8 Hour Layover in London: Self-Guided Tour and Directions!

Whether it’s the beginning of your journey or you’re heading back home, why not take advantage of your 8 hour layover by seeing some of the best sights in London! From the main attractions to where to find some amazing grub, our layover guide explains how to get from place to place and in a timely manner!

Most likely, your 8 hour layover is in Heathrow Airport. But if that’s not the case, we’ve provided details on how to get to central London from Gatwick and Stansted too. We also detail how to return from the last stop (near the end of this post).

Of course, exiting and reentering the airport takes up quite a bit of time. Even so, 8 hours is enough to comfortably enjoy your London layover. Our guide is meant to leave you with ample time to return to the airport at least two hours before your flight.

Quick Tips for a London Layover

Walking is a big chunk of our guide (most sights are near one another) so wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Dress for the weather! Our visit in March was cold and very windy.

You’ll also be taking a bit of public transportation, which is why you’ll need the Visitor Oyster Card. It will save you money and be more convenient since you’re in a hurry (no queues). You can add credit to your card in advance so you don’t waste time standing in line. Prices are also cheaper than buying a ticket on the spot.

There’s also a Travelcard (different from the Oyster Card), which has its own benefits and may be more cost-efficient for you. It depends on the airport at which you arrive. Who could have guessed travel cards would be so confusing? Check out the official FAQ for whether the Oyster Card or Travelcard is right for you.

What’s our biggest tip for an awesome layover?

Keep an eye on the time! You don’t want to be late for your connection. We provide details of how long it takes to get from place to place but it’s a good idea to leave some extra time.

Total Travel Time for an 8 Hour Layover in London

The chart shows a rough estimate of how long it’ll take you to get from the airport to central London, walk or use public transportation between sights, and get back to your airport. Be sure to add about 2 and a half hours for storing your luggage and checking back in.

Keep in mind, some of the walking time includes seeing the sights as you pass by. You choose how long or little you spend at each stop.

 

Chart showing total travel time for London layover

How to Get to Central London

Bridges over the Thames in London

Heathrow Airport

Cost of leaving luggage at airport: £12.50 per item for more than 3 hours; located in every terminal

How to get to the first stop: Take the Underground’s Piccadilly line to Hyde Park Corner (44 minutes)

Visit Heathrow’s official page for more info.

Gatwick Airport

Cost of leaving luggage at airport: in both the North and South terminals you will find baggage storage facilities. These will cost you £11 per item during your layover.

How to get to the first stop:

Option 1 – Take Gatwick Express to Victoria Station and then bus 52 to hyde park corner (40 minutes)

Option 2 – Take the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station (33 minutes) and walk to Buckingham Palace (11 min). This option would skip Hyde Park Corner and Green Park (44 minutes total)

Visit Gatwick’s official page for more info.

Stansted Airport

Cost of leaving luggage at airport: £10.00 per suitcase for 24 hours.

How to get to the first stop:

Train (fastest) or take the Airport Bus Express (cheapest) to Liverpool Street Station. It’s advised to buy tickets in advance for transportation as they’ll be cheaper. That’s not just the case for London airports, that’s for Europe!

It’s around 1 hour from Stansted to Liverpool Street Station. Stansted has the longest travel time to central London, making your 8 hour layover in London a little harder.

From Liverpool Street Station:

Take the Central line to Holborn Station where you’ll switch to the Piccadilly line. Take the Piccadilly line all the way to Hyde Park Corner (20 to 30 minutes).

Visit Stansted’s official page for more info.

Self-Guided Tour for Your London Layover

Please note that our guide isn’t set in stone. It takes you from place to place and details your return trip to the airport but don’t feel the need to follow it exactly. There are so many sights crammed into central London that you can mix and match this list to your personal preference. Of course, just be aware of the time!

We list several stops and you probably have time to go into one or two of them. However, it all depends on your pace, your desire, and what airport you’re flying in and out of.

Begin at Hyde Park Corner and Green Park

While Hyde Park is worth a stroll through, it’s a huge park and can take a huge chunk out of your 8 hour layover in London. We suggest you start at Hyde Park Corner and walk through Green Park.

Green park has large walking paths flanked by mature trees. It’s a great place to get some fresh air after your first flight and before you hop back on the plane again. Its wide-open lawns are great for shaking off the claustrophobic vibes of your recent flight.

Buckingham Palace

Walk from Hyde Park Corner: 11 minutes

The front of Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace was once just a townhouse built for the Duke of…wait for it…Buckingham. However, it wasn’t too long before George III took a fancy and purchased it. But it wasn’t until Queen Victoria took the throne that it took the same name we call it today: Buckingham Palace.

Of course, additions have been made and it’s much larger than the original townhouse. No time in London is better spent than admiring the palace for a few moments, before wandering off into the lovely gardens nearby. A must-see during your layover!

Westminster Abbey

Walk from Buckingham Palace: 15 minutes

People lining up outside Westminster Abbey in London

This famous 11th century abbey is where monarchs have been crowned since 1245. There have been 16 royal weddings within its Gothic walls.

If you’re wanting to see the coronation throne, the tomb of the Unknown Warrior or visit the royal tombs (where 30 kings and queens are buried) then be sure to purchase your Westminster Abbey tickets online. They’re cheaper than at the doors, you get fast-track entry and you can pick the time you’d like to visit.

Depending on the time of year, tickets can cost £21-22 if you buy them online and £23-24 if you buy tickets at the Abbey.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Walk from Westminster Abbey: 4 minutes

Big Ben in London

It’s impossible to miss and you’re just steps away. The icon of London, Big Ben, deserves more than just a glance. But since time is a constraint, that’s what we recommend doing. Take some photos and appreciate this giant clock but keep an eye on the time!

The Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace) are also worth a good look. While tours of parliament are offered, we recommend pressing on to other sights. But the choice is yours!

Big Ben is being restored until some point in 2020.

10 Downing Street

Walk from Big Ben: 5 minutes

Also known as just “Number 10”, 10 Downing Street serves as the home of the Prime Minister. See where essential leaders in the UK’s history like Churchill and Thatcher lived during their time in office.

The original buildings date back to the 17th century but so many changes have been made since. However, the importance of Number 10 hasn’t changed a bit!

Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery

Walk from 10 Downing Street: 7 minutes

People crowding in Trafalgar Square and in front of the National Gallery

Trafalgar Square gets its name from a naval battle during the Napoleonic wars. Where did the battle take place? Cape Trafalgar, of course!

Even though its name is tied to a military victory in 1805, Trafalgar’s roots go as far back as the 13th century.

Bloody Sunday, a tumultuous event in the late 19th century, took place in this square and today it serves as the go-to spot for public demonstrations. So, if it looks like there are protests or demonstrations and you don’t want to join in, on to the next!

If you have time, the National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square and is worth a peek inside! It’s free! Of course, don’t spend too much time in there. It’s really hard to pass this one up. You’ll find the likes of Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Monet and many other artists inside.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Walk from Trafalgar Square: 30 minutes

Public Transportation: 17-20 minutes

The front of Saint Paul's Cathedral in London

St. Paul’s is a must-see on your layover in London. The original church that once stood here dates back to the 7th century and needless to say, a lot has happened over the centuries!

This cathedral is where Queen Victoria had her jubilee and where Churchill’s funeral took place.

We were only able to admire it from the outside during our short time in London, but you may enter it if you wish. However, be prepared to pay! Online tickets go for £17 per adult, which is pretty pricey.

Again, on limited time, we’re not sure if going inside is the best thing to do. However, it’s your layover so you make the choice!

Borough Market

Walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral: 18 minutes

Public Transportation: 15-20 minutes

If you walk then you can cross the Millennium Bridge, which will please Harry Potter fans!

Salt Beef Sandwich and a donut from venders at the Borough Market in London

Okay, food, finally! Depending on your layover, you may be having breakfast, lunch or dinner or just snacking all day. Whatever your situation, we have the answer. The Borough Market!

You’ll find a packed house in the Borough Market, especially from Wednesday to Saturday, when all the vendors show. Expect a little less selection of fresh produce on Monday-Tuesday. Sundays are open around Christmas.

From fresh fruits and vegetables to hot foods made ready on the spot, you will have more than a few delicious choices to make! This is one of our favorites spots in London!

Try the salt beef sandwiches from Norfield Farm or, if you have a sweet tooth, the donuts from Bread Ahead Bakery are divine. Not a fan of sandwiches? This market offers dishes like paella, pasta, and stir-fry.

Tower of London

Walk from Borough Market: 15-20 minutes

Public Transportation: 10-15 minutes

You’ll cross the London Bridge and get a great view of Tower Bridge if you walk!

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the coolest spots in town. Enough said. But we’ll say a little bit more anyway.

It was built under William the Conqueror in 1078 so it’s not hard to imagine the significance of this structure. The Tower of London is infamously known for being a prison but it’s been used for more than that throughout its long history. It has been a royal residence and the crown jewels are kept here.

This is a great photo spot, as you’re right next to the Thames (and fish n chips stands) and in one of the most interesting spots in London.

Bonus Stop: King’s Cross and Platform 9 ¾

Walk from Tower of London : 1 hour (don’t walk!)

Public Transportation: 20-25 minutes

Darah pushing a cart through Platform 9 and Three Quarters

All aboard the Hogwarts Express! If you’re a fan of Harry Potter and you have some extra time then make a stop at Platform 9 ¾.

While you can’t visit the actual Platform ¾ unless you purchase a train ticket, there is a neat Harry Potter gift shop and an area where you can take your picture pushing a cart through the barrier to Platform 9 ¾!

Depending on if you want your picture taken and the lines for taking your picture, your visit to Platform 9 ¾ can add 30 minutes to an hour and a half to your total trip time.

Returning to the Airport

Sadly, layover time in London has to end at some point and you have to head back to the airport. Luckily, getting back is straightforward.

We’ve listed directions below for how to return to your airport from the last stop.

From the Tower of London

  • Heathrow Airport – Take District Line from Tower Hill to South Kensington Station. Transfer to the Piccadilly line and take it to Hatton Cross Station (1 hour and 15 minutes)
  • Gatwick Airport – Take the Thameslink from St. Pancras International to Gatwick Airport Station (50 minutes)
  • Stansted Airport – Take the Circle line from Towerhill to Liverpool Street Station. From Liverpool Street Station get on the train for Stansted Airport. (1 hour and 16 minutes)

From King’s Cross

  • Heathrow Airport – Take the Piccadilly line from King’s Cross St. Pancras to Hatton Cross Station (1 hour)
  • Gatwick Airport – Take the Thameslink from St. Pancras International to Gatwick Airport Station (50 minutes)
  • Stansted Airport – Take the Victoria line from King’s Cross St. Pancras to Tottenham Hale. From Tottenham Hale, take the train to Stansted Airport. (1 hour)

Summary of Our Guide to an 8 Hour Layover in London

Phew, that was a lot of information. And it takes quite a lot of planning to make London work within a time limit of 8 hours.

You might be thinking…

This sounds fun but it’s too much hassle. Should I just stay in the airport?

No way! With 8 hours (or more) you have plenty of downtime to explore London. As long as you’re back at the airport and collect your bags with at least two hours to spare, you’ll be good to go.

We understand, it can be a little stressful and taxing to have to check your luggage, leave the airport, return, go through security and do all that lovely stuff. But instead of just sitting around the airport during your layover, why not take a little trip and make some memories in London?

Now that you’ve got the layover figured out, what about the flight itself? Check out our tips for surviving a long flight!

Happy layover!

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We’re Darah and Garrett. Our life has been an adventure ever since we eloped in a pink Cadillac in Las Vegas. Now we’re running around the world, working online, and eating everything we can.

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