Things To Do on a Long Layover in London

Big Ben stands against a typically blue English sky
Big Ben stands against a typically blue English sky | © Daniel Kaesler / Alamy Stock Photo

Senior Commercial Content Editor

Why kill time plodding around duty-free or the airport lounge when you can explore one of the greatest cities in the world luggage free? London is heaving with attractions, whether you’re a culture vulture, history buff or full-time shopper.

Many of London’s attractions are free and within easy reach of the city’s main airports, so if you have a long layover, stash your bags with Stasher, a worldwide luggage-storage service, and choose one of these urban adventures. But don’t get too carried away – you have a plane to catch!

1. Trace human history at the British Museum

Building, Museum, Library

The British Museum attracts 7 million visitors per year
© Panagiotis Kotsovolos / Alamy Stock Photo
There aren’t many institutions that can match the British Museum when it comes to ancient exhibits. Among its 8 million objects you will find the Olduvai chopping tool (which is more than 1.8 million years old), a prosthetic toe from 600 BC and, of course, the Rosetta Stone. Pick up a map and follow your interests, or join a handy one-hour tour. If you’ve got your luggage, bags aren’t allowed in the museum – but there’s a StashPoint conveniently outside where you can leave your stuff. Afterwards, you can wander through the squares of Bloomsbury or saunter along fashionable Lambs Conduit Street before you head back to the airport. Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG. Around 40 minutes from London City Airport, 51 minutes from Gatwick Airport or 57 minutes from Heathrow Airport by public transport.

2. Pick up a special souvenir at Spitalfields Market

Market

Great Britain London Old Spitalfields Market
© Reiner Elsen / Alamy Stock Photo
Spitalfields Market dates back to Victorian times and is still going strong. Wander through a maze of stalls selling everything from hand-made trinkets and independent fashion to exotic street food. (Lahpet and Sangucheria are two local favourites.) While you’re here, check out some street art around the nearby Brick Lane and the local-led Nomadic Community Garden. Brushfield Street, E1 6AA. Around 31 minutes from London City Airport, 43 minutes from Gatwick Airport or 1 hour and 9 minutes from Heathrow Airport by public transport.

4. Immerse yourself in art and design at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum
© david a eastley / Alamy Stock Photo
Marvel at creativity through the ages in one of London’s most stunning buildings – from a fourth-century tapestry to Da Vinci’s notebooks and a 3D-printed gun. The V&A has also held blockbuster exhibitions about leading cultural figures including David Bowie and Christian Dior. Look out for one of the free tours. Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL. Around 41 minutes from Heathrow Airport, 43 minutes from London City Airport or 44 minutes from Gatwick Airport by public transport.

5. Grab a pint at the Sherlock Holmes pub

Pub, Beer

Group of friends enjoying a beer in a pub
© DisobeyArt/Shutterstock

This charming establishment doesn’t just serve great beer and hearty pub food. It’s also home to the Holmes Collection – a replica of the great sleuth’s study at 221b Baker Street. The dining room features vintage film posters, pipes, even a stuffed Hound of the Baskervilles. See how many clues to his cases you can spot. 10 Northumberland Street, WC2N 5DB. 45 minutes from London City Airport, 52 minutes from Gatwick Airport or 58 minutes from Heathrow Airport by public transport.

6. Shop ’til you drop at Selfridges

Shop

Classic art deco time statue with winged woman in blue and clock outside the entrance of Selfridges
© Stephan Stockinger / Alamy Stock Photo
Arguably the daddy of British department stores, Selfridges offers anything from the latest designer fashion and fragrances to stylish gadgets. Its artful window displays alone are worth the trip into Central London. 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB. Around 50 minutes from London City and Gatwick Airport or 57 minutes from Heathrow Airport by public transport.

7. Crane your neck at the Royal Observatory

Building, Museum

Statue of General James Wolfe overlooking the view of Greenwich Park towards Canary Wharf and the City of London skyline. Greenwich, London, UK
© Chris Harris / Alamy Stock Photo
There’s nothing quite like gazing at the stars to conjure a sense of childlike wonder. Contemplate the origins of the universe in the planetarium at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and find answers to a few big questions in one of the interactive galleries. Stand on the Prime Meridian Line and discover what Greenwich Mean Time is really all about. If you can squeeze in a bit more, grab a farewell pint at 18th-century watering hole The Mitre. Blackheath Avenue, SE10 8XJ. Around 50 minutes from London City Airport, 51 minutes from Gatwick Airport or 1 hour and 29 minutes from Heathrow Airport by public transport.

8. Catch some greenery at Kew Gardens

Botanical Garden, Park

Step into Palm House at Kew Gardens for a change of scenery
© Andrew Daymond / Alamy Stock Photo
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew are like a giant playground in the woods, with more than 30,000 living plant species, an arboretum of 14,000 trees and loads of other attractions. With so much to see, avoid lugging your bags around by leaving them at a StashPoint outside Kew Gardens station – then you’ll be free to step into the Hive (a multisensory simulation of life as a bee), ramble along the treetop walkway or go totally tropical in the rainforest-like Palm House. If it’s sunny, mooch around the nearby Strand-on-the-Green before grabbing a quick bite at the riverside Bell & Crown pub. Richmond, TW9 3AB. Around 40 minutes from Heathrow Airport, 48 minutes from Gatwick Airport, or 1 hour and 12 minutes from City Airport by public transport.

Need a safe place to stash your bags? Stasher offers luggage storage in hundreds of trusted hotels and shops across London for only £6 per day – including spots near Heathrow and City airports and all around central London. Find out more.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article