London is one of the most vibrant and bustling cities in the world. If you are planning a visit to the capital but want a bit more peace and quiet, there are plenty of fantastic nearby towns that are easy to reach by rail and road.
For those not wanting to stay in London, these towns all offer something different for a perfect get-away. Whether you’re looking for seaside charm, historic grandeur or wide-open countryside, this handy guide will help you find the best one for you. If you see anywhere you like, why not make a trip of it, and book one of our incredible holiday cottages nearby. If you’re dreaming of a UK getaway but have left everything a little late, worry not, just check out our selection of last-minute cottages.
Best for: Seaside and relaxation
The seaside town of Whitstable is just one hour and 15 minutes from London, making it the perfect location for day trips. Smaller and quieter than many of the other towns on the Southern coast of England, Whitstable is the perfect place to relax after days spent in the hustle and bustle of the capital.
Whitstable harbour and Tankerton beach both offer spectacular views out across the channel and there is some fantastic wildlife to enjoy. To find out more about the area, why not pop into Whitstable Museum and Gallery to explore some unique local artefacts.
Being a seaside town, there are some fantastic food and drink options here. You can pop in for some fresh seafood at Wheelers Oyster Bar, pick up some local ice-cream to enjoy along the beach or enjoy traditional fish and chips at one of the many beachside restaurants!
Best places to drink: Conveniently located on the High Street, the Black Dog is a small and quirky pub that is popular with both locals and visitors. A wide selection of spirits and wines are on offer here, however, the focus of this micropub is on celebrating fantastic local ales and ciders. The friendly bar staff are always on hand to recommend one to your taste!
Best places to eat: Despite its name, Ossie’s Best Fish and Chips, offers a wide menu of classic English food at affordable prices. There is a large dining area and if you prefer to take-away, the restaurant is just metres from the seafront. Just be sure to keep an eye out for greedy seagulls!
Best for: Architecture and history
Known as the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ due to its stunning architecture, Oxford is one of the most popular cities in the UK. With fantastic travel options from central London, the historic town is also full of unique cultural attractions and fantastic shopping and nightlife, surrounded by beautiful countryside.
In addition to exploring the thirty-nine University colleges, there are a host of popular visitor attractions to enjoy. The Museum of Natural History houses a unique collection and the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum host exhibitions rivalling the larger museums in London.
The city is just over an hour from London by train and if you are looking to enjoy some countryside, is also surrounded by beautiful Cotswold countryside.
Best place to drink: The Bear Inn is the oldest pub in Oxford and can trace its history back to the 13th century. This cosy spot offers the usual selection of wines, beers and spirits in a welcoming environment. You can also continue to learn more about the city by exploring the collection of historic university and sports club ties that decorate the walls here!
Best place to eat: Turl Street Kitchen serves fresh local food at affordable prices. Centrally located in a Georgian Townhouse next to the Bodleian Library, you can also pop in to enjoy their fantastic brunch menu throughout the week before a day’s sightseeing.
Best for: Countryside and culture
The historic city of Cambridge is just forty-five minutes from Kings Cross St Pancras. Famed for its centuries-old rivalry with Oxford, the cities have much in common. As well as many museums, galleries and live music venues, there is also fantastic countryside to enjoy in the surrounding Fells.
If you want to enjoy some culture, the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard Gallery are both fantastic days out. You can also take your time to explore the many shops on the cobbled streets around Market Square, where there is just as much on offer at London’s Covent Garden!
If you want to enjoy the great outdoors, Cambridge is surrounded by beautiful countryside. There are two companies offering punting tours along the River Cam and the nearby village of Granchester can easily be reached along the river.
Best place to drink: The Eagle Pub is steeped in history. The discovery of DNA was announced here in the 1950s and the pub was a firm favourite with the local RAF servicemen during World War II. If you want to soak up the history of Cambridge over a drink, there is no better spot in town.
Best place to eat: With stunning views of King’s College, the Cambridge Chop House is the perfect place to enjoy a meal after a busy day of sight-seeing. Award-winning food, exceptional service and welcoming decor make this one of the most popular restaurants in Cambridge so it is best to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Best for: Wildlife and attractions
Nestled on the South Downs in West Sussex is the market town of Arundel. Famous for its impressive castle, the town also has a host of attractions for all the family and some fantastic wildlife to enjoy. With direct trains from London, it is a great spot if looking to get out of the city for a break.
If you want to enjoy some wildlife, the Arundel Wetland Centre and Swanbourne Lake are bound to impress all year round. There are also those fantastic formal gardens surrounding the Castle and bird of prey displays and exhibitions at nearby Hawking About.
The Arundel Museum is suitable for all ages and offers a discount for larger bookings. The collection here isn’t large but offers a fantastic insight into the history of the local area through a collection of weird and wonderful artefacts.
Best places to drink: If you’re looking for a traditional English pub to relax in after a busy day of sightseeing, look no further than the Black Rabbit. Lying on the banks of the River Arun, the pub offers a wide range of drinks in a beautiful riverside setting. You can even take a peek at the boat from the Harry Potter films which is on display here.
Best places to eat: The Parsons Table is a warm and welcoming spot to enjoy some top-notch grub. The restaurant has a great atmosphere and the regularly changing menu is sure to impress. With the coast nearby, the catch of the day is always popular. A real hidden gem not to be missed!
Best for: Nightlife and Shopping
Brighton is one of England’s best-loved seaside resorts. The town has a strong identity and is known for its music scene and independent arts and crafts. Whether you are looking for family-fun or want to enjoy the nightlife, Brighton really has something for everyone.
The Lanes shopping district is famous for its many independent shops selling locally produced clothes, gifts and works of art. If you need a break from shopping, there are also plenty of spots to stop off for afternoon tea. Once you’ve picked something up for friends and family, you can walk down to the beach within minutes.
Brighton Pier is full of rides and attractions for the kids to enjoy and, if they behave themselves, you can pick up some ice cream or traditional rock to enjoy! If you’re looking for some more grown-up fun, there are also many nightclubs and live music festivals venues to enjoy.
Best place to drink: The sprawling splendour of the Mesmerist has to be seen to be believed. If you enjoy your drinks in weird and wonderful settings, this is a must-visit. The lounge bar has a truly spectacular decor, including coats of armour and bizarre artwork, and the cocktail menu here really packs a punch.
Best place to eat: If you like to enjoy your dinner with a view, head down to Riddle and Finns on Brighton beach. This seaside spot specialises in fresh seafood and there is a daily set menu which delivers classy food at affordable prices. The terrace is a perfect spot for a special meal at any time of day.
Best for: Wonderful walking routes
The market town of Chipping Norton is an idyllic spot for a countryside getaway. Home to beautiful stone buildings, antique shops and great places to eat, the Cotswold village is full of character. If you’re looking for fantastic walks and glorious countryside within hours of London, there is no better place to visit.
The town is one of the highest points in the Cotswolds, making it the perfect base for walking through the surrounding countryside. From St Mary’s Church, you can easily join wooded footpaths along the River Cleeves where dogs are allowed to roam freely. If you’re not sure of the best route for you, locally organised walks are on offer throughout the year.
If you want to find out more about the town, there is a fantastic local museum to enjoy. If more interested in getting to know the place for yourself, the bustling high street many antique and local bookshops to explore.
Best place to drink: Chequers is the perfect place to unwind after a long day’s walk. The pub offers a wide selection of beers and an impressive selection of wine and spirits. Once you’ve enjoyed a drink, the friendly staff are always happy to suggest the best routes for your next day’s adventure.
Best place to eat: The Wild Thyme Restaurant offers a traditional English menu in the fantastic setting of a Grade II listed townhouse. If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion or enjoy a romantic meal for two, the beautifully presented food and exceptional service make this hidden gem hard to beat.