We have an 8 hour stopover in London Heathrow. Is that enough time to get into the city for a few hours? What's the fastest route? Should we plan to be back to the airport 3 hours before our international flight to come home?
This is tough but I have to advise against trying this. Crossing outside security and then having to get back would leave you a couple of hours in London but I'm not sure what good that would really do you. And if you're on a continuing flight and miss the second leg this can lead a bunch of problems like them canceling your return flight. If you do decide to try it the the Heathrow Express is the fastest way into the city by far - about 15 minutes to Paddington - ad will run you about 34 pounds a person round trip. https://www.heathrowexpress.com/ Good luck,
Hello Carol. I agree with Todd. I flew from the United States to the Heathrow airport, more than once. My most recent arrival there was this winter. I know - eight hours at the Heathrow airport is a very long time. I think being at the Heathrow airport one hour is very boring. And there is not any place interesting or enjoyable to go to that is located near the Heathrow airport. Using my electronic calculater, I added all of my estimated times, for everything that a traveler would do, going from the airplane, riding in the Heathrow Connect train from the airport to Paddington railway station in London, and riding in a London Underground train (the "Tube") to go to a museum near the south Kensington tube station, and returning to the Heathrow airport. Planning for 90 minutes in one museum. A person would arrive at his Flight departure Gate at a time that is approximately one hour after the time when the airplane is scheduled to fly away from the Heathrow airport. And he could be later than that. Perhaps you could become a member of an airport club, you could go in its lounge and talk with people there.
When you arrive at Heathrow will you already be checked through for the second portion of journey/have a boarding pass? Do you have no luggage to pick up? And what times (no point sending you somewhere if your layover is in the evening and it will be closed)? Assuming "yes", "yes" and "daytime", it is possible to have a couple of hours in London; but don't take the Heathrow Express/Connect to Paddington, instead take the tube from Heathrow to Westminster, changing at Hammersmith, and then wander around the Westminster area. However, honestly I wouldn't bother (it is only a short visit anyway and you might spend most of it worrying about getting back to Heathrow on time). Instead if you want to get away from the airport for a few hours, go to Windsor which is just down the road.
You could go into Windsor, it's a 15 minute taxi ride. You could tour the castle and have a great meal in a pub then back to Windsor.
I like the idea of Windsor. If not, and assuming you already have your boarding passes, I would take the tube into London just to have a walk around and a bite to eat. You could probably get to the National Gallery (it's free) in Trafalgar Square - it's a short walk from Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. You could have lunch in a pub - or opt for afternoon tea. Even if you only have 2-4 hours, it's better than sitting in the airport. The tube is better, because it's not expensive, runs frequently and goes to the center of London. The Paddington Express is too expensive, and you still have to take the tube to get anywhere. If you have a lot of carry-on baggage, you can check it at the left luggage facility in the airport.
Here's a rough timeline. Assuming your plane lands on time (not unusual to land late at Heathrow)- 1 hour to deboard and clear immigration. 30-45 min. to claim baggage and take to left-luggage in another terminal (not all terminals have this- I think it is only terminal 3 or 4- not certain). And it will cost you about $8+ per piece). 30 min. to get back to the Tube station. 45 min. to 1 hour on tube to central London. You MUST arrive back at Heathrow at least 2 hours before flight, plus another hour on the tube to return. That leaves you with MAYBE 1-2 hours. AND you have to assume there will be NO delays on the tube on your return. Windsor is an option. You can take a bus from Heathrow (about 30-45 min.) or a taxi (very expensive) or -best option- pre-book a 'car service' (best time and cost). You'd have about 3 hours in Windsor. Time to wander aroundthe town and eat a meal- maybe tour the castle. But if you decide to stay at the airport, Heathrow is not a bad place to be. LOTS of shops and restaurants. You could also get a day pass for one of the airline lounges and take a shower and relax there.
It is doable. I did it with only 6 hours layover. But that was on my way to Europe. There was no requirement to be at the airport three hours before the flight.
Very tight- and very hectic. If you havent been to London before , and can walk fast and its a nice day, you could take the underground and see the area around Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, a little walk along the Thames Embankment; possibly Trafalgar Square and then back by Tube. But you are subjecting yourselves to a long line and waut to get back in through security... the worst part of leaving from Heathrow.
Perhaps you could get a driver to take you to Windsor and or Hampton Court.
It would be money very well spent!and very interesting.