During one of my trips from the USA to Brazil, I had a long layover in London. Yes, London. I was researching cheap flights and found a flight out of New York to Rio for $400 less than any other flights. The catch? A 10 hour over-night layover in London. I, of course, said Heck Yes to this adventure and got to planning. So here it is, 10 Hours in London: Complete Guide to Hit London's Hot Spots during a Long Layover.
This guide will be super helpful if you have an overnight or a day layover in London. Even if you are staying in London for a couple of nights, you will benefit from reading. I covered 7 miles worth of stretch to see every Hot Spot. I fell in love with London and cannot wait to do a proper trip!
So without further adieu, Let's get to site seeing!
London has 6 airports, the two main ones are Heathrow and Gatwick. I flew into Gatwick which is a bit further from London's center area. There is no need to spend extra money on a private taxi from the airport. The buses and trains in London are exceptional.
I arrived at 11pm and walked out to the bus pick up area. I was able to purchase my bus ticket and chose a return to airport bus fair as well. Best part, you can buy a 1 way or even buy a return ticket for a future date. You can also purchase a train ticket, but since I came in late, I missed that option.
Either way, I arrived safely at the Victoria Bus station. Here I grabbed a Venti coffee from Starbucks and used their WIFI to plan out my walking map of London's Hot Spots. 1st on my list was Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's Kings and Queens since 1837. Since it is a working palace, access inside is limited to August and September. The closest you get to the palace is the railing fence at the front.
One of the advantages of getting to the palace at 1am was that I had it all to myself!! My photos came out beautiful and I didn't have to fight anyone for the perfect shot. I did miss the Changing of the Guards since I came in the middle of the night, but I am not that mad about it. If you do plan to see the Changing of the Guards, make sure to arrive at least 45 minutes before it starts at 10:45am or you won't be able to see anything.
From the Palace, I walked to St. James Park, one of 8 royal parks in London. The park is absolutely stunning, even at night! I had a gorgeous view of the London Eye Ferris wheel. You can enjoy other impressive views of the lake, flower gardens and fountains. Even see the pelicans that have made the park their home.
St. James Park is 57 acres so there is plenty to see and do here. You can enjoy a meal at the St. James cafe. On June 8th you can watch Trooping the Colour for the Queen's birthday. You can also see Duck Island from the park. This island is a breeding ground to about 17 different species of birds including swans!
As I walked through the park (from the outside perimeters of course since the actual park was closed at this time), I walked past The Horse Guards. The Horse Guards is the building with a clock tower over an archway, and remains the "official" entrance to St James's and Buckingham Palace. I would have loved to see the actual Horse Guards Parade. The building is guarded by two mounted cavalry troopers from 10am to 4pm daily.
I continued my walk to Westminster. Westminster houses the government area near Buckingham Palace. Making my way along Trafalgar Square to see monuments. I walked past the Houses of Parliament, admiring the Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln statues.
I walked along River Thames to the Westminster Palace where the Big Ben Bell sits in it's iconic tower. I wish I could have heard it ring, but it's still silent due to renovations.
I wondered past the Westminster Cathedral, one of the most fascinating buildings I have ever seen. I made my way to the Medieval masterpiece that contains the graves of historical figures such as Charles Dickens, Westminster Abbey.
This iconic Abbey is a true Gothic masterpiece. It is one of the most famous religious buildings in the world. Operating as a church responsible directly to the Sovereign since 1560, it is considered a "Royal Peculiar". This is also the location where Prince William and Kate got married.
I did not cross the river to the London Eye, due to time, but I love Ferris wheels and wanted to get a look. I got as close as I could without walking over. You ride around in an egg like capsule where you can get stunning views. The ride itself takes 30 minutes, so you get your money's worth for sure. I will be most definitely riding it on my next London visit.
I started my walk back to the bus station at this point. I made my way out of Westminster and down "The Mall", which you can see more iconic monuments. It's the main strip back to Buckingham palace that usually has all of the big palace parades. I made sure to check out some of Victoria's neighborhoods and fantasized about my return to London.
The other big Hot Spot that I wished I had time for was the London Bridge and Tower Bridge. I am adding it as a little bonus to the article because I am fascinated by bridges. The walk to the bridge from Westminster is about 50 minutes each way. If I would have jumped on a bus I would have had the time to see them before going back to the airport. However, since this was my first time in London, I didn't want to chance it.
Several bridges named London Bridge have spanned the Thames river. The current bridge was built in the 70s. The Tower Bridge, which is the big one with the two Victorian towers, is the one that we usually see in photos.
I honestly liked London a lot more than I thought I would. I was in complete awe of the Gothic and Victorian buildings from Central London. The city has a unique flare that I have yet to see. I am very excited to plan a proper London trip.
Been to London? Please share your favorite Hot Spots with us!