10 Unforgettable Day Trips from London by Train

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London Train station

London is a dynamic and vibrant city, bursting with world-class attractions and endless entertainment options. However, sometimes the hustle and bustle of the city can become a little overwhelming, and a change of scenery is needed.

Luckily, the proximity of London to some of the UK’s most stunning and historic destinations makes it the perfect base for unforgettable day trips. How better to travel than by train?

From exploring ancient castles and charming villages to enjoying scenic walks in the countryside or indulging in delicious local cuisine, there’s something for everyone just a short distance away from the capital.

Join us as we take a journey through 10 of the most exciting and memorable day trips by train from London. The distances below are an indication only. The actual traveling time will depend on the time of day, the station you use, and the train service that you choose to travel with.

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Radcliffe Camera

1. Oxford

Distance from London: 1 hour by train from London Paddington

Visiting Oxford by train offers a convenient and scenic way to explore this historic city. As you embark on your journey from London, sit back and relax as the train takes you through the picturesque English countryside. Arriving at Oxford’s train station, you will find yourself in the heart of a city that seamlessly combines rich history with a vibrant contemporary atmosphere.

Oxford’s most renowned feature is its prestigious university, which has a legacy dating back over nine centuries. As you step off the train, you can embark on a walking tour that takes you through the hallowed halls and serene courtyards of the university. The knowledgeable guides will regale you with fascinating tales and anecdotes about the university’s famous alumni, including philosophers, scientists, writers, and politicians who have shaped the world we live in today. Marvel at the architectural splendor of the colleges, each with its own distinctive character.

The Bodleian Library, which opened in 1749, is a must-visit for book lovers and history enthusiasts. Its impressive collection of books spans centuries, and the stunning architecture will transport you to a bygone era. Adjacent to the library, you’ll find the rather confusingly named Radcliffe Camera, a circular building with a dome that has become an Oxford landmark. 

For fans of the Harry Potter series, visiting Oxford is like stepping into the magical world created by J.K. Rowling. Several iconic scenes from the movies were filmed here, including the Dining Hall in Christ Church College, which served as the inspiration for Hogwarts’ dining hall. Explore the cloisters and courtyards that were transformed into the enchanting settings of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Additionally, parts of the fantasy film The Golden Compass were shot in Oxford, adding to the city’s cinematic allure.

After a fulfilling day of exploration, hop back on the train, carrying memories of this captivating city and a deeper appreciation for its timeless charm and intellectual heritage.

Bath, England

2. Bath

Distance from London: 1 ½ hours by train from London Paddington

Upon arrival at Bath’s train station, you’ll find yourself immersed in a city renowned for its Roman heritage and elegant Georgian architecture. Bath has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site because of both its Roman and Georgian heritage.

One of Bath’s most famous attractions is the Roman Baths. While all the buildings at street level date from the 19th century, you can still see portions of the original Roman baths in the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, and the Roman Bath House. The hot springs from Roman times still flow today although the visitors cannot enter the water.

Adjacent to the Roman Baths is the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (or the Bath Abbey), a magnificent Gothic church that stands as an architectural masterpiece. Admire the intricate stained glass windows, the soaring vaulted ceilings, and the ornate stone carvings that adorn the abbey. 

No visit to Bath would be complete without a stroll along the iconic Royal Crescent. This crescent-shaped terrace, consisting of thirty stunning Georgian townhouses, is an architectural gem. Admire the uniformity of the buildings’ design and the grandeur of their facades. The Royal Crescent offers an excellent vantage point to appreciate Bath’s elegant cityscape, with beautiful views of the surrounding hills and the lush greenery of Royal Victoria Park.

Bath is not only known for its historical and architectural marvels but also for its connection to literature. It is the birthplace of renowned author Jane Austen, and visitors can explore the Jane Austen Centre to learn more about her life and works. The city’s elegant streets and charming squares inspired many of her novels.

Day tours to Bath can be combined with other sites in southwest England like Stonehenge and Stratford on Avon.

3. Cambridge

Distance from London: 1 ½ hours by train from London King’s Cross

Upon arrival at Cambridge’s train station, you’ll step into a city renowned for its prestigious University of Cambridge and its illustrious history. Cambridge University, with its impressive list of alumni, has been at the forefront of groundbreaking discoveries and intellectual pursuits for centuries. As you venture through the city, take the opportunity to explore the captivating colleges that dot its landscape including the iconic King’s College Chapel (built in the 1400s and 1500s(, with its magnificent Gothic architecture and stunning stained glass windows.

Cambridge’s charm extends beyond its academic prowess. A leisurely punting tour along the River Cam with views of the “Backs” is a quintessential Cambridge experience. Sit back and relax as you glide along the serene waterways, guided by a knowledgeable punter who shares captivating tales and interesting anecdotes about the city and its university. After the punting adventure, treat yourself to a delightful lunch at one of the riverside pubs or restaurants, where you can savor delicious cuisine while enjoying the tranquil ambiance.

For those with a passion for botanical wonders, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a must-visit. Explore the diverse collection of plants from around the world, meander through well-manicured lawns and serene water features, and immerse yourself in the peaceful ambiance of this horticultural gem.



4. Canterbury

Distance from London: 1 ½ hours by train from St Pancras

Upon arrival at Canterbury’s train station, you’ll find yourself in a city that has captivated visitors for centuries. The centerpiece of Canterbury is its magnificent Gothic cathedral which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original cathedral here was finished in 577 and the current structure was completed in 1077. It was a pilgrimage site throughout the middle ages as we learned from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

The cathedral was also the site of a shocking murder in 1170 when knights loyal to King Henry II killed the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket, answering the question “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”

Marvel at the soaring arches, intricate stone carvings, and stunning stained glass windows that adorn the cathedral. Ascend the Bell Harry Tower for breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

The Canterbury Tales Museum offers a fascinating journey into the world of Geoffrey Chaucer’s timeless tales. Through interactive exhibits and costumed guides, you’ll be transported back to medieval times, immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and stories of the era.

The Westgate Towers Museum and Viewpoint are also popular sights. Here you will find the 60-foot-high western gate of the city wall, the largest surviving city gate in all of England.

Enjoy lunch on Shakespeare Street as it offers a variety of cozy cafes, traditional pubs, and restaurants serving delicious cuisine, all while surrounded by picturesque medieval buildings and charming cobbled streets.

Brighton Pier

5. Brighton

Distance from London:1 ½ hours by train from London Victoria or London Blackfriars

Brighton is the quintessential English seaside town. A nostalgic stroll along the iconic Brighton Pier is a must. The pier dates back to 1823.

Brighton’s cultural scene is a treasure trove of artistic delights. The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery houses an impressive collection of art, spanning various periods and genres. Explore exhibitions that delve into Brighton’s history, from its origins as a fashionable seaside resort to its vibrant present. The museum showcases a diverse range of artwork, historical artifacts, and interactive displays, offering a deeper understanding of the town’s rich heritage.

Another gem is the Royal Pavilion, an architectural masterpiece that was once a royal residence. Marvel at its exquisite Indo-Saracenic design, lavish interiors, and beautifully landscaped gardens. Step back in time as you explore this iconic landmark, which provides a glimpse into the extravagant lifestyle of the Regency era (1811 to 1820).

In addition to its cultural offerings, Brighton boasts a dynamic nightlife and a thriving music scene. From live music venues to quirky bars, there is no shortage of options for entertainment after the sun sets. Take in a concert, enjoy a comedy show, or simply wander through the lively streets, where you’ll find a diverse array of pubs, clubs, and late-night establishments.

Of course, no visit to Brighton would be complete without spending time at the beach. The town’s stunning pebble beach stretches for miles, inviting visitors to bask in the sun, take a refreshing dip in the sea, or enjoy a leisurely walk along the promenade. Experience the lively atmosphere as you encounter street performers, artists, and food stalls offering a variety of tempting treats.

Windsor Castle

6. Windsor

Distance from London: 1 hour by train from London Waterloo

Arriving at Windsor’s train station, you’ll find yourself in the presence of the magnificent Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. You will need to purchase a ticket or a tour to visit the castle. Explore the castle grounds and manicured gardens. Marvel at the stunning State Apartments, adorned with exquisite furniture, priceless artworks, and intricate tapestries. Discover the St. George’s Chapel, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and the final resting place of monarchs, including Henry VIII and Queen Mary. The castle boasts priceless art and antique collections, including works by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Leonardo da Vinci.

While the castle and the royal family share the name of Windsor, it is the castle that held this name first. During WWI, the royal family changed their family name from the very German name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, naming themselves after their favorite castle.

Outside Windsor Castle, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony. Join the crowd outside the castle gates and experience this time-honored tradition, where soldiers dressed in their distinctive red uniforms and bearskin hats march with precision and pride. The ceremony is accompanied by military bands playing stirring tunes, creating a sense of pomp and pageantry that epitomizes British royalty.

Beyond the castle walls, Windsor offers a delightful array of shops, boutiques, and quaint cafes. Stroll along the charming streets, lined with Tudor-style buildings and historic facades, and indulge in a spot of shopping or enjoy a cup of tea and some freshly baked scones. The town’s rich history and royal connections are evident at every turn, providing a captivating backdrop for your exploration.

If time permits, venture beyond the castle to explore the vast Windsor Great Park. This 15,800-acre royal parkland offers sweeping landscapes, tranquil lakes, forests, and gardens. 


7. Stonehenge

Distance from London: 1 ½ hours by train from London Waterloo

You can travel to Stonehenge on a tour or take the train to Salisbury where there is public transportation available to reach Stonehenge. 

Arriving at the Stonehenge visitor center, you’ll find yourself standing before one of the world’s most renowned landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Step into the vast expanse that surrounds the ancient stone circle and feel the weight of history envelop you. Marvel at the colossal sarsen stones, towering at almost 30 feet in height and weighing as much as 30 tons. 

The smaller and older bluestones (dating back 5000 years), believed to have been brought from Wales, add an intriguing element to the enigma of Stonehenge. Imagine the immense effort and ingenuity required to transport these stones over 180 miles to their current location. 

As you explore the site, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Stonehenge’s fascinating history and theories surrounding its purpose. Uncover the mysteries that have perplexed archaeologists and scholars for centuries. Was it an astronomical observatory, a place of worship, or a burial ground? Contemplate the theories and indulge in your own speculations as you absorb the profound aura of this ancient monument.

The Stonehenge visitor center provides a wealth of information, exhibits, and interactive displays that delve into the rich tapestry of Stonehenge’s past. Immerse yourself in the world of Neolithic culture, gaining insights into the lives and beliefs of the people who erected this monumental structure.

The visit to Stonehenge will not take an entire day and is often combined with other sites in the area, including the stone circle at Avebury.

Cotswolds, England

8. The Cotswolds

Distance from London: 1 ½ hours by train from London Paddington 

To get to the Cotswolds, take a train to one of Moreton-in-Marsh, Stonehouse, Stroud, or Kemble. Arriving at one of the charming Cotswold towns, you’ll find yourself immersed in a postcard-perfect setting. The Cotswolds, with its honey-colored stone cottages, quaint market squares, and winding paths, exude a timeless allure that transports you to a bygone era. 

The Cotswolds is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, characterized by lush green meadows, meandering rivers, and rolling hills. Lace up your walking shoes and embark on one of the many scenic trails that crisscross the region. Follow winding footpaths lined with hedgerows, pass through charming woodlands, and pause at picturesque viewpoints to take in the panoramic vistas. The tranquility and serenity of the countryside provide the perfect backdrop for moments of reflection and rejuvenation.

Each Cotswold town boasts its own unique character and attractions. Explore the historic market towns of Burford, Chipping Campden, or Bourton-on-the-Water, where you can peruse local shops, discover quaint tearooms, and browse antique stores. Visit grand manor houses and castles, such as Sudeley Castle or Blenheim Palace, and delve into their rich histories and opulent interiors.

Sample the flavors of the region at one of the traditional pubs or farm-to-table restaurants, where you can savor locally sourced ingredients and indulge in hearty British cuisine. Treat yourself to a cream tea, complete with warm scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam, for a taste of true Cotswold tradition.


9. Portsmouth

Distance from London: 2 hours by train from London Victoria

Arriving at Portsmouth, you’ll be greeted by the bustling port and the salty breeze from the sea. This vibrant city boasts a rich maritime history, with a strong connection to the Royal Navy. Explore the historic dockyard, home to famous ships such as HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, and the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship. Step aboard these magnificent vessels and walk in the footsteps of naval legends.

For a deeper dive into naval history, visit the National Museum of the Royal Navy, where interactive exhibits and displays provide a fascinating insight into Britain’s maritime past. Uncover the tales of heroism, explore the artifacts, and learn about the pivotal role Portsmouth played in shaping naval warfare. You can also visit the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and the HMS Alliance which is the only surviving English WWII submarine.

 If you’re a fan of literature, visit the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, located in the house where the famous author was born. Explore the rooms and immerse yourself in the world of one of Britain’s most beloved literary figures.

Portsmouth is also home to a beautiful seafront and harbor, which offer stunning views of the Solent and the Isle of Wight, and provide a variety of leisure activities such as boating, fishing, and strolling along the promenade.

A Walk in the New Forest

10. The New Forest

Distance from London: 1 ½ hours by train from London Waterloo

New Forest National Park is a 219 sq mi (566 km2) park west of Southhampton in Southern England. Take the train from London’s Waterloo station to Brockenhurst station which is in the middle of the park.

Arriving at your destination, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the captivating landscapes of the New Forest. This ancient woodland, once reserved for hunting by William the Conqueror, is now a haven for wildlife and a paradise for nature lovers. Step into a world of tall trees, meandering rivers, and open heathlands, where ponies, deer, and other wildlife roam freely. 

The New Forest offers a plethora of outdoor activities and recreational opportunities. Lace up your walking boots and embark on one of the many scenic trails that wind their way through the forest. The New Forest is a haven for birdwatching, so keep your eyes peeled for rare species and listen to the sweet melodies of the woodland birds.

For a great way to experience the New Forest, rent a bicycle and pedal along the designated cycle routes that crisscross the area. Feel the wind in your hair as you meander through the forest, passing quaint villages, idyllic streams, and charming tea rooms.  The New Forest also offers opportunities for horse riding, fishing, and even camping, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the natural splendor of the area. 


In conclusion, the possibilities for adventure and discovery on a day trip from London are limitless! With fascinating historic cities, awe-inspiring castles and cathedrals, and breathtaking countryside vistas all within easy reach, there is no shortage of incredible experiences. So why not break free from the hustle and bustle of London and embark on a journey of exploration and wonder? Your next unforgettable adventure awaits, just a short trip away from the vibrant heart of the capital.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

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