Last Updated on September 24, 2020 by Anisa
In the winter, when it’s cold, you may be tempted to stay in London and visit some of the museums. That’s not the only option. There are some fabulous winter day trips from London that are worth the extra travel time.
In this post, I will share a little more about winters in London and details of the ten best day trips from London in the winter. The hardest thing may be choosing only one.
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Winter Weather in London
In general, I prefer warm climates, so the weather in London during the winter leaves much to be desired. It can be cold, gray, windy, and wet. On the bright side, snow is rare. The other thing you need to keep in mind is that it does get dark early in England during the winter. Once it starts getting dark it does get colder. For the most part, the weather shouldn’t stop you from seeing places as long as you dress appropriately for the cold weather.
The Best Winter Day Trips from London
There are lots of day trips within easy reach of London. Since it is the hub of the rail network, you can get to a lot of places fast. Keep in mind, train tickets can be expensive so you will want to book in advance and buy a specific train time.
In the winter, you do need to think about the weather when deciding where to go for a day trip. Most of the places on this list of day trips from London to do in the winter have indoor attractions.
While England may not have Christmas Markets that are as iconic as ones in Germany and other parts of Europe, there are definitely a few that are worth visiting. I have included those on this list.
In general, since Winter is not the peak tourist season in England, attractions will be less crowded so it’s a great opportunity to see more. Christmas markets are the exception to this rule. Expect them to be busy, especially on weekends.
Also, most of these winter day trips have day tour options. Those are perfect for people who don’t want to deal with public transportation on their own. If you are tight on time, check out these half day trips from London.
#1 Day Trip to Windsor in the Winter
If you are interested in art, history, or the Royal Family, then a visit to Windsor is a must. Unlike Buckingham Palace, which is only open for a few months each year, Windsor Castle, where Queen Elizabeth spends most of her weekends, is open year around. It’s a perfect day trip for the winter because you can spend most of your time inside the Castle.
Make sure to get your ticket in advance though. Otherwise, you will be waiting in a long line outside in the cold. If you are planning on doing a day trip to Windsor to see the castle, consider getting the London Pass. It includes both admission to Windsor Castle and your train ticket from London to Windsor. Click here to learn more about the London Pass.
If you don’t have the London Pass, click here to buy your ticket to Windsor Castle in advance.
Things to do during a Winter Day Trip to Windsor
- Arrive early to catch the changing of the guard at 11:00 am.
- Do the audio tour (included in your admission price) of Windsor Castle. It will guide you through the Castle including the State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel. During December, the castle is all decked out for Christmas.
- Afternoon Tea on a Boat. Offered Friday through Sunday during the winter. Be sure to book in advance especially if you have any dietary restrictions. More info here.
- If you have time after touring Windsor Castle, check out the Windsor Royal Shopping Center, an old Victorian train station now filled with shops and restaurants. It’s nice they still kept many original features including the Jubilee arch, the cobbled stones, and Queen Victoria’s Royal Waiting Room.
How to Get to Windsor from London
It’s easy to get to Windsor from London. It’s a little more than an hour on the train from London Waterloo station. Buy your train ticket in advance to get the best deal. Click here to check the pricing and schedule.
For those that don’t want to venture to Windsor on their own, there are several guided tour options:
- Half-day Windsor Castle tour from London
- Windsor Castle Tour and Traditional Lunch
- London: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge & Bath Full-Day Tour
- Windsor, Oxford and Stonehenge Day Tour from London
#2 Day Trip to Cambridge in the Winter
Cambridge is a beautiful city that has lots to offer in both the winter and summer. Of course, there is the famous university, but there is much more to see when you visit Cambridge for a day.
What to do on a Winter Day Trip to Cambridge
- Go punting on the Cam. In case you haven’t heard the term “punting” before, it is similar to boating on a gondola but with a pole (called a punt) rather than a stick. While you may think of punting in Cambridge as a summer activity, it is actually offered all year. If you do one of the punting tours, they will provide blankets.
- Tour one of the colleges. Some of the most popular are King’s College, St. John’s College, and Trinity College (don’t miss the Wren Library). You could also take a tour of the university led by a graduate like this one.
- Visit one of the beautiful churches. The stained glass and ceiling of King’s College Chapel are breathtaking.
- Check out one of the interesting museums in Cambridge. The Fitzwilliam is the most popular but there are other smaller museums for archeology, art, and history. All the museums are free to visit.
How to Get from London to Cambridge
To get to Cambridge from London, take the train from either London’s King Cross or Liverpool Street Stations. It takes about an hour to get there. Click here to check pricing and schedules.
If you want a cheaper transportation option, there are National Express buses that leave from the London Victoria Coach Station and take about two hours. Get more information about the buses to Cambridge here.
If you don’t want to venture to Cambridge on your own, there are some guided tours like this one.
#3 Day Trip to Bath in the Winter
Bath is one of the most popular day trips from London. The city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its Roman ruins, the 18th-century architecture, hot springs, and landscape setting.
What to do on a Winter Day Trip to Bath
- You can’t say you have visited Bath without going to see the Roman Baths, so start your day trip to Bath there.
- Book lovers will also want to visit the Jane Austen Centre to learn more about the author who lived in Bath.
- It’s also worth visiting the Bath Abbey which is more like a cathedral. This church dates back to the 11th century, but it’s not in ruins like other English abbeys (i.e. Whitby and Fountains Abbey).
- Take a boat ride in a traditional 1960’s small river cruiser. Get more info here.
- Architecture fans should make sure to also see the Royal Crescent which was completed in 1767.
- In addition to the historic sites, Bath has a popular Christmas Market. The city is even prettier in the winter with all the Christmas decorations. You can also go ice skating at the rink in Royal Victoria Park.
How to Get from London to Bath
To get to Bath from London, the train from Paddington Station will be your fastest option. It only takes an hour and a half. Click here to check pricing and schedules. If you are looking for a cheaper way to get to Bath, then there is the National Express bus from Victoria station, but that will take three hours. Get more information about the buses to Bath here.
If you prefer, there are many guided Bath day trip tours. There are several options that include visits to other popular attractions like Stonehenge, Avebury, Windsor Castle, and Lacock:
- London: Stonehenge and Bath Full-Day Tour
- London: Stonehenge, Bath & West Country Day Trip
- London: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge & Bath Full-Day Tour
- Stonehenge, Bath, Lacock & Avebury Full-Day Tour from London
#4 Day Trip to Hampton Court in the Winter
Hampton Court was one of Henry VIII’s favorite residences, and it’s definitely worth a visit at any time of the year. It’s the best place to learn more about one of England’s most influential kings.
Be sure to get your tickets to Hampton Court in advance. You can save money by purchasing a family ticket (if appropriate) here or by getting a Three Royal Palaces Pass here which also includes admission to the Tower of London and Kensington Palace. Hampton Court Palace is also included on the London Pass. Click here for more information on the London Pass.
What to Do on a Winter Day Trip to Hampton Court
- Tour the Palace – highlights include the lavish State Rooms, Great Hall, and the Tudor Kitchen.
- Visit the Hampton Court gardens, which are open in the winter. If you dress warmly, you can still enjoy the famous hedge-maze which is the oldest surviving one in the world.
- During the Christmas season, the Palace has an ice skating rink, Christmas Fayre, and evening carol singing.
How to Get from London to Hampton Court
It’s not far to travel to Hampton Court from London. From London Waterloo station, it’s less than an hour on the train and then a short walk to the palace. Click here to check pricing and schedules.
If you prefer there are private tours to Hampton Court that include transportation. Click here for more information.
#5 Day Trip to the Harry Potter Studio in the Winter
The Harry Potter Studio tour is a must for any serious Potterhead. You get to go behind-the-scenes of the Harry Potter films including visiting the sets for the Great Hall, Dumbledore’s Office, and Diagon Alley.
During the winter season, the Studio is transformed into what is called “Hogwarts in the Snow.” All the famous movie sets are decorated for the season – fires roar in the fireplaces, the Gryffindor common room is filled with Christmas treats, and the Hogwarts castle model is covered in a blanket of snow.
Like other Harry Potter attractions, the Studio Tour is popular, so it’s best to buy your tickets in advance here. Also, Harry Potter fans should consider doing a Harry Potter walking tour while in London.
What to do on a Harry Potter Studio Winter Day Trip
- Climb aboard the original Hogwarts Express, learn about the effects and animatronics, and fly on a broomstick.
- Drink some delicious Butterbeer.
- Don’t miss the glittering Christmas trees and flaming Christmas puddings in the Great Hall.
- Learn how different types of artificial snow, ice, and fires were created and used in the films!
How to Get to the Harry Potter Studios from London
Take the train from London Euston Station 20 minutes to Watford Junction where regular shuttle buses will take you directly to the Studio. Click here to check pricing and schedules.
You could also do this tour that combines your visit to the Harry Potter Studios with a visit to Oxford.
#6 Day Trip to Oxford in the Winter
Oxford is the city of dreaming spires and is worth visiting all year around. Like Cambridge, Oxford is home to a famous university and world-class museums so there are several options if you want to be inside. However, unlike Cambridge, they do not offer punting in December or January.
What to do on a Winter Day Trip to Oxford
- Tour one or more of the colleges. Harry Potter fans will want to visit Christ Church College where a few scenes from the movies were filmed. To learn more about the university’s history, a guided tour like this one is ideal.
- The most popular museum in Oxford is the Ashmolean. It’s free to visit and has an interesting mix of everything.
- You could also visit the Bodleian libraries (the second largest in the UK).
- Stop in at the world-famous The Eagle and The Child a favorite spot for the Inklings, who were an informal group of writers, including C.S. Lewis (the author of the Chronicles of Narnia children’s books), J.R.R. Tolkien (who wrote Lord of the Rings), Charles Williams, and Hugo Dyson.
- While Oxford is not considered a Christmas destination, they do have a small Christmas market or you could probably find some unique gifts at the Covered Market.
How to Get from London to Oxford
To get to Oxford, you can take trains from either London Paddington or Marylebone. It takes around an hour. Check the train schedules and pricing here.
National Express provides 24-hour service to Oxford from London Victoria Station. Check schedules and pricing with National Express here. There is also a bus service called the Oxford Tube, which runs frequently from Victoria Station and has a few other stops in London. Find more information about the Oxford Tube here.
You can also visit Oxford on a tour from London. There are several options, some of which include other popular attractions as well:
- Oxford Full-Day Tour from London with Train Transfers
- Oxford, Stratford, and Cotswolds: Day Trip from London
- Windsor, Oxford and Stonehenge Day Tour from London
#7 Day Trip to Manchester in the Winter
Manchester is one of the biggest cities in the UK. You will find plenty to do on a day trip whether it is winter or summer. It is also a fun place to celebrate the Christmas season, New Year’s Eve, and the Chinese New Year.
What to do on a Winter Day Trip to Manchester
- Football (soccer) fans will be in heaven as Manchester is home to two of the most iconic teams in the English Premier League. You can visit the National Football Museum (click here to buy tickets in advance) or tour either of the team’s stadiums (book a Manchester City Stadium Tour here or a tour of Old Trafford, Manchester United’s Stadium here).
- If you want to attend one of the football games, you will need to plan ahead as games are always sold out. Don’t attempt to buy tickets from a third-party unless they are licensed. Stubhub could be a good option, since they offer a guarantee, but tickets are not cheap.
- If you are interested in art, be sure to visit the Manchester Art Gallery or the Whitworth Art Gallery. Near the Whitworth, you will find the Manchester Museum, which is known for its Egyptian collection. (Those interested in learning more about ancient Egypt should be sure to visit the British Museum in London too.) All these museums offer free entry.
- In Manchester, they make a big deal out of Christmas. The season kicks off with a Lights Switch-On event complete with fireworks. The Christmas Markets have more than 300 stalls throughout the city center. They also have a big fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.
- Since Manchester has the largest Chinatown in Europe, they also make a big deal out of the Chinese New Year. There is a huge, three-day Chinese New Year festival across much of the city center with food and craft fairs, plenty of noise, and a big dragon parade.
How to Get from London to Manchester
To get to Manchester from London for a day trip you will need to either take a train or fly. The train leaves from London Euston Station and takes a little more than two hours to get to Manchester Piccadilly Station. Check the pricing and schedules here.
You can fly from Heathrow to Manchester airport on British Airways in about an hour but it will be more expensive and also not as environmentally friendly. There are buses from London Victoria which would be your cheapest option but it will take 4 ½ – 6 ½ hours so it is not practical for a day trip.
#8 Day Trip to York in the Winter
In my opinion, York is the prettiest city in England and I wouldn’t want to let the cold weather stop you from seeing it. I feel like I have gone back in time walking around some of the streets in York.
What to Do on a Winter Day Trip to York
- Spend some of the day inside at the York Minster, the National Railway Museum, the York Castle Museum, the York Dungeon, or the York Chocolate Story. If you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing, you can probably save money by purchasing the York Pass. Get more info about the York Pass here.
- If you plan ahead, you could have afternoon tea at Betty’s.
- Don’t miss the Shambles, it’s arguably the prettiest street in England.
- If the weather isn’t too bad, do the city wall walk. You can also visit St. Mary’s Abbey which is now in ruins and climb up Clifford’s Tower for some amazing views. Note: Clifford’s Tower is an English Heritage Site. English Heritage members and those with the English Heritage Visitor’s Pass can visit for free.
- If you happen to be visiting in December during the St.Nicholas Christmas Market, then plan on spending some time there. When you need a break from shopping, step inside Thor’s Teepee for some warm drinks. York is even prettier during the Christmas season, the city goes all out with the decorations.
How to Get from London to York
To get to York from London, take the East Coast Main Line train from King’s Cross. After about two hours, you will arrive at York Station. Click here to check pricing and schedules.
There are buses from London Victoria to York but they take over five hours, so it’s not practical for a day trip.
#9 Day Trip to Birmingham in the Winter
Birmingham is often overlooked as a place to visit in England, but during Christmas time it is one of the best places to be. The Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest Christmas market found outside Germany and Austria.
What to Do on a Winter Day Trip to Birmingham
- At the Christmas Market, there is plenty of German food, mulled wine, and Christmas Carols. Don’t miss the singing Christmas moose (known as Chris Moose) who is located in front of the Council House entrance. The Christmas Market opens in early November and runs until December 23rd.
- The Birmingham Library is a stunning work of modern architecture. It is worth a visit to see the largest collection of Shakespeare’s works in the UK and also the outdoor garden which has impressive views over the city.
- A short walk from the library is the Birmingham Museum. The art gallery has the largest public Pre-Raphaelite collection in the world. There is also a dedicated gallery for the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest find of Anglo-Saxon gold ever.
How to Get to Birmingham from London
The best way to get from London to Birmingham is to take the train. There are frequent trains from London Euston and London Marylebone to Birmingham New Street Station. The journey takes about an hour and a half. Click here to check prices and schedule.
There is also a bus option but it takes around three hours. Not sure that is a good idea if you are only doing a day trip.
#10 Day Trip to Winchester in the Winter
Winchester is one of those quintessential picturesque English cities, which seems fitting for a city that was the first capital of England. In addition to the historic sites which can be visited all year, in December the city hosts a popular Christmas Market.
What to Do on a Winter Day Trip to Winchester
- A visit to Winchester would not be complete without stopping inside Winchester Cathedral. You can see Jane Austen’s grave and the Winchester Bible, the largest 12th-century English bible. In the crypt, you will find an interesting modern sculpture from Antony Gormley.
- It’s also worth visiting the Great Hall, which is the only building remaining of Winchester Castle. You can see the famous Round Table, Gates commemorating the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and a statue of Queen Victoria.
- Visit the Christmas Market in the Cathedral Close. Take a picture by nativity scene in the British Craft Villages. You can also go ice skating.
How to Get From London to Winchester
To get to Winchester, catch the direct train from London Waterloo station. After approximately an hour, you will arrive at Winchester Station. Click here to check pricing and schedules.
You can also take a bus from Victoria Station which will be cheaper than the train but takes an hour and a half. Click here to check pricing and schedules.
Other London Winter Day Trips to Consider
If you don’t mind being outside in the cold in the winter, there are a few other days trips to consider:
Day Trip to Stonehenge in the Winter
Stonehenge needs no introduction, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in England and open year round. During the winter months, Stonehenge is far less crowded. I hesitate to say that it is one of the best winter day trips to London because the attraction is pretty much all outside.
Many people just visit the stone circle but to truly appreciate the site, you need to see at least some of the other Neolithic sites in the area, which requires a bit of walking, which could be uncomfortable depending on the weather. However, on the Winter Solstice, it might be worth visiting because it is free, but keep in mind there will be bigger crowds.
If you are not visiting on the Solstice, you should book your ticket in advance here. If you are an English Heritage or National Trust Member, you can visit Stonehenge for free. For overseas visitors, it is also included in both the English Heritage Visitor’s Pass and the National Trust Touring Pass.
How to Get to Stonehenge from London
Stonehenge is not the easiest place to get to from London on public transportation. If you can, consider driving to Stonehenge since there is so much to see in the area that tours won’t take you.
If you are not driving, then take the train from London Waterloo Station to Salisbury, which will take about an hour and a half. (Click here to check pricing and schedules). From the Salisbury Train Station, you will need to catch the Stonehenge Tour bus. The bus to Stonehenge runs hourly during the winter and takes about 40 minutes.
You can buy tickets for the Stonehenge Tour Bus online in advance or on the bus. If you decide to go this route, I recommend that you also buy your Stonehenge admission with your bus ticket. Tickets bought with the bus fare are not subject to the timed entry. That way even if there are train or bus delays you don’t have to worry about missing your time slot. It’s also slightly cheaper than paying for the bus and Stonehenge tickets separately.
For those not comfortable navigating to Stonehenge independently or wanting to save time, there are plenty of tours to Stonehenge to choose from like these:
- London: Stonehenge Half-Day Morning or Afternoon Tour
- Stonehenge Express Half-Day Tour from London
- London Open-Top Bus Tour and Stonehenge Visit
- London: Stonehenge and Bath Full-Day Tour
Day Trip from London to the Beach in the Winter
England may not be known as a beach destination but there are plenty of beautiful beaches not too far from London. I didn’t include any beaches on my list of the best winter day trips from London because they require you to spend the day outside. However, if you don’t mind the cold or happen to have a mild winter day, it could be nice to spend time at the beach near London.
The beaches will be less crowded. The water will be too cold to swim, but in my opinion, it’s too cold to swim even in the summer. Keep in mind, some local businesses (i.e. shops and restaurants) may close for the off-season.
Some beach options that can be easily reached from London are:
- Brighton – In addition to the beach, be sure to visit the famous pier. To get to Brighton, take the train from London Bridge or London Victoria. It takes about an hour to get to Brighton.
- Whitstable – Known for its seafood and its beaches. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to Whitstable. You can catch the train from London St Pancras, Cannon Street, or Victoria Stations
- Bournemouth – The beach here is eleven miles long and you will also find shops, gardens, hotels, and restaurants. To get to Bournemouth, take the train from Waterloo. In about two hours you will arrive in Bournemouth.
- Eastbourne – A favorite Victorian seaside retreat with a historic pier. To get to Eastbourne, take the train from London Bridge or London Victoria. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Eastbourne.
- Camber Sands – Regularly voted as one of the best beaches in England, it’s even been featured in Hollywood films. To get to Camber Sands, take the train from London St Pancras to Rye – it will take about an hour.
If you choose one of these options, be sure to check out my ultimate packing list for the beach for ideas on what to bring along.
Should You Do a Day Trip from London in the Winter?
As I mentioned there are countless places to visit around London in winter. If a destination did not make my list, it does not mean it’s a bad choice. However, there are a few things you should take into consideration when deciding if you should do the day trip from London in the Winter.
- Will the main attractions be open? Since winter is the low season for tourism in England some attraction do close for the season. For example, the Deep Fan Bay Shelter at the Dover Cliffs closes for the season and Dover Castle is only open on the weekends during the winter. A day trip to Dover in the winter doesn’t make much sense.
- How long does it take to get there from London? Some attractions in England aren’t very easy to get to. When you only have one day you need to make sure the travel time is reasonable. For me, I like to keep it to around two hours or less.
- How Much Time Will You Spend Outside? I know some people like the cold weather, but not me. During the winter, I tend to prefer indoor attractions.
That being said, the winter weather shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying a day trip from London. There are plenty of winter day trip options where you can spend most of your time inside. Trust me, a winter day trip from London is worth it.
Which day trip from London would you like to do during the winter?
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