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13 Hour Layover in Heathrow. What to do?

I have a 13 hour layover in the Heathrow Airport on May 8, 2018 from 9AM until 10PM. I'm thinking about using that time to see London. I've never been to England before so I was thinking about checking out the typical touristy attractions like the Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, but I am open to other ideas.

How do I go about this logistically with transportation and everything? What's the cheapest and/or more effective way to travel from Heathrow into Westminster? Any kind strangers want to give me a ride and/or tour of London haha? (only half-way kidding)

Also, does the Heathrow Airport provide luggage storage?

Posted by
1063 posts

The Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) will be covered in scaffolding for some years.

Posted by
2130 posts

Some years ago, we did exactly this. We decided to go to the British Museum ("It's free!!") Several points:

1) There is a train to Paddington Station, and then you can take a bus to the BM. There are 2 trains: Express and local. The express costs 2x, and saves you 15 min. We made the huge mistake of taking the express - instead of 32 L, it was 64 (for the 4 of us).
2) We had plenty of time to go to the BM, have tea, and do a casual tour of London by riding on the top level of a bus, which was fun.
3) People at Heathrow were very helpful
4) As to luggage, we had checked ours through to our final destination. I'm pretty sure we put the carryons in a storage locker.

Posted by
5611 posts

Look on line NOW for a round trip Heathrow Express ticket. It’s costly BUT gets you from Heathrow to Paddington Station in 15 minutes.

Walk outside Paddington Station and turn right on Praed Street and walk past the adjacent Hilton Hotel. On the corner is an HSBC bank ATM. Grab some pounds. cross Praed Street The Pride of Paddington Pub on your right and follow The road one block to Sussex Gardens ( tree lined street ). Cross the road via the cross walk. Turn right and Walk a half block to the where the intersection is ( church across the road on the right) cross at the light and walk a half block to Bayswater road.

Hyde Park is across Bayswater Road. If you want a coffee and to see the lovely Italian Gardens ( a gift from Albert to Victoria) cross at the light and walk into Hyde Park. To your left is a nice small cafe. If not interested in coffee when you get to Bayswater turn left and you’ll be at Lancaster Gate tube station. Take the Circle Line ( red line) 2 stops to Bond Street
( 6 mins) exit the train ( Mind The Gap) and take the Jubilee Line ( Grey Line) 5 minutes to Westminster.

Exit and you will be with the masses at Parliament Square ( Parliament, Elizabeth’s Tower ( in scaffolding and Big Ben not be wrung on the hour) and Westminster Abby. You can meander then follow Birdcage walk ( there is great signage ) into St
James park and on up to Buckingham Palace. From there over to and into Green Park. Walk thru Green park to Piccadilly and turn right. Walk about 2 Long blocks to Trafalgar Square. From there you can walk to Covent Garden and/or walk down Whitehall heading back to Parliament Square.

Use google satellite maps to see the above route. At Charing Cross tube station take a Bakerloo line train
( dark brown) to Paddington Station and hop back on the Heathrow Express.

That should give a few high points of London in the most efficient amount time.

Great city. Enjoy your brief respite.

Posted by
5611 posts

Look on line NOW for a round trip Heathrow Express ticket. It’s costly BUT gets you from Heathrow to Paddington from Station in 15 minutes.

Walk outside Paddington Station and turn right on Praed Street and walk past theHilton Hotel. On the corner is an HSBC bank ATM. Grab some pounds. cross Praed Street The Pride of Paddington Pub on your right and follow The road one block to Sussex Gardens ( tree lined street ). Cross the road via the cross walk. Walk a half block to the where the intersection is ( church across the road on the right) cross at the light and walk a half block to Bayswater road.

Hyde Park is across Bayswater Road. If you want a coffee and to see the lovely Italian Gardens ( a gift from Albert to Victoria) cross at the light and walk into Hyde Park. To your left is a nice small cafe. If not interested in coffee when you get to Bayswater turn left and you’ll be at Lancaster Gate tube station. Take the Circle Line ( red line) 2 stops to Bond Street ( 6 mins) exit the train ( Mind The Gap) and take the Jubilee Line ( Grey Line) 5 minutes to Westminster.
Exit and you will be at Parliament Square ( Parliament, Elizabeth’s Tower ( in scaffolding and Big Ben not be wrung on the hour) and Westminster Abby. You can follow birdcage walk ( there is great signage ) into St
James park and on up to Buckingham Palace. From there over to and into Green Park. Walk thru Green park to Piccadilly and turn right. Walk about 2 Long blocks to Trafalgar Square. From there you can walk to Covent Garden and/or walk down Whitehall heading back to Parliament Square.

Use google satellite maps to see the above route. At Charing Cross tube station take a Bakerloo line train
( dark brown) to Paddington Station and hop back on the Heathrow Express.

That should give a few high points of London in the most efficient amount time.

Great city. Enjoy your brief respite.

Posted by
3173 posts

I love that your'e only "half-way kidding". :-)

Info about luggage storage at Heathrow.

What's the cheapest and/or more effective way to travel from Heathrow
into Westminster?

To get to Westminster cheaply and easily, take the tube. Specifically, take the Piccadilly Line to Barons Court. Change trains (just across the platform) to a District Line train and depart at Westminster. The Elizabeth Tower is surrounded by scaffolding as others have said but you can still see the Palaces of Westminster and Westminster Abbey. You can then walk to Trafalgar Sq and meander about.

Posted by
12139 posts

i would want to get outside and walk after the long flight, so this is what I would do:

Take the Heathrow Express to Paddington. Walk down to Hyde Park and through the park to Hyde Park Corner. Cross the street and pass the Wellington Arch, crossing again into Green Park. Follow the main path and you will be at Buckingham Palace. Walk past the palace and cross another street into St. James Park. Walk around the lake on the north side and turn right to head south. You can cross the street bordering the park ( Horseguards Road) if you want to see where No. 10 Downing Street is ( the high fence with numerous security guards). At the southeast corner of St. James Park, turn left and follow Birdcage Walk East right to Westminster Bridge. Walk across the bridge for the best views of the clock tower ( now covered with scaffolding) and the Parliament Buildings.

Turn left on the Thames Path ( pedestrian path along the river) and work your way through the crowd at the London Eye to the next bridge ( Hungerford). Speaking of hunger, it is probably time for lunch. There are numerous cafes along there, some with outside seating, mostly up near the British Film Institute building.

After lunch, cross the Hungerford/Golden Jubilee Bridge on the left side ( south side) pedestrian walkway. Continue frommthe Bridge on the same street, heading nearly due West now, to reach Traflagar Square. Lots to see here, depending on how much time you have left.

If you walk up a few more blocks to Piccadilly Circus station, you can ride the Tube back to Heathrow with no changes. Someone else will have to advise you how long this ride will take, as I do not know.

Posted by
1128 posts

Forget the Heathrow Express, a massive and overpriced white elephant. Just take the Piccadilly line to the city since it actually stops at places you'd like to be in. I'd probably take the Piccadilly line to Leicester Square tube station, you'll be near many tourist attractions. You can walk to the National Gallery (free) and then from there, if you want to see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street (from the outside) or Buckingham Palace, it's a quick walk down Whitehall. You're also near Covent Garden.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks everyone for your replies!

If I were to take the Piccadilly line like many of you have mentioned, how do I get tickets for that and how much are they?

Posted by
4521 posts

Do you have a form of contactless payment, and a bank with a decent forex policy? If so you can probably just use it directly all over London on underground, bus etc.

If not, although it may not be the absolute cheapest way, buy a one day travelcard for £12.70 which would cover your out and return travel by Piccadilly line, and any travel whilst in London.

Posted by
4686 posts

If you land on time at 9am, it will be probably 11-11.30 by the time you are in Westminster.

If your 10pm flight is to Europe, you should be back at Heathrow at 8pm, so leave Westminster at 6.30pm and an hour earlier if you are heading to the States. It still gives you several hours to pack in the sights.

Posted by
1217 posts

If the weather is good, do try to spend some time outside in the sunshine. It helps you get over jet lag. Fortunately, London is a city of a thousand lovely parks.

Posted by
5611 posts

Heathrow Express is not a white elephant.

It’s clean, convenient, and if someone wants to see and experience London in an a limited amount of time it’s the BEST way to get into London.

Is it costly? Yes it is? So what.

For me worth every penny instead of the lost amount of time spent using the tube to save money.

Difference of opinion but as the poster wanted the cheapest route into London I’ll concede taking the tube is the way to travel.

However given the short amount of time the poster has to see “ sites “ I’d still advise the Express.

Posted by
4537 posts

if someone wants to see and experience London in an a limited amount of time it’s the BEST way to get into London.

But the Heathrow Express doesn’t necessarily save time nor is it always more convenient. It depends on where you are going. According to TFL, the travel time from Heathrow to Westminster using HEX and tube is only 13 minutes faster than taking the tube the whole way. However, that doesn’t consider that the HEX only comes every 15 minutes and that a tourist will probably have to stop and wait in a queue to buy a tube ticket at Paddington before walking to the Bakerloo line.

Posted by
980 posts

I’ve always taken the Picadilly line into London because it’s more convenient to where I stay. Do you know what terminal you’ll be landing at? Once you walk out of the terminal you should follow the signs to the tube. There is always a manned office so you can go and talk to someone and ask what’s best to do. Since you’ll only be there 1 day, you can probably get a one day travel card. It’s so easy to take the tube. You can get off at Picadilly Circus then make your way to Trafalgar Square and then on to the Thames. Check out the RS book and do one of his walks.

Posted by
15 posts

I don't know what my terminal is, but I'm flying in from Atlanta through Virgin Atlantic. I'm a bit confused about transportation and everything. So like if I take the Heathrow Express to Paddington, won't I have to take a bus or something to Westminster to where all the attractions are? And if I want to take the tube, how/where do I purchase tickets and where should I take it to? And how do I pay for all this? Will I have to exchange currency? So sorry for so many questions!

Posted by
3173 posts

Heathrow Express is not a white elephant.

It’s clean, convenient, and if someone wants to see and experience
London in an a limited amount of time it’s the BEST way to get into
London.

Is it costly? Yes it is? So what.

For me worth every penny instead of the lost amount of time spent
using the tube to save money.

You didn't mention Heathrow Connect. It's still much faster than the Tube and costs only a few pounds more than the Tube. £10.30. That's much cheaper than the Heathrow Express (HEX) assuming one is buying a HEX ticket relatively last minute and only takes 15 minutes more than HEX. It's on the same line platform as HEX. If I'm going toward Paddington, I prefer Heathrow Connect over HEX & the Tube because it gives the best of both worlds -- much faster than the Tube, very comfortable and at an affordable price.

Posted by
15 posts

Where do you purchase Heathrow Connect tickets? Online, the prices I see are very high. And if I'm trying to get from Heathrow Airport to Westminster, what specific routes should I take?

Posted by
4537 posts

If you are trying to get to Westminster by public transportation, the Heathrow Connect will take longer than the tube.

Posted by
896 posts

Hello. While I have happily used the Express and Connect trains, in this case, I would choose the Tube, Piccadilly Line. A flight that seems to match your times and cities looks to arrive at Heathrow, terminal 3. Google it. In any Heathrow terminal, there will be information kiosks with people to help you. They will help you get the necessary ticket for the Tube. ATMs will be in the terminal, as well.

Get yourself a small foldable map with some sights on it - or a small handy guidebook. Leave Tube at Green Park or Piccadilly Circus (I would choose Green Park, myself), plot your way (walking) to Westminster area.

Eating: Google (maps): Pret a Manger, Green Park, London. This will show some locations of the eatery and sights you may be interested in. Print out what looks interesting. You can even plot your walk to Westminster Abbey, or other location you may be interested in. Think about necessities like toilets. For example, Fortnum and Mason is in the area, and, in addition to being an interesting place to visit, you will be able to locate toilets there as in any department store.

I think Westminster Abbey is a good location because a) perhaps you can get to tour the abbey; b) there is a nice cafe there (and toilets) - even if you do not tour; c) at 2:00 in the afternoon, you could hook up with the London Walks Westminster tour. Walks take 2 hours and are well worth the minimal cost. Their website has directions and maps of where to meet. At the end of the tour, repeat your steps and ride to Heathrow.

Posted by
3173 posts

Where do you purchase Heathrow Connect tickets?

From whatever terminal you land, follow the signs for the Heathrow Express and when you get there, this is the same area as the Heathrow Connect. You'll see ticket machines. This is where you can buy your £10.30 ticket on the Connect to Paddington. If I'm going to the Paddington area or Lancaster Gate, Heathrow Connect is easy, quick compared with the Tube, comfortable, and about only £3 more than the Tube. Win/win.

Posted by
15 posts

Thank you so much everyone! All your information and advice was very helpful, and I am so excited for my day in London. If anyone is going to be in the area on Tuesday, let me know! :-)