only about two hours away from London.
Known for its honey-colored stone cottages and villages, these spots are tiny, full of sweet souvenirs, and easily walkable. You can visit several in a single day, stopping in for a cup of tea or a pint at each. What’s more, The Cotswolds are home to the United Kingdom’s most celebrated and famous son, William Shakespeare.
The world’s most famous playwright was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, and you can visit his childhood home and where he penned some of his masterpieces today.
7. Hampton Court
- Travel time: 45 minutes by car
A little over one hour from London, Hampton Court’s renowned palace is a perfect day trip in and of itself. Henry VIII’s wives famously inhabited it, and it is now open to the public.
The grounds and interior rooms are astounding, and it’s no surprise this destination does get a little busy during the tourist season.
If you go during the summer months, fend off the crowds by traveling during the week. Make sure you check out the hedge maze, as it’s one of the most intricate examples on the planet.
- Travel time: 2 hours by car
If you take the train, you can get to Hastings in about an hour and a half from London. Those who opt to drive will find themselves spending two hours. Hastings is nothing if not historical, from William the Conqueror to more relatively recent smugglers.
You’ll find plenty of old smuggling caves from that period, plus museums that tilt the hat to those who plied this trade. There’s a lovely Old Town, a picturesque pier, and plenty of shopping in Hastings.
So if you want to take a day trip to a pleasant, smaller, and more laid-back place that doesn’t have the big-city bustle of the capital city, Hastings is a good pick.
- Travel time: 2 hours by car
Sitting right on the English Channel, roughly two hours from London, Dungeness is a beachside village that boasts wrecks, nature, and lots of hiking. Those interested in bird spotting should make a point to head to Dungeness to see marsh harriers and ibises.
Like many seaside towns, one of Dungeness’ biggest draws is its seafood. Here, you’ll feast on fabulous crab and lobster rolls, soups, and other delicacies.
10. New Forest
- Travel time: 1 hour 34 minutes by car
An hour and a half away from London, New Forest is a fabulously naturally rich day trip where you can see tons of different wildlife all in one spot.
New Forest is famous for its wild ponies and gentle creatures that have called the area their home for ages. Additionally, New Forest has pigs, cattle, and other farm animals.
If exploring nature works up an appetite, you’re in luck as there are lots of cute places to grab a traditional lunch. It’s a slice of the British countryside not too far outside of London and is a memorable day trip ideal for families.
11. Highclere Castle
- Travel time: 1 hour 20 minutes by car
If you’re a fan of the British television show “Downton Abbey,” you’ll want to make your way to Highclere Castle. Just half an hour outside London, Highclere Castle is a handsome estate with enchanting rooms and grounds.
Designed in a Jacobethan manner, it is one of the most architecturally exciting aspects of this part of the country.
Although you can visit virtually any time of the year, Highclere Castle hosts several events. “Downton Abbey” fans will want to look into the special show-themed tour or check out one of Highclere Castle’s epic afternoon teas.
- Travel time: 1 hour 16 minutes by car
About an hour by train from London, Oxford is a classically beautiful British city full of architecture, rich history, and fascinating museums. The internationally acclaimed University of Oxford is close by, so expect a bit of a college-town vibe and friendly pubs to find a drink in.
Oxford is walkable, and you can see many top sights and museums right in the core of the city. One of the city’s biggest attractions is the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, featuring comprehensive collections and unique displays.
- Travel time: 1 hour 31 minutes by car
The seaside town of Brighton is slightly more than one hour from London by train, which is the easiest way to reach it. In the southeast part of the country, Brighton is a well-regarded summer destination that’s especially popular in summer, drawing in people for its many events and music festivals.
Even if you’re not big on festivals, you can still appreciate Brighton.
The Victorian pier, Brighton Pavilion, and a bevy of restaurants all make this destination a great day-trip option. Plus, if you’re heading to London during the summer, Brighton’s beaches are a must-visit if you’re looking to cool off.
- Travel time: 1 hour 42 minutes by car
A little over two hours away from London, Stonehenge is one of the country’s most iconic historic sites and something on the bucket list of many who visit the UK. Stonehenge is a prehistoric structure that’s intrigued people for centuries.
Although you can see this enigmatic structure on your own, getting a guided tour will allow you to understand more about its history. You’ll also learn why experts are so fascinated and puzzled by how ancient people were able to lug the giant stones into the area.
- Travel time: 2 hours by train
The secret to seeing Cardiff on a day trip from London is taking the train. Britain’s railway network will get visitors from London to Cardiff in about two hours, while driving will take three.
Cardiff is the capital of Wales so you can see two amazing big cities in one afternoon. Of course, they’re very different from one another. Cardiff has a walled old town area that’s particularly lovely and a very interesting harbor.
There are also smaller museums, shopping places, pubs, and serene parks. It’s quaint, walkable, and a fascinating other side of life in the United Kingdom.
Things to Consider
One of the main things you’ll want to keep in mind when organizing day trips from London is that train schedules can and do change often. So you could find yourself with far fewer options, especially if you’re traveling on the weekends.
Also, the best train tickets get booked quickly on holidays, so it’s always a good idea to schedule yours in advance.
If you decide to drive, remember that people from the United Kingdom drive on the “other” side of the road. In addition, Americans will also have to get used to small, winding streets in much of the country.
Frequently Asked Questions
These often-asked questions and answers will help you have a great time in London and beyond:
Can I get a visa on arrival?
You’ll want to check with the British embassy first to ensure that you are from a country that can get a visa on arrival. Americans and people in the European Economic Area can get a visa at the border.
Will my SIM card work in London?
Your SIM card will work in London, but you may have to pay roaming fees or a travel package. If you’re staying for an extended period, consider getting a local SIM card.
Can I use my credit card in and around London?
You should be able to use your credit card in London, but you might need cash in more rural areas. Fortunately, there are plenty of ATMs in London.
What are some traditional British foods to try?
Fish and chips, Sunday roasts, and full English breakfasts should be on your “must-eat” list. Additionally, London itself is well known for its curries.
How safe is London?
London is relatively safe and well-policed, but you still need to be vigilant. Keep your valuables locked up in your hotel safe, and avoid checking directions on your phone in the street, especially if you’re going out later at night.
So, Which Day Trip Will You Take in 2023?
London’s best day trips involve incredible ancient monuments like Stonehenge, rustic destinations like New Forest, and seaside towns like Dungeness and Brighton.
Since many are easily accessible from the capital city, consider putting one or more of these day trips on your London agenda. So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip to London today!