London is a fantastic base to travel Europe from. I lived in London for a few years in my mid-20s and travelled often to Europe on weekends and holidays.
Did you know London has five different airports?
Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Stansted and Luton. I had the opportunity to travel through all five of London’s airports while living there. They’re all good for different purposes which I’ll highlight through this post. If you want information on getting to all of London’s airports check out my post London Airport Guide on Flashpacker Family.
Heathrow – Serviced by major airlines, Heathrow is huge and sprawling with five different terminals. Most of the long haul flights to/from Britain come through Heathrow. The main benefit of flying in and out of Heathrow is access to the London Underground which makes it very easy to access the central city without going on overground trains. This also makes it cheaper to reach. It’s by far the best of London’s airport and if you can, you should choose to fly in and out of Heathrow over any others.
Gatwick – To the South of the City and accessed by the Gatwick Express trains from Victoria. Gatwick sees some long haul flights by major airlines and flights to the continent on major airlines and budget alternatives. If you’re staying in Brighton or the South of London, Gatwick is a good choice.
City – London City airport, in the East of London, is close to the Financial District and caters mostly to business people rather than tourists. It’s a tiny but well-run airport with flights to major business centres in Europe. Think Zurich, Amsterdam, Dublin. You can occasionally pick up cheap flights to the continent from London City especially if the flight connects through another city. London City is reached by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) which connects to the Tube.
Stansted – Stansted is the better of the two outer London budget airports. It’s a long way from the city but if you’re staying in the Northern suburbs it’s easy to reach by minicab. It’s a budget airline hub with flights on Easyjet, RyanAir, Air Berlin and Pegasus to name a few. These flights are almost always cheaper than flights from Heathrow but factor in the cost of getting to Stansted before you book. The Stansted Express train from Liverpool St costs a whopping £23.40 one way so if there’s less than £20 difference in price it would work out cheaper to fly from Heathrow.
Luton – Similar to Stansted but less accessible and with less amenities, Luton Airport is another budget airline hub. Wizz Air seems to favour Luton so if you’re flying to Eastern Europe you’ll likely need to head her.