There is a myriad of things to do in London, but London is also well connected to hundreds of destinations and in a couple of hours you can be at the beach or surrounded by nature.
These are six things to do near London that cover more than 10 locations and can form great day trips from London or long weekend trips.
The best part is that all the places mentioned can be easily reached by public transport.
Day Trips From London
Visit a Centuries-Old University
Hop on a train from either Paddington or King’s Cross stations and in less than an hour, you will be transported to the birthplaces of some of the greatest universities of all times.
Of course, this refers to Oxford and Cambridge, home to the homonymous world-class universities. Get ready to walk around colleges dating to the 13th century and among students from all over the world.
The best way to explore each city is to get on a guided tour. In this way, you will learn more about the history of the place and the many rumours (or truths) associated with the colleges.
In Oxford, you should not miss the Radcliffe Camera, a library symbol of the city and the “Bridge of Sights”, a nickname for the Hertford Bridge which links two parts of the Hertford College.
Harry Potter fans will want to visit the Christ Church college, one of the filming locations of the movie. Other colleges worth checking out are Magdalen and All Souls. Note that many colleges charge an admission fee and that their opening times vary.
To do something unrelated to the university, you should head to the Oxford Castle and Prison, a historic attraction about a million-year-old castle.
Similarly, a visit to Cambridge is also centred around its university. King’s College is one of the most well-known colleges in the city due to its impressive chapel, while Trinity College is famous because of the people who studied there such as Isaac Newton.
On your walk around the city do not forget to have a look at the Corpus Clock to admire its impressive design and the Mathematical Bridge that rumour says it was built by Newton himself without using any nuts and bolts.
Other places worth visiting are the Botanic Garden and the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Smell the Lavender
A seasonal activity is to visit a lavender farm close to London. The closest one is Mayfield Lavender
in Banstead, which can be easily reached from central London.
There, you will be able to enjoy the lavender by wandering in the field and taking a break at their café to try some of their lavender-infused products.
Expect to find some lavender ice cream, lavender iced tea, lavender lemonade, lavender macaroons and more. On-site you will also find a shop to buy some lavender products such as body lotions and chocolate and of course fresh lavender to take home.
Another lavender farm close to London is Hitchin Lavender. The best part about this farm is that it is on a hill and this means that you can take the classic photo of a lavender hill. Similarly, to Mayfield Lavender, you will be able to buy some lavender products from their shop and café.
Despite the name, when arranging transportation, the closest train station to Hitchin Lavender Farm is the Letchworth Garden City. Another option is the Arlesey station.
Either way, to head to the farm from there you will need to take a bus and then walk.
In the UK, the lavender is on its peak in July, although visitors to the farms are usually allowed between June and August. Note, that there is an entry fee to visit the lavender farms.
Explore an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Cotswolds are famous for their pretty villages with picturesque cottages and excellent nature trails. Geographically, the area is located in south-west England and is boarded (roughly) by Oxford, Bath and Cheltenham.
This range of hills became an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966 and has drawn many visitors ever since.
Most people visit the Cotswolds by car which allows them the flexibility to explore many of the more remote locations. However, it is still possible to explore the Cotswolds by public transport.
Simply, hop on a train from Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh, Kingham or Stroud and then either start one of the hikes around the area or take the bus and visit one of the other villages and places of interest.
In the Cotswolds, there are many National Trust properties you can visit and learn more about the area and its people. Chastleton House is one of those and is easily reached by bus from Moreton-in-Marsh.
From the same village, you can also take the bus and head to Broadway Tower, just off Broadway Village. Other pretty villages you can visit are the Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water.
There is a bus to get there from Moreton-in-Marsh but once you are in one village you can easily walk to the other, as there is a 1.5-hour long hiking trail.
Head to the Beach
The UK is home to many sandy beaches and places to enjoy the sunshine and relax by the beach. Some popular places are Brighton, Bournemouth, Southampton and Portsmouth.
No more than 2 hours away from London (take a train from Waterloo, except for Brighton where you need to take a train from Victoria or London Bridge), make a great way to spend a day away from the hustle of the city.
Starting with Brighton, only one hour away from London, here are the most popular things to do there. The newest addition to the seaside city opened only in 2016, is the British Airways i360 Viewing Tower. A rotating platform takes you 162m above the sea level to enjoy amazing views of the area.
This on its own can be a reason for going to Brighton due to its unique design. Next, you should head to the Brighton Palace Pier home to an entertainment venue.
Another thing worth checking out is the Royal Pavilion, a former royal residence which is now converted into a museum. Bournemouth, another favourite British seaside town is famous for its sandy beaches and its Pier. It is easily combined with a visit to nearby Pool and Brownsea Island.
Southampton may be most popular for cruise ships but at the same time, it is a gateway to the Isle of Wight. Pedestrians can board on a boat to West Cows and walk around the cobblestone paths of the town centre.
In Portsmouth, you should head to the iconic Emirates Spinnaker Tower, an observations tower with a height of 170 m which features a glass floor.
Learn About the Past
The UK is full of historic places but obviously some are more popular than others. Stonehenge and Roman Baths attract visitors from all over the world.
Even though they are touristy, they are a must-see sight for anyone visiting or living in the UK. Both places are easy to visit from London.
To get to Stonehenge you need to take a train from Waterloo to Salisbury and then get on the Stonehenge Tour Bus. For the Roman Baths, you just need to take a train from Paddington to Bath Spa.
Stonehenge is a series of stones in a circular form, dating to the Neolithic ages. It is still a mystery how it was created and there are only indications of its use. Visitors can tour the monument while listening to an audio guide.
The only time that people are allowed to enter into the stone circle, is during the summer solstice. A short distance from the monument, you can find the Old Sarum, a prehistoric settlement in Salisbury.
The site is much quieter than Stonehenge and offers great views of the area. If you have time, before leaving you can visit the Salisbury Cathedral and see Britain’s tallest spire as well as a 1215 original of the Magna Carta.
In Bath, the main highlight of the city is the Roman Baths, one of the best-preserved remains of the Roman Empire in the UK. Visitors to the thermal baths can enjoy a self-guided audio tour of the premises and learn more about the use of the baths.
Since the visit to the site should not last more than a couple of hours, you can continue exploring Bath. You can enter the nearby Bath Abbey, see the Pulteney Bridge and walk around the Circus and the Royal Crescent.
Feel Like a Royal
London has plenty of royal premises to get the feeling of royalty, but if you choose to travel a bit further you will get the chance to wander in fairy tale castles surrounded by nature.
One such castle is Leeds Castle in Kent, located just off Maidstone. This historic castle is a great place to spend a day out with large green spaces to relax, falconry displays, a maze, and fully furnished interiors to get an authentic feeling of the life in a castle.
The most straightforward way to reach the castle is by taking the train to Hollingbourne from Victoria station and then walk or take the bus to the castle entrance.
Another castle worth visiting is Warwick Castle. The castle is a great family attraction, with many activities for children. Apart from the Great Hall and State Rooms, designed in a realistic way, you can climb a Tower, mingle with characters, join historical tours and even watch history inspired shows.
To get there from London, you either need to take the train to Leamington Spa and then the bus to Warwick or get a train to Warwick with a change at Haddenham & Thame Parkway. Both options depart from Marylebone station.
Last but not least you can spend a day in Windsor and visit the all-time classic Windsor Castle directly associated with the British Royal Family.
At the castle, you can view the State Rooms, see the Queen’s Mary Doll House, witness the Change of Guard and even step into the St. George chapel, where many royal weddings took place.
To get there, you need to take a train from Paddington to Slough and then take another train to Windsor and Eton Central. Windsor Castle is a short walk away through the Windsor Royal Station shopping centre.
Elina is travel enthusiastic based in the UK and has travelled to over 20 countries around the world. Elina runs Empnefsys & Travel, a travel blog dedicated to inspiring people to travel. On her blog, you can find detailed itineraries for cities in Europe and other travel-related content. You can follow her adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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