Ultimately, the answer to this question depends on where your flight is coming from.
If you’re traveling here from North and South America, chances are that the choice will be made for you.
The majority of International flights come into London Heathrow, with a few going to Gatwick instead.
If you’re traveling from Europe, Stansted and Luton have easy rail access to the city.
However, if you happen to be staying in the east of town or in the Square Mile, London City may be a good bet with cheap and fast access to your hotel.
It’s also a great way to avoid crowds.
So, if you'd like to learn more about each airport's pros and cons, then read on.
We are a group of London tour guides who live all throughout Greater London. We've flown into and out of each of these airports.
We include details on locations, how to get to the city from each airport, and other important information.
We've also taken into consideration some of the input that members of our London Travel Tips Facebook group have to say about the topic.
- Heathrow Airport
- Gatwick Airport
- London City Airport
- Luton Airport
- Stansted Airport
- Southend Airport
Heathrow Airport is London’s busiest airport, and if you are flying directly from the United States, it is most likely you will land here.
There are direct flights to Heathrow from many US cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Miami.
Most tourists from the Americas, Asia, and Australia will find flights to Heathrow to be their cheapest and most convenient option.
And, in the video below, I go over the different ways of getting to Central London from Heathrow Airport.
Getting To/From Heathrow Airport
Because London Heathrow Airport is so large, it’s fairly easy to get to and from and you have a number of options to choose from.
London Underground - The Piccadilly Line runs directly through the city, straight to the airport, and back.
It’s a cheap and easy option with a one-way fare costing around £5.50 at peak hours and £3.50 off-peak.
The station is located within the airport so it’s super easy to get to.
Depending on where you’re staying in town, your journey will take around 30 - 50 minutes.
Read more about taking the Piccadilly Line into London.
The newest part of the Transport for London network, the Elizabeth Line also has a station inside Heathrow Airport to the east, making it an excellent choice for visitors staying on that side of town.
Your 35 - 65-minute journey (depending on where you are headed) will cost around £12.70 during peak hours.
And in the video below, Sinead, also a tour guide with us, Free Tours by Foot, shows you how to take the Elizabeth Line from Heathrow to London.
The Heathrow Express
This is the fastest way to get into central London.
The Heathrow Express takes just 15 minutes to get to Paddington Station, and advance-fare tickets can be bought for less than £6.00.
However, if you don’t buy your ticket early enough you can expect to pay £37.00 for a round-trip journey.
Get more information on taking the Heathrow Express, or watch me explain the pros and cons of the Heathrow Express in the video below.
The National Express runs a service from central London to Heathrow Airport at a cost of £15.00 one way.
But, with traffic, the journey can take up to 2 hours, depending on where you are headed.
Black Cabs and Ubers
Again, traffic makes cabs and Ubers a slow choice, and also often an expensive one with journeys in a black cab from central London costing over £100.00.
Get more information on getting to and from Heathrow Airport.
Heathrow is huge and has 5 terminals, but only 4 of them are currently operating.
Heathrow is almost like a small city and you will find countless places to eat and drink as well as high-street shops and luxury brands available to explore.
There is a Piccadilly Line service and also a Heathrow rail service that connects the different terminals, making it easy to get from one to the other if needed.
This terminal is mostly European flights, although not exclusively
- Aegean Airlines
- Aer Lingus
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air India
- Austrian Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Swiss International Airlines
- United Airlines
This terminal services mainly long-ha flights to the US, South America, and Asia
- American Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Delta Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
This terminal is a mix of long-haul and European flights
- Air France
- China Eastern Airlines
- Korean Air
- Malaysia Airlines System
- Qatar Airways
This is the hub for British Airways in the UK so all their flights to and from Heathrow begin and end here. BA is the only airline that serves this terminal.
For details on all airlines, visit Heathrow’s terminal page.
Gatwick is London’s second busiest airport and its airport code is LGW.
Located directly south of the city, Gatwick Airport is a popular hub for both domestic and international flights and acts as a hub for British Airways offering European and long-haul flights.
For those who are visiting other parts of the UK, flights to both Dublin and Edinburgh frequently depart from Gatwick.
If travelling to or from European airports, Gatwick is
How to Get To/From Gatwick Airport
There are a number of ways to travel from London Gatwick Airport to the city centre:
The National Express and EasyBus both offer airport transfers.
You can expect to pay between £8.00 - £13.00 depending on the time of travel, but depending on when you arrive and traffic conditions, your journey into town could take well over an hour.
Train: Two rail companies have stops at Gatwick Airport: Thameslink and Southern.
Both train lines offer journeys for just over £12.00 one way and call at multiple stations, not just straight to London Victoria Station which may be beneficial for those staying closer to the centre of the city.
Depending on where you travel, your journey will be 30 - 45 minutes.
Note that trains from Gatwick to Victoria are convenient for anybody needing to access Victoria Coach Station for their onward journey.
The Gatwick Express is a nonstop service that runs between Gatwick Airport and Victoria Station.
This is the fastest way to travel, with a journey taking only 30 minutes.
But you will be paying £18.50 for a single journey when booking online. Find out more about the Gatwick Express.
There are cheaper train options, Southern Trains and Thameslink, that depending on where your final destination is could be as fast or faster than the Gatwick Express.
Get more information on the cheapest options for getting to/from Gatwick Airport.
Taxi: Of course, you can always pick up a taxi from the airport, but expect to pay between £80.00 - £120.00, depending on the time of day and traffic conditions.
Gatwick Airport has two terminals.
As a busy airport, both Gatwick terminals are well served with a number of restaurants and bars as well as numerous shops so if you forgot to pack anything, chances are you can buy it here.
- Aer Lingus
- Air Baltic
- Air Europa
- British Airways
- Eastern Airways
- EasyJet (uses both terminals so pay attention!)
- Wizz Air
- Qatar Airways
For a comprehensive list of all airlines, visit Gatwick’s site HERE.
London City is the least busy of London’s airports.
It primarily serves business travellers as the airport operates only short-haul flights throughout the UK and Europe and is within close proximity to Canary Wharf.
Business travellers coming to or from Zurich and Geneva will find this airport to be the best choice.
Note that there are occasional direct flights to JFK Airport so if you are travelling from New York, this may be an option you've not yet considered!
Getting To/From London City Airport
As London City Airport is so small and not as busy as others in London, your travel options are more limited.
London Underground/DLR - The branch of the London Underground that serves this area of the city, known as the Docklands, is the Docklands Light Railway.
This is an above-ground system that connects the city with the docklands area.
London City Airport has its’ own station on the DLR and the line connects to Bank Station and the Underground system in central London.
Journey times are around 40 - 60 minutes depending on where you are coming from and the cost is under £5.00 off-peak.
The Elizabeth Line - The New Elizabeth Line also connects London City Airport to the rest of the capital.
Depending on when and where you travel, you can expect to spend between £5.00 - £12.00 for your journey. Trains are frequent and large with space for luggage.
Taxi/Uber - Owing to the high number of business travellers, this is the most common way most people get to/from London City Airport.
However, if your business isn’t paying for your travel, be aware that a journey to the airport can cost you around £100.00 depending on where you are coming from.
You’ll find mostly food on the go in London City and extremely limited shops.
London City Airport has one terminal and the airlines that use it are:
- British Airways
- ITA Airways
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Swiss International Air Lines
For more information on London City Airport visit their website HERE.
London Luton Airport lies around 30 miles to the north of London serving mostly European travellers.
Luton is a hub for a number of low-cost airlines like EasyJet, Ryan Air, TUI, and Whizz Air.
So, if you're looking for the cheapest flight possible to or from mainland Europe, Luton is a good choice.
Getting To/From Luton Airport
Thameslink trains offer a service from central London to Luton Airport.
Depending on travel times, you can expect to pay around £15.00 and your journey takes about 40 minutes.
There is a shuttle bus that runs from Luton Airport Parkway Station directly to the airport itself.
National Express runs a service from central London to Luton Airport for as cheap as around £7.00 one way off-peak.
However, traffic is always a consideration so a standard journey takes 1 hour and 40 minutes - this time can be doubled during peak traffic.
Taxi/Uber - It’s a long way to Luton airport from central London so this is another slow option, as well as a pricey one with a one-way journey costing over £80.00.
Although small, Luton has a lot of shopping and also multiple bars and restaurants.
Luton Airport has one terminal, serving short-haul flights only. The airlines that use Luton are:
- Aer Arann
- Wizz Air
Get more information on airlines that serve Luton.
London Stansted is the fourth busiest airport in the country and if you are flying in from Europe, odds are this is where you will be coming to/from, particularly if you are flying a low-cost airline.
Visitors to various parts of Spain in particular will find good service from Stansted.
Domestic travellers utilise this airport as well with multiple flights to various parts of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland with options from a number of low-cost carriers.
Located in Essex, Stansted’s airport code is STN.
Getting To/From Stansted
Since London Stansted Airport is a relatively popular airport, there are many options to get to/from.
Stansted Express - The fastest way to get to Stansted is the Stansted Express. These trains go nonstop between the airport and Liverpool Street Station.
If booked in advance, you can get a one-way ticket on the Express for under £10.00. The journey takes just under an hour.
National Express runs a service from central London to Stansted.
Tickets can be as low as £11.00 depending on travel time, but you can expect to spend a minimum of 70 minutes on the bus, if there is no traffic.
EasyBus also operates a Stansted service with off-peak services costing
a mere £1.99, although the sis another journey that is traffic dependent, taking a minimum of 75 minutes, but that could double in peak traffic times.
Taxi/Uber - Stansted is another airport that’s quite far from the city centre so cab prices will be well over £100.00 from the city centre.
Stansted is small but does have a few places to grab food and also a few shops to browse.
Stansted has only one passenger terminal and primarily manages flights to/from Europe. Airlines you’ll find here are:
- British Airways
- CCM Airlines
For more information on airlines serving Stansted, check out their website HERE.
Southend Airport (SEN)
You may not have heard of this one - and plenty of Londoners haven't, either!
Southend Airport sits in Southend-on-Sea in Essex, around 30 miles from London.
In the 60's and 70's, it was a fairly busy airport hub for the city but after Stanstead opened, its usage decreased dramatically.
The airport is small, with just one terminal and one runway.
The airport is mostly served by EasyJet and Are Lingus at present.
It was used quite a bit during the 2012 Olympic Games but has since declined in popularity.
If you manage to catch a cheap flight to the airport, it's an easy train ride directly from the airport to the city centre.
However, the airport has recently been put up for sale and its' future remains unclear.