Visiting Reading – A City Guide
Reading is 40 miles from London but once you’re here you might not find a need to visit the capital. Some of the UK’s best shopping is in Reading, and there’s a buzzing nightlife scene. You can also cruise the Thames or explore the region’s history. Reading is the birthplace of Kate Middleton and actor Ricky Gervais, and Jane Austen once studied here.
Reading: city layout
The River Thames runs through the north end of Reading and the M4 motorway curves along the south end. Most town centre shops are situated around Broad Street, to the south of the railway station, which is a major terminus, and around the banks of the River Kennet, which meanders from the south of the city through the centre and north into the Thames.
The A33 and Caversham Road run down the middle of the city to the M4, which connects Reading to London and Bristol. The city is spacious, becoming more residential as it stretches out from the relatively compact city centre.
Reading’s top attractions
The city was founded by Saxons in 800AD; find out more at the Reading Museum in the Town Hall. You can see a replica Bayeux Tapestry there.
It’s 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre to the River Thames and the 184-mile Thames Path, which follows the river from the Cotswolds all the way to London. There are also cruises available in season.
Shopping is a big draw for visitors, who can find many of the same brands as they can in London without the hassle and the hustle of the capital. Choices range from designer fashion at The Oracle shopping centre to markets and arcades in the walkable city centre.
The concierge recommends…
Hotels in Reading
You can choose from being in the heart of the action, close to motorways or near parks in Reading. Whether you’re a night owl or visiting on business, there are options to suit.
Be lulled to sleep by the sound of the Thames but just a stone’s throw from the lively city centre and the Reading Festival site at a hotel in the Richfield Avenue area. Richfield leads into the main thoroughfare of Caversham Road so the location will suit party types and business people alike (you may be both, of course).
Alternatively, you can rest your head east of the centre near Winnersh Meadows, ideal for the A329 and Dinton Pastures Country Park, which has fishing, walking and play areas.
If you’d like a hotel near the Reading International Business Park and Madejski Stadium, home to the Reading Football Club, try residential Whitley. South of the city centre, it’s convenient to the M4 motorway and Whitley Wood Recreation Ground.
A little farther out of town, southwest of Reading, is Aldermaston Wharf, where you can find peaceful countryside close to the Aldermaston railway station.
Eating Out in Reading
You can find food to suit any palate in Reading, from local delicacies to international fare. Local eats range from the humble Berkshire Pudding to the molecular gastronomy of triple Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck in nearby Bray.
There are numerous mid-priced restaurants lining Queen’s Road, the High Street and around the River Kennet as it passes through the city centre, including French and English brasseries, casual dining, pizza and even a microbrewery.
On Fridays, Market Place Square, a two-minute walk from the town hall, is home to a food market with vendors selling local produce, cheeses and baked goods as well as food stalls dishing out cuisines from around the world.
Near Caversham Bridge and either side of the River Thames to the north of the railway station you can find world foods including Indian, Nepalese, French, European and traditional British.
Madejski Stadium has the Jazz Café restaurant, and nearby Reading Gate Retail Park has several fast food options.
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Shopping in Reading
Reading is relatively close to London but there’s no need to head to the capital for a day’s retail therapy. The shopping area is clustered around the city centre and definitely best experienced on foot.
The main thoroughfare of Broad Street, a ten-minute walk south of Reading’s train and bus stations, is the centre for high street clothes shops including Primark, River Island and John Lewis. The Broad Street Mall is just off Bridge Street.
Right next to Bridge Street is major, modern shopping mall The Oracle, which hosts 80 stores including Karen Millen, Disney and Mamas & Papas, plus dining and a 10-screen cinema. The Gun Street area has a mixture of independent and specialist shops.
Shopping for foodies in Reading
Culture & Nightlife in Reading
From ballet to rock and roll, museums to music, Reading has it all. The university population supports an exciting after-dark scene with a variety of clubs and traditional pubs within the city centre.
In the city centre on Belgrave Street is the landmark Museum & Town Hall, which has a full-size facsimile of the Bayeux Tapestry. The same building has a fine, horseshoe-shaped concert hall which hosts regular performances in all genres, plus comedy and lectures.
You can walk 20 minutes south to find theatre and comedy at South Street arts centre, just off Queen’s Road, or explore the history of food and agriculture at the Museum of English Rural Life, on the University of Reading’s London Road Campus.
In the east of the city is Queen’s Walk, home to the multi-purpose venue The Hexagon, host to performances ranging from Peppa Pig to Jools Holland. Night owls should check out the lively clubs and pubs clustered around Chatham Street and the River Kennet. Every August bank holiday weekend, the world-famous Reading Festival brings music fans to the city for dozens of concerts by top musicians of all genres.
Live music venues in Reading
Visiting Reading with a Family
The mighty Thames river winds its way through Reading, making for lush scenery and plenty of green space. There are some fun rainy-day options too, like a revolving indoor ski slope.
The Thames Path is excellent for a family walk; follow it from Reading Rowing Club in either direction along the banks of the famous river. Forbury Gardens, a large public park next to the remains of Reading Abbey, is a top place for a picnic and to let the youngsters have a good run around.
You can see behind the scenes at the local football club, Reading FC, with a tour of Madejski Stadium. Head to Winnersh for Kids n Action, which has eight indoor play rooms, video games and an adventure park for kids up to 10 years old.
Diverse family activities in Reading