Layovers happen. Most are quick and involve a short gate change to your next flight, but some leave you with enough free time to explore your new and (very) temporary home. But since most cities can’t be seen in a day, you have to pick and choose what to see. So with 6 hours in London, follow Rick Steves’ Westminster Walk to maximize your time hitting the following sites:
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
You begin the walk in the middle of Westminster Bridge with great views of Big Ben and Parliament on one side, and the London Eye on the other. It’s possible to tour the Houses of Parliament, but with limited time it’s best to skip the tour. Besides, come back when the House of Commons in session for one of the best shows in London.
A quick dash through Parliament Square opens up to Westminster Abbey. A historian would tell you that it is the traditional site of coronations and burials for the English monarchy, or if you asked a teenage girl, it’s where Prince William and Kate got married.
Cabinet War Rooms
The Cabinet War Rooms are one of my favorite stops in London because it is where Winston Churchill commanded the British during WWII. The history is fascinating, and it gives a great picture of London during that time. The War Rooms are almost hidden, tucked away behind a set of stairs, so there is usually not much of a crowd inside.
10 Downing Street
The British version of the White House, 10 Downing Street is the home of the British Prime Minister. Notice the difference in security between the American and British versions!
Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery
The tour ends in Trafalgar Square, where you can relax and people watch. If you have time, visit the National Gallery (facing the square). It is a spectacular museum that is home to many recognizable works by Da Vinci, Raphael, Titan, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh, among others.
There are many other incredible sites in London that can’t be fit into a couple of hours, or even a full day – Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, to name a few. But the itinerary above will give you a great start in London, and will hopefully make you want to return for the rest of it!