Train passes at the ready.
7 of the Best Day Trips to Take From London This Spring
Train passes at the ready.
The lighter days and green shoots of spring mean only one thing: it’s time to get out and go exploring. And Londoners are spoilt for choice. Within an hour (or so) of the capital’s doorstep are beautiful beaches, gastronomic havens and historic hotspots providing a welcome change of scene.
The list below is by no means exhaustive, but it should help shape a blank Sunday into a memorable day out. From postcard-perfect Burford to Sunny Eastbourne, here are the best day trips to take from London.
1. For culture (and rollercoasters): Margate
Don’t be surprised if you see some familiar faces here: the hipsters swapped east London for east Kent’s sandy beaches during the pandemic and brought the capital’s cafe culture with them. Once you’ve had your caffeine fix at Forts, enjoy an exhibition at the Turner Contemporary (you can’t miss this modernist shard emerging from the sand), before taking a chance on the arcades and ending up at Dreamland. The latter is the thrill-seeker’s ultimate happy place, with vintage-inspired rides, a roller disco, and live music all summer long. Foodies are spoilt for choice in Margs but make like local artist Tracey Emin and bag a window seat at seafood bar Dory’s. Oops, you haven’t made it to the beach yet – so you might want to actually make a weekend of it and stay at Angela’s, The Reading Rooms or Fort Road Hotel.
2. For a postcard-perfect day: Burford
You’ll think you stepped onto the set of The Holiday on arriving in what is arguably one of England’s most picturesque towns. Framed by the Cotswolds and populated by limestone cottages, its high street is refreshingly free of chain stores, with an old-fashioned sweet shop and a slew of charming pubs vying for your custom. You’ll have to hop in a taxi from Charlbury station (just over an hour from the capital) to get there, but there’s a case for taking the car: there are antique stores aplenty – you’ll be bound to find some treasure to bring home.
3. For art, walks and sun: Eastbourne
The Towner gallery has put this once-forgotten seaside town (the UK’s sunniest) on the map. Bloggers love its dazzling rainbow mural as a backdrop, and later this year it will host the prestigious Turner Prize. With a statuesque pier, arcades, chip shops and icecreams, Eastbourne caters to the bucket-and-spade crowd, but there’s other fun to be had. Fuel yourself with irresistible pastries from To The Rise bakery ahead of the challenging – but not gruelling hike – up to the beauty spot that is Beachy Head. On the way back down, swap walking boots for something more elegant and flop out at Port (also a hotel), where the extensive cocktail list will reinvigorate you.
4. For a day of antiquing: Petworth
For a small town, pretty Petworth in West Sussex packs in a lot. There’s the majestic Petworth House, a National Trust landmark boasting an art gallery and an 18th-century ‘pleasure garden’. Arrive early to make the most of your day: in town, BEAR is packed with mid-century furniture and gifts you’ll want to keep for yourself, and the Newlands House Gallery always has a must-see exhibition (as well as a chic cafe). The high street, with its refined offering of boutiques, won’t disappoint even the hardest of urbanites. When it all gets too much, The Angel Inn is the quintessential cosy pub to retire to, serving local produce and reliably offering an open fire and a pretty patio.
5. For a blast of sea air and shopping: Brighton
The original day-trip destination for Londoners has finally been given the seal of approval by Soho House (but if you’re not a member, there’s no shortage of hip places to hang out). That said, you probably won’t want to sit still for long, what with the contents of the twisting alleyways of The Laines begging to be discovered. It’s here that you’ll find curated stores Tidy Street and Our Daily Edit, where it’s hard to leave empty-handed. Once your credit card needs a rest, take in the majestic beauty of the Royal Pavilion, and head down to Kemptown for a lively village feel.
6. For a history lesson: Oxford
World-renowned for its university, the magnificent architecture around this famous city is worth the trip alone. Harry Potter fans can make pilgrimages to several filming locations, notably Christ Church, to check out the Hogwarts vibes IRL. If the weather is bad, take refuge in a museum – Modern Art Oxford, the Museum of Natural History or the archaeology-focused Ashmolean are all worth a visit. But if the sun’s out, it would be rude not to indulge in a typically Oxonian activity – a chauffeured punting trip along the River Cherwell is the best way to take in all the city’s best sights.
7. For a trip back in time: Rye
This medieval seaside town in East Sussex is a gem – especially for interior lovers. Its windy, cobbled streets are filled with independent boutiques - Soap and Salvation, McCully and Crane and Ferry Road Store should be top of your list, not forgetting the brilliant Merchant and Mills. Knoops is something of a local legend, catering for every type of chocolaholic with everything from milkshakes to mochas, and where you get to choose your cocoa blend. Just a mile away is the tranquil nature reserve, which overlooks the remarkable dunes of Camber Sands. Remember to pack your swimmers.
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