One of the most common questions I’m asked is what are some of my favorite day trips or overnight trips to add to an itinerary while visiting London. For starters, there are loads of great options- far more than I can condense into a single blog post! But since I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring the UK from my extended stays in London now, I thought I’d at least share my favorites thus far to help you as you plan your travels. What I have listed as day trips vs. overnight trips is completely arbitrary based on my personal experiences, but hopefully these serve as a helpful starting point to more effectively plan your time.
In just a quick hour by train from King’s Cross Station (and a few others around London) you can be in Cambridge, a charming University town known for it’s quaint streets and beautiful buildings. Once an important trading town back in Roman times, Cambridge rose in popularity when it’s famous university was established in 1209 (former alumni include Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton). We honestly just arrived with no agenda and had so much fun exploring the campus, the local pubs and charming cobblestone streets. Some highlights I would recommend include:
-Climb the tower at Great St. Mary’s for a view over King’s College Chapel
-Tour King’s College Chapel (home to the largest fan vaulted ceiling in the world) and Trinity College (where 30+ Nobel Prize winners were once students. It’s famous Wren Library is home to two of Shakespeare’s first pieces).
-Go for a punting tour (essentially a boat ride along the River Cam) which is one of the most famous things to do in this town- weather permitting!
There are also loads of charming pubs along the riverbank which make for a cozy lunch spot (I recommend trying The Anchor or The Punter).
In another quick hour by train from London (I departed from Paddington but loads of stations can get you here) you’ll find yourself in another prestigious university town: Oxford. Once nicknamed the “City of Dreaming Spires”,
I had the best day exploring here with my aunt and uncle: both retired professors who spent many summers at Oxford for work. Letting them be my guide, here are some of the must-see spots they took me to:
-Touring Christ Church College: This is a wealthy and prestigious college, and CC people are especially proud of the cathedral (while all Oxford colleges have chapels; the “chapel” at CC is the cathedral for the city of Oxford!) This is also where Lewis Carroll wrote his Alice in Wonderland books (the hall has characters from the books in one of the stained glass windows.) And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll also appreciate that several locations here on campus were used to film various scenes at Hogwarts in the films.
-Blackwells Bookshop: Located in the Broad Street and close to the Bodleian, this is one of the most famous bookstores in the world (I purchased a copy of “Brideshead Revisited” here- which takes place at Oxford).
-The Turf Tavern: This is a wonderful spot to have lunch! My aunt pointed out to me while we sat at the tables outside and to the back, that from that seat you have a good view of New College Tower, which is famous for its gargoyles.
-Radcliffe Square: While Oxford’s colleges scattered all around the city center, my aunt always enjoys a stroll through Radcliffe Square — which is right at the heart of Oxford. This circular library has the Bodleian to the north, the university church of St. Mary the Virgin to the south, All Souls College to the east and Brasenose College to the west. Whichever direction you choose to stroll, there is architectural beauty on all sides.
-St. Mary’s tower: Climb this ancient stone staircase for a stunning view at the top.
-The Sheldonian Theatre in the Broad Street, designed by Christopher Wren, is used for university ceremonies as well as concerts. Beautiful ceiling, uncomfortable seats!
-Bridge of Sighs is a skyway built in 1914 that connects 2 parts of Hertford College.
-Bodleian Library (which is the UK’s second largest library and contains over 11 million works).
With it’s recent spotlight from Harry & Meghan’s Royal Wedding, Windsor has become quite a popular day excursion from London. I’ve been a few times now and have always enjoyed my time in this charming little town. It’s definitely worth touring Windsor Castle (where you can currently see all the Royal Wedding outfits on display!) This is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, and there is so much interesting information to learn audio tour (I always love doing audio tours at places like this so I can learn, but at my own pace). On the grounds of the castle, you can’t miss St George's Chapel, where the Royal Wedding was (it was so cool to sit in the choir loft exactly where the Queen did!) The chapel was designed in the high-medieval Gothic style and it’s truly an architectural marvel.
Aside from Windsor Castle, it’s also worth strolling through the little town to explore (it has so much charm!) You can feed the swans (you’ll see them along the Thames) and then head to lunch at The Boatman (a lovely little pub right along the river).
Just 12 miles (and a short train ride) outside of London is the former home of the tyrannical Henry the VIIIth: Hampton Court Palace. I did a day trip out here with my family while there were in town visiting and I really enjoyed it a lot. Not only were the ground beautiful, but there is SO much interesting information to learn about how extensive of a staff it took to keep such an elaborate property well-kept (and such a gluttonous patriarch satisfied!) Again, I love audio tours because they let you skip the bits that doesn’t appeal, but give loads of information if you really want to dig into something else that fascinates you.
On the palace grounds, there’s also an incredible playground, also known as the “Magic Garden”, that’s perfect on a lovely day (my 10 and 12 year old cousins had a lot of fun here). We also all enjoyed doing the hedge maze, which was actually built by George London and Henry Wise for William III of Orange back in the late 1600s.
For food, we packed sandwiches from Pret because we didn’t have high expectations for what our dining options would be, but they ended up having a lovely cafe area with fresh menu items made from the gardens— so I would recommend just doing lunch there!
It’s also worth noting that in the summer they show outdoor films here on the lawn, which looked like great fun (but unfortunately didn’t align with my travel schedule).
If you’re not a Harry Potter enthusiast, kindly disregard. But if you are, run- don’t walk to tour this incredible attraction! My brother, sister-in-law and I had such a fun day here. It’s out in Watford- which is about an hour outside of London (and it’s not super easy to get directly to the studio either). We actually booked a tour through Viator, which included our ticket, but also brought us directly to/from in a coach so we didn’t have to fret about sorting out transportation (the coach leaves from Victoria Station in central London). It definitely is an all day affair- we left around 9am and didn’t get back until about 5pm (can vary depending on London traffic!) It takes a good 3-4 hours at least to go through the entire experience (could be more or less depending on your level of interest).
Bath certainly has more to offer than what you can squeeze into a day (in my opinion anyway!) We loved coming here for just under 48 hours for a quick little history lesson and to marvel at the beautiful Georgian-style architecture (it’s often referred to as Edinburgh’s little sister, and if you’ve been you’ll understand why when you see it!)
Bath has been a wellbeing destination since Roman times (and the waters are still a big draw, both at the ancient Roman Baths and the thoroughly modern Thermae Bath Spa, which houses one of the 2 only natural thermal hot springs in Britain you can bathe in.)
If you were on the fence about whether to stay overnight or not- let the Gainsborough Bath Hotel & Spa tip the scale for you. This hotel was voted “Best Hotel in the UK” by Condé Nast Traveller, and it’s not hard to see why. Their service is unparalleled, the interior is a beautiful fusion of classic and contemporary, the cuisine at their in-house restaurant is delicious, and my favorite bit? The Spa Village Bath.
Again, if you’re looking to spend some time in Bath’s infamous thermal waters, your options are either a more public/accessible route through Thermae Bath Spa (which we also visited and really enjoyed) or The Spa Village Bath at The Gainsborough (pictured below).
It’s worth mentioning once more what a delight it was to stay at The Gainsborough. Treat yourself to a luxurious stay and I promise you that you won’t regret it for a second.
Some other things you should add to your to-do list whilst in Bath? Here’s what my friends at Visit Bath recommended (and we throughly enjoyed).
-Visit the Roman Baths: Immerse yourself in history and see how Bath’s former residents relaxed all those centuries ago. Interactive exhibits and CGI reconstructions bring this unique ancient site back to life, showing how important the baths were to our Roman ancestors.
-Climb Bath Abbey’s Tower: Take the Bath Abbey Tower Tour to see the different, working side of this iconic landmark. Ascend 212 steps to the top, and you will climb past the ringing chamber to the bell chamber, to have the chance to stand above the Abbey’s vaulted ceiling and sit behind the clock face. Once you reach the roof, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views over the city and surrounding countryside.
-Get Lost in Austen: Visit The Jane Austen Centre to delve into the life of Britain’s favourite author. Exhibits and costumed characters tell the story of Austen’s time spent living here in Bath between 1801 and 1806 and the impact it had on her work.
-See Bath from Another Angle: Take a stroll on the Bath Skyline Walk. Just a short distance from the city centre, this six-mile route takes you through lush meadows, secluded valleys and ancient woodlands. Alongside the natural splendour, you’ll also take in some spectacular wide-angle vistas of beautiful Bath.
I technically did just come here for a day trip, but having done so I would recommend Four Seasons Hampshire for an overnight getaway from chaotic London. My friend Victoria and I came for a little spa getaway and lunch, but there is so much more to enjoy here than just that! The property as a whole offers lush English gardens, horseback riding along the rolling hills, and is all set in a restored, 18th-century manor on 500 acres of picturesque grounds outside of London. I’ve always loved visiting Four Seasons properties around the world— their staff is consistently incredible and the quality of attention they put into every detail is unparalleled.
This is a post I’ll continue to add to over time, because my list of day trips and weekend trips has not been completed! There are so many lovely places to explore, but hopefully this gives you a good starting point to help plan. Have you done a day trip, overnight trip, or weekend trip near London that I failed to mention? Tell me in the comments below so I can visit it as well!
Thanks as always for stopping by!