What To Do On a Short London Layover (6 Hours, 8 Hours, 12 Hours)

London is a great place for a short layover. I used to fly in and out of London so much when I lived there, so I’m here to show you what to do during your layover in London for 6, 8, and 12 hours.

London was the first European city I visited and it was also the first European city I had a layover while flying to South Africa. Fate had it that I ended up living in London for a couple of years after that and had many layovers in London since then (like when I travelled to Israel, to Madeira, etc).

London is actually a fantastic city to have a layover because the airport (mainly Heathrow) is so convenient and you can get to Central London within 30 minutes. London has such a great public transportation system that even if you only have short 8 hours London Layover you can still visit the most famous places in London.

It doesn’t matter if you have 6 hours, 8 hours or 12 hours layover in London, this London layover guide will cover everything for you, including how to get to London from the airport, how to get around London, what to see during your London Layover and where to eat!

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What airports are there in London?

London has 5 airports. Depends on where you are flying from and what airlines you fly on, you will land in different airports. Hint: Heathrow is the fastest to get to Central London.

Heathrow International Airport

Heathrow is THE airport in London that everyone knows about. It is the busiest airport in the world. There are 5 terminals at Heathrow, with British Airways exclusively using Terminal 5.

If you are traveling internationally you will most likely fly into Heathrow.

Since Heathrow has Heathrow Express (a 15 minute express train to Central London Paddington Station), Heathrow is the best airport to fly into to have a layover in London.

Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport is an international airport located 30 miles south of London. It is a popular airport to fly in and out of London, especially within Europe and with budget airlines such as Easyjet and Ryan Air.

Gatwick is also a good airport to land in for a London layover (although not as good as Heathrow) because it has a direct train to London Victoria Station.

Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport is another international airport in London. It is located 30 miles northeast of London. Similar to Gatwick Airports, budget airlines and flights within Europe tend to land at Stansted.

It takes almost double the time to get to Central London than Gatwick Airport. If you have a short layover in London at Stansted, you can’t really do much. If you have a longer layover (like 10 hours+ in London), then you can do a proper layover in London from Stansted Airport.

Luton Airport

Luton is another regional airport near London, located about 25 miles north of London. Again, most budget airlines like Easyjet fly to Luton.

Similar to Stansted, it takes about an hour to get to Central London, making it difficult for a short London Layover. But if you have 10 hours or more in London, then you can certainly go outside.

London City Airport

London City Airport is a small airport located near Canary Wharf (where a lot of businesses and banks are). Most likely you will not be flying into London City Airport. But if you do, it is actually not too bad to get to Central London from this airport.

In conclusion, the best airports to fly into for a London Layover is Heathrow International, followed by Gatwick. Check out Kayak for the cheapest flights to London.

Can I leave the airports in London to go outside during a layover?

first Time in London London travel guide Thames River and view of the Shard

Most people who have a layover in London try to leave the airport if they have 6 hours or more (depending on which airport you fly into). But there are a few things you should take into consideration on whether you CAN or SHOULD leave the airports to go outside in London.

Do you have a valid visa to the UK? When you leave the airport in London for a layover, you have to go through immigration. If you have an European and US/ Canadian/Singaporean/Japanese passport, you don’t need to worry about UK visa.

If your final destination is outside of the UK, be sure you have the proper documentation to enter the UK even if it’s for a few hours. Note that a UK visa is different from the Schengen Visa for Europe. Check out the UK government official website for all the entry requirements.

You cannot enter the UK with a Schengen Visa.

Do you have enough time to leave the airport in London? When you leave the airport, you also have to come back! You will need to go through immigration and perhaps store your luggage and wait for the train when you leave the airport for London. When you come back to catch your next flight, you will need to get your luggage and go through security checks again. All of this can add up especially during peak summer season.

When I was flying in and out of London, especially to Gatwick and Stansted, there were times I had to wait an hour to go through immigration since I didn’t have a UK or EU Passport. The UK immigration officers took their time with travelers from certain countries.

So you will need to evaluate whether it’s worth it to spend just 2 hours in Central London during your layover.

cherry blossom in London at Greenwich Park

Do you have cellular data on your phone? Having data on your phone is not a must but it will help you to navigate how to get to places in London, what tube line to take, where to walk etc. You can however try to get free wifi from stores, restaurants and museums in London.

Do you have a plan? If you have a short layover in London, it’s best that you know what you are going to do so you can see everything you want to and still make it back to the airport in time. Hopefully this London layover guide will help you plan your perfect layover in London.

Where do I store my luggage during my layover in London?

After having flown around Europe so much doing all these layovers, I have come to a conclusion that if you know you are going to have a layover in London (unless it’s overnight), it’s better to just check in your bags and not worry about storing it.

At busy airports like Heathrow, you most definitely have to wait in line to drop off and pick up your luggage, which cuts into your layover.

Notting Hill London

If you do have a luggage with you, it’s easy to store your luggage during your layover in London at the airports and train stations. Just a side note, luggage storage is called “left luggage” in the UK.

If you are flying into Heathrow, you can find left luggage in every terminal at the arrivals. You can even book online ahead of time if you know you need to store your luggage at Heathrow. To book online or just to see the price, check the official website.

If you are flying into Gatwick, you can find luggage storage in both North and South terminals. Again, check the official website for prices and book online.

Luton and Stansted also offer luggage storage at arrival. Note that the luggage storage at all these London Airports are not necessarily 24 hours, so be sure to check before you leave your luggage.

You can also store your luggage at rail stations such as Paddington, Victoria Station, King’s Cross St. Pancras, Liverpool Station, etc.

If you have a layover in London but are flying out of a different airport, you probably need to take the luggage with you and store it at a railway station during your layover in London.

How do I get to London fast from the airports?

How to get to Central London from Heathrow

Heathrow Express train
Heathrow Express

Being the largest airport in London, Heathrow has many options to get to London fast.

Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect are both trains that go to London Paddington Station.

Heathrow Express is the fastest way to get to Central London, taking only 15 minutes. If you book ahead of time on the website you can get discount on your train ticket. Heathrow Connect are slower and I have never taken it before.

You can also take London Underground on the Piccadilly Line (blue on the map) to Central London from Heathrow, It takes about an hour on the tube.

How to get to Central London From Gatwick

Gatwick Express is the fastest way to get to London Victoria Station, taking only 30 minutes. You can also take regular trains like  Southern and Thameslink to London Victoria and London Bridge respectively.

London-Christmas

How to get to Central London from Stansted Airport

Stansted Express is the fastest way to get to Liverpool Station, taking 47 minutes.

How to get to Central London from Luton Airport

Taking a train to King’s Cross St Pancras Station is the fastest way to get to Central London from Luton Airport.

You can also take express bus such as National Express and EasyBus from most airports in London to central London, but it takes between 1-2 hours on the bus.

Lastly you can always take Uber/ Cab or book a private transfer from any London airports. But keep in mind that traffic is terrible in London and it could take you over an hour while costing ยฃ50-ยฃ70 one way.

How to I get around London for my layover?

London double decker bus

London is a very walkable city, so if the places you want to see during your London layover is within 1-2 miles of each other, it is best to walk around.

London underground (the Tube) as well as public buses are what Londoners take to get around London. You will need a contactless credit card or Oyster card in order to take public transit in London.

If you are just visiting for the day and want to hit up all the tourist spot, you can take those hop-on hop-off buses that will take you exactly where you want to go.

And of course you can take Uber around London but it is not my favorite way of getting around London because traffic is terrible in London.

For more information on how to get around London and how to get Oyster Card, check out my comprehensive London Travel Guide.

What to do during your London Layover

What can I do if I have 6 hour layover in London?

You may wonder “is 6 hours enough to layover in London?“. I don’t blame you. The first time I flew into London, I also had a 6.5 hour layover in London and asked myself the same question.

To answer your question, yes, 6 hours is enough for a layover in London, only if you fly into London Heathrow. But 6 hours is barely enough time to see much in London. I have 2 options for you if you have a short 6 hour layover in London.

For illustration purposes, I am going to assume you land at 10am and take off at 4pm for your 6 hour layover in London.

6 Hour London Layover Option 1 – Windsor Castle from Heathrow

Windsor Castle is the oldest and the biggest occupied castle in the world. It is still being used by The Queen on the weekends.

Windsor Castle during a layover in London

Windsor Castle is conveniently located super close to Heathrow International Airport; it is only 15 minutes away by car, making this the perfect short London layover destination.

You can get a cab or call an Uber from Heathrow Airport to take you directly to Windsor Castle. You can even book your Uber ride 30 days ahead of time and book your Windsor Castle ticket online as well.

For illustration purpose, you can see how much time you have to explore Windsor Castle during your 6 hour Heathrow layover assuming you land at 10am.

10 – 10:45am: You land, get off the plane, go through immigration and store your luggage
11 – 11:30am: You arrive at Windsor Castle
11:30 – 2:30pm: Explore Windsor Castle
2:30-2:50pm: Travel back to Heathrow
3pm: Go through security and wait for your 4pm flight

6 Hour London Layover Option 2 – Central London from Heathrow

6 hours layover in Heathrow is a little tight to see much of London, but you can still do it! It would not be advisable to leave the airport if you land at other airports.

You will need to take Heathrow Express to Paddington Station during your 6 hour layover, then from Paddington take the Circle Line (yellow line) to St. James’s Park, the closest Tube station to Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace

Once you get out of St. James’s Park, you can visit Buckingham Palace, the residence of the monarch. If you are lucky and time it right, you may be able to see the Changing of Guard (it’s free).

London big ben and parliament: first time in London visit travel guide

From Buckingham Palace, continue to walk across St. James’ Park to 10 Downing Street, the official residence and the office of the British Prime Minister. Continue onto Big Ben, Palace of Westminster and London Eye, which are all located in the Westminster area.

The Shard

If you still have some time left, you can continue for another 15 minutes to Trafalgar Square, one of the most famous public squares in London. Rallies and demonstrations are frequently held at Trafalgar Square. National Gallery is also located at Trafalgar Square.

Here is what your 6 hour layover in Central London could potentially look like. Realistically you have about 2 hours to explore London. In reality, it may take you way longer to go through immigration or security.

10 – 10:45am: You land, get off the plane, go through immigration and store your luggage
11:30am: You arrive at Buckingham Palace
11:30 – 1:30pm: Walk around Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, Big Ben, Parliament, London Eye, Trafalgar Square
2:30pm: Arrive back at Heathrow

What can I do if I have 8 hour layover in London?

If you have 8 or more hours in the airport, you may wonder “Is 8 hours enough for a layover in London“?

Now with 8 or more hours in London, you have more time for traveling from/to the airport and more time to see things in London. It is reasonable to say that you can leave the airport during an 8 hour layover in London.

8 Hour London Layover Option 1 – For those who want to do more touristy things

If you have 8 or more hours of layover from Heathrow or Gatwick, you will need to take the fastest transportation to Central London. In this case you need to take Heathrow Express from Heathrow and Gatwick Express or ThamesLink train from Gatwick Airport after going through immigration and storing your luggage.

Borough Market

Borough-Market in london

Once you get off the trains, you will transfer to the Tube to Borough Market at London Bridge Station. If you are coming from Gatwick, the Tameslink train goes directly to London Bridge. Borough Market is the most famous fresh food market in London, with stalls that sell fresh produces, cooked food, fresh juices, artisanal baked and dairy good.

Landmarks on the Thames

After you finish eating at Borough Market, walk across London Bridge to see Tower Bridge and Tower of London, then walk west along the Thames. You will walk along the Thames towards Westminster area to see Big Ben, Parliament and London Eye.

This is a super relaxing and nice walk, as you get to see a lot of famous London landmark, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge before reaching Big Ben.

If you want to visit some of these attractions, the cheapest way is to get a London Explorer Pass.

London Tower Bridge along the Thames River

Or you can take the Tube from London Bridge after Borough Market to Westminster and take a River Cruise instead to see all the landmarks and go up London Eye.

Millennium Bridge & St. Paul's Cathedral London

See below for the 8 hour sample layover itinerary (assuming 10am landing and 6pm flight):

10 – 10:45am: You land, get off the plane, go through immigration and store your luggage
12pm: You arrive at Borough Market (if you are coming from Gatwick you will arrive even earlier by taking Thameslink train).
12-1pm: Eat and shop around at Borough Market and walk across London Bridge
1 – 3pm: Take a Thames River cruise or walk along the Thame to Westminster for Big Ben
3pm: Get ready to travel back to airport

8 Hour London Layover Option 2 – For those who want to shop and eat

If you have already been to London before, you may not want to spend all your time doing touristy things, so this itinerary is more for people who just want to casually walk around London, grab some food, do some shopping and maybe do a little bit of touristy things.

Shopping in Mayfair

Arrive at Bond Street (Central Line & Jubilee Line) and walk towards Oxford Circus. Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping streets in London, with various department stores and chain stores.

Once you arrive at Oxford Circus, a busy intersection in London, turn right onto Regent St, another famous shopping street in Central London.

London Regent Street Winter Decoration

Regent Street has more branded store such as Ted Baker, Apple, Michael Kors, Canada Goose, etc. Be sure to check out the side streets from Regent Street as all the big name designer stores like Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Prada are located on New Bond Street near Berkeley Square.

This area of London is especially pretty and festive during Christmas in December.

Eat in Soho or Chinatown

After you are done (window) shopping in Mayfair, walk over to Soho and Chinatown. Soho has a lot of trendy restaurants, bars, coffee shops and dessert shops. You will find Peruvian, Spanish Tapas, Italian, Ramen and Asian restaurants in Soho. It is one of my favorite areas to eat in London.

As you walk around Soho and Chinatown, you will start to see a lot of theaters. This area and west of it are where all the theater shows take place.

Covent Garden

Covent-Garden

Continue walking east after lunch to arrive at Covent Garden, home of the Royal Opera House, London Transport Museum and Jubilee Market, an antiques, arts and craft market with eating options. There are many stores and restaurants in Covent Garden as well. One of my absolute favorite restaurants is Din Tai Fung, famous for its soup dumpling.

Here is what a sample itinerary would look like. You pretty much have 3 hours to explore London.

10 – 10:45am: You land, get off the plane, go through immigration and store your luggage
11:30am: You arrive at Mayfair and start shopping around
1-2pm: Lunch in Soho/ Chinatown/ Covent Garden
2-3pm: Walk around Covent Garden, check out the market and walk to the Thames if time permits
3pm: Get ready to travel back to airport

8 Hour London Layover Option 3 – Notting Hill & South Kensington (Best for Saturdays)

If you are arriving in London on a Saturday or if you just don’t feel like doing the typical touristy things, then you may appreciate this Notting Hill layover itinerary. This itinerary is best for Saturday layovers because Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill is closed on Sunday.

Portobello Road Market + food

Portobellow Road Market

Portobello Road Market is a famous antiques market in Notting Hill. It is open everyday except Sunday, but the market is best visited on Saturday. Portobello Road Market is actually a series of market in one, with stalls selling antiques, arcades, clothes, cooked food, fruits & veggies and arts and crafts.

The market is most lively on Saturday and there are a lot of stalls to check out and eat from. You can easily spend 2 hours at Portobello Road Market during your 8 hour London layover.

If you do not end up eating at Portobello Road Market, you can grab lunch from Granger and Co (one of my favorite brunch places in London) but you should go early. Another popular brunch spot is Farm Girl Notting Hill and Eggbreak.

See Colorful Houses in Notting Hill

Notting hill Mew
St. Luke’s Mews

Once you are done with Portobello Road Market, it is time to explore Notting Hill! Many instagrammers come to Notting Hill to photograph colorful and pretty houses. Some of the best photo spots in Notting Hill are on Lancaster Road, St. Luke’s Mews, Westbourne Park Road, Alice’s at Portobello Road, etc.

Hyde Park or South Kensington

If you still have time left and depending where you are, you can walk or take a bus to Hyde Park or South Kensington. I recommend going towards Hyde Park if you are flying out of Heathrow since it is closer to Paddington Station (where you can take Heathrow Express).

If you are flying out of Gatwick, you should take the bus or tube to South Kensington, check out Harrods and the other department stores before heading to Victoria Station. There are a lot of nice shops with floral decorations near Victoria Station in Pimlico.

London flower floral store front

Here is what a sample 8 hour layover would like in this scenario:

10 – 10:45am: You land, get off the plane, go through immigration and store your luggage
11:30am: You arrive at Portobello Road Market
1-2pm: Explore Notting Hill
2-3pm: Hyde Park or explore areas near Victoria Station
3pm: Get ready to travel back to airport

What can I do if I have 12 hour layover in London?

If you have a 12 hour layover in London you can take the train to Paris and come back to catch your flight! Ok I am kidding, but no you can actually do that, but you probably only have an hour or two in Paris.

With 12 hours in London, you have all the possibilities in London, especially if you land before 10am! You can see so much more, have lunch, dinner, a drink and even afternoon tea in London if you want to. If you have a 12 hour layover in London, it doesn’t really matter what airports you fly into, you can still see everything you want to see.

12 Hour London Layover Option 1 – For First Time Visitors

If this is your first time in London, with 12 hours you can see so much! If you want to see all the most famous London tourist spot, it is best to get around on a hop-on hop-off bus. You won’t have to worry about getting lost on the tube/ bus and the hop-on hop-off bus can take you directly to all the touristy spots.

Similar to the 6 hour London Layover, you can take the trains or buses from the airports, then switch to Circle Line for the tube and get off at St. James’s Park station and walk over to Buckingham Palace. Do a tour of Buckingham Palace or simply watch the changing of guards (if time permits) and take some photos outside.

Walk around St. James’s Park, check out the Horse Guards Parade, Churchill War Rooms, 10 Downing Street. Continue walking down Downing Street and you will be closer to the Thames and start seeing all the famous London attractions.

The Cenotaph
The Cenotaph

As you walk around Westminster, be sure to check out all the statue and memorials on Whitehall Street. You will see The women of World War II, Montgomery Statue, and the Cenotaph, a National War memorial.

Besides the Big Ben and Palace of Westminster, you now have time to also go to Westminster Abbey, the place of coronation and royal weddings. Many British monarch and famous people such as Newton are buried at Westminster Abbey. Tickets for Westminster Abbey can be purchased online.

Westminster Abbey

You can also walk across the Westminster Bridge, take some wonderful shot of Big Ben without anyone around and go to London Eye. You can purchase London Eye tickets here to avoid the crowd.

Most of the attractions above are covered in the London Explorer Pass.

Lunch in Soho and check out Mayfair

Take the bus back to Mayfair (Oxford Street area) to take a look at one of the busiest shopping streets in London! Oxford Street and Regent Street have all sorts of department stores and clothing stores. During Christmas holiday time, both streets are decorated with lights, making them extremely beautiful and festive.

If you don’t care for chain stores, you can wonder off towards Berkeley Square. You will find high end designer stores like Chanel, Burberry, Hermes on New bond St. It is one of my favorite areas in London since it’s so posh and clean.

Soho and Chinatown area have a lot of great restaurants, bars, cafes and dessert shops. You can pretty much find any cuisine you like there!

Some of my favorite restaurants include Barrafina (tapas), The Duck and Rice (Chinese), Bone Daddies (Ramen), Ceviche (Peruvian), Cay Tre (Vietnamese) and Balans Soho (British). I am personally not a fan of fish and chips, so I don’t have any recommendations for that sorry.

Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square

After lunch, walk over to Covent Garden and check out the Royal Opera House, Jubilee Market and all the theaters at West End.

Convent Garden Jubilee Market

You can also walk to Trafalgar Square, the most famous public square in London, which houses The National Gallery (free to enter).

If you have time you should definitely take a look inside The National Gallery, since it houses some of the most world renowned paintings from artists like Claude Monet, Giovanni Bellini, Vincent van Gogh, Jan van Eyck, Michelangelo, etc.

Tower Bridge & Sky Garden

Sky Garden in London free observation deck first-time in London Guide

Take the bus or the tube to Tower Bridge Area and visit Tower of London and walk on the famous Tower Bridge. You can then walk to Sky Garden, London’s tallest public garden with free admission.

You do need to book a free ticket online ahead of time to enter. There are restaurants and bars at Sky Garden and it is one of my favorite free activities to do in London.

Duck & Waffle restaurant in London

Depending on what time it is, you can either grab an early dinner at Duck & Waffle (the highest restaurant in London and it’s open 24/7) or continue your tour to check out St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge before heading back to the airport.

St. Paul's Cathedral

12 Hour London Layover Option 2 – For Museum Lovers

London has world class museums and galleries, and the best thing is that most of them are free!

If you just want to spend the day checking out a few museums and grab some food, then you can do those during your 12 hour layover in London.

British Museum (Free)

The British Museum is one of the most well known museums in the world, with millions of works and artifacts that document the entire human history. It was the first public national museum in the world and it was established in 1753.

The British Museum in London

The British Museum has permanent collections from ancient Egypt, China, Africa and other ancient civilizations such as Maya and Mesopotamia. It has artifacts ranging from those first created by humankind to contemporary artist.

The museum is open from 10 to 5pm, with 4pm as the last entry. You can enter the British Museum for free, but you should book your ticket online ahead of time. If you want to know what you are looking at, you can also book a tour with an expert guide.

National Gallery (Free)

The National Gallery is one of the finest art museums in the world, with a collection of over 2300 paintings from mid 13th century to 1900s.

National Gallery London

At National Gallery you will find paintings by famous artists such as Jan van Eyck, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rubens, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Francisco Goya, etc. There are also both free and ticketed special exhibitions.

National Gallery in London is free to enter and generally it is open from 10am to 6pm (on Fridays it is open until 9pm). You can also sign up for a guided tour to learn more about these masterpieces.

Other popular museums in London include the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, London Transport Museum, Churchill War Rooms, Imperial War Museum, etc.

You can visit one museum first, grab lunch near the museum then visit another museum, grab an early dinner and head back to the airport to catch your flight!

12 Hour London Layover Option 3 – East London (Best for Sundays)

East London is not usually visited by first time travelers since there aren’t too many famous touristy attractions there. But if you want to do something a little bit different during your 12 hour layover in London, then this is your chance to check out East London. Also, if you layover in London on a Sunday, East London is where you want to be.

Shoreditch

Shoreditch is an arty neighborhood in East London, directly north of City Of London (like Sky Garden). Shoreditch is one of London’s coolest neighborhood and a popular place for Londoners to go on the weekend because of its partying, dining, and bar scene.

If you are visiting Shoreditch during the day, you can walk around Shoreditch High Street, Old Street and Great Eastern Street area, grab a cup of coffee, check out some cute stores and donut shops, and perhaps even get lunch there. My favorite restaurants in Shoreditch include Dishoom, Gloria, and Camino.

Check Out Markets Near Shoreditch

 Columbia Road Flower Market

If your layover is on a Sunday, then you definitely need to stop by Columbia Road Flower Market, where you will find all sorts of seasonal flowers, gardening tools, arts and crafts and home decoration items. Columbia Road Flower Market is only open on Sundays.

Brick Lane Market (also known as the Truman Brewery Markets)is another wonderful market in Shoreditch that sells vintage goods, collectibles, fabrics, street art and cooked food like curry. It is best visited on Sunday as well. I really love all the shops and food vendors here since I LOVE Indian food. If you are in Shoreditch, you need to check this out.

Old Spitalfields Market is a hip Victorian era market hall selling a variety of jewelry, apparel, arts, crafts and food items. You can find also find amazing coffee in this market.

Do a East London street art tour

East London Street Art tour - Banksy's art work in London

When I first moved to London, I did this East London street art tour and became a big fan of Banksy after that. I had never really seen street art before I moved to London, so it was a fun and eye opening experience. The tour lasts 2 hours and you will check out all the well known pieces by Banksy and other street art artist.

Now that you probably spent half of the day in East London, you can either take the tube (or bus) to Mayfair/Soho area and enjoy some afternoon tea or walk south towards the Thames.

Along the Thames you can check out Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Sky Garden, The Monument, St. Paul’s Cathedral or even Borough Market and the Shard. Grad an early dinner and head back to the airport when you are ready.

The Shard

12 Hour London Layover Option 4 – Central London + Notting Hill (Best for Saturdays)

Similar to the 8 hour layover option 3, if you have 12 hour layover in London, you can explore the posh neighborhood of Notting Hill if it’s a Saturday. Check out the wonderful Portobello Road Market, explore the colorful houses of Notting Hill and grab some brunch at Granger & Co.

Hyde Park

When you are done exploring Notting Hill, stop by Hyde Park, the largest park in Central London. It is best known for the Speakers’ Corner, where speakers such as Orwell and Marx have tried to convert the masses. Kensington Palace is on the very west end of Hyde Park, it is the official residence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate).

Hyde Park is filled with beautiful and historical sites, including Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, The Rose Garden, The Albert Memorial, Peter Pan Statue, Kensington Garden, etc. You can even hire a boat on the Serpentine.

If you visit London in the winter, part of Hyde Park is transformed into a large holiday market called Winter Wonderland. It used to be my favorite place to go in the winter with friends. You can get on roller coaster rides, drink some mulled wine and enjoy the festive holiday spirit.

Afternoon Tea at the Wolseley

The Wolseley London afternoon tea

Fancy a proper British afternoon tea but don’t want to spend too much? I highly recommend getting afternoon tea at the Wolseley in Mayfair.

Afternoon Tea is from 3pm to 630pm and the price is very reasonable. You can even share one set of afternoon tea with a friend. Reservation is highly recommended since they only have limited tables for walk-ins.

You can also have afternoon at the more expensive places like Fortnum & Mason, Sketch, the Ritz, Harrods, etc.

Pretty much all the fancy hotels in London offer afternoon tea. I’ve had afternoon tea at many places in London but I still think the Wolseley one is the most worth it.

After you have afternoon tea, walk around Mayfair and Soho and grab a drink at one of the world’s best bars!

If you have an overnight layover in London or if you are switching airports in London…

It’s very possible that you have an overnight layover in London. You can still leave the airport to explore Central London if you land at a reasonable hour (like anytime before 7:30pm).

If you land after 7:30pm, by the time you get to Central London a lot of things will be closed except bars and clubs. (In contrast if you land at 7:30pm in New York, everything will still be open!).

You should always try to get a hotel near the airport if your next flight is early in the morning. This just makes things so much easier and you don’t have to rush in the morning. Here are some accommodations near the airports:

If your layover involves traveling to different airports (such as from London Heathrow to Gatwick), you can either take public transportation (which will probably take 3 hours total), or you can simply book a cheap transfer between Heathrow and Gatwick.

Tips for having a great Layover in London

Sky Garden in London free observation deck first-time in London Guide

Check in all your luggage if you want to save yourself the hassle of having to store all of your luggages (waiting in line to drop off/ pick up), which can eat into your layover time!

Have some British Pounds before you fly: not having to take out cash or exchange money can save you some time (let alone the bad exchange rate you will get at the airport). Most places in London do take credit card so don’t worry if you really don’t have cash.

Save a photo of the tube map on your phone. You may or may not have access to internet during your layover in London. It’s best to have at least a photo of the tube map on your phone (and write down which tube stations you need to go to) to navigate around London.

Do research ahead of time. If you have 6 hours or 8 hours in London, you need to be on the go. Do all of your research ahead of time, know where you are going, where you are gonna eat, make the appropriate reservation if necessary.

Download Google offline map. Again, if you don’t have internet, it’s best to have a copy of the offline map with you to help you navigate around London.

Download City Mapper for bus time (assuming you can get internet). If you do have internet, City Mapper is a wonderful map to use especially for bus time. It gives you accurate and precise information on when your next bus is. I like using City Mapper way more than using Google Maps for public transit in both London and New York.

Consider a hop-on hop-off bus if it’s your first time in London and want to see all the tourist spots. You not only save time and the hassle of switching tube lines, but you also get an audio tour with the bus, explaining to you what you are seeing on the street.

Read my London Travel Guide if it’s your first time in London. In that guide I have even more details on things like how to get around London, how to get an oyster card, where to get a sim card in London, etc.

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6, 8, 12 hour layover in London travel guide
How to spend 6, 8, 12 hours in London for a layover