We all know London can be an expensive city – if you don’t know how to see it like a local that is – but what about getting out of the capital to discover some fabulous places around?
Well, just like the locals know how to do London cheaply, so they also know the best places to visit from the capital in a day… and how to get to them cheaply too.
So after my recent pitstop back in my old stomping ground, I decided to uncover exactly what they were by asking friends and family for their top London day trips and then following their advice!
Unlike a lot of London day trip articles I read when researching where to go, these day trips really are day trips from London!
They won’t take you to Edinburgh or Paris or Liverpool because, quite frankly, while you can get to those places and back in a day from London, it’ll barely leave you enough time to grab 1 quick snap before you have to turn around!
In my opinion therefore, these places really aren’t London day trips – they are just places you can get to in a day from London!
On the other hand (*clears throat*), the following top 20 London day trips are places you can easily reach within 2 hours from the capital, making them both time and budget-friendly brilliant options!
So I won’t leave you hanging any longer!
Here are the top 20 day trips from London if you’re travelling on a budget…
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#1 Bath, Somerset
Located in the county of Somerset, Bath is a long, but very rewarding day trip from London – and it’s easily doable on a budget if you book your train tickets in advance.
With tons of insta-worthy cobbled streets, character-filled bars and old buildings, you don’t have to spend a lot when you’re here, with many places to snap and wander for free… including along the river!
Check out the UNESCO World Heritage Bath Abbey and the famous Royal Crescent from outside for free and save your money for the Roman Baths, which truly are worth the splurge as you can lose yourself there for a good few hours.
Discover more about the best things to see and do in this city in my perfect Bath day trip itinerary.
#2 Stonehenge & Salisbury, Wiltshire
It’s a double classic and an absolute family favourite, there’s no question the combination of Stonehenge and Salisbury is on my list of the top London day trips to make on a budget.
Because yes, despite being a perennial and popular winner, taking a trip here can be surprisingly cost-effective, especially if you use the Stonehenge Tour Bus and / or you’re an English Heritage or National Trust member!
Catch the train to Salisbury and see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, the Cathedral and an original copy of the Manga Carta in a day to tick 4 UNESCO giants off your list!
You can easily drive here and explore the area independently, or take an arranged day trip from London too.
All these options are explored in my article about how to travel from London to Stonehenge.
Or, learn about all the different sorts of Stonehenge tickets there are, which are most cost-effective, and which you should buy, in this article I wrote.
However you get there and whichever way you visit this 5 thousand-year-old Stone Circle however, just make sure you do!
#3 Seven Sisters, East Sussex
If you didn’t think England had any wild and dramatic landscapes, then think again, because the cliffs of the Seven Sisters are about to prove you wrong!
Located down in East Sussex, and part of the impressive South Downs National Park, these towering chalk cliffs (similar to Dover but different!) are set between the town of Eastbourne and Seaford.
Beachy Head, the highest chalk sea cliff in Great Britain, is situated along here and, to the west of that, a series of beautiful walks will take you through the national park and along the cliff edges to cute villages and pebbly coves like that of Cuckmere Haven.
This is a great day trip for those who want to take in huge gulps of fresh sea air and get their stomp on too!
Either you can drive here, arrive by public transport, or take a tour from London, all of which are reasonably priced.
Learn more about all these options, plus everything you need to know about visiting the Seven Sisters, in this full guide I wrote about the place.
#4 Oxford, Oxfordshire
Is this the most famous university city in the world?
And you know what, it’s no less amazing for it!
One of the best day trips from London without question, the best way to get to Oxford on a budget is by bus – either the good old National Express or the Megabus if you’re especially skint!
Wander the picture-perfect university halls of this ancient city or head to the more trendy Cowley Road to experience a bit of Oxford’s more alternative side.
For a small city, Oxford has a lot going on and wonderfully combines historical attractions with beautiful parks and green spaces.
Of all the best budget day trips from London on this list, Oxford has to rank as one of my favourites, so don’t miss it!
Check out this guide I wrote about how to enjoy the perfect Oxford day trip if you want to learn more.
#5 Whitstable, Kent
Whitstable, on the Kent coast, is a fantastic seaside day out form London if you’re looking to get your vitamin sea fix!
A quaint and quirky place full of great independent shops, cafe, art galleries and antique stores, there’s also some wonderful coastal walking and cycle tracks that lead from here, as well as some of the best oysters and / or fish and chips you can get in England!
But best of all is Whitstable Beach – a shingle stretch of coastline that boasts amazing paddling potential, pints on the pebbles and kayaking / SUP-ing opps, as well as one of the best ocean sunsets in the UK.
#6 Box Hill, Surrey
If it’s country views, rather than coastal views, that you’re after however, then you really can’t go wrong with a budget London day trip to Box Hill.
Located in Surrey, just south of the capital, this is a very easy and quick one to access either via public transport or in a vehicle.
A famous National Trust area known for its beautiful sweeping views, the elevated nature of Box Hill and the wonderful nature around it, makes it ideal for those who want to get out of the city for a good walk and some fresh air.
Check out my list of the 6 best Box Hill walks here – they’re all free!
#7 Battle & Hastings, East Sussex
But now we’re back to the coast for this double day trip whammy that brings the best of history and British seaside splendour to the fore.
Site of the famous Battle of Hastings – there’s no question the small town of the same name down in Sussex is a worth a few hours of your time to explore and learn about this incredible event that shaped the country’s history forever.
Then, just a few stops on via the train, you get to the seaside escape of Hastings – a wonderfully vintage and kitsch coastal destination complete with a heritage-feel old town, traditional fishing port, stunning pier, sweeping promenade and some great mini coves and clifftop views to take.
Combining these 2 destinations, which are really close together, is an ideal London day trip and totally accessible to those on a budget thanks to very cheap train fares.
Learn more in this post I wrote all about my favourite things to do in and around Hastings.
#8 Thames Path, Oxfordshire
There’s miles of the Thames Path to explore, and pretty much all the stretches of it make great London day trips on a budget – after all, walking along the peaceful banks of this world-famous river, via a well-marked trail which runs from the Cotswolds to Henley, won’t cost you a penny!
You can learn about completing the whole length of the Thames Path in 6 days here, otherwise, pick a section and head out from London to explore the gentle surrounds of the city at their best.
One of my favourite stretches has to be between from Goring in Oxfordshire through to Pangbourne in Berkshire, where there’s plenty of lovely places to swim in the river or relax on the banks as you trundle along.
#9 Canterbury + White Cliffs of Dover, Kent
Absolutely one of the best places to visit in Kent, and a very famous and easy day trip from London, is heading to the historic city of Canterbury – a site of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages and home to one of the oldest religious buildings in England.
You can also combine visiting Canterbury with some other sites in Kents, including the White Cliffs of Dover or Leeds Castle (yes confusingly it’s in Kent, I know!) either as part of your own independent itinerary or an organised day trip from London.
#10 Rye and Camber Sands, East Sussex
One of my favourite London day trips on a budget, because it combines one of England’s prettiest historic towns with one of its most gorgeous stretches of coastline, what really makes this one a winner for me is the fact it allows you to get a walk in aswell!
Catch the train to Rye from either London Bridge or St Pancras and in under 2 hours you can be in this Instagram fav, where the Medieval streets and quaint buildings will have you feeling like you’re walking through a real-life museum.
Once you’ve had your fill of cobbles and cuteness, it’s then time to set out for the beach, with a delightful 3 mile trail leading you straight to this gorgeous sandy strip.
Spend the afternoon here on the sand, enjoying the sea views, before retracing your steps and ticking this brilliant budget London day trip off your list with aplomb.
Learn all about how to plan and enjoy a top London day trip to Rye and Camber Sands here.
#11 Chiltern Hills, Hertfordshire & Buckinghamshire
Everyone knows walking is a great free activity when you travel, and one of the best day trips out of London for a good old stroll is the Chiltern Hills.
Trains take as little as 30 minutes from Central London (most depart from London Euston) and will transport you to any number of picturesque market towns such as Hitchin, Henley-on-Thames, Pangbourne, Berkhamsted or Tring where you’ll find rolling green countryside, quintessential pubs and historic sites.
Some Chiltern towns, such as Amersham, are even accessible using the London Underground, making them super cheap to get to as you can use your Oyster or Contactless cards.
Once in the Chiltern Hills you can enjoy riverside walks along the Thames Path, strolls around the charming towns or even bigger hikes into the surrounding rolling countryside if you’re feeling energetic!
Wonderful gastro-pubs, cafes and restaurants can be found in all the main towns here, as well as along the canals and scattered around the countryside, making the Chiltern Hills a great spot for a day trip or longer!
#12 Margate, Kent
One of my all time favourite day trips from London, Margate is a faded seaside town making a serious revival!
Its vintage, quirky feel is very distinct and at it oozes a seriously cool vibe at some seriously cool prices!
Going out for dinner or drinks here will cost you around half of what it costs in London and you’ll do it all to the sound of the sea.
With the Turner Contemporary art gallery here free to enter and loads of great cafes (both authentic greasy spoons and hipster, vegan hangouts) not only does Margate make for a great budget day trip from London, but also a super great weekend trip too.
Learn exactly how to travel from London to Margate here.
#13 Saffron Walden & Cambridge, Essex & Cambridgeshire
Booking your bus ticket in advance to get to Cambridge cheaply and easily from London definitely makes this one of the best city day trips on a budget.
Once in this iconic University city, why not stroll the historic streets of this famous destination, take a guided tour with a university graduate or punt along the river instead.
There’s also some amazing bookshops to get lost in too!
It’s worth knowing that both the Fitzwilliam Museum and the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology are free to enter in this city and you can visit some of the Cambridge Colleges for a reasonable price too.
Check out my list of the top 10 things to do in Cambridge here.
If you’re driving to Cambridge, then don’t miss a stop in the historic market town of Saffron Walden on the way – parts of it have been around since 1141!
It’s also useful to know that this town has a number of trails you can follow to discover its history – download the information and steps to follow in advance here.
If you’re looking to explore elsewhere in Essex beyond Saffron Walden, then it’s hard to go past the amazing coastal spot of Mersea Island – known for its golden sandy sweeps and cute beach huts.
Learn more in this guide I wrote to visiting Mersea Island.
#14 Tunbridge Wells, Kent
A charming old spa town situated in Kent, and a short and cheap journey by train from London Charing Cross, you can score some real bargains on getting to Tunbridge Wells if you book your ticket a day or 2 in advance.
And once you get to Tunbridge Wells enjoy cosy cafes, lovely parks and a stroll to the historic part of this “Royal” town known as The Pantiles.
Here, independent shops and cobbled streets give a very charming feel to this historically renowned town, which was once favoured by Queen Victoria for its clean air and the healing properties of its waters.
#15 Brighton, East Sussex
If a seaside sojourn is what you’re looking for, then it really is hard to beat Brighton as one of the top London day trips.
If you head here on the train from London Bridge it will be a lot cheaper than getting on the train from London Victoria, so take this budget tip and enjoy the short hour and 15 minute journey for less!
Once in Brighton, you can’t miss a walk on the pier, playing the arcades and strolling the cobbled Laines (north and south!) to discover quirky shops like Snooper’s Paradise where you can pick up a real bargain piece of treasure!
The Vegan Pizza joint, Purezza Brighton, in Kemp Town is a firm locals’ favourite for its delicious healthy dinners!
And if getting some fresh air is for more your thing, then hitting the pebbly beach in Brighton, or heading out to the South Downs National Park, which lies on the city’s doorstep, is a must.
#16 Winchester, Hampshire
And if you want to access the huge South Downs National Park from the other end – perhaps to begin a good walk or multi-day hike here, then there’s no better to place to head than the city of Winchester.
Also home to a famous Cathedral, if you’re coming to this city as part of a day trip from London, then picking a nice circular walk just outside of the city, and combining this with some wandering of the historic streets here, makes for the perfect combination.
Otherwise, you can make Winchester your first stop in a longer trip that either tackles some of the South Downs Way or takes you deeper into Hampshire or perhaps even on to Dorset or Somerset.
Check out my list of the top 13 things to do in Winchester here.
#17 Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is a great budget day trip from London because it’s so close!
Once there however, you’ll feel anything like you’re on the cheap, with the chance to visit several places with very Royal connections.
Top of the list has to be Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.
There’s also Frogmore House and Dorney Court to check out too – both of which have very regal connections, as well as the Windsor Great Park which is a lovely place to relax, picnic and spot deer!
And then, of course, there’s also Eton College where Prince William and Harry went to school.
Amble past Eton as part of the Heritage Walking Trail – a free route which takes in many of Windsor’s best sites, including the Castle, the Thames and the winding, cobbled streets of the town itself.
Otherwise, why not explore the amazing Windsor Long Walk?
This 2+mile straight avenue from Snow Hill down to Windsor Castle is certainly something you won’t forget in a while!
#18 Chichester & Bognor Regis, West Sussex
Situated in East Sussex, Chichester isn’t the cheapest to get to on this best budget day trips from London list.
It does, however, have a stack of free things to do once you get there and, situated on the coast, is a very beautiful spot indeed.
Top of the list when it comes to free things to do in Chichester is visit the famous Cathedral, the child-friendly Novium Museum and the Grade-I listed Pallant House Gallery.
There’s also lots to do out in nature, including the 9km Centurian Way, which is perfect for cyclists and walkers, and West Witterings Beach – a long sandy stretch with plenty of water sports, strolling, sunbathing or swimming to choose from.
With its origins dating back to Roman times, there’s no doubt Chichester has withstood the test of time as one of the UK’s most charming cities, so head on over and see why!
And, if you needed another reason then, just down the road, the sandy beach town of Bognor Regis can’t be overlooked if you’re visiting in the summer.
One of the best spots for a paddle in this part of the UK, it’s a seaside fav!
#19 Hampton Court, Surrey
Just on the outskirts of London, this historic gem (part of the Royal Palaces collection) is an absolute beauty, and what you save on the low transport costs to get here, you can splurge on the entrance fee!
Located within the borough of Richmond, despite its close location to the capital, if you’re not already in the southwest of London it can take a while to get to Hampton Court.
Plus, there’s much to do when you are here, that this place really deserves a day trip all on its own.
From mazes to strolls along the Thames, visiting the Palace of Henry VII to The Gardens and The Wilderness of this beautiful property, it’s a great day out for all the family and a London day trip classic!
#20 Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire
And finally, we come to number 20 on this list of the best London day trips on a budget and also the furthest one away from London.
Yes situated in the West Midlands, Stratford-Upon-Avon does take a while to get to, but it’s such a popular day trip from the capital, especially for those literary fans, that I couldn’t not include it here!
An 800-year old market town and the birthplace of William Shakespeare, this charming town, spread along the banks of the River Avon, is a must for all fans of the Bard!
Don’t miss a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company if you come here independently or combine a trip to this town with a visit to the Cotswolds and Oxford as part of this great organised London day trip.
Top 4 Budget Tips for London Travel
Otherwise, when it comes to hostel accommodation, you can’t go wrong with the amazingly named Barmy Badger Backpackers!
For something with some hipster vibes, try Kingsland Locke in Shoreditch – the heart of East London. This gorgeous design hotel is perfect for those wanting a trendy stay in the centre of London’s coolest district… and yes, I live just down the road so I am biased!
Getting to London from elsewhere in UK is cheapest via the Megabus.
Otherwise, if you want to catch the train, I always use Trainline to find the best rail deals across the UK thanks to their split-fare technology.
Coming to London from further afield, budget airlines EasyJet and Ryanair offer cheap European air connections.
Use Skyscanner to look for flights to cheap London airports, such as Luton or Stanstead, and then use public transport to get to the city centre.
When in London, or any other UK cities, buy cheap snacks and lunch options at supermarkets such as Sainburys, or shops such as Boots.
Within London, peruse the local markets at places like Brixton or Dalston for great groceries and street eats during the day.
For dinner, head to Brick Lane for delicious, cheap curry or to Kingsland Road for well-priced and excellent Vietnamese fare.
If you want to tick off a lot of bucket list stuff in London in a short amount of time, then a great money-saving option is to invest in a London Pass.
This offers discounted entry at stacks of attractions around the city as well as fast track entry!
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So there you have it, my list of the best budget day trips from London.
How many have you visited?
And which one are you going to next?
Do tell me all in the comments box below…