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Visiting Northampton – A City Guide
Northampton is a small but growing town in the English East Midlands. Its medieval landmarks and scenic surrounding countryside give the place an appealing quaintness, but the modern centre is also a busy hub of commerce and culture. Students from the University of Northampton campus add a youthful energy, and the town really comes alive on game days, when beloved rugby club Northampton Saints play at home in Franklin’s Gardens.
Northampton: city layout
Northampton is located midway between Birmingham and London, ringed by fields, farms and thatched cottages. At the centre of town, its 13th-century Market Square still draws traders and shoppers.
Despite the bombing raids of World War II, many historic buildings have been restored and preserved amid the modern shops, bars and hotels on Bridge Street and College Street.
The south side of town opens onto parks and meadows along the River Nene and Grand Union Canal. Those waterways flow out into the Northamptonshire countryside, which is dotted with charming villages like Coton and historic market towns like Towcester.
Top Attractions in Northampton
Near the town centre, you’ll find a bygone England well preserved at Castle Ashby Gardens, with their onsite Tea Rooms and colourful Butterfly Garden. The grounds of Delapre Abbey, a 12th-century monastery, are also ideal for a peaceful stroll beside the river.
78 Derngate is a marvel of Art Nouveau design by Scottish master architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s filled with elegant art and event spaces, as well as a stylish boutique restaurant.
You can join the crowds of cheering locals to watch Northampton Saints Rugby Club play at home in Franklin’s Gardens, and take a steam train along the scenic Brampton Valley Way courtesy of the Northampton & Lamport Railway.
The concierge recommends…
Hotels in Northampton
Northampton is primed to host conference guests, college visitors and holidaymakers. You can easily find a quiet hotel where the edges of town meet rural Northamptonshire, or a room in the city centre for an action-packed weekend.
College Street is lined with accommodation options close to shops and central cultural attractions like Royal & Derngate theatre, as well as the busy pubs along neighbouring Bridge Street.
Hotels near the River Nene are handy for visitors to the Nene Whitewater Centre, while Crick and Flore, off the M1 motorway, are ideal for rugby fans heading to a game at Franklin’s Gardens.
The charming village of Collingtree, on the southern edge of Northampton, makes a great base for golfing trips, romantic weekends and family excursions in the lush green East Midlands.
Eating out in Northampton
When you’re hungry in Northampton you can go for old-fashioned English pub grub, modern gourmet updates of traditional Midlands cuisine, or something spicy at one of the town’s many long-established, family-run curry houses.
Far Cotton is home to several of those popular Indian restaurants, all conveniently located along St. Leonard’s Street, just south of Northampton Marina.
For a hearty sandwich or leisurely lunch washed down with craft beer or traditional ale, try the pubs on the south side of Racecourse Park, around Overstone Rd, and in the northwest suburb of Dallington.
Early risers get the best selection of home-baked cakes in the cafés on St. Giles’ Street. If you’d rather eat breakfast a bit later you’ll also find some of Northampton’s best brunch venues in the same area, less than five minutes’ walk from Market Square.
On buzzing Bridge Street you can sample locally sourced produce in contemporary bistros, dine in carefully restored 12th-century buildings, or grab a tasty snack after the pub.
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Shopping in Northampton
Northampton shopping sprees can range from one of England’s oldest open marketplaces to big brand-name stores at modern malls. Barter with locals over antiques and old records or pick up designer clothes at wholesale prices in nearby retail villages.
The 900-year-old Northampton Market, just north of the All Saints churchyard, is a vital part of the town’s history and culture. It’s packed with stalls run by friendly vendors. Browse at your own pace and stop by Fryin’ Brian’s for fish and chips.
You’ll find familiar brand stores steps from Market Square along Abington Street. This is where to go for University of Northampton hoodies and Saints rugby club souvenirs, as well as the latest in high street fashion.
In nearby Wellingborough, the Weston Favell Shopping Centre houses a mix of department stores and chain retailers, but it’s also home to the town library, offering peace and quiet amid the buzz of commerce.
Best gift shops in Northampton
Culture and nightlife in Northampton
Northampton’s rich medieval and industrial history help define its modern cultural scene, while the university keeps local theatres and galleries supplied with young, creative talent.
A night out on the town can be as simple as a quiet pint in a traditional pub, or as rowdy as a tour of student-friendly bars and busy dancefloors.
The Royal & Derngate theatre on Guildhall is Northampton’s main performing arts hub, providing an elegant platform for live concerts, opera, Shakespeare plays and popular musicals.
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is home to a vast Shoe Collection, with footwear dating back to the Middle Ages – many produced locally by the town’s own master shoemakers – and a colourful display of vintage trainers.
In and around Northampton you’ll find a wealth of country houses that serve as major cultural attractions. Althorp Estate opens to the public between July and September, letting visitors pay their respects at the grave of Princess Diana and learn about her life and legacy in the adjoining museum.
Another five minutes’ drive out of town is Coton Manor Garden, where local horticulture is celebrated among bluebells and flamingos.
Northampton nightlife is centred around Bridge Street, where you can take your pick of historic taverns, modern chain pubs and trendy craft brewery taps. Weekends are especially lively.
Northampton’s historic buildings
Visiting Northampton with family
Northampton is ideal for countryside breaks and outdoor family fun. The town and its surrounding villages are known for their public parks, visitor-friendly private estates and farmsteads that let you play and picnic in the fields.
One such place is Rookery Open Farm, just south of town in Towcester, where kids can pet friendly barnyard animals, race go-karts and mess about on three-story play structures.
Young adventurers can also swing through the treetops of the Salcey Forest at Tree Ninja high ropes course, or pull on some heavy gloves at Icarus Falconry where hawks, owls and other mighty birds of prey will perch right on your arm. Kids with skateboard skills can show them off at Radlands Plaza.
For more relaxing family time, the nature reserve at Stanwick Lakes is great for afternoon walks on the edge of town. And if the English weather turns against you, take shelter at the vast indoor play centre, Riverside Hub, which has a special sensory area for toddlers.
Family-friendly public parks in Northampton