Most first-time visitors to London will stick to highlights like Big Ben, the British Museum, and Buckingham Palace. But for those that have been to London before or have some extra time to discover other parts of the country, there is an abundance of great day trips in easy reach from London. Here are the top 5 picks from Julie Falconer, a London-based travel writer and consultant. To read more of her writing, visit her London travel blog and Europe travel website.
The historic Roman spa town of Bath is one of the most popular day trips from London. Visitors can tour the remarkably intact Roman baths, be awed by the stained glass windows in the beautiful abbey, and admire the gorgeous historic architecture in the city. Bath is the perfect spot for a relaxing spa day with places like Thermae Bath Spa to treat yourself at! There is no shortage of great shopping opportunities in the city centre, either. Located just an hour and a half by direct train from London Paddington station, Bath is easy to get to and makes for a great day out.
Bristol is rich with maritime history and offers visitors a wide variety of activities to do and sights to see. From the famous SS Great Britain, which offers you a chance to explore a historic ship, to the brand new M Shed museum, which showcases the history and culture of the city, there is no shortage of cultural attractions here. Up on the hill in the trendy Clifton neighborhood, Bristol’s retail and restaurant offerings shine. From picture perfect boutiques to perfect places for pints, Clifton is a great place to spend an afternoon. Getting to Bristol is easy by train from London. Trains leave from London Paddington station, and take 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach Bristol Temple Meads station in the city centre.
Oxford is one of Britain’s most famous university towns. While there, visitors have a chance to see and tour some of the historic college buildings that have featured in the famous Harry Potter movies and other films. The city centre is replete with museums, shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants, and the covered market is a kaleidoscope for the senses. If you go in the summertime, don’t miss the opportunity to go punting on the Isis river. Oxford is easy to reach from London by train from Paddington station or by bus from Victoria Coach Station and other points around central London.
Oxford’s main rival is the other most famous university town in the UK: Cambridge. The two cities vie for the accolade of “most beautiful university”, but the richness of history and architectural detail makes choosing a winner a difficult task. Perhaps Cambridge’s most famous building is the King's College chapel, with its beautiful fan vaulted ceiling. If you go, don’t miss a chance to visit the chapel and hear the choir sing. To get to Cambridge it is a direct train ride from London King’s Cross or London Liverpool Street train station. The trip takes less than an hour each way.
Brighton is one of Britain’s best seaside gems. From its colourful pier, which is home to amusement park rides and candy shops, to the stunning Brighton Pavilion, which features sumptuous interior décor, the city wows the senses. For shoppers, The Lanes are narrow streets packed with everything you need for retail therapy. When you've finished exploring, head to the beach for some recreation and relaxation. Brighton is a quick train ride from London Victoria station. You can get there in just under an hour, and departures are frequent.