Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (2023)

London Heathrow Airport isn’t much of a tourist sight unless you’re fascinated by airplanes. Yet it is one of the world’s busiest aviation hubs so chances are many of us will end up going there at some stage and some will need to while away a few hours or even longer. Most people who stay in a Heathrow airport hotel treat it as a pure overnighter – just a place to eat and sleep before catching their onward connection. But there are in fact several fascinating places within easy travelling distance of the airport which are well worth a visit. Here are six suggestions for things to do near Heathrow Airport during a layover, and ideas for what to do should you choose to venture into central London for a few hours or an overnight stay:

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (1)

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (2)

Update: May 2022

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please be aware of any changes to restrictions or entry requirements in the UK. Please visit the government website for the latest info.

If your Heathrow layover is longer than 4 hours, it’s worthwhile to consider one of the nearby places to visit or even a quick trip to central London. For shorter layovers, I recommend staying at the airport. Browse around the shops, dine at one of the eateries or spend the time comfortably at an airline lounge (or purchase an entry ticket for a premium lounge).

Here are my suggestions for things to do near Heathrow Airport for a longer layover:

(Video) 8 things to do on a layover at Heathrow Airport

1. Grab a pint in Denham or at Britain’s oldest pub

You’ll need a minicab for this trip, but it’s a simple journey along the M25 (about 15 minutes). Denham (map) is a picturesque village with a number of wonderful traditional pubs; visit The Swan for a taste of the local Rebellion Brewery’s ale. The village’s single street is flanked by fine Georgian brick and older half-timbered houses; a walk across the golf club is a pleasant way to work up an appetite.

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (3)

If you really want to find a traditional gem of a pub though, you’ll have to take to the winding, steep green lanes that lead to the Royal Standard of England near Beaconsfield (map). The Royal Standard of England is perhaps the best pub near Heathrow Airport for a pint amidst a unique historical ambiance. The 30-minute drive from Heathrow feels like a voyage into ancient England, and this 800-year-old pub (arguably Britain’s oldest pub) seems hardly to have changed since the Tudor age, with low ceilings and panelled walls. There’s a wide selection of beers from craft breweries as well as ciders and perries, and good food – but turn up early, as the pub quickly gets crowded.

2. Visit a village along the River Thames

There are several picturesque villages situated on the banks of the River Thames, and within 30 minutes by minicab to Heathrow, that are well worth a visit to stretch your legs, grab a quick bite and take some pretty snapshots. The closest village I can recommend is Datchet (map), roughly 15 minutes by minicab from Heathrow. Other villages I can recommend are Marlow (map) and Bray (map), home of two of the best restaurants in the UK (The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head). Both villages are approximately 30 minutes by taxi from Heathrow Airport. In Marlow, I can recommend staying overnight (if your overlay permits) or having a delicious meal at the MacDonald Compleat Angler, a 4* star hotel with two restaurants and lovely views of the River Thames.

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (4)

3. Experience Little India in Southall

Fancy a taste of Indian culture? No need to fly to Mumbai! A completely different experience is within easy reach of Heathrow (the train route is slightly convoluted on the Piccadilly line and overground but it’s only a short 15-minute minicab ride away) in Southall with its vibrant Indian culture. Shop for saris or fabric in the covered shopping arcades, or visit Jas Musicals to buy a bansuri (flute) or to gaze at sitars and tablas.

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (5)

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (6)

(Video) London Heathrow Review | Airport Review | Solo Travel | Long Layover in London

For food, you could go for a curry and you’ll find plenty of choice in Southall – but there’s so much more to Indian food. Buy a crisp, freshly-fried samosa on the street, or Indian sweeties like barfi (fudge) or rasgulla (sweet dumplings).

You’re also welcome to visit the Sikh Gurdwara in Havelock Road – said to be the largest Sikh temple outside India.

4. Wander around Windsor and Eton

Windsor Castle is linked to Heathrow by the 71 or 77 bus from Terminal 5 (±45 minutes by bus or 20 minutes by minicab). It was founded by William the Conqueror and still retains some of the original Norman work, though it’s been much added to over the centuries. It’s still a working royal palace, too, where the ceremonies of the Order of the Garter take place in the fine Perpendicular chapel of St George. The castle was also the venue of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018.

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (7)

Even if you don’t feel in the mood for castle visiting, if the weather’s fine you can take a walk in Windsor Great Park with its majestic avenues of chestnut and plane trees and views of the castle across the landscape.

The 60/61 bus on the other hand will take you to Eton College, Britain’s top public school across the river from Windsor. Guided tours of the college show the Chapel, a sort of miniature King’s College Chapel with its tall Gothic windows, and late medieval wall paintings which, preserved by being whitewashed over at the Reformation, are surprisingly clear though not at all colourful (they are mainly in monochrome grisaille).

(Video) HOW TO ENJOY A LAYOVER IN LONDON - First time in England

Get tickets for Windsor Castle.

5. Take your kids to Legoland UK

What is there to say about Lego? You either love it or hate it – but if you love it (or your children do) Legoland could be a great way of using up a spare day at the end of your holiday or spending a few pleasant hours between connections. Legoland UK is not far from Windsor at all, and there’s a shuttle bus from Windsor railway station, or you could drive the 12 miles from Heathrow (±20 minutes by minicab).

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6. Visit Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is one of my favourite places in the UK. It has everything: Tudor red brick architecture with medieval charm; intricate zig-zag spiral chimneys; Christopher Wren’s classical architecture; a maze; formal gardens; rich tapestries, great paintings, bright stained glass; the Thames running not far away. You can even get a bus from Heathrow, number 111 (± 1 hour) – though there is also an alternative, delightful opportunity of taking a riverboat to the palace if you are coming in from central London. Get fast track tickets for Hampton Court Palace.

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Should I go sightseeing during a layover at Heathrow Airport?

If you’re considering leaving Heathrow Airport for some sightseeing during a layover, please check if you meet the following requirements:

  • your layover is at least FOUR hours long
  • your bag is checked through to your final destination or you’re travelling with hand-luggage only, and you have your boarding pass for your next flight. If this is not the case, you’ll need a layover of at least 5 hours for a bit of sightseeing activity
  • you have a visa or can confirm that you don’t need a visa to enter the United Kingdom. Read the ‘Visas’ section below for more information
  • you can be back at the airport at least 1.5 hours before your next flight; or at least 2 hours if you need to check-in for your next flight.

Should I venture into Central London?

If you have sufficient time (layovers of six hours and longer) for a visit to Central London, I recommend taking the Heathrow Express train which gets you to Paddington Station in 15 minutes. Choose from a wide range of tours in Central London, purchase a ticket for the Hop-on, Hop-off Bus (which includes a Thames River cruise) or explore this amazing city on your own with a London Pass. Alternatively, you can opt for a private transfer – the driver will greet you at Arrivals and drop you off at your address in Central London. Make sure you’re back at Heathrow Airport at least 1.5 hours before your flight (2 hours if you need to check-in for your next flight).

(Video) Tips to see LONDON IN 6 HOURS! | Layover Tour Guide!

Check out my travel planning resources page for travel tips and advice.


Overnight layovers in London

If you have an overnight layover, you could:

  • book a hotel in the vicinity of Heathrow Airport
  • book a hotel in Central London. I would only recommend this option if you have time to see a bit of the city as well, for instance, if your layover is more than 20 hours. If you have a short overnight layover (> 20 hours) but choose to stay in central London, I recommend booking a hotel in the vicinity of Paddington Station. Travel to/from Paddington Station in Central London on the Heathrow Express train (a 15-minute journey). If it’s your first visit to London and you have limited time, I recommend booking a tour on the Hop-on, Hop-off Bus (which includes a Thames River cruise). You should be back at Heathrow Airport at least 1.5 hours before your flight.

Read about alternative ways to explore London and stray off the beaten path

Read my guide to Westminster Abbey

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (10)

Visas

If you have a non-EU passport, have connecting flights at London Heathrow Airport and would like to see some of these places during your layover, please check for visa requirements to enter the United Kingdom. US citizens who have a valid passport are not required to obtain a visa for a tourist visit to the United Kingdom (stay of up to six months). Should you require a visa, you can apply for an online visa (iVisa.com).

A post by Andrea Kirkby and Keith Jenkins.

FAQs

Can I leave Heathrow if I have a long layover? ›

Yes, you can leave the airport during a layover, provided your passport allows you visa-free entry to the country you're in and you have enough time between flights. In fact, some people intentionally book flights with longer layovers (which are often cheaper) so they get to see a new city.

Can you leave the airport during an international layover London? ›

Can you leave the airport during a layover while traveling on an international flight? Yes, you can leave the airport during a layover while traveling internationally! However, it is never easy as compared to the domestic layover. For instance, the country you're in could require a visa even to visit.

How can I spend a long layover in London? ›

London Stopover Guide: What To Do For 6 Hours In The City
  1. Grab a coffee in an old Grave robbers guard-house! ...
  2. See a local London glassblowers (45 Minutes)
  3. Appreciate art at the Tate Modern (90 minutes)
  4. Gorge at Borough Market (45 minutes)
  5. Walk the Thames (30 minutes)
  6. Enjoy a boat tour of London (60 Minutes)
16 Jun 2022

Can you leave the airport if your layover is long? ›

The short answer is yes. It is possible to exit and reenter the airport. Whether or not you should depends on a range of factors, including if you're traveling internationally or domestically and how much time you have between flights.

Can you leave the airport during a layover in UK? ›

Yes you can do that. Just make sure you're back at the departing terminal two hours before your onward flight and in line at security 90 minutes before departure. You will need to clear UK immigration and customs, but with a passport from an EU country you can use the EU immigration line. 10.

Does Heathrow Airport have sleeping pods? ›

For uninterrupted sleep, there are sleep cabins in Terminal 4, hotels connected to Terminals 4 and 5 and many other hotels nearby, connected by shuttles.

Do you have to go through security again during a layover Heathrow? ›

Everyone who boards an aircraft at Heathrow has to be security screened to UK government standards. Even if you've already been through security checks at another airport, we're obliged to screen you again before you fly from Heathrow.

Does Heathrow require a layover visa? ›

You're going through UK border control

Apply for a Visitor in Transit visa if you'll be going through UK border control but leaving the UK within 48 hours. You'll need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa if: you need to stay longer in the UK. you can prove you need to frequently pass through the UK over a longer ...

What happens to your luggage when you have an overnight layover? ›

Each airline, and even sometimes each airport, will have different rules about what is and is not allowed. As a general rule, most airlines will NOT automatically check your luggage through for an overnight connection. You will normally need collect your luggage when you land, and re-check it the following morning.

Do you have to go through security again during a layover International? ›

During your layover, you will, at some point, have to go through airport security. Even if you don't need to go through immigration, you will most likely have to go through security before you board your next flight.

Do I have to pick up my luggage on a connecting international flight Heathrow? ›

The minimum connection time between London Heathrow and Gatwick is 31/2 hours, including a coach journey which can take up to 90 minutes. You must collect all your bags before leaving London Heathrow airport.

What can I do with a 12 hour layover at Heathrow? ›

London Layovers: 8 Things to See and Do in Under 12 Hours
  1. Heathrow Express to Paddington.
  2. Windsor Castle. ...
  3. Little India (Southall) ...
  4. Legoland. ...
  5. The Emirates Air Line and the Museum of London. ...
  6. Tate Modern and a Neighborhood Jaunt. ...
  7. Boat Pub and River Walk. ...
  8. Take an Easy Guided Tour. ...
19 Aug 2015

What can I do with a 7 hour layover in London? ›

Here's the quick overview of what you can do during a 7-8 hour layover:
  • Tower of London.
  • Tower Bridge.
  • London Bridge.
  • London Eye Ferris Wheel.
  • Trafalgar Square.
  • Big Ben.
  • Westminster Abbey.
  • Buckingham Palace.
22 Dec 2019

What can I do with a 9 hour layover in London? ›

Focus on: Green Park, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, Horse Guards, 10 Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, and then the Tower of London. If you have any extra time, get a proper British fish & chips lunch.

What is the longest layover allowed? ›

A layover is a connection that lasts no longer than 4 hours for domestic flights and no longer than 24 hours for International flights. Layovers are fairly common, especially overnight layovers, but usually they aren't long enough to benefit you.

What happens if you get off at layover? ›

You can get off at the layover stop, but checked luggage will keep on flying to the final destination. Maybe that's not a problem if you're in sync with CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg who always ships his luggage ahead for the simple pleasure of avoiding baggage claim and lost luggage.

Do I need a Covid test if I have a layover in Heathrow? ›

Transiting passengers

If you are transiting through Heathrow ('airside' or 'landside'), you do not need to quarantine or take any pre-departure or post-arrival COVID-19 tests.

What can I do with a 4 hour layover in London? ›

The Four-Hour Layover: London
  • Transportation Tips.
  • Relax in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
  • Walk from Westminster to the Millennium Bridge.
  • The British Museum to the Streets of Soho.
19 Aug 2013

How can I spend my night at Heathrow Airport? ›

London Heathrow Airport offers designated rest zones, equipped with lounge chairs perfect for tired travellers needing to relax. Located throughout the terminals. A rest zone in Terminal 3, Gates 24-25 also has couches, snack machines, and more.

Does Heathrow have free showers? ›

All the Heathrow showers cost money or require membership.

Can you pay to use lounges at Heathrow? ›

Whether you are a departing passenger, a transiting one, or an arriving passenger looking to freshen up for the day ahead, Heathrow has many lounges you can pay to access from brands including Aspire, Plaza Premium and No 1 Lounges.

Can you leave the airport and come back on a layover? ›

Some people book long layovers on purpose, so they have time to leave the airport and explore new locations. Most of the time, if your layover is long enough, you are free to leave the airport. However, there are eight things to consider before planning a long layover.

Do I have to recheck my luggage on a long layover? ›

When you purchase a layover flight, you will need to claim your bags when you land at your layover destination, and recheck them the next day when you continue your flight(s).

How long does it take to get through customs at Heathrow 2022? ›

How long does it take to clear customs at Heathrow? On average, it takes between 30 minutes and 1 hour to clear customs and immigration at Heathrow Airport.

How do I avoid immigration queues at Heathrow? ›

Choose flights outside of peak times

Before booking a holiday you should check the time your flight lands - and try and choose an arrival time which isn't at the peak time. US flights land between 6:30am and 10am at London Heathrow, so can expect long queues then.

Do I need PCR test to Transit UK? ›

You do not need to take any COVID-19 travel tests or self-isolate on arrival in England if you qualify as fully vaccinated. The testing and quarantine rules for international travel to England will change 11 February 2022. You can now choose a lateral flow test or a PCR test as your post arrival test.

Do you need a Transit visa if you don't leave the airport? ›

Unless you cross the immigration you don't need any transit VISA. However if you have a layover and flying to with a different outbound airlines then for baggage collection you need to do immigration, In that case you need a transit VISA.

Can you sleep in airport overnight layover? ›

At some airports, there will be places where you can pick up a blanket and pillow if you're stuck there overnight. This is especially true if your flight has been cancelled or delayed due to weather. Sometimes there are even cots available! While many airports don't have this, it never hurts to ask.

How do you sleep at an airport during a layover? ›

8 Tips for Sleeping at the Airport
  1. Do Your Research. ...
  2. Consider On-Site Hotels and Sleep Pods. ...
  3. Protect Your Belongings. ...
  4. Don't Choose an Isolated Location. ...
  5. Create a Restful Environment. ...
  6. Set an Alarm. ...
  7. Expect to Get Woken Up by Security. ...
  8. Head to Airport Lounges.

What's the difference between a layover and a connecting flight? ›

What is the difference between a layover and connecting flight? While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. A layover is the time you spend at the airport between two flights. A connecting flight is the next flight in your itinerary that you're waiting at the airport to take.

Is luggage automatically transferred on connecting flights International? ›

Unless the connecting flight takes place in a country that requires all passengers to go through Immigration and Customs, checked baggage will automatically be transferred to the next flight.

Do you have to go through customs in LHR for connecting flights? ›

Flight Connections at LHR

If you're arriving on an international or domestic flight connecting to an international flight, then you won't need to clear immigration at LHR. If you're arriving on an international flight connecting to a domestic flight, then you will need to clear immigration on arrival.

Do you have to go through customs if you are just connecting? ›

When does a traveler clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection? When does a traveler clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection? If a connection to another U.S. city is involved, the traveler will not be required to go through another clearance when they arrive at that final U.S. destination.

Can you sleep at Heathrow overnight? ›

If you have an early morning flight or a connecting flight with a long layover, the London Heathrow airport offers facilities that make it possible for you to stay overnight without having to book for a hotel outside the grounds. All terminals remain open 24 hours a day and are connected to each other by buses.

How do you survive a 12 hour layover? ›

What To Do During A Layover: 8 Tips For Surviving Long Layovers
  1. Catch Up on Sleep. ...
  2. Play a Game. ...
  3. Research Your Destination. ...
  4. Read or Write. ...
  5. Meet New People. ...
  6. Get Some Work Done. ...
  7. Exercise. ...
  8. Take a Short Trip Out of the Airport.
14 Nov 2019

What can you do on a 8 hour stopover? ›

What to do during a long layover
  • Escape the airport on your own to explore the city.
  • Take an organized tour of the city.
  • Book yourself into a transfer hotel.
  • Try out the local cuisine.
  • Indulge in the comfort food you've been avoiding.
  • Take a shower.
  • Phone a friend.
  • Find a meditation room.

Is Heathrow long stay free 2 hours? ›

Yes, there is free parking at Heathrow Long Stay car park for 2 hours - great if you're looking for drop off or pick up parking . The drop off lanes outside Terminal 5 are also free for unloading.

Can I leave Heathrow airport during transit? ›

However, the person travelling can exit through 'Arrivals' to meet you, or leave the airport if they have enough transfer time between flights (more than 6 hours for Heathrow and Gatwick) and the necessary documentation to enter the UK.

Can you leave the airport during a 9 hour layover? ›

Yes, you can leave the airport during domestic layovers. For instance, if you're a US citizen and have a layover within the country, it is legal and safe to leave the airport. Be aware that you'll probably be getting two boarding passes if the domestic layover is more than an hour.

Can I spend the night at Heathrow Airport? ›

Day rooms in departures

Located in the departure lounge (after security) – ideal for passengers connecting through Terminal 3 with at least three hours between flights. Twin (bunk) and single rooms are available.

Can I stay overnight at Heathrow Airport Covid? ›

If you have an early morning flight or a connecting flight with a long layover, London Heathrow airport offers facilities that make it possible for you to stay overnight without having to book a hotel outside the grounds. All terminals remain open 24 hours a day and are connected to each other by buses.

Will my bags be transferred automatically British Airways? ›

Your baggage will not be automatically forwarded so please collect all your bags before leaving Heathrow or Gatwick airport. The best way to travel directly between Heathrow and Gatwick is to take a National Express coach.

Do I need transit visa for layover in London? ›

You're going through UK border control

Apply for a Visitor in Transit visa if you'll be going through UK border control but leaving the UK within 48 hours. You'll need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa if: you need to stay longer in the UK. you can prove you need to frequently pass through the UK over a longer ...

Do you have to pay for Heathrow pods? ›

1. Purchase your Heathrow Pod ticket (£6 per person) from Reception which will have unique 4-digit code to allow you through the gate. 2. Go through the door opposite Reception (marked Car Park A) and follow the green path and signs to T5 Pod.

Where can I nap in Heathrow? ›

London Heathrow Airport offers designated rest zones, equipped with lounge chairs perfect for tired travellers needing to relax. Located throughout the terminals. A rest zone in Terminal 3, Gates 24-25 also has couches, snack machines, and more.

What can you do for 12 hours on airport? ›

What to do during a long layover
  1. Escape the airport on your own to explore the city.
  2. Take an organized tour of the city.
  3. Book yourself into a transfer hotel.
  4. Try out the local cuisine.
  5. Indulge in the comfort food you've been avoiding.
  6. Take a shower.
  7. Phone a friend.
  8. Find a meditation room.

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