TL Croydon airport photo Historic Corydon Trust historiccroydonairport org uk.jpg

Croydon Airport Visitor Centre entrance. Photo: Historic Croydon Trust

Pioneering history

28 April 2021

Browse one of Britain's oldest street markets, see the world's first international airport terminal and learn the fascinating story of revolutionary World War II surgery techniques developed as you explore Croydon and East Grinstead.

This itinerary is to help you make the most out of your time exploring the history and heritage along the Thameslink railway network. Be sure to check out our other heroic heritage itineraries for other parts of the lines including: Romans to code-breakers, Extraordinary artifacts and Awe-inspiring architecture. If you're short on time, or just looking for day trip ideas, simply pick your favourites from our suggestions below and build your own itinerary.

From an afternoon or a day trip to a short break or longer holiday, however long you spend there's plenty to keep you busy!


Start your journey at London Blackfriars railway station. With panoramic views of the River Thames from the platforms, you may want to arrive in good time to see the views before your train.

Take a 20-minute train ride to East Croydon railway station, where you can explore the vibrant south London neighbourhood of Croydon.

Upon leaving the railway station head to the award-winning Museum of Croydon to follow the history of the area through the stories of people.

Inside the museum's distinctive clock town you'll discover free exhibits, including a collection of Chinese ceramics dating from 2.500 BC and an interactive family trail.

Museum of Croydon. Photo:

Nearby you can shop at one of Britain's oldest street markets on Surrey Street. Dating back to 1236 this daily market has a mix of Caribbean and Asian stalls selling fresh, international fruit and vegetables alongside herbs and spices. If you're visiting on a Sunday, you'll be treated to artisan food, crafts and entertainment.

Croydon Airport housed the world's first international terminal, from the earliest days of air transport until it closed in 1959.

Croydon Airport Visitor Centre entrance. Photo: Historic Croydon Trust
Photo: Historic Croydon Trust

Today the Croydon Airport Visitor Centre is located in the old air traffic control tower and boasts a Museum of Aviation with interactive displays, a charming gift shop and café. Take the 119 bus from outside East Croydon railway station for a short 20-minute bus ride.

Explore a tower windmill in the heart of a Croydon's residential district. Take either the 466 or 119 bus (opposite direction to Croydon Airport) from outside East Croydon railway station.

After a short 15-minute bus journey you'll be able to explore one of only four large windmills open to the public in Greater London.

Built in 1854, Shirley Windmill is open for guided tours throughout the summer where you'll hear the story of how flour was milled in this location in the Victorian era.

Head back to East Croydon railway station and take the train to historic East Grinstead. Heritage railway lovers will enjoy a trip on the Bluebell Railway, with direct access from East Grinstead railway station. The heritage railway takes you to Sheffield Park through picturesque rolling countryside.

Break your journey at Horstead Keynes station to admire this beautifully restored station. You'll soon see why it's been used as a backdrop in popular programmes and films.

Back at East Grinstead railway station, a 15-minute walk will bring you to the town's museum. Enjoy a fascinating collection showing the works of Sir Archibald McIndoe, the plastic surgery pioneer, and his work with injured service men of World War II.

East Grinstead Museum. Photo:

The historic High Street of East Grinstead can be enjoyed by both those admiring the ancient Tudor and Medieval buildings and those who want to see inside, as they house many interesting, shopping boutiques, restaurants and tea rooms.

Continue up the High Street to Sackville College, an impressive Jacobean Almshouse, founded in 1609 that opens its doors for visitors during the summer. Visit the nearby St Swithuns Church to admire the beautiful building and the floral displays.

Further afield

Explore beyond East Grinstead and take a picturesque journey along the Uckfield and East Grinstead lines to discover quaint Sussex towns and villages towards Oxted.

We'd love to hear about your scenic rail adventures over on our social media channels. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and share your photos!

To make your days out as enjoyable as possible, we encourage you to plan your trip in advance and check for disruptions before you start your journey. Visit our travel safe page to see what you can do to make planning easy.

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