8 hours to kill in London - what should we do?
July 28, 2019 2:13 AM   Subscribe

We arrive will be landing in London early morning and have about eight hours between when we land and can check-in at our airbnb. How do you recommend we kill this time?

We land in London next Tuesday. I figure the 8 hours will reduce to around 6ish hours once we actually get out of Heathrow. We will have luggage and there are four of us. I'm keen to stay fairly active so we can adjust to the timezones, however we will have been travelling for about 24 hours straight at that point and I rarely sleep on planes, so nothing requiring too much exertion either.

While I've been to London a handful of times before, my travel companions have never been, so all tourist attractions are on the table. All up we will have five days in London with no other plans really having been made except for tickets to see Hamilton.

All suggestions welcome, including where the best place to drop off luggage. We will be staying in Euston.
posted by liquorice to Travel & Transportation around London, England (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Euston station doesn't have an official left luggage area, but St Pancras (10min walk) does. Luggage Hero also claim to have a place to drop off near Euston, but I've never used them before and they're cagey about where it is before you book (potentially for security reasons?).

The Wellcome Collection, featuring medical curiosities and modern art, is near Euston and I believe it's free. If you want to venture more centrally, it's a 30min walk or a shorter tube ride to the National Gallery/National Portrait Gallery (currently showing the 2019 BP Portrait Award exhibition, which is usually very good), also free.

If any of your party like Indian food, Dishoom King's Cross is a 15min walk from Euston and the food is generally very good. And if it gets past 11am and any of you fancy a drink, the Euston Tap is a tiny little pub in a cool building with an impressive selection of beers.
posted by terretu at 3:10 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]

I would take the Piccadilly line to King's Cross, transfer to the Northern line and journey the one stop to Euston. I think it does have a left luggage ... you can drop them in the Excess Baggage Company there (you can book in advance). Alternatively, you can drop bags in St Pancras station too.

Whatever you do, remember that Euston, St Pancras and King's Cross stations are all very close to each other on the Euston Road and I would structure my day around them. The British Library is there too, as is the Wellcome Collection, as terretu mentions.

Depending on the weather and energy, I would visit the most beautiful station, St Pancras, first. It's very impressive and super 'London'. Have a look around and get a coffee or some food there or (if you want something fancier and High Victorian but not too expensive) in the hotel itself. Also good to relax there.

From there, walk through Pancras Square to Granary Square (plenty of interesting places and shops around this area which is catering to some big tech companies, have a look before to see whether anything takes your fancy), swing back through King's Cross Station and marvel at the queue of tourists pretending to be Harry Potter at Platform 9 3/4.

From there walk back down the Euston Road, past St Pancras again, to the British Library. Then relax and get absorbed in the Treasures of the British Library free exhibit. Not only is it soothing, it's fascinating and cool—everything from the hand-written lyrics to Beatles's songs to the first folio of Shakespeare's plays. You can't get a better first day activity. If you want more, go see one of the other exhibitions they run. There's also an Enigma machine in the BL and lots of interesting and temporary displays. I can't think of a better place to do touristy things but that will also match off the plane low energy. Folks can have a coffee or explore.

Once you are done and if you have time, visit the Wellcome Collection and then walk the short distance back to Euston, have a beer in the Euston Tap if you are early, collect your bags, check-in.
posted by einekleine at 3:20 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]

Depending on what time you do arrive you’ll be leaving the airport during rush hour and all the stations mentioned up thread are extremely busy commuter stations. That is not a time of day when you want to be on the tube, let alone try to take luggage with you.

So I’d take the train to Paddington and leave my luggage there. The luggage place is a bit tucked away on one side of the station building. Then I’d find somewhere to have breakfast and assess how energetic you’re all feeling and take it from there. It might be good to do something that gets you outside so daylight and movement can do their magic and help you acclimatise. It may also be nice to get on a boat and go up and down the river - very low effort, potentially good views thing to do for exhausted people.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:55 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]

From Paddington (i.e. if you get the Heathrow Express rather than the tube) as suggested, you could grab some lunch in the station, then go for a nice walk along Regent's canal to get some fresh air. Ask a member of staff to point you to the exit towards Little Venice and from there head east along the back of Regents Park (bonus zoo). It can be a bit confusing to find the right exit but there are normally staff around who can help.

From King's Cross/Euston the suggestions above are good (especially Dishoom - yum!). There is also the Museum of Illustration there, but Wellcome collection and British Library and British Museum are all free so you can dip in and out depending how jetlagged you feel. Left luggage at King's Cross is right at the back of the train station under some stairs which lead up to 'The Parcel Yard' which is a fairly decent pub - big with reasonable food and not too crowded. You have to pay to leave your suitcase and they sometimes scan it for security. If you are carrying a large glow-in-the-dark jellyfish paperweight the staff will make you take it out and all come to have a look :)

Also near King's Cross is Addis - nice Ethiopian restaurant which is a bit different!

From King's Cross/Euston you can also walk to Regent's park if you just want to hang out with a picnic (ingredients from the train station) and relax.

Feel free to memail me if you have specific questions!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 4:14 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]

If you’re stashing your bags at Euston, you could then jump on the Northern line a few stops north to Belsize Park and go for a swim in the Mixed Bathing Pond on Hampstead Heath. (There are also men’s and ladies ponds, which are even lovelier, especially the ladies pond, but it depends on the make up of your group and they’re also on the other side of the Heath, which can be tricky to find your way around if you’re not familiar with it). Mildly active, fresh air, you can have a little lie down on the Heath if you like. Belsize Park and up the hill towards Hampstead are nice to wander in and you could then get back on the tube at Hampstead.
posted by penguin pie at 4:31 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]

How early is early? The Tube and mainline stations are very busy on weekdays until 10ish, but coming from Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line you'll have no trouble getting on the train (start of the line), and lots of people get off at Kings Cross St Pancras, so although I'd stay close to the doors, you should be fine. Leave the bags at either King's Cross or St Pancras to avoid any further rush-hour complications, and start from there.

The Wellcome Collection opens at 10 and the British Library ‪at 9:30‬, which might be another good reason (besides exposure to daylight) to start with a wander around, as per einekleine above.

One of the newer things in the Granary Square area is the Coal Drops Yard development, which is architecturally playful and also has a couple of Spun chairs (upstairs, on the left-hand side if your back is to the canal, towards the non-canal end of the building) if you're feeling more actively playful. You can spin all the way round without falling off, however much it might feel as if you might. They're fun!

On your way back down from Granary Square towards the stations, as you walk down King's Boulevard (a pedestrianised road between Google's new building site on the left and fancy new buildings with ground-floor shops on the right), keep an eye out for an entrance to the Underground partway along on the right: two escalators and a single narrow staircase. Take that entrance. Be prepared to stop dead, gasp and/or take photos when you reach the bottom of the escalator. I'm deliberately not including a link here, because it would be a shame to spoil the surprise.

At the end of the passage, turn left for King's Cross, then when you get there, turn left again and up the stairs to the open air just outside the station: this is where you'll see the end of the queue of Harry Potter fans, and also a giant illuminated birdcage, complete with a swing sized for adult humans.

If you cross over to the other side of Euston Road as you walk over towards Euston Station and/or the Wellcome Collection, you'll pass St Pancras New Church, which is an interesting building in its own right and also has some unusual sculptures in its churchyard at the moment. Sometimes there's also art in its crypt; there'll be a sign up if so.

If you carry on along Euston Road beyond Euston station, that takes you towards Regent's Park, currently hosting the (free, outdoor) Frieze sculpture trail. Well worth a look, if you like outdoor art.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:38 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]

It looks like it will be raining, but if it happens to clear up, I recommend a ramble through Kensington Gardens and adjacent West End parks. I found it a lovely, chill (and somewhat surreal) way to spend my first sleep-deprived day in London.
posted by toastedcheese at 5:17 AM on July 28

My favorite thing to do in your situation is to get on a sightseeing bus and sit on the top deck in some sunshine. It's nice to get some fresh air, and less tiring than walking. But you still get to see the sights and parts of the city you might not otherwise see. I also love koahiatamadl's idea of relaxing on a river boat cruise.
posted by Mouse Army at 5:24 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]

I would take the Piccadilly line to Kings Cross, stash luggage, walk the 5 minutes to granary square for breakfast, then stroll west along the canal. It’s a nice stroll to Regents Park, and if you walk up Primrose Hill, you can see over London.

From there, you could mosey around Camden, walk around Regents Park, or go to anything mentioned above.

Citymapper is v useful for travel routes - a lot of tube stations are a short walk from each other but on different lines.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 7:39 AM on July 28

Optional wildcard:
Choose a random TimeOut freebie activity, just for a lark and to stay awake
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 7:44 AM on July 28

When I arrive in a new place after a sleepless night on an airplane, I like to walk. I like the idea of taking the tube or Heathrow Express to Paddington, leaving luggage there, and then heading up to Little Venice and following Regent's Canal to Regent's Park. After exploring the park, I'd continue walking east along the canal to Camden Market, then continue east to Islington. Depending on when you start, you could grab lunch from one of the vendors at the market, or stop in a canalside pub or café.

Including a ramble through the park, it would be about 5 miles from the canal outside Paddington to the Islington tunnel, including a ramble through Regent's Park.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:52 AM on July 28

For what it’s worth, we recently traveled from the US to Europe and got a hotel room for the night before we arrived, so that we were able to go straight in and take a nap without that awful chunk of time. Jet lag seemed less serious the next day than other trips too. Totally worth it, would do it again.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:09 AM on July 28

I'm with tchemgrrl but did a same-day variation. I paid for the cheapest airport hotel (some have half day rates) on arrival, zonked out for 4-5 hours, showered, and headed out for the rest of the trip quite refreshed. Each time, the jet lag was less--it felt more like having a weekend sleep-in after which I got on with the rest of the day. Plus I missed the AM rush hour to my destination. If you do this, just put your toiletries and fresh undies on top of your suitcase and travel on in your airplane duds.

Whatever you do in London for six hours will be a blur.
posted by Elsie at 10:11 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]

If the weather forecast improves (it's currently looking rainy on Tuesday), I'd strongly recommend getting the Heathrow Connect service into Paddington, eating upstairs at the station (simple and easy and tasty enough and you won't get ripped off), then getting the Bakerloo line to Great Portland Street station and sitting in Regents Park for 5 hours reading and people watching and napping. If it fits better with luggage storage, drop off your luggage and do the same in Hyde Park, walking down from Paddington.
posted by ambrosen at 11:36 AM on July 28

So I’d take the train to Paddington and leave my luggage there. The luggage place is a bit tucked away on one side of the station building

I think that the left luggage at Paddington was converted into a Pret in the last 6 months or so, you might have to leave the station to find the nearest one and I'm not sure how secure that works be. Google says 320m from the station.
posted by biffa at 11:39 AM on July 28

Thank you einekleine and ManyLeggedCreature! We ended up following your advice, and had a great first day in London, exhausted by the end and had some well-deserved sleep that night.
posted by liquorice at 11:05 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]

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