These five amazing cities you can visit from London will show you there’s an abundance of history, beautiful architecture and wonderful scenery to explore outside of the UK’s capital. All these cities can be visited as a day trip from London by train or by road, so it’s perfect if you’re staying in the city but desire a change of scenery or pace.
Note: The locations marked with * have been previously featured by Explore With Ed through working with the local tourism board in some capacity, any opinions shared are my own.
Ideal city trip from London for architecture and sightseeing
Trains to Salisbury: Around 90mins from London Waterloo
Car: Around 2 hours (88 miles)
Salisbury’s spectacular cathedral is worth the journey alone, not only does it have the tallest Church spire in Britain, it’s also home to an original copy of the famous Magna Carta and the world’s oldest mechanically working clock! Set in a green space near the medieval city centre, it’s a very pleasant place to be on a summer’s day. Complete your day trip from London to Salisbury with a visit to the nearby Stonehenge, or crank things up a gear with a safari tour through the vast Salisbury plains and catch a glimpse of the army training grounds or the abandoned trains that looks like the film set of a zombie apocalypse.
Further reading: Top things to do in Wiltshire, England
Ideal city trip from London for history (and Harry Potter) lovers
Trains to Oxford: Around 1 hour from London Marylebone/Paddington
Car/Coach: Around 90 minutes (56 miles)
A day trip from London to the University city of Oxford is an easy option as it’s very well connected by public transport and a popular destination on coach tours. The whimsical and wonderful architecture of the colleges set the scene for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts in the film series, and you can join a guided tour if you really want to immerse yourself in the Wizarding world. If not, simply enjoy the grounds of the University campuses or explore inside if they’re welcoming visitors during your visit. Other Oxford highlights including a relaxing stroll through the botanical garden or hiring a boat to experience the city from the river Thames.
Further reading: Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford coach tour in one day! [AD]
Ideal city trip from London for the unique cultural heritage
Trains to Bath: Around 1 hour and 20 minutes from London Paddington
Car/Coach: Around 2 hours and 30 minutes (115 miles)
The UNESCO World Heritage City takes its name from the Ancient Roman baths in the centre of the city. The breathtaking Georgian architecture, made out of local honey-coloured stone makes Bath stand-out from the crowd – it’s all-consuming and the narrow streets will transport you to a by-gone era – particularly the grand Royal Crescent and Pulteney Bridge. When you’re finished marvelling at the beautiful buildings or getting lost in the world of Jane Austen, pause for a cream tea or lunch in one of the many tearooms dotted across the city, such as Sally Lunn’s, home of the famous Lunn Bun and the Oldest House in Bath. The city is well known for the annual Bath Christmas Market that usually takes place from the end of the November up until mid-December.
Further reading: View images from my @VisitBath Instagram takeover
Ideal city trip from London for the artists and foodies
Trains to Bristol: Around 1 hour and 40 minutes from London Paddington
Car/Coach: Around 2 hours and 30 minutes (118 miles)
Bristol is a vibrant and fun city that has an enviable art scene, made famous by renowned street artist Banksy. You can explore his works and many other graffiti artists across Bristol, particularly in the Stokes Croft area. Bristol’s youthful, creative spirit is boosted by the influx of students that flock here every year to the University. The food and drink industry has also been allowed to thrive in Bristol, street markets like St Nicholas nurture talented, up-and-coming chef’s and the city was even awarded ‘best culinary destination of the year’ in 2019!
Further reading: A learning experience in Bristol
Ideal city trip from London for the explorers and (shopaholics)
Trains to Cardiff: Around 1 hour and 50 minutes from London Paddington
Car/Coach: Around 3 hours (150 miles)
Cardiff has a welcoming and friendly community spirit like that of a small town. The Welsh capital is easy to navigate on foot thanks to its mostly pedestrianised centre, which also makes it one of the finest retail and leisure destinations in the country that mixes together modern, glass shopping centres with old, characterful Victorian arcades full of independent shops like Spillers – the oldest record store in the world. You may be drawn to Cardiff for its sporting events, many of which take place in the Principality Stadium. Should you visit during a Rugby or local football match the city centre is transformed with a carnival-like atmosphere and Cardiff’s bars and restaurants are packed out. If you’re keen to explore some of the local Welsh history, the fascinating Cardiff Castle and indoor museum and art gallery are some of the many highlights you can enjoy on a day trip to Cardiff from London.
Further reading: Cardiff, The City of Arcades