The Very Lonely Planet Guide: Luton

Sick of St Tropez? Fucked off with Fiji? Had it up to here with Honolulu? If those golden sandy beaches, wild party towns and areas of outstanding natural beauty just aren’t doing it for you anymore, maybe it’s time you tried the latest travel craze – holiday destinations that were never meant to be holiday destinations.
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Sick of St Tropez? Fucked off with Fiji? Had it up to here with Honolulu? If those golden sandy beaches, wild party towns and areas of outstanding natural beauty just aren’t doing it for you anymore, maybe it’s time you tried the latest travel craze – holiday destinations that were never meant to be holiday destinations.

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Basics

Luton is a town in Bedfordshire in the south of England. Its time zone is GMT and the currency used here is British pounds (sterling) making it a convenient destination for British holidaymakers.

Getting there and getting away

Arriving at Luton airport can provide a culture shock for even hardened travellers. It’s often raining. Locals loiter outside, signalling taxis and slapping their kids. As the airport is not managed by BAA the staff culture is lawless and unruly. Prices for trolleys or cups of coffee are extortionate and the colour scheme of the arrivals lounge hits you immediately. An explosion of orange; an unexpected and intimidating sight.

Upon departing the terminal building you will see what appears to be a succession of shambolic concrete car parks jammed with thousands of Vauxhall cars veering off into the distance down a hill. This is Luton.

Where to stay

The Travelodge on Dunstable Road is reasonable, with prices starting from £19 if booked in advance.

Most pubs in Luton are marred by violent altercations between the hours of 4-10pm so any drinking in the evening should be done using your minibar in the relative safety of your hotel room. The Travelodge stocks everything from mini Pineapple flavour Just Juice cartons to Bell’s Scotch whisky. Pringles serve as a superb accompanying snack.

Where to eat

While Luton is no culinary tour de force like Lyon or Marseille, it certainly competes with any English industrial town for choice appetising fare. This gem of a quote from Wikipedia’s food & drink section sums up the wide range of offerings: “Luton has a diverse selection of restaurants - Italian, Chinese, Indian, Caribbean, Thai and Malaysian to name a few.”

Personally, I recommend the Beefeater where a mixed grill and a bottle of Shiraz will set you back £14.95. Amazing.

Local culture

Luton has always been synonymous with riots. Whether fuelled both by football violence, racial tension or simply disaffected youths, the estates dotted about the town are always on the brink of going up in flames. Get involved, it’s a proper adrenaline rush.

Luton Town FC (nicknamed the Hatters) provides a focal point for the local community. They’re not doing very well at the moment and currently play their football in the Blue Square Premier League. When one thinks of the names of the world’s great football leagues: Serie A, the Bundesliga, the Dutch Eeriedivision to name but a few, the Blue Square Premier is very much notable by its absence. There are, however, plus points to having a rubbish local team. As Jean Paul-Sartre once said “watching non-league football has an important function in society. It gives men a place where they can go and think about stuff.”

When to go

Luton is perfect for weekend breaks in spring. Sitting outside Wendy’s burger cafe in the Arndale centre imbibes you with a sense of cosmopolitanism that proudly justifies Luton’s tag “the new Lille”.

Other than the months of July and August, weather in Luton can be unpredictable.

In August it is an absolute delight to stroll over the footbridge crossing the dual carriageway wearing trainers and no socks, eating a Cornetto as the sun sets. In January you’ll much prefer browsing around a carpet shop pretending you want to buy something

Shopping

River Island, Monsoon, Dorothy Perkins, JD Sports and more, Luton’s bustling shopping mall is simply packed with unassuming retail stores containing uncovered gems. I picked up a three pack of Air Jordan red trimmed basketball socks for £6.99.

For those looking for jewellery, I recommend Argos where the easy-to-use new ordering machines have minimised the need for interaction between employees and customers making for an all together more pleasant shopping experience.

Sightseeing and attractions

There are no tourist attractions in Luton per se which is what lends it its unique charm.

Luton used to boast dozens of millinery factories where hats were made. Unfortunately that’s all gone now.

Don’t forget…

To bring sat nav. The town centre contra flow traffic system is a joke.

Check out train times and book tickets here

Easyjet operates flights into Luton from loads of random airports in mainland Europe.