5 best day trips from London by train

5 best day trips from London by train

Exploring England and other places within a stone’s throw of its capital is an exciting prospect. From thriving cosmopolitan cities and charming towns to rolling green countryside and coastal retreats, the UK has a lot to offer. What better way to seek out the places on your doorstep than with a day trip from London. 

In the UK, we’re lucky to have a thorough and extensive train system. It makes discovering all that our country has to offer significantly easier.

If you choose the comfort of a railway, you can get around in a matter of a couple of hours, have the day to yourself, and come back in time for bed or some evening activities!

As your first port of call in the UK, we suggest vibrant London. Its train system is well-developed and has some very scenic routes and destinations.

So, without further ado, here are five of the best day trips from London by train!

This is a guest post from Firebird Tours – experts in small group tours across Europe.

1. London to Manchester day trip

Let’s start our journey within the familiar borders. The London to Manchester train only takes two and a half hours, so you can enjoy Manchester for almost a full day if you leave early in the morning. 

Whether you are more interested in the historical part, culture, or entertainment, the city offers something for everyone.

There is so much to see and do here that we’d recommend having a small itinerary with you to avoid wasting any time!


Top things to do in Manchester

Firstly, we’d suggest starting by visiting the Manchester Museum, with exhibits and collections of over 4.5 million items!

It is filled with striking objects of natural history and archeology, surrounded by Gothic-style architecture. 

If you are an art or book lover, your next stop should definitely be the John Ryland’s Library. It’s one of the best academic libraries in the UK and the most famous one here in Manchester.

Not only is the library a popular attraction due to the designs and architectural aspect of the building, but it also houses various manuscripts and rare texts, as well as personal letters of some widely-known people in history. 

When you reach the city centre, make your way to Manchester’s Art Gallery to observe the works of such artists as Gainsborough, Turner, and Pissarro.

The galleries feature sculptures, ceramics, metalwork, home items, and many other exciting objects.  

When you feel like you are done with educating yourself, take your time acquiring the real taste of Manchester.

Feel the somewhat rebellious vibe surrounding the streets, hit a pub or a local restaurant, and simply enjoy the realness that the city brings.

2. London to Rye day trip

Only an hour away from the capital city, Rye is an utterly charming English town in East Sussex. A total contrast to eclectic London, we think it’s the perfect place to escape the city and enjoy a slower pace of life.

Rich in history and unique architecture, the town is perfect for a day trip since there is not a lot of ground to cover. You can take your day trip at a more leisurely pace, soaking up the quaint atmosphere.

Things to do in Rye

If the weather is nice, we’d recommend taking a trip to Camber Sands. One of the best beaches in England, it offers miles of golden sandy shores.

With a beautiful horizon and soft tickling sand, the beach is one of the top tourist attractions here. So hop on a bus or hike to see the sunny marine panorama.

After a few hours of exploring, indulge in a quiet lunch at one of the top-rated restaurants.

Rye eateries are all unique and charming in their own way, with fresh locally sourced food and a warm service.

For example, stop by the Mermaid Inn, an ancient restaurant that will take you back in time.

Or try the Rye Waterworks Micropub or Ypres Castle Inn – both places ooze history and occupy magical surroundings. 

3. London to Paris day trip

Day trips from London don’t have to be within the UK. In fact, it’s quicker to get to Paris by train than it is to some parts of Northern England!

A two-hour train from London to Paris is quick yet completely unforgettable. When you get off at one of the stations in Paris, make sure to have a solid plan ready.

The city is too great to wander around without a purpose!

Louvre Paris

Things to do in Paris

Of course, you must make time to see the most iconic Paris landmarks and attractions. Be sure to see the Eiffel Tower up close, and perhaps have a picnic in the Champ de Mars park.

Another unmissable attraction is the famous Louvre Museum. One of the best museums in Paris – if not the world – many tourists travel to Paris just to visit the Louvre.

It’s best to go as early in the morning as you can to beat the crowds. The queues can get very long, so be sure to book tickets in advance.

Once you’ve ticked off the Louvre, you can see how much time you have left to explore the other Paris sights.

Exploring Paris is one of the greatest joys of travelling to France, so use the time to your own advantage.

Other popular landmarks include the Cathedral of Notre Dame (although it is still under construction following the fire) and viewing exciting modern pieces at the Centre Pompidou.

If you simply cannot fit everything into one day, then turn your London day trip into an overnight stay. Discover the best luxury hotels in Paris.

Or read my guide to choosing between London and Paris.

4. London to Cambridge day trip

Cambridge brings to mind those academically-aesthetic pictures of old dorm rooms, stunning university buildings, libraries, and student houses.

They make you want to drop everything and move to a small historical town to get a degree studying something fascinating! Even better, Cambridge is only a 50-minute train ride away from London. 

Hop on one of the frequent trains from London and enjoy a day trip to Cambridge. Nowadays, it is best known for being a University Campus and academic space.

But Cambridge actually became important during the Roman and Viking ages, and there is archeological evidence of life dating back to the Bronze Age. 

Things to do in Cambridge

There are not many cities, especially of this size, that display such a diverse range of scenery comprising so many impressive buildings, parks, and lovely narrow streets. 

Start by exploring the landmarks that belong to the University of Cambridge, one of the top higher education institutions in the world.

Well-known areas include Kings, Queens, Trinity, Magdalene, and St. John’s colleges, not to mention the famous and absolutely mesmerising library of Cambridge.

So if you fancy living out your dark academia fantasy for a day, this is the perfect place for it! 

For another authentic student experience, head to the Botanical Gardens for a picnic and some rest. Or head to the Jesus Green pub to have lunch while chatting with the locals and scholars. 

Cambridge also has some interesting collections of history and archaeology. Pay a visit to the famous Fitzwilliam Museum and the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.

If you have the time, stop by the Folk and Polar museums to learn more about Cambridge’s history!

Finally, a visit to Cambridge would not be complete without a spot of punting down the river. 

5. London to Stonehenge day trip

Only two hours away from London, the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge is located at Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

Mostly, people know of Stonehenge and this whole region because of the outer ring of vertical sarsen standing stones, which are surrounded by legends and mystery.

While no real reason for these stones was determined, the archeologists believe that Stonehenge was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.

It is now regarded as one of the British cultural icons and has been legally protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1882.

The monument and its surroundings were also added as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which is testament to their historical significance. The prehistoric establishment now belongs to the Crown.


Things to do at Stonehenge

The best way to experience Stonehenge is with a guided tour to learn more about the history and conspiracy theories surrounding the site.

There are more things to see on the day than just the stones themselves. Aim to arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds.

This is also the best time to see the morning mist settle beautifully on the surrounding nature reserves. Plus, there are other ruins of the Neolithic times and Bronze Age. 

If you take a walk down the Avenue, you will see the remains of a wooden version of Stonehenge – a fascinating sight called Woodhenge!

After your Stonehenge adventures, have lunch at one of the local restaurants. In the afternoon, make a short trip to the Salisbury Cathedral before catching the train back home. 

And there you have it! Five great day trips from London to these stunning locations you can reach by a single train ride.

Keep in mind that while some of these routes are very popular and the trains are frequent, it’s best to purchase your ticket in advance.

This way, you will ensure a seat for yourself and save some money, as the prices tend to increase on the day of departure. 

Looking for more UK travel inspiration? Have a read of my travel guides for the Cotswolds, New Forest and Edinburgh.

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Jessie Moore
Jessie Moore

Jessie is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

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