Much more than a commuter town: why we love Reading

The largest town in Britain is a fun and vibrant place to visit – easy to explore when you take the train.

The new and swanky Reading train station helps set the scene for this booming Berkshire town. A major shopping district for the surrounding area, Reading has all the big stores you’d expect to find in Britain’s biggest town, as well as a few independent retailers and cafés. If you’re planning a longer trip, make Reading your base while you explore neighbouring Henley-on-Thames, Marlow and Windsor.

Where do I start?

Visit Reading Museum to discover the town’s fascinating heritage, from the medieval Abbey to the present. It is also home to a Victorian copy of the fabulous Bayeux Tapestry, which tells the story of the Norman Conquest, culminating in the Battle of Hastings.

Where to Eat?

The Corn Stores at 10 Forbury Road is one of Reading’s hottest new eateries. Set in a restored Victorian building, the restaurant specialises in British meat, serving char grilled aged beef steaks amongst other carnivorous delights. Sample a sharing plater and you could tuck into smoked ox cheek, bone marrow flatbread, beef sliders, chicken liver parfait and beef and pepper sausages.

Where should I kip?

The Roseate Reading, on the southern edge of the elegant Forbury Gardens, is just a five-minute walk from the train station. This boutique hotel prides itself on the opulent detail of its décor, including extensive restorations of the building’s original, early 20th-century features, and an Italian chandelier made with 86,000 individual glass beads. The hotel also has a very decent restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, as well as a tasting menu – always the universal signifier of up-market dining. Make sure you enjoy a tipple at the sumptuous cocktail bar before tucking into your evening meal.

What’s hip?

A groovy café by day and a laid-back bar by night, Milk is one of Reading’s few independent venues in the city centre, making it a magnet for the town’s hipper residents. Enjoy a delicious salad in the afternoon, before returning in the evening to sip cocktails and listen to sweet beats.

If I do one thing?

The Kennet and Avon canal links the rivers Avon, Kennet and the Thames, making it an important waterway during its 19th-century heyday, transporting goods between Bristol, Bath, Reading and beyond. Today, it makes for a fantastic walk, taking in some of the area’s heritage and wildlife.

Historic highlights

Reading Abbey was once home to one of the largest monasteries in Europe. Commissioned by King Henry I in 1121, the abbey was a place of residence, work and worship for more than 400 years. Now a delightful ruin, it’s the perfect place to discover the history of the area.

HM Prison Reading, formerly known as Reading Gaol, sits right at the heart of the town. This was where the Irish writer Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for a period and where he penned his poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

The objects at Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, including the fourth largest collection of Greek ceramics in Britain, help tell the story of life as it was lived thousands of years ago in southern Europe, exploring aspects of warfare, citizenship and death.

Take a GWR train to Reading station

Reading museum
The Corn Stores
The Roseate Reading
Milk Bar
Reading Abbey Ruins
HMS Prison Reading
Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology
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