32 Easy Day Trips from London by Train

Whether you want to breathe in a lungful of sea air, explore more of England’s history or revel in its green and pleasant land, there are countless options for day trips from London. And thanks to its excellent rail connections, it’s easy to visit these destinations by train.

But which place should you choose? To inspire you to find your ideal destination, I have reached out to fellow travel writers to hand-pick their best day trips from London by train. There’s something to suit everyone and all of these great places are within two hours or so by train from London

At the end of the article, you’ll find a map showing where these destinations are located, along with some tips for train travel from London.


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Some of the attractions in this article may be closed temporarily because of the coronavirus. To avoid disappointment, check ahead. Only travel if it is safe to do so and follow the advice from the authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

How to Choose Your Day Trip from London

There are so many options for easy day trips from London by train that choosing one may feel overwhelming. To help you make the best choice, I have put these places into categories: cities, those with historical or cultural significance, beaches, countryside and international destinations.

Another selection criterion is journey time. As a quick guide, here is how long it will take you to travel from London by train to each of these destinations.

Day trips within 1 hour of London by train

  • Cambridge
  • Oxford
  • St. Albans
  • Colchester
  • Winchester
  • Bletchley Park
  • Hampton Court
  • Harry Potter Studios
  • Highclere Castle
  • Rochester
  • Windsor
  • Brighton
  • Epping Forest
  • Mayfield Lavender Farm

Day trips 1 – 2 hours from London by train

  • Bath
  • Bristol
  • Norwich
  • York
  • Cambridge
  • Dover
  • Rye & Camber Sands
  • Whitstable
  • Bourton-on-the-Water
  • Brockenhurst
  • Saffron Walden
  • Lille, France

Day trips 2 – 2.5 hours from London by train

  • Liverpool
  • Leeds
  • Manchester
  • Shrewsbury
  • Paris
  • Brussels

Best Day Trips from London by Train: Cool Cities

Bath

By Larch of The Silver Nomad

old stone bridge over a fast flowing river in bath which is one of the best day trips from london by train
Pultney Bridge, Bath

Bath is one of the most charming cities in England, filled with beautiful architecture, ancient buildings, culture and interesting places to eat and drink.

The train from London Paddington Station to Bath takes a relaxing hour and twenty minutes. Once you arrive at Bath Spa station you are only a five-minute walk from the centre of Bath itself.

Bath rightly deserves its UNESCO Heritage status and is filled with beautiful Georgian buildings made of pale golden limestone. They blend perfectly with the Roman Baths and Temple, which are a must-see.

As the queues can be long, it is better to book ahead. You can choose to join a free walking guide around the baths or go at your own pace with an audioguide. For a treat, visit the Pump Rooms next door for a bite to eat.

Right next to the Roman Baths is Bath Abbey, an imposing Gothic building that towers over the city. You can take a guided tour that includes the 212-step climb to the roof to take in the view.

A short walk from the Abbey is Pultney Bridge and views over the River Avon. Pultney Bridge has quaint shops and restaurants on top of its three arches. On the far side of the bridge, you can join a cruise down the river.

For an afternoon treat head to Sally Lunns Buns for one of their delicious cinnamon buns and a look around the living museum. Other museums to visit are the Holbourne Museum for art in Great Pultney Street or the Fashion Museum in the Assembly Rooms in Bennett Street.

LONDON TO BATH BY TRAIN

Route: London Paddington to Bath Spa

Fastest journey time: 1h 18m

Bristol

By Dave of Dave Chant

boats in waterfront in bristol with brightly colored houses in background
Bristol waterfront

Sitting in Castle Park on a Monday morning, sipping coffee in a boutique café and watching commuters go about their unhurried business with a smile on their face, you can’t help but feel the harmony of Bristol.

Furthermore, it’s a breeze to get to Bristol from London. Head to London Paddington and you’ll be there well within two hours. Just make sure to alight at Bristol Temple Meads (not Parkway which is outside the city).

Bristol is a great city just to walk around in.

For the consumer, you can shop at Cabot Circus which is also home to a good range of chain restaurants. You can walk in the parks, explore Queen’s Square and maybe grab a cider on one of the boat pubs.

There are the renovated docks and the M Shed museum. Walking down the river, you can visit the famous SS Great Britain ship. Those that enjoy religious places should see the Bristol Cathedral or St Mary Redcliffe.

Or you can climb the steps of Cabot Tower, perched at the top of Brandon Hill for views over Bristol. Slightly further out is the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Observatory nearby. Or head out to the Ashton Court Estate.

The family will enjoy the Bristol Zoo Gardens or the Aquarium down by the docks.

There always seems to be something going on in Bristol and there’s a variety of venues for live music, theatre and so forth, like the Colston Hall and the Hippodrome.

Lastly, there’s a wide selection of local and unusual places to eat and drink.

One day in Bristol is never quite enough but it will give you a flavour of a city very different from London.

LONDON TO BRISTOL BY TRAIN

Route: London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads

Fastest journey time: 1h 35m

Cambridge

By Anisa of Two Traveling Texans

college buildings in cambridge around a grass quadrangle

Cambridge may be best known as home to the famous university, but it has much more to offer. It’s a picturesque city that has something for everyone whether you are interested in history, art or adventure.

Since the train ride from London to Cambridge is under an hour, and many of the main attractions are within walking distance of the train station, it is one of the easiest day trips from London by train.

Cambridge University was founded in 1209 and has 31 colleges. It’s the second oldest university in the English speaking world.

Try to visit at least one college if you can. My favourites are King’s College, St. John’s, and Trinity College.  

King’s College Chapel has some of the most beautiful stained glass you will ever see.  At Trinity College, don’t miss the Wren Library, designed by Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Additionally, the University has eight museums that are free and open to the public.  My favourites are the Fitzwilliam and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Fitzwilliam reminds me of a smaller version of the British Museum in London because it has a diverse collection.

If the weather behaves during your day trip to Cambridge, try punting on the Cam River.

Punting uses a boat similar to a gondola, where you stand on the back to paddle, but you use a pole instead of an oar. If you’re not brave enough to try it on your own, you can hire someone else to do the punting or go on a punting tour through the lovely area known as The Backs.

LONDON TO CAMBRIDGE BY TRAIN

Route: London St. Pancras International to Cambridge

Fastest journey time: 50m

Leeds

By Ella of Many More Maps

an aerial view of leeds city centre

Spend a day in Leeds to understand why people rave about this city.

The train station is right in the city centre. But if you’re looking to explore the suburbs, the bus system is cheap and easy to navigate.

Situated in West Yorkshire in the north of England, a huge draw for visitors to Leeds is the huge amount of vintage shopping you can do. From kilogram sales to the numerous vintage, second hand and thrift stores in the city, you’ll struggle to come away empty-handed, and all for way less than you’d pay in London.

Speaking of paying less than you would in London, one of the most fun things to do in Leeds is to check out its thriving pub scene. Head to The Angel pub in the city centre to pick up a pint for as little as £1.80. That’s right. £1.80!

If you’re in the mood for some culture, you won’t have to look far. Kirkstall Abbey, the ruins of a monastery founded in 1152, is fascinating and free to explore. The Royal Armouries Museum, which displays the national collection of arms and armour, is one of the top things to do in Leeds and could keep you occupied for hours.

LONDON TO LEEDS BY TRAIN

Route: London Kings Cross to Leeds

Fastest journey time: 2h 15m

Liverpool

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

iron statue of the beatles in liverpool england

With its rich maritime heritage, striking architecture and buzzy cultural scene, there are more than a few reasons to visit Liverpool. And let’s not forget the stamp that the Fab Four have left on the city.

But did you know that it’s a breeze to visit Liverpool on a day trip from London? Within a two and a half hour journey from London, you’ll find yourself on the steps of Lime Street station and as the city is compact it’s easy to explore on foot in a day.

Make your way to the buzzy Albert Dock with its restaurants, bars and cultural attractions, including Tate Liverpool (the sister museum to the London Tate Galleries) and the superb International Slavery Museum. If you want to pay homage to Liverpool’s favourite sons, pop into The Beatles Story, the award-winning museum that charts John, Paul, George and Ringo’s rise to global superstardom.

>>> Skip the line and buy your Beatles Story ticket with free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance

Visit nearby Pier Head for The Three Graces, the iconic buildings that define Liverpool’s skyline, and to take your photo with the sculpture of The Beatles.

Finally, for the ultimate view of Liverpool’s waterfront, take a ferry across the Mersey. The easiest way to do this is to join a 50-minute River Explorer Cruise.

LONDON TO LIVERPOOL BY TRAIN

Route: London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street

Fastest journey time: 2h 12m

Manchester

By Bisola of Bis To The World

the gothic exterior of manchester city hall against a blue sky
Manchester City Hall

Most travellers make a bee-line for London without considering Manchester. But with its rich history, vibrant culture and friendly locals, this northern powerhouse is 100% worth the two-hour direct train journey from London.

Arriving at the train station, grab one of the free city buses to Manchester Cathedral. It’s had some recent work done to it, but you’ll find it hard to believe that it dates to 700AD. And the door is always open so pop in for a visit.

Next, walk down to The John Rylands Library, a must-see in Manchester. I know, a library, but wait. This library is like taking a step into Hogwarts for the day. Go up to the gorgeous Reading Room and be wowed by the glorious Gothic architecture.

Walk across to Cloud 23 in the Hilton Hotel for sweeping views of the city below, with a pot of tea, a coffee or even an early cocktail.

Before you head back to the train station, don’t miss exploring the Northern Quarter, Manchester’s hipster neighbourhood. From Arcade game bars to vintage shops, striking street art to even cat cafes, it’s worth a wander.

Finally, stop by Mackie Mayor, a gorgeous indoor food market. Visit even just to appreciate this stunning building.

LONDON TO MANCHESTER BY TRAIN

Route: London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly

Fastest journey time: 2h 6m

Norwich

By Dagney & Jeremy of Cultura Obscura

the spire and exterior of norwich cathedral
Norwich Cathedral

Norwich is one of England’s true gems.

Reached in less than two hours by direct train from London, this beautiful city was once more important than the nation’s capital. With winding lanes brimming with independent cafés and shops, museums, historic churches, restaurants serving both traditional and modern food, and dozens of authentic English pubs, there’s no end of things to do in Norwich.

The city’s cathedral, with its sprawling grounds and stone walls, is almost nine hundred years old and the second tallest in the country.

Norwich’s marketplace, sitting just outside the city hall, is even older and visitors still go there to buy goods, foodstuffs and souvenirs. And if you want to be super British, you can grab some fish ’n’ chips – one of the most iconic British foods – from the national award-winning Grosvenor Fish Bar in Norwich’s Lanes.

The best part is that, even with all that Norwich has to offer, it is one of the smallest major cities in England. This means you can easily walk around it within the space of a day and truly take in the atmosphere of this historic city.

LONDON TO NORWICH BY TRAIN

Route: London Liverpool St. to Norwich

Fastest journey time: 1h 45m

Oxford

By Liliane of My Toronto, My World

aerial view of college buildings in oxford

An Oxford day trip from London is perfect for history and literature buffs.

Oxford is most well known for the university that shares its name and exploring the colleges there is certainly a good reason why you should visit Oxford. Another reason for visiting Oxford is to walk in the footsteps of greats like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

Start your day by exploring the colleges and seeing where masterworks like Alice in Wonderland were written. You can also see the inspiration for the Narnia books and some of the Harry Potter film locations.

Make sure to see landmarks like the Bridge of Sighs and Radcliff Camera. Once you’ve had your fill of the colleges there’s still plenty left to do.

Oxford is home to a number of first-rate museums like the Natural History Museum, the Ashmolean and the Pitt Rivers Museum, which is unique in that it catalogues its items by item type as opposed to age or geography.

Make sure to stop by the Oxford Covered Market for some local goods, and to climb to the top of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin for a panoramic view of Oxford.

Oxford is located approximately 1 hour from London. Trains depart regularly from Paddington Station and Marylebone Station in London. Make sure to catch the express trains and you’ll arrive in Oxford in about 1 hour. The trains will arrive at Oxford train station which is about a 15-minute walk from Oxford’s historic core.

LONDON TO OXFORD BY TRAIN

Route: London Paddington to Bath Spa

Fastest journey time: 52m

St. Albans

By Darek of DarekandGosia

people walking into st albans cathedral
St. Alban’s Cathedral

London is a fantastic city, but you should remember that there are many great places to visit just outside of the capital. If you are looking for an easy day trip from London by train, visit St Albans, a charming and historic English city located northwest of London.

The journey can take as little as 18 minutes (depending on the type of train) and the train station is close to the centre of town.

There are many beautiful medieval buildings, cute cafes and a Sunday market, where you can buy many local homemade products. Try to visit the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, key landmarks of the city.

On a sunny day, a picnic in Verulamium Park would be a great idea too!

If you have a bit more time, before going back to London, visit Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, the oldest pub in Great Britain. A very British nice way to finish your day out.

LONDON TO ST. ALBANS BY TRAIN

Route: London St. Pancras International to St. Albans City

Fastest journey time: 18m

Shrewsbury

By Dan of Horo Travel Memories

buildings and clouds at sunset reflected in a river in shrewsbury which is an easy day trip from london by train

Shrewsbury is an often overlooked UK destination and not one that everyone has even heard of, let alone visited. Even less known is that a direct train from London that can get you from the nation’s capital to the county town of Shropshire in around two and a half hours.

For those looking to escape the bustle of the city, Shrewsbury provides an idyllic slower-paced destination, filled to the brim with beauty and history. The buildings are so varied in their ornateness and style that they rival the narrow, wonky passageways and steep streets for charm.

Shrewsbury has 660 listed buildings, the oldest of which was constructed in the 15th century. Older still is Shrewsbury Castle, which contains the Shropshire Regimental Museum and is set in beautiful grounds. This dates back to 1074.

You can follow a Charles Darwin trail or tour and learn about the great man and his early life in the town of his birth. If you’re a fan of the other famous Charles, you can still see a headstone with the name Ebenezer Scrooge in the churchyard of St Chad’s.

To clear your head after these big doses of history and architecture, why not try a walk in The Quarry? This 29-acre park offers riverbank walks, regular festivals and events and even a sunken garden called The Dingle, which was masterminded by Blue Peter’s Percy Thrower.

LONDON TO SHREWSBURY BY TRAIN

Route: London Euston to Shrewsbury (change trains at Crewe)

Fastest journey time: 2h 30m

Winchester

By Kat of Wandering Bird

people walking in front of cathderal

If you’re looking for one of the most fun-filled day trips from London by train, look no further than Winchester.

This historic city is one of the oldest in the UK and has picturesque cobbled streets, historic buildings and one of the most famous cathedrals in the country.

You can get from London to Winchester easily by train. It takes about an hour and Winchester station is roughly a five-minute walk to the town centre (downhill on the way there; ten minutes uphill on the way back!).

Some of our favourite things to do in Winchester include:

  • Winchester Cathedral. Some very famous people are buried here- including Jane Austen. You can also see one of the oldest bibles in the world
  • Shopping! Winchester has some great shops on and around the high street.
  • Mizmaze. On the outskirts of Winchester is a very old turf maze that you can try and navigate. Well worth a visit if you have time
  • Visit the Christmas market. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in November or December, you must go to the Winchester Christmas Market. There are hundreds of stalls and even an ice rink.
LONDON TO WINCHESTER BY TRAIN

Route: London Waterloo to Winchester

Fastest journey time: 56m

York

By Melissa of Meet Me at the Pyramid Stage

looking upwards at cathedrals gothic exterior
York Minster

Do you want to immerse yourself in almost 2000 years of history – think Romans, Vikings, and medieval – in just a day? If so, York is the perfect place to do just that.

On arrival at York station, grab a coffee and stroll along the City Walls. The walls run 3.4km around the old city and are the most complete example of medieval walls in England.

Travel back in time to the age of the Vikings at the Jorvik Viking Centre. This world-class centre is also an active archaeological site and is home to interactive displays about Viking life, history, and the importance of York to the Vikings.

Lunchtime. If the sun is out, stop for lunch at any one of the cafes and restaurants along the River Ouse.

After lunch, amble down York’s most famous laneway – The Shambles. Fun fact: It was an inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.

This 14th-century laneway is one of the best-preserved medieval streets in the world. From here, wander past Clifford’s Tower, the remains of York Castle built by William the Conqueror, and on to York Minster.

York Minster is simply magnificent. The medieval architecture, the stained glass, the massive pipe organ – there is so much to see and that’s only the ground floor. Join a Hidden Minster Tour to explore the areas not open to the public.

Finally, end your day in York by ascending the 275 stairs of the tower to take in the spectacular views of York and beyond.

LONDON TO YORK BY TRAIN

Route: London Kings Cross to York

Fastest journey time: 1h 51m

Best Day Trips from London by Train: Cultural & Historical Destinations

Bletchley Park

By Faith of XYU And Beyond

Bletchley Manor with green codebreaker huts through the window

Bletchley Park, the home of the WWII code breakers, is a fascinating glimpse into the work of these heroes and of the early days of computers. See the iconic code breaker huts and learn more about the work of Alan Turing and his group of code-breakers who cracked the German’s Enigma code machine, instrumental in winning the war for the British and Allied troops.

The estate comprises some 581 acres and the house on the site contained many WWII secrets whilst pretending to be a luxury getaway for some of Britain’s most brilliant minds. In the house are displays of the rooms just as they were used during the war and it feels like the people just left that day.

You can tour the huts that Turing and the code-breakers used and see how they broke Enigma.

Within the estate is the National Museum of Computing where you can try your hand at code-breaking puzzles and explore how computers have changed the world. Housing the world’s largest collection of working historic computers, the museum takes visitors through the development of computers, from the ultra-secret work done during WWII to the personal computers we use today.

Take a picnic and enjoy the grounds and the small lake where children can feed the ducks. And for adults? You can have a gin and tonic in the sunshine and dance to some retro 1940s or jazz age music on the lawns in front of the house.

LONDON TO BLETCHLEY PARK BY TRAIN

Route: London Euston to Milton Keynes Central

Fastest journey time: 30m

Canterbury

By Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan

exterior of canterbury cathedral with blue and white flag in front
Canterbury Cathedral

Travelling from London to Canterbury is certainly not a new idea. Londoners have been making the trip for the past 1,000 years or so, although it wasn’t always possible as a day trip.

Originally, Christian pilgrims made the arduous journey on foot to Canterbury Cathedral, more specifically to the spot inside the Cathedral where Thomas Becket was murdered. This popular journey was the inspiration for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, one of the greatest works of English literature.

Nowadays you can hop on a train in London and be in Canterbury in less than an hour. One thing that hasn’t changed much, though, is the imposing Cathedral.

Whilst it is the city’s main attraction, it’s not the only thing to see while you’re in Canterbury. St. Martin’s Church and St. Augustine’s Abbey are two other historic religious buildings that are also worth a visit.

A good option for lunch is the Lady Luck, which bills itself as a “rock ‘n’ roll pub”. They offer vegan as well as meaty versions of traditional pub grub, so it’s a great choice for vegan visitors to Canterbury.

LONDON TO CANTERBURY BY TRAIN

Route: London St Pancras International to Canterbury West

Fastest journey time: 54m

Colchester

By Sarah of ASocialNomad

St Botolphs, Colchester
St Botolphs, Colchester

Colchester is one of the best day trips from London by train for history buffs.

This is England’s oldest recorded town and is the site of the only Roman circus in England. It is home to a host of other Roman remains, including one of the most intact Roman walls in the country.  There’s even a pub (the Hole in the Wall) built into part of it!

Colchester’s Castle keep dates from 1076, but the dungeons of the castle contain the foundations of the Roman temple of Claudius.

The museum here is well worth a visit as it contains a number of key finds, including a Roman treasure hoard that was excavated during renovations of a department store on the high street. There’s also an 11th century Augustine priory, St Botolphs, that is free to visit.

There are several free walking tours to take in Colchester. All of these are downloadable with maps; some have audio guides.

When you’re ready for a break you should head to the Tiptree Jam Tea Room. Tiptree Jam is local to Colchester but is famous the world over.

LONDON TO COLCHESTER BY TRAIN

Route: London Liverpool St. to Colchester

Fastest journey time: 47m

Hampton Court

By David of Delve Into Europe

red brick entrance to hampton court palace with arched gate

Hampton Court is one of the great buildings of England. Most people visit to look around the palace of King Henry VIII, the most notorious English monarch of all, who had a penchant for chopping off his spouses’ heads. But this is only the half of it.

Henry’s palace is magnificent, one of the high points of Tudor architecture. This was among the very last Gothic buildings in England, and the Great Hall is hugely impressive.

It’s also possible to look around the State Apartments and Haunted Gallery, where Catherine Howard’s ghost is said to run screaming for mercy, knowing that execution was likely to be her fate.

Hampton Court has a superb Baroque palace and gardens, added by King William III and Mary who reigned from 1689 to 1702. This is one of the finest Baroque buildings in England, along with the likes of St Paul’s Cathedral in the centre of London.

LONDON TO HAMPTON COURT BY TRAIN

Route: London Waterloo to Hampton Court

Fastest journey time: 36m

Harry Potter Studios

By Pauline of BeeLoved City

red and black train at platform which is hogwarts express at harry potter studio
Hogwart’s Express, Harry Potter Studio Tour

Calling all Potterheads! If you are a Muggle craving to discover the world of Harry Potter in London, take a day trip to the Harry Potter Studios.

Harry Potter was mainly filmed at the Warner Bros Studios in Watford. Hop on a train from Euston or Victoria to Watford Junction. From the station, the Harry Potter shuttle bus will take you straight to the studios.

RIDING THE HARRY POTTER TRAIN!

One more for you Potterheads. Did you know that you can take a trip on The Harry Potter Train?

Scotland’s Jabobite Train substituted for Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies. Riding this spectacular stretch of the West Highland line between Fort William and Mallaig is a lifetime experience.

When you buy your ticket, you will have to choose a slot. I’d recommend you book the first one available. Once you are in the studios, you are free to stay as long as you want so the earlier you get there, the longer you can stay. On average, visitors stay four hours in the studios.

In the studios, you will see many sets such as the dining hall, the Gryffindor common room, the Gringott bank, in addition to many costumes. More importantly, you will discover how the movies were made. Everything from training animals to prosthetic make-up.

There are a couple of restaurants on site. You can even buy butterbeer!

The Warner Bros studios are a truly magical experience (whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not). The best day trip from London by train for all you Muggles out there!

LONDON TO HARRY POTTER STUDIO BY TRAIN

Route: London Euston to Watford Junction

Fastest journey time: 18m

The shuttle bus from the station to the studio takes around 15 minutes.

Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)

by Chris of Explore Now or Never

entrance to highclere castle

Downton Abbey fans will delight at the opportunity to visit the famous Highclere Castle where the wonderful series was filmed.

The castle, which was established in 749, was rebuilt in the 17th century when it was purchased by the grandfather of the current Earl of Carnarvon (who still resides there with his wife). Just as in the Downton Abbey series, Highclere Castle served as a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War I. During World War II, it was home to evacuees.

Due to popularity, Highclere Castle entrance tickets can be challenging to secure so be sure to book well ahead if you’re visiting independently.  Alternatively, plan to spend the night nearby and arrive bright and early for first dibs on tickets.

An easier option is to visit Highclere Castle on an organised day trip from London as the admission ticket will be included.

LONDON TO HIGHCLERE CASTLE BY TRAIN

Route: London Paddington to Newbury

Fastest journey time: 40m

From Newbury station, take a taxi to Highclere Castle. This journey should take you a further 15 minutes; expect to pay £15 – 20 for a one-way journey. Although the #7 bus will also take you from the train station to the castle, the journey time is well over an hour.

Rochester

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

rochester castle kent under deep blue sky
Rochester Castle

For one of the most supremely no-hassle day trips from London by train, head to Rochester, a town on the Medway in Kent, around 30 miles from the capital.

The majestic Rochester Cathedral is the second oldest medieval church and also the second most visited pilgrimage site in England.

Charles Dickens lived in nearby Higham and based many of his novels in the area. Stop by the friendly Tourist Information Office and pick up a Charles Dickens trail map for a small fee. Information boards marking key sights on this self-guided walk will also point the way.

Finally, don’t leave town before visiting Rochester Castle. Although just the carcass of the original building remains, the castle’s 12th century stone tower is reputed to be one of the best-preserved in England and there are great views from the top.

Taking a day trip to Rochester from London is super easy by rail. Frequent high-speed trains leave London St Pancras International, reaching Rochester in under 40 minutes. Slower trains depart London Victoria.

LONDON TO ROCHESTER BY TRAIN

Route: London St. Pancras International to Rochester

Fastest journey time: 37m

Windsor

By Erin of Traveling Thru History

round tower of windsor castle with lawn and pond in front
Windsor Castle

As the favourite weekend home of Her Majesty, Windsor is one of the best-known cities in the UK and is one of Europe’s most stunning palaces.

The city of Windsor was established by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and is home to just under 1,000 residents. Situated just 25 minutes from the capital, this historic town is one of the easiest day trips from London by train.

But there is more to see in Windsor than its castle and St. George’s Chapel. Explore Windsor Great Park, the former private royal hunting ground, or Guildhall, where Charles and Camilla wed. There’s St. John the Baptist Church, originally built in the 12th century and reconstructed in 1810.

Runnymede, where King John sealed the Magna Carta in 1215, is nearby. Cliveden House, a three-story Italianate mansion, just 15 minutes north of Windsor, is where the works of Charles Barry reside.

Finally, there’s the Royal Windsor Horse Show that is held each May and is a favourite event of the Queen’s.

If you’re uncertain of what to see or where to go, there are various day tours of both the city and river to give an overall view of the beautiful sites to be found in Windsor.

LONDON TO WINDSOR BY TRAIN

Route: London Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central (change at Slough)

Fastest journey time: 32m

Best Day Trips from London by Train: Seaside Destinations

Brighton

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

people relaxing on brighton beach with pier in background

Brighton, on England’s south coast, is one of the most popular day trips from London by train.

Home to the UK’s largest Jedi population (!), Brighton is blessed with a broad shingle beach, has a cool bohemian air and one extraordinary building.

The Royal Pavilion is the opulent Victorian pleasure palace of Prince George, later Prince Regent and then King George IV. Indian on the outside and Chinese on the inside, it is as extravagant and eccentric as its first occupant and seems oddly out of place in an English seaside town.

Brighton Pier is a prime example of an Edwardian pier. Take a stroll along its length, fill your face with candy floss and try your luck in one of its amusement arcades.

Finally, Brighton is a first-class shopping destination. The Lanes are home to independent shops, including some good antique shops, jewellery shops and boutiques.

LONDON TO BRIGHTON BY TRAIN

Route: London Victoria to Brighton

Fastest journey time: 58m

Dover 

By Ann of The Road is Life

white cliffs of dover and aquamarine sea
White Cliffs of Dover

Dover is one of the best seaside towns in Kent, is rich in English history and is home to some of Kent’s most popular attractions.

Over 3 million tourists per year visit both the White Cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle on a day trip from London. Visiting Dover is a great way to escape the city for the day and see some of the beautiful English countryside.

Once you arrive at Dover Priory Station, make your way to the White Cliffs of Dover for a scenic walk on the path that runs along the cliffs. Take in the view over the English Channel from the top of the cliffs; on a clear day, you can see France.

Next up on your day trip is a visit to Dover Castle, which is conveniently located near the White Cliffs. With a history stretching over 800 years, this is one of Britain’s finest and most important castles. Inside, there are rooms furnished with beautiful medieval decorations and a panoramic view awaits you at the top of the great tower.

LONDON TO DOVER BY TRAIN

Route: London St. Pancras International to Dover Priory

Fastest journey time: 1h 3m

Rye and Camber Sands

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

sand dunes at camber sands

Spend a day in Rye and Camber Sands to sample two fabulous destinations for the price of one. The journey time from London St Pancras International to Rye is just over one hour, with a change of train at Ashford International, making it one of the most appealing day trips from London by train.

History buffs will adore the medieval town of Rye with its Georgian townhouses and timber-framed Tudor houses. Steep cobbled streets are dotted with haunted inns that will set your imagination on fire. There’s even a castle.

To burn off decadent cake calories consumed in one of the town’s excellent cafes, climb the tower of the 12th Century St Mary’s Church.

Don’t leave Rye before checking out its shops and galleries. The town has an impressive selection of small independent shops and a handful of galleries displaying work by local artists.

When you have finished exploring Rye, head to Camber Sands by taking the signposted National Cycle Network Route 2, a three-mile walk.  Alternatively, jump on bus #102 which runs between Rye from Camber Sands every 30 minutes.

With its seven miles of golden sand and rolling dunes, Camber Sands has a beach to rival any in the Caribbean. Paddle in the rock pools, collect seashells or embrace your inner child by building sandcastles. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can try your hand at kitesurfing.

LONDON TO RYE & CAMBER SANDS BY TRAIN

Route: London St. Pancras International to Rye (change trains at Ashford International)

Fastest journey time: 1h 9m

Whitstable

By Caroline of CK Travels

brightly colored boats in harbour with wooden fishing huts

Whitstable is a charming fishing and harbour town located on the north coast of Kent, southeast of London, and is a super easy day trip from London.

Famed for its seafood scene, Whitstable is a great spot for foodies and has many oyster shacks in the harbour. The town also holds a popular two-day oyster festival every July, featuring hundreds of food stalls, live music and a parade.

Other things you can do in Whitstable include taking a walk along the coast, which is lined with colourful beach huts, or visit the main high street which is filled with boutique shops, galleries and cafes.

End your day trip with a drink at the Old Neptune, which is one of the most popular pubs in town. It is located right on the beach, so you can enjoy a delicious pint of locally brewed beer with a beautiful sea view.

LONDON TO WHITSTABLE BY TRAIN

Route: London St. Pancras International to Whitstable

Fastest journey time: 1h 14m

Best Day Trips from London by Train: English Countryside

Bourton-on-the-Water 

By Roshni of The Wanderlust Within

spring blossom on river in bourton on the water
Photo by Simon Godfrey on Unsplash

Known as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the most beautiful Cotswolds villages and a perfect day trip from London by rail.

This quintessential English village is famous for being home to the River Windrush and is home to golden stone coloured buildings and arched bridges. Other than roaming around the quaint streets of the village, the best things to do in a day include exploring the Cotswold Motoring Museum, the Birdland Parks and Gardens and the famous model village.

For the perfect souvenir, visit the Cotswold Perfumery (you can also take part in one of their fragrance courses).

Finally, if you are feeling peckish, head to one of the many pubs in the village such as the Duke of Wellington, which has a great beer garden.

LONDON TO BOURTON-ON-THE-WATER BY TRAIN

Route: London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh

Fastest journey time: 1h 24m

From Moreton-in-Marsh, catch local bus #801 to Bourton-on-the-Water. The journey time is 20 minutes

Brockenhurst

By Eniko of Travel Hacker Girl

2 horses grazing in field reflected in still water
New Forest

Beautiful Brockenhurst is one of the best day trips from London by train for nature lovers. The town is easily reached by train from Waterloo.

The area is famous for its great cycling network. You can transport your bikes on the train, but it is also possible to rent bikes next to Brockenhurst train station. You will find several bike-friendly cafes and pubs in town.

In the nearby fields, it is common to spot wild horses roaming free. Some local stables offer horse-riding tours and lessons. Complete beginners and children are also welcome.

If you want to go hiking near London, this is also a good region for that. There are many paths nearby with hidden wild swimming spots. A popular place for a picnic and swim is by the Lymington River in Brockenhurst. Children especially love the rope swings hung up by locals.

LONDON TO BROCKENHURST BY TRAIN

Route: London Waterloo to Brockenhurst

Fastest journey time: 1h 29m

Epping Forest

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

longhorn cattle in epping forest
Grazing longhorn cattle. Epping Forest

Are you looking for another destination near London to get closer to nature?

Located in the northeastern outskirts of London, Epping Forest is a fabulous walking destination at any time of year. However, it is at its best in autumn when its plants and trees are transformed into multi-colour works of art.

Whether you’re looking for a gentle stroll or something more vigorous, Epping Forest’s 8,000 acres offer a dizzying choice of walking trails, nine of which are waymarked circular trails. These range in distance between 1.25 and 6.6 miles, and most start close to parking and train stations.

To reach these ancient woodlands take the Overground train from Liverpool Street to Chingford or London Underground’s Central Line to Chigwell, Roding Valley, Buckhurst Hill, Loughton, Debden, Theydon Bois or Epping.

Mayfield Lavender Farm

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

lavender field against blue sky with a few clouds

On the outskirts of the capital lies South London’s purple paradise.

Instagram heaven, Mayfield Lavender Farm is a full-blown assault on the senses but in a good way. Wander through a sprawling field of purple flowers, the air perfumed with the soporific scent of lavender.

If you are feeling peckish, treat yourself to a lavender-themed afternoon tea overlooking a sea of purple.

Thirsty? This is your opportunity to sample lavender cider.

For a tasteful gift, pick up homemade lavender products, including soaps and jams, at the gift shop.

Lavender blooming season runs from June through to late August, with peak bloom around mid-July. Check Mayfield Lavender’s website for flower updates and opening hours.

To reach Mayfield Lavender Farm, take a train from London Victoria to West Croydon and then hop on the 166 bus to the farm. A note of caution though; this route can get very busy at weekends (I walked back one stop to make sure I was able to board the bus).

Alternatively, catch a train from London Victoria to Sutton or Cheam and then take a cab/minicab to the farm (this is the fastest route but more expensive).

Saffron Walden

By Paula of Truly Expat

row of medieval houses in sunlight
Image by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

Saffron Walden was once a Suffolk market town, but now it is a picturesque village filled with boutique-style shops, charming cafes and restaurants

OTHER DESTINATIONS IN SUFFOLK

Although I wouldn’t recommend visiting them as a day trip from London, Walberswick & Southwold are ideal destinations for a weekend away. Fresh seafood, a long sandy beach and great pubs are just a few of their attractions.

Here are the best places to visit during a day trip to Saffron Walden from London

Bridge End Garden  – Bridge End Garden is best visited when it isn’t raining as the gardens are beautiful. However, the highlight here is the maze, which will keep you amused for hours.

Saffron Grange Vineyard – The Vineyard is a little out of the town centre, approximately 1.7 miles away. If you book online before arriving, you can join the vineyard tour and tasting. Wine tasting is perfect at any time of the year.

Audley End House and Gardens – For a small entrance fee, you can explore this grand Estate.

Saffron Walden Town Centre – Explore the town centre (at weekends you will find great little markets right in the centre). This is a great spot to have lunch or afternoon tea. The restaurants and pubs all serve deliciously fresh food, so you are spoilt for choices. A great little town to explore.

LONDON TO SAFFRON WALDEN BY TRAIN

Route: London Liverpool St. to Audley End

Fastest journey time: 53m

From Audley End, take a taxi or bus the short distance to Saffron Walden. Alternatively, walk the two-mile journey.

Best International Day Trips from London

Day trips from London by train are not confined to England. Thanks to Eurostar, some cities in mainland Europe can be reached from London in under two and a half hours.

Here are a few for starters.

Paris

By Elisa of World in Paris

grand houses lining the river seine in paris

On Eurostar, you can travel from London to Paris in less than two and a half hours. Take an early train from London St. Pancras International station and you are set for a wonderful day in Paris. Eurostar trains arrive at Paris Gare du Nord train station, from where you can travel around on the Paris Metro.

What to do during a day in Paris? If this is your first time in the French capital, you should go up the Eiffel Tower for a once in a lifetime experience!

Then, I suggest spending your time in one district so you don’t lose time navigating the city on public transport.

I recommend Ile de la Cité, the island in the middle of the Seine River, where most of the historical buildings are located. Visit Notre Dame (from outside), the Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie.

Also, you can wander around the medieval streets of this isle or walk down to one of the island’s tips so watch the typical Bateaux Mouches sail by.

LONDON TO PARIS BY TRAIN

Route: London St. Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord

Fastest journey time: 2h 16m

Lille

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

flemish houses on a large square with people

Whilst it does not possess the immediate charms of Paris, Lille is one of the most underrated cities in France. It is also an easy day trip from London by train.

Located close to the Belgian border – the so-called capital of French Flanders – Lille feels more Flemish than French, from its architecture to its food.

Due to its compact city centre, it’s a breeze to explore Lille on a self-guided walking tour.

Walk through its series of large cobblestoned squares lined with extravagant Flemish Baroque buildings. Browse the book market in the Renaissance La Veille Bourse, formerly the city’s stock exchange, a collection of small houses arranged around a porticoed courtyard.

Pay your respects at the Notre Dame de la Treille, Lille’s spiritual beating heart, and an intoxicating mix of Gothic meets contemporary.

If time permits, stop by the Palais des Beaux-Arts, a fine art gallery that is second only to the Louvre in France for size and stature.

Finally, don’t leave town before trying merveilleux, little cakes of light meringue smothered in fresh cream and chocolate shavings.

The journey time from London to Lille by Eurostar is just 1hr 22mins.

LONDON TO LILLE BY TRAIN

Route: London St. Pancras International to Lille Europe

Fastest journey time: 1h 22m

Brussels

By Bridget of The Flashpacker

flemish square at night with cobblestones and grand buildings
Image by Marshall Rice from Pixabay

Courtesy of Eurostar, a day trip from London to Brussels, the seat of the European Union, is both easy and affordable. Take a morning train from London St. Pancras International, and in just over two hours you can be munching on waffles in the Grand Place.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Grand Place is the core of Brussels’ medieval city centre and is lined with ornate, late Medieval buildings. This is also home to the city’s Christmas markets.

For a stark contrast to Brussels’ historic centre, head over to the city’s east side.  Ancient architecture is replaced by sleek skyscrapers, including the headquarters of the European Union.

For something completely different, take a comic trail to discover just how many cartoons were created in Brussels. From The Smurfs to Tintin, Blake and Mortimer to Marsupilami, watch out for the comic

Finally, don’t leave Brussels before sampling one of the excellent Belgian beers and, of course, chocolate.

LONDON TO BRUSSELS BY TRAIN

Route: London St. Pancras International to Brussels

Fastest journey time: 2h 01m

Best Day Trips from London by Train: Map of Destinations

best day-trips-from-london-map
Best day trips from London: map (click on image for interactive map) Map Data @ 2020 Google

General Tips for Train Travel from London

  • As many Londoners do not own a car (including myself), expect services to be much busier at the weekend, especially to popular destinations like Brighton. To avoid the crowds, if possible try to visit on a weekday.
  • However, rail improvement works tend to take place on a weekend, particularly on Sundays. Therefore check for travel disruptions before you set out. Trust me, a rail replacement bus is not a joy.
  • Rail travel in England can be expensive but buying your ticket in advance will often save you money. For example, if I wanted to travel to Bath today, a return ticket would cost me in excess of £61 (and this would not be the most expensive ticket on this route!). However, the same ticket booked for five days’ time is only £26.60
  • Consider booking two one-way tickets instead of a return ticket as this can sometimes be cheaper.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO LONDON

GETTING THERE

Skyscanner is my go-to platform to search for flights. I like having the ability to filter results by cabin class and to compare the price of flights across an entire month. Skyscanner also supports multi-city options in searching for open-jaw flights.

STAYING THERE

I book 80% of my accommodation with Booking.com. Rates are competitive and many reservations are cancellable without penalty.

Alternatively, check rates and availability on Expedia.

Check accommodation reviews, and prices across a range of booking platforms, on TripAdvisor.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Wherever you travel in the world it’s important to have comprehensive travel insurance to protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. Check if World Nomads will cover your needs.

OTHER TRAVEL RESOURCES

Check out my Travel Resources page for the companies and other resources I use when planning my trips and whilst I am away.