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Some people enjoy layovers while others hate them, but sometimes layovers can’t be avoided. If your layover is in one of London’s airports and you have an 8 to 10-hour layover, you can easily visit the city and spend about 6-7 hours there before returning to the airport.
London is an interesting city full of things to do and see but depending on the duration of your layover and your preferences, you should plan accordingly so as not to risk missing your flight.
Note: You have to be eligible for a visa to go sightseeing in London. Fortunately, both Gatwick and Heathrow have excellent train and tube connections, and you will arrive faster in the center than taking a cab.
Most people try to see as much as they can during their layover but it can be stressful to fit everything in a 10-hour time frame. Everything will be much simpler if you leave your baggage with a London luggage storage service near the airport or in the city centre. Stasher offers multiple convenient locations around the airport or in the city centre to store your luggage and enjoy your time in London without carrying your luggage around.
So, what you can do on a long layover in London? Let’s find out!
Heathrow and Gatwick are where most international flights land, so west London is a good location to spend time during a long layover. Gatwick is located 55 miles south of the city’s center, while Heathrow is located on the western edge of the city.
Due to the size of Heathrow Airport, lengthy security lines are common so allow at least 2 hours between flights while transiting the airport. When leaving the airport allow at least a 6-hour layover, which takes into account the time to get to/from London as well as immigration and security checks.
Give yourself a minimum of 90 minutes for your connection if you’re traveling through Gatwick Airport. If you’re connecting to a flight within the UK, however, you might need more time because you’ll also need to go through Border Control, get your bags, and go through customs before you can check in for your second flight.
Depending on how much time you’ve got left, you can always take the tube from Victoria Station and visit other London areas. Victoria is served by three London Underground lines: the Circle Line (yellow), District Line (green), and Victoria Line (blue), which link Victoria to Euston, King’s Cross, St. Pancras, Liverpool Street, Marylebone, and Paddington, as well as other London mainline train stations.
The ideal thing to do when you have a layover at Gatwick Airport is to board the Gatwick Express and travel into the city. The Gatwick Express train, which arrives in London in about 30 minutes, connects Gatwick with the more centrally situated Victoria Station.
From Victoria Station, you can head to Buckingham Palace in just 10 minutes and to Westminster Abbey in 15 minutes. From there, you can either head to Big Ben or stroll around Hyde Park and relax in the beautiful gardens.
Alternatively, you can take a 60-minute hop-on hop-off cruise in the Thames from Westminster Pier to enjoy a river cruise and see London’s main landmarks.
Arriving in London while on a layover at Heathrow Airport is simple. The London Underground has three stations that can get you from Heathrow to central London in less than an hour, with trains running every 10 minutes. The Piccadilly line of the London Underground is also linked to Heathrow. There is also a Heathrow Express train that travels from the airport to Paddington Station in just 15 minutes.
With departures every 15 minutes from 5 am until late, the Heathrow Express runs a quick service between the airport and Paddington Station. You can get to Hyde Park after leaving Paddington station in just 10 minutes. From Hyde Park, you can take the Circle Line, get off at Ladbroke Grove, and visit the famous Portobello Market.
If you still have time left, you can take the tube from Ladbroke Grove and head to Baker Street or Regent’s Park and visit the numerous attractions nearby including Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens, Marylebone district, Primrose Hill, etc.
Keep in mind that according to the time you’ve got left, you can always visit London’s main landmarks like the Tower of London, London Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Gardens, Covent Garden, and Buckingham Palace.
Alternatively, from Heathrow Airport you can take the train to Tower Hill Station and then walk to London Bridge which is a 10-min walk away. If you want to continue on, take the tube from London Bridge and head to St. Jame’s Park tube station. From there you can walk to Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and Victoria Tower Gardens South.
These suggestions are based on layovers in London that last 10 to 20 hours from landing to departure. Depending on your pace and what you want to visit there are many things you can do, but try to prioritize so as not to be stressed.
As a general guideline, give yourself 4 hours to disembark, navigate the airport, clear customs, store your luggage, travel into and out of London by train, go through security a second time (at least 1 hour before your flight), and arrive at your gate.
As mentioned previously, you will need approximately 4 hours from your layover time for traveling to and from the airport. Meaning that if your layover is 10 hours, you’ll have 6 hours to spend in the city.