4 Day Trips from London for Every Type of Traveler

From Kensington to Hackney and every other neighborhood in between, there's no lack of world-class museums, top-notch restaurants, and historic sights to explore in London. That being said, there's plenty more to the United Kingdom beyond its capital. So, if you need a break from the bustle of city life (and want to get a sense of British culture outside of The Big Smoke), London also happens to be a short day trip away from other exciting destinations. Here are four of our favorite picks, each offering something a little different.

1. Oxford

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Kimble Young

Oxford, which sits 50 miles north of London, is home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world (it was established in the 12th century). Bibliophiles should head to the university's Bodleian Library, but the Christ Church and Magdalen College are also worth a visit. There isn't a central campus area, so research addresses and make sure they're accessible to tourists before venturing out. More to add to the agenda: a visit to the Covered Market (the oldest of its kind in England) for gastronomic goodies as well as the time-honored Oxbridge tradition of punting. You can also hire someone to guide your boat through the city's canals or DIY it. Just don't forget to bring a bottle of wine.

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2. Brighton

Photo courtesy of Flickr/valcker

The seaside town of Brighton lies about an hour south of London by train. Known as London-by-the-Sea to the arty expats who left The Big Smoke for a more bohemian life, it has garnered a reputation for its decadence, to put it mildly. But there are still other draws. There's Royal Pavilion, an opulent former royal residence; the Lanes, a labyrinth of boutiques and restaurants in Old Town; the hipster, shopping-packed North Laine streets; and a gay scene, which is centered on St. James Street and includes the seafront. Last but not least, there's also the famous pier, which, while campy, features some pretty fun rides.

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3. York

Photo courtesy of Flickr/James West

Architecture enthusiasts should head to York, which is located two hours north of London by train. Founded by the Romans in 71 AD, the city's subsequent growth within the old walls has remained largely preserved. The walkability (roads within the old city are pedestrian-friendly between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.) is an added bonus for those traveling with families. Plus, if you catch the breeze in the right way, the city can smell like chocolate, thanks to Rowntree's factory (they're the guys who developed the Kit Kat).

Make sure to see the York Minster, northern Europe's largest Gothic cathedral (or even better, attend a service there). Merchant Adventurers' Hall (the historical medieval guildhall) and the National Railway Museum are also must-sees. Kids will love the York Castle Museum (they get in free with an adult) as well as DIG, an activity that allows families to be archaeologists for the day in one of four indoor excavation pits. And, if you're feeling peckish after all of this sight-seeing, the market area in the center of the old town boasts excellent vendors.

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4. Rye

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Jim Linwood

Tucked in the countryside, this sleepy, residential, and absolutely charming town is an English gem. Go on a Sunday, so you can stop in one of the town's pubs for a proper midday British Sunday roast. Then, walk it off while exploring the 600-year-old streets and antique stores along the river. For amazing views, climb the 12th-century church that overlooks the town or explore the ruins of Camber Castle (open on summer weekends). For those looking to bring home a souvenir, the town's shops feature regional and local goodies.

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