You might think that if you’re staying at Heathrow Airport, you won’t be able to explore much of London. There’s a lot to see and do near the airport, though, and it’s worth getting out to discover the area’s highlights.
This part of west London is home to some of the most beautiful riverside neighborhoods in the city. It also has historic houses, expansive parks and some of the most famous botanical gardens in the world.
If you have 24 hours in this area of London, you’ll be able to experience all of these things and more. I recommend starting in Richmond, where The Quadrant and George Street will fill your eyes with shops and restaurants. It’s worth veering off onto the narrow side streets, too, as Brewers Lane and Paved Court are full of little stores and old-world charm.
They also lead to Richmond Green, a park bordered by houses with heritage architecture and historic pubs like The Cricketers, which dates back to 1770. If you’re lucky, you might see a local cricket match taking place on the grass as you sip your pint out front.
From Richmond Green, head to the river to take a walk along the Thames. The scenery is lush, and you’ll see lots of rowboats gliding by. If you need a break, Petersham Nurseries and its café are some of the most stylish places to be seen in Richmond. Locals flock there on weekends to eat amid the greenery.
You can walk into Richmond Park afterward, too. It’s one of the biggest green spaces in London and is famous for its 630-strong red and fallow deer population. There are great views of the London skyline from its high points and clearings, as well.
North of Richmond, Kew Gardens is ripe for discovery. The Royal Botanic Gardens have the largest and most diverse botanical collections in the world and the biggest Victorian glasshouse.
Back toward Heathrow, you can continue your explorations in Osterley Park. This under-the-radar green space is home to walking paths and pastures that will make you feel like you’re out in the countryside. It also has a neoclassical mansion designed by Robert Adam, a renowned 18th-century British architect.
And speaking of impressive architecture, Windsor Castle is an iconic landmark near Heathrow. You can tour the castle’s State Apartments and explore the town, which has a lot of boutiques and fine dining options. You can even ride horses in Windsor Great Park or go for a carriage ride.
Hampton Court Palace is another historic royal residence in the area, and you can take a Thames cruise to get there from Richmond. This place dates back to Tudor times and has impressive interiors and expansive gardens to explore.
By the time you’re finished, you’ll be ready for your flight and convinced that there’s a lot more to do around Heathrow than you first thought. Twenty-four hours is just enough to get a taste of what the area has to offer, and there will be a lot more to discover on your next trip.
Originally from San Francisco, Julie Falconer moved to London in 2007 and runs A Lady in London, a blog about all things lovely London and beautiful travel.