London’s tourism statistics are on a steady rise, year after year. And to most, that comes as no surprise!
From iconic monuments like Big Ben and the London Eye, to the city’s pub culture and world-renowned museums, who wouldn’t want to visit England’s capital?
In 2014, London welcomed over 17.4 million tourists (a 3.5% rise over the previous year), according to BBC. Plus, London is the gateway to explore some of England’s other exciting destinations, such as Brighton, Oxford, and Cambridge.
So chances are, you might be visiting London soon…
If that’s the case, you might also be wondering which airport you should fly into.
London is next up on our travel agenda, so before we bought our airfare, we did a bit of research on Heathrow vs. Gatwick to figure out our best option.
Since London is one of the world’s most expensive cities (and since money doesn’t grow on trees), we decided it’d be important to take into account transportation, fees, and the overall convenience of our arrival and departure points.
Heathrow vs. Gatwick: The Gateways to London, England
Both Heathrow and Gatwick are major London airports, serving millions of travelers and numerous airlines annually.
Heathrow, however, is the fourth busiest airport in the world, only falling behind Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport, and Tokyo Haneda Airport. On the other hand, London’s other major hub, Gatwick, welcomes mostly European and internal flights to its single runway.
Heathrow greets 73.4 million travelers each year, whether they’re tourists, expats returning home, or internal flyers. Simply, Heathrow’s passenger traffic is unrivaled in Europe.
Heathrow’s Terminal 2 just underwent a major redevelopment, which cost over $2 billion. This new terminal now features ultra-speedy check-ins, as well as many high-profile Michelin-star, celebrity chef-run restaurants and high-end retail shops. What’s not to love about that?
Another major plus about Heathrow is that it’s easy to navigate. Arriving travelers can easily reach the center of London by using the underground train system, Heathrow Express. This train is affordable and practical, allowing tourists to reach the city center without paying outrageous cab fares and battling London’s crazy traffic! See here for Heathrow Express’s tickets and fares.
Gatwick’s passenger traffic continues to rise every year. However, this hasn’t had an entirely positive impact on its reputation. The Standard reported that 21% of the flights arriving or departing from Gatwick were 15 minutes late, due to its busy runway. After all, Gatwick is a single-use runway, and 55 planes use its runway in just one hour. Additionally, Gatwick is the “leading airport for point-to-point flights in the whole of Europe.”
Gatwick is 47 kilometers south of London, and while it does offer a series of travel options, it doesn’t provide visitors with an equivalent of the Heathrow Express. There’s no direct underground train route to the center of London, which can be a bit of a pain.
There are buses and cab stations, but these options can get expensive and waste a lot of time. If possible, the best way to reach London is to have a friend or relative pick you up. UK parking website, Parking4Less, states the short stay parking service at Gatwick is “conveniently situated between the two [terminals],” which is ideal if you’re getting picked up.
Depending on traffic, the drive from Gatwick will take between 30 minutes and an hour to reach London’s center.
Over to you! What are your thoughts on Heathrow vs. Gatwick? Have you ever used the Heathrow Express?
*This is an affiliate post written by Jaime Anders.