Day trips from London by train
When people ask me for advice about their first time visiting London, I always suggest taking day trips from London by train.
London is an amazing city to visit and you can easily fill every day of your trip but visiting London does not mean visiting England. Get out of the capital and visit ancient historic sites, English beaches, England’s green countryside and quaint market towns.
Plus, you will learn so much more about English history, culture and customs as well as daily life.
Why take day trips from London by train?
Day trips from London by train are the easiest way to travel.
You do not have to turn up hours in advance of your train as you do at the airport.
Trains leave from central London stations such as Kings Cross, Euston and Waterloo. You do not need to find a car hire service and then navigate stressful, nightmare traffic on congested London roads.
Trains run regularly to major tourist destinations and generally run on time.
If you book in advance or use a discount railcard you can pick make considerable savings on your day trip from London by train.
Best places to go on day trips from London by train
Journey time of 2 hours, departing from Kings Cross
The City of York is 220 miles from London, but it takes just two hours to reach it by train from Kings Cross Station.
York’s historic railway station is a short ten-minute walk from the centre of the city. York is a compact city and all the major attractions can be visited on foot so despite the distance from London, York is an easy day trip from the capital.
In one day in York you can visit York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe, walk the city’s medieval era walls (the longest city walls in England) or climb the Norman era Clifford’s Tower for a 360-degree view of York.
Allocate time in your day trip to York to wander the city’s pedestrianised streets which are lined with Georgian and Victoria era buildings. Don’t miss The Shambles, a gloomy cobbled shopping street said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies.
There are lots of museums and historic houses to visit in York. My pick of the museums for a day trip to York would be York Castle Museum, Jorvik Viking Centre or the free to enter National Railway Museum.
If you have any time left in your one day in York, choose between the Victorian Mansion House, the medieval era Barley Hall or the quirky Treasurers House or Georgian era Fairfax House.
Read more about the best things to do in York here. Alternatively, for a detailed and comprehensive one day in York itinerary (including places to eat and drink) read this post.
Approx 1 hour by train from London Bridge station
A day trip to Brighton is one of the easiest day trips from London by train. It is the most accessible seaside location to visit from London and the Brighton train station is a short ten-minute walk to Brighton town centre and beach.
As a day trip to Brighton from London is so quick, you can pack a lot into your day.
Walk along the historic Brighton Pier, relax on a traditional stripy deckchair on pebbly Brighton beach or enjoy a birds eye view of the southern coastline from the top of the British Airways i360.
Explore the town’s street art scene or visit the bohemian shops in Brighton Lanes.
A Brighton day trip must include a visit to the Royal Pavilion, affectionately known as ‘The Taj Mahal of Brighton.’
The pavilion was built by King George IV as a seaside pleasure palace and is based on buildings in India and China. The lavish interior is worth a tour.
Average journey time 25 minutes to Windsor and Eton Riverside from London Waterloo. You can also catch a fast train from London Paddington but you need to change trains at Slough to reach Windsor.
You cannot visit England without visiting a castle and London to Windor Castle is an easy journey. After the short train ride from London, it is only five minute’s walk to Windsor Castle.
Most of your Windsor day trip will be spent visiting the 11th century castle that has been home to the monarchy for over 900 years. Your entrance ticket also includes St Georges Chapel where Queen Elisabeth II was recently laid to rest.
Try to allocate time in your day trip to Windsor to see other Windsor attractions. I highly recommend spending some time in the 5,000 acre Windsor Great Park which is also home to the beautiful Savill Garden.
Another option is to take a boat trip on the River Thames as Windsor is a scenic spot of this vast river. You can hire your own motorboat or rowing boat if you do not wish to join a cruise.
If you have any time left before your train departs, Eton College is also worth a wander.
1 hr 20 from Paddington Station. Check train times carefully as there are slower trains offered also offered on this route.
There is a lot to pack into on day in Bath so you will be glad to know it only takes around ten minutes to walk from Bath train station to Bath city centre.
Most of the city’s attractions are located in the city centre. First stop on your Bath itinerary should be the Roman Baths which date back to 70 AD. The city of Bath was built around the thermal spa bathhouse. Adjacent to the Roman Baths is Bath Abbey, a beautiful 17th century church built from Bath stone.
Behind the back of the abbey is Pulteney Weir and Pulteney Bridge which was built in 1774.
You could easily spend a day in Bath just wandering around the neo classical Georgian era buildings of this beautiful city. Don’t miss the Circus, a perfect circle of townhouses dating back to 1754.
A 15-minute walk from the city centre is the famous Royal Crescent, a UNSECO World Heritage site. The 12 elegant townhouses were built in 1774 and are Bath’s most expensive homes. From here it is a 30 minute walk back to Bath Spa train station.
If you have any time left in your day trip to Bath from London, the city’s museums are worth visiting. My pick of the bunch would be No 1 Royal Crescent (home of the Featherington family from ‘Bridgerton’), the Jane Austen Museum and the engaging Fashion Museum.
St Pancras to Canterbury West take around 50 minutes. Victoria rail station to Canterbury East takes approximately 1 1/2 hours.
The two stations are close to each other but I recommend travelling to Canterbury West as it is the closest station to Canterbury Cathedral.
I lived in Canterbury for several years so it is a special place for me. It is a very small city with a long history.
The main attraction is Canterbury Cathedral which forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral was built between 1070 and 1077 but has had significant changes and extensions over time. It is well worth paying to enter the cathedral as the interior nave and stained-glass windows are breath taking. Inside the cathedral you can see the spot where the then-archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170.
Walk through the listed and modern buildings of Canterbury town centre to the River Stour and West Gate, the last remaining medieval gateway to the city. Built from Kentish ragstone in 1380, West Gate is the largest surviving medieval gate in England at 60-foot / 18 metres.
If you have time, duck around the side of the gate to visit the West Gate Towers Museum Greyfriars chapel was the first Franciscan monastery to be built in England.
There are several museums to visit on your day trip to Canterbury. My pick would be the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge on Canterbury High Street, the Roman museum, West Gate Towers Museum or the Canterbury Tales Museum housed in the medieval St. Margaret’s Church.
Don’t miss the ruins of the Norman era Canterbury Castle and St Augustine’s Abbey which was founded in 598. If your Canterbury day trip falls on a sunny day, make time to visit Dane John Gardens.
Dane John Gardens is a former Roman cemetery dating back to the 1st century A.D that was converted into a motte-and-bailey castle in the 11th century under William the Conqueror (similar to the Clifford’s Tower in York). The remaining mound and surrounding green space is now a public park.