Stansted Airport

Things to do in London | Stansted Airport

Situated in Essex, 30 miles north-east of central London, Stansted is the newest of the capital’s passenger airports – and it’s a beauty. Built in 1991, the terminal was designed by prolific British architect Norman Foster and features a floating roof that’s meant to look like a swan in flight. Once you’ve finished trying to figure out whether it does or not, you’ll find the terminal a little on the small side. And, with 20 million passengers flying out of its gates each year, it can feel a little crowded if you’re here at a busy time. Luckily, our guide to Stansted can help. Read on to make your experience much more airport heaven than airport hell. And remember that if you’re catching a super-early flight, booking one of our hotels near Stansted is a great way to ensure you get there well-rested and, most importantly, on time.

Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport

Terminal guide

Facilities at Stansted have improved in recent years. There was a £50 million extension added in 2008 which brought some fantastic new shops and more comfortable waiting areas. Here’s everything you need to know.

Best shops
OK, so it may only have the teeniest of kids’ zones, but what it lacks in facilities for the ankle biters, it makes up for in retail options. Working out what to spend their pocket money on in Hamley’s will keep them amused for hours and for older kids, the gadget store Redz in the departure lounge has plenty of tech for them to play with. For grown-ups, there’s a good mix of high street and high end, with Next, Oasis and Accessorize rubbing fashionable shoulders with the likes of Ted Baker, Lacoste and Hugo Boss.

Best places to eat and drink
There’s a Costa if you fancied a latte and a bite to eat and a Burger King for something quick. But if you prefer your fast food with lashings of quinoa, head to Leon for wraps, salads and hot food bowls. Best value drinks at the airport can be found at the Wetherspoons, but it can get busy. For something more luxurious (but not that much more expensive) try the Champagne bar, Halo Fizz Bar. A little oasis in the middle of the departure lounge itself, pull up a stool and get the holiday started.

Time to kill?
You can get free Wi-Fi throughout the airport for an hour (there’s a small charge per hour after this). The free network is _stanstedairport. If looking at the Internet starts getting boring, head to the airport’s Cloud Spa for a massage or a manicure. Or book into the Escape Lounge where, from around £20 per adult, you can enjoy unlimited tea, coffee, snacks and alcoholic drinks in super comfy surroundings. They may even accept bookings on the door – great if your flight’s delayed.

Always inform the airport of any problems before you travel as they can provide all the assistance you need to board your flight. Disabled parking spaces are available in all the airport’s car parks and all shuttle buses are fully accessible, too. The closest Blue Badge spaces can be found in the Orange and Green Zones in the Short Stay Car Park. Once inside the terminal building, head to the help desk for disabled passengers. You’ll find it at the front, between Check-in Zone D and Zone E.

Getting to Stansted Airport

Getting to Stansted by car or public transport is easy. If you’re coming from central London, train is quicker, though - the Stansted Express will get you from Liverpool Street to the airport in about 50 minutes.

By car
Put CM24 1RW into your sat nav – you’ll find the airport just off the M11 motorway. The closest car parks are the Short Stay and Meet and Greet, both a few minutes’ walk from the terminal. From all the others, you’re looking at a shuttle bus - allow an extra 30 minutes. Another option is to book a room at the Premier Inn hotel near Stansted. There’s a shuttle bus that runs between the hotel and the airport every 30 minutes that costs £3 per adult, but kids travel free.

By bus
To get to the airport by bus, you can hop on a National Express coach. These run direct from London – there’s a service from Paddington, Liverpool Street, Victoria and Stratford, with other pick-up points on the way. You can also get a National Express coach direct to Stansted from Cambridge, Oxford, Liverpool and more. Or there’s the Stansted CityLink which runs 45 services a day into Kings Cross St Pancras. The bus station is just opposite the main terminal building.

By train
Stansted Express trains leave London Liverpool Street every 15 minutes and take just under 50 minutes. You can also get to Stansted direct from Cambridge, Peterborough Leicester and Birmingham. The rail station is directly underneath the terminal building – it takes just two minutes to walk to Arrivals, and there are plenty of ramps and lifts available to make your journey even easier.