Time to kill in the Big Smoke: how to spend a layover in London


Who enjoys a layover in an airport – or even a country – their overseas trip is obliged to touch down in before taking off for its destination once more? Not many, let’s be honest. But could that be because so many people don’t make proactive use of such a layover? Well, in some cases, sure, there’s no getting away from it, you’ll be stuck in an airport – perhaps in the middle of nowhere – and so with no chance of getting away for any decent amount of time to discover some local colour. But what if not? What if your layover’s for several hours and what if it’s at one of the airports serving London; perhaps then enabling you to check out the UK capital? What to do then…?


While away an hour or two in Westminster

If you hop on the London Underground (the ‘Tube’) and ride it to Westminster station, you’ll arrive right in the heart of the capital and at the centre of political power in Britain – yes, Westminster. Quite simply, it’s a sightseer’s dream. Not only is it home to the iconic Victorian neogothic masterpiece that’s the Palace of Westminster (comprising the Houses of Parliament and Lords and, of course, ‘Big Ben’), but also Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and just down the road Downing Street (which you can look down from its barriered entrance to espy No. 10, the home and HQ of the Prime Minister). Meanwhile, just across Westminster Bridge is the fantastic South Bank and the gigantic Ferris wheel par excellence that’s the London Eye.

Check out the Changing of the Guard

Depending on the timing of your layover, should you be able to hotfoot it into Central London for around 11am, you should be able to make it to the grey-brick glory that’s Buckingham Palace in time to take your place before the gates and watch the Changing of the Guard. A daily 45-minute-long event, it’s a ceremonial ‘changing’ of the guard that officially protects HM The Queen outside her London residence (although she’s rarely there, in truth), as one squad of troops marches into the Palace grounds and replaces another – with much pomp and circumstance, naturally. And, in fact, if you’re not on a layover in London but staying nearby at accommodation Paddington London (like the Park Grand Paddington Court London hotel) this is one event you must take in.

Browse and buy some souvenirs

Finally, this suggestion’s a great one if you have several hours to kill in London; if not, well, not so much. And that’s because you could genuinely lose yourself in browsing through all the West End shops there are; the fashion outlets and department stores of this part of town and the streets they line are world famous, after all. So, during a layover then, our advice is to be smart in your browsing and/ or buying by sticking to souvenirs. Not just the usual sort of touristy nick-nacks that are easy to spot and purchase in this, like any most touristy, part of a major city, but small yet distinguished items you may come across in the salubrious streets of Mayfair (e.g. Regent Street and Bond Street) – not least because your item from will have a cool recollection attached to it owing to where you purchased it from.