London is a great place to live, work, and study, with all the amenities you will ever need on your doorstep, whether that be bars, restaurants, shops, or parks. On the other hand, London can become overwhelming with its busy streets, large population, and the number of tourists that visit the city. Therefore, every so often, it is nice to escape, taking a day trip out of the city and discovering what the rest of England has to offer.
Just a short drive or train ride away from the hustle and bustle of the city are a number of locations that are a perfect getaway. Whether you are looking for a quaint town or quiet countryside, there is a spot for you. If you are looking to get out of the city to stretch your legs, take a look at our top ten towns to visit near London:
Famous for the 1066 battle, Hastings has been a place where the history books have been written. Dive into this history by heading to Hastings Castle, built by the Normans in the 11th century, or Smuggler’s Adventure where you will be transported back to the time where smugglers brought goods into Britain. Along the ancient streets, there are a number of shops and cafés to visit, as well as old architecture to admire. Why not take a ride on the hill Cliff Railway, which is home to a funicular railway that is the steepest in all of the UK. Travelling to Hastings takes around two hours in the car or an hour and a half on the train from London Bridge station. With a stunning pier and historic monuments, however, Hastings is well and truly worth a visit.
Another Seaside town close to London is Whitstable, which takes just over an hour to travel to by train from either St Pancreas station or London Victoria. By car, the 60-mile journey will take you around an hour and 45 minutes. The town is famous for its fresh seafood caught just the shore, making it some of the freshest in the country. Try relaxing at The Forge on the seafront, where you can see them preparing your seafood right in front of you before heading to the famous beach pub The Old Neptune. Wander the main streets to discover independent cafés and boutique stores where you can find some real treasures, escaping from the busy London streets.
A quaint and unique town southeast of London is Rye. This medieval time was used to defend England against invaders and still has many historical buildings standing today for you to visit. Spend some time wandering around the meandering, cobbled streets soaking in the atmosphere and visit old book and antique shops. The beautiful and traditional Mermaid Street is a great spot for an Instagram photo that shows the opposite of busy London life. Visit the Rye Castle Museum, or National Trust-run Rye House to step back in time and discover the town’s historical past, or head to the local vineyard to find out about English winemaking and taste the final product. To get there, hop on the train from St Pancreas for just over an hour (changing at Ashford for the most direct route) or travel around 2 hours in the car.
A firm favourite of many British holiday goers is the seaside town of Margate, located southeast of London around 76 miles away. The location is around a 2-hour drive from the capital or can be reached by train in less than an hour and a half. Margate has much to offer, and it is easy to fill your day with many different activities. The Main Sands are an excellent place to relax on a hot day, basking in the sun while eating an ice cream. Grab some friends and head down to Dreamland in Margate for some vintage fun on the roller disco track, or hop on board the old fashioned fairground rides for some afternoon entertainment.
For a more cultural visit, head to the Turner contemporary Museum, which houses a number of pieces by the famous artist JMW Turner, or scour the racks at Breuer and Dawson for some amazing vintage clothing items. In Margate, there is so much to do, you may find yourself going on multiple day trips!
One of the coolest spots outside of London to visit is Brighton – famous for its independent stores, beautiful beach, and support for the LGBT+ community. If you are looking for a night out away from London then Brighton is the place with great bars and live music venues to keep you dancing all night. You might even want to try the Brighton Beer dispensary, which works with a number of small, independent breweries to deliver some of the most flavourful beer to you. If drinking isn’t your thing, Brighton has even more to offer with a stunning seafront packed full of restaurants, ice cream, and fish and chip shops for you to enjoy on a hot summer’s day. One of the top attractions in the area that is not to be missed is the Palace Pier which sticks out into the sea. Brighton is easily accessible from a number of London’s train stations, including London Bridge, Victoria and Blackfriars, with the journey being only an hour long.
Around one hour on the train from St Pancreas Station, the town of Canterbury is around 60 miles South East of London. There are many things to do in the town, which has a large student population and a number of different bars, pubs, and restaurants. For a cultural visit, head to Canterbury cathedral (a world heritage site) or the Beanly House of Art and Knowledge to learn more about history. After this, you may want to visit Westgate Gardens or St Augustine’s Abbey for an afternoon stroll. Looking for something a little more adventurous? Try Howlett’s wild animal park located just outside the city. The park is set over a huge 90 acres and is home to many species, including elephants, tigers, and monkeys.
The ancient Roman city of Bath is the furthest away destination on our list, but it is so special it is worth the trip. Over 100 miles west of London, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its Roman bathhouses that are powered by natural thermal springs. Visit the historical Roman baths that have been preserved for centuries before checking in to the modern Thermae Spa, where you can relax and unwind while taking in views of the city. If spas are not your thing, there is still plenty to see as the picturesque town has been used as a film set for many movies and tv shows, from Jane Austin to Bridgerton. The most famous street in the city is Royal Cresent which is worth a look just for its stunning architecture. To get here, take the train from Paddington Station to arrive in an hour and a half – so what are you waiting for?
The town of Cambridge is most famed for its prestigious university, but it has plenty in it to keep you occupied when you leave London. Only 64 miles outside of the capital, you can get to your location in only 45 minutes on the train directly from Kings Cross Station. If you would rather drive, it will take you around 2 hours due to traffic, so we recommend using public transport.
When you get to Cambridge, head towards the famous university to visit the renowned Fitzwilliam Museum, which is packed full of artefacts and treasures owned by the university. Take a step back in time as you wander around looking at the historical artefacts and immerse yourself in different cultures as you find out more about them. After your cultural visit, stop off at Fitzbillies for lunch, where you can experience their world-famous Chelsea buns that they have been making since 1920.
In the afternoon, spend your time meandering through the cobbled streets, taking in the old buildings and the beauty of the river Cam which flows through the centre. If you have sea legs, why not try some punting on the river and view the town from the water.
Southend on Sea
If you do like to be beside the seaside, then head to Southend in Essex for some traditional beachside entertainment. Only 36 miles outside of London, you can travel from Fenchurch Street Station to the beach in only 1 hour and 15 minutes. Once you have arrived in Southend, head straight to the coastline to see the world’s longest pier stretching out into the ocean. Spend some time reliving your childhood at the amusement parks and fairground attractions all along the seafront or relax on the beach if the weather is warm enough. Fish and chips always taste best by the sea, and the chipped in Southend are no exception. Treat yourself to a traditional 99 ice cream from Italian ice cream shop Tomassis while sitting on the pier and taking in the friendly atmosphere.
With excellent transport links, London is a great place to live but is also easy to escape for a day or two. From historical towns to sunny seasides, there is a town that will suit your every mood. So what are you waiting for? Go further afield and explore today.