Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (2022)

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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 airport during a layover? ›

If you have less than 6 hours, you're really not going to be able to leave the airport. With this amount of time, you'll need to think about things to do at Heathrow. After an overnight flight, the first thing we try to do is get a shower. Check out our guide to Heathrow showers.

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)
Jun 16, 2022

What can I do with a 12 hour layover in London? ›

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. ...
Aug 19, 2015

Does Heathrow Airport have sleeping pods? ›

These Heathrow sleeping pods are absolutely designed with the traveler in mind and this is what makes it both so fun and so efficient. From the room design itself, to the hour-by-hour booking process, this is the perfect hotel for travelers using Heathrow.

Do I need a Covid test to transit through 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.
Aug 19, 2013

Does a layover count as visiting a country? ›

Does a layover count as visiting a country? Technically yes but if you are a transit passenger in a country that does not require you to clear customs and immigration you will not normally be treated as a visitor. However check if you need a visa before travel as your airline can refuse your travel.

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

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. This is normally a good thing as it allows you access to your luggage for your overnight stay.

Can I leave the airport during a long layover? ›

Leaving the airport during an international layover is possible but can be more complicated. Depending on the layover country, layover flight rules may require you to secure a visa before being allowed to venture out of the airport.

Can I get my luggage during a layover? ›

Normally, when layover flights are booked with the same airline, your baggage will be automatically transferred through to your final destination. However, if the two flights are with different airlines, you may have to claim and re-check your baggage during your layover.

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.
Aug 19, 2013

Can I meet someone in transit at Heathrow? ›

No you will not be able to meet the person who is on a transit in a different country. The person travelling is not allowed to enter the transist country without a valid visa and will not be allowed outside airport. Also you cannot visit him/ her inside airport without a valid flight ticket.

Do I have to go through customs for a connecting flight in London? ›

If you're arriving at Gatwick from an international flight and are connecting to a destination within the UK or Ireland, you will need to go through immigration. If your hold bags are through checked or you're travelling with hand luggage only, you can then go straight to security.

Is there a place to store luggage at Heathrow Airport? ›

Our Left Luggage Heathrow T5 outlet is located on the main concourse close to the lift and we're open from 6am until 10pm every day of the week. Our baggage storage service is ideal if you don't want to have to drag or carry your cases with you around London or other onward destinations.

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