Luton is a large town in Bedfordshire, some 35 miles north of London. It's a multicultural town with a population of about 200,000. It used to have a straw and hat-making trade, hence "The Hatters" nickname of Luton football club; a couple of factories remain along the Old Bedford Road. Luton later produced Vauxhall cars and Whitbread beers, but little of these remain. Most people only come here for London Luton Airport, a major hub for budget & charter flights. The airport is described below but the focus of this page is the town itself.
Luton's TIC has helpfully been placed five miles from town, in Dunstable, so little good it will do you.
- 1 London Luton Airport (LTN IATA). Luton is London's fourth airport, 35 miles north of the city. It's a major hub for the budget airlines easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air, and for charter flights by Tui (formerly Thomsons). This means it particularly feels the peaks and troughs of holiday travel: Easter here can be chaotic. Most flights are to Europe, plus a few to Tel Aviv, the Gulf states and Red Sea resorts. UK flights are to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Belfast. See below for transport, and allow extra time because the access routes and parking lots are still being excavated. However building work on the interior is complete for the time being. There's a couple of cafes and an exchange desk groundside, then a large retail and waiting area in airside departures, plus multi-faith prayer room. Exchange kiosks are run by ICE: they don't display their rates, but these are about 25% off the official rate for major currencies - poor but average for a UK airport. "Duty free" liquor is 10% more expensive than UK supermarket prices. Consider printing your boarding pass even if it's on your phone, as mobile / Wifi coverage is scratchy within the terminal building; you can use airport Wifi (non-secure) free for up to 4 hours.
- For public transport to central London see Luton airport. It's a choice between train (shuttle bus to Luton Airport Parkway then train to London St Pancras), or bus from the airport to London Victoria.
- Local buses: Arriva Bus A runs every 15 mins between airport and Luton town railway station (15 mins) and Dunstable (30 mins). Bus 100 runs every 30 mins to Hitchin and Stevenage.
- From the other London airports it may be quicker to use the inter-airport transfer bus then come into Luton on the town bus, rather than travel into central London then out again. National Express runs from London Heathrow (all terminals) to Luton airport every 30 mins; non-stop Bus 707 takes 50 mins, Bus 787 via Hemel Hempstead takes 70 mins. Fares are demand priced, £18-30 single. Some of these buses start from Gatwick airport, but the direct trains (Brighton-Bedford) are much quicker for the same fare. National Express Bus 777 runs between Stansted and Luton airport every hour or so via Hitchin and Stevenage, journey time 90 min, single fare £16.
Luton has three railway stations, one in the town centre, one close to the airport and one towards the north of the town.
- 2 Luton Station. Served by Thameslink and East Midlands trains. From Luton, trains go north to Bedford, Kettering, Corby. Peak hours only: Leicester, Loughborough and Nottingham. Southbound trains go to Luton Airport Parkway, St Albans, London St Pancras, Gatwick Airport, Brighton, Rainham. Peak hours only: Wimbledon, Sutton, Sevenoaks, Orpington, East Grinstead.
The typical off-peak service from this station is as follows:
- 4 trains per hour (tph) to Bedford (operated by Thameslink)
- 2 tph to Brighton via Luton Airport Parkway, St Albans, London and Gatwick Airport (Thameslink)
- 2 tph to Gatwick Airport via Luton Airport Parkway, St Albans and London (Thameslink)
- 2 tph to Rainham via Luton Airport Parkway, St Albans, London, Greenwich and Dartford (Thameslink)
- 1 tph to London St Pancras (East Midlands Trains)
- 1 tph to Corby via Kettering (East Midlands Trains)
Thameslink trains serve several stations in Central London, including St Pancras International and Blackfriars
Luton Airport Parkway railway station is south-east of Luton and west of the airport. A shuttle bus operates between the station and the airport, with a journey time of about ten minutes.
The station is on the East Midland Line and is served by Thameslink and East Midland trains. From the station, you can travel north to Bedford, Kettering, Leicester, Loughborough and Nottingham. Passengers can also travel south to St Albans, London, Rainham, Gatwick Airport and Brighton. The typical off-peak service from this station is as follows:
- 2 tph to Brighton via London and Gatwick Airport (Thameslink)
- 2 tph to Gatwick Airport via London (Thameslink)
- 2 tph to Rainham via London, Greenwich and Dartford (Thameslink)
- 1 tph to London St Pancras (East Midlands Trains)
- 2 tph to Luton only (Thameslink)
- 4 tph to Bedford via Luton (all stations) (Thameslink)
- 1 tph to Nottingham via Bedford, Kettering, Leicester and Loughborough (East Midlands Trains)
Luton is easily accessible by car about 5 minutes from the M1 junctions 10 and 11, travelling from the south/London and the north respectively. The A505 provides a link via Hitchin to the A1(M), and the Cambridge/Hertfordshire area.
- 1 Luton Museum & Art Gallery, Wardown Park, Old Bedford Road, ☏ .
- 2 Stockwood Discovery Centre (Stockwood Park Museum), Farley Hill, LU1 4BH, ☏ .
- Some surprisingly pleasant countryside is to be found around Luton. To the north of the town (in the village of Streatley) is a wooded hill named the Clappers, which is a good place for a walk. To the west of the town are Dunstable Downs, the eastern edge of the Chilterns and a popular place for walking, gliding and kite-flying.
- 3 Shaw's Corner, Ayot St Lawrence (on the way to Welwyn Garden City). This was George Bernard Shaw's home and is now owned by the National Trust.
- 4 Someries Castle. Restored and reopened in 2008. Although always referred to as a castle, it was a 15th-century fortified manor house. Just outside town, close to the airport.
- Watch football ie soccer at 1 Luton Town FC, 1 Maple Road, LU4 8AW. Luton Town FC, "The Hatters" are at the Kenilworth Road stadium. They were promoted in 2019 so they now play in the Championship, the second tier of English football. In 1985 this stadium was the scene of infamous riots between home supporters and Millwall supporters.
- There is a large South Asian community with several mosques and interesting temples such as Guru Nanak Gurdwara, as well as a jewellery market and curry houses.
- Wardown Park. Contains pleasant lake (to feed the ducks) and gardens plus the Luton Museum and Art Gallery, is housed in a large Victorian mansion in Wardown Park on the outskirts of the town centre.
- Stockwood Park. Another pleasant, quiet space to picnic and enjoy when there is nice weather. In case of rain, the Stockwood Discovery Centre, houses the unique Mossman Horse-Drawn Carriage Collection as well displaying local rural crafts and trades
- Luton Carnival, one of the largest summer carnivals in Europe.
Standard shop brands such as Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Wilkinson, TK Maxx
- 1 The Mall Luton (Arndale centre). was the largest indoor shopping centre in Europe when it was opened in 1971, and it includes a large indoor market.
- Bellini's (in the town centre). A bar and club by night, but during the day it serves up reasonably-priced, semi-Italian cuisine.
- Lazim (in the Bury Park area). Indian restaurant with delicious and affordable food; to get an incredibly-priced buffet, go for lunch or on Sunday evenings.
- 1 Leaside Hotel (listed in the accommodation section below). M-F 6PM-9:30PM, Sa noon-9:30PM. Varied menus, including British classics, Mediterranean food and seafood. Portions are generous and booking in advance is a good idea. A great range of food is also available at the bar. The mix of Victorian surroundings and unobtrusive modern touches make this place stand out in a town that many consider a desert for foodies. The main restaurant is closed on Sunday evenings. Tapas £5.50-8.50, burgers £11.
- ZaZa, Park Street. Authentic Italian family-run restaurant. Huge portions and great value, a proper little piece of Italy in the heart of Luton.
For a quick bite, walk through the Arndale (large shopping centre) and grab some ethnic specialities in the market, such as an Indian samosa or savoury African pancake.
There are also franchises like Costa, Gregg's, and McDonald's. Aroma, the Asian restaurant in the Galaxy, offers an incredible (though pricey) buffet; for cheaper prices, go for lunch.
- White House (attached the Galaxy cinema/bowling/arcade complex). Very friendly atmosphere, complete with a fireplace, armchairs, and bookshelves lining the walls.
Generally, if you keep your wits about you, you should not run in to any great trouble. Do avoid travelling on your own between midnight and 4am, as drunk people are often looking for fights. If a drunk makes a gesture towards you it is best to ignore them and keep walking. If you have been on a night out it is safest to get a licensed taxi, of which there are plenty.
It is not advised to wear a Watford FC shirt in town, especially in evenings or on Saturdays. Despite lacking the great success and history of the Hatters, Watford are considered rivals of Luton Town FC, and Watford shirts are by no means inconspicuous (their team colour is bright yellow). Wearing a Watford shirt is unlikely to attract more than verbal abuse but could turn ugly if you are not careful. It is similarly not advised to wear a Millwall FC shirt in Luton.
Luton is very well-placed for travelling to many other interesting places.
|Routes through Luton|
|Northampton ← Milton Keynes ←||N S||→ Hemel Hempstead → London|
|Milton Keynes ← Leighton Buzzard ←||NW SE||→ merges with|
|Kettering ← Bedford ←||N S||→ END|