While you’re unlikely to ever run out of things to do in London (it is, after all, a city of world-class entertainment, art and epicurean options!), Great Britain is packed with amazing getaways you can easily reach from its capital. Whether you’re looking for beautiful beaches or quintessential English countryside, here are a few suggestions for fantastic three-day breaks – and they’re all less than a two-hour train trip from Paddington or Liverpool Street stations.

The Cotswolds

Approximate distance from London: 3 hours by train

Nothing epitomises the classic English country experience quite like the Cotswolds – the biggest of the ‘38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales’. Contained within the Cotswold counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire are a smattering of lovely chocolate box villages – but the ones considered among the best are those of Gloucestershire.

While you mustn’t miss Bourton on Water (nicknamed the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’), Blockley (where the village green overlooks the beautiful Norman Church) or Bilbury (especially scenic Arlington Row and its lane of historic 17th-century houses), no trip to Gloucestershire is complete without a stop at the Slaughters.

Despite the ominous-sounding names Upper and Lower Slaughter offer an elegant experience inspired by eras past. As well as architectural masterpieces and honey-coloured stone cottages that have remained virtually untouched since the 1900s, other must-sees and dos include a leisurely stroll along the banks of the River Eye from Upper to Lower Slaughter or down Copse Hill Road (voted the most romantic street in England by Google Street View); a visit to the Nature in Art Gallery and Museum – where you can find the widest range of nature-inspired art in the world housed in a stunning Georgian mansion; and a stop past the stained glass Great East Window and its extraordinary cloisters – which appear in three Harry Potter movies. Come dinner, The Lords of the Manor hotel serves Michelin-star food in postcard-perfect surroundings.

For those looking to linger in the Cotswolds for a little longer, the charming antique shops of Castle Combe, tea shops of Burford (where the Olde Sweet Shop is also a must-see!), Tuesday markets of Moreton, or a pub roast at the Swan Inn in Swinbrook, the Falkland Arms in Great Tew or the George Inn in Lacock – the oldest licensed pub in England dating back to the 13th century – provide the perfect opportunity to soak up the ambience over three days.

Bristol

Approximate distance from London: 2 hours by train

Artistic, eclectic and independent, Bristol in the southwest of England, is briskly garnering a buzz as one of Great Britain’s coolest cities. In fact, its Montpelier area was voted the UK’s hippest neighbourhood in 2018. And three days is the perfect amount of time to experience some of the incredibly innovative offerings of the metropolis once dubbed “the best city in the UK to live in” by The Sunday Times.

Take advantage of Bristol’s status as the UK’s first cycling city, and hire a bike for 72 hours. Then use it to access the best landmarks, among them the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Cathedral, Lord Mayor’s Chapel, Being Brunel and the SS Great Britain, Millenium Square and the Lido spa, sauna, and steam room (not completely surprisingly when one considers the number of wellness centres dotted around the city). Or cycle your way around the city’s brilliant shopping and social scene…If it’s vinyl, vegan or vintage there’s a very good chance you can try it or buy it in Bristol!

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, swap your bike for a bite and get ready to refuel at one of the many eateries that have seen Bristol elevated to the unofficial food capital of West County. As well as five Michelin Star restaurants and sophisticated spots offerings pre-theatre dining, Bristol is packed with boutique diners and family-friendly places to eat. Head to Koocha Mezze Bar in Stokes Croft for Persian style bar food, Vegetable Diva in Brandon Quay – a zero-waste cafe run by a local nutritionist, or St Nicholas Street market for a snack as you soak up the sun. And be sure to check out some of the best craft breweries in the UK – including The Coronation Tap, where the legendary Exhibition Cider is so strong it only comes in halves!

For travellers who prefer getting around on two feet (as opposed to two wheels!), a Banksy street art tour is the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with Bristol’s – nay one of the world’s most prolific street artists. While you can see some of his masterpieces at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery Banksy’s graffitied artwork can be found all over town – with Frogmore Street, Stokes Croft and Hanover Place, near Albion Docks, all offering a veritable bit of Banksy magic. For those in the city in July, don’t miss Europe’s biggest free street art and graffiti festival, Upfest.

Alternatively, those interested in getting their feet wet should check out The Wave. Opened in 2019 this incredible man-made surfing lagoon that’s the first of its kind in England, casting out more than 1,000 waves an hour across its 200-metre surface!

Kent

Approximate distance from London: 1 hour by train

A slower pace and a beautiful, relaxed landscape – alternating between country and coast – conveniently combine to make the southeastern English county of Kent the perfect place to enjoy an easy 72-hour escape.

Spend some time in the harbourside fishing town of Whitstable to the north – discovering the wine, beer, and cider trails nestled amongst its colourful cottages; head east to the beaches of Margate and some of the UK’s first seaside resorts; visit Hever Castle, Leeds Castle and Sissinghurst Castle – a ruined Elizabethan manor house in Cranbrook converted into a brilliantly coloured garden; or comfortably while away all three of your days in Canterbury – the cathedral city that most accurately depicts Kent as ‘The Garden of England’.

Set within Canterbury’s verdant rolling hills are some of England’s finest medieval architecture – most notably the incredible Canterbury Cathedral, which houses the famous shrine of medieval Archbishop Thomas Becket. Other enchanting landmarks of this culturally-rich city include St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church (which together with the cathedral form a UNESCO heritage site); the award-winning Canterbury Tales attraction, where Chaucer’s medieval England experiences are recreated; and The Marlowe Theatre – which hosts everything from pantomimes to West End musicals on its stage.

Not a history hound? Kent – specifically Canterbury – offers an abundance of great opportunities to give your wallet a workout. Whitefriars is a modern mall that brings you the best in high-street fashion and lifestyle while the areas of the King’s Mile, Westgate and St Dunstan’s offer specialist and independent shops and boutiques.

Prefer to spend your cash on culinary creations? Make a booking at Azouma – for authentic Middle Eastern and Moroccan food served in a traditional Arabic setting; Cafe des Amis – a Mexican restaurant said to be a favourite of ex-Canterbury resident Orlando Bloom; Corner House – a newly refurbished 16th century coach house with a focus on seasonal and local ingredients; and Tiny Tim’s Tea Room – a luxurious 1930s inspired chandelier-lit tea room that hosts a popular all-day afternoon tea with homemade sweet and savoury delights including finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and flavoursome cakes.

Norfolk

Approximate distance from London: 4.5 hours by train

Norfolk offers almost 150 kilometres of untouched coastline, unrestricted countryside and unspoilt national parks and nature reserves. And your options for a three-day retreat to this region on the mid-east coast of England are limited only by your imagination.

72 hours will give you enough time to scratch the surface of some of its seven areas, which include Broadland (where you will find the Broads, a man-made National Park with more than 200 kilometres of waterways set in charming countryside); Breckland and Thetford Forest (which boasts the kind of climate perfect for year-round eco-adventures); and Great Yarmouth (full of fun things to do along the fabled Golden Mile seafront).

But you would be forgiven should you opt to dedicate all your time to Norwich. The delightful riverside city – less than two hours from London – is a fantastic destination where you could easily indulge in its culture, as well as countless retail attractions and outdoor activities, for three full days alone.

Start by wandering through the quaint cobblestone lanes of Norwich’s Cathedral Quarter – where streets such as Elm Hill, Timber Hill and Tombland create a haphazard labyrinth lined with landmarks, historic churches and castles, museums, art galleries, theatres, and the city’s heritage half-timbered houses including Dragon Hall, The Guildhall and Strangers’ Hall.

Continue with a visit to the city’s traditional open-air market – one of the oldest in all of Great Britain, or the plantation garden – where rustic Gothic fountains, Medieval terraced walls and a Victorian-style greenhouse showcase the story of Norwich through the ages (an apt analogy for England’s first city of literature).

Finish by dropping into The Norwich Lanes – famous for their stylish stores, contemporary cafes, regionally-renowned restaurants and buzzing bars. Sample cuisine from eateries such as Grosvenor Fish Bar for (classic fish and chips), the Tipsy Vegan for plant-based comfort food and Figbar for Insta-worthy cakes. Or grab a well-earned local ale in one of the region’s countless pubs. Rumour has it that The Gunton Arms is particularly good!