London is a vibrant and exciting city that is well worth visiting for so many reasons. Home to some of the most famous tourist sites in the world, it boasts an impressive and instantly recognizable skyline. But there is a different side to England not far from this sprawling metropolis – a side that is quaint, delightful, and an absolute must-see when visiting London.
At HeyTripster we provide trip plans to the famous historic and momentous sights the city has to offer, but we think it’s important to visit some of the beautiful towns near London too. Each of the places in this article has its own unique character, history, and points of interest. And they have been attracting pilgrims, tourists, and visitors for many, many years.
Traveling from London
London has fantastic transport links with the rest of England via train or car, and there are some wonderful places to visit near London that you can reach within a few hours or less and will introduce you to other quintessentially English towns and cities.
While using London Underground to get around the city is relatively inexpensive (you can normally do a whole day on the Tube for around £5 using your contactless card, mainline trains in England are notoriously expensive – particularly if you travel between the peak hours of between 06.30 – 09.30 in the morning or 15.30 – 18.30 in the evening. The best way to save on train tickets when traveling to England is to travel off-peak and book in advance if possible. During off-peak hours, use the ‘Kids for a Quid’ offer which sees children travel for £1. If traveling in a group of 3-9 people, you may be able to get a group discount of up to 34%.
Please note: There are several train operators that travel to and from London with prices and offers subject to change without notice but all information is correct at the time of publication.
If you’re traveling by car and looking for things to do near London, the M25 motorway is your friend. The M25 is a ring road around London with access to major routes in and out of the city.
Best places to visit near London
1. Go Right Back in Time With a Daytrip to Salisbury & Stonehenge
Ok, including Stonehenge on a list of places to visit near London is a bit of a stretch as it’s actually 87 miles away. But you won’t want to miss the chance to visit the most famous prehistoric site in Europe. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to around 2600 BC and many myths and legends have grown up around it. One suggests the stones have healing properties. Another that they were transported to the site by giants.
What is in no doubt, though, is that these giant, heavy stones were placed in their current location, at what is believed to be an ancient burial site, thousands of years ago using techniques we can only guess at.
The structure is a marvel to look at and the nearby visitor center is packed with information about it. Starting at the visitor center is recommended as you will begin your day with the Virtual Stones Experience where you will find out more about Stonehenge itself and the landscape around it. The experience is interactive with opportunities to look around Neolithic houses, feel the Touching Stone, and try pulling a sarsen (the sand block stones that Stonehenge is made from).
After seeing what life was like in Neolithic times, the visitor bus will take you to see Stonehenge.
Unfortunately, you can longer touch the stones.
During the Summer Solstice (21st June), huge crowds gather to see the sunrise behind the Heel Stone and shine its first rays shine into the heart of the stone circle.
Stonehenge is open every day apart from Christmas Day.
Family (2 adults and up to 3 children) £50.70
Family (1 adult and up to 3 children) £31.70
Salisbury is a medieval city near Stonehenge, famous for its cathedral. Other historic sites include:
· Old Sarum – an ancient ruin set in the stunning landscape just outside the city
· Mompesson House – an 18th century Grade One listed house
· The Poultry Cross – a large structure built in the 14th century that was home to the Poultry Market
· Rolly’s Fudge Pantry – a local store selling traditional English fudge for those with a sweet tooth
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2. Walk in the Footsteps of Royalty With a HeyTripster Trip Plan to Windsor
Just an hour outside of London via the M4, Windsor is home to the Royal Family throughout summer. When the Queen’s Standard is flying above Windsor Castle, it indicates that Queen Elizabeth II is in residence. The castle, steeped in over 1000 years of royal history, is open to visitors all year round but is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Tickets are priced at:
· £23.50 for adults
· 13.50 for children
· Under 5s go free
Aside from Windsor Castle, which boasts some impressive artworks by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Canaletto and Da Vinci, the town of Windsor is a pleasant place to go for a walk. Stroll along The Long Walk, following in the footsteps of royalty, visit a local pub for a pint of ale, and visit Windsor Guildhall where Prince Charles and Camilla were married. This is a town like no other, dominated by Windsor Castle and almost fairytalesque in its charm.
During the summer months, Windsor Racecourse holds weekly meetings on a Monday night. Tickets for this typically English day out start from just £25. In June, Ascot Racecourse holds its Royal Meeting. This is a bit pricier, must be booked in advance, and is one of the highlights of the British sporting year.
3. Visit Bath – One of the Grandest Cities Near London to Visit
Located 117 miles from London but accessible in around two and half hours by car or train, Bath is a microcosm of English history.
Named after the wonderfully preserved Roman Baths in the center of the city, visiting Bath is like taking a step back in time. Just yards from the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey dominates the central square. The Abbey is a stunning example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture. For a traditional English afternoon tea, head to the Bath Pump House, a grand old building that now serves as an elegant dining hall. It’s not cheap, but it is delicious.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can walk up to The Royal Crescent for a taste of what life was like in Georgian England. Many of the grand houses in the street are still occupied, but one has been turned into a museum where you can find out how the wealthy and the poor lived in the 1700s.
Bath is also home to the Jane Austen Exhibition where guides in Regency Costume will guide you through life in England during the time of great works of literature like Pride & Prejudice.
4. Oxford and The Cotswolds: Two Very Different But Equally Attractive Places to See Near London
One of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful university towns. Oxford is easy to reach from London by car or train. If traveling by car, park outside of the city and use the ‘Park & Ride’ bus to get into the city. Naturally, the university is the main tourist attraction with highlights including the Bodleian Library and Christ Church College which featured as the Great Hall in the Harry Potter movies.
Don’t miss the Bridge of Sighs that joins two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane. Oxford itself is a small but attractive city with plenty of parks and gardens to explore. In the center of the city is the historic Covered Market and Christ Church Cathedral.
The Ashmolean Museum has recently seen huge investment and is now one of the most popular attractions. With artifacts from all ages right across the globe, it has something for everyone – and entry is free.
The Cotswolds is the name given to the idyllic region near Oxford that is full of beautiful rolling hills and picturesque villages. Many of the buildings here are made using the local Oolitic limestone, naturally produced in the region between 206 – 124 million years ago. Its distinct yellow hue is unique to the region and makes The Cotswolds a one-off area.
Villages made of the local stone are dotted between lush green landscapes that are ideal for hiking and seeing wildlife. For a more organized view of wildlife, including animals from all around the world, visit Cotswold Wildlife Park.
As it is predominantly lots of small villages and beautiful countryside, visiting The Cotswolds is one of the best places to visit near London by car. Fans of popular BBC drama series Father Brown will want to visit the village of Blockley, home to the church featured in the series as well as other familiar sites.
The Cotswolds is traditionally associated with the wool and cloth industries and there are still numerous markets across the region throughout the week. Of particular note is the market in Stow on the Wold on Saturday mornings.
For foodies, there are local farm shops all across the region as well as Woodchester Valley vineyard where a selection of wines produced on the site are available for tasting and to buy.
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5. Be Charmed By Canterbury
60 miles and around 2 hours from London, Canterbury is a beautiful medieval city in Kent – the county known as the Garden of England. Due to excellent transport links via train or the M2, it is considered one of the best places to visit near London. Home to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been the center of English Christianity since St Augustin arrived and converted the Anglo Saxons in 597.
The streets around the cathedral are charming and quaint, and the pedestrianized zone through the center of the city makes it easy to access all the local sights on foot.
There are plenty of historical pubs where you can try a local ale but if you prefer more modern tastes, there are bars serving modern drinks too. The choice of places to eat is also huge. Try food from around the world with Mediterranean fayre at Il Posticino or great Mexican food and drink (including real tequila – worm and all) at Tacos Locos.
Canterbury Roman Museum chronicles the impact of the Roman Empire on the region and you can even see a section of the original Roman road beneath Waterstones bookshop in the city center. Canterbury Heritage Museum explores more modern history.
6. Visit Stratford upon Avon and Discover the Life of the World’s Most Famous Playwright
Birthplace and long-time home of William Shakespeare, Stratford upon Avon is a homage to The Bard and one of the most delightful towns to visit near London. Almost everything here is dedicated to or inspired by the greatest playwright in England’s history.
Many of the buildings maintain their Tudor charm and just strolling around the town is a joy.
Right in the heart of the city is Shakespeare’s family home where he was born in April 1564. Now a tourist attraction, the house serves as a fantastic example of life in England at that time.
As you make around the house and garden, you may be lucky enough to happen upon an impromptu act from one of Shakespeare’s plays performed by actors in traditional dress.
You can buy one ticket for Shakespeare’s birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place, the Stratford home he bought when he returned successfully from London, and Anne Hathaway’s cottage. The delightful 12-roomed cottage was where Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s future wife, grew up.
A ticket to visit all three attractions costs:
· £26.00 per adult
· £17.00 per child
A ticket for one site will cost £20.00.
If you fancy catching a play, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is open all year round with a variety of traditional versions of some of the playwright’s most famous works.
River cruises on the River Avon and rowing boat hire are also available.
7. Let HeyTripster Introduce You to One of the Most Important Locations in English History
Hastings, home of the famous battle in 1066 that saw William the Conqueror claimed the English throne, is situated on the south coast of England. The ruins of Hastings Castle are here, but Pevensey Castle is another place worth visiting. There you can find out how prisoners were treated – and if you’re traveling with children, you can have them locked up for a bit too!
The exhibition at Battle Abbey, a partially ruined Benedictine abbey, tells the story of the Norman Conquest of England and the defeat of King Harold. Here you can stand on the spot where this decisive battle was fought and visit the Harold stone that marks the exact location that Harold is said to have fallen.
The nearby town of Rye is worth a visit if you have time. The Tudor buildings and cobbled streets are a window on another era.
And just a short drive away is Camber Sands, a beautiful sandy beach where you can sample the unique atmosphere of the British seaside. There is a pier, amusement arcades, fairground rides, and, of course, Punch & Judy shows. Make sure you enjoy fish and chips by the sea too – there is nothing more British!
8. Discover One of the Most Overlooked Places to go Near London – St Albans
One of the best cities near London to visit, St Albans is a small city just 25 miles from London that is often overlooked but is an absolute gem! Located in Hertfordshire, and just 10 minutes from the M25, the city was one of the most important towns in Roman Britain.
During Roman times, it was known as Verulamium, and parts of the walls to the town are still visible in St Albans Park. In the center of the park, and completely free to visit, is The Hypocaust, a wonderfully preserved mosaic and part of one of the first underground heating systems in England.
Towering over the park is St Albans Cathedral, built on the site of the execution of the first English Christian martyr, killed for harboring a priest in his home. Inside the striking cathedral lies the tomb of St Alban.
The city itself is quite small but makes for a pleasant place to stroll with lots of vennels and alleys where you can imagine much skulduggery took place over the years. There are numerous places to eat and drink but two are worthy of a mention. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is one of a number of pubs that claim to be the oldest in England. While that claim may be disputed, the low ceilings and dark atmosphere are certainly akin to a historic alehouse.
The White Hart Hotel is another historic pub. Dating back to 1470, it is charmingly unsymmetrical with low ceilings and tiny walkways. Legend has it that the 11th Lord Lovat stayed overnight in 1747 on his way to London to be the last person beheaded in England.
St Albans is a great place to stop off if you’re visiting the Harry Potter studios in nearby Leavesden.
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I’m a professional writer with a passion for travel. I love to visit new places and discover new experiences. Like any tourist, I’m drawn to places by the major sights and attractions, but I also like to go off the beaten track and unearth what the city or town I’m in is really all about.
HeyTripster gives me the opportunity to share my love of travel and to let other people know about some of the tips I’ve picked up and hidden gems I’ve discovered.