Everybody knows about the tourist attractions in central London – the world famous landmarks which make the capital such an attractive destination to people from across the globe. But it isn’t just London’s epicentre that is full of fun things to do. There are plenty of superb attractions and places of interest on the outskirts of the city too, and they are ready to be explored.
In many cases, overseas visitors enter the UK through Heathrow Airport, which is situated in the far west of the capital. It isn’t uncommon for new arrivals to spend a night in the area around the airport, before moving to a hotel in the centre of the London, or for people to stay in a Four Star Hotel in Heathrow before taking their flight home. Visiting one of the many top attractions close to the airport can be a great way to begin a trip to London, or round it off in style.
Here’s our list of places to visit in western London, in the area close to Heathrow Airport. There are options for people travelling alone, as a couple, with friends or with their family:
1. Windsor Castle
One of the most famous royal residences of all Windsor Castle is an iconic British landmark. It is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, having been owned by the reigning monarch for over a millennium. Queen Elizabeth II can often be found at Windsor Castle – you’ll know that she is in residence if the Royal Standard is flying.
2. Hounslow Urban Farm
Situated on Fagg’s Road in Feltham, Hounslow Urban Farm is a great place to take young children to introduce them to the animals. Cows, pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, poultry, rabbits and ponies are among the residents at the farm, which is open throughout the week. Given the relative shortage of farmland in Greater London, some of the farm animals on show may be a novelty to visitors – particularly those who have only spent limited time in the countryside.
3. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
The beautiful Kew Gardens is home to the world’s largest collection of living plants. It came into existence in 1840 and over the last century and a half has become a haven for rare and exotic species. There are more than 30,000 different kinds of plants, while the library contains more than 750,000 different volumes. The gardens have been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 2003.
4. Twickenham Stadium
For fans of rugby union, Twickenham Stadium is a place of pilgrimage. This is the home of the XV-man code, the ground at which the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final was played. Twickenham is where England play their home Test internationals and Six Nations encounters, and on matchday it becomes a cauldron of noise. On non-matchdays, many people visit Twickenham to explore the World Rugby Museum, which is full of memorabilia relating to this popular sport.
5. Legoland Windsor
Built in 1996 as a family theme park, Legoland Windsor has been a hugely popular attraction for two decades. The park – which is themed around the popular Lego toy system – was built on the site of the now-defunct Windsor Safari Park. More than two million people pass through Legoland’s gates each year, making it Britain’s second-most popular theme park after Alton Towers.
Legoland Windsor is also popularly known as the destination for daredevils.
6. Thorpe Park
A popular theme park situated between Staines and Chertsey, Thorpe Park is home to a number of rollercoasters and thrill rides. It was built on the site of the former Thorpe Park Estate, which was demolished in the 1930s. White knuckle fans may enjoy a day out at the park to ride the Tidal Wave, Colossus, Nemesis Inferno, Stealth, SAW – The Ride, and The Swarm.
7. Chessington World of Adventures
Another theme park situated close to Heathrow Airport, Chessington World of Adventures has a fully operational zoo and a host of rides and rollercoasters. Vampire, Bubbleworks, KOBRA, Zufari: Ride into Africa and Scorpion Express are among the key attractions. Chessington Zoo has over 1,000 animals, including western lowland gorillas, sea lions, and Sumatran tigers.
8. Ascot Racecourse
Ascot is the premier flat racecourse in the UK and the venue for a number of the leading meetings each year. Horses have raced at Ascot, just outside of Windsor, since 1711, with the reigning monarch and other members of the royal family often in attendance. The Ascot Gold Cup, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes draw in talented horses and jockeys from across the globe.
9. Ham House
A truly remarkable historic building, Ham House is a Grade I-listed property which lies just to the south of Richmond beside the River Thames. Completed in 1610, it is surrounded by Grade II-listed parks and gardens, which can be explored by members of the public. The house contains plenty of period pieces, furniture and artwork.
10. Musical Museum, Brentford
Located just a few miles from Heathrow, the Musical Museum in Brentford contains one of the world’s foremost collections of self-playing musical instruments. It houses rare working examples of various player pianos, orchestrions, orchestrelles, residence organs and violin players. There is also a 230-capacity concert hall and cinema at the museum, which is used for performances throughout the year.
11. London Motor Museum
A must for transport fans, London Motor Museum in Hayes is home to more than 160 exhibits including classic cars from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The museum also houses a number of famous vehicles, including Herbie the Volkswagen Beetle, an original Batmobile from 1989 film ‘Batman’ and a Ford Gran Torino from the TV series ‘Starsky and Hutch’.
12. Windsor Great Park
Windsor Great Park was first enclosed in the 13th century, having previously been part of a large Norman hunting forest. The 2,020-hectare site includes a Deer Park, woods, formal avenues, gardens and wild grasslands. It is open to the public on most days of the year and hosts special events including fairs, shows and performances.
Can I leave Heathrow airport between connecting flights?
You can leave the airport if you have enough transfer time between flights (more than 6 hours for Heathrow and Gatwick) and the necessary documentation to enter the UK.
Can you stay in Heathrow airport overnight?
It’s up to you, you can either sleep at the airport itself or can rent a lounge to have a relaxing sleep. There are number of options available, to book a lounge, at the airport.