There’s nothing like exploring a new city, but sometimes it’s worth venturing just a little further afield to see what’s waiting to be discovered. So here are 5 of our favourite day trips for anyone looking for a holiday from their holiday, or a quick adventure from Tokyo, London, Taipei, Brussels or Taipei!
Tokyo to Kamakura
Kamakura is the perfect remedy for nature lovers who want to swap the bustling metropolis for hiking trails through ancient forests, beach bums who’ve found themselves in Tokyo on route to surf, or anyone who wants to discover one of Japan’s most sacred and historic sites. The city was once the nation’s capital thanks to its unique position, protected by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, so it’s no surprise that there’s so many culturally significant sites to discover. A truly ancient city, Kamakura has been inhabited in one way or another for over 10,000 years, so exploring its historic shrines and temples will give you a glimpse into its rich past. Home to some of the most sacred Buddhist and Shinto sites in Japan, each has its own unique story to tell. As well as the Daibutsu, or Giant Buddha, there are countless shrines and temples to visit, each seemingly more beautiful than the last. From the imposing Engaku-ji Temple which is surrounded by an enchanting forest of towering cedars to Kosokuji Temple and its peaceful gardens filled with apple blossom during spring, the Tsurugaoka Hachiman, which is the most historically and politically important shrine in Kamakura, to the Hokoku-ji Temple with its magical grove of over 2000 bamboo trees, there are more tranquil spots to discover here than you could imagine. And thanks to the city’s own mini rail system, getting around is a breeze. Start by exploring the temples and shrines nestled in the foothills of the mountains and make your way to the ocean, stopping in a traditional tea house along the way.
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Brussels to Bruges
We’d be lying if we said one of our main motivations to visit Bruges wasn’t to indulge in its world famous chocolate. But, we’ll also be the first to admit that there’s so much more to this enchanting Flemish city than it’s velvety smooth pralines and rich truffles - although making a pilgrimage to its legendary chocolatiers is a must! Stepping off the train feels like stepping into a fairy tale (once you’ve made it out of the station, that is) thanks to its cobbled streets, medieval turrets and charming terraces which line its tranquil canals. It’s these waterways which have given the city its name of the ‘Venice of the North’, and strolling along the canals has the same magical feeling that you’ll find in Bruges’s Italian sibling. The centre of town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its no wonder with so many historically significant landmarks to visit. Not to be missed is the 12th century Basilica of the Holy Blood with its lavish Romanesque interior, the opulently Gothic City Hall which dates from 1376, the Church Of Our Lady & Sint-Janshospital which is home to Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child, and the Begijnhof, a unique whose striking white houses once acted as an enclave for widowed women in the 13th century.
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Amsterdam to Utrecht
Close enough that you can still spot the capital in the distance from the top of the gothic Dom Tower, but with it’s own unique history and culture, Utrecht is the perfect day trip to make from Amsterdam. This charming city is one of the most historic places in the Netherlands - a settlement has actually stood here since Roman times, and the ancient fortification still lies hidden underneath the medieval city. As well as the iconic Dom Tower which dates from 1143, you’ll find medieval buildings (which are still standing) around literally every corner and one of the oldest canals in Europe, the Oudegracht lazily flows through the city. Flanked by classic Dutch terraces and unique subterranean wharfs, this canal is a magical spot to explore - wander along its banks and browse the underground quays which have been converted into quirky boutiques and tiny cafes. Utrecht’s lively spirit and bohemian personality can be felt everywhere, whether its while exploring the 17th century university or basking in the sun on one of the canal’s stone terraces, where you’ll get a feel for the city’s outdoor cafe culture.
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London to Windsor
For a very British day out, there’s nowhere quite like the historic market town of Windsor. This picturesque spot is the Queen’s favourite weekend getaway, and although you (sadly) won’t be staying at Windsor Castle like the royals do on their trips here, there’s plenty to see and do. Of course, no trip to Windsor would be complete without visiting this iconic landmark. This palace has been a royal residence since the 11th century, so take some time to explore the fairytale castle, its luxurious rooms and beautifully preserved architecture, as well as taking a walk through Windsor Great Park. Look out for the beautiful red deer who roam the park, and take a stroll from the castle along The Long Walk, the pathway which winds through the parkland (although thankfully not all 5000 acres of it) to the striking Copper Horse statue. Once you’ve worked up an appetite for lunch, take your pick from the classically British pubs which are dotted around. Indulge in traditional pub food and a pint of real ale at pubs like the Duchess of Cambridge or the Two Brewers, or for something more refined take a stroll along the river Thames and take your pick from one of the cafes serving afternoon tea where you can try still warm from the over scones served with freshly whipped cream and home-made jam!
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Taipei to Juifen
Juifen feels a world away from city life in Taipei, so let yourself be spirited away (sorry, we had to, but you’ll quickly see why Juifen was the inspiration for the iconic Miyazaki film Spirited Away) and charmed by the magic of this town that’s nestled in the mountains a few hours north of the capital. What was once an isolated village was transformed into a mining town after the discovery of gold during the Japanese occupation. The culture, cuisine and architecture here draws on its Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese heritage, making it an enticing place to explore, and eat your way around! Get lost in the labyrinth of lanes which snake their way up and down the mountain sides, check out the town's breathtaking ocean views and relax in a traditional tea houses and lantern adorned buildings. With unique cultural landmarks like the Shengping Theatre, there’s plenty to do here, but make sure you leave more than enough time to sample the local delicacies! With street foods like red yeast dumplings, bbq chicken wings stuffed with sticky rice and fishballs in soup, the food available here is truly authentic, so don’t be afraid to try new dishes!
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