It’s no secret that London holds the status as one of the most culturally-diverse, historically important, and tourist-friendly cities in the world. But it’s one thing to come here as a short-term visitor, and something completely different to move to the city as a long-term resident – even if just for the duration of a study programme. The red buses suddenly start to move too slow and the commute journey becomes less interesting. The lack of reception in the tube turns stressful as the excitement of riding the most famous underground system in the world fades away. Although it’s unlikely that anyone has ever managed to visit all of London’s attractions, or uncovered every little secret place hidden in it, it’s inevitable to start longing for a break from the big city madness. Luckily, London is a great hub for cool places that are only a train ride away for anyone who wishes to unwind a little.
Thus, the first thing to ask yourself if you’re thinking about taking a short break from London is “what is it that you want to get away from?” Or following the reverse logic, what is it that you want to see? In my case, I wanted to get away from all the traffic noise and see the ocean.
The natural answer to that – and my first suggestion – is Brighton.
Probably one of the most famous coastal British cities, Brighton is a couple of hours to the south of London and houses its famous pier that stretches outward into the sea, a nice pebble beach filled with surfers during the summer, and tall and white cliffs along the shore. Brighton is also said to be the best place in the UK to try the typical fish and chips dish. So if you’re in town, make sure to put that on your to-do list. After a while walking along the beach and getting far enough from the city centre, Brighton’s fresh air and the sound of the ocean waves will make you feel like London is a thousand miles behind you.
Another cool place to go to if you want to escape London’s fast pace is Oxford. The architecture won’t be able to hide the old and medieval atmosphere of the city, although its streets are pulsing with youthfulness. Most of the city’s inhabitants are students, which contributes to the apparent contradiction of a city that looks so old, surprisingly feeling so young. If you’re longing for a short break, a day-trip to Oxford is a good way to do a quick escape and be back in time to meet your friends at the pub.
However, if you’re interested in a slightly longer break – perhaps a whole weekend – my ultimate suggestion is Edinburgh. The journey there is a tad longer and can take up a few hours, but I guarantee that it is worth it. Scotland’s jewel houses castles, gardens, and monuments that will make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale to the point where you could be slaying a dragon or bumping into a full-armoured knight at any time. If you visit the city during the winter, be ready to face severe, cold and rainy weather. That’s what happened to me and not even that could break my spirit – that’s how much Edinburgh is a magical place. The city’s old streets and sinuous hills tell a story on their own and will make you want to come back soon to hear more.
It’s important to keep in mind that even though London is a magnificent city, there’s a lot more that the UK can offer. And if you’re interested in knowing new places and shuffling your routine a bit, taking short breaks outside the city is a great tip to follow. As I said earlier, just ask yourself what is it that you want to escape from or be pulled into. Chances are that there’s gonna be a perfect place only a couple of hours away that will match your answer. If London ever makes you feel overwhelmed, there’s plenty of options where you can go to catch your breath. A well-deserved break in some fascinating place awaits you at London’s outskirts and beyond.