My plane lands at Heathrow at 8:30 pm on December 10 and leaves Gatwick the next morning, December 11, at 9:15 am. Do I have the time to see Buckingham Palace?

  • My daughter and I did Time Square, quickly, on the subway, on a short JFK layover, loved it everything was value added. Enjoy the streets of London as they should be seen on a cold winter night. Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 16:02
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 18:13

6 Answers 6


As you've got to make the journey between airports anyway, I say make the most of it. Sleep on the plane if you can and see the city at night. I'd pack in one backpack (hand luggage strapped on top) and do it on foot, but taxi/bus/night tube (Friday and Saturday) are other options.

The last tube train from Heathrow is at 23:35 (T4) or 23:42 (T5), a few minutes later for T123. So you should have plenty of time to clear immigration, retrieve your luggage and get the tube. There's also the TFL line train but that goes to Paddington station which is 3 km from Buckingham Palace). You can check for planned/emergency issues online at Transport for London's website.

If you get the tube, you can go to Hyde Park Corner, less than 1 km away from the Palace.

In the morning I used to quite often get an early train out of London Bridge to Gatwick. Currently that looks to be 05:35, getting in at 06:04. That should be plenty early enough for most flights but you'd need to check.

Assuming you're happy to walk through the night you can see a lot of London. Here's a quick 10 km route suggestion I threw together. It takes in Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square (but not Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower which is being repaired), the Embankment, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, the Strand (you could night-bus this bit), St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

Here's a picture in case I carelessly delete the route Picture of route on Strava

Night buses from Trafalgar square will get you to many places but they're not very frequent. I've deliberately omitted airport buses in the interest of maximising your time in London. The tube and regional trains aren't all that expensive, and are much quicker; they're also less much affected by traffic, though there are rare delays in the middle of the night.

An alternative is to cycle all or part of the route - at least if you have a fairly small backpack. There are several bike hire schemes in London. The official (Santander-sponsored) scheme is well regarded. It has its own sightseeing loop suggestions. I rode a route similar to the walking route I suggest above yesterday (as part of a much longer ride). The most significant difference was probably to make good use of the Embankment cycle path. Cycling in London, at least in my limited weekend experience, compares favourably to many UK cities.

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    In case you can't tell, I'm rather taken with the idea! Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 10:46
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    Also you might want to use this to check before you leave for any short-notice closures tfl.gov.uk/tube-dlr-overground/status/…
    – Cyberspark
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 16:44
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    I appreciate everyone else is erring on the side of caution in their estimates for time to leave as Gatwick, but to give a data point in the other direction: I usually arrive at Gatwick about 60mins before my flight (within EU), and that’s usually tight, but I’ve not missed one yet.
    – PLL
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 21:28
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    Night buses are something of an experience all of their own, particularly on weekends. Since this will be a Monday night/Tuesday morning you probably won't see so many of the 'colourful characters' you might on weekends. That said, being December, there might well be a few revellers around. Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 14:18
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    Minor note - if seeing Big Ben is a priority, it's currently covered in scaffolding and not exactly photogenic. The rest of the Palace of Westminster is certainly nice, but...
    – eftpotrm
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 15:15

Yes, it's doable. Although going through central London isn't the fastest route from Heathrow to Gatwick, you have lots of time so it's not an unreasonable route to take.

You could obviously do it all by taxi, but it's also possible (and much cheaper) on public transport. You can get the underground from Heathrow to Green Park, which will take about 50 min, and then you're only a few minutes walk across the park to the palace. You can then walk to Victoria station, and get a train to Gatwick. The last train to Gatwick is at 00:08 (though trains from other stations and coaches run through the night, and the ones from Victoria start pretty early in the morning).

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    At night, I'd get the tube to Hyde Park Corner, and walk to Buckngham Palace, Parliament Square, along the Embankment, Trafalgar square, Covent Garden, (along the Strand, or tube to Tower Hill) Tower of London, Tower Bridge London Bridge station for the train to Gatwick. All walking that's about 6 miles (10 km) so perfectly doable if you pack in a rucksack, and selected for night views Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 9:59
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    To make things easier - "start pretty early in the morning" is 04:35 (arriving at Gatwick at 05:27). So there's plenty time for OP to explore London at night if they choose. (Also recommend seeing the christmas lights around Carnaby street this time of year - if doing a night visit)
    – Bilkokuya
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 10:37
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    You can get coaches to Gatwick from Victoria Bus Station throughout the night. Evidently some people don't consider buses a viable form of transport but maybe the OP does. nationalexpress.com/nxportal2/pdf/timetables/A3.pdf
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 14:41
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    @StuartF I can understand people not wanting to take a bus from central London during the day -- heavy traffic can cause serious delays (being stuck for an hour wouldn't be super-surprising). Bit in the middle of the night, the bus should be fine and is an excellent suggestion. Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 16:49

Very easily doable. But if you're going all that way in on the tube and aren't too tired, walk around - central London is quite small and easily walkable. You could see Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus - all quite photogenic and iconic, even at night!

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    I live in London and play Ingress in central London regularly. I walk around in the dark all the time. It's safe, and it's exciting, and once you get to the river the views are amazing. Not as stunning as flying over it on the approach to Heathrow, but still very impressive. Especially Vauxhall and towards Canary Warf. A city like London does not sleep. There are night buses. They are great at night. Sit at the top front and enjoy the show.
    – simbabque
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 10:18

Yes, with Caveats. Budget for contingency - 2 hours on landing, maybe 3 for T5. I'm not kidding about T5 at this time of year. A morning arrival might have been better, it will be dark.

So everything else is down to visibility, you will miss peak hours. Suggest you get a driver both ways, or tube and cab. Buses do not pass the Palace. You are taking your chances with visibility as well. Plan to be back at the Airport at 06:00, again, for contingency.

Risks: Snow, Tube Outage, Rain, Freezing Rain, Sleet, Traffic, Holiday events (Winter Wonderland is close by).

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    The Tube is very reliable. Snow, freezing rain and sleet are not significant risks in central London. Visibility will probably be fine. Any snow flurry in central London tends to make the national news -- I remember once hearing a national weather forecast that said there was "A bit of snow in London Town" and completely neglected to mention that, in northern England, tens of people had been trapped in their cars overnight on the motorway by heavy snowfall. Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 10:03
  • And [citation needed] for what seems to be a claim that planes at Heathrow are routinely 2-3 hours late. Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 10:04
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    @ChrisH Ah, you're probably right. Clarification would be good, though so would some evidence: 2-3hrs is an unusually long time for immigration. Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 10:10
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    @DavidRicherby it's a while since I came into Heathrow but the non-EU queues could get very long at peak times, like when all the overnight transatlantic flights come in (so I doubt the suggestion in this answer that a morning arrival would be better) Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 10:15
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    Snow? In December? In London? Don't make me laugh. Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 13:18

Per other responses, the short answer is "yes you do" but you're only going to see the outside of it.

A brief stroll back up the mall will land you at Nelson's Column, and you're near enough some night-life such as Leicester Square, or the theatres on the embankment, as well as within wandering distance (or a short tube ride) of the illuminations in Carnaby Street (Bohemian Rhapsody this year!) and there's doubtless a few others to see too.

I don't know the opening times but over the river you've got the London Eye which could provide a decent photo op too. Just a shame Big Ben is scaffolded up for repairs for the forseeable.


It takes 45 minutes to get out of the airport and another hour to get from Heathrow to BP. You'll arrive at BP at 10.15pm. Not much to see at there at that time, so I think you'd do better to head over to Waterloo Bridge and then wander up in to Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Picaddilly Circus, and Soho. The cheapest way to get to Gatwick is by coach from Victoria Coach Station. It's a miserable trip, early in the morning, but it sure is cheap.

  • Surprisingly, SoHo in the middle of the night weekdays can be pretty quiet and relatively uninteresting. Different story at the weekends and if you get there not too late.
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 18:18
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    @jcaron: SoHo is in New York.
    – TonyK
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 23:47
  • @TonyK, sorry, Soho, not SoHo. Should know better, I lived there for years!
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 23:58
  • ...but never found the awesome 'Monday night bar' ;-)
    – Strawberry
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 0:00

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