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Eve-Marie Steenman Author: Eve-Marie Steenman
Last updated: 27 September 2016

You’ve just arrived at Heathrow Airport with a long layover until your next flight. You’ve got enough time to get out of the airport and explore London a bit – but where to go on a tight schedule? If you’re stuck for ideas, we’re here to help. Here’s a slew of unusual things to do to on your short trip, all easily accessible from Heathrow.

Speedy Sightseeing

If you have kids with you and don’t fancy trekking into the city, we recommend a visit to Thorpe Park, only a 30-minute taxi ride from the airport. Thorpe Park is home to the UK’s tallest log flume, several rollercoasters and some cool water rides. It’s a guaranteed fun time for the whole family.

If you do want to head into the city, plan to take in some culture. London is famous for its impressive museums, many of which are free. Only 45 minutes away on the tube, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington are excellent choices with exhibitions spanning art, history, technology, fashion, nature and more. 
In nearby Holland Park, you can visit the lesser-known Leighton House Museum and 18 Stafford Terrace. These Late-Victorian homes now house unique museums – the former is a stunning architectural treasure and artist’s studio, while the latter is an immaculately maintained glimpse into middle-class life during that period.

London’s green spaces are legendary. For a quick green stop from Heathrow, spend 35 minutes on the tube to Acton Town to the stately Gunnersbury Park, a former resident of the Rothschild family. For something even more glamorous, take a 30-minute taxi ride to Kew Gardens. These extensive gardens are over 250 years old, and they house everything from diverse plants and climate-controlled glasshouses to art galleries and outdoor sculptures.

Open top tour buses are the typical tourist pick for seeing the major sights, but we recommend an amphibian tour of London – definitely a more unusual way to sightsee, and you’ll probably encounter less traffic. If you want to get out on the Thames, head to Richmond (35 minutes by car or 50 minutes by public transport) and hire a rowing boat or a stand-up paddleboard for a couple hours. It’s a great way to see London and get in a work out before your next flight.

Drink and Dine

London is truly a foodie melting pot. You’ve got every cuisine possible represented here, to the highest – and tastiest – standards. Travel 50 minutes on the tube and get off at Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square, where you can walk to Chinatown to get your dim sum or noodle fix. Check out upscale Indian food in Mayfair at Tamarind, Veeraswamy or Benares, all an hour away. Decadent afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason, the Ritz or Brown’s Hotel in Green Park is only 50 minutes away, complete with scones and fresh cream.

For very atmospheric dining, travel to scenic Little Venice (only 30 minutes away by public transport) and eat at one of the restaurants along the houseboat-lined canals. We recommend The Summerhouse for chic seafood and Kateh for authentic Persian. The lovely Quince Tree Café at the Clifton Nurseries is perfect for light meals in a tranquil, plant-filled space. For the classic British pub experience, The Bridge House won’t disappoint with canal-side seating, real ales on tap and a local-focused menu.

You could also head to Hammersmith, only 35 minutes away on the tube, and eat at one of the excellent Thames-side pubs like The Blue Anchor or The Dove. They serve pub classics like fish and chips, roast chicken, sausage and mash, and steak and Guinness pie. The Duke of Sussex and The Swan in Chiswick are also great options, only 40 minutes away.

Relax at Heathrow

If you’re not too keen on leaving Heathrow during your layover, don’t just spend hours sitting in an uncomfortable chair. Book a stay at YOTELAIR London Heathrow, where you can sleep in a super comfy bed, relax in a monsoon shower, catch up on work with free, fast WiFi, and enjoy complimentary hot drinks at any time. Check-in and out when you choose; minimum stays are four hours. You’ll be refreshed, revived, and ready to catch your next flight.

Picture of Leighton House Museum ©WillPryce