The 5 Best Day Trips From London

Punting on the River Cam is a quintessential Cambridge activity
Punting on the River Cam is a quintessential Cambridge activity | © Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
Sometimes you need to escape the hectic hum of the city and seek greener pastures. Thanks to the network of railway lines and roads splintering out from central London, you can easily whisk yourself away to the English countryside or a rural town for a much-needed break. You can use this time to discover the multitude of delights that the surrounding areas have to offer. Treat your palate on food tours, explore cities on two wheels and see the site where the fiction-famous school of witchcraft and wizardry was brought to life.

Brighton

Brighton‘s seaside location, thriving LGBTQ scene and pulsing neon-tinted nightlife have long proved a magnet for day-trippers. Rain or shine, the artistic haven is regularly brimming with crowds looking to explore its individualistic fashion boutiques or kick off a night out at one of the retro, steampunk-inspired or beachfront bars.

ToursCycling Tour of Brighton
From $34 per person
2 hours 30 minutes
5 (14)

Feel the seaside wind whip at your clothes and see the city from two wheels on this extensive cycling tour. The route balances tourist-worthy landmarks with plant-filled parks and historic sites to ensure you get an all-encompassing tour of the city. You’ll get your cultural fix at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, before setting off on a trail that includes the twisting cobblestone alleyways of The Lanes – a historic shopping hub – and an aquatic pit stop at the world’s oldest aquarium, Sea Life Brighton.

Bournemouth and Dorset

Situated in the holiday hive of Dorset, the coastal town of Bournemouth is home to bewitching Gothic Revival architecture, the grand Art Deco Pavilion Theatre and a pier packed with high-adrenaline activities. Days can be spent on the beach digging into classic fish and chips and gazing out over its matcha green-tinted waters, while nights belong to the technicolour clubs and their bouncing revellers.

ToursJurassic Coast: Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door Half Day Trip
From $40 per person
5 hours 30 minutes
4.6666665 (1)

Not to be confused with the film-famous dinosaur park, South England’s Jurassic Coast is a sprawling World Heritage Site stretching almost 100 miles (161 kilometres) from Devon to Dorset. Travelling by coach via Poole Harbour and picturesque Sandbanks, you will arrive at Durdle Door, an enchanting, weather-beaten limestone arch that rises out of the water like a portal into Atlantis. A 30-minute walk away is Lulworth Cove and its fascinating array of warped sedimentary rocks, twisted and sheared over a 150 million years and strewn with fossils. Once you’ve had your fill of exploration, you can recharge in one of the pubs or tearooms that lie along its banks.

Cambridge

Cambridge initially served as a Viking trading centre, attracting traders with its network of rivers and access to the sea through Ely. It is now better known for its highly esteemed university (which was founded in 1209 by Oxford scholars fleeing hostile townsmen), and the present-day city is a charming mix of museums, live music venues and centuries-old architecture.

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ToursPunting and Graduate-Guided Cambridge University and City Tour
From $44 per person
3 hours
4.1 (10)

One for the family, this tour fuses a quintessential Cambridge activity with an enlightening exploration of its renowned university. See where the likes of Stephen Hawking, Prince Charles and Sir Isaac Newton once studied, and marvel at the striking Gothic chapel of King’s College and the cascading facade of the Art Deco Senate House. Your guide will regale you with some intriguing anecdotes and famous history along the way. Afterwards, hop in a traditional punt to glide through the city’s waterways, which are lined by verdant river banks, parks and stately colleges.

Bath

Bath is tailored to pleasure-seekers and history-lovers with its famously soothing waters and romantically Austen-esque Georgian architecture. The city owes its name to the Roman Baths – initially built in AD 70, the honey-coloured ruins (still brimming with water) now attract visitors from across the country. If you’re looking for a more contemporary spin on the ancient tradition, spend an afternoon at Thermae Bath Spa where you can float in natural hot spring water in a rooftop pool with sweeping city views.

ToursGuilty Pleasures Food and Drink Tour of Bath
From $89 per person
3 hours
5 (1)

Bath has a thriving artisanal food scene, and this tour will treat you to bites from the best, along with refreshing (non-alcoholic) drinks and tales that illuminate the city’s history. Come with an appetite: as part of a small group, you’ll sample eight different nibbles, with the option to purchase more for gifts as you go. The stops on this tour are kept as a surprise, so signing up is the best way to get an insider’s guide to Bath’s culinary hotspots.

Oxford

Oxford is a striking jigsaw of English architecture, featuring every style since the medieval Anglo-Saxon times. Among the diverse variety of structures lies one the oldest universities in the world, known for educating a plethora of Nobel Prize Winners and famous figures like Oscar Wilde. The city’s storybook setting has also been brought to life on the pages of timeless books like Brideshead Revisited (1945) and the His Dark Materials trilogy.

ToursHarry Potter Filming Locations Tour of New College in Oxford
From $25 per person
90 to 120 minutes
4.7 (10)

Cloak yourself in the wizarding world of Harry Potter on this location tour. Taking you around some significant filming spots, the route follows in the footsteps of stars like Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson as they walked the halls of Hogwarts, recuperated under the vaulted ceilings of the infirmary (aka Bodleian Library) and were taunted by Malfoy from the gnarled oak tree nestled in New College Cloisters. You will also learn of the other literary heavyweights that called the city home, as the guide shares tales of alternate world-weaving authors such as J.R.R Tolkien and Lewis Carroll.