16 Epic Day Trips from London to Escape the Big Smoke

In London and want to escape the city? Here are some of the best day trips from London to consider.

London is the vibrant, beating heartbeat of England. But it’s also a gateway to other amazing parts of the country!

There are literally hundreds of outstanding day trips from London to enjoy. I lived there for years and only scratched the surface…

Here are 16 of the best, though – a combination of London day trips I’ve done before and others that remain on my bucket list.

If you need a break from the city and/or want to explore more of England, these are great places to start…

1. Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter

Warner Bros. Studio Tour-The Making of Harry Potter
Here we go then: the best day trips from London, starting with the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

For more than a decade, Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden was the home of the Harry Potter movies. The crews preserved countless props, sets, and costumes from the filming, and they all remain on display here.

And that’s just the start: You can explore complete movie sets like Diagon Alley and the Great Hall, along with full miniature models of Hogwarts Castle. There’s even a Butterbeer bar – the only place in Europe to enjoy the famous wizarding beverage.

Don’t just turn up, as you must book entry in advance.

A ticket to Harry Potter Studio includes a free shuttle bus from Watford Junction station, only a 20-minute train from London Euston. Seasonal exhibitions run year-round, ensuring every visit is unique.

2. Brighton

Brighton day trip from London
Escape the hustle of London and discover the vibrant charm of Brighton on a day trip.

Only an hour away by direct train from London Bridge, Brighton is a seaside town with masses for any day tripper to enjoy. It’s definitely one for your British bucket list.

Don’t miss the spectacular Royal Pavilion, a breathtaking palace with attached Regency gardens. The gigantic Brighton Pier provides an authentic British seaside attraction with an arcade, restaurants, and an entire fairground.

The beaches are lovely if the weather is nice, too – though a dip in the freezing English Channel isn’t for the fainthearted! Away from the water, Brighton is a lively and vibrant town famous for its inclusive atmosphere and art scene.

For shopping and food, North Laine is a colourful Bohemian hub of independent business that you shouldn’t miss.

3. Paris

Paris day trips from London
From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, let Paris enchant you in just a day.

Believe it or not, a day trip to another country from London is very possible. Thanks to the Eurostar from St Pancras International, the French capital is only a little over two hours away by train.

Services run as frequently as twice an hour and, if booked well enough in advance, can be as cheap as £39 each way. It’s impressive how much can fit into a day in Paris, too. Make good use of the extensive Metro system, and it’s possible to get around all the sights.

The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triomphe are all must-sees, but make time to enjoy a coffee in front of a café, the Parisian way.

More than 20 museums and galleries are free to visit all year round, and under-18s can even get into the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa without paying.

4. Bicester Village

Bicester Village Day Trip from London
Indulge some retail therapy at Bicester Village, just a short trip from London.

A paradise for shopaholics, Bicester Village is home to more than 150 designer boutiques. These outlets sell top quality goods for much less than retail price.

On top of this, there are often fantastic sales, with some items reduced by as much as 70%. The Village is also home to several exquisite food and drink options.

It’s just an hour from London Marylebone station by direct train, and there are even dedicated staff to assist with the journey. Concierge and personal shopping services are on offer for an extraordinary day trip from London.

5. Cambridge

Cambridge day trip from London
Discover the timeless charm of Cambridge on a day trip from London.

The university city of Cambridge is under an hour from London by train. However, the station is a fair walk from the city centre. Consider the slightly longer bus from Victoria coach station, as it terminates much closer.

The 31 colleges that comprise Cambridge University are the star attraction, and tours by boat or bus are a great way to see them. Leave time to explore on foot, too, though. Trinity, King’s, and St John’s are breathtaking.

Climb the tower at Great St Mary’s church for the best view of the city, and head inside King’s College Chapel to marvel at a true masterwork of architecture.

Punting (traditional river boating using a long barge pole) is also a must! You can hire a punt, but they’re tricky to manoeuvre. Moreover, the guided tours available are reasonably priced and come with expert guides.

6. Oxford

Oxford day trip from London
From the bustling streets of London to the hallowed halls of Oxford – a day trip filled with history, charm, and academic wonders awaits.

Home to Cambridge’s rival university, Oxford is every bit as beautiful as its sibling city. It boasts the oldest botanic gardens in the UK and the world-famous Bodleian Library, comprised of 26 buildings throughout the city.

The most famous is the Radcliffe Camera, which was been featured in several movies. Take photographs of the stunning exterior, then book a tour, as it’s the only way to explore the inside.

Oxford’s historic Covered Market is the place for a bite to eat and a bit of shopping. It dates to the 1770s and is home to over 50 independent traders.

Then, of course, there’s the university itself. With 38 colleges, famous filming locations, and stunning architecture, a tour of the many sights is a rich and fulfilling experience.

7. Stratford-upon-Avon

Day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon
Immerse yourself in the quaint charm of Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon…

Given it is the birthplace and final resting place of William Shakespeare, a day trip to Straford-upon-Avon centres around the bard.

There’s no finer place in the world to experience a Shakespearean play. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s productions are world-renowned, and they perform year-round at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Tours are also available for the true theatre aficionado and include visits to areas usually inaccessible to the public.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Shakespeare’s Birthplace complete the attractions. Both have been painstakingly preserved and are home to in-depth exhibitions about the lives of the playwright and his wife.

Away from the arts, there’s a butterfly farm and a fascinating Mechanical Art and Design Museum, full of moving mechanical designs and creations.

8. The New Forest

The New Forest day trip from London
Escape the city buzz and embrace the serene beauty of The New Forest National Park.

If the streets and high-rises of London start to feel claustrophobic, hop on the train at Waterloo and head for the New Forest.

This incredible National Park is home to all manner of wildlife, not least the famous wild ponies. Fun fact: 5000 of these beautiful animals graze freely throughout the forest (find more fun facts about the UK here).

Grab a map, some hiking boots, or even a bicycle, and head out on any of the countless trails that crisscross the land.

There are also endless local pubs and independent restaurants in the villages in this area. Try the Royal Oak in Fritham or The Pig in Brockenhurst for an authentic English pub lunch.

9. Legoland

The entrance to Legoland Windsor on a grey day in the UK
Legoland makes an amazing day trip from London when you have energetic kids to entertain!

Legoland Windsor is a veritable paradise for families with kids of all ages. The park has over 55 attractions, all dedicated to the famous bricks.

Children can earn their driver’s license in a Lego car, ride the dragon rollercoaster in the knight’s castle, and fly with Maximus the Sky Lion on the UK’s first-ever “flying theatre ride“.

There are even live shows with thrilling special effects and amazing acrobatics. 

However, the real gem in the crown is Miniland. Constructed from over 40 million bricks, master builders have painstakingly recreated cityscapes from around the world featuring famous buildings and landmarks.

These aren’t just models, either. There are moving vehicles, lights, sounds, and even tiny Lego pigeons in Trafalgar Square. book ahead to save a chunk of money versus paying at the gate.

10. Windsor

London day trip to Windsor Castle
From the majestic Windsor Castle to charming streets, immerse yourself in royal elegance just a stone’s throw away from the city!

There’s far more to this town than Legoland. Windsor’s a brilliant destination in its own right. The star of the show is Windsor Castle, which has been home to British monarchs since the 11th century.

Open to the public all year round, this opulent palace is full of regal splendour and priceless works of art.

If possible, arrange your trip to coincide with the changing of the guard. This unique display of pageantry and military precision shouldn’t be missed. Away from the castle, St George’s Chapel is the final resting place of many former monarchs and is also the venue for royal weddings.

There’s a gorgeous little shopping centre inside Windsor and Eton Central Station and a peaceful river to enjoy. I recommend the Sir Christopher Wren Hotel for a relaxing afternoon tea overlooking the boats and swans.

11. Thorpe Park

A light blue rollercoaster at an amusement park.
Anyone seeking excitement on a day trip from London should consider going to Thorpe Park.

After some thrills and excitement? Head to Thorpe Park.

One of the country’s two largest and most famous theme parks and situated only a short train from London, Thorpe Park is sure to delight and terrify you in equal measure.

It’s home to Stealth, the UK’s fastest roller coaster, and the world’s first horror-themed roller coaster, SAW – featuring scenes from the infamous movie series and a stomach-turning 100-foot “beyond vertical” drop.

Their newest ride, Hyperia, is set to open for the 2024 season and promises to be the tallest and fastest coaster in the country.

Away from the big-ticket attractions, you’ll find water rides, big wheels, and even live actors. Visit during Halloween to experience Fright Nights – an after-dark horror fest featuring mazes, scare zones, and live shows.

To get to Thorpe Park, take the train from Waterloo to Staines. From there you’ll find a convenient bus from the station. The amusement park opens seasonally, so check ahead for opening times.

12. Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park day trip from London
Unlocking history at Bletchley Park – where secrets were decoded and heroes emerged…

Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes is one of the most critical locations in all Western history. It was the top-secret home of the World War Two Codebreakers, a group of brilliant minds – including Alan Turing – who cracked the Germans’ Enigma Code and helped turn the tide of the entire war.

Today, Bletchley Park is open daily for visitors to explore. It features countless interactive exhibitions and fully restored rooms, presented exactly as they were during the war. Head to Hut 11 for a real highlight: the Turing-Welchman Bombe machines, which cracked the code.

The museum in Block B contains an exhibition on Alan Turing’s life and work, plus the largest display of Enigma machines in the world.

Tech heads should consider visiting the National Museum of Computing during their trip, as well. It runs independently to Bletchley Park and has its own admission fee.

But it boasts the world’s most extensive collection of working historic computers, dating from the ’40s to the modern day.

13. Bath

Bath day trip from London
Next up is one of the best day trips from London on this list: a visit to Bath!

With a direct train from London Paddington that takes a little over an hour, Bath is perfect for a day trip from London.

It’s no surprise that producers chose this beautiful location to film the hit TV show Bridgerton. Yet Bath is more than just its looks.

Bath is named for the city’s Roman Baths, which date back nearly 2000 years. They are one of the best-preserved Roman sights anywhere in the world.

You’ll find guided tours, audio guides (including one designed specifically for children and narrated by children’s author Michael Rosen), and even costumed characters based on real Romans who worked at the Baths.

Adventurous souls can take the trip to Wookey Hole Caves, one of the UK’s largest accessible cave systems (a great UK bucket list activity).

For those seeking a more relaxing trip, UNESCO accredits Bath as one of the Great Spa Towns of Europe, and there are countless world-class spots to rejuvenate in.

Make sure you arrive hungry: From Sally Lunn’s historic Eating House to afternoon tea in the Georgian Pump Room, Bath is a foodie’s dream of a day trip from London.

14. Stonehenge

Stonehenge day trip from London
Experience the awe-inspiring mystique of Stonehenge on a captivating day trip.

Few sights are more iconic than the monoliths of Stonehenge.

Given their otherworldly and mystical appearance, you may be shocked to know they are reachable from London in under 2 hours. Simply take the train from Waterloo to Salisbury Station, then there’s a private bus.

The bus is hop-on, hop-off, and stops at Salisbury Cathedral for anyone looking to extend their trip.

English Heritage is currently running a Stone Circle Experience if you’re okay with the early morning – they run outside of regular visiting hours and are one of the only ways to spend time inside the famous Stone Circle.

There truly is something magical about this place. I highly recommend visiting at sunup or sundown if possible, or even timing your visit to join the Summer and Winter Solstice celebrations.

Visitors have celebrated these religious festivals-cum-historical events in the same spot for over 5000 years, and watching the sun rise through the stones surrounded by Druids and friends is a truly spiritual experience.

15. Canterbury

Canterbury day trip from London
Step back in time with a day trip from London to Canterbury and discover the timeless allure of this picturesque city!

The medieval walled city of Canterbury is a treasure trove ripe for a day trip from London. A high-speed rail link from St Pancras International gets you there from the capital in under an hour.

The cathedral is one of England’s finest, with a 72-meter-high tower dominating the city’s centre. That very same city centre is vibrant and quirky, full of independent shops and award-winning restaurants.

A punting tour up and down the River Stour is a unique and informative way to see the sights of the city.

Canterbury is also a centre of pilgrimage. It’s most famous for the fictitious pilgrims of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but thousands of very real people make the journey down the Pilgrim’s way from Southwark in London to the cathedral.

Unsurprisingly for such an ancient city, there are museums aplenty. The Westgate Towers Museum is a personal favourite. On a clear day, the view from the top of the towers is exquisite.

If visiting in Spring, there are countless gardens to enjoy or come in October for the Canterbury Festival, a whirlwind of classical music, theatre, circus, and much more.

16. Imperial War Museum Duxford

Imperial War Museum Duxford day trip from London
Last but not least, Uncover the stories of bravery and innovation at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, just a day trip away from London!

Though a bit further away than some of the other options, the Imperial War Museum Duxford is well worth a day trip from London.

Take the train to Royston or Whittlesford Parkway and an onward taxi. Buses are also available if you time it right.

Your reward for the effort is an extraordinary outing. IWM Duxford is home to some of the most iconic aeroplanes ever created. Machines like the B-52 Stratofortress are impossibly large and must be seen to be believed.

Every military plane is on display, from infamous birds like the Spitfire to the colossal Avro Vulcan – walking underneath its belly is an unnerving experience!

Duxford’s home to the only SR-71 Blackbird anywhere outside of the US, and it is mesmerizing to look at.

Visitors can even step aboard Concorde, housed in the Airspace Museum. It’s not all exhibitions, though. Duxford is one of the only places to witness these antique aircraft in full flight.

The air shows are truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Check the calendar and plan your visit accordingly. Be sure to book ahead for a timed entry slot; otherwise, you may need to wait to enter at busy times.

Enjoy These Day Trips From London

The Big Smoke has much to offer, including incredible connections to the wider country!

I hope this list of day trips from London will help you choose which one to do first. Got any questions? Drop a comment below, and I’ll try to help.

For more ideas on what to do in the UK, check out these famous UK landmarks. Or, to learn more about the UK capital, check out these facts about London.

Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.