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).

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (8)

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.

Things to do on a long layover at London Heathrow Airport (9)

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) London Layover Guide The Travel Women

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 you leave Heathrow airport during layover? ›

However, some huge airports, like JFK, London's Heathrow, or Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, may require changing terminals for your flight, and in that case, another security gate is likely. If you leave the airport for your layover between the flights, you'll absolutely have to go through security again.

Can you leave the airport during a layover 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.

How do you spend a 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

Is a 12 hour layover enough time to leave the airport? ›

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.

How do you entertain yourself on a long layover? ›

Luckily, there are some things that you can do to help make long layovers a lot less tedious.
  1. Avoid Long Layovers Altogether. ...
  2. Explore a New Place – Even If It's Just the Airport. ...
  3. Rest. ...
  4. Check Off Your To-Do List. ...
  5. Take a Stroll. ...
  6. Eat or Drink (My Personal Favorite!) ...
  7. Visit Gift Shops. ...
  8. People-Watch.
25 Aug 2015

Can you leave and return to airport during layover? ›

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.

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.

Can I leave the airport during an international layover in London? ›

YES, you can leave the airport during a layover in the case of international flights. But there is a certain condition attached to it which you need to know. In case, you leave the airport on your layover, then you need to go through the security once again in order to get to your second or the connecting flight.

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 do security again during a layover? ›

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 go through security twice if I have a layover? ›

For connecting domestic flights, you almost never have to exit and reenter security, though there are some exceptions at airports where the terminals aren't all connected. For domestic-to-international connection, it's still pretty rare that you have to exit and reenter security, even if you're changing terminals.

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

Do you need UK visa for London layover? ›

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 ...

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.

Can I get out of airport during international layover? ›

Re: Can I leave the airport during a layover? Yes you may, assuming your passport allows you visa free entry. Remember to take your boarding pass for your next flight with you otherwise you may not be able to re-enter airside.

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.

How do I survive a 10 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

How do I survive 12 hours at the 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.

What do people do during long layovers? ›

You can check out the city's architecture, visit a local bar or restaurant, or even sit in a park and unwind after a long flight. Some airports offer free tours for passengers on long layovers.

Is a 4 hour layover long enough to leave the airport? ›

On a domestic flight you are limited to a 4 hour connection which does not leave much time to leave the airport for sightseeing. If you are connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight then a layover is defined by the airlines as no more than 23 hours and providing ample to time for sightseeing.

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.

Do I need to go through immigration for a connecting flight at Heathrow? ›

Connecting at London Heathrow Airport. Image Credit: heathrow.com. Connecting is easy at LHR with purple “Flight Connections” signs guiding you on arrival. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Do I need to recheck my luggage at Heathrow? ›

It depends on your airline – often your baggage will be checked through to your final destination and you won't need to touch it at Heathrow. However, this service isn't available for all flights so check with your airline before you fly.

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

It depends on how your ticket was booked. If your flights were booked under one ticket, your bags will be checked through to your final destination. If your flights were booked under separate tickets, you will need to collect your bags and recheck them before your connecting flight.

Do you have to check in twice on connecting flights? ›

In cases where the connecting flight is one another airline or another terminal, passengers must go through a security and baggage check once again before you get on board the connecting flight to reach your destination.

How does customs work when you have a layover? ›

Whether you have to go through immigration and customs really varies on the airport and the country. As with checked luggage, if you have a layover in the US or Canada, you will have to go through border control at the first point of entry into the US or Canada, even if your final destination is somewhere else.

How do you know if you stay on the same plane during a layover? ›

Short answer: if both flights have the same flight number, you are probably staying on the same plane. If the flight number changes, you are connecting to a different aircraft.

Can you sleep in airport during layover? ›

In many airports, the answer is yes. However, there are airports that close at night and other airports that simply do not permit/like airport sleepers and are openly hostile. We suggest you visit the airport guide for the airport you are inquiring about.

Do I need a UK visa for a connecting flight at Heathrow? ›

You might need a Visitor in Transit visa if you're: changing flights in the UK on your way to another country. going through UK border control, for example to check in your luggage for a connecting flight. leaving the UK within 48 hours.

Do I need a transit visa for a 3 hour layover in London? ›

No. The UK allows you to take connecting flights without passing through immigration control, unlike the United States. You do have to stay within the airport, of course.

Do I need a Covid test to transit through the 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.

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

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 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 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.

Are we allowed to go outside airport during layover? ›

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.

Do I need UK visa for layover? ›

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 ...

Can I get out of the airport during international layover? ›

Many (but not all) countries that require visas do not require them if you're simply transiting through the airport. You bypass customs and immigration, so you never get stamped into the country, but you can't leave the airport during your 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).

Do you need to go through security again for a connecting flight international? ›

Is security check required for a flight connection? Yes, a security check is mandatory when you take a connecting flight. This is because there is a time lag between getting off one aeroplane and getting on-board another to reach your destination.

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.

Videos

1. HOW TO SPEND A LONG LAYOVER IN LONDON ◆ Flying From Chicago To Paris ◆ DEREK'S EPIC TRAVEL DAY VLOG!
(Means To Travel)
2. Tips to see LONDON IN 6 HOURS! | Layover Tour Guide!
(Kurtis & Chelsey)
3. Review: My GUIDE TO HEATHROW - Things you didn't know!
(Josh Cahill)
4. You won’t believe what we did in London in 12 Hours Layover| Was it worth it? And why you should too
(ThePanzoAdventures)
5. LAYOVER IN LONDON HEATHROW | TRAVEL VLOG (2021)
(Explorin with Laurin)
6. London Layover: What we did with 6 hrs. on a perfect Spring day!
(Traveling in Spanglish)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Trent Wehner

Last Updated: 02/03/2023

Views: 6431

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Trent Wehner

Birthday: 1993-03-14

Address: 872 Kevin Squares, New Codyville, AK 01785-0416

Phone: +18698800304764

Job: Senior Farming Developer

Hobby: Paintball, Calligraphy, Hunting, Flying disc, Lapidary, Rafting, Inline skating

Introduction: My name is Trent Wehner, I am a talented, brainy, zealous, light, funny, gleaming, attractive person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.