The goals of the work described in this paper were to describe palliative day care from the patient's perspective. Five palliative day care centres in the UK are described. The study subjects were new referrals to the five palliative day care centres, which provided facilities for medical and nursing assessment and also for social and therapeutic activities. This reflects the range of palliative day care services provided in the London region. Three interviews were carried out with each patient over a 3-month period. The descriptive data were examined for content, and the themes were analysed for the frequency of responses within and between interviews. The responses were also examined within three different models of day care (defined by the services). In all, 120 day care patients were recruited from the five centres. Patients attending for day care were mainly white, over 65 years old, retired, and with a cancer diagnosis. These were a representative sample of day care patients in the London region. Patients attended day care to 'meet people' and 'get them out of home' and found the environment 'nice and friendly'. The relationships with the staff and volunteers were also important, and they enjoyed the various activities. At each interview the most important theme identified was 'meeting people'. For this to be supported it would mean encouraging the activities within day care that provide patients with an environment in which they can meet people. This will mean different things to different people, as highlighted in the different philosophies obtained at individual centres.