No matter what time of year you visit London I think a day trip is an essential part of your London itinerary. But what are the best day trips from London in winter to take? In this guide we round up the best Winter day trips from London including the best day trips from London in December to get into the festive spirit to day trips that work even in the snow or in the rain to make sure your trip to London in Winter is a fantastic one.
Best Winter Day Trips from London
Harry Potter Studio Tour
If you are travelling to London with kids then you are bound to have a Harry Potter fan in your group. London is a great place to visit for the Harry Potter fan and top of any fan’s London bucket list is likely doing the Harry Potter studio tour.
If you are doing a day trip from London in Winter – particularly in the period from Late November to early January you will be visiting the studio during the period they call Hogwarts in the Snow. This is meant to be the most magical time of year to visit the Studio as the whole place is transformed into a Winter Wonderland.
From the large model of Hogwarts you see upon entering that is for this limited period covered in snow, to the Great Hall being decorated in the same manner as the Yule Ball from the fourth film in the franchise – The Goblet of Fire, to Christmas trees roaring fireplaces, festive feasts and of course fake snow across the whole of the studio. This is sure to transport you to Harry Potter winter.
It is always essential to book your studio tour months in advance but Hogwarts in Winter is particularly popular so do be sure to book the tickets in advance.
Windsor in Winter
Whenever we would have guests from out of town when we were living in London and we would ask them what day trip they wanted to do nine times out of ten they would answer Windsor. Whatever the season Windsor is a great day trip from London but there is something special about visiting Windsor in Winter. During the summer months Windsor is usually heaving with tourists and there are queues all around the town – especially at the castle – the main draw for tourists visiting the town. However in Winter the crowds have faded away making it easier and more pleasant to visit Windsor in Winter.
As an added bonus if you are visiting the Windsor castle in the run up to Christmas you will find the castle decorated for the season with beautiful Christmas trees. It is a great place to see a traditional British Christmas setting.
How to get to Windsor in Winter:
By Train: You catch the train from either Waterloo or Paddington dependent on where in the city you are staying. Both of these trains are direct which means you don’t have to navigate any changes. Of the two the Paddington train is the quickest but factor in the added time it will take you to get there if you are closer to Waterloo.
By Car: We have once travelled to Windsor by car rather than train and it is doable but if you plan to take the car then you will need to arrive at Windsor very early as there is limited parking near the town centre and this fills up very early. It is easier to get to Windsor by car in Winter as opposed to summer but for most I would still recommend taking the train from London.
From The Airport: If you have a short stopover in Heathrow (enough time to leave the airport) then you could consider visiting Windsor. However be sure to factor in enough time to get through customs, leave the airport, explore, travel back and check in with enough time.
For a full guide on visiting Windsor on a day trip from London click here!
Hampton court Palace – one of the Best Day Trips From London in Winter
Hampton Court is one of my favourite places in the UK full stop and it is a particularly special place to visit in Winter in the run up to Christmas.
Hampton Court Palace was the favourite palace of Henry VIII having seized the palace from Cardinal Wolsey. It is a great place to learn about the history of the Tudor King. Highlights of a visit to the palace include stepping inside the Tudor kitchens where you can see how feasts on the time we’re prepared. It is extra special at Christmas when these events take on a festive touch.
On top of the live Christmas cooking demonstrations the palace also have special events including carolling, Christmas markets and one of the best ice rinks in all of London.
How to get to Hampton Court Palace in Winter :
Getting to Hampton Court Palace from central London is easy and best done by train. There is a direct train from Waterloo Station.
Although in London this is out at the end of the District Line and really deserves one whole day of your London itinerary to do it probably but for those with limited time you could just spend half a day there or if you are travelling in Winter before Christmas travel for the evening to see the absolutely spectacular Kew Gardens Illuminated.
This special pre Christmas even involves laser projections, light shows singing Holly Buses, Christmas markets and spectacular light displays on the Palm House.
Tickets for this event are timed so be sure to book your tickets well in advance to be sure to get your desired time slot.
If you want to visit in the day there is no need to worry that there won’t be much to see in the gardens as no matter what time of year there is something to see in the Gardens. Be warned even in the Winter the Kew Garden palm houses get hot.
For more details on what to do at Kew Gardens check out this post!
Another of the iconic London day trips, Stonehenge seems to be on many people’s UK bucket lists. Visiting Stonehenge in summer can be a bit of a battle, the roads to it have single file traffic and can get easily congested especially when you are battling with summer holiday tourists but in Winter the journey will be much easier and there will be far fewer crowds at this UNESCO World Heritage site itself.
Stonehenge dates back to Neolithic times and to this day it is not full understood why they were built and by whom. Depending on your ticket will depend on how close you can get to the stones but it is possible to get quite close although of course no touching is allowed.
If you are worried about how much there is to do on site, there is also a museum and a reconstructed neolithic village which means you can easily spend a few hours to half a day on site depending on your interests. If you want a full Winter day trip rather than a half day trip from London then there are lots of tours that combine a visit to Stonehenge with nearby attractions or alternatively you could head into the nearby beautiful town of Salisbury.
How to Get to Stonehenge in Winter :
It is possible to reach Stone henge via public transport. You can take a train from Waterloo to Salisbury and from there you transfer to a bus that will take you directly to the site. In my opinion out of all the day trips listed in this guide this is my least favourite to do via public transport. The alternatives are driving or taking an organised excursion.
By car: It is a relatively easy drive from London out to Stonehenge and there is parking nearby.
If you don’t fancy hiring a car to do a day trip then there are plenty of tours from London that just do Stonehenge or that combine Stonehenge with other attractions such as:
Another great day trip for castle fans. Leeds castle is often called the Prettiest Castle in the world and take one look at it and it is easy to see why. Again, the castle is brilliant to visit whatever time of year you are travelling to London but the castle really goes to town in the run up to Christmas.
The last time we visited was at Christmas and in each room we entered in the castle had a differently and very ornately decorated Christmas tree. I love that the Christmas celebration here are quite traditional and not the commercialised Christmas you see elsewhere.
For a full review of Leeds Castle at Christmas click here!
How to get to Leeds Castle in Winter:
To get to Leeds Castle from London you take the train from London Victoria Station to Bearsted and then take a private transfer to the castle itself.
Oxford is a great city to visit on a Winter day trip from London and in fact is a place that suits visiting in Winter over summer. Summer is exceptionally crowded in the city and even in the shoulder seasons the town is busy with both tourists and students but the Winter period tends of be more quiet.
Highlights of a an Oxford Winter day from London include:
- Visiting the Oxford University Colleges – depending on the day you are visiting will depend on what colleges are open to the public. Our favourites include Christ College, New College and Magdalen College.
- Walking around the Oxford University Botanic Gardens – even in Winter these botanic gardens are a treat
- Enjoying one of the many many Oxford museums which make this perfect for a rainy day day trip from London.
How to get to Oxford in Winter: You can catch the train from both Paddington and Marylebone stations but check before boarding whether your train goes direct or if you will need to change trains at Reading.
There is also a bus service that does transfers to and from Oxford and for those that wish to visit Oxford via car I would recommend using the very efficient park and ride service.
York Winter Day Trip from London
My favourite city in the whole of the UK. If you have time in your itinerary then I would recommend visiting York for a weekend but it is totally doable in one day if that is all the time your London itinerary allows for.
York is a beautiful city in Winter as there are usually great Christmas markets, an ice sculpture festival and even some amazing Christmas illuminations at the York Museum Gardens.
The mix of great indoor activities (such as the National Railway Museum, York Museum and the Castle Museum and of course the stunning York Minster) alongside great outdoor activities means that this day trip is great whatever the weather. Other favourite places to visit in Winter especially if you are visiting York with kids is the York Chocolate Story which tells the story (and gives samples) of York’s history with chocolate and no visit to the city is complete without learning about the city’s Viking history at the Jorvik Viking Centre which kids will adore.
My favourite thing to do in York is to visit the historic shopping street the Shambles. In Summer this street is heaving with tourists but in Winter the street is far quieter and much more enjoyable and is a great place to pick up souvenirs and Christmas gifts.
How to Get to York in Winter: The easiest way to get to York from London whatever time of year you are travelling is via train. The trains to York run regularly from London King’s Cross Station and take around two hours.
Manchester – best day trip from London in December
Manchester is the England’s second city and is a vibrant city full of culture and should definitely be on your UK Bucket List. Winter is out favourite time to visit Manchester as in our opinion it has some of the best Christmas Markets in the whole of the UK (You can read our full Manchester Christmas market review here).
Manchester is also a great city for those that love both sport and music and no matter what time of year you visit there is sure to be an event on. And if football is your bag then be sure to stop oil the UKs only football museum.
Other great museums in the city include the MOSI (Science Museum), the Manchester Art Gallery and the People’s History Museum.
How to get to Manchester From London:
The easiest way to get to Manchester from London is by train. Trains depart from Euston station every 20 minutes to 30 minutes throughout the day. It will take roughly 2 hours each way. We recommend buying your tickets as early as possible as tickets get more and more expensive the closer you get to the travel date.
Canterbury Day Trip From London
The historic city of Canterbury is a great place to visit in Winter, especially if you want to go inside Canterbuty Cathedral as in December all Christmas preparations are underway and the Cathedral is dressed for Christmas. We loved learning about the history of the cathedral especially learning about the martyrdom of Thomas Beckett. With the size of the cathedral and the tour options it is very easy to spend half a day in the Cathedral itself.
But the city of Canterbury is much more than just the Cathedral though and the streets are filled with great and unique shops and boutiques that make it a great place to go shopping for souvenirs and Christmas gifts.
Have you taken a Winter Day Trip From London? What is your favourite day trip to take from London in Winter? We’d love to hear in the comments?