17 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways from London

Written by Bryan Dearsley
Updated Feb 15, 2023
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Author Bryan Dearsley has visited England many times, including an eight week trip in the spring of 2022.

Whether you're visiting London or living here, it serves as an ideal point from which to enjoy a seemingly endless choice of fun weekend getaways. Not only are weekend trips from London easy to organize, but thanks to great rail and numerous flight connections, there are plenty of places to visit for those seeking a memorable weekend getaway.

King's College in Cambridge, England
King's College in Cambridge, England | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

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. On a tight budget? You can even hop aboard a coach or bus for the journey to the French capital, a trip that only takes a few hours and often involves only bargain basement pricing.

Looking for something a little closer? Again, no problem: London's a major transportation hub that serves pretty much all of the UK. For somewhere quick and easy to get to, consider the delightful old market town of Windsor. Just 25 miles west of the center of London, Windsor offers a variety of short breaks worth looking into, including stays at historic bed-and-breakfasts and the chance to tour historic Windsor Castle.

Whether you're on the hunt for a cheap weekend getaway, a romantic couple's break, or even an exciting last-minute city stopover in the UK or Europe, be sure to read our list of the top weekend getaways from London.

1. Paris, France

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

Few travel destinations fuel the imagination quite like Paris. Just a 2.5-hour rail journey or an hour by plane from London, the "City of Lights" offers no end of things to do during an exciting European weekend break.

Topping the list for couples seeking a romantic getaway is visiting such iconic locations as the Eiffel Tower, perhaps the world's most romantic couples' selfie spot, 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.

Paris also boasts a wide variety of accommodation options, from opulent 5-star luxury hotels to reputable hostels perfect for backpackers.

2. Bath, Somerset, England

Pulteney Bridge in Bath
Pulteney Bridge in Bath

The historic town of Bath in Somerset is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful small cities in England. And as such, it's another destination that's a lot of fun to visit for couples seeking a romantic weekend getaway. An easy 1.5-hour train journey east of London, this charming destination is perhaps best known for the historic Roman Baths after which it's named.

Given the fact that over six million tourists visit Bath, with many of them stopping at the site of these ancient Roman baths each year, you'd do well to plan your trip for a quieter time of year if you can be flexible. Christmas is, in fact, a wonderful time to arrive.

Not only are there fewer line-ups and crowds to deal with at the baths and other top Bath attractions, there's also the opportunity to shop for locally made gifts and crafts in the popular Christmas Market, one of the largest in England.

Royal Crescent, Bath
Royal Crescent, Bath | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

The elegant old homes of the Royal Crescent neighborhood are also worth checking out. Royal Crescent's beautiful architecture has been attracting visitors to the city since Georgian times. If you've got time, be sure to 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.

3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Spring tulips along an Amsterdam canal
Spring tulips along an Amsterdam canal

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. And thanks to the Channel Tunnel, it's also now extrememly easy to get to by train, too.

You'll find plenty of fun attractions and things to do in Amsterdam, from gallery hopping in the magnificent Rijksmuseum, with its classic artworks by such greats as Rembrandt, to hopping aboard a tour boat for a cruise along the city's famous canals.

Amsterdam is 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.

4. Canterbury, Kent, England

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral

A favorite for history buffs, the cathedral city of Canterbury in Kent is an easy one-hour rail ride from central London. Getting to Canterbury from London is also easy by road and bus.

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. A stay here also includes privileges such as direct access to areas in the Cathedral Precincts.

Royal Museum, Canterbury
Royal Museum, Canterbury | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

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.

5. Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh skyline
Edinburgh skyline

Just over an hour's flight north of London is another capital city worth exploring: Edinburgh. While driving or taking the train from London to Edinburgh is also possible, the five-plus hour journey will mean less time to explore the top points of interest in the Scottish capital.

Topping your list of must-see attractions is 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. This stretch of historic old townhomes and shopfronts, as well as the New Town area, is a delight to explore on foot. 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 some of the city's best-known events and festivals. These include the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, or the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

6. York, North Yorkshire

York Minster
York Minster | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

The unofficial "capital" of northern England, the cathedral city of York in North Yorkshire makes for an excellent choice of weekend getaway from London. With frequent train connections between London and York, getting here is fast and easy, especially if taking the train—a less than two-hour journey.

Fun things to do include visiting the Shambles, a pedestrian-only shopping and entertainment area that can trace its roots back to medieval times, and taking a sightseeing tour of York Minster. England's biggest medieval church dates from the 13th century, featuring an amazing collection of stained glass windows and a rich treasury with displays of priceless religious artifacts.

Other top activities include walking the city's two miles of medieval city walls, visiting the National Railway Museum, and taking a cruise along the River Ouse.

Where to stay in York? While York has no shortage of luxury hotels, a favorite among travelers from London is the recently renovated Principal York. In addition to having its own access from York railway station, this historic luxury hotel is located an easy 10-minute walk from the city's top attractions. If available, be sure to request a room with a view of York Minster.

Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in York, England

7. Cardiff, Wales

City Hall, Cardiff
City Hall, Cardiff

The capital of Wales, Cardiff, is another great UK weekend destination to explore. Easily accessed by car and only a tad under two hours by train from London, this world-class 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 with their boutiques and galleries.

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.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cardiff

8. Birmingham, West Midlands , England

Victoria Square, Birmingham
Victoria Square, Birmingham | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Fresh from its stint hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the city of Birmingham in England's West Midlands has found its mojo.

Once shunned by domestic and international travelers alike, this former industrial city has successfully reinvented itself as one of the top places to visit in England for those seeking a fun-packed getaway from London. Just 90 minutes away from the capital by train, Birmingham is certainly a lot of fun, whatever your interests.

Those seeking great shopping experiences will want to spend time exploring the Bullring & Grand Central shopping district. This revitalized section of the city center is home to an endless variety of big-brand stores and unique boutique shops as well as entertainment including an endless stream of very talented buskers.

Birmingham has also earned a reputation as a leading center for great dining experiences. Favorites for foodies include the excellent Fazenda, popular for its authentic gaúcho meat dishes; chic Fumo Birmingham featuring fine Italian dining experiences; and Chapter, an independent neighborhood restaurant offering delicious dishes served indoors and out.

Looking for the perfect place to stay while in Birmingham? You can't get any closer to the downtown action than checking in to Staying Cool at Rotunda. Boasting views of the Bullring and Grand Central station area, this tall historic building features fully furnished apartments with kitchens, huge windows, and a surprisingly quiet sleep given its central location.

Read more: Top Attractions & Places to Visit in Birmingham

9. Dublin, Ireland

Trinity College, Dublin
Trinity College, Dublin

An easy one-hour flight from London, the Irish city of Dublin makes for a great weekend getaway 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 best tourist attractions in Dublin along with the best hotels. Highlights include 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. Dublin also makes for a great base from which to explore nearby attractions such as the attractive Wicklow Hills.

10. Brighton, East Sussex, England

Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach

The attractive seaside resort town of Brighton is easy to get to from London. An hour by train due south of the nation's capital, this picturesque city provides an authentic British seaside weekend getaway experience with access to some of the best beaches in East Sussex.

When it comes to accommodations, 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 and Royal Pavilion.

Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

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.

11. The Channel Islands, England

Mont Orgueil Castle on the island of Jersey
Mont Orgueil Castle on the island of Jersey

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. It's also fun exploring major attractions such as 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.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Channel Islands

12. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England

King's College in Cambridge
King's College in Cambridge

The university city of Cambridge is another easy-to-get-to 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 located here, too.

Mathematical Bridge, Queens' College, Cambridge
Mathematical Bridge, Queens' College, Cambridge | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

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; both are great ways to anchor a memorable weekend getaway.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cambridge

13. Berlin, Germany

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Most visitors to London are surprised to learn that 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 of the best are 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.

14. Bournemouth, Dorset, England

Bournemouth Pier
Bournemouth Pier

Another great seaside destination in the UK that's relatively easy to get to is Bournemouth in Dorset. 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 beaches.

Bournemouth's beaches stretch 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.

Bournemouth Pier
Bournemouth Pier | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

You'll find lush vegetation in its green parks, copious quantities of people strolling the streets and promenades, and sunbathers on the beach, not to mention many excellent opportunities to dine alfresco.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bournemouth

Read More: Best Things to Do in Bournemouth, Dorset

15. Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich
Zurich

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 like Swiss watches as well as to soak up the culture and ambience of the Old Town.

After disembarking the fast and efficient airport train, you'll find yourself in the heart of a multi-million-dollar 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.

16. Windsor, England

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

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 or 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.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Windsor

17. Oslo, Norway

Akershus Fortress
Akershus Fortress

Oslo, the capital city of Norway, is only a two-hour flight away from London. While not a cheap weekend away, as 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.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Oslo