Escaping the City: 9 Day Trips from London by Train 

Culture vulture, foodie or outdoorsy type, London is a city so utterly packed with things to feast your eyes, mind and stomach on, that you could fill literally weeks of your vacation here without ever leaving. However, if you’re feeling like a bit of excitement, there’s plenty of adventure to be had on some day trips from London by train.

If you want to explore like a local, here are some of our favorite day trips from London by train to help you see even more, from captivating cities or magical moments to cool coastal towns.

people walking inside a train station
London’s fascinating, and so are the city’s surrounding day trips. Photo credit: Divyansh Jain

Windsor Castle: The day trip from London for history lovers

Already seen Buckingham Palace, marveled at the Tower of London and ready for another royal big hitter?

It’s got to be Windsor Castle.

Favored by our dearly departed Queen Elizabeth II, the beautiful castle and town has not only been a home away from home for the current royal family but named for them too. 

People walking along the path on the great lawn in front of the Windsor Castle
Some are surprised to learn that the Windsor Castle is still a working royal palace today. Photo credit: Simon Hurry

However, this particular castle has a history dating far beyond the House of Windsor, being founded by “Battle of Hastings” victor William the Conqueror in the 11th century. In fact, it’s not just the largest, but the oldest working castle in the world. We’re talking about 1000 years of royal history here! 

Discover an alternative Changing of the Guards ceremony, tour the castle’s state rooms and wander the historic streets of this regal town. Maybe you’ll even find time for an afternoon tea?

How to get to Windsor Castle from London: The fastest way to get there is to jump on a train from London Paddington to Windsor Central which is located just at the castle walls (30 minutes, change at Slough).

Margate: The best foodie day trip from London

Yes, you could go to Brighton. It’s cool. It’s just not (in our humble opinion) quite as cool as the “Shoreditch-on-Sea” that Margate has become.

A popular Victorian holiday destination, Margate on the south coast of Kent, fell on hard times but this charmingly faded seaside town has been regenerated by a food and drink scene that could rival any across Europe.

A sign greets visitors enterting the beach in Margate, England
Margate is a strong rival to Brighton for the best beach day trip from London. Photo credit: Max Letek

Though a visit to the vintage amusement park Dreamland is a must in the summer, and a walk along Viking Bay to Broadstairs where you can find an equally retro ice cream parlor is highly recommended, the best thing to do in Margate is devour it!

There are almost too many great places to choose from but if you only have a day, here are some of our highlights:

  • A quick pint at the Waste Land (located in the hotel owned by 00s indie lad band The Libertines) where there’s always something unusual going on (in a good way).
  • Fresh and fruity, classic and innovative cocktails from the absolute masters of mixology at Daisy. Our recommendation? Going off-menu, particularly when it involves seaweed.
  • Basically anything from the uber-hip and bright pink Beach Buoys. Gluten-free? Not to worry, they can accommodate!
  • Serving some of “the best Italian food in modern Britain” according to restaurant critic Grace Dent, Bottega Caruso is run by Simona from Campania and her husband Harry. It’s the sort of southern Italian cuisine you just don’t expect to find on the coast in Southern England. The verdura e fagioli (greens and beans) takes vegetables to whole new heights. 
  • Natalia Ribbe is not only the founder of the wonderful Ladies of Restaurants, but she’s also the whizzkid behind Sète, the wonderful wine bar and bottle shop on Northdown Road. Come for the oft-rotating and lovingly chosen organic, low intervention collection from small independent vineyards, with a focus on female makers. Stay for the brand new kitchen she’s just opened up. 
  • And last but by no means least, Angela’s. Be still our beating pescatarian hearts. One of the first winners of the Green Michelin Star (highlighting pioneering sustainable restaurants), the tables are made of recycled plastic bags and the daily-changing menu incorporates whatever is fresh off the boats that morning.

Now how’s that for the best foodie day trip from London?

How to get to Margate from London: You can take a high-speed train in around one and a half to two hours from Kings Cross St Pancras, Charing Cross or Victoria. So, you’re good to go wherever you are in London!

Bath: The classic day trip from London

Place of relaxation for the Romans, site of the 10th-century coronation of England’s first king and favorite of the very foodie Regency writer Jane Austen, rich history and architectural beauty combine to make Bath one of the best day trips from London.

It stands testament to the past but is also a great insight into a vibrant, modern English market town. It’s got Georgian houses galore, the tranquil River Avon spanned by one of Europe’s last covered bridges and you can even try (read: drink) the 43-mineral infused hot spa water in the Pump Room of the Roman Baths. It’s an experience! 

A view of a central lake and building in Bath, UK on a sunny day
One of the most popular activities to do in Bath, UK, is…visi the (Roman) baths! Photo credit: James Shaw

Insider’s tip: Don’t leave town without trying a Bath bun at Sally Lunn’s.

If taking a tour from London to Bath, you could look to enhance your day trip even further with a visit to Stonehenge, the most famous ancient stones in the world, and UNESCO World Heritage site sitting the stunning Salisbury Plain.

How to get to Bath from London: Like with Margate, it depends on whether you get a high-speed train but the standard ride to Bath won’t take more than two hours, leaving from London Paddington.

Oxford: The university day trip from London

Dubbed “The City of the Dreaming Spires” due to its unforgettable architecture, Oxford is not just the archetypal university town, it’s the original too.

With a history of learning dating back to the 11th century, the hallowed halls of these colleges have luminary alumni to their name including Nobel peace prize winners, world leaders, suffragettes, writers, thinkers, scientists and philosophers. 

But this is not all this internationally renowned city has to offer.

Beautiful historical buildings and gardens in Oxford, UK
Oxford is most famous for its univeristy, which is one of the oldest in the world. Photo credit: Adrian Mag

A 13th-century pub, the awesome Ashmolean museum, an iconic bookstore, Harry Potter film locations, an old covered market for excellent eats and the most beautiful library combine to make any trip to Oxford well worth the day trip from London.

How to get to Oxford from London: From Marylebone or Paddington, a train ride to Oxford only takes around one hour and 15 minutes on average.

Warner Bros. Studios: The making of Harry Potter

And on the subject of the Boy Who Lived, the ultimate day trip from London for muggles or wizards has to be the Harry Potter studios in Watford. With props, costumes and the most breathtaking sets, delve deep into the wizarding world with Butterbeer in hand.

Insider’s tip: You’re going to need to book this one in advance.

A view inside the set of Harry Potter, displaying his bedroom in the cupboard under the stairs
The Harry Potter studio tour is a must-visit for fans. Photo credit: Martin Pettitt

How to get to Warner Bros. Studios from London: There are numerous types of tours that will take you out here but, independently, your best bet is the train from London Euston to Watford Junction which will get you there in just 20 minutes. It’s not quite the Hogwarts Express but that’s still pretty magical timing…

Birmingham: The overlooked day trip from London

It doesn’t often appear on these kinds of lists but we really don’t know why. 

A little further out than some of our top tips, Birmingham is yet another city described as “The Venice of the North,” but it actually boasts more canals than La Serenissima does. 

In the middle part of England, creatively known as the Midlands, it’s the birthplace of the Peaky Blinders, but Birmingham is also home to some of the best Indian and Pakistani food in the country, as it has been since the 1970s. Shabab’s is one of our favorites in the area known as the “Balti Triangle.” 

A view of a roundabout and buildings in downtonw Birmingham, UK
Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK, and has lots to see and do. Photo credit: Brian Lewicki

Between the cool cocktail bars, the creative buzz of Digbeth, the industrial beauty of the canal-side Gas Street Basin and the Black Country Living Museum, somehow the UK’s second-largest (currently jostling with Manchester for this title) city is still a missed opportunity for many. 

Don’t be one of them!

How to get to Birmingham from London: Jump on a train at Euston and you’ll be pulling into Birmingham New Street in less than two hours.

Stratford-Upon-Avon: The literature lover’s day trip

This trip is also a little further away than the others. But if you like literature, the pilgrimage to visit the birthplace of Britain’s most famous bard is worth it. 

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 right in this little market town in Warwickshire and went on to write 37 plays, over 150 sonnets, open two theaters in London, play in front of royalty and give over 2,000 new words to the English language. What a guy!

William Shakespeare's wife's cottage and garden in Stratford Upon Avon, UK
A glimpse of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, the wife of William Shakespeare, in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK. Photo credit: Zoltan Tasi

Visit his childhood home, his school and his tomb at Holy Trinity Church and when you’re done Shakespearing Stratford-Upon-Avon, enjoy a gelato crafted using seasonal British ingredients at Hoorays. They’re so good, whatever you choose will have you composing sonnets of your own.

How to get to Stratford-Upon-Avon from London: You’re going to want an earlier start for this one. So grab a coffee at Euston station and hit the homeland of Shakespeare in just over two hours.

Hampton Court Palace: The closest day trip

And now for something a little closer to home. 

In the Royal Borough of Richmond-Upon-Thames, this Grade I-listed palace might technically still be within the modern boundaries of London, but it’s worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city itself. 

The favorite palace of Henry VIII, to visit Hampton Court is to take a whirlwind ride through the dramatic ups and downs of the Tudor dynasty and beyond. Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, the lavish State Rooms, and the country’s oldest hedge maze, is it okay to say this might well be our favorite of all the palaces too? 

Insider’s tip: If you’re looking for a bite of culinary history, the perfectly preserved Tudor Kitchens are a wonderful way to get a taste of how the other half lived in the 1500s.

How to get to Hampton Court Palace from London: Grab your tickets for the palace in advance and head for Waterloo Station where a train will whisk you to Richmond in just 30 minutes.

Paris: The unexpected day trip from London

Your eyes do not deceive you.

Not only is a day trip to Paris from London possible but if you can squeeze it in, it is highly recommended.

Wander the Latin Quarter, indulge in a prix fixe bistro lunch, ascend the world’s most iconic structure, the Eiffel Tower, discover the medieval Marais, get your art fix with The Complete Louvre Tour or discover the wonders of French gastronomy on a Ultimate Paris Food Tour.

Two European capitals in one day? C’est magnifique.

A view of the city of Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in sight
A day trip from London to Paris? It’s easier than you think! Photo credit: Alexander Kagan

How to get to Paris from London: The City of Lights is just a quick two hour train ride away, heading under the Channel on the high-speed Eurostar. This means you can get there in time for a Parisian petit dejeuner and back for last orders in a London pub. 

And wherever you go, whatever you do, on your day trip from London, we’ll be right here waiting for you when you get back. Want to explore the Tower of London after hours like the VIP that you are? Skip-the-line at Westminster Abbey, England’s flagship church and center of royal events? Or even take a Food Tour of London’s Historic Pubs? That’s something we can definitely help you with. 

Stay tuned for more top tips on how to discover London like a local.

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About the author

Born in Britain and made in the Med, Shabby is a true ‘Enfant de Bohême’, splitting her time between her native London and her adopted home on the island of Malta. As a tour guide, writer, wanderer, and culinary history obsessive, she adores challenging assumptions about the food in her birth city. Spoiler alert: it’s fantastic food. Follow along on her adventures via Instagram at @shabbyontour

More by Shabby Flanders

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