Visiting Gatwick – An Area Guide
London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) is a major international gateway, with millions of passengers passing through every year and thousands staying at one of the many Gatwick hotels. But if you want to spend more time in the area, there are several interesting towns close by for you to explore, along with countryside in abundance.
Gatwick: area layout
Gatwick Airport is in the southern county of Sussex, England. It’s 30 miles due south of central London, and the same distance north of the coastal city of Brighton. The nearest major town is Crawley, the centre of which is five miles south of the airport. You’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants here. The smaller town of Horley is three miles north of the airport. Both Crawley and Horley are connected to Gatwick by regular trains and buses. Offering more shopping and dining opportunities, the towns of Reigate and Redhill are both six miles north of the airport, and easily accessible by train.
What to see and do around Gatwick
As the region’s largest urban centre, Crawley is where you’ll find the bulk of the area’s attractions. In fine weather you’ll be able to enjoy its wealth of open spaces and parks. Buchan Country Park is a great spot for a picnic or a walk in the woods. Tilgate Park and Worth Park are also green escapes within easy reach of the town centre. On the outskirts of town, Ifield Watermill is the only working mill in the region still powered by water. Crabbet Park is an area of ancient woodland and grassland just east of Crawley. Because of the location of the airport, many people choose to book a Gatwick hotel rather than travelling on the day of their flight.
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Hotels near Gatwick are ideal for people who want to see more of the areas surrounding the airport.
Hotels in Gatwick
You’ll find accommodation for all budgets within a few miles of Gatwick Airport, both beside the terminals and in surrounding towns. Many hotels in Gatwick offer a free shuttle service to the terminals. The nearby towns are also connected to Gatwick via regular trains and buses.
Staying in one of the hotels in Gatwick means you’ll be within a few minutes of the terminals, perfect for a quick getaway if you have an early flight.
Staying in Crawley, five miles south of the airport, will provide you with a wide range of choices if you’re looking for somewhere to eat or shop. It has dozens of pubs, restaurants and stores.
A few miles north of the airport, Horley is smaller and quieter than Crawley, but also offers several dining options.
You can also stay in Worth, a quiet suburb on the eastern outskirts of Crawley, which is close to leafy Crabbet Park.
Eating Out in Gatwick
There are many dining opportunities both in and around Gatwick Airport so you don’t have to order room service from your Gatwick hotel. International cuisines – particularly Indian, Chinese, Italian and Thai – are enormously popular in the area’s restaurants. For more informal dining, the “pub grub” served in British public houses has been elevated to new levels in recent years.
At the airport:
Nearly all the eateries inside Gatwick’s North and South Terminals are family-friendly. You’ll have a choice of Italian, sushi, fast food and more. Most places are in the departure lounges, but there are several cafés before security.
Crawley offers a wide range of dining options. For local fare there are many pubs in the centre. You’ll also find trendy cafés as well as restaurants serving Thai, Indian, Chinese and Italian food. Horley is smaller, but also has several pubs and restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. If you have transport, you can also visit one of the area’s many country pubs. The Lamb Inn in Lambs Green and The Crown in Turners Hill are both around a seven-mile drive from the airport.
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Shopping in Gatwick
Both Gatwick Airport and the nearby towns offer shopping opportunities and some people even hotels near Gatwick purely for this reason. Prices include VAT, though passengers in the departure lounge who are leaving the European Union can make some tax-free purchases. Bartering is not common, although in some shops you can ask for discounts on multiple purchases.
At the airport:
Both North and South Terminals at Gatwick have a wide variety of retail outlets, whether you’re looking for last-minute essential supplies or browsing for designer gifts. The latter are often available at tax-free prices for any passengers leaving the EU.
Around Gatwick, the largest shopping hub is Crawley. You’ll find all major UK retail chains here. There are over 90 shops in the County Mall Shopping Centre, including a branch of the Debenhams department store. Many of Crawley’s central shopping streets are pedestrianised.
You’ll find more shops in Reigate and Redhill, six miles north of the airport.
Top markets around Gatwick
Culture & Nightlife in Gatwick
As the largest town near Gatwick Airport, Crawley also has the most going on by day and night. It has a theatre and museum, as well as a multi-screen cinema complex. The next closest entertainment centres are Reigate and Redhill, both six miles north of the airport.
Central Crawley is packed with traditional pubs and modern bars. You’ll also find several nightclubs here, particularly in the area around Crawley Station. Popular Moka Crawley has special events and party packages, while nearby Six Degrees is both a nightclub and dedicated cocktail bar.
Horley is smaller and quieter, and nightlife generally revolves around the town’s pubs. Nightlife in most other towns and villages surrounding the airport is also focussed on the pubs and restaurants.
Culture around Gatwick
Visiting Gatwick with a Family
If you’re at Gatwick Airport, you’ll find special kids zones in the departure lounges of both North and South Terminals, where little ones can play or watch TV while parents sit and supervise, as well as many child friendly Gatwick hotels.
Just six miles from the airport, or four from central Crawley, Tulleys Farm is a working farm that offers seasonal attractions such as a summer ‘maize maze’, Halloween nights and a year-round puzzle park.
Besides the usual greenery, Crawley’s Tilgate Park has other family-friendly features. Younger kids will enjoy visiting the Nature Centre, which is a petting zoo that’s home to more than 100 animal species. Also in the park, older adventurers can get an adrenalin buzz from clambering through the tree tops in the Go Ape rope garden.
Further afield with the kids