London is the capital of England and the biggest city in the United Kingdom. It is home to some 9 million people plus sees millions of people from other countries visit every year. They come to London for various reasons, to work and travel on a UK working holiday visa, to study and simply to holiday. Whatever reason is bringing you to London there will be times you just want to get out of London. Here are 18 London day trips and weekend getaways to enjoy.
Southampton is a fantastic place to spend a weekend away from London. Located on the South Coast of England, it’s easy to get to and from London via train or car. Southampton is the main cruise port for the UK. If you’re taking a cruise then I recommend you spend a couple of days here before or after your cruise to make the most of your time in this wonderful city.
Southampton is a historic maritime city. It has a great mix of old and new, with lots to see and do during your weekend away from London. Take a walk along the city’s walls before visiting the historical sights of the Old Town. Then head to the waterfront to take a look at the cruise ships that are in port.
If you like shopping then the Westquay shopping centre is well worth a visit. You’ll find some great places to eat there as well. If you visit in the summertime, then Mayflower Park is the best place to stop and enjoy a picnic with a view of the ocean. There’s also a lovely playground here so it’s a great place to visit if you have kids.
For a night out, head to Ocean Village. Here you’ll find the city’s tallest buildings, mooring for luxury yachts and lots of places to eat and drink, many of which have outside terraces.
Contributed by Jenni from Cruise Mummy. Link to www.cruisemummy.co.uk
Fountains Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales
While you can’t catch the Hogwarts Express at London’s King’s Cross Station, a less than three-hour train ride from the station gets you to Leeds. The doorstep of an equally magical English destination, the Yorkshire Dales. Despite its close proximity to London, you’re officially in the “north” of England here. This hilly region of England known for its heather covered moors has a rural vibe all its own, making it the perfect London getaway.
During your visit, be sure to hit up little hillside hamlets like Haworth – the hometown of the Bronte sisters. For a larger town experience, visit the ancient spa town of Harrogate. Don’t forget to stock up on cakes from Bettys Café Tea Rooms as well as toffee from Farrah’s of Harrogate before departing. Not to worry, a visit to Yorkshire isn’t just about sweet stuff. You can stretch your legs on the over 1600 miles of hiking trails crisscrossing the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Take a ramble through the stunning ruins of Fountains Abbey. This 12th century Cistercian abbey is located outside of Ripon is an absolute Yorkshire Dales must.
Although not officially in the Yorkshire Dales, consider a visit to the city that gives the region its name, York. Known for its spectacular minster, this cathedral town is one of the oldest cities in England. The Shambles, a twisting medieval street, is said to have inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series.
Contributed by Ada of Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: A Travel Blog
The nearest seaside resort to London is Brighton, making it the perfect place to get away for a day or weekend from the city. The town is full of vibrant street art and an off-beat energy! From King George IV’s Oriental palace, the Royal Pavilion, to the narrow alleys of the Lanes, I loved exploring this quirky spot.
The Royal Pavilion is the most popular attraction in Brighton. You can tour the interior for a look into the life of George IV and his eclectic taste. The Brighton Dome, once George IV’s stables, has been turned into a major arts venue. You can catch a show at Brighton’s Theatre Royal, where many plays show before making their way to London’s West End.
The Brighton Palace Pier is one of my personal favourites, offering amusements for kids of all ages! Visit the Paradox Place House of Illusions allows you to be part of the interactive illusions. Then stop at the Brighton Toy and Model Museum to wonder at the world of fun they’ve created!
Wandering the narrow alleys of the Lanes, the oldest part of the city, is one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon! It is sure to delight you with some of the best shopping and dining you can find. There are plenty of cafes, pubs, bars, and restaurants to choose from. Whether you want a day trip or weekend away from London of relaxation or entertainment, Brighton has something for everyone.
Contributed by Annie of Into the Bold
Seven Sisters White Cliffs
There are plenty of places to see white cliffs in England. However, Seven Sisters was always my favourite place to visit when I lived in London. Seven different hills form stunning scenery in the south coast of the UK. Also, it is a popular filming location well known from the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie.
The cliffs are slowly being eroded so don’t miss out the opportunity to see this natural beauty. Particularly between Eastbourn and Cuckmere Haven beach. You can get there in just 2 hours 20 minutes from London so it is a great spot for a one day trip or London weekend getaway.
Leave your car at Seven Sisters Car Park and walk by the Cuckmere River. Next to Cuckmere Haven beach you will see dramatic cliffs. It is easy and definitely worth it climbing Seven Sisters cliffs, because the views are breathtaking.
Infinite views of white chalk cliffs and green hills will offer you unforgettable experience. Hiking over Seven Sisters cliffs is a wonderful way to spend a day. If you would like to spend a weekend there, it is located only 15 minutes drive from Eastbourne where you can find some good accomodations.
Contributed by Pauline of UK Everyday
Overlooking Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle
Venerable, dramatic Edinburgh is a historic, cultured and cosmopolitan city, regularly topping polls as the most desirable place to live in the UK. It takes about 4.5 hours by train from London and it’s a perfect location for a short getaway and a change of scenery.
The Waverley Station is at the heart of Edinburgh that straddles the Princes Street Gardens. Along with its beauty, Edinburgh is blessed by its brevity, a wonderfully compact city built for navigation on foot. Medieval Old Town of Edinburgh is packed with key landmarks with a deep connection to the Scottish past. These include the Royal Scottish Academy, Scottish National Gallery, the Writers’ Museum, and the Edinburgh Castle.
Among Edinburgh’s many museums, the exciting National Museum of Scotland houses ten thousand of Scotland’s most precious artifacts. Don’t forget to check out the business district on Holyrood Road, and New Street, just off the Royal Mile. Calton Hill is the best spot offering a view overlooking the city. The National Monument of Scotland is a Greek-style unfinished monument dedicated to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. It was considered a disgrace because of the incompletion of the build due to lack of funding.
In August, more than a million visitors flock to the city for the Edinburgh Festival. On a less elevated theme, the city’s vast array of distinctive pubs, allied to its brewing and distilling traditions, make it an unrivalled drinking city. All great reasons making Edinburgh a wonderful place for a London getaway.
Contributed by Kenny of Knycx Journeying
South Downs, Hampshire
Mean Valley Trail, South Downs, Hampshire
A brilliant destination for escaping the big smoke and just a short journey from London is the South Downs in Hampshire. This national park stretches across several counties in southern England. In Hampshire there are wonderful hills to climb, far reaching views and stunning scenery.
If you’re looking for a weekend away from London, there are several charming villages in the South Downs and plenty of excellent gastropubs to dine in. There is an excellent walk – or cycle route – along a former railway line called the Meon Valley Trail. This route takes walkers and cyclists through some of the most enjoyable countryside in the region. Passing charming villages on route with plenty of great places to stop for lunch. The Shoe Inn at Exton is a good choice – ensure you book ahead. The trail is 10 miles long running between the villages of West Meon and Wickham.
The South Downs is brilliant at any time of year but the scenery is particularly special in spring. This is when the woodlands are filled with bluebells, and in autumn when the changing colours are particularly vivid.
By road, the South Downs National Park is under an hour away from London. If travelling by train, the medieval city of Winchester on the edge of the Downs is an hour from London Waterloo. From there it’s worth hiring a car for the weekend in order to explore the region fully.
Contributed by Annabel of Smudged Postcard
Durdle Door, Jurassic Coast
Less than 3 hours from London is the beautiful Jurassic Coast. Stretching 95 miles from Exmouth to Swanage, this breathtaking region is the only natural World Heritage Site in England.
The Jurassic Coast is a hiker’s paradise. The South West Coast Path traverses nearly every section of the coastline, allowing hikers of every skill level to enjoy the stunning views and landscapes. Some of the most popular landmarks include Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Chesil Beach, and Old Harry Rocks.
There’s more to do here than just hiking. Fossil hunting is a popular activity, and the best places to search are Charmouth and Lyme Regis, although you can find fossils anywhere along the coast. There are also the ruins of Corfe Castle to wander, and a ride on the Swanage Railway is a unique and fun way to spend a day.
And don’t be discouraged by bad weather. There are lots of museums to explore on a rainy day, such as the Etches Collection and Dorset County Museum. There’s also an aquarium in Lyme Regis, and the Beer Quarry Caves is a fun place to explore.
No matter your interests, there is something for everyone along the Jurassic Coast. Whether you’re on a weekend road trip or just visiting for the day, I guarantee you’ll want to come back for more!
Contributed by Stefanie of Open Road Odysseys
Windsor Castle with its beautiful gardens
Home to one of the royal residences of the Queen of the United Kingdom, Windsor makes a perfect day trip from London. As well as experiencing the English countryside, the main attraction in Windsor is the mighty Windsor Castle, which is open to the public, even when the Queen is home. It is highly recommended to book tickets to the castle ahead of time, as currently they are timed. Plan to spend between two and three hours visiting the Castle and the State Apartments, which display many of the Royal collections, including Henry VIII’s armour garniture for the field and tilt.
Another nice thing to do on a day trip to Windsor is walk the mile. This is a long path that connects the castle with the Copper Horse Statue, in Windsor Great Park. The path is actually three miles long. It passes through the deer park, which is home to around 500 red deer. You don’t have to search too long for deer, as they are used to people and roam relatively closely to the path.
Windsor is a lovely town on the shores of River Thames. After you finished exploring the town’s cobbled streets, jump on a boat for a short cruise, to see the castle from a different perspective.
Contributed by Joanna of The World in My Pocket
Shop till you drop at Victoria Gate
The vibrant city of Leeds in West Yorkshire is an exciting place for a day trip from London. And it’s only 2 hours away by train. Whether you’re looking for impressive historical sights, fabulous food, top-quality shopping, or to discover miles and miles of glorious Yorkshire countryside on its doorstep, Leeds has something to delight every visitor.
Moments away from the train station, you’ll find the beautiful Victorian Corn Exchange. It is packed with quirky independent shops and eateries. Then there’s the bustling historic Leeds City Markets, home of the original Marks & Spencer “penny bazaar” store. In complete contrast, Victoria Leeds is where you’ll find top stores like Harvey Nichols and John Lewis and luxury brands. There’s also the gorgeous shopping arcades in the historic Victoria Quarter, filled with high-end boutiques to browse.
The unmissable Royal Armouries Museum, with its eight storeys ”Wall of Steel”, contains the UK’s national collection of arms and armour. Still, suppose you prefer something more quirky. In that case, the Thackray Museum of Medicine takes you on the story of medicine through the grimy streets of Victorian Leeds. Fancy watching pretty gruesome operations in the 19th-century operating theatre! Kids love it! Alternatively, hop on a bus and head for the best-preserved Cistercian monastery in Britain – 12th century Kirkstall Abbey. Or perhaps spend the day exploring Harewood House. Then head back to the city for a curry or a drink in the bars of Boar Lane, before your train back to London.
Contributed by Coralie from Grey Globetrotters
Arundel Castle – waiting to be explored
Want to visit one of the loveliest places in England with one the most incredible castles in England on a day trip from London? Check out Arundel and Arundel Castle in the West Sussex.
Picturesque Arundel on the River Arun is one of the prettiest places in England. Beautiful Arundel is famous for its Georgian buildings and Arundel Caste. The streets of this charming Sussex town are not full only of history but of fun sites as well. Arundel has plenty of classy restaurants, cozy pubs, lovely cafes, independent boutiques, art galleries, and antique markets to make Arundel a perfect day trip from London. If you want to learn about the history of Arundel, join an Arundel historic walking tour and visit Arundel Museum. Hire a motorboat at the Arundel Boatyard and cruise the river if you feel somewhat romantic. And, if you want to eat some of the best foods in Britain, reserve your table at The Parsons Table, a Michelin-star restaurant in Arundel.
But the landmark of Arundel and a must-visit in Arundel is medieval Arundel Castle. The castle is one of the most magnificent Victorian buildings in England.
The majestic Arundel castle was a filming location for several films and series, among which Doctor Who (Silver Nemesis), The Young Victoria, The Madness of King George and Wonder Woman are probably best known.
Arundel Castle is a private manor and the seat of the Duke of Norfolk for the past 900 years. One part of the castle is open to the public. So, when in Arundel, don’t miss out on visiting this magnificent castle.
Arundel is only about 2 hours away from London. Remember, Arundel is one of the best weekend trips from London to treat yourself!
Contributed by Milijana of World Travel Connector
Wales Millennium Centre
Cardiff is the Welsh capital and is a vibrant city that is easily visited from London, be it for a day trip or weekend. Just 2 hours by train from London Paddington and less than 3 hours from Central London by car, it’s ideal for a short getaway. Day trips can be done if you take an early morning train and leave Cardiff in the evening.
Cardiff has lots to offer visitors including Cardiff Castle, the National Museum, Cardiff Bay and St Fagans on the outskirts. The Castle is located in the centre of the city and visitors can see inside the Castle Apartments, wonder at the Norman Keep and discover the secrets hidden in the battlements. It might be a bit noisy and frightening at first but worth going inside them. Prepare to be amazed.
Just behind the castle is Bute Park, a lovely park that is a quiet haven in the middle of a bustling city. It is especially lovely in autumn when the leaves are crunching under your feet. And for those who haven’t gotten their fill of history in the castle, the National Museum is located just across the road.
For those who love retail therapy, the entire high street in the city centre is pedestrianised and filled with all the high street shops you could need. St David’s and St David’s 2 shopping centres have even more opportunities for shopping. Music to my ears.
Foodies should head to Mill Lane, Trinity Street or the Hayes. There are also plenty of restaurants in Cardiff Bay where you will find the Senedd Building (Welsh Parliament), the Wales Millennium Centre and the Norwegian Church, all very photo-worthy buildings.
For those staying for the weekend, St Fagans, the Welsh Museum of History is a must. Visitors can step back in time and imagine life in Wales centuries ago through the various buildings on-site that have been transported brick-by-brick. Buildings date back almost one thousand years.
Cardiff is a city that I have visited many times, both while living in South Wales and while in Portugal and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. Whether it is shopping, getting my fill of history or seeing friends, a visit to the city never disappoints.
Contributed by Cath of Wales with Kids
Get the best views of York from the top of the York Minster
York, located in northeast England, is a breathtaking city brimming with gothic architecture, a lively pub scene and eclectic shops. Being a four hour train ride away from the heart of London, York makes for a perfect weekend getaway. You experience the same lively buzz of the big city, but with its own unique and cultural spin.
Begin your visit to York with a walk upon its signature stone walls, of which there’s over 3.5km of preserved circuit to cover. This serves as a great way to first orient yourself with the layout of the city. From there, take a stroll down the most picturesque street in Britain, The Shambles. It can only be described as real-life Diagon Alley (for all you Harry Potter fans out there!). It features tall, slouching timber-framed buildings dating back as early as the 1300’s. And don’t forget to pop into one of York’s many pubs. York literally has more pubs than there are days per year, so there’ll be no shortage to stop in at and have a pint!
Lastly, my absolute favourite stop…the York Minster. No visit to York would be complete without a climb up the renowned York Minster. It provides none other than the town’s best view. Even seeing as far as Scotland on a clear day! Needless to say, regardless of how you spend your time in York, you’re bound to be met with jaw dropping beauty and historical significance around every corner.
Contributed by Natasha of Planes, Trains and Karcz
One of the beautiful villages in the Cotswolds to visit
A beautiful area of the South-Central English countryside is a cluster of villages, rolling hills and canals that make up The Cotswolds. Just 2 hours from London, making it an ideal day trip from London. In 1966 it was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and covers 787 square miles of land.
The Cotswolds is a special place to visit. It’s full of the quintessential English houses, classic British pubs and honesty boxes where you can purchase books, and locally-produced honey, jam and chocolate. Many TV shows and movies have used The Cotswolds as filming locations. Bridget Jones’s Diary and Harry Potter to name a couple. It can get overwhelming deciding which places to go so research the best villages in The Cotswolds and plan your route for your day trip or weekend away from London.
Some of the top things to do include trying Cotswold Cheese and visiting Arlington Row said to be the prettiest street in England and which is featured on the British passport. Also visiting Blenheim Palace to see where Winston Churchill was born. And maybe having a spa day in the Roman baths in the city Bath.
Contributed by Shireen of The Happy Days Travels
The historic city of Durham is often overlooked in favour of other UK cities or simply passed by on a trip from London to Edinburgh. But the city is a great destination for a day or weekend trip from London. Durham can be reached by train from London in approximately 3 ½ hours. This may sound like a long journey but, once you leave London, it is a scenic journey through the English countryside and the time will pass quickly. Plus, Durham’s rail station is a short ten-minute walk from the city centre so you will not need to use public transport during your visit.
Start your day in Durham at the UNESCO World Heritage cathedral which towers over the city. The 12th century cathedral is an interesting mix of Romanesque and Norman architectural styles and is worth visiting just for its stained glass. The cathedral holds the relics of two saints and its cloisters featured as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies. Climb the north west tower for a fantastic view of the city. On the cathedral quadrant, Palace Green, you can visit Palace Green Library, the Durham Museum and Heritage Centre or, by a pre-arranged tour, Durham Castle.
Once the history part of your trip is over, wander Durham’s cobbled pedestrianised lanes which are lined with cafes and independent shops. Browse the market stalls in the indoor Victorian market or explore St. Nicholas Church and the Victorian town hall. Take a break from the city with a tranquil walk along the River Wear. Durham is a lively, charming city and unlike other UK destinations it rarely feels overrun with tourists.
Contributed by Sinead of York with Kids
Explore cobbled streets with old brick buildings
Lincoln, located in Lincolnshire (East Midlands), is a perfect city to visit for a day or short weekend away from London. This charming city has many things to offer – from outstanding historic buildings and museums to cosy afternoon tea rooms and unique local independent shops.
Lincoln Castle is an unmissable attraction. Here you can find one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, an international document of high importance that represents liberty and freedom. Walking on the castle walls is also a great experience as you get breathtaking views of the city.
Another historic building that is worth visiting is Lincoln Cathedral. Not only does it have impressive architecture on the outside, but on the inside too. Its stained-glass windows are to admire. You cannot miss is the rooftop tour in which you can enjoy incredible views of the city and discover some secret spots inside the cathedral.
Last but not least, wandering around the town centre is an experience. Steep Hill is the most famous street in Lincoln where you will find many quaint tea rooms like Bunty’s Tea Room. I spent two days in Lincoln, and I had a great time. Before visiting Lincoln, I hadn’t heard much about it, but I am very glad I visit it because it is a true gem destination.”
Contributed by Cristina of My Little World of Travelling
River Wensum winds through Norwich
Norwich in Norfolk is the perfect destination for a short break from London. Just a few hours from London it’s surrounded by gentle Norfolk countryside and with the unique Norfolk Broads on the doorstep, Norwich is the perfect place for a quintessentially British break.
The only city in Norfolk, Norwich is the most complete medieval city in the United Kingdom today. Home to historic architecture, cobbled streets, ancient buildings, half-timbered houses and twisting medieval lanes. And don’t forget the pretty winding River Wensum that flows through the city centre. Norwich is a feast of history and architecture.
Alongside the flourishing growing food scene, the city has a strong focus on culture, the arts and literature. Plus has a lively independent shopping scene. Spend a weekend in Norwich exploring the rich history, enjoying top class dining and soaking up the atmosphere of this lively and welcoming city.
Within a few miles of the city are the vast beaches of the glorious North Norfolk Coast, perfect for a Sunday morning stroll. And the lazy rivers of the Norfolk Broads, ideal for a boating adventure. If that feels like too much hard work, find one of Norfolk’s excellent country inns. Where you can settle in for a glass of something chilled over a fine lunch of locally sourced ingredients.
Contributed by Izzy of The Gap Decaders
Standing tall in a field on its own – Stonehenge
Stonehenge is on the bucket list of many travellers, and it can easily be visited on a day trip from London. It is a prehistoric monument full of mystery and the questions surrounding its existence have captivated travellers for ages. Believed to have been built during the Bronze Age, there are dozens of theories to the purpose of the stone circle.
The monument is located in Wiltshire, just 1 hour and 45 minutes away from London by car or 2 hours and 15 minutes by public transport. When you arrive at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, take some time to explore the exhibitions. They detail the history of Stonehenge and what life was like during the years of its construction. After learning a bit about the monument’s history, hop on the complimentary shuttle bus to the Stone Circle. Before leaving, stop back in the visitor’s centre to find answers to questions you might have after viewing the stones or enjoy a lunch at the Stonehenge café. You could even have a picnic if you’d like!
To get to Stonehenge from London on public transportation, take the South Western Railway from Waterloo Station to Salisbury. From there, purchase a ticket on the Stonehenge Tour Bus to take you directly to the visitor centre. If you’re short on time, consider taking a guided tour of Stonehenge from London – you could even add in stops at Bath or Windsor Castle!
Contributed by Sydney of A World in Reach
A day at the beach
Brighton is the perfect weekend getaway from London. It’s easy to reach, not too far away and has lots of things to do and see. By train, it takes just over an hour to get to the little beach town from London and the trip is easy and convenient. Brighton is especially beautiful during the summer when you can relax on the beach and maybe even go for a swim if the weather is nice. A walk along Brighton Pier is absolutely mandatory and especially fun in the early evening. There are food stalls and rides to try so make sure you plan to spend some time here. The Lanes are another great place to stop by. Grab lunch or sit in a little cafe and watch people pass you by. This is one of the oldest parts of Brighton and also one of the most beautiful. If you’re looking for more shopping opportunities you should head to North Laine. This is a great place to shop for clothes or really anything you might need. Finally, the Royal Pavilion is a beautiful photo location and one of the most popular places in Brighton.
Contributed by Victoria of Guide Your Travel
When to take a Day or Weekend Getaway from London
In my opinion, anytime is a good time to take a day or weekend getaway from London. What are you waiting for?
How to take your London Day or Weekend Getaway
Having a car is a great way to get around the UK. If you don’t have one you can easily rent one. Having a car makes any day or weekend getaway easy as you can go where you want, when you want. However, the train and bus systems in the UK are extensive. They literally will take you to wherever you need to go.
Where will you stay on your London Weekend Getaway
If you are extending your day trip from London to be a weekend getaway, or a little longer, you will require accommodation for night. Lucky the UK has plenty of hostels, hotels and B&Bs at your service. It is preferable to book in advance to ensure you have somewhere to stay.
I hope these suggestions of London day trips and weekend getaways have inspired you to getaway yourself. But if you can’t get out of London, consider a London Staycation. There are plenty of hotels in the centre of London where you could pamper yourself overnight or for longer. Why not enjoy a show at theatre in the West End or simply walk around and enjoy everything London has to offer. And don’t forget to stop into a nice cafe for a cuppa! I’d love to hear about your favourite London day or weekend getaway in the comments following.