Please sign in to post.

Layover at Heathrow and advice on what to see

We will be staying in a hotel close to Heathrow airport this May. Our flight arrives from the US at 1:30 pm and we were wanting to do a short trip somewhere. We leave for Rome the following morning. I’ve read possibly Windsor castle, the hop on hop off bus in London…..any advice would be appreciated!
Thank you!

Posted by
3893 posts

Too many variables trying to visit Windsor Castile. The last admission is at 4pm and it closes at 5:15pm. Assuming your flight arrives on time, upon arrival you need to clear immigration, quicker with the e-gates, but could still take a little while depending on how many flights arrive when yours does. If your plane doesn’t pull up to a gate and you have to take a bus to the terminal, that takes time. Then there’s collecting your luggage, dropping off luggage at the hotel, getting to the train, and hoping you don’t need to wait for the next one. Once in Windsor the castle is about a 10 minutes walk from the station.

To me a better bet would be to notate what you want to see in town, then head into London. A few years ago I took a coworker on a 3 hours whirlwind tour of the city using the tube. We saw many places, but didn’t go into anything. Some of the main tourist sights (Trafalgar square, Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth Tower/Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, Eye) are within walking distance of each other. I’ve never used a hop-on, hop-off bus, so can’t speak to them.

Posted by
8433 posts

When my daughter had an overnight like that she went into town and rode a HOHO for the whole circuit, got dinner and went back to her airport lodging.

Admittedly a brief glance but her solution for the time available and a way to get exposure to the 'touristy stuff'. She was realistic with her expectations and was happy she did it

Posted by
6263 posts

Notoriously Expensive but if booked months in advance (like today for a cheaper fare…book roundtrip ticket) the easiest and quickest way is to take the Heathrow Express. 15 minute ride from Heathrow to Paddington Station. Exit the Express, follow the passengers and the lines on the towards the open air exit. You’ll see the sign for the Underground. Use your credit card to buy Oyster cards ( there are machines) and put 15 pounds on it or ask someone if you can use Apple Pay.

Take the underground from Paddington ( Bakerloo, Jubilee or Hammersmith lines) to Westminster. Exit and follow the other riders outside. There is signage.
Wander around Parliament Square and then walk across Westminster Bridge. That’s the eye candy most first time visitors wish to see. You can then walk through St James Park via Birdcage Walk to see Buckingham Palace.

Now that you have the Oyster you could go to the Tower of London if you want.

Posted by
5777 posts

My favorite "first" introduction to London (been there a half dozen times, have taken a number of people on their "first" tour) is a long walk, hitting the core of London.

It comprises some of two or three Rick Steves walking tours found in his London book.

I like to start by getting off at the Westminster underground station, and as you exit, you are hit by Big Ben right in front of you, there is a handy pub right there, St Stephens Tavern, where you can have a pint and take in the view. From there, basically do the "Westminster Walk", taking in the Parliament building, the Abbey, and heading up Whitehall to Trafalgar.

From there, head towards St Martin in the Field, and nearby is another great pub, the Harp, where you can try some craft English ales, then head towards Covent Garden. From there head to the Strand, where you can pick up Ricks City Walk for a while, up to St Paul's. There are a couple other great pubs along the way, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for one, but stops will depend on how fast you walk, and your taste for beer.

Cross over the river on the Millennium Bridge, and wander down river to the Borough Market area. You can pick out items on Ricks Bankside Walk along the way, ending up at London Bridge. The George is another historic pub up that way. You can continue up to Tower Bridge and a view of the Tower, then find a station to head home, or maybe up to SoHo to find a good restaurant.

The long walk is good for jetlag, you get a few pints, and can work in a nice meal before heading back for a deep sleep.

Posted by
656 posts

you get a few pints, and can work in a nice meal before heading back
for a deep sleep.

Paul, I like the way you think.

Posted by
11 posts

As long as I can wake up to catch the flight without a hangover!!!🤣
My husband will surely love the "pints" idea!

Posted by
6263 posts

If it’s a pint that's needed a favorite pub is the Two Chairman. You can visit it after your meander about Parliament Square and before you walk up Birdcage Walk to the Palace. Google it. I find it far less touristy than the Red Lion off Whitehall.


Posted by
1767 posts

I like Paul’s thinking too and agree about taking Rick Steves Westminster self-guided walk found in his Pocket London guidebook 4th edition. The West End walk is also featured in his Pocket guide. You don’t have time to take both but you will see some of London’s greatest hits and is better than the Hop on Hop off bus tour that spends a good portion of time not moving because of traffic.
If you visit the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese which is not on the path of either tour I suggested but is on the “City Walk” tour found in Rick Steves London (not Pocket) guidebook, be sure to meander through until you find the room with a cave-like setting where you have to walk down a few steps that has a fire place.

Posted by
40 posts

A good way of exploring off beaten path is use Google map.

For transport, you can use the cross rail, the fare of which counts towards a daily fare cap.

You don't necessarily have to use an oyster if you have a contactless bank card or mobile payment- both apple pay and Google pay are accepted at the gate. You don't have to worry about how much to put in.

Which day in the week exactly? British museum, national gallery are open til 9pm on Friday.

Check other leading museums, which have night hours on some days in a week or month.

You probably need some bites after landing. Maybe worth checking out Ealing Broadway, which is the third or fourth station from Heathrow on Cross rail or Elizabeth line.

It is a very diverse neighborhood where you find a variety of cuisines.

A Tunisian deli right outside the station.
Sidi Bou London
020 8998 7998

Very proper pizza place

Santa Maria Pizzeria
020 8840 4998

Sowa Restaurant
020 8567 7707

Posted by
4639 posts

Osterley Park, a Georgian country estate in west London. One mile walk to the house itself from Osterley tube station, just a few stops from Heathrow. Not so good if the weather is bad.

Posted by
218 posts

Be careful about the flight the following morning, assuming this is your first stop in Europe directly from North America...jet lag is real.

We did something similar once and unintentionally slept in. In our hurry, we left some small items in the hotel room. If it weren't for the gracious many who let us jump the long check-in queue, we would have missed our flight the next morning.

Posted by
6263 posts

I’ll add Pho Saigon in Ealing to Jeff’s restaurant recommendations.

Spent part of my 2019 London visit in Ealing. Friend was working at the famed Ealing studios. The Haven Arms was our “ local.”