Britain’s rich history, the beauty of its rolling countryside and it's wonderful architecture make it one of the most popular places to visit in the world. Despite its relatively small size (no city in Britain is more than 150 kilometers from the sea), Britain is packed to the brim with historical and cultural landmarks that are a must visit when making a trip to the British Isles. In this guide, we will focus on places that you can easily visit within a day or two if you are in London. Be it the medieval university buildings of Oxford, the prehistoric Stonehenge, the storybook houses in Cotswolds or the stunning white cliffs of Dover; this guide will look at some of the most popular and endearing excursions that one can take from London.
Top Day Trip Destinations From London
North of London
East of London
• Leeds Castle
West of London
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North of London
The most popular destinations situated to the north of London that you can visit in a day are Oxford, Stratford, Cotswolds and Warwick. While Oxford is famous for its historically impressive university buildings and has fondly earned the nickname of “Dreaming Spires”, Warwick has earned its fame as a charming historical city with an impressive castle typical of old fairy tales. On the other hand, the unremitting beauty of the Cotswolds - the rolling hills and honey-coloured houses, draws visitors in their thousands every day. Another extremely popular day trip up north from London is an excursion to Stratford-upon-Avon, an 800-year old town that is also the birthplace of William Shakespeare.
Situated 60 miles from London, Oxford is one of the easiest day trip that you can take from London. At Oxford; emphatic university buildings, utterly charming houses, museums and experiences such as punting on the River Thames (or The Isis in Oxford) and having a drink at a bar where J. R. R. Tolkien used to hang out await you. If you want to walk the hallowed halls of old university buildings, go cruising down the Thames, explore “haunted” buildings, check out the shoot locations for the Harry Potter movies or simply admire the architecture and sights of a medieval British town, then a day trip to Oxford from London is your best bet.
Things to do in Oxford
• Explore the buildings that make up Oxford University, the oldest university in the English speaking world.
• Visit the iconic Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe and the main research library of Oxford University.
• Take in the sights and admire buildings with impressive medieval and neoclassical architecture. Oxford has been fondly nicknamed the city of “Dreaming Spires”.
• Go punting down the Thames River, often called The Isis as it flows through the heart of Oxford.
• Visit Brasenose College. Founded in 1509, the institution is made up of rolling lawns and architecture that looks like it jumped out of a storybook.
• Walk the cobbled streets and make your way to the one of the most impressive collections of books in the world - the Norrington Room located in Blackwell’s Bookshop.
• Extend your visit and stay at the Oxford Castle, a 1000-year old castle that has now been converted into a hotel.
Warwick is situated a 100 miles north of London and is another popular day trip destination from the capital. A county town, Warwick is famous for its iconic 1,1000-year old castle and medieval charm. Through the year, the town is home to a wide calendar of events which include the Folk Festival, Literary Festivals as well as the renowned Victorian Evening. Lonely Planet placed Warwick sixth in a 2016 list of Europe’s best destinations, identifying it as one of the best places to visit in Britain.
Things to do in Warwick
• Visit Warwick Castle, an impressive 11th century castle in Warwick. Famous for its tower and dungeons, the castle grounds also have the largest functioning trebuchet in the world.
• Explore Britain’s first Horrible Histories Maze and witness the world’s largest working catapult at Warwick Castle.
• Visit the Collegiate Church of St. Mary, an impressive 15th-century church in the heart of Warwick that dominates the city's central skyline.
• Take a stroll in St. Nicholas Park, a common recreational place for the people of Warwick.
• If you love museums, then you will enjoy exploring the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum, the Market Hall Museum, The Queen’s Own Hussars Museum and St. John’s Museum.
3. The Cotswolds
It’s been over 50 years since the Cotswolds was declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Spread over 800 square miles of rolling hills, the Cotswolds is the biggest of the 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales. Reminiscent of the old-world charm, this pretty corner of England has repeatedly been honored as the most picturesque rural setting in all of the British Isles. If you wish to experience the most charming and typical rural Britain landscape, then head over to the Cotswolds. Situated 100 miles from London, the trip to Cotswolds is a leisurely affair, one that makes visiting the region an absolute must for those visiting London.
Things to do in The Cotswolds
• Drive past rolling hills and through quaint villages with stone and wood houses, almost transporting you to a different era.
• Explore Berkeley Castle and wander through gardens and discover monuments dating back to the 12th century.
• Head to Westonbirt Arboretum, the most beautiful of all tree gardens in the world with over 600 acres of trees from around the world laid out in the most aesthetic manner.
• Walk through Bibury, the most picturesque of all villages in Cotswolds and one of the most visited landmark in the region.
• Visit Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens where giraffes and rhinos graze freely in the lawns of a Gothic Manor House.
• Be charmed by The Model Village, a one-ninth scale replica of the beautiful Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
Famous for being the town William Shakespeare was born in, Stratford-upon-Avon is town located a 100 miles from London and is famous for its parks, rivers, medieval buildings and the largest butterfly park in the world. A model British town, at Stratford-upon-Avon, you can enjoy some fine food and beer at one of the many pubs, get your fill of everything Shakespeare, enjoy Tudor architecture and a cruise down River Avon.
Things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon
• Visit the home William Shakespeare was born in. His gravestone, daughter’s home and his mother’s childhood home are also preserved.
• Head over to the Royal Shakespeare Company that hosts some of the best performances in the country.
• Go for a boat ride in River Avon, the river that gives the town its name.
• Visit the Butterfly Park, the largest of its kind in the world.
• Experience life during the time of Shakespeare at Mary Arden’s farm where you can see how a Tudor farm would have been run.
• Visit the Holy Trinity Church, often referred to as the most beautiful parish churches in England. It is here that Shakespeare was baptised and buried.
Suggested Day Trips From London
East of London
Leeds Castle, Canterbury and Dover are the main attractions to the east of London that can be experienced in a day and are extremely popular day trip destinations from London. Leeds Castle in Maidstone, Kent, is a historic 12th-century castle built on islands in a lake. The picturesque setting lends to the popularity of the castle, making it one of the most popular attractions in Kent. The other two major day trip destinations to the east of London are Canterbury and Dover. While Canterbury is known for its history and cultural importance, especially since it has been the setting of many works of literature and the centre of English Christianity; Dover is extremely popular for its awe-inspiring landscape.
1. Leeds Castle
A must-visit for lovers of history and architecture, Leeds Castle is situated 50 miles from London in the beautiful region of Maidstone, Kent. Built in the 12th century on an island in a lake formed by the River Len, Leeds Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in England. Its prominence rose as it became the favourite residence for King Edward I. Leeds Castle was also home to Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Today, the castle is an important tourist destination in the region. Some of the attractions at the castle grounds, apart from the majestic castle itself, include a maze, a golf course and an eccentric museum dedicated to dog collars.
Things to do at Leeds Castle
• Explore the historic heritage of the castle as you roam the halls of this amazing castle.
• Witness an exhibition of historic artefacts at the castle. Exhibitions are common and are held throughout the year.
• Head to a unique collection of historic and fascinating dog collars at the Dog Collar Museum.
• A favourite with children, allow your kids to play at the Knight’s Realm Playground and the Squire’s Court Playground.
• Explore the maze and make your way out of this fascinating labyrinth.
• Walk amongst the beautifully maintained Culpeper Gardens and The Wood Garden.
Canterbury is a historic cathedral city in the district of Kent and UNESCO World Heritage Site that lies on the banks of River Stour. An extremely popular destination in Kent, Canterbury is situated about 60 miles to the east of London. The medieval city of Canterbury has been the setting of many works of literature and is most famous for once being the centre of English Christianity. Testimony to this is the iconic Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. You can also explore the rolling countryside and the beautiful coast, discover historic buildings or go shopping and enjoy a nice days out.
Things to do in Canterbury
• Take a tour of the stunning Canterbury Cathedral, the heart of Christianity in England and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
• Visit the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey and St Martin's Church. Along with Canterbury Cathedral, these sights have been recognised as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
• Explore the city and discover historic buildings such as Greyfriars Chapel, Britain's oldest Franciscan building spanning the River Stour and the ruins of the Norman Castle.
• Go for a cruise down the River Stour.
• Visit the many gardens and parks in Canterbury such as Dane John Gardens and the delightful Westgate Gardens.
• Learn about Britain during the Roman times at the Roman Museum.
Situated on the eastern coast of England facing France at the Strait of Dover, Dover is a historically important city in England home to the most famous geographical chalk cliffs in the world - the White Cliffs of Dover. The most famous man-made attraction is the formidable Dover Castle, a prominent fortress perched high above the English Channel. Dover is situated around 80 miles of London and is a popular day tour destination for visitors to London.
Things to do in Dover
• Head to the coast and discover the grand beauty of the white cliffs of Dover.
• Look across the channel and you will be able to see France and the European mainland.
• Head to the Dover Castle, a 12th-century castle on the cliff built by Henry II in 1168.
• Explore other historic ruins such as the Dover Western Heights and the Grand Shaft, a historic fortification on the coast of Dover.
• Discover ancient Roman ruins at the Roman Painted House built in 200 AD.
Suggested Day Trips From London
West of London
Windsor, Bath and Stonehenge are the major day trip destinations to the west of London. These destinations allow you to witness the history of Britain in its entirety - from the neolithic remains of Stonehenge, to the ruins of roman Britain in Bath and the royal palaces of Windsor - hence making them the perfect day trip options out of London.
Situated just outside the reaches of London to the west of the city is royal Windsor, a place steeped in history and royalty. With connections to the royal British family that go back centuries, Windsor is home to some of the most stately palaces and institutions in the country. The surrounding countryside of Berkshire make it an delightful day trip destination for visitors to London. Whether you want to admire a royal castle - Windsor Castle, one of the Queen's official royal residences or check out historic educational institutions such as Eton College, or even enjoy a fun day out at LEGOLAND, then Windsor is the destination you’re looking for.
Things to do in Windsor
• On your way to Windsor, enjoy the sights of a beautiful English countryside as you travel through Berkshire.
• Explore Windsor Castle, one of the most dominating castles in England and the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world.
• Take a tour of Eton College, one of the most prestigious institutions in the world and also the school where the royals study.
• If you’re looking to have some fun with your family and your children, then head over to the LEGOLAND theme park.
• Take to the waters and enjoy a stunning sightseeing cruise of the royal city on a Thames river cruise.
• Visit Windsor and the Royal Borough Museum to experience a piece of Royal British history.
Situated about 110 miles from London is the ancient town of Bath, another popular day trip destination from London. Home to natural hot springs, historic Roman ruins, 18th-century Georgian architecture and honey coloured stone houses; Bath is one of the most beautiful towns in England. Even strolling through the city is enough to have a fulfilling experience, but packed with natural beauty, ancient history and amazing architecture, Bath is certainly a town that has much to show.
Things to do in Bath
• Head to the fascinating Roman baths, remnants of a bygone era, where you can see modern actors enact the life and times of a period when the baths were officially used in Roman Britain.
• Admire the Georgian architecture of impressive buildings such as The Royal Crescent, an arcing network of around 30 houses.
• The Circus and Assembly Rooms are the other popular must-see Georgian masterpieces.
• Surround yourself with art at the recently refurbished Holburne Museum.
• Learn about the city and its distinct architectural style at the Museum of Bath Architecture.
• Take a relaxing stroll through Prior Park Landscape Garden.
3. The Stonehenge
One of the most historically significant remnants of Britain’s yesteryears is the Stonehenge, an unassuming but awe-inspiring structure of stones arranged on a field 5,000 years ago. Situated about 115 miles from London in Salisbury, Stonehenge can easily be visited in a day, making it one of the most popular, if not the most, day excursion destinations from London. Constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC, Stonehenge consists of a ring of standing stones, each weighing around 25 tons and almost 15 feet high. You can also visit the Stonehenge Visitor Center, an exhibition and museum where you can learn more about the history of the Stonehenge.
Things to do in Bath
• Take a walk around the circular main structure and walk in the footsteps of those who constructed it thousands of years ago.
• Head to the visitor center and discover the neolithic houses from the times when the Stonehenge was being constructed.
• At the visitor center, take a trip through time with an audio-visual 360-degree view from inside the stones, in the visitor centre.
• Explore the landscape and discover other ancient monuments that fill the landscape surrounding the Stonehenge.
Suggested Day Trips From London
London Day Trip Insider Tips
1. Dress for the weather
The weather in England it seems cannot make its mind up. A day beginning with the sun shining brightly can easily turn into an afternoon of rain and shower. Check the local weather report before you head out.
2. Make an itinerary
England may be a small country but it offers an astounding number of experiences. It is better to plan your visit and not cramp in too much as you will be tempted.
3. Go for tours
Whenever you can, go for a guided tour. If it's your first time visiting England, then your guides will help you learn and experience interesting things that you otherwise wouldn't have.
4. Try the local cuisine
That english food is boring is a myth. As you travel out of London, try enjoying the local dishes. English food features a whole lot of fresh garden produce, meat and dairy as well.