Do I have enough time to do tourist things in London during a 9 hour layover at Heathrow Airport?

I will arrive at 6 am and my flight departs to the U.S. at 3:30 pm.

Also, what would be the best form of transportation to get into the city?

  • 1
    What to do depends on your interests. Can you make your question a bit more specific? Jan 17, 2017 at 4:20
  • On that particular time of day I would personally want to find a place to get a few hours of sleep. Jan 17, 2017 at 5:57
  • 2
    Sure you can! It's not a ton of time, and you may find that relaxing somewhere at the airport will be more restful as part of a long trip, but with 9 hours, you would absolutely be able to spend a few hours strolling London or a couple hours in a museum (many don't open until 10 or later though). Jan 17, 2017 at 6:12
  • There are hundreds of things you can do! Hotels, things near Heathrow, things in West London, things in the centre of London, things that would give you plenty of time, things which would be a rush but fine if it's a personal must-see. You'd be better off asking somewhere like FlyerTalk which does opinions
    – Gagravarr
    Jan 17, 2017 at 6:18
  • 1
    @JoeBlow London gets close to 19 million visitors a year. It's perfectly fine for you to dislike it, but to suggest there's absolutely nothing to do in the city home to, among other things, some of the greatest museums in the world, many of them free admission, that could be at least of moderate interest for a couple of hours on a layover, is preposterous. Jan 17, 2017 at 22:49

2 Answers 2


tl;dr Yes, 'doable' but may be stressful, will be moderately expensive, and options once in the centre will be severely restricted by the limited time available.

So, not really viable. Even without luggage you might not clear the terminal until about 07:00. There are four trains an hour (Heathrow Express) into London (and back) eg:

Weekday timetable

that take (supposedly) 15 minutes:

15 minutes

so you should be able to reach the centre by about 08:00-08:15. There are alternatives (as pointed out by @Moo the Heathrow Express may be as much as £37 return - though could be much less: Book in advance to save, with weekend advance tickets available from just £5.50 one way).

By Tube could be a significant saving in cost (a single is £6) but take more time that you can spare ("Journey time by Tube is under an hour and you shouldn't have to wait longer than ten minutes for a train, even off-peak." - so say 1¼ hours each way).

Hence my suggestion that for transport here "best" is Heathrow Express.

Presumably you must be back by around 14:30 even if you have your boarding pass. So must leave the centre around 13:45.

That does give you around 5½ hours in the centre but you would have to be keeping a constant watch on the time. Not for example getting engrossed in art in the Tate Gallery or exhibits in the British Museum. Maybe a bus tour (1 - 3 hours durations and frequent departures) to "cover the ground" and not further exhaust a traveller?

Add any time to get away from the terminus (and back), queue for a ticket for your preferred attraction and you may have to turn back even before having time to enter the attraction.

I am also assuming that at some point you will want something to eat and maybe go to the loo - between the two that might be another hour "lost".

  • 2
    For many of the main tourist sites, taking the underground is actually quicker than HEX + bus/tube/taxi! There's also interesting stuff to do in Windsor and in west London nearer Heathrow
    – Gagravarr
    Jan 17, 2017 at 6:20
  • @Gagravarr I was thinking about Windsor/Eton also.
    – Gayot Fow
    Jan 17, 2017 at 6:57
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    Bear in mind that the Heathrow express trains are freaking expensive last minute - a return for tomorrow is £37.00 right now. The tube is much cheaper, but it will also take a lot longer.
    – user29788
    Jan 17, 2017 at 10:48
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    Agree with the long post, totally not agree with the tl;dr, if this is your first time in London and no other time is available in the near future then a bus tour will be totally fine and a memorable experience. If you had three hours I would be doubtful but five is aplenty.
    – user4188
    Jan 17, 2017 at 23:51
  • 1
    Further to @Gagravarr's comment about underground, it is about 40 minutes from Heathrow to South Kensington on the Piccadilly line, with trains about once every 15 minutes. That gets the OP with easy walking distance of several museums. If anything, the OP would need to insert some other activity to fill the time until 10 a.m. when they open - maybe walk up to the Albert Hall and Albert Memorial. Jan 18, 2017 at 2:07

In addition to pnuts answer, I would suggest a walking tour (this one features morning walks, there might be others but most I found is afternoons) because you are sitting around aplenty.


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