Ask any spotter what the greatest spotting hotels in the world are and there’s a good chance the Renaissance at London Heathrow will feature in many people’s lists.
I recently stayed at this hotel, so used the opportunity to check out the possibilities for spotting.
The position of this hotel on the northern perimeter alongside the fence gives it a grandstand position which is greater than all of the other hotels along the northern side of Heathrow. Most of the other hotels are on Bath Road, or set back from the fence. However, the Renaissance has only a car park between it and the northern runway.
It is easy to get to from any of the terminals, using the hotel shuttle or local buses. It is also easy to reach by car, with its own car park (fees apply on top of your room price).
In the adjacent car park is the small viewing stand outside the former Academy building, which is a popular place for spotters to congregate. Aviation Retail Direct operate a small aviation shop in the building, selling books and models.
As I said, this hotel has a grandstand view of the action. It is around a third of the way along runway 27R, just after aircraft touch down. Alternately, it is around two thirds of the way along runway 09L, where aircraft are usually turning off.
In front of you is most of Terminal 2, and the remains of Terminal 1 which were unused on my visit but will be transformed into an extension of Terminal 2.
Off to the left is the maintenance areas for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, and some of the remote parking stands for day-stopping aircraft.
Terminal 5 is not really visible unless you are in the westernmost rooms. Terminals 3, 4 and the cargo areas are also out of sight.
All aircraft movements are visible from the Renaissance, however you’ll need a SBS or Flightradar24 to find out the aircraft that you’re seeing, particularly on the southern 09R/27L runway. 27L arrivals are visible to just before touchdown, and 27L departures shortly after liftoff. 09R arrivals are not visible, but 09R departures can be seen easily.
The location of the Renaissance at Heathrow makes it probably the best for photography of aircraft using the northern runway. Aircraft pass very close by, so you do not even need a particularly long lens.
Depending on the floor you’re in, there are a few problems with street lamps and the fence to contend with. During my stay I gradually managed to time my shots to capture aircraft unobstructed, however it is difficult with longer planes and a little editing work may be required.
The higher your room, the less of a problem this is.
The other minor problem was the condition of the glass, which was opaque around the edges and could do with a thorough clean. It can be dealt with through carefully aiming your lens, and maybe a bit of clean up in Photoshop afterwards.
Whilst the hotel itself is quite old now, the rooms are excellent, as you would expect with a Renaissance brand 4-star hotel. They were recently renovated and are very comfortable, with fast internet and other amenities.
Unlike most other spotting hotels, it is actually possible to book a Runway View room from the start so that you don’t need to hope your request for a view has made it to the check-in desk, and no awkward conversations about wanting to watch the planes are needed.
I’d agree that the London Heathrow Renaissance is among the best spotting hotels in the world. Whilst there are many great spotting hotels at Heathrow, this should be your default choice where possible.
Renaissance Hotel London Heathrow
140 Bath Road, Hounslow TW6 2AQ | +44 20 88 97 63 63 | www.marriott.com