All Articles 5 best cities to visit near London and what you can do in each

5 best cities to visit near London and what you can do in each

People walking on a boardwalk towards Brighton Palace Pier
Image: Evgeny Klimenchenko / Unsplash
Poonam Binayak
By Poonam Binayak1 Dec 2022 4 minutes read

With so much to see in London, you can have a great time in England without ever venturing outside the capital. But just a few hours outside of the city and you can find yourself amongst vastly different landscapes, from geothermal pools and dramatic coasts to quiet beaches and small English towns. If you have time for a day trip or two, here are 5 best cities near London to add to your trip.

1. Manchester

People and vehicles bustling about on Princess Street
Image: Mangopear creative / Unsplash

How to get there: 2-hour train ride from London

Good for: Football and live music

Home to two major English football teams and a thriving music scene, Manchester in northwest England is a real treat for a weekend break. Immerse yourself in the history, culture, and flavors of Manchester on a walking tour or guided food tour. Football fans can join a behind-the-scenes tour of the iconic Etihad Stadium or delve into the history of the country’s favorite sport at the National Football Museum—best experienced during football season between September to December. The 19th-century John Rylands Library is also worth a visit for its spectacular Victorian-Gothic architecture.

Experience Manchester’s nightlife with a pint at local institution Port Street Beer House, which carries over 100 beers from across the world, including gluten-free options. As the birthplace of iconic English rock bands like The Stone Roses, The Smiths, and Oasis, make time for live tunes at The Deaf Institute or Band on the Wall, which are popular spots for music lovers.

Where to stay: Check out INNSIDE Manchester, located close to the city’s best attractions, or Hotel Football, a football-themed hotel.

2. Bath

Boat cruising along a river bank with a view of a nice building at the background
Image: Toby Osborn / Unsplash

How to get there: 1.5-hour train ride from London

Good for: A relaxing spa break

Located in southwest England, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is just a short train ride away from London. Home to 2000-year-old Roman Baths, Bath was in the business of wellness long before it was a trend. While you can’t swim in the waters of the baths, you can explore the complex on a guided tour and enjoy a spa treatment at the nearby Thermae Bath Spa.

The city, though, isn’t just about rest and recuperation. Walk the streets of Bath with a Blue Badge Tourist Guide and admire Georgian architectural masterpieces like the Pulteney Bridge and Royal Crescent—a collection of terraced townhouses—before refueling at The Pump Room. Then, slow it down and take a boat trip on the River Avon. If you’re a Bridgerton fan, you don’t want to miss this anecdote-filled tour of the Netflix hit’s filming locations.

Where to stay: Book the plush Francis Hotel or Bath Priory for easy access to the city’s best spots. 

3. Oxford

Aerial view of medieval Oxford buildings
Image: Sidharth Bhatia / Unsplash

How to get there: 1.5-hour drive from London

Good for: Medieval architecture

Home to the country’s oldest university, Oxford in southeast England on the edge of the Cotswolds is a small city that can be explored in a day. Join a student-guided campus walking tour to see highlights like Radcliffe Camera and the 17th-century Bodleian Library, or hop on a punting tour down the River Cherwell. The University Church of St Mary the Virgin is also worth a visit for the postcard-perfect views from its towers. For food, tuck into a modern European menu at Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant or Cherwell Boathouse Restaurant.

Where to stay: Immerse yourself in Oxford’s history at Old Bank House or Malmaison Oxford, a former prison.

4. Brighton

People near the Brighton Palace Pier viewing the ocean
Image: Ben Guerin / Unsplash

How to get there: 1-hour train ride from London

Good for: Nostalgic seaside fun

Since the 1840s, Brighton on England’s south coast has been a favorite weekend seaside getaway for city-dwelling Londoners. Join a walking tour to explore the city’s popular landmarks like the 19th-century Royal Pavilion and The Lanes, before heading to the pebbled Brighton Beach. Adrenaline-seekers can try water sports, fly over the waves on a zip wire, or head up to the Sky Walk around the Brighton i360’s viewing pod. For nostalgic fairground fun, head to Brighton Pier.

Hungry? This food tour will introduce you to the best food stops in Brighton. This seaside town is popular in summer, so watch out for the crowds between July and August.

Where to stay: Enjoy the sea views from Brighton Harbour Hotel or Blanch House.

5. Cardiff

Pink sun set over Cardiff Bay
Image: Nick Fewings / Unsplash

How to get there: 2-hour train ride from London

Good for: History and nightlife

Step back in time with an easy day trip to Cardiff, a historic city in the southeast of Wales. Take in Victorian-era landmarks like Cardiff Castle and modern buildings like Principality Stadium on this hop-on hop-off bus tour. Meanwhile, active travelers can take a boat tour, walk or bike along the Cardiff Bay Barrage to admire the views of the Welsh capital.

Check out the city’s culinary scene at Cardiff Bay’s Mermaid Quay, which has a slew of cool restaurants and bars. As the sun goes down, head to St. Mary Street for a night out. As the heart of downtown Cardiff’s nightlife, the street is lined with clubs, cocktail bars, and Irish pubs. Grab a classic or modern cocktail at Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice award-winning Be At One Cardiff. Alternatively, pop into live music venues like the legendary The Live Lounge or Clwb Ifor Bach.

Where to stay: Crash at the modest Sleeperz Hotel or splash out at the vine-covered Georgian-style New House Country Hotel.

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Poonam Binayak
Poonam Binayak is a Bangalore-based writer. Her work has appeared in various digital and print publications including CNN Travel, Telegraph Travel, Time Out, Culture Trip, Fodor's, Matador Network, TripSavvy, Away's Here Magazine and TravelAge West, among others. Follow her on instagram @poonam.binayak