Layover in London
After we got our luggage, we did a quick change in the bathroom and swapped out clothes and items we didn’t need for the day. Since we couldn't check our baggage for our next flight yet, we took it to a luggage storage where they allowed us to keep it there for 12 Euros (this was the price for 3 hours and over). They give you a ticket with your information on it, so I highly suggest taking a quick photo of that ticket, in the event that something happens to the hard copy they will allow you to show a photo copy.
Picking the Right Train Ticket
There are several different options when it comes to trains to get you from the airport to inner city London. We stopped by a little help desk and told him our first destination and he helped us pick the best option. The Gatwick Express is what I have used in the past, but this time he suggested another train ticket that we would be able to use all day for a one-time fee. Once you ask the people at the help desk, they will typically write down the option that best fits your needs and then you will walk to the kiosks so that you can purchase your tickets. From what I saw both kiosk stations I saw were red with "Tickets" on the top, so you can't miss them. We just showed the people standing there what the other guy told us to get and they pressed all the buttons for us and all we had to do is insert the payment.
Getting Around on the Underground
Now that you have your train ticket, you need to make sure that you get on the correct train and get off at the correct stop. There are many different platforms and times being thrown at you, but we used google maps for almost our entire trip. All you do is put in your start and end location and click the bus icon and it will break down the train you need to take and how many stops you’ll be on the train, etc. It will also let you know if you need to do a train and a bus and give you walking directions to the stations, as needed.
Plan out your day as much as you can before going, especially on a layover, that way you’re not going in circles and can try and see things in the most efficient way.
Keep in mind, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get from the airport to the inner city, so plan accordingly and determine if you have enough time to truly enjoy a layover in London.
Make sure you head back to the airport with plenty of time, because you still have to get your luggage from storage, potentially change back into comfortable clothes, and recheck in/go through TSA. Nothing is worth missing your flight!
London is always known for being a little overcast and rainy, so just be aware that can happen and they sell umbrellas everywhere.
How We Spent Our Layover
Our flight was running a little behind, plus it was raining, so the plans that we had originally made were cut in half. We chose several things from our list based on the weather and how badly we wanted to do them, since we knew we wouldn’t be able to conquer them all (another good reason to have a list of things to choose from).
The Barge House for brunch: they were incredibly busy and I think we spent a lot of our time here just waiting on them to bring our check, which kind of put us back a little. Don’t get me wrong though, it was well worth it, because the food was incredible.
Next on our list was Sky Garden, which we made an online reservation for. Although they do accept walk-in’s, there is a daily limit of how many people can go in, so there is a chance that you will be turned away at the door. The reservation online is free, so there’s no harm in just being safe and knocking it out (link to their website below). They typically give you an hour, from your reservation time, to be able to walk around and enjoy the inside. I didn’t see how people were keeping track of that or how they knew how long we had left on our time slot, but it could just be a nice rule of thumb to keep the occupancy down. Inside you will find a restaurant and bar, both pretty pricey from what I saw, but you’re paying for the location/view. Since we just came from brunch we didn’t wind up grabbing any food there, but I saw on their website where you can book a table in advanced. With this being such a hot spot, I would recommend doing so to avoid waiting or not being able to sit during the time that you are there. We went on a rainy day, which made some of the views a little hard to see, but the overall experience was one that I would do again (hopefully with a little better weather).
With about half of our time left, at this point, we decided to check out the Tower Bridge. We were able to get some pretty great shots of it from the distance. We originally wanted to walk over it, but decided to stay around where we were and grab some cocktails.
Coppa Club was pretty high on the list with the incredible view of the Tower Bridge and the decorated Igloos. Since it was right down the street from where we were, we chose to end our day here. We got a few rounds of cocktails and some small plates and were able to grab a table inside, which was nice to be out of the rain for a little.
TIP: On their website (link below) you can book a table in the igloos but you have to be quick, as they sell out far in advanced. Be sure to choose the right location, as they have several to choose from on their site. By the time I went to book one for 3, they only had a 2-seater available. If you aren’t able to book a table in the igloos, you can still sit inside, order and take pictures outside. They also had small tables near the igloos that would work perfectly, as long as it’s not raining.
We decided to make this our last stop before heading back to the airport so that we had enough time to get ourselves situated and on to the next flight. Again, putting in your current and end location into google and clicking the bus symbol, will bring up good ways of getting there via bus/train and will even give you walking directions to the stations.