Day Trips From London By Train (2024 Guide)

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I grew up in London and have lived here for most of my life, and it’s a fantastic destination to visit. If, however, you are still looking to venture further afield when visiting, there are lots of towns and cities you can visit as day trips from London by train. 

Public transport in the UK is generally very good, and all towns and cities are in some way connected to the UK network of trains. London itself has several major train stations that allow for easy access to other parts of the country, including King’s Cross, Euston, Victoria, and Liverpool Street.

There have been a series of train strikes in recent months so I would always recommend checking in advance to make sure everything is running properly. If you book tickets in advance they will also be cheaper than buying them at the station on the day. 

I’ve been very careful to only include trips that I think are actually possible to do in one day. I’ve seen a few blogs suggesting day trips such as London to Newcastle, which is a train journey of at least 3 hours each way. Even that timeframe assumes that you are already at Kings Cross station. You would spend more time on the train than in Newcastle!

I also think Stratford-upon-Avon isn’t viable for a day trip although, again, other websites do mention it. The journey requires a couple of trains and a bus so takes longer than some destinations which are further away. If Stratford-Upon-Avon is a must-do, I would recommend a coach tour.

So, here are some towns and cities that you can visit in just one day from London, but are also worth a few days visiting if you have the time. 

An image showcasing the historic architecture of Oxford University. A round building dominates the image with other stone buildings on both sides.
Oxford University

1. Oxford

Oxford is one of the UK’s most beautiful cities and is especially famous for one of the oldest universities in the world – the University of Oxford. The university colleges are dotted around the city, with Christ Church being particularly well known for its use as a filming location for Harry Potter.

If you want to tour some Harry Potter locations you’ll need to book a tour as the colleges are actively used by students, rather than being public buildings. Walking tours will also generally include views inside the Bodleian Library, but again this is a university library in constant use so visits are limited. 

Book your walking tour of Oxford here!

You can visit the Ashmolean Museum in the city centre which is free to visit with an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures and historic objects. The Covered Market is also a popular destination, with lots of independent vendors selling food, jewellery, clothes and more. 

There are plenty of great food options around the city at a variety of price points to suit everyone from budget-conscious students to fine dining. There are several independent coffee shops. I found during my USA 48-state road trip that university towns almost always have great independent coffee venues, and Oxford is no exception to this rule.

The journey takes just under an hour from Paddington station. Just don’t confuse it with the Oxford Tube. It isn’t a Tube line, but a coach that might be cheap but is heavily dependent on traffic. 

Kings College Chapel with large windows and towers. In front of the chapel is a large grassy area.

2. Cambridge

This is another beautiful city, and Oxford’s academic rival is worth visiting if you have the chance. The city has several iconic architectural landmarks. The Bridge of Sighs connects university buildings over the River Cam and is a replica of the famous bridge in Venice. 

Punting on the river is a great way to see some of Cambridge’s beautiful architecture, including the Bridge of Sighs. 

King’s College Chapel is the most famous of Cambridge’s buildings, particularly for its annual carol service which is broadcast around the world. You can buy tickets to visit this beautiful building but can’t just wander in anywhere as it is part of the University of Cambridge and students are living and studying around the college. 

Just like Oxford, Cambridge has a range of places to eat as well as many coffee shops. I had a great brunch at The Ivy in Cambridge, and Bould Brothers is perfect for coffee. 

For a bit of greenery, head over to the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. It is paid admission, but not too expensive and a great place to wander around on sunny days. 

There are trains to Cambridge from two London stations, King’s Cross and Liverpool Street. The King’s Cross line is slightly quicker as it stops at fewer stations along the way. 

Overall, Cambridge is a lovely day trip with enough architecture, shopping and dining to easily fill up a day.

A large white stone building with a dome and clock acts as the Council building for Nottingham. .
Old Market Square in Nottingham

3. Nottingham

Speaking of universities, you can also visit Nottingham in a day, which is where I ended up going to university. The University of Nottingham campus is unusually scenic with a lot of green space and a lake, but you do have to take a bus outside of the city centre. 

The city itself is known for the Lace Market which was once the world’s centre of lace making and is now home to many independent shops and cafes. You can also join a tour of the cave system – dating back to Anglo-Saxon times the network of 800 caves under the city is a popular tourist activity. 

Many pubs in the UK claim to be the oldest surviving pub or inn, and Nottingham’s claim belongs to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. Although these days it’s part of a chain rather than an independent establishment it is still a good option for lunch or a drink. The Malt Cross is another popular option, located in an old Victorian music hall. 

Nottingham’s coffee scene has been somewhat lacking but is improving. My recommendation would be 200 Degrees in Old Market Square, or perhaps go for a hot chocolate at Chocolate Utopia. 

Nottingham is also the location of Robin Hood mythology. Sherwood Forest itself is hard to get to without a car, but Nottingham city centre has a famous Robin Hood statue you can visit, as well as Nottingham Castle

Direct trains from St Pancras (next to King’s Cross) take about 1½ hours. If you ever visit with a car, Nottingham is a great base for exploring the Lake District, or visiting Hardwick Hall or Chatsworth House. 

Brighton seafront - the lower half of the image is dark blue water, with the beach and Georgian buildings next to the water.
Brighton

4. Brighton

Brighton is perhaps the most famous of the UK’s seaside towns. Head down to the pebble beach and pier for arcade games and sea views. 

Visit the Royal Pavilion, one of Brighton’s most famous landmarks. The building is an unusual blend of Indian and Islamic architectural styles. Once a royal palace, it is now a museum and a must-visit on any trip to Brighton. 

For shopping enthusiasts, The Lanes area of the city offers a maze of narrow alleyways lined with independent shops, cafes, and antique stores, perfect for exploring. 

Foodies will find a range of eateries, including several vegetarian and vegan restaurants and cafes. I’ve also had fantastic seafood at Riddle & Finns in The Lanes. 

Trains to Brighton take around an hour from London Victoria station or London Bridge.

A curved street of yellow stone Georgian buildings. The are cars parked outside the buildings and people walking down the street.

5. Bath

Bath, a World Heritage Site, is a city that combines its ancient Roman roots with Georgian elegance. The city’s name itself is derived from the famous Roman Baths.

These ancient baths, remarkably well-preserved, offer a glimpse into the ingenuity of Roman engineering and the social history of Roman Britain. The thermal waters here have been a draw for centuries, culminating in the grand Pump Room where visitors can taste the waters and soak in the historical atmosphere.

The architectural landscape of Bath is dominated by stunning Georgian buildings made from the distinctive Bath stone. The Royal Crescent, a sweeping curve of grand Georgian townhouses, and the nearby Circus are prime examples of this. Both are masterpieces of 18th-century architecture that draw visitors to the city. You’ll also find many excellent cafes in Bath to keep you caffeinated while you explore.

If you’ve ever read a Jane Austen novel you’ll be aware of the role Bath played in the social scene of the Regency era. You can visit the Jane Austen Centre in the city, and there are several Jane Austen-themed events each year.

The Pump Room restaurant is a popular way to experience the Regency atmosphere, especially for Afternoon Tea. 

To get to Bath you’ll take a train from Paddington station, which takes around an hour and twenty minutes. 

As an alternative to the train journey, you could take this one day bus tour of Bath, Windsor and Stonehenge,

6. Canterbury

Canterbury is dominated by the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its Gothic architecture, stunning stained glass windows, and historical significance, notably as the site of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom, make it a must-visit. Just ensure you aren’t disturbing any services or worshippers as it is a church rather than museum.

The city’s history is further explored through attractions like the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey and the ancient city walls. Canterbury is also full of more modern amenities with a mix of traditional and modern shops, cafes, and theatres.

The city also hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year, celebrating everything from food and drink to literature and music, adding to its appeal as a cultural hub.

Canterbury is around an hour on the train from St Pancras station.

Windsor Castle

7. Windsor

Windsor’s centrepiece is Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and an official residence of the British monarch. Visitors can explore the opulent State Apartments, St. George’s Chapel, and the changing of the guard ceremony, a display of quintessential British pageantry.

Beyond the castle, Windsor offers a quaint experience with its cobbled streets, historic buildings, and scenic spots along the River Thames.

A short walk from the castle is Eton College, one of the most prestigious schools in the UK, known for educating numerous prime ministers and members of the royal family.

The town’s surrounding areas, like Windsor Great Park and the Long Walk, provide a perfect setting for leisurely walks and picnics, offering stunning views of the castle. Windsor’s culinary scene offers a mix of traditional pubs, contemporary restaurants, and quaint cafes.

To get to Windsor from central London, the easiest option is to take the Elizabeth line to Slough, and then change on to a train down to Windsor. Depending on which Elizabeth line station you start at, this takes around an hour. 

8. Winchester

Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. This magnificent structure, with its stunning Gothic architecture, is not just a place of worship but also a repository of England’s history, housing relics like the illuminated Winchester Bible and the tomb of Jane Austen, one of England’s most celebrated authors.

The city’s historical journey continues with The Great Hall, which is all that remains of Winchester Castle. This building houses the iconic Round Table, often associated with King Arthur’s legendary knights. The medieval streets of Winchester are a delight to explore, with a mix of historic buildings, quaint shops, and modern amenities.

For nature lovers, the city is bordered by the rolling hills of the South Downs, offering beautiful landscapes and walking trails.

Winchester’s culinary scene has a range of dining options from cozy pubs serving traditional English fare to modern eateries offering international cuisine. The city’s blend of ancient heritage and contemporary life makes it a fascinating destination for a day trip from London.

To get to Winchester, take a train from Paddington to Reading, and then change line to get to Winchester. It takes around an hour. 

St Alban’s Cathedral

9. St Albans

St Albans is a former Roman settlement, originally named Verulamium. It is especially great for visitors with an interest in history. The Verulamium Museum focuses on the Roman history of Britain and houses a selection of mosaics and Roman coins as well as other artefacts. There are various free talks included with admission at the museum to showcase various aspects of Roman life. 

St Albans Cathedral is a magnificent structure that stands on the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain. The cathedral, with its blend of architectural styles from various periods, tells the story of England’s religious and social history. It’s particularly renowned for its stunning medieval wall paintings and the shrine of St Alban, Britain’s first Christian martyr.

St Albans is not just about history; it’s a vibrant city with a lively market tradition. The market, held in the city centre, offers everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts. The streets of St Albans are lined with a mix of quaint boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.

For those seeking green spaces, Verulamium Park provides a peaceful retreat with its beautiful lake, Roman ruins, and well-kept grounds, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a picnic.

St Albans is an easy day trip by train, with journeys from Farringdon taking just half an hour. 

10. Bristol

If you want to visit Bristol, I would say that the train is much easier than driving. On the way to a friend’s wedding, my SatNav re-routed me through Bristol city centre as the nearby motorway was closed, and it’s probably the most confusing place I’ve driven in the UK. It didn’t help that the annual Balloon festival was on at the same time so lots of roads were closed. 

The city’s maritime history is most prominently showcased at the Bristol Harbour, once a busy dock where ships and goods from across the globe would arrive. Here, you can visit the iconic SS Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of history’s greatest engineers.

Bristol’s cultural scene is vibrant and diverse, evidenced by its street art, most notably works by the elusive Banksy, a Bristol native. The city streets are a canvas for stunning murals, adding a unique artistic flair to the urban landscape.

For those interested in the arts, Bristol’s museums and galleries, like the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery or M Shed, are ideal stops on your day trip

Clifton Suspension Bridge, another Brunel masterpiece, is a must-visit. Suspended high over the Avon Gorge, it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding areas. The nearby Clifton Village is perfect for a stroll, with its array of boutique shops, cafes, and Georgian architecture.

To get to Bristol take a train from London Paddington station, which is about  1½ hours. 

This image features the model of Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter series, displayed at the Warner Bros Studio Tour
Model of Hogwarts at Warner Bros Studio Tour

11. Warner Bros Studio

I debated whether to include this one as it is inside the M25 which is what I would usually consider as the London boundary. However, you have to take a National Rail train to get there rather than one of the Transport for London options so I’ve decided it counts. 

If you are a Harry Potter fan, then the Warner Bros Studio Tour is a must-do when visiting London. I would note that tickets are expensive so you need to consider if this would fit into your budget, but it is an excellent day out. Despite the expense, I would happily go again. Just make sure you book in advance as it is, unsurprisingly, very popular. 

The studio houses a large number of original props, costumes, and sets including Diagon Alley, Gringotts and the Hogwarts Great Hall. You can even stop by The Backlot Cafe for a glass of Butterbeer. It’s easy to spend several hours here looking at everything, so I think the ticket price is worth it if you are a fan. 

To get to Warner Bros, take a 20 minute train to Watford Junction from London Euston station, and then the shuttle bus from Watford Junction station. The shuttle is included as part of your admission ticket. 

International Destinations

London is so well connected that it is even possible to do day trips to other countries by train. There are several cities connected to London via the Eurostar.

I recommend that you leave plenty of time when arriving at the stations – treat it more like an airport than a train station. Now that the UK has left the EU there can be long queues to get through immigration which is done when you leave, not when you arrive at the destination. 

The last time I used the Eurostar I travelled on my Irish passport instead of my British one, and the queues were much shorter for non-UK citizens. Either way, don’t arrive just before departure. 

12. Paris

Yes, you can do a day trip from London to Paris. The trains take about 2 ½ hours each way so it would be a long day trip, but it is a trip worth considering. 

The first train of the day leaves at 6am, but the 7am might be a better choice given that you need to get to St Pancras in advance. The final train of the day is around 9pm, so you can have a full day’s worth of time in the French capital. 

Just remember when planning that Franch is an hour ahead of the UK, so make sure you factor in the time difference when planning your day. Once you arrive at Gare Du Nord, buy a 1 day Metro ticket to get around the city. 

There is a huge amount to see and do in Paris, but you’ll need to pick a couple of highlights. The most obvious choices would be the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Musee D’Orsay. Notre Dame is still being rebuilt following the devastating fire in 2019, but you can still see some of it from the outside. 

An image showing the ongoing renovations of Notre Dame in Paris, capturing the efforts to restore this iconic cathedral​
Renovations of Notre Dame

Paris is also one of my favourite cities for walking around, and sitting in a cafe people-watching. Don’t forget to visit a patisserie and also buy a crêpe from one of the street vendors. Just remember that in French ‘crêpe’ rhymes with ‘step’ not ‘tape’.

Lille

13. Lille

If you fancy some French culture but the 2½ hours to Paris feels like too much, the Eurostar to Lille is just 1½ hours each way. 

Lille is a city that offers a blend of French and Flemish influences, evident in its culture, architecture, and cuisine. 

The city centre is a showcase of Flemish influence, with ornate buildings that line the streets, particularly around the Grand Place (Place du Général de Gaulle). This square, surrounded by impressive 17th-century buildings, including the Vieille Bourse, is the heart of the city and a perfect starting point for exploration.

Lille’s Palais des Beaux-Arts is a highlight with an extensive collection of European paintings, sculptures, and artefacts. Art enthusiasts will find works by masters such as Goya, Delacroix, and Rubens.

For a taste of local life, a stroll through the Wazemmes market is a must. This vibrant market is a sensory delight, offering a wide array of fresh produce, cheeses, flowers, and textiles. It’s also a great place to sample regional specialities like waffles and local cheeses.

A visit to the old town, Vieux Lille, offers a quieter, more intimate side of the city. The area’s charming atmosphere is perfect for leisurely exploration.

Atomium in Brussels

14. Brussels

Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, is just two hours on the Eurostar from St Pancras. It’s an excellent choice for travelers seeking a blend of art, history, and gastronomy. 

Upon arrival in Brussels, the Grand Place is a must-visit. This central square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and the striking Town Hall, showcasing the city’s rich architectural heritage. The square is also a hub of activity, hosting various events and markets throughout the year.

No visit to Brussels is complete without seeing the iconic Atomium, a unique structure representing an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It symbolizes the atomic age and scientific progress and offers panoramic views of the city from its upper sphere.

Art enthusiasts will appreciate Brussels for its numerous museums and galleries. The Magritte Museum, dedicated to the famous surrealist artist René Magritte, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, offer impressive collections of classic and modern art.

Brussels is also renowned for its culinary scene. Belgian chocolates, waffles, and fries are just a few of the famous dishes to try. Additionally, Belgium’s beer culture is a crucial part of its heritage, and Brussels has numerous bars and pubs where you can sample a wide range of local brews.

Conclusion: Day Trips From London By Train

As you can see, London is not only a fantastic city itself, but also a perfect base for day trips by train both within the UK and internationally.

From the academic havens of Oxford and Cambridge to the historic cities of Bath and Winchester, each city offers a unique journey into different facets of British culture and history. Seaside towns like Brighton provide a refreshing contrast with their vibrant coastal charm.

Further afield, even international gems like Paris are within easy reach, offering a taste of continental Europe.

And if it turns out that you want a more local day trip, then check out options such as Hampton Court Palace and Kew Gardens within the Greater London area. 

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