Though I can’t imagine why you’d be in any hurry to leave London, there’s a lot to do outside the city in places where you might not otherwise want to spend the night. If you’re using the city as a home base, there are several interesting half-day and full-day trips from London that are worth checking out, especially if you’ve already exhausted all the wonderful things to see in the city. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
Bath is famous for having some of the best preserved Roman baths in the world, still full of water from natural hot springs. Before you get too excited, you can’t swim in the Great Bath, but you can drink the mineral water. From London, Bath is just an hour and a half train ride away. It’s also included in a lot of organized tours from London to other notable places to see like Stonehenge.
Outside of the actual baths, Bath has an adorable city center with some important sights like the famed Pulteney Bridge, which crosses the River Avon. If you have good weather, you can also enjoy Bath’s beautiful green parks like Royal Victoria Park, where you’ll get a view of the massive Royal Crescent building.
Just an hour outside of London, you’ll be in the city of Windsor, the home of Windsor Castle, the oldest still-occupied castle in the world. If you were one of the millions of people watching Price Harry wed Meghan Markle, you’ve seen parts of the castle and St. George’s Chapel. You can see it in person by taking a quick day trip out of London. Just make sure to check the calendar to ensure that the Queen’s schedule doesn’t close any parts of the castle to tourists on the day of your visit. You can have lunch around Windsor and still make it back to London in time for more sightseeing.
If you already visited the UK’s biggest library in London (British Library), book nerds can geek out in the UK’s second largest library at the University of Oxford. Since the Bodleian Libraries of the university are in use, visiting some of the more iconic buildings like the Radcliffe Camera, requires a guided tour. Even without a tour of the inside, walking the hallowed halls of one of the oldest universities in the world is pretty spectacular. Outside of the university, Oxford has plenty of cathedrals, museums, and other major attractions like Oxford Castle to make the trip worthwhile.
If you’re in London and you’re a Beatles fan, you’d probably do better to save yourself the hassle and embarrassment of trying to take a photo crossing Abbey Road and take a day trip to Liverpool instead. It’s connected easily by a 2-hour train ride, and a day trip is just enough time to see a couple of highlights including the Beatles Story museum and have a drink at the Cavern Club, where they played regularly. It’s a fairly small city so you’ll have plenty of time to see some of its most well-known sights like the Liverpool Cathedral and Royal Albert Dock.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Harry Potter fans have made the Warner Brothers Studio tour an increasingly popular day trip from London. It’s just outside of London and though there are plenty of organized coach tours, you can get yourself there using a train and the shuttle they provide from the nearest train station.
As part of the tour, you’ll get to explore the magical sets used for the filming of the Harry Potter movies including the Great Hall and Diagon Alley. You’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at the props, costumes, and even special effects used in the movies. Just don’t sleep on booking this. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Full disclosure: I thought Stonehenge sucked. But another favorite day trip out of London is to see this famous ancient monument. The mystery of how giant monoliths were erected by prehistoric ancestors in a ring shape has baffled archeologists since the beginning of time. If you’re so inclined, you can learn more about the monument by taking a 2-3 hour trip outside of London. Whether you’re going it alone or taking a coach tour, I strongly recommend you find something interesting nearby to fill your day. Three hours’ worth of trains each way is kind of a bummer to spend 15 minutes looking at rocks.
These are just a few of the infinite number of day trips you could plan out of London, which include Shakespeare’s birthplace, Cambridge University, Bristol and Brighton. Cities in the UK are so well-connected that you can easily visit anything nearby with or without a car, and with or without a tour guide. You could even theoretically take a day trip to Paris… but why would you do that.