8 Awesome Day Trips to Take From London

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Are you looking for the best day trips to take from London?

London is unarguably an amazing city. In fact, it's my favorite European capital city, and one of my favorite cities in the whole world. There's always something to see or do in London, which means it's new and exciting every time I visit.

But, despite the never-ending options of things to do and see in London, there are some times when you might want to experience something different. And when getting out of London is the goal, you have lots of great options for day tours and trips.

England is a relatively small country, and many of the best places to visit are accessible as a day trip from London.

The best day trips from London

Here are some of my top recommended day trips from London:

1. Oxford

Distance from London: 1 hour by train

Why you should go: Explore one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world that has existed for nearly 1,000 years.

Oxford college campus
Dreamy Oxford

Chances are, no matter where you are in the world, you've heard of the University of Oxford. It's one of the most well-respected and oldest establishments of higher education in the English-speaking world.

It's a place high-school-me once dreamed of attending, falling in love with its dramatic old buildings and dreamy English accents vicariously through books and movies.

My dreams of attending Oxford never did come to fruition, but that didn't mean I no longer wanted to visit “the city of dreaming spires.” Oxford makes a great day trip from London, being less than an hour away by bus or train.

Radcliffe Camera in Oxford
Radcliffe Camera in Oxford

Once in Oxford, you can wander in and out of shops in town, and visit some of the university's most famous colleges on a day trip.

I got to visit Christ Church College, one of the largest of Oxford's 38 colleges. The dining hall here was said to be the inspiration for the Great Hall of Hogwarts in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

Dining hall at Christ Church College in Oxford
Dining hall at Christ Church College

Top Oxford tour options:

2. Bath

Distance from London: 1 hour and 20 minutes by train

Why you should go: Escape the hustle and bustle of London and marvel at the ancient Roman baths and picturesque sights around this smaller English city.

Roman baths in Bath
Roman baths in Bath

The city of Bath would make a good weekend break from London, but is a fun day trip option, too. This city in southwest England is best known for the ancient Roman baths that are easily its top tourist attraction (and they ARE truly fascinating), but there's more to see in Bath than just baths.

The whole city of Bath was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, and other points of interest include the beautiful Bath Abbey, pretty parks and gardens, the symmetrical Georgian-style Royal Crescent, and Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon, which was built to resemble the Ponte Vecchio and the Ponte di Rialto bridges in Florence and Venice.

Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey
Pulteney Bridge in Bath
Pulteney Bridge in Bath

The best Bath tour options:

3. Stonehenge

Distance from London: 1 hour and 45 minutes by car

Why you should go: Take in this strange and impressive historic site, which is one of the most-visited and well-known in all of England.

Stonehenge in England
Stonehenge up close

No trip to the UK would be complete without a visit to this famous site. Is it touristy? Yes. Is it overrated? Perhaps a bit. But you still absolutely have to visit Stonehenge anyway, just to say you did.

Visiting Stonehenge (and nearby Avebury) is an easy afternoon trip from London. And, while walking around the mysterious standing stones is cool, I'd recommend adding it to another jaunt outside of London because it doesn't really take all that long.

Moody Stonehenge

Top Stonehenge tour options:

4. The Cotswolds

Distance from London: 1 hour and 50 minutes by car

Why you should go: Experience serene nature and quaint storybook villages in one of the most beautiful areas of the English countryside.

Castle Combe in the Cotswolds
Castle Combe

The Cotswolds is a region in southwest England that has been designated an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) due to its picturesque scenery, made up of a collection of quaint villages and rolling countryside.

Villages like Bibury and Castle Combe are among the most scenic in all of England.

Castle Combe in the Cotswolds
Castle Combe
Village of Lacock
Village of Lacock

While the villages of Cotswolds are not too far from London, most of them are not accessible by train and have limited bus options. If you want to have the best experience visiting the Cotswolds on a day trip from London, your best option is to rent a car or join an organized tour that stops at multiple villages.

The best Cotswolds tour options:

5. Stratford-Upon-Avon

Distance from London: 2 hours by car

Why you should go: Shakespeare fans or anyone interested in history will be fascinated by the quaint town that is the birthplace of the world’s most famous playwright.

Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon
Shakespeare's birthplace

Any Shakespeare lovers out there? If so, then Shakespeare's birthplace is a place you simply cannot skip!

You can visit the house where The Bard was born (and enjoy recitations of some of his best scenes by costumed actors in the backyard), along with 5 other properties tied to Shakespeare's life. You can also visit Holy Trinity Church, where the playwright is buried.

Stratford-Upon-Avon itself is also quite lovely and photogenic.

A typical street in Stratford-Upon-Avon

If you're in town long enough, be sure to catch a play, too. The Royal Shakespeare Company is based in Stratford, and there are quite a few places around town to catch performance onstage.

Tour options to Stratford-upon-Avon:

6. Windsor Castle

Distance from London: 40 minutes by train

Why you should go: If you’re at all interested in the British royal family, you will not want to miss touring this royal residence that is nearly 1,000 years old.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

For all you fans of the royal family, Windsor Castle should most definitely feature on your UK itinerary. This medieval castle has been a royal residence stretching all the way back to Henry I, and the Queen still uses it today (it's one of her favorite places to go on the weekend).

Visitors to Windsor can tour the ornate State Apartments, visit gothic St. George's Chapel, and check out special exhibits in the Drawings Gallery. You can also catch a Changing of the Guard ceremony every day outside the Horseshoe Cloister.

Windsor Castle grounds
Windsor Castle grounds
Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle
Changing of the Guard at Windsor

7. Warwick Castle

Distance from London: 1 hour and 50 minutes by car

Why you should go: Perfect for families with children, this castle offers a more entertaining and interactive experience, combined with history.

Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle

If you're looking for a family-friendly day trip from London, consider a visit to Warwick Castle. This real castle is today somewhat of medieval amusement park (it's now owned by the same company that owns all the Madame Tussaud's wax museums). That doesn't mean it's not cool to visit, though.

Attractions include 3-D shows, archery displays, interactions with birds of prey, and lots of “quests” for the kids. The castle also has a couple of jousting shows daily (which are really quite entertaining), and is home to a gigantic trebuchet – the largest catapult in the world, according to the castle's marketing material.

Warwick Castle
Enjoying the jousting show!

Tour options:

8. Harry Potter Studio Tour

Distance from London: 50 minutes by car or bus

Why you should go: Casual and serious Harry Potter fans alike will enjoy this studio tour experience featuring full sets, costumes, and props from the films.

Harry Potter Studio Tour in London
So excited to be at the Harry Potter Studio Tour!

Harry Potter fans will not want to miss a Harry Potter tour at the Warner Brothers studios just north of London. The majority of the Harry Potter films were shot in these studios in Leavesden, and they have now been transformed into a museum-like experience for fans.

You can see actual film sets, costumes, props, and concept art from the movies, and enjoy interactive experiences that capture the magic of the Harry Potter world.

Gryffindor Common Room set
Gryffindor Common Room set
Amanda drinking Butterbeer
Drinking butterbeer at No. 4 Privet Drive

The studios are located less than an hour north of London, but the easiest way to get there is by car, so if you don’t have your own transportation, you will want to book a tour that includes transport.

Tour options:

RELATED: A Harry Potter-Lover's Guide to London

These are some of the best day trips from London you can take. 

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. Like I said earlier, England is full of interesting things to see. These are just a few of the spots I've personally visited on day trips from London over the years and have enjoyed enough to suggest to you!

Which of these day trips would YOU be most likely to take?

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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35 Comments on “8 Awesome Day Trips to Take From London

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  1. […] Then chances are you might want to see what’s beyond the city, as well. There are countless day trips you can take from London, but, honestly, you can do most things cheaper on your […]

    Nice list. It’s too easy to forget how easy it is to travel from London. Like others I’d add in Cambridge. And Dorset (Jurrassic Coast) and Brighton. But then I love the seaside. 🙂

      Next time I’m in the UK, I definitely have to check out more of those seaside destinations!

    […] December 23, 2012 · Add Comment Today’s sponsored post is a perfect follow-up to my 6 Day Trips to Take From London post from last week. This one highlights some other parts of the UK that are worth a visit (I can […]

    We visited Bath, Stonehenge & Stratford-Upon-Avon when we my family visited Europe in 1986 when I was 14 and, being at that impressionable age, they all had quite an impact. I especially loved Bath.

      Everyone I’ve talked to who has visited Bath has loved it. Clearly a must-see!

    I did that same Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge tour. It was definitely worth it. I think I would like to spend more time in Bath.

      Same here, Stephanie. Bath is a place I definitely would like to explore a bit more! Such a pretty city.

    Great post, Amanda! Even though we lived in London for three years, we never made it to Warwick Castle. We love Oxford too, and Cambridge is also a fantastic place for a day trip. Next time you’re in London, you should go down to Brighton – it’s only an hour on the train, has a fun pier and watching the sunset on the beach is lovely.

      Thanks, Dani! I’m hoping to spend an extended amount of time in London sometime next year, so I’ll have to be sure to visit Brighton then!

    I go to university in Oxford, Ohio so it’s one of my goals to go to the real Oxford. I definitely wouldn’t mind making trips to these other places too!

    Driftwood and Daydreams

      Ah, you must go to Miami! I had quite a few friends who graduated from there. 🙂 But yes, you’ll have to get yourself to the real Oxford someday!

    My favorite historical fiction author, Bernard Cornwell, writes so much about the beginnings of London and the UK tht I have become fascinated. Just like me, it seems like you find much more outside the cities as well. Bath looks stunning, and the dream spires remind me of their pagan roots. Cannot wait to get to London, great guide!

      There’s definitely a lot to be found outside the major cities in the UK. Though, that being said, I LOVE London, and could easily spend weeks there and probably still not see everything I would want to!

    Christ Church College is so inviting! I can’t wait for my trip to UK.
    Great Summary! Beautiful photos, Amanda.

      All of Oxford was so grand and pretty… I just wish I would have had better weather! Guess I’ll have to go back sometime.

    I love Bath, its my favourite city. I also think Avebury definitely outshines stonehenge XX

    I took a coach trip that featured Bath and Stonehenge. That provided comfortable transport and we skipped the lines, which was an advantage. I was very impressed with Bath and the Roman heritage. There is this bridge that you know it’s a bridge only after you have walked over it-how cool is that?

    I went to Windsor on my own, then. Rail travel in England is something out of this world!

      I’m impressed by any country with a rail network, period. Train travel is kind of a joke here in the U.S.!

      Glad to hear you liked Bath – it’s definitely a cool little city.

    I didn’t get to Bath or Windsor Castle when I was in England but the others I can vouch for were absolutely worth it! All the more excuse to go back 😉

      There’s always an excuse to go back to the UK as far as I’m concerned! 😉 I can highly recommend both Bath and Windsor though for next time!

    An alternative to Oxford is Cambridge, also home to a great university dating back to medieval times. I decided to visit Cambridge because a friend who was from England told me that Cambridge is a more beautiful city and Oxford is more industrial. I have nothing bad to say about Oxford because I’ve never seen it, but Cambridge was wonderful.

    Windsor can be paired with Eton, the great prep school (or “public school,” as the Brits call them) that’s just across the river. Made for an interesting tour. Also not far from Windsor is Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed. There’s not a whole lot to see there other than a couple of monuments, but if you’re the type of person who enjoys just seeing sites where history took place, Runnymede is cool to check out. You can get there by public transportation from Windsor, if you don’t mind doing a bit of walking.

    Stratford is great — I’ve been there twice — but it’s kind of difficult to pull off as a day-trip. I think it’s about 2 and a quarter hours from London by train. Plus, if you want to see a Shakespeare play there, you’ll likely have to stay overnight just to be able to do that (although there are weekend matinees, of course). So I think Stratford is best conceived of as a weekend trip or something like that.

      I agree that Stratford is probably best done as a weekend trip instead of a day trip (especially if you want to see a play), but I included it here anyway!

      Good tip on Cambridge. I’ll have to get out there another time. I was too set on Oxford (especially with its Harry Potter connection!) to even consider an alternative.

    All of them! I am going to London for a month this summer with my kids and I plan on visiting all the places you mentioned. Thank you.

    Great Post! London quickly moved up the list of our favorite cities as well. We didn’t do any day trips (well, Reading for the Reading Festival but that doesn’t really count) but did spend a while in Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Bath and definitely agree with your recommendation of them. Thanks for giving us some places to check out next time we’re there. Love the blog!

      Hopefully you’ll get to check out some of the others next time!

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