Front entrance to Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is home to 3,000 tombs, the remains of 29 kings and queens, and hundreds of memorials.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Kit_Leong

8 Essential Things to Do On a Layover in London

Excitement Awaits Beyond the Airport

If you have a layover in London that’s not long enough to do major sightseeing but too long to spend your time wandering airport terminals, count it as a blessing rather than a curse. If you have the opportunity to visit London you’ll be able to take in some incredible history, culture and eats no matter how short on time you are.

The city center is just 15 miles away, along with a number of nearby attractions and a plethora of free museums that can give you at least a little taste of one of the world’s most popular cities. In fact, by taking the London underground to Westminster Station, you’ll be able to explore many of the city’s most iconic attractions.

Westminster Abbey

Renowned as the greatest church in the English-speaking world, Westminster Abbey was the very place Prince William and Kate Middleton said their “I dos,” as well as the spot the country’s kings and queens have been crowned and buried since 1066.

This grand building is truly a must-see living pageant of England’s history with 3,000 tombs, the remains of 29 kings and queens, and hundreds of memorials that lie under its stone slabs and within its walls. Chaucer, Samuel Johnson, Tennyson, Browning and Dickens are all buried here.

The Tower of London lit up at nightA variety of tours are available of the Tower of London, ranging from humorous to creepy. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Tomas Sereda

Tower of London

The Tower of London has played a number of roles in England’s history, including a castle in wartime and a monarch’s residence during times of peace. It’s also been a prison for rebels and happens to have a notorious haunted history.

A variety of tours are available, including the humorous Beefeater tour and a rather creepy but fascinating ghost tour. You’ll view the crown jewels, which boasts the First Star of Africa, the largest flawless cut diamond at an astounding 530 carats.

You’ll also see the executioner’s block that beheaded a couple of Henry VIII’s wives as well as a number of problematic heirs to the throne.

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Big Ben lit up against a pink and blue skyOne of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the House of Parliament’s clock tower is officially called the Elizabeth Tower.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / sborisov

Big Ben

You might think Big Ben is “just a clock,” but it’s actually a whole lot more than that. One of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the House of Parliament’s clock tower is officially called the Elizabeth Tower after it was renamed in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Its minute hands weigh about 220 pounds and are nearly 14 feet in length. Timekeeping is strictly regulated by a stack of coins that sit on the massive pendulum that has rarely stopped.

Even when a bomb destroyed its Commons chamber in World War II, the clock tower survived and Big Ben kept striking the hours. If you happen to view it after dark, you’ll get to see its faces illuminated — a magnificent sight.

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