Escape and Explore With a Day Trip From London
Although the city of London offers a lot of great activities and endless adventures, sometimes the throng of the city gets to be too much. When you need a break from the bustle of the city, consider one of these day trips from London and in less than an hour you can be relaxing on a beach, walking in the countryside, exploring an ancient castle or boating on a picturesque river.
These day trips offer a wide array of entertainment and education, from watching the changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle in Windsor to the Royal Pavilion that's modeled after the Taj Mahal in Brighton, and fortunately, most of these trips are accessible via public transit rather than renting a car or driving yourself.
Check out the following guide to the top five day trips you can make within an hour travel from London and truly make the most of your experience and time in England.
Brighton: 55 Minutes to an Hour Away
Less than an hour's train ride south of London, Brighton is England's coolest coastal city. It's an eclectic mix of grand Regency squares, narrow alleyways lined with indie boutiques, traditional fish and chip shops, and a thriving club scene.
The city is bookended by a Taj Mahal-inspired Royal Pavilion (built as a seaside party palace for George IV in 1787) and a landmark pier packed with retro fairground rides, so there's no shortage of things you can do while in Brighton.
Take a stroll on the beach from Brighton to the neighboring town of Hove with its multicolored beach huts and cute cafes, and be sure to stop en route to head up the British Airways i360 tower, the world's first vertical cable car. On a clear day, the views from the futuristic glass viewing pod stretch to the tip of the Isle of Wight. You can also spend time exploring the bustling network of streets lined with Brighton's best shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars.
How to Get There: Direct trains are available from both London Victoria and London Bridge stations and take between 55 minutes and 1 hour. Driving takes around an hour and 20 minutes.
Cambridge: 51 Minutes Away
This pretty university town northeast of London is blessed with beautiful buildings, ancient colleges, and leafy gardens. The winding river Cam runs through the city and provides a picturesque setting for punting (boating on a flat-bottomed punt, similar to a Venetian gondola). In the city center, you'll find cobblestone streets lined with historic pubs and a bustling daily market.
Hire a bike and see the city on two wheels like a local (one in five of all journeys in the city is made by bike). Many of the older university colleges date back to the late 13th century and you can explore all of the college chapels and most of the 31 college buildings, but some charge a small admission fee and access may be limited during term time, especially while exams are being sat between April and June. Alternatively, you could also visit the Fitzwilliam Museum, which showcases treasures and artwork dating back to 2500 BC.
How to Get There: Direct trains are available from Kings Cross Station and take between 51 minutes and a little over an hour, depending on the time of day you choose to travel.
Amersham: 35 Minutes Away
This charming market town in Buckinghamshire is lined with historic pubs, cute gift shops, and traditional tea shops. It's surrounded by the Chilterns, a series of chalk hills recognized as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so it's a great day trip for walkers and cyclists. Old Amersham is the prettiest part of town and home to a 13th-century church and ancient coaching inns.
If you're a hiker, you'll definitely want to head out to explore the surrounding hills on foot. There are a number of walking routes from Old Amersham including circular two- and five-mile trails. Cyclists can follow the signposted Chiltern Heritage Trail around neighboring towns including Chesham and Chorleywood.
The Amersham Museum is located in a 15th-century building and explores 2,000 years of local history. Stop for afternoon tea at Gilbey's which occupies a 17th-century schoolhouse, or for a drink at the Crown Inn, which featured in the British blockbuster, "Four Weddings and a Funeral."
How to Get There: Direct trains are available from Marylebone Station and take 35 minutes. Alternatively, you can get the Metropolitan line straight to Amersham in Zone 6. The journey from Baker Street takes around 55 minutes.
Rochester: 35 Minutes Away
Charles Dickens spent his early life in the area and local sights are referenced in some of his most famous works including "Great Expectations" and the "Pickwick Papers." Dating to 604 A.D., Rochester Cathedral is the second oldest in England and has a stunning Romanesque facade. Rochester High Street features traditional family-run cafes and shops selling books, gifts, art and more.
Explore Rochester's Dickensian connections on a self-guided tour of the town and see sights like the Swiss Chalet where the writer penned his last words in 1870 and the house where the jilted bride, Miss Havisham lived in "Great Expectations."
You can then refuel with tea and cake at Tiny Tim's Tearooms on the High Street. Time a trip in early December to enjoy the Dickensian Christmas festival, an annual event that features lamp-lit parades, carol singing, and market stalls. Be sure to make time to see the castle before you leave; this Norman tower dates to 1127 and was rebuilt under Henry III's reign as a fortress.
How to Get There: Direct trains are available from St Pancras Station and take 35 minutes. Trains are also available from Victoria Station and take 43 minutes.
Windsor and Eton: 35 Minutes Away
To the west of London, the twin towns of Windsor and Eton are separated by the river Thames. Windsor is most famous for its ancient castle, an official royal residence and the oldest occupied castle in the world. The handsome high street is home to designer boutiques and posh cafes.
See the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle at 11 a.m. before exploring inside the Queen's favorite weekend residence. The State Apartments are home to an impressive collection of artwork by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto and the exquisite doll's house built for Queen Mary between 1921 and 1924 is a miniature work of art.
Admire the Guildhall on the High Street designed by Sir Christopher Wren before crossing the river to roam the grounds of Eton College and its impressive gothic chapel that dates to 1441. In Eton, you're likely to see schoolboys from the historic college wandering the streets dressed in formal tailcoats. Boat trips depart regularly from the banks of the Thames.
How to Get There: Trains are available from Paddington Station (via Slough) and take 35 minutes. A direct service is available from Waterloo Station and takes 54 minutes.