Curious about flying in and out of London? The UK’s capital is served by six airports, some stretching the geographical definition of London to the limit. Below is the Top Sights guide to the best airports that will get you to your walking tour in a flash!
Heathrow Airport, London’s main hub, is also one of the world’s busiest airports, with 75.7 million passengers passing through in 2016.
The Piccadilly Line on the Underground metro system serves three tube stations (Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 and 3; Terminal 4; and Terminal 5 — all in fare zone 6), with trains running every two to three minutes during the day, with a journey time of around 45 minutes from zone 1.
Fares cost £5.10 at peak times (6.30 a.m. to 9.30 a.m., 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday) and £3.10 at off-peak when using an Oyster card or contactless payment card. This rises to £6 for a paper ticket at all times.
Heathrow is London’s busiest and biggest airport.
You can often make big savings when you research which method of travel you would like to use and book your tickets online. Transport providers will sometimes reduce prices for those who book early, so it is definitely worth sorting out transport to and from Heathrow Airport in advance and it saves a lot of hassle too!
Business Class tickets, offering more legroom, cost £32 one-way and £55 return.
The Heathrow Connect service, which stops at intermediate stations between Paddington and Heathrow, costs £10.30 for a single ticket and £20.70 for a return. National Railcardsare also accepted on this service
Heathrow’s size is 1,227 hectares and it has six terminals and two runways that serve 80 different airlines. At least 201,000 passengers depart from the airport every day and 73.4 million flew into and out of Heathrow in 2014. Besides passengers, the airport moves 1.5 million metric tonnes of cargo per year. It also employs approximately 76,000 people within the airport boundaries.
National Express operates 51 coach services per day from Victoria coach station, a five-minute walk south from Victoria train station. Turn-up-and-board tickets cost £10 single, with £5 advance tickets available.
An open return costs £26, while fixed returns can be secured for as low as £14. Journey times are optimistically advertised as 35 minutes, although London’s notorious traffic often means it can take twice as long.
Travelling to London Heathrow by car can be a great option. If you have your own car there are plenty of cheap airport parking options to choose from. If you have an early morning flight or would rather be closer to the airport the day before your flight the most hassle free option is to book an airport hotel.
At around 25 miles from the city center, Gatwick is more mockney than cockney. Spread over two terminals (North and South), which have been mercifully refurbished in recent years, Gatwick handled a massive 43.1 million passengers in 2016.
That hefty distance from the city center means it can be both costly and time-consuming to get to and from Gatwick if you don’t book transport in advance.
Gatwick opened as an aerodrome in the late 1920s; it has been in use for commercial flights since 1933. The airport has two terminals, the North Terminal and the South Terminal, which cover areas of 98,000 m2 (117,000 sq yd) and 160,000 m (190,000 sq yd) respectively. it operates as a single-runway airport, using a main runway with a length of 3,316 m (10,879 ft). A secondary runway is available but, due to its proximity to the main runway, can only be used if that is out of use. In 2018, 46.1 million passengers passed through the airport, a 1.1% increase compared with 2017.
Thanks to the UK’s somewhat opaque rail ticketing system, it’s all too easy for first-time visitors to wind up with the wrong ticket and on the wrong train.
Gatwick’s train station is served by Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink trains. Gatwick Express trains run non-stop to London Victoria every 15 minutes and take half an hour, while Southern services run to Victoria, with journey times between 35 and 50 minutes. Thameslink serves London Bridge, as well as London Blackfriars and London St Pancras, with trains taking up to 60 minutes.
Getting there can be somewhat tedious but travlers have great options. The Gatwick Express train. This is the fastest, most comfortable and expensive option (apart from a private car), though there are good deals. The terminus in Central London at Victoria is also central and a good transit point to your accommodation. If comfort and speed is everything then this is your choice. If you normally would get a taxi to and from the airport, do yourself a favour, take the Gatwick Express to Victoria then get a black London cab from there. The Southern trains run the same route as the Gatwick Express. They take about 15 minutes more to Victoria as they are stopping trains. They can get very crowded at peak times , but are much cheaper than the Gatwick Express. Before you get to Victoria the train will stop at Clapham Junction where you can change trains to Waterloo Station by County Hall on the opposite side of the River Thames to Big Ben.
National Railcard holders can get discounts on all three services.
Be aware that boarding a Gatwick Express train with a Southern or Thameslink ticket can leave you liable to a penalty fare. Gatwick Express trains are red, while Southern or Thameslink trains are either green and white or purple.
Coaches also run from Victoria coach station to Gatwick and are much more affordable than the train. easyBus offers advance tickets from as little as £2 and also drops off at London Waterloo, while National Express tickets start from £5. The latter has kiosks in both the North and South terminals.
London Stansted Airport is London’s third airport, serving over 27m passengers each year. It is the only major London airport with significant runway capacity and offers a European route network which is unrivalled in the UK, providing London with more visitors from Europe than any other airport.
The Stansted Express train service runs every quarter of an hour and takes 45 minutes to and from Liverpool Street in London’s financial district. It also stops at Tottenham Hale for connections to the London Underground Victoria Line and the center of town.
Single journeys cost £16.60 from Liverpool Street, with return fares costing £28. From Tottenham Hale, tickets cost £26 return and £15.70 single.
Stansted Express offers the fastest way to travel between London Stansted Airport and London. Trains depart every 15 minutes and take just 47 minutes to and from London Liverpool Street.
If you have an early flight departing at London Stansted Airport, the train services start at 03:40am – from London Liverpool Street to the airport – on Monday, Friday and Saturday mornings.
Pre-booked cabs — known as minicabs — from the center of London to Stansted Airport can cost as little as £60. However, hailing a black cab to take you the full 30 miles will cost in excess of £100.
Stansted only has one terminal, an award-winning design by Norman Foster which opened in 1991.
Like Gatwick and Stansted, London’s fourth airport, at Luton, is nearly 30 miles from the city center. n 2018, over 16.5 million passengers passed through the airport, a record total for Luton making it the fifth busiest airport in the UK. It is the fourth-largest airport serving the London area after Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, and is one of London’s six international airports along with London City and Southend. The airport serves as a base for EasyJet, TUI Airways, Ryanair and Wizz Air and previously served as a base for Monarch Airlines until it ceased operations in October 2017. The vast majority of the routes served are within Europe, although there are some charter and scheduled routes to destinations in Northern Africa and Asia.
There are frequent trains to London from Luton Airport Parkway train station. A regular shuttle bus links the airport to Luton Airport Parkway train station in around 10 minutes.
Visitors should remember to buy a ticket to Luton Airport rather than Luton Airport Parkway. The latter is the nearest station to the airport, with all passengers required to take a shuttle bus to the terminal.
National Express coaches pick up and drop off at 30 different locations in London from Luton Airport, with one-way tickets from £5 online.
You can pay a £5 add-on which allows you to get on any available coach 12 hours before or 12 hours after your planned departure time. Journey times from Victoria coach station can take as long as two hours during rush hour, although that falls to around an hour at peak times.
Terravision offer a low-cost coach service into Central London from Luton Airport. At peak times buses depart every 20 minutes and stop at Brent Cross, Baker Street and Marble Arch on their way to Victoria Coach Station. A standard one-way ticket costs £15.
History shows that city boundaries are fluid. But not so fluid to include an airport that sits a massive 42 miles from the center of London.
London Southend Airport is an international airport in the Rochford District in Essex, England, approximately 36 miles from the centre of London. Southend was London’s third-busiest airport from the 1960s until the end of the 1970s, when it was overtaken in passenger numbers by London Stansted Airport
Southend’s small size means it’s not as easily reached by bus or coach. The X30 service runs between Southend Airport and Stansted Airport, which is handy for connections. A single ticket costs £16 and a return £23. A group return ticket costs £50. All are available to buy from the driver.
Greater Anglia trains rundirect from London Liverpool Street to Southend Airport, stopping in Stratford station on the way. This provides easy access to the airport from Canterbury, Oxford, Brighton and many other cities and towns in South East England.