While there are certainly ample activities in London itself, the capital city of England is also within just a few hours of many beautiful towns and attractions. Discover our list of the eight most exciting adventures near London if you’re in need of an escape.
Driving time from London: approximately 90 minutes Train from London: approximately 1 hour from St. Pancras International Station
A historic cathedral city in Hampshire, Winchester served as the capital of Britain during the Roman Ages. Today, Winchester consolidates the hustle and bustle of city life with the calm serenity of the countryside. It’s the perfect respite from the chaotic nature of London! Home to many fabulous restaurants and cafés — and widely considered the birthplace of the iconic game of cricket — Winchester has plenty to keep any type of traveler entertained during their weekend trips.
Things to Do in Winchester
Winchester Cathedral. This spectacular cathedral has been a source of inspiration and religious worship for over 900 years. Today, visitors can explore the cathedral’s rich history and enjoy a wide range of events hosted year-round.
Marwell Zoo. Featuring hundreds of animals — from penguins and meerkats to giraffes and tigers — the zoo covers over 140 acres and is located eight miles from the city center.
Wolvesey Castle. Built in the 12th century, the castle served as home for the medieval bishops of Winchester during the Middle Ages. Visitors can meander through the ruins of the once-magnificent castle and explore the history of the city.
2. North Norfolk
Driving time from London: approximately 3 hours Train from London: approximately 2 hours from Liverpool Street Station
Located on the east coast of England, North Norfolk is a region that’s filled with an array of beautiful attractions. They’re all encapsulated within the North Norfolk Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With 45 miles of stunning coastline and various places of cultural and historical significance, this region is a must-see for nature-lovers and history buffs alike. North Norfolk is also the county with the least annual rainfall in the UK, making it an ideal place to visit all year round.
Things to Do in North Norfolk
Cromer Pier. Located in the civil parish of Cromer on the coast of North Norfolk, the pier features a range of attractions. In 2015, it was voted Pier of the Year by the National Piers Society.
Holkham Hall. Privately owned, this 25,000-acre estate offers a unique view into the lives of the aristocracy. Visitors can explore the building, along with the magnificent gardens that have played host to open-air concerts from legendary musicians like Sir Elton John.
Sandringham Estate. As the country home of four generations of British monarchs, the Sandringham Estate is open to the public. It attracts as many as one million visitors per year, making it one of the most popular attractions in North Norfolk.
Driving time from London: approximately 90 minutes Train from London: approximately 1 hour from Paddington Station
Known as “the City of Dreaming Spires,” Oxford is world-famous for its elite university and established history. Home to a long line of royalty and scholars since the 13th century, Oxford is now a vibrant metropolitan hub, featuring many interesting events and attractions for visitors to explore on their city breaks.
Things to Do in Oxford
Ashmolean Museum. The University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, the Ashmolean was founded in 1683. It is open to the public every day and admission is free, which makes this both an intriguing and budget-friendly attraction for day trips.
University of Oxford. As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford is made up of various buildings and institutions — including 38 colleges — which are all worth a visit. Take an official walking tour and discover exceptional settings that have inspired some of the most famous stories in literature and film.
Oxford’s Waterways. With the city itself built upon the water, the waterways in Oxford are a central feature of the city. Visitors can rent a boat or punt along the river while taking in the breathtaking views.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Indulge in an unrivaled British fine dining experience at Raymond Blanc OBE’s acclaimed eatery. Approximately 10 miles away from the city center, this two Michelin star restaurant is so popular you’ll need to make your lunch or dinner reservation three months in advance to stand any chance at getting a table. The restaurant is set in one of the premier luxury hotels — Belmond Hotel — in the Oxfordshire countryside, with openings for non-resident guests.
4. Bury St. Edmunds
Driving time from London: approximately 2 hours Train from London: approximately 2 hours from Liverpool Street Station
Located in sunny Suffolk, Bury St. Edmunds is a quaint market town, founded in the 11th century. Encompassed by expansive countryside, the town has a rich 1,000-year history, which has established it as the cultural center of the county. You’ll find numerous exciting attractions to enjoy in Bury, no matter your interests.
Things to Do in Bury St. Edmunds
Greene King Brewery. For over 200 years, beer has been brewed in this caskhouse located just outside the city center. Visitors can take a brewery tour or stop by the on-site café to watch a virtual tour of the brewery and enjoy a range of unique-tasting craft beers in tutored sessions.
St. Edmundsbury Cathedral. This cathedral was built in 1065, so it has nearly a millennium of history. Visitors can request tours of the ancient library and treasury, attend different events throughout the year, or scale the magnificent Cathedral Tower, which offers stunning views of the city.
Bardwell Windmill. A spectacular historical site located just 20 minutes from the town center, this mill is open on select dates for the public to explore. Even if it’s closed, the mill is still a marvel from the outside. There’s also an on-site bakery and tearoom to enjoy the coveted British afternoon tea, which makes it well worth a visit.
Driving time from London: approximately 2 hours 30 minutes Train from London: approximately 80 minutes from Paddington Station
Commonly referred to as “the original wellbeing destination,” Bath was built by the Romans specifically for the purposes of pleasure and relaxation. Alongside world-famous historical sites, the city center features countless places to relax and recuperate, as well as a selection of fantastic independent shops. The city council offers walking tours for visitors to explore and learn about the extensive history of the city from knowledgeable guides.
Things to Do in Bath
The Roman Baths. Dating back 2,000 years, the Roman Baths catalyzed the development of the town itself. The buildings are well preserved and protected. Visitors can explore the four main features — the Sacred Spring, Roman Temple, Roman Bath House, and the museum — and become engrossed in the wonders of the past.
Bath Abbey. The abbey is a working church that plays an active role in the community, hosting special events and services for the city. From the Footprints to the Memorials, and Waller Tomb among others, there’s lots to see and do in the Abbey. There’s also a small shop where you can buy souvenirs.
Holburne Museum. Located within the historic Sydney Pleasure Gardens, you can explore the museum’s collection of fine and decorative arts from artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, George Stubbs, and Allan Ramsay.
Driving time from London: approximately 2 hours Train from London: approximately 1 hour from Victoria Station
A seaside resort on the south coast of England, Brighton is home to a vibrant nightlife and exciting attractions, with a wide range of things to do. It’s easy to see why Brighton is the UK’s most popular seaside resort – with its famous pier, beachfront cafes, and bustling nightlife, you can enjoy everything Brighton has to offer.
Things to Do in Brighton
The Royal Pavilion. Built originally as a seaside resort for the Prince Regent, the Royal Pavilion Brighton is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Brighton. The building has been open to the public since 1823 and attracts more than one million visitors every year.
The Lanes. A collection of narrow cobbled streets in the city center, the Lanes feature a series of independent and antique shops, alongside commonplace brands. Wander around freely without vehicle traffic getting in the way and fully explore the various cafés, bars, and restaurants the Lanes have to offer.
Brighton Palace Pier. As one of the most popular attractions in Brighton, this Victorian pier stretches out into the English Channel, and has been a landmark for over 100 years. It is home to a wide range of restaurants and attractions, suitable for people of all ages.
Driving time from London: approximately 2 hours Train from London: approximately 90 minutes from St. Pancras International Station
Margate is a timeless English seaside town, perched on the edge of the Kent coast, which combines an eclectic mix of historic charm with 21st century culture. The town features a range of typical seaside attractions, such as sandy beaches and shore-side rides, alongside many other draws.
Things to Do in Margate
Turner Contemporary. This acclaimed gallery displays exhibits that range from historical to contemporary art. Situated in a stunning building designed by revered architect Sir David Chipperfield, the gallery also features a shop, café, and charming outdoor terrace.
The Shell Grotto. Discovered by accident in 1835, the underground grotto’s origins are shrouded in mystery. While no one is sure what it was initially used for, visitors can explore the series of tunnels featuring curved walls studded with over four million glittering shells and envision the history of the grotto.
The Old Kent Market. Located on the site of the old Parade Cinema, the building has been lovingly restored in order to celebrate its history and heritage. Today, the building houses a wide variety of stalls, which sell local food and crafts that continuously change throughout the year.
8. Isle of Wight
Driving time from London: approximately 3 hours 30 minutes Train from London: approximately 90 minutes from Waterloo Station to Portsmouth, followed by a 30-minute ferry to the Isle of Wight
Situated just off the south coast of England in the English Channel, the Isle of Wight is just over two hours away from London, via public transport. It has been a popular holiday destination since Victorian times and is known for its mild climate, coastal scenery, and beautiful landscapes. Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the island has rich history and culture, with a range of attractions and spectacles to delight all visitors on their weekend break.
Things to Do in the Isle of Wight
Sandham Gardens. These stunning gardens are located on the eastern side of the island, and offer the perfect place to relax and unwind with friends and family. In 2019, it was crowned the UK’s best beach by readers of Countryfile Magazine.
Monkey Haven. This sanctuary is home to a wide range of animals in need of care and attention. Alongside a large group of primates, the sanctuary also helps rescue and rehabilitate owls, reptiles, and meerkats. It’s a great place to unwind and enjoy some fresh air in the presence of some fantastic creatures.
Tapnell Farm Park. As a very popular family attraction in Isle of Wight, Tapnell Farm Park has plenty to keep kids and adults alike entertained. Enjoy a range of indoor and outdoor activities including the Indoor Soft Play Barn and Wallaby Walkabout, or indulge in some delicacies at the café or the award winning restaurant, converted from a Swiss barn, that’s located right next door.
Plan Your Weekend Trip
London is a great home base for exploring the surrounding lesser-known gems. With excellent links to and from all corners of the globe, visitors also have great options to take a private drive or catch public transport for unforgettable weekend getaways near London. Start planning your next exciting adventure in and around London with VacationRenter today.
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