Sun-soaked beaches, Roman Baths, rolling hillsides, famous castles and so much more are easily reachable within just an hour or two by train, coach or car from London. As a former London resident, I can tell you that it’s absolutely worth taking a day or two to explore the special places outside of the city to enjoy the best of both worlds.
You’ll have to first get to London, a destination that Air France reaches from various cities around the world. Together, we’re sharing the best day trips from London so that the sights you see while on holiday are as unique as the flight experience.
Stonehenge in Salisbury is one of the most famous prehistoric landmarks in the world. The impressive ring of standing stones (about 13 ft. tall) is believed to have been constructed in stages from 3,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C.
Originally a burial ground, the exact reasons for its construction and its intended purposes remain a matter of scientific debate and ongoing archaeological research. Note that entrance to Stonehenge is now controlled by timed tickets so advanced booking is strongly encouraged.
Waterloo Station: 1.5 – 2.5 hours depending on the train plus a 9-mile bus ride on the independently-run Stonehenge Tour Bus (Alternatively, many tours by bus depart from London throughout the day.)
The city of Bath was founded on top of natural hot springs. The Roman Baths here date back to 70 AD and were created as not only a place to bath but a social hub, as well.
The entire complex still fills naturally with hot water daily and is one of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world. Explore Georgian spa town during the day where you’ll encounter costumed storytellers or at night by torchlight.
If you’d like to get in the water, break from sightseeing at the Thermae Bath Spa with there are both indoor and rooftop pools heated by the natural hot springs in addition to a variety of spa treatments.
Then, try a famous Sally Lunn Bun, a Bath tradition for over 300 years. The bun is difficult to describe as it’s a large very light “bun” that is sort of part cake, part brioche, part bread. Most people agree that it is heavenly, however.
Paddington Station: 1 hour and 30 minutes by train
Visit Windsor Castle, a royal residence for over 900 years. You’ll need 2-3 hours here to see the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, St George’s Chapel, changing of the guard and more.
Other popular Windsor attractions include LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, sure to be a hit with the kids, and the 2000+ hectares of Windsor Great Park with its walking and running trails, deer park, children’s play area, gorgeous gardens and more. It is not uncommon to see Bath, Windsor, and Stonehenge on the same day trip from London via bus tour.
Paddington Station: 30 minutes by train
The draw of the Cotswolds for tourists is the thatched medieval villages, churches and stately Tudor homes built from distinctive local yellow limestone. It’s a quintessentially English experience and a large area of almost 800 square miles spread across six counties. The Cotswolds are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for conservation purposes.
Shakespeare’s Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwick Castle, and even Oxford are also in the Cotswolds. Because of its size, there is quite a bit to do in the Cotswolds so even an overnight stay might be a good idea.
Paddington Station: 1 hour and 30 minutes by train
Leavesden – Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London is absolutely one of the best day trips from London for anyone who has read the Harry Potter books and/or seen the movies. It is a magnificent tribute to the people, costumes, props, animals, and sets that brought J.K. Rowling’s books to life.
The attention to detail in everything from displays about how the animal actors were trained to Professor Umbridge’s smoking jacket is truly spectacular. You will need at least 4 hours here to enjoy it all. My daughter, a loyal Harry Potter fan, could have easily spent all day here.
London Euston: 30 minutes by train (bus tour journeys typically take an hour of travel time)
The big draw to Oxford is its famous university, the oldest in the English-speaking world. Not-to-be-missed is the central square with the medieval University Church of St Mary the Virgin, the 15th-century Bodleian Library and the Palladian-style Radcliffe Camera.
In sunny weather, a good punt along the River Cherwell is highly advisable. Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Britain’s oldest public museum, is another draw.
Paddington Station: 60 minutes by train (buses leave round-the-clock from London as well)
Cambridge University was founded in 1209 and is made up of 31 constituent colleges. It’s located on the River Cam, another excellent spot for punting in good weather.
Be sure to grab a pint at the Eagle pub where Francis Crick and James Watson met to discuss their discovery of DNA. And check out the Fitzwilliam Museum (otherwise known as The Fitz), one of the first public art museums in Britain.
It’s filled with works of art and other treasures that the seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam spent a lifetime collecting and ultimately donated to his university. If traveling on a tour, it’s common to see both Cambridge and Oxford on the same day trip from London though you could fill a day in each place.
Kings Cross Station: 1 hour and 30 minutes by train
The glorious pebble beaches and activities of Brighton, a seaside resort town, are one of the best London day trips, especially in good weather. Visitors can surf, shop The Lanes, visit a variety of museums and much more here.
The Brighton Palace Pier with its rides, trampolines, carousels and more are a must-do with kids. Also see the Royal Pavilion, the former home of George IV with its unique Indo-Islamic exterior.
Blackfriars or Victoria: 1 hour and 30 minutes by train
Our most recent day trip from London was to Canterbury in Kent where Roman walls still surround the city center. The most popular thing to do is visit Canterbury Cathedral, also the headquarters of the Church of England and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Climb to the top of the Westgate Towers, a medieval gatehouse, for a lovely view of the city over to the cathedral (and a pint in its pub). Wander the shops along the cobblestoned high street.
Have a lovely sit-down meal near the train station at The Good Shed, a market with its own bakery and butchery, too. The beaches of Whitstable and Herne Bay are also a part of the Canterbury district, about 20 minutes away from the city center.
St. Pancras International: About 1 hour and 30 minutes by train
Leeds Castle (often combined on bus tours with a stop to Canterbury and Dover) and is 500 acres of fun for all ages that is set on two islands in a gorgeous lake.
Likely the most famous royal to own the castle is Henry VIII who used it as a home for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. There is actually quite a bit of wildlife to see throughout the 500-acre estate including meeting birds of prey at the onsite falconry centre.
Victoria Station: 2 hours by train
What are your favorite day trips from London?
*Day trips from London photos are used courtesy of Visit Britain.