Got a layover in London? Thinking about planning a stopover to see Big Ben and looking for things to do in London? Here are my plans of action for you to mix and match to experience the best 24 hours in London!
Whether you want to do it all, or if you’re looking for a bit of a city escape, I’ve compiled some super easy itineraries for you to use during your 24 hour layover in London, area by area.
This post is sponsored by Chiswell Street Dining Rooms and Park Grand Heathrow
Prepare for 24 hours in London
Before you start your 24 hour adventure, here’s a couple of essential travel tips to get you prepared for the best London experience possible.
Get to central London from Heathrow Airport in 15 minutes!
I am in love with the Heathrow Express. This super speedy non-stop express train service departs Heathrow Airport every 15 minutes. And it just takes 15 minutes to get to Paddington Station in central station. No traffic jams. No crazy tazi fares. It’s the best.
Download the CityMapper app
To prepare, download the CityMapper app and you’ll automatically have access to a map of London and the Tube map available offline. This app can help you use the Tube in London (opening hours will vary from line to line) and show when there are unexpected closures.
Use an Oyster card or contactless payments
If your plan of action includes taking the Tube, remember to pick up an Oyster Card at an underground station office if you don’t have a contactless card or Apple and Google Pay.
If you plan to take the Tube and buses more than a few times, you may want to consider a one day Tube pass.
Store your luggage away
Luckily there’s a Tube station right at Heathrow Airport, so you can easily take the Piccadilly line directly into central London. If you’ve got luggage though, I’d recommend booking a place with Vertoe to leave your luggage and explore London freely.
Go on an exciting tour of London
Don’t know what to see in London? Follow a guide on a walking tour! If you want to catch the best London highlights during your London layover, check out the best of the best London tours below.
Lasting 2.5 hours, you’ll meet your guide in Soho and be assigned to your house. Then it’s going to a whirlwind experience through London, testing your Harry Potter knowledge whilst strolling through Diagon Alley, the Leaky Cauldron and more!
Enjoy a fascinating 2 hours in East London’s Shoreditch and Brick Lane discovering the street artists that have shaped this hip and diverse area of the city. You’ll be able to enjoy more than 40 acclaimed street artists including Banksy, Invader and Eine.
Discover the heart of London on a comfortable city bike on this 3.5 hour morning tour. Highlights include cycling past the Houses of Parliament, Westminister Abbey and through St. James Park. You’ll stop off at Smithfield Market and St Paul’s Cathedral too.
Top travel tip: The tour is available in 7 different languages (English, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese).
Lasting up to 1.5 hours, this award-winning tour will glide you across the River Thames on a delightful cruise with expert guides bringing the city to life. Top sights include the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London and so much more. Top tip: arrive a little early to get a top-deck seat.
Have a West London Day
Take the Heathrow Express directly from the airport and you’ll be in Paddington Station in just 15 minutes. From here you can have a really fun, and budget-friendly day out in West London. Here’s what I recommend…
Enjoy Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
From Paddington Station you can stroll towards Hyde Park, where you can find the Kensington Gardens, as well as many hidden gems. This included the Peter Pan statue, and the Winter Wonderland festival during the festive holidays.
Visit the Natural History Museum or Victoria and Albert Museum
Nearby you’ll find the Natural History Museum as well as the Victoria and Albert, both of which are free to wander around and get lost in.
Experience Notting Hill and Portobello Road
Notting Hill and Portobello Road are nearby if you’re looking for a bright street market. They’re both incredibly famous and have appeared in many movies. Enjoy!
Stroll along Little Venice
Another option if it’s a warm Summer’s day is to head to Little Venice, a great place for a stroll along the canals. It’s close to Portobello Road.
Get Lunch in Barbican at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms
If you land after breakfast, make your way to Chiswell Street Dining Rooms for an amazing meal to start your one day in London. They serve quality and classic British dishes in a beautiful setting. Try a swanky afternoon tea or dive into their pre-theatre menu. Don’t skip pudding, you’ve only got 24 hours!
Visit the Barbican Centre
Afterwards be sure to check out the Barbican centre nearby, as it houses coffee shops, a library, a huge garden conservatory, a cinema and theatre, and a martini bar.
From here, I highly recommend going museum hopping or trying out one of my recommended London tours.
Art Gallery and Museum Hop in London
If you’re looking to view amazing works of art, you’ve got plenty of options in London. I am so proud of the art galleries and museums that my capital city has. And the great news is that they’re free!
You can start your gallery day in just under an hour from Heathrow Airport by taking public transport.
The Tate Britain Museum offers amazing works of art from British artists, and isn’t too far from the Saatchi Gallery.
After those two, cross the Thames to take a stroll along the South Bank.
Keep walking and you’ll end up at the Tate Modern.
Stop at Borough Market for a lunch of street food and then cross London Bridge (or the more iconic Tower Bridge) to head to the British Museum.
Take a cable car across the London skyline to Greenwich
For some spectacular views of the city, head to the Emirates Air Line, a cable car that crosses over the River Thames to Greenwich!
It takes just 50 minutes to get to the cable car from Heathrow Airport if you take the Heathrow Express.
Visit the Royal Observatory and Cutty Sark
You’ll feel like you’re in the clouds and see London from a unique view. From there you can explore Greenwich and all it has to offer. Greenwich is one of my favourite places in London as it is particularly green and wonderfully nautical.
You can visit the Royal Observatory, climb aboard the Cutty Sark and eat to your heart’s content in Greenwich Market.
Climb on top of the O2 Arena
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can also extend your time here in Southeast London and climb right up on top of the 02 Arena! It takes 90 minutes and will absolutely get the blood pumping. This is one experience to boast about to your mates.
Take in the view at the Sky Gardens
If you’re looking for amazing views of London, you can reach the Sky Garden in under an hour from Heathrow Airport. It is the ultimate London skyline hang. It features 3 storeys of fantastic 360 degree views of the capital and is officially London’s highest public garden.
The Sky Garden is free to visit but just make sure you book a ticket online in advance.
Alternately, the Sky Garden features multiple bars and restaurants, so you can eat and drink with the stars too.
Chill out with London’s wellbeing activities
There may be a chance that you’re just exhausted or have seen a lot of London already and want to just chill out? Why not still see the best of London whilst trying out a fantastic wellbeing activity.
I think you’re going to be surprised about what is available these days! There’s disco yoga, dance classes which are seriously ‘out there’, along with meditation pods and indoor climbing walls and luxurious spas.
I have a whole article dedicated to wellbeing activities in London.
Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew
If you’re after some greenery, head for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. It’s just 45 minutes away from Heathrow Airport using public transport. It’s a great spot to relax for a few hours.
Whether you’ve already seen and done central London or you’re just looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city, Kew is surrounded by 500 acres of woodland for picnics, sun bathing, and wandering.
Bear in mind that this is mostly outdoors, so it’s not a great option if it’s raining. I have been here when the weather has been truly British though and it still works. You’ll just be spending more time in the greenhouses.
Follow the Queen’s Walkway at Windsor Castle
Not technically in London, but close to Heathrow Airport is Windsor and Eton, where the Queen’s Walkway is located. You can easily get here in under an hour.The Queen’s Walkway is a 6.373km long walk created to symbolize 63 years, 7 months and 3 days, which is one more day than Queen Victoria reigned.This gorgeous walk links 63 of Windsor and Eton’s coolest things do to. If you’re itching to see beyond London during a Heathrow layover, this is the adventure for you.
Go all out with The London Pass (over 80 attractions)
If you’re on a mission to see London and feel there are activities still missing for you within this article, I highly recommend investing in The London Pass.
Save time and money by choosing the 1 day pass which gives you:
- Access to over 80 London attractions
- A full day of using London’s hop-on-hop-off bus tour
- Skip-the-line benefits
- Access to a 160-page guidebook packed with tips, maps and attraction information
- Discounts on shopping, dining, and entertainment.
The pass is digital, so it’s super easy to purchase online and download.
Hotels Near Heathrow Airport London
Looking for hotels near Heathrow Airport London?
Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.
Just outside the Heathrow London parking lot is Hotel Ibis. It’s a good option for budget travellers looking for a crash pad.
The Park Grand London Heathrow offers luxury at a wonderfully lower price, and is only a ten minute drive from Heathrow. It’s also only a 10 minute walk to the nearest tube station.
For a luxury option, Sofitel is a good choice. It’s connected to terminal 5, making your stopover in London all that little bit easier.
Don’t miss these activities in London too
There’s plenty of amazing activities to do in London. Why not add these to your itinerary?
Are you ready for your 24 hours in London?
What will you dive into? Are you going to choose adventure activities, chill out with my wellness ideas or stay in a particular area of London? Let me know in the comments below!
Let me know what you love to do in London when you’re short on time and want to make the most of this capital city! And if you’re looking for more ideas, check out my England section on my Destinations page!