Beach day trips from London by train
It's hard to beat fish and chips on the beach – and it's hard to find anywhere that does it better than Brighton. The most famous of London's day-trippable beach towns, Brighton blends beautiful beaches, grand architecture, and hip eateries in one perfect package. You can get from London to Brighton by train in less than an hour, with the fastest route taking just 52 minutes. Services leave every half hour from Victoria or London Bridge, dropping you off right in the heart of the city so you can make the most of a day at the beach.
Start with a coffee or brunch at one of Brighton's hip cafes, then wander around the quirky record shops and boutique galleries in the Lanes. Head to Brighton Beach in the afternoon, enjoy a refreshing drink at one of the main beachfront bars before enjoying the sunset with a walk out along the iconic Palace Pier.
For more information on what to do in Brighton, visit the official Brighton tourist information website.
If you fancy somewhere a little less crowded than Brighton, Whitstable is another great choice for a beach day trip from London. Famous for its exquisite oysters, Whitstable is a sleepy old town with a pebbled beach and haute-cuisine seafood restaurants. Interesting combo, right?
To make the most of a day trip to Whitstable, take one of the 50 daily departures from London Victoria station and arrive in Whitstable by mid-morning, just in time to see the fishing boats returning to shore with the day's catch. Stroll along the beach to the harbour and fish market, a real treat for lovers of fresh seafood. If you feel like having some exercise, hire bikes and cycle part of the Crab & Winkle Way trail towards Canterbury, or stroll the exterior grounds of the beautiful Whitstable Castle. Return to High Street to take in a show at the Playhouse, or treat yourself to a seafood meal on the seafront.
Trains from London to Whitstable take an average of 90 minutes each way.
Only one hour from Kings Cross St. Pancras station, Rye feels like a completely different world from London. A town with a long, proud maritime history, Rye is like a breath of fresh air for anybody wanting a unique day trip from London.
The town has an extremely picturesque town centre, which is a good place to start your day exploring, as there's plenty of cafes and places to fuel up. Then, get on your bike and explore the historic harbour, the old riverside docks, or the local bird sanctuary, or simply spend the afternoon on the sandy Camber Beach. If you happen to be visiting in September, check out some of the events at the annual Rye Arts Festival, or visit one of several charming old English pubs for fish and chips before taking the return train back to London in the evening.
Trains from London to Rye take around 1h 8m each way.
Cheap day trips from London by train
Walking through beautiful Bath can feel a bit like walking through a museum — or a time machine. From Roman bathhouses to medieval shop-lined bridges, England’s finest Georgian crescents, and the country’s last Gothic church, Bath has history aplenty on display. However, it's also a busy modern city and funky bohemian hangout.
Start your day by visiting the Bath Abbey and Roman Baths before the crowds arrive. Browse the shops and stalls lined across world-famous Pulteney Bridge to Great Pulteney Street, the city’s best-preserved Georgian quarter with many impressive landmarks. Get lost in the Holborne Museum, relax in the fresh air of Sydney Gardens, and then head to Walcott Street to sample Bath’s version of Camden Town as the evening approaches. With Bath only 90 minutes from Paddington Station, you can still have a fun night and be back in London by a reasonable hour!
Trains to Bath leave multiple times every hour from London throughout the day.
A mere 50 miles north of London, Cambridge is about the prettiest picture of an English town you could hope for on a cheap day trip from London. With trains departing regularly from King’s Cross and Liverpool Street stations, you can get from London to Cambridge in as little as 50 minutes, with most services taking between 60 and 80 minutes.
Fill up your morning with sightseeing around Cambridge, because there aren’t many cities where you can see so many amazing buildings in such a small area. The university has more than its fair share of architectural landmarks displaying a remarkable variety of styles: Kings, Queens, Trinity, Magdalene, and St. John’s are some of many university colleges worth visiting, and the vaguely industrial University Library is a must-see. Head to the Botanic Gardens or Jesus Green for a picnic or pub lunch, then spend the afternoon at your pick of the superb museums, including the world-class collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the local Folk Museum, and the Polar Museum. Don’t forget to leave time for a punting tour on Cambridge’s canals!
Visit the Cambridge visitor information site for more ideas.
If all the history packed into the places above still isn’t enough for you, maybe you need to delve back further into prehistory. We’ve got that covered, too, because Stonehenge is less than two hours from London, making for an easy, cheap day trip! The nearest station to Stonehenge is Salisbury, less than nine miles from the ancient site. Salisbury itself is just 90 minutes from London Waterloo.
As well as the world-famous stone circle, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Stonehenge. Take an early train to see the many surrounding nature reserves in their best light, still wearing remnants of the morning mist. Book a tour of Stonehenge to learn all about the fascinating, mysterious history surrounding the site. Don’t forget to visit some of the other impressive Neolithic and Bronze Age ruins situated here. Walk The Avenue, see remnants of the complementary timbered circle of Woodhenge, and visit the remains of Durrington Walls, the largest Neolithic earthworks settlement in the UK. After all that walking, you’ll have earned a pint on Fisherton Street or Milford Hill in Salisbury, before taking in the Salisbury Cathedral on the walk back to the train station.
Trains to Salisbury go direct from London Waterloo station.
Take the train from London to Manchester and find yourself in the heart of the capital of the North in just 2h 1m. A good way to get your bearings is to join a free walking tour that meets close to the station at Sackville Gardens by the Alan Turing Memorial at 11:00. The tour crams in tons of facts about the city’s architecture and sites over around three hours (including a stop for coffee).
If you’re then in the mood for something a little less fact-based, why not head for a spot of shopping along Market Street, Exchange Square or the Arndale shopping centre. Feeling competitive? Junkyard Golf is just a 15-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station, as are some of Manchester’s best galleries such as the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery.
When you're feeling hungry, Abode Hotel Manchester is a great first or last stop. Afternoon tea here is spot on and it’s also a great location for a fancy farewell drink. If you're looking for something more low-key, Jamboree Foodfest and Bar’s global menu and vintage style decor is a welcoming place if you don’t fancy dressing up.
The train from London to Newcastle offers you impressive city views as you cross the river into the city centre station. It’s a small city that packs a punch, with very likable locals and a spattering of attractions, making it perfect for a day-trip or even overnight break from London. Within minutes of stepping off the train, you could be indulging in a bit retail therapy at intu Eldon Square, one of the UK’s largest shopping centres.
Or, if you fancy a cultural day out, then check out the nearby museums such as the Life Science Centre, Discovery Museum and the Great North Museum, that offering an array of interesting exhibitions. And of course, you can enjoy a stroll along the Tyne to marvel at Newcastle’s architectural highlights, including the Tyne Bridge and the Sage.
When it comes to wining and dining, you’ll be spoilt for choice near Newcastle Central Station, even if you're budget-conscious. Head to The Bridge Tavern, attractively located below Tyne Bridge. It’s also got some pretty decent craft beer. Another great option is The Broad Chare, just a 15m walk along the marina from the station, where you’ll find some delicious gastropub meals.
Day trips abroad from London by train
London is well-connected by rail to Europe, so you can even find yourself on a day trip abroad from London!
A city that needs no introduction, Paris is one of the world's leading cultural, business, and historic centres. It has more recognisable landmarks than just about anywhere. Better yet, it's just 2h 30m from London St. Pancras station! Plus, a 30m wait for the Eurostar just seems so much more appealing than a two-hour stint at the airport, especially when you arrive into Gare du Nord station in central Paris and not out in the sticks at the airport.
Get going early enough, and you’ll make it in time for a breakfast croissant and hot chocolate in Montmartre — it's just a 20m walk from the station — fuelling you up for climb to Sacré-Cœur for amazing views over the city. See the world’s greatest art collection at the Louvre, hit the groovy Latin Quarter for lunch, then stroll the Champs-Élysées for some window shopping en route to the Arc de Triomphe. Add a romantic touch to your evening with a stroll along the Seine, as daylight starts to fade and the city becomes bathed in warm lights.
Fancy a bite to eat before you head back? Unlike other major capitals, where train stations are devoid of decent bars and grub. Gard du Nord has hundreds of choices to choose from. Popular restaurants Chez Casimir and Les Arlots are both five minutes away – ideal for a pre-train dinner. Or head to nearby Marché Saint Quentin to pick up some cheap eats on the go.
Trains from London to Paris are operated by Eurostar.
The capital of Belgium, and the capital of Europe is less than two hours from London by train. Departures run throughout the day from King’s Cross St. Pancras, with the quickest route taking 1h 56m. A quick word of warning before we go any further – a day trip to Brussels is sure to be deliciously fulfilling, so no need to fill up on breakfast beforehand!
Instead, save your stomach for a fresh Belgian waffle. There are plenty of cafes around the old centre ready to fortify you for a day of sightseeing. You're well-placed to set off and see one of Brussels’ main attractions – the buzzing action around the 300-year-old buildings surrounding the Grand Place-Grote Markt square. Then, visit the city’s tiny icon, the Manneken Pis, before going to an exhibition at the much larger gleaming landmark, the Atomium. After some Belgian fries by the canal, visit the European Parliament building, then clue up on the history of Belgium at Musée BELvue before spending some time outside in pretty Woluwe Park. Finish off the day sampling some of Brussels’ famous local beers and fresh mussels for dinner.
Whether you’re looking for rail trips from London for a relaxing beach day, a visit to an interesting historical site, or even a brief skip overseas, you can discover a lot with day trips by train.