Day trips from London by train or tour bus

London is one of my favourite cities in the world and has the power to win anyone over. Putting aside the old saying “tired of London tired of life”, a one day getaway from London can be rejuvenating.

Don’t feel limited by not having a car – there are plenty of easy day trips from London by taking the train, coach or a tour bus.

Here are 8 day trips from London by train or group tour which are worth taking:

Cambridge

One wet London morning in August I googled ‘Day Trips from London’ as an alternative to staying inside all day. I’d already visited Brighton from the resulting list so decided to visit one of the university towns and Cambridge came out the winner.

Cambridge is one of the easiest day trips from London by train. I caught the Tube to Kings Cross and purchased a same day open return ticket using The TrainLine. In Cambridge around an hour later it was still raining. I followed my nose to the main street and borrowed the Wi-Fi at a pub disguised as a cinema to work out where to go.

Down by the river representatives from competing punting companies fought for my business. Without being too interested I managed to barter the guy from Scudamore’s price down (it’s cheaper to book online than it is on the street!) on account of the rain and with the condition they could promise an umbrella, a blanket and a dry seat.

They came through on the deal and I spent 45 minutes on a tour of the colleges, some old and amazing, others built much later and hideous.

After the tour I wandered the streets for a while looking at the non-water facing sides of the colleges, the markets, shops, churches and gardens. It’d be pretty damn cool to call this place home (when it’s not too grey and wet).

Cambridge University building
hostoric building and green grass cambridge
Market stalls in Cambridge

Oxford

Of course the other must-see University town possible to see on a day trip from London by train is Oxford. The train between London and Oxford takes less than an hour and a half and the train station is within a 10 minute walk of the city. Alternatively (and often cheaper) you can catch a coach or the Oxford Tube from a number of places in London to the coach station at Gloucester Green – I took a coach one way and the train the other and definitely preferred the train!

Interior of Balliol College Oxford with grass lawn and buildings visible

In less than a full day I was able to check out Oxford Castle, a few of the colleges, the Radcliffe Camera, Bridge of Sighs, the colourful houses on Holywell Street, the botanical gardens, and got a coffee at the Covered Market.

If you’re with a group and the weather is fine, add punting to your to-do list. It’s also worth going to any buildings you particularly want to see early as to avoid disappointment in the high season.

Line of colourful houses - beige, lavender, pink, blue, light yellow,on Holywell Street in Oxford

Bruges

Looking for a day trip from London to Europe? I took a day trip to Bruges from London, visiting Belgium for the first time with East London Travel. I didn’t realise quite how far away it was – almost five hours travel time in each direction.

I also never knew that you couldn’t drive through the Euro Tunnel – your vehicle is loaded onto a train which travels through it! Mind blowing.

I had never heard of Bruges, prior to the movie In Bruges and all I really remember is the clock tower, the square, and the gory ending.

Day trip to Bruges from London

A popular meal to order in Bruges is mussels and chips, along with a local beer. You can also buy beautiful Belgian chocolates here.

Day trip to Bruges

Bruges brings to mind a fairytale city. It is compact and easy to explore with only a day in Bruges however I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing this day trip to Bruges as the travel was a tad tedious. This day trip inspired me to go back to Belgium and explore Brussels and Antwerp.

Day trip to Bruges square market
bruges canal belgium

Stonehenge

Another great day tour from London is to Stonehenge – the prehistoric man made circle of standing stones on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, a mysterious English attraction.

There are plenty of tours to Stonehenge from London available. After the tour bus parks up and you pay your entry fee you head under the busy road with an audio guide to learn about Stonehenge and circle it at your own leisure.

stonehenge united kingdom day trips from London worth taking

Standing on this plain in the middle of nowhere (though it has a busy road through the middle) it’s baffling as to where these massive stones came from and how and why they were put there without modern transport.

Bath

Spending one day in Bath was one of the final things I wanted to cross off my London to-do list before I moved back to New Zealand after spending six months in London.

I visited Bath on a day trip from London by train. Another option would have been to book myself on a day trip like this one but I’d already been to Stonehenge and wanted enough time in Bath to explore everything I wanted to.

It was a happy solo day trip and with a bit of research before I went I had a good plan of what I wanted to see and do and was able to achieve all this within just a day in Bath.

My first stop was the traditional Roman Baths where the entry price included an audio guide (which I found hard to follow – the numbers on the audio guide were not in any order and the signage dotted around the site telling you what number to press was not great).

After finishing my wander around I headed for the modern Therme Bath Spa where I purchased a two hour pass. The rooftop pool was a bit cold to hang out in for long at this time of the year but the view was very cool. I spent most of my time between the Minerva Bath downstairs and the aroma rooms which vary in scent and heat.

I visited Sally Lunn’s (which is definitely a tourist trap) for Queen Victoria’s Tea – tea with half a Sally Lunn topped with lemon curd and cream, and then finished my day in Bath with a walk up to Royal Crescent and the Circus which were stunning amongst the autumn leaves.

bath circus
Royal Crescent

Henley-on-Thames

I took a day trip to Henley from London to support friends who were running a 10km charity race I was nowhere near fit enough to run myself.

Early morning fog over the Thames, Henley

It was a frosty two degrees when we left in the car for Henley’s Rugby Club. But the sun was out though and with the team all being fast runners they were back within an hour, giving me just enough time to grab hot chocolates between cheers as the other three circled past us.

We took a short walk in Stonor Park just up the road where I loved getting out in the wide open spaces of the country, a real change from being cooped up amongst buildings and people London.

Manor House, Stonor Park in Henley
Manor House, Stonor Park

We had a pub dinner at The Angel on The Bridge in Henley before heading back to London. Eating in establishments which have been in business since long before New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi was signed has become a new thrill for me.

I would love to see Henley in Summer when the rowing regatta is on. I will add this to the life list.

The Harry Potter Studio Tour

While still technically within London, visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour still takes up the best part of a day. 

We took a train to Watford Junction from London Euston to meet the branded double decker bus that took us to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios.

Dining hall Harry Potter movies

The Making of Harry Potter tour takes around two hours to walk through and shows off individual costumes and props as well as movie sets such as Privet Drive used in filming the Harry Potter movies. There’s even butterbeer!

props from Harry Potter movie on display

However many times you’ve seen the Harry Potter movies this is an enjoyable tour gift shop is any Harry Potter fan’s dream!

Be sure to book your tickets well in advance. You have to specify a date and session time and ours were booked around three months prior.

York

A day trip to York from London is pretty reasonable as the city is within a two hour train journey.

If you only have one day in York, start by walking the cities walls – the most in length remaining intact in England, take note of the six gatehouses or ‘bars’.

Medieval stone wall gate building with tiny windows, crosses and decorated with crests
A medieval bar or gate building in the York city wall with a restaurant inside the wall at the bottom
Paved footpath along the top of medieval city wall with green grass on left and wall on right

Visit the famous Minster Cathedral, York Castle, or take a Ghost tour – York having many ghosts and recorded hauntings.

Medieval York Cathedral with two main spires either side of centre building with large glass window
Round castle perched on top of green hill

The Shambles is also worth checking out – a narrow cobblestone street, built in such a way as to prevent sun streaming in the shop windows and spoiling meat. Now many of the shops are Harry Potter themed.

Very narrow cobbled street with shops either side and packed with people in the middle

I was really impressed with the Railway Museum. As well as the history of the trains and examples of trains and carriages throughout the ages there were related items such as ticket machines and benches.

For fast sustenance, pick up a Cornwall Pastry from The Cornish Bakery. I had a vegetarian cheese and onion one.

Tree lined river banks with blue, white and red tourist boat in centre of river

Have you done day trips from London by train or tour bus to any of these places? What other day trips from London are worth taking in your experience?