Best Day Trips from London

Best Day Trips from London

My recent article, London Best Bets, highlighted what to do, see, and eat in this amazing town on the Thames. If you have a few extra days in your itinerary, consider a day trip outside the city. There’s plenty to explore within a few hours radius with transportation by private tour, rail, bus, or group tour:

Bath, England, United Kingdom

The Roman Baths, constructed in 70AD as a grand socializing and bathing complex

Stonehenge & Bath:
Built over 5000 years ago, the story behind this famous Mesolithic-period monument is still up for debate. The unique stone circle is aligned with the movements of the sun and was created by a sophisticated pre-historic people. Leave extra time to visit the newly renovated Visitor Center chock full of archaeological treasures. Afterwards, head to Bath a lovely countryside town well known for its stately 18th-century Georgian architecture (like the sweeping Royal Crescent) and Roman Spa and springs that still flow with natural hot water. Combined, a visit to Stonehenge and Bath will be a full-day excursion.


A county on England’s southern coast, about an hour from London, Hampshire is well known for picturesque villages, manor house hotels, golfing, biking, equestrian, and outdoor sports steeped in history like fly-fishing and clay shooting. It’s your country home away from home. Even if you’re not a “Downton Abbey” fan, Highclere Castle, the massive, real life home of the 8th Earl & Countess of Carnavon is worth a visit. Satisfy your inner “Indian Jones” with a visit to the castle’s lower level – the Egyptian Exhibit displays King Tut’s artifacts discovered 100 years ago by the 5th Earl of Carnavon and archaeologist Howard Carter.

Hampton Court Palace, England

Hampshire’s lovely countryside, tailor made for biking



Highclere Castle, England

Highclere Castle, the real life Downton Abbey

Hampton Court Palace:
It’s easy to spend hours exploring the rooms of this historic royal Tudor/Baroque palace on the Thames plus the added attraction of 60 acres of formal gardens with lush topiary, privy gardens, and hedge maze. Go in the spring to witness one million flowering bulbs.

Hampton Court Palace, England

Hampton Court Palace’s gorgeous gardens

This medieval market town in the West Midlands, is most noted as the 16th century birthplace of The Bard, William Shakespeare. Take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare or Swan Theatre; visit Anne Hathaway’s house (his wife, not the American actress); climb to the top of the Theatre Tower; or have a pint in one of the many pubs.

Located northwest of London, this quaint city revolves around the prestigious 12th century university composed of 38 colleges. If the weather is good, take a biking or walking tour. Want to pair your educational excursion with a bit of retail therapy? Check out nearby Bicester Village Outlet Shopping home to 130 fashion and lifestyle boutiques.

Not far from Oxford, explore this region of quintessential English villages and lively market towns. It’s brimming with natural beauty any time of year. Rent the Kate Winslet/Jude Law rom-com The Holiday for the best travelogue.  If you are not short on time, visit Blenheim Palace, and get lost in this proverbial country manor home which just happens to be the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The grounds have been featured in numerous Hollywood flicks including Mission Impossible, Spectre, and Harry Potter.

Located north of London, this college town is home to the legendary university founded in 1209. Take a walking tour and soak up some of that knowledge and be inspired by the many museums, galleries, and majestic college buildings. Science, math, and history buffs know there is no shortage of Hollywood biopics filmed here honoring the lives of famous Cambridge alums: The Theory of Everything (Steven Hawking), The Man who knew Infinity (Srinvasa Ramnujan), and The King’s Speech (King George VI).

Windsor Castle’s Long Walk

One of three official residences of the Queen, it’s the largest inhabited castle in the world. Time your visit to see the changing the guard; view the State Apartments; and gaze at St. George’s Chapel which recently hosted the wedding seen ‘round the world: the marriage of Prince Harry and Princess Meghan Markle.

Warwick Castle:
Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, this Renaissance castle pairs well with a visit to nearby Stratford-upon-Avon.  The castle offers medieval-age appropriate crowd pleasers like jousting tournaments and plenty of child friendly activities including Falconer Displays, Adventure Maze, and the Hall of Armor.

Making of Harry Potter:
No London day trip list is complete without the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, a permanent exhibit which displays an authentic behind the scenes look into all things Harry Potter. The studio tour explores two sound-stages and a back-lot filled with original sets, animatronic creatures and plenty of special effects. Interactive activities will put you into the action, with opportunities to purchase a frothy cup of Butterbeer, of course!Hampton Court Palace, England

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London Best Bets

London Best Bets

When’s the best time of year to visit London? Anytime! Summer is warm and there are plenty of parks and markets worth exploring. Autumn is mild — as the mercury goes down, the holiday decorations go up. Although Winter has the coolest temps, it’s not uncomfortably cold and the post-holiday weeks are a great time to shop sales. Spring can be a mix of sun and rain, but there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor pursuits to pick from.

My past articles included London’s Top Ten, Twenty-two Top Shops, and 18 Favorite Places to Eat.  After a recent trip with my son, I am inclined to add to my never-ending London to-do list. Planning a trip over the pond? Put a few of these items on your itinerary:


Exhibition Road: Home to numerous cultural institutions, this South Kensington “Museum Mile” includes Royal Albert Hall, Natural History Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Our favorite? The Science Museum – on display are 5,000 years of innovation; it’s STEM on steroids!  Check out tech treasures like the Apollo 10 Command Module and the Enigma Machine. Visit the IMAX Theatre, hands-on Wonderlab, and a well-stocked book/gift shop.

Borough Market, London

Seafood abounds at Borough Market

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:  Although a reconstruction of the Elizabethan era theatre, it’s very true to the original. Located Bankside (near the Tate), tours include access to the underground Exhibition Space.  Plan ahead and book tickets for outdoor performances in the Globe and inside the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Borough Market: This 1000-year old food market features endless stalls of fresh produce, fish & seafood, confectionery, cured meats, oils & vinegars, spices & preserves, and a multitude of bars and restaurants. After filling your shopping bag (and your stomach), take a leisurely walk over the London Bridge.

Greenwich:  This borough of London, located on the southside of the Thames, is well known for its maritime history. Visit the Cutty Sark (the restored 10th-century ship), the National Maritime Museum, and the Old Royal Naval College (home to one of the greatest baroque ceilings in Britain). The Royal Observatory overlooks Greenwich Park, and is the site of the famed Prime Meridian Line, which marks Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and divides the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

Greenwich Obervatory

Straddle east and west at the Prime Meridian

The Royal Institution (Ri): Founded in 1799 with the aim of introducing new technologies and connecting people to the world of science, Ri houses the Faraday Museum (in honor of the British scientist and his discoveries in the fields of electromagnetism). This petite, lower level exhibition celebrating the achievements of Ri members (many of them Nobel Prize winners), packs a powerful punch, especially for science lovers like my kids.

Small Car, Big City: If you love classic cars, the iconic ’60’s movie “The Italian Job,” or just want to see the city from a unique perspective, book one of these bespoke Mini Cooper tours. Two-hour to full day themed tours include Hidden Gems, Street Art, Beatles, Harry Potter, or Landmarks of London. Your adorable vehicle (and driver!) will meet you right at your hotel’s doorstep.

Small Car, Big City, London

Zoom around the streets of London in a classic Mini Cooper


Twining’s: The oldest tea shop in London, this 300-year old flagship features premium teas from ‘round the world. It’s also one of the city’s narrowest shops – only twelve feet wide! Sample the flavors at the Loose Tea Bar or sign up for a Masterclass. There’s also freshly ground coffee for java addicts.

Maille Boutique, London

Maille Boutique

Maille Boutique London: At the entrance to Piccadilly Arcade, inside this corner store, lies rows and rows of France’s finest condiments. Pick from mustards, vinegars, chutneys, cornichons (those cute, miniature flavor-packed pickles) and more. Did I mention there are free samples?

Sainsbury Supermarket: No matter where we travel, we always wind up in a supermarket. It’s a great place to pick up affordably priced souvenirs and stock up on favorite local delicacies.  The condiment aisle is my favorite of course: we grab bottles of Belazu vinegar (it has a distinct thickness and texture) and delicious mango and plum chutneys and can’t leave without Cadbury Milk Chocolates (they’re sooo much creamier than the U.S. version!)  Just remember, put all liquids in checked luggage, not your carry on!


Afternoon Tea at the Dorchester: Served in The Promenade, the hotel’s lobby restaurant, this proverbial English tradition is worth the splurge. Sink into plush couches surrounded by gilded marble columns and lush potted plants, and indulge in a delightful meal of tea, champagne, and the savoriest finger sandwiches — smoked salmon, egg, chicken, prawn and cucumber. Next comes warm scones with glistening strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream and finish off with a tiered platter of cakes and tartlets. (And, unlike the Ritz’s Tea, no jackets required.)

Afternoon Tea at the Dorchester

There’s always time for Tea

Momo: Entering this West End restaurant is like stepping into a Moroccan Souk with its lush fabrics and decor. The menu is a North African/Mediterranean mashup: couscous, lamb tagine with pears and plums, and fresh mint tea.

Sakagura: Located in Mayfair, this Japanese Restaurant has an amazing Sake Bar. Try one of their Sake cocktails — my favorite, their Mojito with fresh mint and pomegranate. The restaurant is just steps off Regent Street on pedestrian-friendly Heddon Street, also home to the Ice Bar.

Yautcha: A member of the Hakkasan Restaurant Group, this contemporary dim sum house in Soho features a modern interpretation of a traditional Chinese Tea House with the busy vibe of a Hong Kong eatery. Dishes are designed to share.

Padella: This affordably priced, pocket sized Italian cafe with an even smaller menu has THE best homemade pasta. It’s situated just on the perimeter of Borough Market. Try to get a seat at the bar to see the chefs in action as they whip up your order, pronto! No reservations but arrive before they open to keep the wait at a minimum.

Da Corradi: This long-standing, old-school Italian bistro tucked into Mayfair’s Shephard Market, has generous portions, friendly and efficient service, and cozy seating — it hit the spot, especially on a cool and rainy afternoon.

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London’s Top Ten

London’s Top Ten

I know it’s impossible to boil down all that London has to offer to a list of just ten. But, if you happen to be making a stop in London, maybe as part of a longer visit to the U.K., this will help you narrow the choices:

British Museum, London

The British Museum’s “Great Court”

British Museum: From Aztec to Assyrian, Babylonian to Byzantine, Victorian to Viking, this museum’s vast permanent collection includes over eight million arts and artefacts from all seven continents. Always obsessed with archeology, my kids made a beeline for the Rosetta Stone (the key to deciphering the hieroglyphics) and the Elgin Marbles (having visited their original home at the Parthenon, Athens).

The 19th century, dramatic, Greek-revival style building had a modern, awe-inspiring re-design of its interior courtyard. The courtyard’s magnificent glass and steel roof brings the outdoors in – even on overcast days it’s bright inside. Go on a scavenger hunt to find real-life objects featured in the recent flick, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (filmed on location at the museum). Your youngster can even explore the museum after dark and spend their own “night at the museum” at one of the hosted sleepovers.

London Palace Guards

London Palace Guards, courtesy of

Changing the Guard: The height of British tradition, this ritual takes place at Buckingham Palace every day at 11:30am from April through July, and on alternate days the rest of the year. (Check the website for exact dates.) The guards have watched over the palace since 1660 and the ceremony occurs when one regiment takes over from another. For more insight on all the pomp and pageantry, download the official Changing the Guard Royal Collection App.” Or view at other lesser-known London locations (Horse Guards Arch and Horse Guards Parade).

Changing the Guard, Buckingham Palace

During wet weather, the Buckingham Palace guards wear grey coats

Churchill War Rooms: Discover the original wartime bunker that sheltered Churchill and his government during the WWII Blitz. The self-guided tour reveals intense stories of those who worked underground as London was being bombed from above. The life and legacy of Winston Churchill is laid out in the interactive Churchill Museum, giving you a glimpse of what life was like during these very tense days from his rousing wartime speeches to his personal letters to his wife, Clementine. The Map Room (the nerve center where military personnel collected and verified vital geographic information) remains exactly as it was left the night the lights were extinguished in 1945.

Imperial War Museum-IWM: This unique museum’s exhibits tell the story of how everyday individual lives have been permanently affected by war from WWI to present day. See how ordinary Londoners lived through WWII, coping with rationing and evacuation, from the London Blitz to VE Day. Explore insightful displays featuring the undercover world of espionage, covert operations, and the secret missions of the British Special Forces. The museum gift shop has an excellent bookstore with non-fiction and historical fiction for children and adults of all ages.

Churchill War Rooms

The low-tech Map Room, unchanged since the end of WWII

National Portrait Gallery: This impressive collection of portraits of historically famous and important Brits who have shaped England’s history includes photographs, caricatures, paintings, drawings, and sculpture from the Middle Ages to present day. The Tudor and Elizabethan galleries served as the perfect history lesson for my middle-schooler. The museum is not just kings and queens though – check out the 20th century gallery for portraits of David Beckham, Kate Moss, Paul McCartney, and the much-critiqued painting of Princess Kate.

London Eye

The Eye looms large over London

London Eye: When this giant Ferris wheel went up in 1999 on the River Thames’ South Bank, it was the world’s tallest. (Las Vegas’s High Roller has since taken that top spot.) Still Europe’s tallest, the Eye offers the highest vantage point and spectacular 360 degree views over London. Take a ride in one of 32 glass-enclosed, spacious passenger pods (they hold up to 25 people) and walk freely around the capsule while it completes its 30-minute rotation. Have a special occasion coming up? Reserve a private capsule complete with champagne and chocolates!

Royal Parks: Yes, the sun does shine in London, so take advantage of the city’s eight sprawling Royal Parks, including St. James Park, home to Horse Guards Parade and the annual Trooping the Color, marking the Queen’s official birthday. Wander through Hyde Park and check out Speakers Corner (for weekly Sunday morning spirited public debates), The Serpentine (for peddle boating), and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

St. James Park, London

Springtime in St. James Park

Tower of London: There is a lot of ground to cover at this most famous fortress and UNESCO site that has also served as the royal palace, an armory, and the prison where the infamous Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Beat the crowds and make your first stop the Crown Jewels exhibit. This royal collection, still in use today by the Queen for coronation and national ceremonies, includes the Sovereign’s Scepter with its 530.2 carat diamond, the “Great Star of Africa,” the largest colorless cut diamond in the world. Next, check out the White Tower with its impressive arms and armor display. Join a 60-minute Yeoman Warder Tour, led by one of the iconic, red and gold-uniformed guards (also known as Beefeaters) or a Wall Walk, for a journey along the huge stone encirclement that forms the Tower’s walls. Make sure to book early to witness the Ceremony of the Keys, the ancient 700-year old ceremony – the nightly locking up of the Tower.

Tower of London

The White Tower’s impressive Arms & Armor display

West End Theatre: Although the West End refers to the area of Central London filled with major attractions, shopping, and entertainment, it’s best known for its theatre scene. On par with New York’s Broadway, the West End presents some of the best theatre in the world. Although West End Theatre generally refers to commercial productions, there are also many non-commercial venues with great artistic prestige, and a number of “fringe” theatres (equivalent to Off-Broadway) that provide alternative entertainment and hidden treasures. Check TimeOut London for complete theatre listings and for same-day discount tickets, visit the TKTS booth located in Leicester Square.

Westminster Abbey: This gothic-style building is one of the world’s great churches, with a history stretching back over 1,000 years. Home to coronations, royal weddings (William and Kate’s), burials and memorials, the abbey has commemorated kings and queens, statesmen and soldiers, poets and priests – it’s a venerable parade of British history. Audio guides are available or take the popular verger-led tour. It meets at the North Door, lasts approximately 90 minutes, and includes a visit to the Shrine (containing the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor), the Royal Tombs, Poets’ Corner, the Cloisters and the Nave. Daily worship services are open to the public – check the website for schedules of beautiful (and free) choral concerts and organ recitals.

Westminster Abbey, London

Westminster Abbey is a UNESCO world heritage site

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Please read my other recent London articles: 22 Top Shops, 18 Favorite Places to Eat, and Hampshire: Edu-vacation in England’s Countryside.

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