Luton is a large and vibrant town 35 miles north of London, in the heart of leafy Bedfordshire.
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Originally a Saxon town on the River Lea, it has a rich history as a centre for British hat making, and more recently for car and van production. Generations of families have made their home in Luton, both from elsewhere the UK and abroad. The town has recently undergone £4bn of redevelopment and investment - the result is a delightful and interesting town with a rich cultural mix, a warm heart and a fascinating history and plenty of great places to relax, eat and drink.
Food and drink
Eating out in Luton is a joy – the town offers everything from relaxed and elegant cuisine in places like Adam’s Brasserie and the Mansion Lounge at Luton Hoo Hotel, to some of the finest Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine you’ll find anywhere in the UK, like the luxury Arabic restaurant and Shisha bar, Desert’s Rose. Luton also has some outstanding Balti houses and Bangladeshi restaurants, particularly in the Bury Park area around Dunstable Road. Bedfordshire is a lovely county to explore, and it’s well worth taking a drive or bus to nearby Dunstable and Woburn for some gorgeous country pubs and farm shops.
If High Street labels are your thing, the place to go is The Mall – opened in 1972 and originally an Arndale Centre, it was one of the first shopping malls in the UK. In recent years The Mall has been extended, along with a superb redevelopment of St George’s Square, which is now a gleaming space for shopping, open air concerts and festivals. There has been a traditional market in Luton since Norman times, and it now occupies its own section of The Mall. Bury Park has a large Pakistani and Bangladeshi community, and it has a great selection of ethnic food and clothing stores, many of them spilling out onto the pavement like a traditional south Asian bazaar.
Luton was historically a centre for millinery and car manufacturing; whilst few of the hat makers remain, Vauxhall still have their headquarters and make commercial vehicles in the town. It’s also a centre for travel and airlines – Easyjet, Monarch and Thomson holidays are all based in Luton. Other major employers include pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, accountants Ernst & Young and brewery chain Whitbread.
Luton is just 35 minutes by train from London St Pancras, and Luton airport is just a short drive or bus trip outside the town – it’s the 5th busiest airport in the UK, and a busy hub for airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair. The town’s buses are regular, efficient and good value, and it’s also a good town for exploring by bike – National Cycle Route 6 passes through the town, and there are lots of dedicated cycle lanes on main traffic routes.
Things to watch out for
Luton has an outstanding festival calendar, reflecting the town’s rich cultural mix and community spirit. These range from big events around St Patrick’s Day and St George’s Day, to Luton International Carnival in May and Luton Mela in late summer, one of the UK’s largest South Asian festivals.