Layover in London: Theme Parks, Royalty, & History!

Bianh N. is a flight attendant with Vietnam Airlines
Country Airport Place
The UK LHR London

Being a bibliophile, I always look forward to a layover in London. So many of my favorite characters come alive every time I arrive in the city. With theme parks on every corner, every little aspect of the city transports me into a different world. And apart from theme parks, the city also offers royal attractions, rooftop bars, arcades and so much more, that every layover is epic in its own way.

Magical London: Enter A Different World Every Time

I grew up reading the Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and the adventures of Harry Potter. So for me, exploring the related attractions is an inexplicable emotion. Looking at any of those signature red telephone booths immediately transports me to the Ministry of Magic; Visiting Baker Street makes me feel like Sherlock will emerge any moment, out of the 221B apartment. So, here are some of my favorite experiences that I would recommend to anyone having a layover in London:

  • Warner Bros. Studio – The Making of Harry Potter

    I can’t explain my excitement every time I get to visit the Warner Bros Studio. It’s like entering the magical realm of Harry Potter. This is probably my favorite place not just in London but the whole world! With breathtaking sets where Hogwarts and Digon Alley come alive, I love reliving my childhood Harry Potter fandom.

    During Christmas and New Year’s, Hogwarts gets a beautiful snow cover and throughout the year you can have dinner at the Great Hall, making you feel like a Hogwarts student.

    The place is littered with authentic props for clicking lots of selfies and I love buying costumes from the gift shop and dressing up in my favorite house colors.

    The tour here also shows how the movies were filmed, taking you through all the visual effects used in the movies to make the magical world a reality! It is an epic place to be if you have a short layover in London.

  • Sherlock Holmes Museum – 221B Baker Street

The words “It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson!” resound in my ears the moment I enter this museum. The place where my favorite super sleuth solved countless singular cases is yet another destination in London that brings out the crazy fanboy in me.

Recounting my visit to the museum makes me teary-eyed and truly nostalgic. With Victorian surroundings and recreated gas-lit London era of the 1800s, this place is like a pilgrimage for Sherlock fans!

Even though Sherlock is a fictional character, this fantastic recreation of the bygone era is so realistic, that you can actually imagine Sherlock looking at an interesting news article through his famous magnifying glass, smoking a pipe.

Also, the museum hosts the largest collection of Sherlock memorabilia in the world! You can even buy the famous deerstalker hat and trench coat from the gift shop, to look like your favorite detective!

  • Madame Tussauds London

While the other two places bring out the imaginary characters to life, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum does the opposite – it captures reality in Wax statues!

Whenever we have a short layover in London, we try to take a tour of the wax museum. The thoroughly life-like wax statues of famous real-life celebs, including Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and The Royal Family are amazingly unbelievable! On top of that, the museum has a surprising number of tours that you can’t complete in just one visit!

The crew and I simply loved the time-capsule tour of London that seats you in an iconic mock black cab and takes you through the historic times seen by the city. We saw Shakespeare writing his famous plays to London Bridge tumbling down and everything in between and beyond! It was like reliving every historic event that took place till now, depicted through life-like yet moving wax statues!

Also, there are 4D Marvel and Star Wars tours where all our favorite Avengers and Superheroes come alive. With so much to offer, Madame Tussauds is a must-visit destination in London, offering a unique experience each time you head here!

Royal London: Meet the Number One Family in the World!

A layover in London is incomplete without visiting the multitude of royal attractions! Royalty is so engrained in every building that you can’t escape it even if you want to for some unfathomable reason. So here are my top picks in the royalty department:

  • Buckingham Palace Tour, The Royal Mews, & The Change of Guards

    Buckingham Palace is pretty obvious for any first-time visitor to London, and I am no exception. On my first layover in London, I did pure touristy sightseeing, including the Palace Tour.

    Before I took the tour, I always thought that the palace is only to be looked at from the outside. However, I couldn’t be more wrong! The tour allows you to roam around the insides, and feel like a royal yourself.

    The Palace is grandeur personified. You get to admire the magnificent ballrooms adorned with gilded ceilings and glittering chandeliers and even look at the Royal Collections of treasures and artifacts from all around the world!

    If you want to add more royalty to your visit, I recommend you take the Royal Mews Tour where all the beautiful royal carriages and horses are put on display. These gold-laid carriages have taken the royal family to esteemed events such as royal weddings and coronations.

    However, if you don’t have time for an inside tour, don’t miss out on the Change of Guard ceremony that you can witness from the outside. You get to admire the royal guards in their beautiful red uniforms and tall, black, bearskin hats, led to the position by the royal band. The sight is an emotion, confirming your arrival in London!

  • Westminster Abbey: The Place of Royal Ceremonies

While the palace is where the royal family resides, Westminster Abbey is what bestows royalty over the family. This Anglican Church has seen it all – The Royal Weddings, the Coronations, and the Baptism of the Royal Children!

From Diana to Meghan, every new bride became a part of the royal family here, and from Charlotte to Lilibet, all were christened here. Therefore, this iconic place is worthy of at least one visit if not more, even on a short layover in London. It captures the essence of royalty like no other place in London.

However, it’s not just about royalty, you can even visit the church for its beautiful architecture or the Hidden Highlights Tours, which take you to the parts not open to the public! Apart from that, the Christmas season is delightfully festive with Candlelight Carol Services, Christmas Concerts, and Holy Communions.

London’s Soul – The Squares, The Clock, & The View!

Now coming to the most blog-worthy attractions of the city, London is rampant with superb-looking iconic buildings, that are must-visit, must-capture, and must-to-take-selfie with! Some of my favorite attractions include:

  • The Squares

    After the first layover in London, when you are done visiting the touristy spots and crave more thorough city exploration, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square are your best bets.

    You can feed the pigeons at Trafalgar Square or click selfies with the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain at Piccadilly Circus. Also, these squares are the best nightlife destinations in London, offering pubs, casual sit-downs, rooftop bars, performing art theatres, and upscale shopping districts.

    These squares offer some of the best places to relax with the crew and while away what’s left of your layover.

  • The Clock

    Like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben is yet another most-Instagrammed landmark in the world! A symbol of democracy, a television and film-favorite landmark and a narrator of London’s history, the world’s most famous clock is simply unmissable on a layover in London.

    And the best part is that you don’t need to go all the way over to the clock to admire it; It’s visible from most places in the city, and you can hear its bells chiming every hour no matter how far off you are from it!

  • The View

    Just when you thought what more this city with countless admirable places can offer, you will be surprised by the options you get to observe its breathtaking attractions.

    Rise 443 feet above the Thames River in London Eye’s glass capsule, glide mid-air in IFS Cloud Cable Car, or stand at the top of the 95-storied Shard! Whichever observation mode you pick, you get to capture the stunning, twinkling city lights in all their glory!

London, You’re My Favorite: I’ll Be Back In A Jiffy!

Every time a layover in London ends, I feel how much more is left to see. To date, I’ve not had the chance to visit LEGOLAND and Shrek’s Adventure! London. With limited time on hand, the city still remains thoroughly underexplored, but that’s what excites me about revisiting the city! I am definitely looking forward to my next layover.



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