Heathrow Airport is among the world’s busiest international airports, and is the main hub for international travellers coming to London. If you’ve got a visit to Heathrow coming up, though, you shouldn’t despair. Busy and frantic though it is, Heathrow is one of the world’s best airports to spend a few hours, with a world class selection of shops, restaurants, and activities. Heathrow started life in 1929 as a small airfield; like most of Britain’s airports, it was born of military necessity. The market gardens, farms and orchards which dotted the hamlet of Heathrow were a far cry from the sprawling complex which occupies the site today. Heathrow was never actually used in military service, though, because as it was nearing completion, the Second World War ended.
Since opening as London airport in 1946, Heathrow has undergone rapid and accelerating development. Today, it’s a shopper’s paradise, perfect for picking up last-minute travel essentials, gifts for family and friends, or treating yourself at one of the high end designer outlets. Brands include Hugo Boss, Burberry, Bulgari, Cartier, Cath Kidston, Chanel, Dior and Dunhill. Even Harrods, the world’s most famous department store, has an outlet here – a great place to pick up a gift for someone, as is Mont Blanc, purveyors of luxury pens. If you don’t get to Heathrow’s Harrods outlet, the real thing is easily accessible from Marble Arch by Montcalm, a luxurious hotel which is a stone’s throw from the shops of Oxford Street.
Food lovers will also find Heathrow to be an unexpected haven. If you’re pressed for time, look out for the useful 15 minute menu clock symbol, which indicates an eatery where you can enjoy quality food within quarter of an hour of ordering. If, like many travellers, you’re looking to fill up the time, then there are plenty of outlets where you can do just that while enjoying international cuisine. Many well known high street brands have outlets at Heathrow, including Wagamama, Giraffe, Café Rouge, Carluccio’s and Yo! Sushi. If you’re just looking to pop in somewhere for a coffee, then you’re well served by branches of Starbucks, Caffé Nero and Pret a Manger among others. But it’s in the realm of boutique restaurants where Heathrow’s food begins to really shine. Gordon Ramsay has a restaurant in Terminal Five called Plane Food, where you can enjoy a sit down meal or buy a picnic to take on your flight: a three-course meal for a very reasonable £12.95. From its knowing name to the quality of its food, this restaurant is one of many at Heathrow successfully challenging the traditional unfavourable image of aeroplane and airport food.All tastes are catered for here, from the simple to the elegant. If yours fit in the latter category, you should check out Caviar House, a seafood bar which offers high quality caviar and salmon, among other things: the perfect place to relax before your flight with a refined light bite and a glass of wine.