As the UK’s busiest and most varied airport, if you plan on spotting at Heathrow you should also try and spend a night at one of the excellent hotels that offer views of the action late into the night.
It certainly makes seeing those late and very early arrivals easier, from the comfort of your own room, and there are some great views to be had.
With that in mind, here are Heathrow’s best spotting hotels. I haven’t gone too much into the quality of the rooms, but can vouch for them all being comfortable, quiet and of a standard you’d expect of major chains. All of them have bar and restaurant facilities, and places you can walk to nearby for amenities. They all have car parks, too, but usually charge extra for this.
Premier Inn Terminal 4
The latest buzz at Heathrow for spotting has been the new Premier Inn next to Terminal 4 on the south-east side of the airport.
It stands seven storeys tall and is right next to the runway 27L threshold. You also have views across Terminal 2, the maintenance area, and to 27R in the distance. All movements are visible.
Aircraft using 27L and nearby taxiways are easy to photograph, albeit with an annoying radar tower outside the hotel. Sadly also the windows have a double set of glass, which means you’re prone to some blurred shots unless you time it just right or are adept at editing!
Downstairs the hotel has a great bar, restaurant and in-house Costa Coffee shop.
Holiday Inn Ariel
Situated at the north-eastern corner of the airport off Bath Road. The Holiday Inn Ariel is a curious circular hotel, so it’s difficult to get the exact room you want. Room on the top floor are the best, and have views over the runway 27R threshold, as well as the maintenance areas, Terminal 2 and runway 27L in the distance. These rooms are the more expensive options, but still competitive with other hotels.
Photography is fine, between the lamp posts, for nearer aircraft.
Probably most famous for its outdoor balcony which helps with photography, the Thistle is on the north side of the airport and set a little further back than the Renaissance. It is located closer to the end of runway 09L, opposite Terminal 5.
Because it faces south, photography is into the sun most of the day, but acceptable at the start and end of the day.
Views are of the western side of the airport, including the 09L/R thresholds and parts of Terminal 5. The fence and trees can get in the way slightly.
Still largely regarded as the best Heathrow spotting hotel. The renaissance isn’t the cheapest, but often has special rates. What’s more, when booking you can choose a ‘Runway View’ room.
Although not the tallest hotel, meaning street furniture and the airport fence can get in the way, its proximity to the northern runway is superb with aircraft passing very close by the rooms.
The hotel is great quality. What will happen when a third runway is built is not known yet as this hotel is surely in line for demolition.
Be sure to visit the small viewing grandstand and the Aviation Shop in the neighbouring car park. A great place to wait for your room to be available!
Hilton Garden Inn
Formerly the Jury’s Inn, the Hilton Garden Inn hotel is close to the British Airways maintenance base, Myrtle Avenue and Hatton Cross Underground Station. You can walk to all of them from the hotel.
Its location close to the end of runway 27L makes rooms facing south perfect for shots of aircraft arriving here, albeit mostly into the sun.
For a more general view over the airfield, and if photography is not as important as logging aircraft, rooms facing north are the best ones to choose. You can see the end of runway 28R and parts of Terminal 2. However, photography is not great in this direction.