15 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways from London
London, whether you're passing through as a visitor or living here, serves as an ideal point from which to enjoy fun weekend getaways. Not only are weekend trips from London easy to organize, but thanks to great rail and flight connections, there are plenty of options.
Fancy a trip to Paris? Easy! Take the fast Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel or hop aboard a short flight from one of London's five airports. Something closer? Again, easy. The delightful old market town of Windsor, just 25 miles west of the city center, offers a variety of short breaks worth looking into, including stays at historic bed-and-breakfasts and the chance to tour Windsor Castle.
Whether you're on the hunt for cheap weekend getaways or exciting last-minute city breaks in the UK or Europe, be sure to refer often to our list of the top weekend getaways from London.
Few travel destinations fuel the imagination quite like Paris. A 2.5-hour rail journey or an hour by plane, the "City of Lights" offers no end of things to do during exciting European weekend breaks. Topping the list for couples seeking a romantic getaway is visiting such locations as the iconic Eiffel Tower, as well as the Louvre, home to the famed portrait, the Mona Lisa.
In addition to its many fine-dining restaurants and pleasant street-side cafés, visitors should also spend time exploring the city's many markets. Tucked away down quaint old streets and alleys, it's here you'll quite literally get a true taste of Paris, the authentic Paris known and loved by those who live and work here.
Notable neighborhoods to explore on foot include the Latin Quarter, with some of its oldest buildings dating as far back as medieval times. Then, of course, there's magnificent Montmartre, famous for its connections to the city's vibrant art and literary scene, both past and present.
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The historic town of Bath in England is another destination that's fun to visit for couples seeking a romantic weekend getaway. An easy 1.5-hour train journey east of London, this charming small city is perhaps best known for the historic Roman Baths after which it's named.
Given the fact that a million tourists visit the site each year, you'd do well to plan your trip for a quieter time of year. Christmas is in fact a wonderful time to arrive, with fewer line-ups at the baths and other top attractions, plus the opportunity to shop for locally made gifts and crafts in the popular Christmas Market.
Also worth checking out, the elegant architecture of Royal Crescent has been attracting visitors to the city since Georgian times. Here, you can explore the historic No.1 Royal Crescent, built in the late 18th century. It's not difficult picturing yourself and your partner living as the gentry of the time in so opulent a setting.
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Long considered one of the leading city breaks Europe has to offer, the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is an easy one-hour flight from London. Here, you'll find plenty of fun things to see and do, from gallery hopping in the magnificent Rijksmuseum, with works by such greats as Rembrandt, to canal hopping aboard a tour boat.
Amsterdam is also where you'll find the historic location where the young Anne Frank wrote her famous diaries, a sobering reminder of the horrors of war and hatred. It's also home to the stunning Van Gogh Museum, with its vast collection of art and memorabilia relating to this most revered of painters, and the impressive Royal Palace, residence of the Dutch Royal Family since 1648.
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A favorite for history buffs, the cathedral city of Canterbury in Kent is an easy one-hour rail ride from central London. For a truly unique weekend getaway, book a stay in the excellent Canterbury Cathedral Lodge, located in the grounds of the cathedral. You'll be rewarded not just with an extremely comfortable place to stay but also some memorable views over the gardens and the cathedral, plus privileges like direct access to areas in the Cathedral Precincts.
You're also just steps away from exploring the interior of the cathedral itself. A great way to get the most out of this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site is to book a guided tour, taking in such features as the spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered-possibly by order of the King - back in 1170. You'll also find yourself in the heart of plenty of great shopping, dining, and walking experiences.
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Just over an hour's flight north of London is another capital city worth exploring: Edinburgh. Sure, you could take the train, but the nearly five-hour journey will mean less time to explore such top points of interest in the Scottish capital as majestic Edinburgh Castle, which is easy to get to on foot from most centrally located hotels and B&Bs. You can expect to spend the best part of a day exploring the castle, and longer if you plan on seeing the many displays of historic artifacts, such as the impressive collection of crown jewels.
Within easy reach of the castle and the old part of the city is the Royal Mile, a stretch of historic old townhomes and shopfronts, as well as the New Town area. In addition to the many fine old hotels, B&Bs, and guesthouses sprinkled about this pleasant Georgian-era neighborhood, you'll have access to Princes Street with its excellent dining and shopping experiences. If you're able, try to time your weekend getaway to coincide with such well-known events as the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, or the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
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The capital of Wales, Cardiff, is another great UK weekend destination to explore. Easily accessed by rail or road-it's a tad under two hours by train-the city offers everything from luxury stays in grand old hotels to cheap breaks in modest accommodations. Wherever you stay, though, expect to have fun.
Not only are the Welsh among the friendliest of people, they're known for their handiwork and craftsmanship. This can easily be experienced by taking a fun self-guided walking tour of the city's pleasant Victorian arcades. While there are a number of these old shopping areas open to the public, the best is the Royal Arcade, built in 1858. Here you'll enjoy a pleasant stroll while getting the chance to explore numerous shops selling a variety of Welsh-made goods. Be sure to also spend time exploring Cardiff Castle, too.
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An easy one-hour flight from London, the Irish city of Dublin makes for great weekend getaways for families and couples alike. As well as having numerous fun attractions geared towards specific interests, there are plenty of great places to stay, whatever your budget.
When it comes to choosing where to stay, be sure to give serious consideration to the city's downtown core. It's here you'll find most of the top things to do in Dublin (along with the best hotels), including touring the splendid Trinity College, with its magnificent grounds and gardens, and the popular Grafton Street area. In addition to its great shopping, here you'll find plenty of entertainment opportunities, much of it provided by musicians busking on the sidewalks.
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An hour by train due south of London, the picturesque city of Brighton provides an authentic British seaside weekend getaway experience. Choose from the numerous fine hotels and B&Bs set in the old townhomes that overlook the beach. Once settled in, head straight for the promenade. Here, you can walk for hours as you take in the views over the English Channel, the old Regency-era architecture that lines the streets, the many pleasant gardens and parks, and its two most recognizable landmarks, the Palace Pier.
If you can, try to time your visit to coincide with the Brighton Festival. Held each May, this fun festival features a riot of cultural events as diverse as classical concerts and pop performances, comedy and film shows, and top venues, including the majestic Royal Pavilion.
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9. The Channel Islands
Often overlooked by visitors to the UK, the charming Channel Islands are only an hour's flight from the capital. This chain of islands off the coast of France includes the smaller islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, and tiny Hern, but it's in Jersey-the biggest -that you'll want to begin your adventure (and possibly finish, depending on the length of your stay).
In addition to incredible views from almost every vantage point, you'll be rewarded with a relaxing break spent exploring seemingly endless walking and hiking trails, the quaint streets and fortifications of St. Helier, as well as sites such as the popular Durrell Wildlife Park.
If you can squeeze in a visit to one other island, make it Guernsey. Accessible by ferry, it's equally pretty and also popular as a hiking destination, particularly along its striking cliff-lined shoreline. Especially suited to long weekend breaks, the Channel Islands should definitely be on your bucket list.
The university city of Cambridge is another great weekend getaway from London for those who don't want to travel too far. An easy hour by car or rail from the center of London, this beautiful old city has much to recommend it. Try to set up shop as close to the heart of the old city as possible, as Cambridge was made to be explored on foot. There are many luxury hotels, as well as cheaper B&B options here.
Save time to explore at least one or two of the old colleges (some of which even offer short-term stays in student accommodations for tourists). Other fun things to do here include attending cool events, such as the 800-year-old Midsummer Fair or the Cambridge Folk Festival-great ways to anchor a memorable weekend getaway.
Most visitors to London are surprised to learn they can fly to so many other European capital cities in under two hours. Take Berlin, for example. Just 1.5 hours away by plane, it's the perfect excuse to take a weekend break Europe-style. There are also a surprising amount of good quality, affordable hotels near the city center, many within an easy walk of such top destinations as the iconic Brandenburg Gate, the magnificent Museum Island area, and the remnant of the Berlin Wall.
Also worth checking out is the city's burgeoning food scene, the many war memorials here, as well as its many parks and green spaces.
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Another great seaside destination in the UK that's relatively easy to get to is Bournemouth. Under two hours by train, Bournemouth is perhaps the classiest of the country's coastal towns. Here, you'll have plenty of great luxury hotels to choose from, along with elegant B&Bs and historic old inns, most of them within an easy walk of what the town is best known for: its beach.
Bournemouth beach stretches some 17 kilometers, connecting Hengistbury Head all the way past Bournemouth to neighboring Poole. If visiting in summer, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd arrived in the warmer parts of the Mediterranean, thanks to the lush vegetation seen in its green parks, the copious quantities of people strolling the streets and promenades, the sunbathers on the beach, and the many excellent opportunities to dine al fresco.
Just a 1.5-hour flight from London, the city of Zurich offers one of the best city breaks in all of Europe. Switzerland's biggest city has moved mountains to create an extremely pedestrian-friendly experience for visitors, who flock here to shop for luxury goods (Swiss watches are, let's face it, the best) as well as to soak up the culture and ambience of the Old Town.
After disembarking the airport train (fast and efficient), you'll find yourself in the heart of a multi-million-Swiss-franc redevelopment that offers wide streets for pedestrians, with few if any cars anywhere to be seen. It's here you'll find trendy hotels and chic restaurants, superlative shopping experiences, and, just a few minutes away, one of the most romantic city centers to be seen anywhere.
In the Old Town, pull up at a table alongside the Limmat river and simply enjoy the ambience of the medieval quarter. Better still, do this on a Saturday night, and you'll be rewarded with the remarkable experience of hearing the peals of bells from city churches, ringing in the night and reminding residents and visitors alike that Sunday is a church day.
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One of the top weekend getaways for those seeking short city breaks from London is to head to the town of Windsor. Just 30 minutes away by train, it's an easy trip that will drop you off in the midst of one of the most impressive old towns in the country, and just a few steps away from one of its most iconic landmarks: Windsor Castle.
A home to the British Royal Family for over 950 years, this spectacular attraction can easily consume at least a day (possibly more) as you explore its many nooks and crannies. And there are a lot of them! So many, in fact, you should consider joining an organized tour, guaranteeing you'll see highlights such as the State Apartments and St. George's chapel. Be sure to also allow some time afterwards to wander the Great Park.
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Oslo, the capital city of Norway, is only a two-hour flight away from London. While not a cheap weekend away-Norway is considered one of the most expensive travel destinations in Europe-Oslo offers many fun things to do. If you can check into one of the city center hotels, do so; you'll enjoy access to one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities to be found anywhere.
Start with a walk to the stunning Opera House, then head to the large Akershus Fortress, a military complex that guarded the city and its harbor for centuries. From here, it's a bit of a haul to the Royal Palace, but it's worth it. Finally, no trip to Oslo is complete without spending a few hours exploring the spectacular Vigeland Sculpture Park, a sprawling area that's home to 650 sculptures created by Norway's Gustav Vigeland.
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