London is one of the best cities in the world, however to really get a feel for authentic English life, you’ll have to head out of the big city. Some of the prettiest small towns and villages in England lie on the outskirts of the country’s capital, so why not make more out of your trip and explore more than just the city? The incredible century old architecture, quaint cafes and olden day pubs of these tiny towns and villages will make you feel like you’re a million miles from the hustle and bustle of London, when really most are a short train journey away. Step out of London, take a breath of fresh air and experience proper village life like a local. Here are the prettiest English towns to visit around London…
Shere has long been voted as one of the quaintest country villages in Britain, so it’s no surprise that scenes in the likes of Bridget Jones and The Holiday have been filmed here. To get there, take the Southwestern railway to Guildford and the number 32 bus to Shere Village Hall, right in the centre. The tiny village is packed with everything you would expect from village life in the English country, including a tearoom, local old school pubs, a 12th century church and ducks floating along the river.
The buildings in Shere are absolutely stunning 16th and 17th century architecture, making you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Photographers amongst you will love the opportunities to get your camera out as the entire place boasts an air of charm.
BEACONSFIELD OLD TOWN, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
Hop on a train from London Marylebone and within 20 minutes you’ll arrive in the quaint, old village of Beaconsfield. Stroll up the road through the New Town and past all the shops and cafes until you begin to see more Georgian and Tudor-style architecture in the picturesque Old Town. Wander around, take photos and sit in the White Hart for a proper British pint and some good pub food. The Royal Standard pub is less than 10 minutes drive up the road and is renowned amongst locals and visitors for being one of England’s oldest pubs (and it makes you feel like you've gone back in time). Have a drink in here on a chilly day and you’ll leave feeling all warm and cosy inside. For a lovely cocktail, head to the Treehouse on the high street.
The town’s Bekonscot Model Village is also famous for being the very first model village in the world, full of miniature model houses and tiny villagers, it might sound childish but people of all ages absolutely love it. Beaconsfield is a lovely place that’s just a stone’s throw away from big city life but still retaining a country village feel from the Old Town and a modern flair from the New.
If you’re looking for an idyllic English country village, Finchingfield in Essex is offbeat, photogenic and the perfect day trip. It’s actually won awards for being beautifully picturesque. Located in the Braintree area of Essex, Finchingfield has plenty of historical landmarks to keep culture vultures happy, such as Guildhall, built around 1500, the 18th century Roundhouse, the home of author of 101 Dalmatians, Dodie Smith and Spains Hall, an incredible Elizabethan building surrounded by woodland.
Finchingfield is without doubt the epitome of English village life, with white cottages, a village green, a duck pond, a medieval church, a small humpback bridge across a stream, even a windmill, and, of course, country pubs at every turn.
This is the furthest village from London on this list, but it's sure worth it and offers something different compared to all the others. About a 2 hour drive/train ride away from London in the South of England you'll find a small, picturesque village called Beaulieu located in the New Forest National Park. This beautiful village is a real countryside retreat, the perfect place to escape busy city life.
Come for a day trip and enjoy the vast ponds, lakes and wildlife. The New Forest is known for its wild horses, donkeys and pigs that roam around freely on the paths and roads of the National Park; on a visit to Beaulieu you're guaranteed to walk amongst these beautiful animals when strolling around. Quaint specialist coffee shops, chocolate shops, old pubs, tea rooms, local souvenir shops and idyllic walk routes make Beaulieu one of our favourite peaceful towns in England.
If you're a car fan, don't miss the famous British National Motor Museum. Filled with classic cars, F1 cars to classic family saloons, this museum is home to one of the finest collections of motors in the world with over 200 vehicles inside.
Possibly the prettiest town that sits on the River Thames, Marlow in Buckinghamshire would make for a lovely day trip out of London. With river views, lush meadows from the Chiltern Hills and some beautiful houses sitting on the banks, you won’t be able to resist getting your camera out at every opportunity, especially when the sun is shining. The high street is lined with countless boutique shops and quaint cafes, and the Georgian architecture gives it a smart, very British village feel. Red, white and blue bunting hangs above the road, crisscrossing patriotically down the high street for another perfect picture.
On a sunny day, walk across Marlow Bridge and laze on the river banks with a picnic. Or when the weather is worse for wear, shop along the high street, have coffee and cake in a cafe and drink beer in one of the many local pubs.
ALFRISTON, EAST SUSSEX
If you're looking for a classic chocolate-box village near the coast, then head to the South Downs in East Sussex. About a 24 minutes cycle from the sea lies one of the most beautiful villages in England called Alfriston, a civil parish in the valley of the River Cuckmere. Beautiful country walks, 14th century churches, old book stores and beautiful local village shops makes Alfriston a brilliant contender in this list. This village is a lovely 4 mile stroll inland along the river from the sea at Cuckmere Haven with plenty of pubs to stop for a drink on the way. While Alfriston is small, there is no shortage of places to eat and drink. For a delicious lunch at a proper Inn, book yourself a table at the cosy George Inn, The Star Inn or the Smuggler's Inn. There also some lovely cake and tea spots.
You can travel here by train from London Victoria in just under 2 hours.
OLD AMERSHAM, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
Down the road from Amersham tube station on the Metropolitan line, Old Amersham is a quaint, English village sat right in the valley of the River Misbourne on the outskirts of the Chiltern Hills. From the cobbled pavements to the stunning, green views and characterful buildings, Old Amersham is perfect for an escape from London and a real breath of fresh air. Pack your walking shoes and head up the hill from behind the Old Town car park where you’ll get a wonderful view over Amersham and the Chilterns.
Walk in a simple loop up, across and down the hill, or explore the town further and go through the woods to the other side of Amersham. Once you’ve found your way back down to the old high street, mooch around the quaint, boutique stores, stop for a coffee or relax with a pint at the beautiful Kings Arms pub.