Heathrow is London’s gateway to the rest of the world. 14km west of central London, it handles millions of passengers every year, bringing tourists and business travellers on trips, students and immigrants looking to start a new life, and British residents returning home. Nowadays Heathrow is a massive complex, spanning more than 12 square kilometres, but it wasn’t always so: the airport has grown along with London as the city has cemented itself as a major travel destination.
Heathrow began as a small airfield in 1944, for military planes bound for long-haul flights to Asia. But by the time it was completed, the war was over – so the English decided to turn it into a civilian airport. The first terminal was completed in 1955 and the airport has been growing ever since.
The airport is now big and busy enough to have two London Underground stations: Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 and Heathrow Terminal 4. They’re served by the Piccadilly Line, which takes travellers straight to Central London via Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, home to famous restaurants, major attractions, shops and more. It also goes past South Kensington, one of the stations serving London’s three biggest museums: the British Museum, Science Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum. At the other end, it terminates at Cockfosters.
Heathrow Terminal 1 is due to be demolished this year, as part of plans to expand Heathrow into an even better airport. It currently is home to only a few flights. Terminal 2 is also known as the Queen’s Terminal, and it’s brand new – it was only opened to the public in June last year. It’s home to major airlines like Lufthansa and United Airlines as well as over 20 of their sisters. This is the best place to get some major retail therapy in, with over 50 shops and a stunning 17 restaurants and bars.
Terminal 3 is Heathrow’s long-haul hub, and this is where you’ll find the legendary Airbus 380, run by Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Qantas. Virgin Atlantic has its own check-in area here, with an attractive atrium decorated with an eye-catching sculpture. You’ll find plenty of duty-free shopping here, too, along with showers, prayer rooms and restaurants.
Catching a London Underground train from Heathrow is a great way to get straight into the heart of the city without breaking the bank. If you’ve booked your hotel there, you’ll find this very convenient; however, if your plane lands at the wrong time, you might find yourself stuck in peak-hour commuter traffic, which is no fun at all. There are always plenty of tourists hauling huge, heavy suitcases onto the Piccadilly Line, and you can be sure they envy their counterparts who booked into hotels near Heathrow Airport instead.
If you’d like to save yourself a long, tiring trip into the city centre after your long-haul flight, booking a room near the airport is the way to go. There are plenty of hotels nearby catering to every taste and budget. After just a few minutes, you can check in, drop off your bags, and feel free to explore, take a shower, have a nap and enjoy your destination. It’s travel paradise.