Heathrow Airport handles 76 million passengers a year and is the busiest airport in Europe.
Currently comprised of four terminals (T2, T3, T4 and T5), Heathrow is large enough to qualify as a small, and very British city. Showcasing some of the tradition, food, eccentricity and lingo of Shakespeare’s sceptred isle.
Of course you can get "that foreign muck” as foul-mouthed British sitcom character Alf Garnett called it but Heathrow also boasts an extensive range of British cuisine, well beyond kippers, bangers and chips.
You’ll be chuffed with the nosh at Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food (T5), tailored by the three Michelin star celebrity chef. Think foie gras and chicken liver parfait, celeriac remoulade and toasted country bread, and that’s just for starters. Caviar House & Prunier (all terminals) is a Heathrow staple, having just notched up 30 years at the airport serving quality seafood, chocolate and champagne. They also have an oyster bar (T3).
The Perfectionists' Café (T2), created by Heston Blumenthal, celebrates some of Britain's favourite dishes and London’s Pride Bar & Kitchen (T2) will serve you Fuller’s beer and classic Brit pub grub. Café Apostrophe (T4) is renowned for its grainy breads, soups and curries, while Huxleys (T5) does an excellent afternoon tea. Pret a Manger may sound French but it’s been in the UK since 1986 and is a handy grab and go option, as is Marks and Spencer’s M&S Simply Food (T2,3&5).
There are lots of options if you’re knackered. Many of the hotels that service Heathrow are located nearby on Bath Road in Hounslow, referred to as the Heathrow Strip. Among the best are the Hilton (T4) and Sofitel (T5), which have access to the terminals by a covered walkway. Sheraton, Renaissance, Radisson Blu and Hyatt are all handy. All hotels offer day rooms and hourly rates. Beware the 20% Value Added Tax (VAT), which may not be declared in the rack rate.
The best of the airport lounges are No. 1 Heathrow Lounge (T3), a comfortable space with a cinema and games room and Plaza Premium Lounge (T2A), which is available to passengers transiting through Terminal 2 only. Lounge passes for both can be purchased online for around £36 (three hours) or £56 (six hours) per person with 24-hours’ notice or for around £40.00 at the door, space permitting. Napping rooms and showers are extra.
Terribly British bits ‘n bobs can be found throughout Heathrow at Glorious Britain, Hamleys, Jo Malone London and Penhaligon's. Check out the hampers at Fortnum & Mason or take home tins of English Camomile Infusion and Cartwright & Butler Salted Caramel Biscuits. If you're after a tipple, World of Whiskies stocks 350 malts including a 50-year-old Glenfiddich.
Fashionistas will find English style at Jack Wills, Harrods and Stella McCartney. Burberry is here (all terminals) and a signature trench coats and DK88 bag can be yours for less than what you’ll pay on the High Street. Check out Mulberry, where you can pick up a famous Bayswater Backpack or head to Paul Smith for a classic wool suit and shoes.
Start your retail therapy on the Heathrow Boutique website, where you can browse all the products and stores within the airport and even book a personal shopper with 48 hours notice.