Wondering if you have enough time to tour around London on your stopover? We had an 8 hour layover in the London Heathrow airport and we had plenty of time to leave the airport and explore the city.
Here’s what we did:
We took the Heathrow Express Train that goes directly to Paddington Station. There are other routes that you can take (and cheaper) but this train leaves every 15 minutes and takes about 20 minutes to get to Paddington. After navigating the airport, going through customs and getting to the correct terminal where the train departs we decided it was worth the extra money to help ease any time crunch worries.
We lucked out and the weather was amazing that day so we walked everywhere (so wear good walking shoes because I made that mistake and paid the price with blisters all over my feet for the rest of our trip). From Paddington Station we walked through Hyde Park, which is a stunning green space that spans 350 acres in the middle of the city. There’s chairs and benches spread throughout, and they have tons of bicycles around the perimeter that you can rent for a couple of hours.
Upon reaching the other side of the park we made our way to Buckingham Palace. London is one of those great cities that has tons of street maps and directions to the main sites so it’s hard to get lost. Although we were hoping to see one of the members of the royal family no one came out to greet us. We did however managed to see the guards changing while we were outside the gates but that’s really all we were able to see.
From the palace we walked up to see Big Ben (I swear it was nearly impossible trying to take a photo amongst all the other tourists so we didn't spend much time there). Right after we bypassed Big Ben you can walk across Westminster Bridge where you can spot the London Eye on the other side of the river. We didn’t go up on the Eye but I’m sure it would be beautiful on a bright sunny day. Along the river by the London Eye, is South Bank which is an entertainment area where we could have easily people watched for hours.
After this we started making our way back to Paddington Station, wandering through the streets for a dinner spot. We found a hole in the wall type pub that served up some delicious Fish n Chips. We even tried the “mushy peas” which wasn’t as bad as it sounds! With some food and a beer in our bellies we were ready to make the trek back to the airport. We caught the Heathrow Express back to the airport and went through security with more than enough time to kill before our flight.
All in all, we took about 6 hours from start to finish. Although, both customs and security took very little time to go through we had planned for 30 minutes on either end in case we had any issues. We also allocated to be back in the airport through security an hour before our flight- just in case anything came up. This left us with 6 hours of freedom in London to go explore. We both felt like this was lots of time to do everything we did, without rushing anything. We walked leisurely, we stopped where we wanted to and we ate dinner without stuffing food down our throats. We definitely think it was worth it to do a little sightseeing during this stopover. Had the weather been gross and rainy we may have changed our minds but we lucked out with blue skies and sunshine!