Whether it’s your first, second or 10th visit to London, it’s unlikely that you’ll run out of things to fill your days with. After you’ve ticked off the requisite tourist sites such as Big Ben, Buckingham Place and the London Eye, there are still plenty of food markets, parks and gardens, historic pubs and museums worth exploring.
But if you fancy a short break from The Big Smoke, you’re in luck. London’s status as the country’s transport hub means that you’re just a quick train trip or bus ride away from a host of neighbouring towns, villages and attractions: perfect for a day jaunt out of the capital (or an even longer stay if you feel like it). While Bath and Oxford will appeal to those who wish to explore a different – and more compact – city, the sandy shores of Brighton and vales and hills of the Lake District also beckon to travellers who prefer to spend some time in nature. Read on to find a day trip that suits your fancy.
1. For Shakespeare enthusiasts: Stratford
While London may be home to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, no town boasts a closer affinity to William Shakespeare than Stratford: the birthplace and gravesite of the famed playwright and poet. The locale is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company, which puts on a rotating slate of the Bard’s works throughout the year, and you can also pay a visit to the house in which he was born and grew up. Not all that into Shakespeare? There’s plenty else to do. Visit the United Kingdom’s largest tropical butterfly farm, as well as The MAD Museum that specialises in mechanical art (think interactive sculptures and kinetic design). If you fancy a spot of afternoon tea, you can drop by the Hathaway Tea Rooms or The Fourteas for some fluffy scones with jam and clotted cream.
How to get there: Take a train from Marylebone station, which will get you to Stratford in around two hours, with one change. Alternatively, you can take a bus, which will also get you there in two-and-a-half hours.
2. For Georgian architecture aficionados: Bath
Originally founded by the Romans as a thermal spa town, Bath is a Unesco World Heritage cultural site that’s a must-visit for fans of Georgian architecture. Start off your tour with a visit to the well-preserved ancient Roman Baths and the adjacent Grand Pump Room, which attracted over 1.3 million visitors in 2019, as well as the year before. Once you’re done, you can ascend to the top of Bath Abbey’s tower, from which you’ll be treated to a bird’s eye view of the city and surrounding countryside. Jane Austen fans can drop by The Jane Austen Centre (the writer spent roughly six years of her life living here), while contemporary art lovers should check out the Beaux Arts Bath gallery. Be sure to end your day with a sunset stroll along the Grade I-listed Royal Crescent, a row of terraced houses overlooking a sprawling lawn.
How to get there: Take a train from Paddington station, which will get you to Bath in roughly 75 minutes.
3. For lovers of the natural world: Lake District
If you fancy getting a glimpse of the Lake District’s famed natural scenery, but don’t have a whole lot of time to spare, there are a handful of London-based tour companies that offer day-long rail or bus trips to the northern end of the country. Depending on your tour operator of choice and when in the year your visit occurs, you can take in the stunning beauty of Widermere, the largest natural lake in the country; explore Hawkshead, a charming village where the poet Williams Wordsworth once studied; visit the town of Bowness, which houses The World of Beatrix Potter, a museum where the author’s magical worlds are brought to life; and drop by Rydal Mount & Gardens, a house that dates from the 16th century and where the flowers bloom bright and colourful in the spring.
How to get there: Book a trip with a tour company that runs day trips to the region.
4. For serial addicts of The Crown: Windsor
Devotees of the Netflix series The Crown likely already have this day trip slotted into their itineraries. Located just under 35 kilometres from the capital, this historic town is the home of Windsor Castle, the official residences of the British Royal Family. It is also one of the oldest castles in the world, with over 900 years of royal history. Parts of the grounds are open to the public year-round, and it’s highly suggested that you book tickets ahead of your visit via the official website. You’ll be able to tour the opulently decorated State Apartments and Semi-State Rooms, revel in the Gothic architectural majesty of St George’s Chapel – which has been the location of many royal weddings – and observe the changing of the guard. If you need a break from the royal landmarks or are looking for a more kid-friendly activity, Windsor is also home to a Legoland theme park, the second Legoland park after Legoland Billund.
How to get there: Take a train from either Paddington or Waterloo station, which will get you to Windsor in 45 minutes to an hour.
5. For those who are intellectuals: Oxford
Known as the City of Dreaming Spires – a moniker derived from a poem by Victorian scribe Matthew Arnold – Oxford is a lively and historic town built around one of the world’s top universities. You can choose to spend your day wandering through the narrow streets while admiring the city’s stunning Gothic architecture; visiting the myriad of museums; or exploring the different colleges (many open their doors to visitors for a few hours each day). For a break, tuck into a delicious meal at The Perch or sip on a pint at The Eagle and Child – a historic pub that writers such as C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien used to frequent. Do also drop by local institution Blackwell’s Bookshop to pick up a read for your journey home.
How to get there: Take an express train from Paddington station, which will get you to Oxford in just over an hour.
6. For sophisticated shoppers: Bicester Village
There’s plenty of shopping to be done in London, but true bargain hunters know to take a day trip to Bicester Village, where many luxury brands have outlet stores. You’ll find everything from cult fashion label Acne Studios and streetwear brand Off-White to high-fashion staples including Saint Laurent, Versace and Dior, often going at a fraction of the price compared to what you would find at their retail boutiques in London. If you need to rest your feet and take a breather between swiping your credit card, consider tucking into a hearty British lunch or afternoon tea at Café Wolseley or grabbing some seasonal farm-to-table fare at Farmshop Restaurant and Café.
How to get there: A train from Marylebone will get you to Bicester Village in around 45 minutes.
7. For those who want to see the sea: Brighton
Be it during the sunny summer months or in windy winter weather, the lively and vibrant seaside resort town of Brighton on England’s southern coast makes for an ideal day trip if you’re craving the ocean. After exploring the famed pebble beach, take a walk out to the Brighton Palace Pier – an amusement park by the shore that hosts rides, games and concession stands – before tucking into a delicious seafood lunch at one of the many restaurants bordering the waterfront. You can’t go wrong with a quintessentially British dish of fish and chips with plenty of malt vinegar. If you’re in the mood to do a little shopping, you can meander your way through The Lanes, a series of narrow streets in the city centre that are home to retail boutiques, bakeries, cafés and antiques shops.
How to get there: Take a train from Victoria Station, which will get you to Brighton in under 90 minutes.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about. Do also check train and bus schedules ahead of time.
The information is accurate as of press time. For updated information, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
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