London suggestions

I’m landing at Heathrow at the appropriately ungodly hour of 6am on Thursday, 7 August. I need to check in to the WHC in Oxford sometime that evening. That means that there is that whole day stretching in front of me. So a few questions:

  • I’ve been to that part of the world a few times, and I know the trains make it dead easy to get anywhere…but if anyone familiar with the lines can spell out for me ahead of time what I have to do to get from Heathrow to Oxford, it would be appreciated. (I know, just go to transportation, find an information desk.)

  • What is there to do in that neighborhood, anyway? If anyone wants to meet up for lunch or something, I’d be happy to…but I know it’s a weekday workday, so I expect nothing.

I am looking forward to 9 days in the UK!


  1. nichrome says

    I’ve read it’s much easier to take a coach (bus) directly from Heathrow to Oxford.

    The WHC site gives this info:
    From Heathrow airport
    If you are landing at terminal 5, you want coach stop #10 at the arrivals concourse. If you are arriving at terminals 1-4, you need to get to the Central Bus Station. The bus will board at stop number 14 or 15. You are looking for a large dark blue coach. It will have OXF as the destination.

    The busses leave Heathrow up to every 20mins during peak times, and every half hour at other times except for the early morning (from about midnight to 6am). Tickets can be purchased from the driver or online in advance. Please note that drivers cannot accept credit or debit card payments. However Dollars and Euros note payments are accepted. Travel times from Heathrow are 80 mins from terminal 5 or 90 mins from terminals 1-4, depending on traffic.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oxford? Don’t you mean Oxbridge or Camford? (too many mystery novels)

  3. says

    Oxford resident speaking: get the Airline bus from Heathrow (outside T5 or at the central bus station) direct to Oxford city centre (final stop, with several en route if you know where you’re going), for <£30. Saves you going via central London and gives you pretty views of the countryside.

    Things to do: several excellent museums (the Ashmolean is rightly famous). Pubs galore (they tend to get very busy in the evening, and close stupidly early). Colleges are fun until you realise they all look the same after the first three. If you know anyone at Magdalen College, get them to take you up the tower: best view in the city.

    Would happily buy you a pint one lunchtime!

  4. aleph says

    Ah, Oxford and Cambridge! That’s my vague neck of the woods, and there’s plenty to do. There’s a whole heap of museums and gardens and so on, and the castle can be fun, but what I’d recommend is going cruising down the river. You can hire a punt tour through the heart of the city (or try yourself, though that’s a bit riskier) and get some of the history of the place. Very fun.

    I’m also up for meeting for lunch, since I’m on holiday at the moment, though I can’t suggest any specific venues.

  5. Al Dente says

    What is there to do in that neighborhood, anyway?

    Which neighbo(u)rhood? London or Oxford? There’s lots to do in London. For instance, you can try the famous echo in the Reading Room of the British Museum. And remember, all English brothels display a blue lamp.

  6. opposablethumbs says

    PZ do you have a preference for spending the middle of that day in London, or in Oxford?
    If Oxford, the direct bus sounds like more sense (at Heathrow you’re part way there already :-) );
    if London, you can store your gear in Left Luggage at Paddington Station for a while and then it’s not so very far to Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens (oh, but I just checked the weather forecast – there will probably be showers that day :-( ). Serpentine Gallery (10am-6pm) in the park, Royal Albert Hall on the opposite side of the park … what kind of thing would you be interested in doing/seeing, and roughly how long do you have?
    I expect you’ve been to the Natural History Museum loads of times, but if not its a c.40 minute walk via the park or a 10 minute tube ride (+ a few minutes walk).

  7. friendsofdarwin says

    And there was I thinking all hours were ungodly.

    Look forward to meeting you on 11th/12th. I’ll be the (other) handsome dude with the beard.

  8. Terska says

    Binge watch Endeavor on Amazon Prime before you go. Great detective show. Prequel to Inspector Morris. Takes place in Oxford.

  9. opposablethumbs says

    … if in Oxford, somebody has got to take PZ to the Bear. Or even just the Eagle and Child, or the King’s Arms ….

  10. jacksprocket says

    06:57 Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 and 3 [HXX] Platform 2 Oxford [OXF] Platform 2 08:19 1h 22m Single Fare £23.30
    06:57 Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 and 3 [HXX] Platform 2 Oxford [OXF] Platform 2 08:40 1h 43m Single Fare £23.30
    07:12 Heathrow Airport T5 [HWV] Platform 4 Oxford [OXF] Platform 2 08:48 1h 36m £31.50
    07:27 Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 and 3 [HXX] Platform 2 Oxford [OXF] Platform 2 08:48 1h 21m



    And have the jolliest of times here.

  11. says

    @ #10 – not sure about Newtonalia, but there’s plenty of Dorothy Hodgkinalia in the History of Science Museum. Also some gnarly bone saws and stuff.

  12. duncanbooth says

    If, after arriving from the US at 6am, you do anything other than check in to your hotel and go straight to sleep then I’m impressed. I’d suggest you head straight to Oxford (direct bus as the others said) and at least drop off your luggage wherever you’re staying then if you’re awake get out and enjoy the fresh air. Plenty of the colleges should be open to tourists or there are a bunch of museums (Ashmoleum of course, and as I said in the other thread Museum of the history of Science, Natural History, Pitt Rivers, Bodleian Library (apart from tours they currently have a WW1 exhibition)). Oxford Castle is another tourist spot with a tour covering the history of the castle & prison or just climb the mound (a Norman motte).

    Punting is a good suggestion, but if you’ve not done it before you might want to wait until you get unjetlagged and get a group of 5 or 6 people together.

  13. susan says

    The airport buses from Heathrow work great. We took one to Brighton when we visited about a month ago and it was faster (didn’t have to go through London–Heathrow is a long ways from London but all the trains seem to have to go through there), cheaper, and more convenient (picked it up right outside the terminal). They store your bags underneath, too, so you don’t have to deal with dragging them onboard with you. Also, there was wifi.

  14. cartomancer says

    I endorse the coach option – it really is the most convenient way to get from Heathrow to Oxford and back.

    As for what to do in Oxford, the University Museum of the History of Science is a nice little place (just next to the Clarendon Building of the Bodleian on Broad Street), with a particularly fine collection of late medieval astrolabes. The Pitt Rivers Museum is probably the best and most impressive science museum in the city though. And the Ashmolean is the best historical museum in the country after the British Museum. For more history there’s the Anglo-Saxon tower on Cornmarket Street (just opposite KFC!), Carfax Tower and especially the tower of St. Mary’s between Radcliffe Square and the High. There’s also walking along the Isis, Cherwell and out to port meadow.

    Pubs-wise I would recommend the Turf Tavern (it’s where Bill Clinton didn’t inhale, and has the best pub quiz in Oxford on a Tuesday night. It was run by David Mitchell’s younger brother over the years I was there – go Wadham and Gomorrah!) – though it can be hard to find. My other favourite – the much smaller Bookbinders’ Arms in Jericho just along from the University Press – is probably a bit out of your way. If you’d prefer less of the traditionally stuffy classically Oxford atmosphere then head down to Cowley Road, where there are a number of nice independent coffee shops and small cafes (Kasbah, Coco’s, that weird Caribbean place I can’t remember the name of, several Polish restaurants).

  15. cartomancer says

    High Tea at the Randolph hotel can be quite nice too. That’s just opposite the Ashmolean.

  16. says

    I don’t know what you’ve done on your past visits (though I will assume you’ve already visited Down House and you’re not a stranger to Oxford).

    I’d certainly recommend Stonehenge. You’ve got a whole day so don’t worry, it’s worth going out of your way for. If you can, also visit the less grand but much prettier and infinitely more accessible Avebury Stone Circle.

    Salisbury, your destination for Stonehenge and Avebury, is readily accessible by rail from both Heathrow and Oxford.

  17. Matt Lodder says

    You’d really dig the Hunterian, and the Wellcome – two really great (but very different) medical museums, within walking distance of each other. The Hunterian, the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, has the Bishop of Durham’s preserved rectum… (; the Wellcome has (amongst other things) Darwin’s [awesome] walking stick.

    To get to the Hunterian – Piccadilly line from Heathrow to Holborn and it’s just around the corner; from the Hunterian to the Wellcome it’s a 20 minute stroll via Russell Square.


  18. stewartt1982 says

    I travel to Heathrow from Oxford regularly. The train connection from Oxford to Heathrow is unfortunately sub-optimal. As has already been mentioned by andrewbissette and Travis ‘The Airline’ is likely the best choice in terms of convenience and directness.

  19. Matt Lodder says

    Oh, and from the Wellcome, Circle Line from Euston Square to Paddington, train to Oxford.

    Watch out for the Oxford trains – the stopping services are cheap but slow (more than an hour), the express services require specific tickets, are more expensive, but are much quicker (c. 30 mins)

  20. Matt Lodder says

    Ignore my museum suggestions. I just remembered they’re both closed Mondays. Curses.

  21. Menyambal says

    I went punting, myself.

    The River Thames runs through Oxford and cab close to Heathrow. Excursion boats run up and down, but I don’t see any that make the whole distance. A charter boat with a private party aboard would be a life experience.

  22. Douglas Allenby says

    Another Oxford resident seconding the Airline coach service. Infinitely easier and cheaper than the train. Also seconding the Museum of the History of Science (my personal favourite), and a walkabout through Blackwells bookshop.

  23. billseymour says

    Matt Lodder @23

    …from the Wellcome, Circle Line from Euston Square to Paddington…

    The Circle Line hasn’t run in a circle for several years. It starts at Edgware Road, runs counter-clockwise back to Edgware Road, but then continues on to Hammersmith. From Euston Square, take either the Circle Line (yellow on the tube map) or the Hammersmith and City Line (pink on the map) to Edgware Road, then just across the platform, take either the Circle Line or the District Line (green on the map) to Paddington. You could also take the Hammersmith and City Line directly to the Paddington H&C station; but then you’d have quite a hike to the Paddington mainline station.

    AFAIK, all trains from London to Oxford depart from Paddington. What looks to Americans like a head-house isn’t one; it’s a hotel. The mainline station is entered by walking down a road to the right (looking at the hotel entrance).

    If you go directly from Heathrow to Oxford, the “coach” (we would say “intercity bus” on our side of the Pond) would probably be quicker (as others have said).

  24. Phillip Anderson says

    As some of the others have mentioned, the coach is the easiest, most direct option. Make sure to ask for a ‘period return’ ticket, and keep the stub for the return trip.

    Christchurch Meadow and the covered market are nice places to walk through, and right near the center of town. Blenheim Palace is another good place (especially if the nice weather holds up) which I don’t think has been mentioned yet. Easily accessible by bus from Oxford. About 20 minutes out, I think.

    If there’s a gathering for a lunch or dinner, I’d love to come along and buy you a beer!

  25. billseymour says

    Oh, yes…PS…if you really want to take the train from Heathrow to Oxford (which would also be my choice, but then I’m a train geek), Heathrow Express to Paddington is quick; but it’s quite a hike from the airline terminal to the train station. Another option, much slower but also less expensive, is to take the Piccadilly Line (dark blue on the tube map), direction Cockfosters, alighting at Earls Court, then the District Line, direction Edgware Road, alighting at Paddington.

    One potential problem with changing at Earls Court is that the Piccadilly Line is a deep tube at that point, so you have to take a lift to what’s basically the street level, then head down some stairs to the District Line platform. And if the lift isn’t working, you’re lugging luggage up lots of steps. For easy cross-platform train changes all the way, get off the Piccadilly Line at Hammersmith, then take the District Line, direction Upminster, alighting at Earls Court, then the District Line, direction Edgware Road, alighting at Paddington.

  26. stewartt1982 says

    I am a bit of a train geek as well and really wish the train was more convenient from Oxford to Heathrow … but when I am looking at the prospect of a 12 hour flight to Japan, getting to Heathrow with as little fuss as possible is 最優先 事項よ (Saiyūsen jikō yo – Highest priority item!) ^_^

  27. david says

    JRRTolkein’s place
    if you’re a Dorothy Sayers fan, the Mitre, the punts, and Baliol. If you’re not a D.S. fan, you should be.
    the clock tower
    the botanical garden has some fantastic specimens from around the world

    If you have a full day in London, leave. Take the train from Victoria to Kent & then a bus down to Down House (Darwin’s residence). Not to be missed. Other great London activities for a scientist/naturalist: the Natural History Museum (for a rainy day), a busy walk finding all the blue circles commemorating scientists or atheists that you can find (you should easily be able to get Faraday, some Freud locales, and two for Orwell).

    Having mentioned blue circles, when in Oxford (if you’re interested in Neuroscience), don’t miss the circle of Willis.

  28. Erp says

    By all accounts the bus should be fastest. BTW I note that Queen’s, Lady Margaret, Somerville, and Keble are the four colleges the WHC is using for rooms. Lady Margaret and Somerville were the original women’s colleges at Oxford, the first for Anglicans and the second non-denominational. Somerville was also Dorothy Hodgkin’s college.

  29. lleclair says

    Go to Down House!! It’s in Orpington, Kent, about 16 miles SE of London. Easy train ride and cab to get there.

  30. redwood says

    After booking a train and paying for the tickets, a colleague told me the bus is the best way. That’s what I get for being prepared. Looking forward to meeting you at some point, PZ. I’ll be the prof from Japan who isn’t Japanese. At least I’m staying in the most appropriate place for this particular Congress—Jesus College.

  31. David Weingart says

    Currently a London resident, and I can recommend many, many good places to get a drink down here. The one time I was in Oxford, I think the Turf Tavern (which someone mentioned above) was my favorite place. You do kind of need to know exactly where it is, but I’m betting people can direct you.

  32. says


    That means that there is that whole day stretching in front of me.

    Then try to get some sleep, FFS. What are you, 25? ;-)

  33. says

    I am not 25, but I have amazing stamina.

    That said, I’m afraid I do have some limitations. I’m coming off a debilitating joint infection, and still suffer from aches that limit my walking ability. I can get around, but I do have to just stop now and then, and 5 mile hikes are out of the question.

    Also, and this is the most tragic of all, I’ve been on medication for a couple of years and my liver is sending warning signs, so my doctor has told me no alcohol until I clear a battery of tests. Not even good British beer. I am tearing up as I write that. WHAT’S THE POINT OF GOING TO EUROPE ANYMORE, I ask?

  34. Hybrid TeaRose says

    I’m flying to London on that day, PZ. I’d totally meet you for lunch. I could bore you with my dissertation and you could tell me all about cephalopods :).

    Though come to think of it, you’ll be in Oxford by then, and I’m not going that way. Aww.

    I’ve been to Oxford once, and the only thing I had time to visit was the Pitt Rivers museum. Certainly worth going to, as others have mentioned, if only because (from the POV of an anthropology student) it tells you as much about colonialism and how anthropology has changed its approach over the years, as it does about the societies whose items are being exhibited. And you get shrunken heads! And I think and it’s free entry, if I remember right.

    As for London, I find you don’t need to have plans – just go off in a random direction and see what you can find…

  35. Rich Woods says

    @PZ #42:

    so my doctor has told me no alcohol until I clear a battery of tests. Not even good British beer.

    It’s possible that you’ve already died and gone to Hell.

    I’ll raise a glass for you. Adnam’s Broadside be OK?

  36. says

    No alcohol?! You’re going to miss out on warm, flat, overpriced real ale…

    I don’t know if we have any fancy drinks that aren’t alcoholic. Afternoon tea at the Grand Cafe?

  37. Kaydens says

    Not wishing to disagree too much with the Oxford residents but I would personally avoid the Grand Cafe for afternoon tea and instead opt to cross the road and imbibe at The Rose ( While the Grand claims to be the oldest coffee house in Britain I found the food there disappointing (although the selection of coffees and teas was arguably better). If you’re looking for something offbeat though you could try Thirsty Meeples ( which provides tea, coffee and board games in one location that’s conveniently adjacent to the buss station in Oxford. Both of those recommendations are quite small though so you may be wise to book in advance.

    I also feel I should wave to Turtles from my desk here at Apex Plaza *waves*

  38. itto says

    A suggestion for a restaurant in Oxford city centre: Chiang Mai Kitchen. Get someone to buy you supper there one evening: very tasty Thai food; just tell them you’re vegetarian. It’s located in an alley off the right hand side of the High Street if you’re walking away from Carfax (the crossroads at the centre of town). Combines nice fresh flavours with Olde English exposed beam architecture. Another good Thai place in town, less posh, is opposite the cinema off George Street: Angrid Thai. There’s also a Mexican-type place called The Mission in St Michael’s St, a side-street off Cornmarket in the centre, that does good burritos, etc.. Central Oxford isn’t obviously vegetarian-friendly, but there is a good selection if you have a local guide.
    For a good local web guide, use Daily Info’s website:
    That’s an Oxford site: choose the Food & Drink tab, select veg friendly, and you will be directed to the most popular cafes in town, the latest pop-up pizza van and any number of places to eat. Same site will also tell you of any local events/exhibitions going on. If you can find Cowley Rd, 15 minutes’ walk away from town, the food and culture options broaden widely…