How to make to most of Croydon, Surrey

When you’re trying to find somewhere to eat, somewhere to stay, good transportation links, and a doorstep away to buy your fruit and vegetables, shampoos, and soaps, then Croydon, Surrey is a great area to pick, away from Central London. How do you make the most of Croydon? Stay in central Croydon rather than further out, that way you’re close to the two shopping centres, fast-food joints, and restaurants, as well as supermarkets, and transportation links.

 

Introduction to Croydon

 

Commerce has been a big part of Croydon throughout the centuries since 1086. Croydon already had a mill, a church, and 365 people, which is a big thing back then. Throughout the 19th Century, Croydon grew its community offering charcoal production, and leather tanning and brewing. By the early 19th Century, Croydon opened its first Iron Railway to Wandsworth.

By the 20th Century, Croydon expanded offering metal, car manufacture, Croydon Airport, East Croydon Station, taking you to the coast and Central London within 1 hour, and retail, and services, offering a shopping centre.

Now, in the 21st Century, Croydon has developed its areas offering 1-million-pound apartments near East Croydon. The council also built another shopping centre in 2003, and recently, a food and drink outlet in 2016. There are many fast-food joints, mid to high-range restaurants, traditional British pubs, Joseph’s fruit and veg market, and major hotels here as well. Click for more details on fast-food restaurants in Croydon.

I think Croydon is where business meets pleasure. The area consists of locals and businessmen in their suits and ties, but Croydon is an alternative area if you want to get away from Central London.

 

Understanding Croydon

 

Croydon is a city centre with many transportation links to Central London and the Southern areas. No wonder locals, tourists and business people have flocked to Croydon recently. It is literally a mini version of Central London. Although it’s not located in London as such, it’s on the outskirts of Central London.

 

Is Croydon in Surrey?

 

Croydon is in the Borough of Croydon. There are 32 London boroughs consisting of subareas in and around London called the Local Authority District, which also include Greater London. Historically, Croydon was in Surrey, but since London has expanded throughout the centuries, Croydon has become a part of Greater London while keeping Surrey as its “maiden name”. Although Croydon is convenient, travelling to and from Central London from East Croydon, transportation can be expensive because Croydon is in the suburbs. The further out you go from Central London, the more expensive it is to commute.

Whitgift Shopping Centre

Is Croydon safe?

 

Although Croydon has expanded well to serve the community, there are still knife crimes in the area, but don’t worry, it doesn’t happen every day. Croydon isn’t like parts of the world where you’ll hear shootings every day, but you should also be extra careful because it’s not an exquisite area of London either. I’ve walked home alone to East Croydon Station from a night out, and nothing happened to me. If you see something suspicious, don’t go towards that area, and make sure to stay in Central Croydon, so you can get home safely. The police will block the area off, and you’ll be told to take a different route. The community is largely multicultural with a mixture of whites, Asians, and blacks. To make sure you’re safe, check out my London Safety Guide.

Croydon has now made it its mission to create London’s Third City as part of Croydon Vision 2020. Currently, if you look all around you, you’ll see many high rise multi-million pound apartments and office buildings, like Saffron Square, which aimed to introduce tall buildings and develop skyscrapers in and around London. The tallest building used to be St. Paul’s Cathedral then was overtaken by the Millbank Tower and the BT Tower in the 60s.

 

 

Centrale Shopping Centre
Box Park at night

Box Park Croydon

 

Box Park offers small food and drinks outlets, dishes from all over the world, and since Croydon is so multicultural, different tastes from different countries have made a home here. Croydon didn’t have any spark before Box Park, but nowhere, people from different areas of London come here to socialise, eat, and entertain themselves.

Box Park opened in 2016, and you NEED to try Box Park if you want to try the nightlife in Croydon. If you’ve been to Shoreditch Box Park, it’s the same kind of thing, but Box Park Shoreditch focuses more on fashion and beauty and less on food and beverage. Box Park is one of the best things to do in Croydon at night. Firstly, it’s literally next to East Croydon Station and secondly, this is where everyone hangs out to meet family and friends. There are rows of benches and tables for hundreds of people to eat and drink ordered from the small outlets.

The outlets include a selection of food from Thailand, Argentina, Mexico, Vietnam, vegan and vegetarian dishes, chicken wings, fish, and chips, and many more. The crowd goes wild with music and live music, the World Cup, and rugby. During the World Cup, it can get stressful, and people get rowdy, so if that’s not your kind of thing, avoid it at all costs. However, the screams and shouts from the community make you feel happy and enjoyable. There haven’t been many fights and arguments in the past because the security is as strict as it can be, so no need to worry about what will happen to you, especially if you’re vulnerable.

If you want to enjoy a quiet time, go on a Monday or Tuesday morning and mid-afternoon, especially when there are no social events going on. For babies and toddlers, there are usually arts and crafts, as well as play areas for them to enjoy. Most of the people are youngsters from the ages of 18 – 30 that come here, but everyone is welcome. There would still be people there during quiet times, but not as busy as Friday and Saturday evenings. I can’t find any faults in Box Park, so it’s worth the visit and research. Check out their website for more options including their blog of what’s going on throughout the year.

In a nutshell, Box Park is:

Young

Always crowded with people.

Loud with music, the World Cup, and Rugby.

A play area for kids to face paint and make arts & crafts.

Accommodation, transportation links, and nearby airports

 

East Croydon Station is the main and the busiest rail station in South East London, which links to Central London going to Victoria, London Bridge, and Brighton, Eastbourne. East Croydon also links to Gatwick in just 20 minutes. Although going to Luton Airport takes 1 hour, the Thameslink train will take you to East Croydon one way. Although there is a bus service going to Heathrow, it can take 2 hours to get there. Plus, among the accommodations, the new and expensive penthouses and apartments mentioned are built next to the station.

 

Bus links

 

There are countless buses that go through Croydon all the time linking to different areas of the South, South East, South West, and Central London. Some of them have a 24-hour route service and wherever you want to go, there’s bound to be buses that operate within Central Croydon.

Tram links

 

Alternatively, you can use the tram services, it’s quicker and more convenient to travel to and from Croydon. The tram links will take you to Wimbledon and the Southern areas of London, and for buses, there are countless bus routes you can take. The disadvantage of taking buses is that they go through residential areas, so it takes time to get from A to B. For example, from a friend’s house to East Croydon, going by bus takes around 30 to 40 minutes, by tram, it takes no more than 20 minutes to get there. It depends on where you want to go really but tram journeys cut your minutes down compared to buses.

Insider tips: If you want to go to North London, then Croydon isn’t the best area to stay since Croydon is in the South. It will take you more than an hour to get to North London from Croydon. Other areas for trams and buses to go to, are Elmers End, Beckenham Junction, and New Addington but these places are mostly residential.

 

Hotels in Croydon

 

Although I’ve never stayed in any of the accommodation, Croydon has many hotels you can take advantage of and it’s walking distance to Due to COVID, I would love to stay in one of the hotels to review it, but until it’s safe to do so, the links above will give you an idea of what you’ll expect from the hotels.

Here are some hotel suggestions linked to Tripadvisor:

Holiday Inn Express London

Hilton London Croydon

Hampton by Hilton

Travel Lodge

Jury’s Inn

Restaurants

 

As mentioned above there are many fast-food restaurants, mid-range to high-end restaurants around Central and South Croydon. Whether you want European dishes, Southeast Asian dishes, Middle eastern dishes, you will surely find something that will suit your taste buds. In addition to Box Park, there’s Nando’s, a Portuguese chicken restaurant, Wagamama, a Japanese selection, Chinese buffet, McDonalds, KFC or Burger King. You will find various coffee shops which can be found in every corner, my favourite coffee shop is Caffe Nero in George Street, I feel this is the place for me to write my blog, I can be myself if I want fresh air. If you prefer fish and chips or traditional British pies, head over to The Spreadeagle Pub or The Builder’s Arms near East Croydon Station as well as the South Croydon area where you will see more rows of restaurants and fast-food outlets there. Click for more information on the best fast-food restaurants to try in Croydon.

Fairfield Halls has made a massive refurbishment in the last few years and from the outside, it does look better than before; it’s brighter and more accommodating. Fairfield Halls has a modern feel compared to the ones in Central London, that goes back to the Victorian times or even further. There are nine venues and there’s always something for everyone: from babies to toddlers, young children to older children and young adults to older generations.

Broadway, the West End theatre shows, traditional British Christmas pantomines, tribute acts like George Michael and Whitney Houston, can all be found in South East London’s largest Arts Centre Fairfield Halls, another option to West End theatres in Shaftesbury Avenue. Although smaller and hosts short running shows, the quality of the performances are the same as the one in Shaftesbury Avenue.

Most Fairfield Halls’ customers are mainly locals, and it can be as busy as the ones in Shaftesbury Avenue, but if you want to get away from fellow tourists attending theatre shows, then Fairfield Halls is the one to watch out for. Check out their website for more information here. Check out Tripadvisor for the reviews.

Wandle Park and Croham Hurst Woods

Wandle Park and Croham Hurst Woods are not as attractive as the 8 royal parks in London (link), but it’s a great place to enjoy nature and the outdoors. Both parks offer greenery and wildlife, and people generally take their dogs for a walk, jog, and take their kids to the playground area.  You usually see people sitting by the lake and there’s usually a bandstand where people use as a canopy now.

During the Industrial Revolution, there weren’t many greenery to offer the public, so the government introduced parks for the public to enjoy, and bandstands were an essential addition to the park, having the first one introduced Royal Horticultural Society Gardens, South Kensington in 1861. There aren’t many bands that play in the band stands compared to centuries ago, but it’s still an additional decoration to the park. Wherever you stay, you’re never short of parks to enjoy. The parks here really do boost your immune system, and a chance to get away from the busy city life, including Croydon.

As for Croham Hurst Woods, it’s further out from Central Croydon. You’ll be taken into wild woodlands that are beautifully managed by the council, tall trees, and dead tree trunks you can use for seating, as well as a place to get some fresh air, see the view of Croydon from the top, and boost your immune system. There aren’t many colourful flowerbeds or beautiful village postcard photos here, but just being in the open air, seeing people walk their dogs, and go for a stroll is enough to feel peace and serenity.

You can get to Wandle Park by tram from East Croydon, which will take you there in minutes. You can also check out their websites for more details on Croham Hurst Woods and Wandle Park. Read about Wandle Park here and Croham Hurst Woods here on Tripadvisor. What you see in photos online is what you see in real life.

 

Croydon Airport Visitor Centre

If you’re into the history of aviation dating back to the early 1900s after the First World War, then come and visit Croydon Airport Visitor Centre. I’m not much of an aviation fan but from what I’ve read on Tripadvisor, it has great reviews and worth it for families with young kids. The Visitor Centre is further away from the town centre but buses go through that direction all the time. 

Croydon Airport has been a massive influence on air travel, especially after World War I and other historical events happening in this airport, now Visitor Centre. The first Air Traffic Control occurred in Croydon Airport and international routes around Europe, Asia, and Australia made way into the airport. To find out more about the airport and its achievements, visit their website for more details, and a lot of people have recommended this place as a must to visit on Tripadvisor.

 

 

Museum of Croydon

The Museum of Croydon is free to visit, it’s also exceedingly small, and intimate. The Museum of Croydon consists of many memorabilia from the past, several shop items from Croydon, items from important events in history and items from the residents of Croydon between the 19th and 20th Century.

Items that are stored here include Croydon’s support for the LGBT community, Paul’s Estate Agency opened in Croydon for 30 years, a statue of “Paper Jack”, a homeless man who walked around Croydon in the 1930’s with just newspapers around his body, a cane used from the early 60’s to the 70’s from Norbury Manor School, and many more. Read the reviews here on Tripadvisor and check out their website here.

 

Conclusion

What is the best part of Croydon?

If you’re talking about Central Croydon, it’s got great transportation links to Central London, it has 2 big shopping centres, Centrale and the Whitgift Centre, several bars, restaurants, and retail stores, the Box Park food outlet, and several British pubs like the Spread Eagle and Milan Bar to try fish and chips.

Croydon has come a long way in terms of its development. From having 1 church to 51 churches in Croydon, from having 1 Iron Railway to Wandsworth to having many transportation links to Central London, the coast, and the Southern areas of London, and by continuing to offer retail and foodservice outlets since the 20th Century,

The manufacturing industry has declined since the 19th – the 20th Century, so you wouldn’t find many around Croydon in the 21st Century. Instead, it has developed upper-class office and apartment buildings like No. 1, and many accommodation choices with easy access to other areas of London.

It seems exciting to see changes in Croydon, but it still has a long way to go in terms of its derelict neighbourhood, and minor crimes. There’s still rundown buildings like Nestle, Hazledean Road Park, Secret Cinema Brazil, but this will come to an end soon, as they’re trying to rebuild a modern Croydon. Don’t take no notice of the rundown buildings in Central Croydon unless you’re into that kind of thing. Instead look at Croydon in a different angle with all the positive points mentioned above. Croydon is a great area to stay, and you won’t regret staying in this part of Greater London.

East Croydon Station

                                  East Croydon Station taking you to Victoria Station, Brighton and the south coast, and Gatwick within an hour.

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