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1/2 day in London - layover

Aloha all - I'm booked on a business trip to the Ukraine in March which includes an overnight in the Heathrow Sheraton Skyline on my way there and my way home.

I've been researching "things to do in 1/2 a day" and would love some feedback/guidance.

  1. I arrive 11:30 am and figure an hour to get out of customs/hotel. So 13:00 I'll be ready to head into London. Question: Heathrow Connect or Heathrow Express? This takes me to Question 2 -

  2. Oyster Card? 1 day Travel Pass or just pay as I go? The answer will probably depend on what I want to do - see Question 3.

  3. For sure I would like to go to the Tower of London. Spend a few hours there, grab a bite to eat then head to ??? My friends say Harrod's or Piccadilly Circus for antique shopping. Others say Hampton Court Palace or wander London on my own. Suggestions for 2 or 3 "must sees?" I'm looking for quintessential "London." ;-)

  4. I depart the next day (Sunday morning) at 6am and will return to London 2 weeks later on a Saturday at 16:20. Depart Sunday at 14:10. So this is more of an "safe and interesting things to do in London or near the airport in the evening + something simple in the morning that is short." I'll happily spend time on the overground just sight-seeing. Or perhaps there is a dinner tour that night of something fascinating or fun?

Thank you all for any feedback or help you can throw my way. I can't change hotels or flight times so I'm working with what I have.


Posted by
275 posts

If you only have half a day, then Hampton Court is too far out of the way. It is on the south western outskirts of London.

Posted by
4978 posts

1) I wouldn't take either the Heathrow Connect or Heathrow Express. Instead, I would suggest just taking the tube (Piccadilly line). With the HEX or Connect, you will have to switch at Paddington to the tube. If you want to go directly to the Tower, I think the tube will be nearly as fast and much less expensive. With the tube, switch to the District Line at Hammersmith and continue to Tower Hill.

2) Either oyster card or 1 day card would work. If you are coming into London on your second weekend, you might want to get an Oyster Card and put pay as you go money on it. Pay as you go on Oyster caps at the daily rate so you won't pay more with pay as you go versus a day card. You do have to pay the deposit for the Oyster card, but I think for convenience, I'd still go with Oyster. If you are taking the tube from Heathrow, and decide on a day card rather than Oyster PAYG, then get a zone 1-6 card. If you decided to go with Heathrow Express to and from your hotel, a zone 1-2 card should be sufficient.

3) I don't know of any antique shopping near Piccadilly Circus. There is shopping, but it is all commercial. With one day, you really don't have time for both the Tower and Hampton Court. Visit the Tower and the come into London to do your shopping or walking around the city.

4) For your second Saturday, you might consider taking one of the London Walks Pub Walks. Their website is

Posted by
3428 posts

On the way over, do the Tower, then tube to Leciester Square- people watch, walk to Covent Garden and shop (I don't think you'll find any antiques at Picadilly)and people watch, then wander over to see Picadilly. You will be lucky to be heading to London by 13:00- allow yourself time in case of glitches. I'd suggest supper in China Town and maybe a show- then late train back to hotel.

On the way home I'd suggest just taking a taxi over to Windsor to wander and have supper. Then back to the hotel. For the next morning, maybe just sleep late- you'll have to be at the airport by 11:30 or so to allow plenty of time for security,etc. (Heathrow is infamous for delays there).

We like the Heathrow Express- fast, clean and easy. But I understand that the Heathrow Connect is good, too. You could also just take the tube- longer travel time, but might be a good deal with the Oyster Card.

If you buy the Oyster Card, it will give you the cheapest possible fare for however you use it and the deposit is refundable if you return your card. Unless you are traveling with a partner, the 2 for 1 deals with the paper Travel Pass from the Mainline rail companies wouldn't do you any good.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks all! I'm going to do my best to see what I can on my first leg - love the idea of the Tower and then just wandering around.

On day 2 - I get in too late to get to Windsor in time for a tour. So I might just head over to Windsor town to wander, eat and look at the thing from a distance. At least I can say I was "there." ha! It gets me out and about.

Thanks again!


Posted by
8700 posts

If you take either the Heathrow Express or the Heathrow Connect from LHR to Paddington and the Tube from there to Tower Hill (by the Tower of London), the total travel time will be just under an hour and you'll have to make one connection (from surface train to Tube train). If you take the Tube all the way from LHR to Tower Hill, the trip will take just over an hour and you will make one connection. In short, taking the HEX or the Connect plus the Tube will save you a maximum of 15 minutes over taking the Tube all the way--and cost you a lot more. You won't have luggage to schlepp so take the Tube.

Buy an Oyster card at LHR, load it with 20 GBP, and let the Oyster computer automatically give you the best fare. You will never pay more than 50 pence less than the cost of a one-day travelcard for the zones in which you travel that day. You can get a refund on your deposit after you make your final trip to LHR.

An off-peak (after 09:30 on weekdays and anytime on weekends), one-day, zone 1-6 travelcard costs 7.50 GBP. With an Oyster card you will pay a maximum of 7.00 GBP for your rides on the day you first arrive and 7.00 GBP for your rides on the day you return to London.

If you like theatre, do not miss the chance to go to either a play or a musical in London. Doing that the day you first arrive isn't a good idea because you'll be fighting jet lag, but it would work well for the day you return from Ukraine.

Since your final flight leaves at 14:10, you would have time to take a taxi to Windsor and back on Sunday morning.