Searching for somewhere to go with friends, family or colleagues that doesn’t take you too far from the Big Smoke?

No problem.

Whether you fancy a weekend in one of Britain’s oldest cities, somewhere kind to your wallet or you want a complete escape from reality, here’s our round up of the best weekend breaks from London, listed by journey time.

Weekend breaks within one hour of London

Can’t be bothered with long distance journeys? Consider one of these dreamy destinations instead which are all less than an hour by train from London:

Brighton

Beach walks, fish & chips and roller coaster rides - what more could you want out of a weekend break from London?!

a sunny weekend on the lanes, brighton
The Lanes, Brighton

Brighton is your quintessential British seaside resort, but with a hipster twist thanks to The Lanes which is bursting with quirky shops and cool cafes. The coastal city also packs a punch with its buzzing nightlife scene - think underground clubs in old railway arches, plus a range of classic high street bars with handy two-for-one drinks offers.

Brighton Beach is a great spot to sun yourself for a few hours or enjoy a brisk seaside stroll. Make your way along the Promenade that’s lined with elegant Victorian terraces or head to Brighton Pier for some good old-fashioned fairground rides. If there’s time, seek out the stunning Royal Pavilion; a former royal residence turned events space and museum that looks like it’s been teleported straight from India.

Journey time: One hour from Victoria.

Oxford

This world-famous city isn’t all about its university (although to be fair it is pretty impressive!). Located less than an hour from the capital, Oxford is an obvious choice for a short weekend getaway.

Whip out your smartphone and get ready to snap endless selfies at elegant heritage sights like the Radcliffe Camera, the ruined Oxford Castle & Prison, and the Bodleian Library.

The Head of The River pub in Oxford
While away the afternoon at the Head of The River pub

For plant fanatics, an hour wandering around the Oxford Botanical Garden will definitely inspire you to cram more greenery into your home. Alternatively, check out the manicured gardens at Blenheim Palace. It’s the incredibly grand birthplace of Winston Churchill that’s only 20 minutes by car from Oxford City Centre.

Also on offer in this academic city are organised pub crawls (there are LOADS of pubs) and cruises around Oxford outskirts along the Cherwell and Thames rivers.  

Journey time: 52 mins from Paddington.

Cambridge

Just a short train ride from Kings Cross will take you into the heart of another famous university city that’s jam-packed with historic structures, including Cambridge University's 31 colleges.

A must-do activity for every group trip to Cambridge is punting along the River Cam. Head to The Backs to hire your own punt (or hop in a ‘crewed’ punt if you’re feeling lazy) and then glide across the water beneath some of Cambridge’s famous stone bridges.

punting in the sunshine in cambridge
Go and have a punt in Cambridge

Cambridge is also teeming with fantastic museums if you fancy learning a new fact or two. Get to grips with local history at the Museum of Cambridge or swot up on your polar expedition knowledge at the Scott Polar Research Institute.

Shopping more your thing? Make a beeline for Market Hill, a busy marketplace since Saxon times and still one of the best spots in the city for buying fresh produce, second hand books and local arts & crafts.

Journey time: 48 mins from Kings Cross.

South Downs

The South Downs are a lovely location if you’re in need of some fresh air and lush greenery. The South Downs National Park is also one of the best weekend breaks from London thanks to its close proximity to the city and its range of accommodation options - think everything from glamping pods to swish manor houses.

There are various spots to visit within this rural region, but the easiest to reach by train is Haslemere. Sometimes called the “Gateway to the South Downs”, this charming town is right on the fringes of the national park and a great place to base yourself or begin a hiking trip through the countryside.

south downs scenery
There is some stunning countryside within an hour of London by train 

As well as rolling green hills and opportunities for exhilarating outdoor activities like mountain biking, kayaking and horse riding, you’ll be able to visit heritage sites like Arundel Castle or even enjoy a tipple at one of a handful of local distilleries and vineyards.

Journey time: 52 mins to Haslemere from Waterloo.

Weekend breaks within two hours of London

Margate

Another classic seaside destination that’s an easy journey from London is Margate on the Kent coast. Once a popular spot for stag weekends and cheap beach holidays, it’s been gentrified in recent years and is now packed with trendy restaurants and boutique B&Bs.

Margate’s biggest draw is its huge sandy beach that’s perfect for walks, sandcastle building or even sunbathing on warmer summer days. The resort has plenty of charm, too. Stroll through the Old Town that’s filled with Victorian buildings housing quirky cafes and retro thrift stores before making your way to vintage Dreamland amusement park for rides, roller discos and street food.

If there are creatives in your group, Margate is the location of the award-winning Turner Contemporary gallery that’s bursting with weird and wonderful modern art. It’s handily located next door to the Harbour Arm: Margate’s go-to destination for wining and dining with ocean views.

Journey time: 87 minutes from St Pancras.

Winchester

Once England’s capital city, attractive Winchester may have fallen under the radar in recent centuries, but it’s still a great shout for a short getaway.

History is on every corner, from the medieval cathedral with its famous crypts to the remains of some Iron Age ramparts on St. Catherine’s Hill. There’s also loads of amazing museums to keep you occupied; learn about the city’s rich past at the Winchester City Museum, swot up on war stories at the huge Winchester Military Museums or view the stars in detail at the Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium.

picturesque photo of a pub on the river in winchester
Winchester: a picturesque city surrounded by cracking countryside

If you’re booking a winter weekend break from London by train, Winchester should definitely be a contender as it hosts some great festive markets. The best one springs up outside Winchester Cathedral in November and features lots of tempting food stalls, a craft village and an awesome ice rink.

Journey time: 69 minutes from London Waterloo.

Bath

Bath has long been a destination for some R&R, making it a bit of a no brainer if you’re after a more low key location to escape to from London.

Regal and refined, UNESCO World Heritage Bath isn’t your classic city for a rowdy weekend away (unless you're visiting the Rec), but it has a good range of bars and numerous restaurants perfect for a memorable meal out. In the daytime, you can enjoy major attractions like the Royal Crescent - a semicircle of fancy Georgian mansions - and the cool Roman Baths. Bath is renowned for its natural hot springs, but while its ancient bathhouse isn’t functional, you can enjoy some pampering at the nearby Thermae Bath Spa.

Bath: a good-looking, feel-good city
Bath: a good-looking, feel-good city

The city is a particularly great weekend destination for literary lovers thanks to its links to Jane Austen. What’s more, Bath’s independent shopping scene is one of the best in the country, so prepare yourselves for some serious retail therapy...

Journey time: 90 minutes by train from Paddington.

York

Once a mighty Viking stronghold, York is now one of England’s most handsome cities due to its cobbled lanes and endless historic buildings.

It’s a prime spot for a short break from London as it offers visitors a solid mix of heritage sites, museums, dining venues and outdoor activities. Begin with a tour of the immense York Minster (one of the largest cathedrals in Europe) before doing a loop around York’s amazingly intact medieval city walls.

quaint street in the city of york
The handsome capital of God's county

Next up, you’ll have a choice of museums to duck into, including the interactive Jorvik Centre - which tracks the city’s Viking history - and the York Chocolate Story that’s perfect for people with a sweet tooth. Always wanted to go to the races? York Racecourse is one of the oldest in the country.

The Shambles - a narrow cobblestone street that’s just begging to be photographed - is the place to go in the city for shopping and to sample delicious street food. You’ll also find York has some brilliant brew pubs and independent eateries, plus it’s within throwing distance of two of the UK’s most picturesque national parks: the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.

Journey time: One hour 52 minutes from King’s Cross.

Bristol

Bath’s edgier neighbour and the birthplace of Banksy, Bristol is always a great shout for a weekend away from London.

There’s plenty of artsy things to see in Bristol, from awesome street art around Nelson Street and Stokes Croft to more classical paintings and sculptures in the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

colourful buildings in bristol
Super cool capital of the West Country

Bristol is inundated with great places to grab a bite to eat - think indie cafes and trendy vegan street food - and it’s got a reputation for a great night out. Start with drinks at one of several pubs lodged inside old barges in Bristol harbour before embarking on a bar crawl down King Street and eventually ending up in Motion, a cool warehouse club near Temple Meads station.

Despite its contemporary allures, Bristol also has its fair share of history. It’s where you’ll find Brunel’s SS Great Britain (the first iron steam ship to cross the Atlantic) and the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge which boasts breathtaking views across the River Avon.

Journey time: One hour 44 minutes from Paddington Station.

New Forest

This is another contender for one of the best rural weekend breaks from London and there’s plenty of awesome places to stay, regardless of your budget.

The New Forest is one of the UK’s 10 gorgeous national parks and it’s less than two hours south west of London, making it perfectly plausible to visit for just a few days. Fresh air, scenic views and complete peace and quiet are all up for grabs here and you can enjoy them via dozens of woodland hiking trails.

wild horses in new forest
Wild unicorns roam the New Forest. Credit: Liam Charmer

The rural region also fringes the south coast, meaning you can enjoy traditional seaside activities such as sailing and swimming. Back inland, discover the New Forest’s man made allures like the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and dozens of friendly cafes, tea rooms and pubs that’ll keep your stomachs satisfied.

Journey time: One hour 32 minutes to Brockenhurst from London Waterloo.

The Cotswolds

If you want to escape to somewhere really idyllic, the Cotswolds is a pretty nice place to set your sights on. Cheltenam is located right on the edge of this lush region and it’s just an easy two hour train ride from London.

Rolling hills, nature reserves, fragrant meadows and the odd castle are what’s in store for visitors to the Cotswolds. The region spans across five English counties and is home to some of the most charming villages in the UK - think cobblestone lanes lined with sandstone cottages and quaint timber frame pubs.

country pub in the cotswolds, england
Stow yourselves away after a long walk 👌

You’ll be glad to know that the Cotswolds is also a mecca for foodies thanks to an abundance of homemade delicacies and drinks which you’ll be able to sample at locally run restaurants and cafes across the entire area.

Journey time: Two hours from Paddington Station to Cheltenham.

Weekend breaks within three hours of London

A little further afield, but still manageable for a couple of nights, you can reach these spots in just a few hours by rail or by road:

Manchester  

Just over two hours by train from the capital, Manchester is the ideal destination for a short city break. Hang out with the cool crowd in the Manhattan-esque Northern Quarter where you’ll discover cool independent clothing stores and trendy brewpubs. Fancier occasions call for restaurant reservations in sleek Spinningfields or delicious cocktails at lofty bars like 20 Stories or Cloud 23.

If you’re a footy fan  - and a Man United or Man City one at that - the Northern Powerhouse is an obvious pick for a weekend break from London. As well as nabbing tickets to see a match at Old Trafford or the Etihad Stadium, you can swot up on your sporting history at the National Football Museum.

view of manchester in the evening
The city that knows how to have a good time

Not into football? Manchester also has several cool art galleries to explore, plus its shopping scene gives London a real run for its money. Head to the Arndale Centre for all your typical High Street stores and King Street for designer shops and boutiques.

Journey time: Two hours five minutes from Euston.

Norfolk

What could be a better bonding trip than getting all your friends together and setting sail along the Norfolk Broads?

It’s definitely a possibility for a long weekend from London, although the fastest route to reach Norfolk is definitely by road. When you arrive, soak up the county’s unique countryside and network of beautiful waterways by foot, bike or kayak. Norfolk also has a huge unspoilt coastline boasting vast sand dunes, beautiful hiking trails and lovely seaside towns like Cromer (known for its fresh crab) and Hunstanton (the only west-facing beach in the region that boasts stunning sunsets).

idyllic setting in Norfolk, England
There's more to Norfolk than Alan Partridge and treasure hoards

You could also spend some time in Norwich, Norfolk’s historic and highly creative capital that stretches out along the pretty River Wensum. It’s famous for a handful of reasons, from inventing culinary gems like Colman’s Mustard to being the birthplace of Horatio Nelson.

Journey time: Around two and a half hours by car.

Dorset

Beautiful beaches and sleepy seaside towns await if you decide on a short break from London in Dorset.

The county is best known for its impressive Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site which stretches out for 96 miles. It’s where you’ll find glorious sandy beaches where dinosaurs once roamed, in addition to picturesque seaside resorts like Lyme Regis where you can snack on fish and chips, 99p flakes and local fudge. Dorset is also the location of Durdle Door - a limestone arch jutting out to sea that’s one of the most iconic natural rock formations in the UK.

Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast. Credit: Belinda Fewings
Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast. Credit: Belinda Fewings

Dorset is abundant in lush countryside, with Dorchester being a great jumping off point for adventures in the great outdoors. Hiking, mountain biking, coasteering and zip-lining are all possible options, plus there’s loads of crumbling heritage sites like Corfe Castle and Maiden Castle for history buffs to discover.

Journey time: Two hours 35 minutes by car or three hours 45 minutes from Paddington to Dorchester by train via Reading.

Weekend breaks within four(ish) hours of London

If long journeys don’t phase you, the following destinations are slightly farther flung, but well-worth the wait to reach (promise):

Yorkshire Dales

There’s a reason Yorkshire is nicknamed “God’s Own Country” and that’s mostly down to the spectacular scenery of the Dales. The national park in the heart of Yorkshire is the perfect place to get outdoors and enjoy dozens of exhilarating activities - think mountaineering, rock climbing and horse riding.

Half expecting the Hogwart's Express... Credit: Will Shelley

If a leisurely ramble with a cosy pub at the end of it sounds like a better fit for your group, there’s endless routes which go past waterfalls and through charming villages. You could also hop on a bike and challenge yourself to some Tour de Yorkshire hill climbs or check out the Yorkshire Dale’s world-famous caving systems during a subterranean adventure.

Journey time: Two hours 15 minutes by train from Kings Cross to Leeds then drive or four hours 15 minutes to drive all the way.

Lake District

It doesn’t get much more lush than the Lake District. The leafy region in the North West has been a holiday hotspot for centuries thanks to its staggering scenery, clean air and abundance of walking trails which skirt you past glistening lakes and up impressive peaks like Helvellyn and Scafell Pike.

For a proper change of scene, the Lake District is definitely one of the best weekend breaks from London. You’ll have a choice of cosy pubs, swish manor houses and rustic glamping pods to bed down in, plus there’s always the option of pitching up a tent at one of 100+ campsites.

spectacular view of the lakes in the lake district
Offering the perfect spot for an idyllic off-the-grid Great British getaway

You can reach the breath-taking region by train in under three hours, although if you’ve got one of the farther flung lakes like Buttermere, West Water or Coniston Water on your radar, you’re better off driving up.

Journey time: Two hours 38 minutes by train from London Euston to Oxenholme; around five hours by car.

Edinburgh

Scotland’s attractive capital is a universally loved option for a weekend away, regardless of whether you want to get stuck into some local cultural activities or not. Those who do will find whisky tasting and hammer throwing are just some of the options up for grabs in Edinburgh, while foodies will be able to sample hearty Scottish cuisine at pubs and restaurants across the city.

Edinburgh is inundated with ace landmarks and museums which showcase its centuries-long history, including Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, the Surgeons’ Hall Museum and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. There’s also plenty of ways to appreciate the outdoors in Edinburgh. Take a walk up Arthur’s Seat for spectacular vistas of the city, challenge yourself to a coasteering expedition around the Firth of Forth or enjoy some alfresco dining at a seafood restaurant in Leith harbour.

view of edinburgh skyline in the evening
Edinburgh: So many things to see and do.

Journey time: 80 minutes by plane, four hours 20 minutes by train from London King’s Cross or around eight hours by car.

The Peak District

Yet another National Park that’s more accessible from London than you might initially think is the picture-perfect Peak District. Sandwiched between Manchester and Sheffield, it’s dotted with awesome mountains boasting panoramic viewpoints across Derbyshire and beyond.

Keen hikers will be in their element on a weekend break here thanks to challenging and effortlessly scenic walks up Mam Tor and Kinder Scout. If the group wants a more relaxed pace, consider day trips to some of the Peak Districts pretty towns, including elegant Buxton with its spas and Bakewell with its mouth-watering tarts.

If you have time, pop into Chatsworth House. It’s one of England’s poshest houses and even has a maze in its back garden!

view of winnat's pass in hope valley, peak district
Winnats Pass, Hope Valley. Credit: Luke Ellis-Craven

Journey time: Two and a half hours by train from London St Pancras; around three hours by car.

Cornwall

Surfing, ice cream and some of the best sandy beaches in the UK are what entice thousands of people to Cornwall’s gorgeous shores every year.

While it’s a little bit of a trek to reach, it’s still one of the best weekend breaks from London due to its idyllic landscapes and fantastic food scene. Seafood is understandably king on Cornwall’s shores and you’ll find award-winning restaurants from Padstow to Penzance. Cornish cream teas and mouth-watering pasties are also popular treats, plus you could even choose to catch your own dinner during a sea fishing expedition!

View of St Ives Cornwall from above
St Ives, Cornwall. Credit: Benjamin Elliott. @benjaminelliott

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Cornwall in the height of summer, consider booking tickets to a cool festival like Boardmasters or catching a show at the breath-taking open-air Minack Theatre which offers uninterrupted views of the ocean.

Journey time: Three hours 43 minutes by train from London Paddington to Bodmin Parkway, then taxis.