Whether you fancy a relaxing rural setting, family fun at the seaside or a visit to a historic town, a day out of the city is only a short train journey away

British Airways i360, Brighton

British Airways i360, Brighton

When enjoying a summer break in the city, it's always a bonus to have the option of escaping to the coast or countryside when the temperatures climb. From its central location, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London is an easy train ride to both, making it the perfect base from which to explore.

Only 60 minutes by train from Victoria station, the bucket-and-spade city of Brighton in East Sussex is an obvious seaside contender. It offers everything from summer sports – you can play pitch and putt on the seafront or watch cricket at the Sussex County Cricket Club in nearby Hove – to shopping in the historic Lanes, where independent boutiques specialise in art and antiques, and the North Laine area, which is geared towards lovers of vintage and retro fashion.

The newest attraction, however, is the beachfront British Airways i360. Designed by the architects of the London Eye, it's the world's tallest moving observation tower, allowing visitors to take in views of 26 miles of coastline from its futuristic-looking glass pod.

Turner Contemporary, Margate

Turner Contemporary, Margate

Further round the coastline, in north Kent, is the town of Margate, which is going through a gradual regeneration. Its latest draw, reopened in 2015, is Dreamland. The amusement park features a restored Grade II-listed roller coaster, as well as other rides, such as a helter-skelter and twin Ferris wheels. There's also a roller disco, while street food vans provide plenty of welcome refuelling options.

For art lovers, a visit to Margate's sea-view Turner Contemporary gallery, built on the site where JMW Turner stayed when visiting the town, is a must. Other attractions include vintage homeware shops and ‘moveable' restaurant Xiringuito, which during the summer months (Wednesday to Sunday) serves dishes such as curried soft-shell crab burgers and chef Jackson Berg's take on traditional fish and chips. The train journey to Margate is 90 minutes from St Pancras International.

Radić Pavilion, Hauser & Wirth Somerset

Radić Pavilion, Hauser & Wirth Somerset

For art in a country setting, head to the Somerset village of Bruton, where the Hauser & Wirth gallery opened an outpost two years ago (a train from London Paddington gets you to nearby Castle Cary in 90 minutes). The naturalistic gardens, created by renowned landscape designer Piet Oudolf (of New York's High Line fame) are stunning, and spread across the five gallery spaces until 11 September 2016 is a new body of work by former Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed. For lunch, pop into At The Chapel, a bakery, wine shop, café, bar and restaurant all rolled into one and set in a converted church.

The view from Magdalen Bridge, Oxford

The view from Magdalen Bridge, Oxford

Finally, if it's history you're after, you can't go wrong with the medieval city of Oxford and its hallowed university buildings (main picture), just 50 minutes from London. Make sure you visit the atmospheric Christ Church, which is, unusually, used both as a college and city cathedral, and where scenes from Harry Potter were filmed. Besides the Ashmolean, it's worth taking in the Pitt Rivers Museum, which is full of weird and wonderful artefacts, including ethnic masks and mummies, and save some time for the River Thames. One of the loveliest activities on a summer's day is to hire a punt from the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and spend a lazy afternoon on the river.

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