The thought of an extended layover is usually quite a nightmare, but not at London’s Heathrow Airport. Consider yourself lucky! Gone are the times of smoky lounges, cardboard pizza, dreadful gift shops and tired decor. Heathrow (LHR) has so much going on, it ought to be listed in guidebooks as an attraction.
If you want to stay within the airport:
- Eat – the notorious celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey opened Plane Food, a first class restaurant with a view in Terminal 5. Gourmet picnics are also available to take on board your flight.
- Sleep – book a 4 hour block or more at Yotel, Heathrow’s luxurious pod hotel complete with Wi-Fi, a flat screen tv, desk and en suite bathroom. 4 hours start at £25 for standard (single) & £40 for premium (double), reserve online or walk in.
- Shop – 1st class shops such as Gucci, Prada, Paul Smith, Burberry, Cartier, Tiffany, Dior, Bulgari & even London’s famous Harrods have outposts across the terminals. Print the shopping maps before arrival.
- Relax – Terminal 5B’s Be Relax spa will buff, scrub & rub away the travel dirt or escape from the airport bustle and purchase a VIP lounge pass for your layover in Terminals 1-4.
If you’re interested in venturing further afield:
- Sample a curry – hop in cab and ask the driver to drop you in the middle of Southall, London’s famous Indian neighborhood. Walk the colorful market streets with vendors selling spice to saris followed by a meal to remember at Brilliant, voted London’s favorite Indian restaurant.
- Check out a royal residence – another short taxi journey from Heathrow to Windsor Castle, one of Her Majesty’s current homes and Henry VIII’s final resting place.
- Visit a historic pub – taste traditional English fare and fine ales at the UK’s third oldest pub The Ostrich located minutes from Heathrow via cab .
Just can’t leave London without hearing Big Ben chime? Then follow these instructions to make it back to the airport in time:
Step 1: Follow the signs in the terminal to the Heathrow Express, non-stop train service to London’s Paddington Station. Running every 15 minutes, the train will have you in central London within 20 minutes for £32 round trip. Tickets can be purchased ahead, in the terminal, from a ticket machine or from a train representative. Train services run approximately between 5a, and 11pm, but make sure to check the schedule for your return train, especially on Sundays when the schedule is slightly reduced. Fare comparison: a taxi can cost around £75 one way and the London Underground is only £4 but each take around an hour depending on traffic.
Step 2: From Paddington follow signs to the London Underground, purchase a one day travel card from a ticket machine or window. Follow signs to the Circle Line (yellow) towards High Street Kensington and less than (another) 20 minutes alight at Westminster. Big Ben will be towering above the station exit reminding you to get back to the airport in time for your departure.
For broader views and photographs cross the Thames on the Westminster Bridge. Your trip, I mean layover, in London is now complete. Now hurry up and get back to the airport!