Planning a day trip from London? At little more than 30 miles from Central London, Guildford, the county town of Surrey, is a fun place to spend a day out. Here’s a list of things to do in Guildford to help you plan the perfect day trip. I’ve been to Guildford many times because it’s close to where my in-laws lived. I’ve been to these places and can recommend them from first-hand experience!
How to get there
Take the South Western Railway line to Portsmouth Harbour or Portsmouth & Southsea from London Waterloo station. Plan your trip here and book your tickets in advance here. I didn’t download the app, I simple used the bar code provided via email and worked perfectly.
Things to do in Guildford
Where to shop in Guildford
As you leave the station and cross the River Wey, you’ll come across The Friary on North Street. The Friary shopping centre was built on the site of a medieval Dominican friary, hence the name. You’ll find all the High Street brands, a food court and all the amenities of a shopping mall.
White Lion Walk
The White Lion Walk shopping centre runs from North Street to the High Street. It has a mix of independent and chain stores.
The High Street is, in my opinion, the prettiest street. As it slopes towards the river, it has beautiful views of the river below and the countryside beyond. Shopping-wise, you’ll find designer stores, high street brands, jewellers, the gorgeous The Angel Hotel and many historic buildings from various centuries. Go down the narrow alleys, you never known what you’ll find!
North Street is a busy commercial street, perhaps less graceful than the High Street, rather more practical. There’s a market every Friday and Saturday with anything from fruit and meat to goods for the home.
Chapel Street and the Lanes
Chapel Street is the most up-market shopping area in town. It looks almost like a winding alley, but it isn’t as it leads towards the Castle. Lots of little bars and restaurants to explore.
Designer stores, lifestyle brands and home stores make up Tunsgate Quarter’s offerings. This upscale mall is located on the High Street opposite the Guildhall.
Guildford High Street
Not only does the High Street have great shopping, it has some interesting historical buildings to see. Click here to read about a historic walk I took a while ago. Guildford dates back to Saxon times and is a history buff’s dream.
Don’t forget to look up and read the plaques when strolling along the High Street. You’ll see many Reformation, Victorian, Georgian and Tudor buildings along the way. Guildford was an important coaching point in the 17th and 18th centuries thanks to is location halfway between London and Portsmouth. Hence the stately buildings from those times. Going back farther in time to the Anglo-Saxon era, the village of Guildeforde ran along the present-day High Street. That’s how old it is!
A rare example of a Restoration home, Guildford House (c. 1660) is now the town’s art gallery. The house alone is worth a visit. Once you’ve admired the current exhibition, make your way to the garden cafe. In good weather, it’s a fantastic place to stop for a drink or a meal surrounded by flowers and birdsong.
This Elizabethan building is where the Mayor and the Corporation met. It bears the coat of arms of Elizabeth I on occasion of one of her visits. The clock is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the High Street. Contact Heritage Services to arrange a visit.
Guildford was an important trading centre, and the Undercroft reflects that. This medieval basement, which dates from the 13th century, was probably used as a storeroom by a merchant. Click here for opening times.
Although it’s called hospital, it really is a home for the elderly. George Abbot, a Guildford native who became Archbishop of Canterbury, founded this almshouse at the top of the High Street in the 1620’s. This beautiful Tudor building is a private residence, but you can take a peek at the courtyard from the gate.
Holy Trinity church
Holy Trinity church is right across the street from Abbot’s Hospital. Built in the 1750’s, Holy Trinity can be visited on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The churchyard at the back, always open, is a lovely place to sit and think.
Even though the town goes back many centuries, the cathedral is rather modern. Read all about Guildford Cathedral here. I do recommend you take the hike up there for the magnificent views.
The Millmead Lock is part of the River Wey and Godalming Navigation, which was created in 1653 to lower transportation costs and make it faster to reach London. Nowadays, people can rent narrow boats in Farnham and sail around the canal system in the south of England. I was lucky enough to see the lock in action.
The canal and the Town Wharf
The River Wey runs through Guildford and there are a few bridges across. Many people like to take a walk along the tow path, especially in fine weather. The Wey was the highway of the pre-railway era, goods were transported as far as London. The Town Wharf opened in 1653 and, according to a plaque, it was “the secret of Guildford’s success.”
The collections of the Guildford Museum span the history of the area from the Anglo-Saxons to Lewis Carroll. It provides a solid background for your visit, should you be interested in local history.
Guildford Castle, castle grounds and the Alice Garden
Guildford Castle goes back to the times of the Norman Conquest. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William led his army inland and sacked towns from Canterbury to Guildford. One of his barons stayed and built a castle. Only the keep remains, which has been conserved and is open to visitors. The castle grounds are incredibly beautiful and are open all year round. Look out for the Alice Through The Looking Glass statue in the Alice Garden.
Castle Green Bowling Club
Although the club is nearly 100 years old, residents have played bowls here since the 1660s. You catch a game of bowls, or simple enjoy the intensely green environment. There’s also a war memorial, called Garden of Remembrance. Look out for Guildford’s first public gas lamp.
In the footsteps of Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll spend Christmases in summer holidays in Guildford. He rented a hour called The Chestnuts for this sites. He is buried at The Mount Cemetery here in Guildford. Read more about Lewis Carroll and this town here.
St. Mary’s Church
St. Mary’s dates to Saxon times. The tower is the oldest part of the building, from the 10th century. The rest was built in the 13th century. It opens to visitors on Thursdays. I was lucky enough to have visited it twice, in 2003 and 2019. The last time, I climbed the very narrow and steep stairs up the tower. I didn’t dare go up the ladder to there the bells are. Kudos to the bell ringers!
Where to eat in Guildford
There are a lot of places to eat and drink in Guildford, from burger chains to pubs to international cuisines. The area between Castle Street, Quarry Street and Tunsgate is where my favourite restaurants are. Also, there are historic pubs like The Star Inn from the 16th century.
Where to stay in Guildford
I always stay at my in-laws, but this guide from Visit Surrey may come in handy when looking for accommodation in Guildford.
Don’t forget to pin this list of things to do in Guildford!
Read the Spanish version here.