London offers so much that you might be hard-pressed to find time to leave the capital. However, for those visitors who want to glimpse more of what England has to offer, on this page we suggest some delights that you can visit in a day -- from the royal castle of Windsor, to the prehistoric standing stones at Stonehenge, the Georgian spa city of Jane Austen's Bath, the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, and the modern-day pleasures of Brighton with its pebbly beach, only a stone's throw from London.
Windsor & Eton
21 miles W of London
Windsor is a charming, largely Victorian town, with lots of brick buildings and a few remnants of Georgian architecture. All this is completely overshadowed of course by its great castle, which dominates the area like a giant crown of stone. Windsor Castle has been the home of the Royal Family for some 900 years, a pedigree that makes it an enticing target for day-trippers from London. Despite the inevitable crowds this is a sight you should not miss; the State Apartments are especially lavish, adorned with some exceptional paintings from the Royal Collection.
Getting There -- Trains make the 35-minute trip from Paddington station in London to Windsor & Eton Central (opposite the castle entrance) every 20 minutes or so, with one change at Slough. Trains run at similar intervals for the 1-hour trip from Waterloo direct to Windsor & Eton Riverside station (a short walk from the castle). The off-peak round-trip cost is £8.50 from Paddington and £9.30 from Waterloo.
Visitor Information -- The Royal Windsor Information Centre is at the Old Booking Hall, Windsor Royal Shopping center on Thames Street in the center of town (tel. 01753/743900; www.windsor.gov.uk). It is open May through August, Monday to Friday 9:30am to 5:30pm, Saturday 9:30am to 5pm, and Sunday 10am to 4pm; and September through April, Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm.
Tours -- City Sightseeing Open Top Bus Tours (tel. 01708/866000; www.city-sightseeing.com) make 45-minute loops of Windsor and Eton with 11 hop-on-hop-off stops (mid-Mar-mid-Nov daily 10am-5pm). Tickets are £8 for adults and £4 for children, and are valid for 24 hours. The most appealing way to see the area is by boat, which departs from Windsor Promenade, Barry Avenue, for a 40-minute round-trip. The cost is £5.40 for adults, £2.70 for children. Tours are operated by French Brothers, Clewer Boathouse, Clewer Court Rd., Windsor (tel. 01753/851900; www.boat-trips.co.uk). A "combined bus and boat trip" ticket costs £13 for adults and £6 for children.
52 miles S of London
Brighton is a party place and it's where Londoners flee for a day out, or for a fun weekend. One of England's first great seaside resorts, Brighton went through a bad time when its clientele started holidaying abroad. Now it's back -- bigger and brighter than ever. It has taken on the ambience of London, with boutique lodgings, hip nightspots, and trendy shops. It's not for everyone though: Once you're here there's little respite from the crowds, and the beaches are shingle. Yet you can't help but love it.
When he arrived in 1783, fun-loving Prince Regent, the Prince of Wales (later George IV) helped to raise Brighton to its lofty position. The town blossomed with attractive town houses and smart squares and crescents. The Prince Regent's Royal Pavilion summer home is still here, and despite being surrounded by old-time fun -- the beach-front lined with bars, fish and chip shops, and cheap souvenir stalls, and the pier with its amusements -- Brighton is fashionable once again.
Getting There -- Fast trains leave Victoria and London Bridge stations roughly every 15 minutes; the journey is less than an hour. Buses from London's Victoria Coach Station take about 2 hours.
If you're driving, the M23 (signposted from central London) leads to the A23, which takes you straight into Brighton.
Visitor Information -- The Tourist Information Centre, 4-5 Pavilion Buildings (tel. 0906/711-2255; www.visitbrighton.com), is next to the Royal Pavilion shop. It's open from March to October Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm. Sunday hours are from 10am to 4pm.
54 miles NW of London
The city of Oxford, dominated by Britain's oldest university, is a bastion of English tradition, history, and eccentricity. Here students still get selected to join the archaic Bullingdon Club, rowing competitions attract a larger audience than soccer, and students still take exams dressed in black gowns (seriously). The creator of detective Inspector Morse, Colin Dexter, lives in town, and where else would you film the Harry Potter series? Oxford certainly retains a special sort of magic.
The hallowed halls and gardens of ancient colleges such as Magdalen and Christ Church are architectural gems, but not museums -- students live and work here year-round. The High Street (often referred to as The High) hasn't changed much since Oscar Wilde walked along it and the water meadows and spires that inspired architect Sir Christopher Wren and writers as diverse as John Donne, C.S. Lewis, Iris Murdoch, and J.R.R. Tolkien are still here.
Getting There -- Trains from London's Paddington station reach Oxford in around 1 hour (direct trains run every 30 minutes). A cheap round-trip ticket costs £22.30 (off-peak).
If you're driving, take the M40 west from London and follow the signs. Parking is a nightmare in Oxford; however, there are five large park-and-ride lots (www.parkandride.net). Buses run every 8 to 10 minutes until 11:30pm Monday to Saturday and between 11am and 5pm on Sundays. Off-peak tickets cost £2.20 per person for a round-trip ticket.
Visitor Information -- The Oxford Tourist Information Centre is at 15-16 Broad St. (tel. 01865/252200; www.visitoxford.org). Hours are Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 5pm (5:30pm in summer), Sunday and bank holidays 10am to 4pm.
Tours -- For an easy orientation, take a 1-hour, open top bus tour with City Sightseeing Oxford (tel. 01865/790522; www.citysightseeingoxford.com). Tours start from the railway station. Buses leave daily at 9:30am and then every 10 to 15 minutes in the summer and every 30 minutes in winter. The last bus departs at 4pm November to February, at 5pm March and October, and at 6pm April to September. The cost is £12.50 for adults, £10.50 for students, £10 for seniors, and £6 for children 5 to 14 years; a family ticket for two adults and three children is £32. Tickets can be purchased from the driver and are valid for 24 hours.
The Tourist Information Centre also offers a long list of excellent theme tours, everything from "Magic, Murder & Mayhem" and "Pottering in Harry's Footsteps" to Jewish Heritage and Stained Glass: Our favorites include the 2-hour Inspector Morse.
Finally, Oxford River Cruises (tel. 0845/2269396; www.oxfordrivercruises.com) runs several boat tours along the River Thames, from the tranquil 1-hour Afternoon River Experience (£15) to a sunset picnic trip for £45 per person.
55 miles N of London
The university town of Cambridge is a city of contrasts: Its historic college buildings with their magnificent chapels, turrets, and spires provide a romantic backdrop to delight even the most traveled tourist while its high-tech industries lead the way in global technology.
Visit Cambridge and it feels like a little of that fairy dust rubs off on you too, as you discover the Bridge of Sighs while punting on the River Cam. Walk along The Backs of the colleges as the spring bulbs produce a carpet of flowers and explore the narrow streets in the footsteps of Sir Isaac Newton, John Milton, Charles Darwin, Virginia Woolf, and many more. But Cambridge is not just a collection of old colleges, as inspiring as they are. It's a living, working town with many non-University residents who bring additional atmosphere to the city.
Getting There -- Trains from London's King's Cross station take 45 minutes to an hour. A one-way ticket costs from £20. Trains from London's Liverpool Street take 80 minutes and cost from £17.10.
If you're driving from London, head north on the M11. City parking is expensive so stop at a Park-and-Ride. Return bus tickets cost £2.30 per person from machines (£2.60 from bus drivers); children ride free. Buses leave every 10 minutes (15 minutes on Sundays and bank holidays).
Visitor Information -- For free information on attractions and public transport visit the Cambridge Tourist Information Centre, Peas Hill, CB2 3AD (tel. 0871/226-8006 (0044/1223/464732 from overseas); www.visitcambridge.org). Staff can also book tours and accommodation. Open year-round, Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, and April to November Sundays & public holidays 11am to 3pm.
Getting Around -- Cambridge is best seen on foot, or you can join the locals and cycle everywhere. Station Cycles (tel. 01223/307125; www.stationcycles.co.uk) has bikes for rent for £8 a half-day, £10 a day, or £25 a week. There's a shop in the railway station car park and they also have left-luggage facilities. Park your bike for free at the Park Street or Grand Arcade car parks.
Tours -- The Cambridge Tourist Information Centre has several 2-hour walking tours of the city, from £8 to £14.50 for adults, and up to £7 for children under 12. Book tours on tel. 01223/457574 or visit www.visitcambridge.org.
City Sightseeing (tel. 01223/423578; www.city-sightseeing.com) uses open top, double-decker buses from outside Cambridge railway station, and has 20 hop-on-hop-off stops. Tours depart every 20 minutes from Silver Street near The Backs, between 9:30am and 4pm in summer and 10:20am to 3pm in winter. Tickets are valid for 24 hours. The fare is £13 for adults, £9 for seniors and students, £7 for children 6 to 15, and free for under-5s. A family ticket for £32 covers two adults and up to three children.
Salisbury & Stonehenge
90 miles SW of London
Long before you enter the city, the spire of Salisbury Cathedral comes into view -- just as John Constable and J.M.W. Turner captured it on canvas. The 123m (404-ft.) pinnacle of the Early English Gothic cathedral is the tallest in England, but is just one among many historical points of interest in this thriving county city.
Salisbury, once known as "New Sarum," lies in the valley of South Wiltshire's River Avon. Filled with Tudor inns and tearooms, it is also an excellent base for visitors keen to explore nearby Stonehenge. The old market town also has a lively arts scene, and is an interesting destination on its own. If you choose to linger for a day or two, you find an added bonus: Salisbury's pub-to-citizen ratio is among the highest in England.
Getting There -- Trains for Salisbury depart half-hourly from Waterloo Station in London; the trip takes under 1 1/2 hours. Operators include Megatrain (www.megatrain.com) with tickets starting from £10 each way if booked in advance online, and South West Trains (tel. 0870/906-6649; www.southwesttrains.co.uk).
If you're driving from London, head west on the M3 and then the M27 to junction 2, continuing the rest of the way on the A36.
Visitor Information -- Salisbury's friendly Tourist Information Centre is on Fish Row (tel. 01722/334956; www.visitsalisbury.com). It's open Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 5:30pm; between June and August, it's also open Sunday 11am to 3pm. For information on the wider South Wiltshire area, you should also consult www.visitwiltshire.co.uk.
Tours -- You can easily see Salisbury on foot, either on your own or by taking a guided daytime or evening walk run by Salisbury City Guides (tel. 07873/212941; www.salisburycityguides.co.uk). Tickets are £4 for adults and £2 for children.
The hop-on, hop-off Stonehenge Tour bus (tel. 01983/827005; www.stonehengetour.info) picks up several times an hour (on the hour from 10am to 2pm in winter) from Salisbury railway and bus stations, passing via Salisbury Cathedral (additional cost), Old Sarum all the way to the stones, taking 35 minutes each way. A round-trip ticket costs £11 for adults, £5 for children; including entrance to Stonehenge and Old Sarum, prices are £18 adults, £15 students, and £9 children.
115 miles W of London; 13 miles SE of Bristol
Strolling along Bath's sweeping Royal Crescent with its wide pavements and grand Georgian terraced homes, you immediately feel part of a Jane Austen novel. Tourism has been the main industry in Bath for more than 2,000 years: from Roman times to the present-day tourism, which began in the 18th century when Queen Anne came to "take the waters" in 1702. Imagine the fantastic balls and parties held in the Pump Rooms and Assembly Rooms, overseen by the dandy Richard "Beau" Nash, and then take a nose into the grand homes along the Royal Crescent, designed to fit their social status.
Getting There -- Trains leave London's Paddington station bound for Bath once every half-hour during the day; the trip takes about 1 1/2 hours: National Rail (tel. 0845/748-4950; www.nationalrail.co.uk).
National Express (tel. 0871/781-8178; www.nationalexpress.com) buses leave London's Victoria coach station every 90 minutes during the day. The trip takes 3 1/2 hours.
If you're driving, head west on the M4 to Junction 18. Parking in Bath is expensive, and many roads are blocked off during busy times for buses, and so park at the Lansdown Park & Ride, 3 miles south of Junction 18. Open Monday to Saturday 6:15am to 8:30pm (pay on the bus).
Visitor Information -- The Bath Tourist Information Centre is at Abbey Chambers, Abbey Church Yard (tel. 09067/112000 toll call, 50p per minute; from overseas call +44/844/8475257; www.visitbath.co.uk). It's open June through September, Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 6pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm; October to May, Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 5pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm. Closed December 25 and January 1.
Tours -- The Mayor's office provides professionally guided free 2-hour Walking Tours of Bath daily (Sun-Fri 10:30am and 2pm; Sat 10:30am. May-Sept also Tues and Fri 7pm). Meet outside the Abbey Churchyard entrance to the Pump Room.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.