Last Updated on August 24, 2020
What better way to explore some of the most beautiful towns, cities and sites of southern England than to hop on a train from London for a day trip.
Day trips from London by train are easy to do and if you book your train tickets in advance do not have to be too expensive. There are numerous day trips by train from London to choose from but these are my top 10 (with a bonus one at the end of the post for the adventurous!) and are all doable if you are staying in London.
In this article I have chosen places that are within an easy train ride of the capital, with direct services and which I would recommend adding to any UK travel itinerary. These are all easy day trips from London and in my opinion are the best day trips from London by train.
Train travel is always my first choice of transport anywhere in the world and I have traveled extensively throughout the UK by rail. There is a map at the end of the article showing the locations of all the places recommended.
- Day trips from London by train – Oxford
- St Albans
- Map showing destinations recommended for day trips from London by train
- Tips for train travel in the UK
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Day trips from London by train – Oxford
- Distance from London: 52 miles / 83 km
- Time taken by train: 1 hour
- Leave from: London Paddington/ London Marylebone
Oxford is a great city to visit on a one day trip from London. There are numerous trains available daily and the journey takes on average only 1 hour.
Once in Oxford you will find that the main attractions are all located in the compact and very walkable city centre. With beautiful architecture and a fascinating history there is lots to see and do on a day trip to Oxford.
What to see and do in Oxford
- Oxford University
Comprised of 38 colleges Oxford University is one of the most famous universities in the world. Founded in the 13th century its alumni include numerous international heads of state including 26 British Prime Ministers, Nobel prize winners, famous authors, and many well known actors.
I would recommend having a wander around the colleges on a walking tour and soak in the scholarly atmosphere of this famous seat of learning.
The colleges vary in size from the larger Magdelen and Christ Church Colleges to the smaller colleges such as Corpus Christi and Trinity.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter some of the colleges may seem familiar as they were used as film locations for many famous scenes.
- Bodleian Library
The library is one of the oldest in Europe and the second largest in the UK. There are various tours of the library available which you can book via the link at the bottom of this section.
- Radcliffe Camera
The interestingly named Radcliffe Camera houses Oxford University’s Science Library, Build in 1737-49 in the neo-classical style the building is beautiful both inside and out and is part of the larger Bodleian Library.
- The Covered Market
Opened in 1774 the market houses lots of shops and stalls to browse as well as a great choice of eateries. This is a the place to stop for a coffee break or a bite to eat before resuming your exploration of Oxford.
- Blenheim Palace
If you decide to spend more than a day in Oxford I would recommend a trip to Blenheim Palace. The Palace is the home of the Duke of Marlborough and the birthplace of Winston Churchill and is also a UK UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Learn more – A one day itinerary for Oxford
- Distance from London: 49 miles/ 79 km
- Time taken by train: 1 hour 17
- Leave from: London King’s Cross/ London Liverpool Street
The location of another famous university (and Oxford’s rival in the boat race each year) Cambridge is also only an hour from London by train. It is also compact and perfect for walking with lots to see and do.
What to see and do in Cambridge
- Go punting
Take a punt along the River Cam. A great way to see the city and even better you can hire someone to do the punting for you so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the views.
- King’s College Chapel
Home of the largest vault ceiling in the world King’s College Chapel is the place to visit in Cambridge. If you are a fan of English history don’t miss the Rood Screen (a large wooden screen which separates the nave from the altar) which Henry VIII gave his 2nd bride Anne Boleyn.
- St John’s College, King’s College, Trinity College
Cambridge University like its main rival Oxford is also comprised of a number of colleges (31 to be exact) which are worth taking a look at. St John’s, King’s and Trinity College are just some of the colleges worth exploring.
- Distance from London: 60 miles / 96 km
- Time taken by train: 1 hour 14
- Leave from: London Waterloo
Winchester is home to one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. Founded in 1079 the structure has been remodelled over the centuries and has Romanesque and Gothic styles throughout. It is also famously the resting place of Jane Austen.
There is a lot to see just in the cathedral itself including exploring the crypt, home to Anthony Gormley’s famous sculpture Sound II, visiting Jane Austen’s grave and admiring the Winchester Bible a 800- year-old manuscript. Again this is an easy day trip from London by train.
What to see and do in Winchester
- Winchester Cathedral
As I mentioned above there is a lot to see in Winchester cathedral. I would recommend taking one of the tours to learn all about the history as it is so interesting. After his successful invasion of England William the Conquerer was crowned king in Winchester Cathedral in 1066.
Also don’t miss Anthony Gormley’s sculpture Sound II in the crypt. If you are a fan of the novelist Jane Austen, who lived in Winchester, you will find her grave within the cathedral.
- The Great Hall
The Great Hall is a 13th century aisled hall that contains one of the most iconic symbols linked to the legends of King Arthur – the Round Table.
- Distance from London: 19 miles/ 30 km
- Time taken by train: 35 minutes
- Leave from: London St Pancras International
The market town of St Albans in Hertfordshire is one I know well as I have friends who love close by.
It is just over 3o minutes from London so an easy day trip if you want to only spend a few hours out of the capital. St Albans was the site of the Roman settlement of Verulamium.
What to see and do in St Albans
- St Albans Cathedral
The second largest cathedral in England (after Winchester) St Albans was built in 1077. It is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in the country.
In the cathedral you can find the shrine of St Alban after whom the city is named. Look for the medieval wall paintings that adorn the walls which are amongst the oldest in existence.
- Verulamium Museum
If Roman history interests you then a visit to the Verulamium Museum is a must. Filled with an extensive collection of ancient treasures and fine mosaics you can immerse yourself in Roman life as it was 2000 years ago.
Read more – 12 pretty towns and villages to visit in England
- Distance from London: 47 miles (75 km)
- Time taken by train: 1 hour 22
- Leave from: London Blackfriars/ London Victoria
Brighton is one of my favourite cities to visit in the UK. It has loads of charm and character and is also home to one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen – the Brighton Pavilion.
There are also lots of great restaurants and cafes to choose from in Brighton.
What to see and do in Brighton
- The Brighton Pavilion
Do not miss the chance to visit the Brighton Pavilion. Built by King George IV (during his time as Prince Regent) at considerable cost the pavilion is opulently decorated and filled to the brim with exquisite furnishings. It is really incredible and I had no idea until I visited just how beautiful it was.
- The Lanes
Brighton has a great atmosphere and there is no-where better to enjoy this than in The Lanes. Packed with restaurants, tea rooms, pubs and shops these narrow alleyways are a shopper’s paradise.
- Brighton Palace Pier
The pier in Brighton is Grade II listed and was opened in 1899. It is 525 meters long and is an iconic symbol of Brighton
- Distance from London: 94 miles / 152 km
- Time taken by train: 2 hours 28
- Leave from: London Paddington
Bath is another wonderful city to visit. Although a little further taking on average 2 and a half hours by train from London it is a hugely popular destination and absolutely worth a day trip (at the very least)
What to see and do in Bath
- Visit the Roman Baths
Built over 2000 years ago the Roman Baths are one of England’s top tourist attractions. Ensure you have at least 2 hours to explore the Roman Temple, Bath House, Sacred Spring and museum.
Don’t miss the Grand Pump Room which is next to the Baths and serves refreshments including afternoon tea.
- Admire the Royal Crescent
This row of 30 houses laid out in a crescent shape is officially known as the Royal Crescent. Built between 1767 and 1774 they are a beautiful example of Georgian architecture and incredibly expensive to buy!
Learn more – What to do and see in Bath
- Distance from London: 104 miles / 167 km
- Time taken by train: 1 h 49
- Leave from: London Paddington
Bristol is synonymous with the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel one of the most prolific mechanical and civil engineers in history. He built bridges and tunnels and steamships and railways and was one of the greatest figures during the Industrial Revolution.
21st century Bristol is a great place for shopping with loads of independent retailers to enjoy. Food and drink is also topnotch in Bristol with numerous restaurants and cafes to choose from.
It is also the home of Banksy.
What to see and do in Bristol
- Clifton Suspension Bridge
Designed by Brunel this 150 year old suspension bridge is a toll bridge linking Clifton in Bristol with Leigh Woods in North Somerset.
Free tours operate at 3pm on `Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays between Easter and October for those of you with an interest in engineering!
- Bristol Shopping Quarter
Visit the Bristol Shopping Quarter home to hundreds of shops, restaurants, cafes and attractions – shop, eat, drink and enjoy!
- Take a walking tour of Banksy’s art
If you are a fan of Banksy’s work I highly recommend doing one of 3 great free walking tours written by some Bristol locals to guide you around the work.
Learn more – 12 cities to visit in England
- Distance from London: 79 miles / 126 km
- Time taken by train: 1 hour 33
- Leave from: London Waterloo
Salisbury is of course the gateway to Stonehenge. If you are planning a day trip to the prehistoric monument I would also include spending a little time exploring beautiful Salisbury.
This cathedral city has a market day every Tuesday held in the city centre. Salisbury Charter Market is held outdoors in all weathers throughout the year.
What to see and do in Salisbury
- Salisbury Cathedral
Not only a beautiful cathedral in its own right but also the home of one of only four Magna Carta documents in the world Salisbury Cathedral is a must-visit if you are in the city. Don’t miss the spire which is the tallest church spire in the UK.
Not far from Salisbury is one of England’s most popular tourist attractions – Stonehenge. This ancient stone circle has existed for thousands of years and is probably the world’s most famous prehistoric monument.
- Distance from London: 54 miles / 87 km
- Time taken by train: 1 hour 47
- Leave from: London Charing Cross/ London St Pancras International
The Canterbury Tales are the most famous works of the English poet and author Geoffrey Chaucer and the bane of my life when I studied English at university.
Canterbury Cathedral was a place of Christian pilgrimage during the Middle Ages following the murder of Thomas Becket within its walls. Founded in 597 AD the cathedral is the headquarters of the Anglican Church.
It is also one of the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
What to see and do in Canterbury
- Visit Canterbury Cathedral
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Church of England and Anglican Church worldwide.
The Cathedral has a long and interesting history including surviving the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and an extensive bombing campaign during WWII.
- Stroll the medieval centre of Canterbury
The medieval centre of Canterbury is surrounded by ancient walls which were originally built by the Romans. Stroll through the medieval centre and admire its cobbled streets and timber-framed houses.
- Distance from London: 83 miles / 133 kms
- Time taken by train: 2 hours 27
- Leave from: London Marylebone/ London Euston
Another one of the best trips from London you can take is to Stratford-upon -Avon. Famous as the birthplace and home of William Shakespeare (1564-1616 ) Stratford-upon-Avon is a little under 2 and a half hours from London.
If you are interested to find out more about the Bard of Avon this is the place to come. There are hop-on hop-off bus tours available which are the best way to see all the sights.
What to see and do in Stratford-upon-Avon
- Shakespeare’s birthplace
You can visit the house in which Shakespeare was born and raised.
- Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
The beautiful thatched cottage that was the home of Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway is located about a mile from Stratford and is included in the hop-on hop-off bus routes around Stratford.
- Church of the Holy Trinity
Birth, marriage and death. If you want to see where Shakespeare is buried head to the Church of the Holy Trinity.
Map showing destinations recommended for day trips from London by train
Tips for train travel in the UK
If you are traveling by train in the UK for the first time and are unsure about how to purchase tickets, how to catch train etc I recommend reading my complete guide to train travel in the UK.
The guide was written by my husband who worked in the UK rail industry for 25 years and has traveled on nearly every line across the network.
Although train travel in the UK is not cheap there are a range of train passes/railcards and options available to make it more affordable for both visitors and UK residents.
I would advise buying tickets as far in advance as possible as prices tend to go up nearer the date of travel. Always check that there are no last minute changes on your day of travel too.
I recommend buying train tickets for the UK from THE TRAINLINE who sell tickets for all the rail companies in the UK and Europe (unlike Europe the rail network in the UK is privatised so there are numerous companies who organise trains across the UK.)
Over public holidays essential rail maintenance is completed so again I would suggest checking before you book/ travel in case of any delays. Often the rail service is replaced by buses and this would add considerably to your travel time.
If you are adventurous it is possible to visit Paris from London for a day trip. I have done this before and while it is tiring if it is all you can fit into your itinerary I would say DO IT! You can find out more about organising a trip to Paris from London in my guide to the Eurostar.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and been inspired to plan some great day trips out of London by train. Have a fantastic day out and let me know where you chose to visit in the comments – I love to hear from readers.
Don’t forget to join my UK travel planning group on Facebook – come and chat about your travel plans or ask advice from fellow travelers!
Read more inspiration and planning advise for UK travel
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