Best Day Trips from London in Winter (Cities and Castles!)

Are you looking for the best day trips from London in winter? Here’s a full list!

The charming city of London has so much to offer tourists, whatever the season.

Enjoy attractions like Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and the incredible London Eye, where you can take in panoramic vistas of the city centre. 

Plus, London at Christmas is really something special.

However, there are plenty of winter day trips to take from London as well.

From historic cities like Bath, Oxford and Exeter to the UK’s most epic castles, this blog post lists all of the best day trips from London that you can take in the cooler months!

You could even take a hop across the channel and visit the French capital, Paris! Here’s my list of the best. 

Best Day Trips from London in Winter

Bath

This is one of the best winter day trips that you can take from London.

Not only does it have lots of indoor attractions like the Thermae Bath Spa and the Jane Austen Museum, but the glorious cobblestone streets are incredibly charming to walk around in the cooler months. 

Plus, Bath is the only spa town in the country with natural warm waters. Bath Thermae Spa is the ideal space to soak in after a day’s exploring in the cold! 

There are also many charming historic pubs to enjoy a pint in at the end of the day. 

And, if you’re visiting during the festive period, Bath Christmas market is one of the best in the UK.

You can easily reach Bath Spa Railway Station from London Paddington Station, or there are National Express coaches. 

Alternatively, you can click here to book a day tour that takes you from London to Stonehenge and then to Bath!

Bristol

While Bristol isn’t as well known as nearby Bath, the British city is still a great day trip in both the winter and summer months. 

There are so many things to do in Bristol in the winter, including the SS Great Britain boat which was made in the city, the world-famous Clifton Suspension Bridge and the outdoor art gallery of street art at Stokes Croft and Southville. 

As some of Bristol’s attractions are outside, you might want to wrap up in a warm coat to explore, but this is very feasible throughout the winter!

If the weather isn’t so kind, there are hundreds of incredible pubs, cafes and restaurants in Bristol – I’m a bit biased (I lived there for six years and it’s my favourite city),  but I think it has the best food scene in the UK. 

At Christmas, there’s a festive market in Cabot Circus, with lots of stalls selling local handicrafts and food vendors.

To get to Bristol from London, you can take a train from London Paddington Station. It takes around one hour 45 minutes. 

Cotswolds

The charming Cotswold villages are what spring to many people’s minds when they think of the UK. 

While they are popular in the summer, they’re especially charming in the winter months. 

Imagine gorgeous chocolate-box villages sprinkled with a dusting of frost, with charming pubs and boutique stores. 

There are so many amazing villages to visit in the Cotswolds.

Enjoy Stow on the Wold with a charming Medieval church built into a tree, Tetbury which is the home of HRH Prince Charles and the charming canals of Bourton on the Water. 

Public transport isn’t great in the Costwolds.

The best way to visit the region is either to drive yourself or book a tour. You can browse tours here.

Hever Castle

Hever Castle is one of my favourite London day trips, and it’s open throughout the winter. 

It was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife. After she was executed, it came under the control of Henry VIII, and eventually was owned by his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves!

Nowadays, you can enjoy a water maze, a normal maze and landscaped gardens which were created by a Victorian botanist.

To reach it, you can take a train from London Bridge directly to Hever and then either walk for 20 minutes or take a local taxi. Here’s a local taxi number

Windsor Castle

This is another incredible castle to visit near London – and as it’s open all year round, it’s perfect to add to your itinerary for London in winter!

Windsor Castle is the Queen’s current residence, and it’s the oldest inhabited castle in the world! 

There are so many incredible spots in Windsor Castle. Explore the State Rooms, see St George’s Chapel where Meghan Markle and Prince Harry got married. 

It’s also worth wrapping up warm and walking down the long walk, where you can get an epic vista of the castle, and in the deer park. 

You can purchase your ticket to Windsor Castle here.

Windsor town is also worth walking around – don’t miss Queen Charlotte Street, which is just 52 metres long and is apparently the shortest street in England!

You can take a direct train to Windsor from London Waterloo Station. 

Oxford

Oxford Rad Cam

The beautiful city of Oxford is one of the best places in the country to visit on a day trip. While in warmer weather you can go punting on the river, there’s still plenty to do in Oxford in winter too. 

It’s home to one of the oldest universities in the world, which dates back to 1096. 

For starters, walk around the town centre and admire the University of Oxford‘s buildings like the Radcliffe Camera and the Bodleian Library.

You can do a creepy tour around Oxford Prison (the perfect winter activity when the nights are dark!) or explore the many museums, including the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

When you get cold, drop into some of Oxford’s cosy cafes and historical pubs like the Turf Tavern, which dates back to 1381. 

Just out of town, you’ll find Blenheim Palace, which is the only non-royal palace in the country. It was where Winston Churchill, one of Britain’s most famous and controversial prime ministers was born.

Home to beautiful gardens and magnificent rooms, it’s a snapshot of Britain’s historical country estate culture. 

You can easily take a train from Oxford to London Paddington. The cities are also connected by the Oxford Tube, a regular bus that takes around 90 minutes. To reach Blenheim Palace without a car, you can take the number 7 bus from central Oxford. 

Cambridge

Oxford’s rival university town, the ancient city of Cambridge is an alternative day trip.

Like Oxford, it has a historic university spread over the city centre, and you can go on campus tours to learn all about its history. 

Other attractions include the Fitzwilliam Museum, which is an art gallery, and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Like Oxford, there are also plenty of historic pubs to shelter in if the weather isn’t so kind when you visit! Try The Eagle, which dates back to the 14th century. 

To reach Cambridge, take a train from King’s Cross. There are also National Express coaches available. 

Brighton

It’s potentially the most loved coastal town near London – but is it worth visiting in the winter months? Absolutely yes! 

While the seaside is a lot chillier – and I doubt you’ll be taking a dip in the sea – you can explore areas like the Brighton Laines, see the beautiful Brighton Pavilion, take in coastal views and take in its incredible food scene. 

Somewhere I really want to visit (and a must if you’re veggie) is the No Catch vegan fish and chip restaurant there. The reviews are incredible!

Of course, if you eat fish, there are plenty of fish and chip restaurants (we call them “chippys” in the UK) that are open year-round. 

To reach Brighton, it’s an easy train journey from either London Bridge or London Victoria. Coach routes are also available. 

Other seaside towns close to London include Eastbourne, Margate and Herne Bay. 

Harry Potter Warner Bros

The Harry Potter Studios are a must-visit day trip, and because they’re all indoors, they’re great for the winter season! 

In fact, the studios have themes throughout the year – if you’re visiting during the festive months, don’t miss Hogwarts at Christmas for epic decorations. 

You’ll see the classic settings like Gryffindor Common Room, the Forbidden Forest and Gringotts Bank. There’s so much to explore here!

You have to book your ticket in advance before heading to the studio tours – if you can’t get them in time, you can book a tour which includes transport from London. Click here to read more about this.

Plus, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, don’t miss seeing platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross and doing a Harry Potter tour around the famous sights of London! 

Stonehenge 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stonehenge is a bucket list destination in Wiltshire. 

The ancient stone circle has Pagan traditions, and nobody’s completely sure how they actually got there, as they came a few hundred miles away in Wales. 

Nowadays, it’s potentially the most popular attraction in England outside of London, and if there’s one place that you can’t miss in the country, it’s here! 

While it is open year-round, it’s located on a plain, and in bad weather it can be quite inhospitable. We went on the 2nd January last year and it was freezing!

However, it would be lovely on a crisp winters day.

You can get to Stonehenge by driving, but if you don’t have a car, the best way to go is by taking a tour. You can book these on Get Your Guide. Click here to read more about it.

Exeter

Most people think that Exeter is a bit too far to go for a day trip from London, but it’s actually only 2 hours 10 minutes on the train. 

I live down the road in Exmouth and all my family live in London, so I take this journey a lot

I think Exeter is a really underrated city, and there’s plenty to offer in the winter months as well. 

If you like Cathedrals, Exeter’s is one of the most impressive in the country, with the longest uninterrupted Medieval gothic vaulting in the world. 

There’s also a fantastic museum called the RAMM, and Gandy Street which is said to be part of JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. 

Plus, if it’s dry, Exeter Quay is lovely to walk around. (And if it starts raining, pop into Exeter Quayside Distillery and try some of their gins!). 

You can easily take a train from London Paddington to Exeter. The coach option might be a little too long for a day trip (it can take four hours). 

Leeds Castle

Once said to be “the most beautiful castle in the world”, Leeds Castle is, contrary to popular belief, not in Leeds but in Kent!

 The castle was first built as a Norman fortification and was then owned by queens in Medieval times. 

It fell into the ownership of Henry VIII for a while, and was lived in by him and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. 

As well as taking in the historical features of the castle, you can walk around the gorgeous gardens and kids will love the playground. The castle and gardens are open year-round, with slightly shorter hours. 

To reach Leeds Castle, take a train from London Victoria Station to Hollingbourne. Then, connect by bus 13 to Penfold Hill, from which is a six minute walk to the castle. 

Canterbury 

Canterbury is another incredible city to visit from London, and as it’s located in Kent (a county that neighbours the capital), it’s super easy to get to!

Attraction-wise, Canterbury Cathedral has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries, ever since Thomas Beckett was murdered there. 

There’s also St Augustine’s Abbey, St Martin’s Church and Westgate Towers Museum. You can also see remnants of the city walls. 

You can reach Canterbury by taking a train from St Pancras International, or there are National Express buses available. It’s called the 007 bus, which James Bond was named after!

Stratford on Avon

Stratford on Avon is the perfect day trip if you’re a fan of literature; it’s the birthplace of Shakespeare! 

Unsurprisingly, the best attraction is Shakespeare’s House. There’s also the Anne Hathaway Cottage (she was Shakespeare’s wife!). 

Stratford on Avon is a pleasant enough town, but there’s not a crazy amount of things to do otherwise. So I’d recommend combining a day trip here with a tour around the Cotswolds. You can either self drive or check out this tour. 

Highclere Castle

If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, this day trip is a must! 

Highclere Castle is Downton Abbey, the family stately home that features in the episodes and films. 

The castle isn’t open year-round, and in the winter, you need to visit on a guided tour over Christmas and the wintertime. 

You need to book these tickets way in advance – the castle has always been popular, but it’s even more so after the last movie was released! 

It’s around a two-hour drive to Highclere Castle, or you can take a bus or taxi from Newbury. 

Bicester Village

If you want to shop while you’re in London, head to Bicester Village, an outlet park that offers some incredible designer products at bargain prices. 

It’s located in the county of Oxfordshire, a short train ride from the capital. 

There’s not a huge amount of other things to do in the direct area, so if you don’t have a car you will be going to Bicester just to shop and then return.

However, it’s worth visiting if you want to check out some of the bargain brands! 

You can either travel their independently or do a tour like this one.

Hampton Court Palace 

Hampton Court Palace sits just on the outskirts of London, but it’s another castle that is well worth visiting when you’re in the capital.

In fact, this is potentially the most historically significant one in London, the perfect day trip for any history fans!

Hampton Court Palace was the residence of Henry VIII, and nowadays you can explore Henry VIII’s apartments, the Tudor Kitchens and the Chapel Royal. 

Plus, it’s open all year round and it’s easy to get to by public transportation. 

Paris

La Belle Paris! It’s entirely possible to hop across the channel for a day and enjoy a winter day trip to the French capital. 

You can do this by hopping on the Eurostar from London St Pancras, which takes you right to the Gare du Nord in Paris. 

In the winter season, tickets can be very cheap and the journey time is just 2 hours 17 minutes. So you can literally hop on the first train of the day and be in the French capital enjoying pastries for breakfast by 9am!

The main tourist sites of France don’t need an introduction, but most of them, including the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay are all open in the winter. 

Packing list for London winter day trips

Wherever you are going from London, make sure that you bring these items!

Prepare for winter weather, which in the UK is anything from freezing to around 10°C (50°F) – or possibly a little warmer.

Snow is rare in England in winter, but make sure that you have a thick coat, gloves and a scarf

Also, don’t forget a water bottle – I love my chillies bottle which keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot! Tap water is usually drinkable in the UK. 

Pack a battery pack to ensure that your phone stays charged all day. 

Last tips for taking a wintery London day trip

  • Book train tickets in advance if you can – this will ensure that you get the lowest price. You can use the National Rail website or Trainline. 
  • If you’re taking the coach (which is often a much more economical choice), it’s also a good deal to buy these in advance for the cheapest prices! 
  • If you want to save money, there’s no better lunch in the UK than a meal deal. These are on offer at all supermarkets (such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op and others!). You can get a sandwich/ salad/ pasta, a snack and a drink for just £3!
  • Wetherspoons pubs also do great budget meals.

From the charming historical cities of Oxford and Bath some of England’s best castles, these are without a doubt the best winter day trips from London. There’s so much on offer just a drive or train ride away, so make sure you factor some of these into your winter trip to the capital!

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