Q: While enroute to Athens, myself, my wife and two children (age 12 and 14) will have a nine

hour stopover at Heathrow. Not being a fan of airports and since my kids have not been to London – would you think it possible for us to hop on an express train to Paddington station and see a few of the mainsights.

We were thinking of Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and Towerbridge, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey or St. Pauls. Assuming that we leave Heathrow an hour after arriving and return no later than two hours before departing, what would you suggest given the time available. I also assume that we would only get into one of the above attractions- either St.Paul’s or Westminster Abbey – and that the rest would be brief visits or walk-bys.

We would be interested in knowing the following:
1. Is any of this feasible given a 7am arrival?
2. What sights would you reccommend?
3. What specific sight should we try to get inside?
4. Are there places to store luggage at Heathrow post 9/11?

A: you would have plenty of time to get into Paddington from Heathrow, explore some of London and return to the airport in 6 hours (the journey takes 15 minutes each way and

trains run every 10 minutes, I think) and its certainly feasible for a 7am arrival. You need to get the Heathrow Express once you clear customs and baggage. Tickets aren’t cheap (I think #12 each way per person) however.

As far as I recall, there is a place to store left luggage (I think the company is called the Excess Baggage Company – look for their details on the web ?) at the airport – or perhaps you could check it in for your next flight before you go adventuring??

Once you get to Paddington, its easy to get to Buckingham Palace, which I suggest is the best place to start. Probably the best thing to do is grab a taxi from Paddington – the cost to the palace would only be around #5 – 7 or so. Ask them to drop you at the palace.

After you see the palace (you won’t be able to go inside the gates), you can walk through St James Park to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. (All three are within 1 minute of each other and its probably no more than a 10 – 15 minute walk through the park from the palace to the three).

Saying you get to Westminster by 10am, you can go inside the main part of Westminster Abbey for free, or pay to go into the more historic part. In my view, this is worth the cost as there is so much to see, and probably worth spending an hour there. (Also not as crowded as the Tower and more interesting, I think.)

After seeing Big Ben, I suggest you may wish to walk up Whitehall passing Downing Street and Horse Guards, up to Trafalgar Square (about a 10 minute walk). From there, you have lots of options, really, assuming you are standing in Traf Square say around midday. Time may be a bit tight for some, though, assuming you need to be back at Heathrow by 2pm, so back at
Paddington by around 1.30pm.

You could get a cab to St Pauls, get him to stop in front for you, then take you to the Tower, then get the underground from Tower Hill station back to Paddington (a direct train route, probably allow 30 minutes on the train). This is not really walking distance stuff.

Or you could walk back up the Mall to the palace, then get a cab to Paddington. Plenty of time.
Or you could walk up Charing Cross Road to Leicester Square, through Leicester Square to Piccadilly Circus – easily getting there by 1pm unless you make lots of stops (!), then get the underground (or cab) to Paddington ( another direct train route, probably 20 minutes on the train.)

1 Comment

  1. Anyone coming from Heathrow and doing a trip around London via Paddington like you’ve suggested would need to make certain beforehand that the Circle line isn’t closed for engineering works that day.

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