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Croydon – An Historic Town of Archbishops and Aviation
Croydon is located in Greater London, 11 miles south of the City. While Croydon isn’t necessarily everyone’s first choice for a weekend break, it has a surprising amount to offer visitors with a great choice of shops, restaurants and hotels as well as a fascinating history which dates back to the Domesday Book. The town benefits from excellent transport connections, with several railway stations such as East Croydon and West Croydon offering direct links to central London and Gatwick Airport. There’s also a modern tram network with services to Wimbledon and Beckenham.
Shopping in the Town Centre
Croydon is a great shopping destination thanks to its two large shopping centres and many independent traders. Centrale and Whitgift Shopping Centre are the places to head for indoor shopping; conveniently, they’re located opposite each other on North End, Croydon’s main pedestrianised road. The smaller of the two, Centrale, features department stores and clothes shops while Whitgift offers high-end stores and restaurants. For those seeking accommodation, there are also several hotels to choose from in this area. Another of Croydon’s shopping attractions is Surrey Street Market, located in the Old Town. It’s open from Monday to Saturday and numerous vendors sell fruit and vegetables and other produce here. This market is said to have been held on this site since the 13th-century, when the area used to be known as Butcher’s Row. Near East Croydon Station on George Street, Boxpark Croydon is the place to go for a huge range of cuisines and street foods.
Historic Attractions in Croydon
It’s easy to get a sense of Croydon’s history by taking a walk around the streets in the town centre. Croydon Palace on Old Palace Road was a summer residence for Archbishops of Canterbury over many centuries. A school now occupies those parts of the Palace that still remain but on certain days it’s possible to take a tour of the site: one such day is Open House London Day when many historic buildings across the capital open their doors to visitors for free. Nearby is Croydon Minster, an historic church that was designated a Minster in May 2011. It was rebuilt in its current form after a fire in 1867 and is the resting place of six Archbishops of Canterbury. One of those is John Whitgift, a generous benefactor who created a charitable foundation in 1596 that still cares for people in the town today. Just under a mile away, the award-winning Croydon Park Hotel offers high-end accommodation.
Croydon Clocktower and Airport
Croydon Clocktower is an arts venue on Katherine Street that houses the Central Library, the David Lean Cinema and the Clocktower Café. It’s also home to the Museum of Croydon, which displays historic artefacts dating from the Roman era to more modern times with memorabilia from a local Ikea store and Crystal Palace FC. Two miles south of the town centre is the site of what used to be Croydon Airport, Britain’s first major airport. After the Second World War, Heathrow was chosen as London’s foremost airport, resulting in the closure of Croydon Airport. Fortunately, some of the airport’s buildings, which showcase Neoclassical architecture, have survived with a visitor centre now located in the former control tower. It features free tours, interactive displays, model aircraft and entertaining videos that explain the airport’s history. An upmarket hotel makes use of one of the other historic buildings and there is a selection of fast food restaurants and shops in the vicinity.
Remembering 1916 and Selhurst Park
One of the most popular attractions in Croydon is Remembering 1916 – Life on the Western Front. Located in Haling Park near Whitgift School, it is a fascinating and poignant exhibition that explores the plight of soldiers on both sides of the First World War in the pivotal year of 1916. Through personal letters and artefacts, visitors get a small sense of what it was like to be a soldier fighting in devastating battles like the Somme and Verdun. There is also a selection of artworks from artists of the time depicting various themes from the war. For a change of pace, football fans visiting Croydon may want to take a trip to Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace FC. It is located two miles north of the town centre, with the nearest stations being Norwood Junction and Selhurst Station. There are also good accommodation options in this area with hotels and pubs offering rooms on Brigstock Road.
Other Attractions near Croydon
A few miles outside Croydon, Shirley Windmill is a picturesque attraction that offers a glimpse of a bygone era. It is usually open for guided tours on the first Sunday of each month between June and October as well as on Mill Days in May and on London Open House Day. Although it stopped being operational in 1890 with the advent of steam power, it retains many of its original features including its two mighty millstones. Golfers will be pleased to learn that there are several golf courses in the Croydon area, with Addington Golf Club particularly recommended for its stunning views and challenging greens. Less than an hour away by car, the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is well worth a visit with its picturesque hiking and cycling routes. In the same area, Royal Tunbridge Wells is a lovely historic town offering plenty of hotels and great restaurants too.