5

I am a big Harry Potter fan. I have 5 hours Layover at London airport. 7am to 12. Is it possible to go to Kings Cross station (Platform 9 3/4) during that time and come back? I will land at T2 at 7 am and next flight will depart from T3 at 12 in five hours.

Please advise.

  • 5
    Given that you wish to exit the airport. what is your passport/visa status? It could take quite a long time to pass through the UK border. I've missed connections at Heathrow because of this! – Conrad Jan 31 '18 at 19:52
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    You are arriving at peak Heathrow arrival time and hope to travel to Kings Cross during rush hour. In other circumstances I would say take a chance, but not from a 7 am landing. – Calchas Jan 31 '18 at 20:19
3

I'm going to disagree with Willeke's answer and say that it's worth giving it a go. There is some small risk, but no greater than the risk of missing a flight when setting off (on time) from a hotel on a normal holiday. Yes, the timings will be tight, but there is scope for aborting the plan at various stages if it seems like it won't work.

Let's assume the following time scales:

  • 07:00 - Plane lands
  • 07:30 - exit the airport and arrive at the Piccadilly line platform (which is accessible from inside the airport).
  • 08:30 - Arrive at King's Cross, spend 30 minutes there
  • 09:00 - Leave King's Cross for Heathrow on Piccadilly line
  • 10:00 - Arrive at Heathrow, 2 hours prior to departure time
  • 12:00 - Depart

The following points are worth bearing in mind:

  1. You can keep this plan flexible and make the decision on the day. Your flight might land early / late, it might take less or more time to exit the airport, etc.
  2. If you find half way into the plan that you are running behind schedule, you can always get off the tube, cross to the other platform, and head back. All you have lost is a few £ for the tube fare. Your time would have been wasted sitting in the airport anyway.
  3. Someone in the comments mentioned that you will be traveling out of the airport at rush hour. This won't make any difference on the tube. You'll be getting on at the start of the tube line, so finding a seat shouldn't be hard. And the trains don't run any slower just because it is rush hour. It's not like driving, which is affected by traffic.
  4. My plan is based on traveling on the Piccadilly line, to keep costs down. Obviously you can incorporate doctordonna's answer in which case you will have more time to spare, but at the risk of making the plan more expensive and complicated (more potential for something to go wrong).
  5. I assume you are comfortable with navigating your way through London's tube system. If you're the type of person who finds travel in an unknown city challenging and you think this might slow you down significantly, and/or you might get lost, then it's probably not worth the risk. However do bear in mind the tube will take you literally straight from the airport, to your destination. You won't have to leave the building on either end, or change tubes, or do anything complicated.
  6. As mentioned in the comments, be aware of your visa situation. My answer assumes you can exit / enter the airport without any complications.
  • Good point about 1. early/late arrival and 5. travel comfort. – doctordonna Jan 31 '18 at 23:40
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    30 minutes from gate in T2 to Picadilly line platform? Isn’t that quite optimistic? IIRC there are quite long tunnels in the T1/2/3 station, it’s not quite like T5. Also if OP’s card is not contactless or isn’t supported, buying a tube ticket will eat a few minutes. And that’s if OP has an EEA passport or the first flight is domestic, otherwise the wait at immigration can add a significant amount of time. – jcaron Jan 31 '18 at 23:49
  • @jcaron I agree with most of your points, hence my points 1, 2, and 6. However, I disagree that 30 minutes is optimistic if you are e.g. an EU citizen, only have carry-on luggage, and everything runs smoothly after landing. – JBentley Jan 31 '18 at 23:56
  • It is quite a long walk from the tube platform to the main line station at KGX which is going to cut into the 30 minutes allowed here. – mdewey Feb 1 '18 at 13:30
  • @JBentley How much time do you allow for entering the airport, security and boarding? – Willeke Feb 1 '18 at 16:41
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I would not, unless you have domestic flights only. It will take some time to get out of the airport, 30 minutes is normal, it can take more than an hour if you are in a long queue for passport control.

On the way in you have to be there well before the flight, how long depends on your destination but I personally would not plan on less than 2 hours whatever your destination (which does include about 30 minutes for a missed train.)
With domestic flights you likely need less time for getting out of the airport and you may arrive with a shorter time for security. But it will still be very tight.

Travel time by train or underground is about an hour, add to that waiting time and time to visit the station and its special platform entrance is very short, you might already be in minus hours.

While it is great to see the Potter locations, it is not worth missing your flight.

(Travel times taken from comments on the now deleted other answer.)

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In addition to Willeke's answer:

You can take the Heathrow Express to Paddington. This explains getting to Heathrow from King's Cross but you'll be able to apply it in reverse:

For the fastest route from Kings Cross to Heathrow simply take the underground (on either the Hammersmith and City line or the Circle line) directly to London Paddington. After your arrival, follow the signs and take the Heathrow Express from London Paddington straight to the airport.

The Express is £37 takes roughly 15 mins and you'll need to pay from Paddington to King's Cross.

Time: I always assume disembarking a plane takes 20-30mins, customs 30mins, getting around the airport (it's huge! look up the floor plan), travel by/locating the train/underground, entering security again, etc... So overestimating time, it leaves less than 1 hr to view the platform/take a picture/shop.

I'd like to note by experience that the wait for a photo at King's Cross (trolly and House scarf) can be minimum 45 mins. The shop is cute and you'll be able to pick up some great souvenirs but isn't as diverse as the studio. Edit: The Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 website has more information: You can purchase a VIP pass to quickly bypass the long line. It's free to take your own pictures but you have to pay for a professional print. Found on the FAQ:

Do I have to pay to take my own photographs at the trolley?

You do not have to pay for your own photographs at the trolley. You can however purchase your professional photo in store should you wish to.

If you're able to go to Terminal 5, you can visit the Harry Potter shop there. Not the same as a photo entering Platform 9 3/4 but if you're strapped for time, it's not a bad alternative.

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    While the train is faster than the tube if your timing is right, if you just miss a train it takes time for the next to arrive and you lose all advantage. – Willeke Feb 1 '18 at 16:42
  • @Willeke Good point. Five hours is pretty tight. I suppose I like to live dangerously. – doctordonna Feb 1 '18 at 21:36

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