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Reading (England)

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Reading (pronounced like "redding", not "reeding") is a town in Berkshire in the South East of England. Its main attractions are the medieval abbey ruins, the rivers Thames and Kennet, the surrounding Thames Valley countryside, a major shopping centre, restaurants and pubs.

St Mary's Butts & Church

Understand[edit]

There are several possible derivations of the Reading's name, however the true source is obscured.

Reading grew rich through the medieval and Tudor periods thanks to a booming trade in cloth. The siege imposed by parliament on the town during the English Civil War crippled the town's economy which never recovered. The economy of the town is historically most famous for the '3Bs' of Biscuits (US English: Cookies), Beer and Bulbs (of none have survived - you can find out more about the biscuits on the 2nd floor or the Reading Museum) however, In recent years, ITC, finance, legal, insurance, green technologies and biopharma have replaced these traditional businesses. As such, it is not an obvious travel destination in its own right, but if you happen to be here on business, there is plenty to see and do.

The Forbury Gardens, located in the centre of town, have recently been restored to their original Victorian splendour. The adjoining ruins are the remains of a once powerful Abbey, sacked by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries.

Reading is also home to the gaol in which Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for homosexuality and where he composed his famous ballad. The UK Government closed the gaol in November 2013, transferring the remaining prisoners elsewhere and Reading Borough Council has subsequently published its planning framework for the Grade II listed building while its long term future is decided.

Reading is at the heart of an attractive area of the Thames Valley, sitting across the confluence of the Thames and Kennet rivers amid green rolling hills, thatched cottages and pubs. It is surrounded by numerous small towns and villages such as Thatcham, Pangbourne and Streatley, many of great age and beauty. Much of it is now part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with the Cotswolds being easily reachable.

It is a long inhabited and well domesticated area that sits at the junction of several major transport routes, both rail and road. As such, Reading serves as a major hub for commuter traffic into and out of London.

Incidentally, describing Reading as a city could raise the odd eye-brow locally. Despite its size and population it is not technically a city. To become a city in the UK you need a royal charter, and to gain a charter the town used to have to contain a cathedral. Because of Reading's large abbey, a cathedral was never built there, so Reading was never formally made a city. The law was changed in 1889, but many people still believe it to be in force. Charters are now granted periodically with Reading losing out, most recently to Newport, Wolverhampton and to the locals, most annoyingly to their south coast rivals, Brighton and Hove. However, none of this has stopped the council pretending, with lots of new signs directing people to the "city centre" and all buses (Reading Buses is owned and operated by Reading Borough council and controls nearly all routes in and around Reading) for a while displayed "City Centre" as their destination, although this has now changed to "central Reading".

Reading has become more famous recently as the local football team has had a stint in the Premier League, although it is currently in the Championship League. It's majority owned by benefactor Sir John Madejski, who built the Madejski Stadium located south of the town. This has raised awareness of the town throughout the UK. There has been considerable investment in this south of the town with new business parks, commercial properties, new housing developments and superstores.

The town centre has been transformed over the past 10 years with a modern shopping centre called The Oracle. The town centre is managed as a Business Improvement District

Reading holds several Royal Charters permitting parliament to be held there during "times of plague or rebellion" in London!

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Reading is well served by London's collection of airports. For travellers coming directly to Reading, here are the most convenient (in increasing travel time) ones:

  • Heathrow Airport is about 40min down the M4 (eastbound) motorway. Alternatively, it is linked directly to Reading rail station by the RailAir [1] express bus service running every 20 min or so and taking about an hour and, indirectly, by the Heathrow Connect [2] train service (change at Hayes & Harlington station).
  • Luton Airport [3] is about 50min away via the M1 (southbound), M25 (westbound) and M4 (westbound) motorways. Luton Airport Parkway connects the airport to Kings Cross station every 35min, the tube to London Paddington station and then follow the directions below.
  • Gatwick Airport [4] is about 60 min away via the M23 (northbound), M25 (clockwise) and M4 (westbound) motorways. There is an hourly direct train service to Reading from the rail station located in the South Terminal with a journey time of 75min.
  • Stansted Airport [5] is about 90 min away via the M11 (southbound), M25 (anti-clockwise) and M4 (westbound) motorways. By train you will need to catch a Stansted Express train to London Liverpool Street station, the tube to London Paddington station, then follow the directions below.

By train[edit]

Wikitravel has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.

Reading is one of the main railway interchanges in the UK and as such is served by inter-city and regional train services from many different directions, including through services from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Oxford, Plymouth, Exeter, Cornwall, Portsmouth, Southampton, Swansea, Winchester and York as well as the airports described above.

The station has just had a £900 million investment to allow capacity to double over the next 16 years. From London, you should travel from London Paddington station and catch an intercity train whose first stop is Reading (there are several of these an hour), the travel time will be about 30min. There are other stopping services from Paddington with travel times of up to an hour. Reading is also served by twice-hourly direct stopping services from London Waterloo. The typical journey time on this route is one hour 25 minutes and so is only suitable for travellers from south west London.

Train times can be found on the National Rail Planner or by calling 0845 748 4950 (premium rate call from most non BT landlines and mobile phones).

By bus[edit]

National Express [6] serve Reading with express bus (UK English:coach) services from around the country; advanced ticketing is necessary. Note that they serve a stop called Reading Coachway, which sounds grand, but is actually a drafty bus stop near M4 J(12) with the only amenities being a nearby McDonald's restaurant and a Sainsburys supermarket. You will need to catch a local bus (the Number 26 or the Number 1 towards Reading) or taxi (if you can find one) to take you into Reading. Buses to the station in the city centre are quite frequent throughout the week and weekend.

Be warned that the buses in Reading do not give change, so if all you have is a £20 note, you would be wise to change it by buying a newspaper or chocolate bar from the petrol station next to the bus stop.

Alternatively, you can get a SmartCard online [7] to save you needing cash for the buses. This option only qualifies for transport in the Greater Reading Area [8] so please don't get one to go to Newbury, and is only valid on Reading Buses services (they are the majority bus company, so this wouldn't be a major issue)

Currently, on a Reading bus, a daytime single fare is £1.90, and a daily busabout is £4.20, there is also a group ticket for 4 persons, costing £8 per day in weekdays and £5 per day on weekends or school holidays. Other concession and group tickets are also available on Reading Buses [9].

By car[edit]

Reading is served by the M4 motorway (US English: freeway) which runs from London to Bristol and South Wales. It is about an hour's drive from central London. The best junction to use for central Reading is junction 11 and then follow the signs.

If you are visiting for the day by car, consider using the Park & Ride site [10] at the Madejski stadium complex (just north of M4 J11 and well sign-posted) and catching the dedicated express bus from there.

There are three car parks in the town centre: Oracle Riverside, Oracle Holy Brook, and Broad Street Mall. Oracle Riverside is the most convenient for visitors as it is large and open 24 hours. Oracle Holy Brook is not open 24 hours but is in the same building as the Oracle Shopping Centre itself (which the Riverside Car Park is not). Broad Street Mall is the oldest and relatively small. All of these car parks are pay-on-exit and none require validation; they are explicitly intended to be used by town visitors as well as shoppers. Broad Street Mall is also directly opposite the Hexagon Arts Centre and is used as the car park for visitors there. On-road parking in central Reading is available only to Disabled badge holders and is in the area near Friar Street.

Get around[edit]

By foot[edit]

The central area of Reading is easily traversable on foot. From the main rail station, you will be able to take in the Abbey Ruins, the Forbury Gardens, both rivers, both shopping centres, most (but not all so check) hotels, pubs and restaurants without needing more than shoe leather.

By bus[edit]

Buses provide a moderately good way of getting around Reading itself (say 3-5 miles out), with several buses an hour on most routes during weekdays, and hourly services in the evenings and on weekends. Beyond that distance, bus routes are much less frequent, with often only a handful of buses per day. Route 17 (Earley Wokingham Road - Tilehurst via town centre) was extended to 24 h operation in 2008, possibly with other major routes to follow. Reading Buses have a (legal) monopoly within the centre of Reading and through a vast majority of the area around it: if you plan to use a bus, chances are very high that you will use them. They are relatively expensive however, costing £4 for a day pass and £1.80 for a single (as of December 2011). If going with a group of people, it is generally cheaper to drive and pay for a car park. Alternatively, if you have to use the bus, for between 2 and 4 people, you can buy a group ticket for £8 (reduced to £5 in the school holidays or weekends).

  • Reading Buses [11], telephone +44 118 959 4000, provide service within Reading and some adjoining rural areas.
  • Thames Travel [12], telephone +44 1491 837988 from within the UK or +44 1491 837988 from outside, provide services in other rural areas around Reading.
  • Traveline [13], telephone 0871 200 2233 from within the UK, provide an impartial online travel planner and telephone query service for local bus services.

By taxi[edit]

There are two sorts of 'taxis' operating in Reading, although only black cabs are strictly allowed to call themselves taxis:

  • Black cabs (which are not always black but are always London style taxi vehicles) in theory operate from taxi ranks around the town and can be hailed in the street. In practice, the only place you can reliably find them is on the rank outside the rail station. They are always metered.
  • Private hire cars look like ordinary cars except they have a Reading Borough Council plate on the rear (never even contemplate getting in one unless it does). They have to be called by phone (check the yellow pages telephone directory) and do not normally have a meter; you should agree a price before getting in.

By car[edit]

Whilst not as bad as either London or Oxford, Reading's roads can get very congested at peak periods, in particular London Road. Especially if you are not used to driving on the left, central Reading is probably best avoided.

On the other hand, a car is the one (possibly along with cycling) of the only really practical ways of seeing a lot of the local countryside and villages. Here the roads are quieter too.

The junction of London Road with King's Road/Wokingham Road is locally known as "Cemetery Junction", which is the origin of the name used by the Ricky Gervais film.

By map[edit]

If you are planning to do any visiting or exploring beyond central Reading, you will probably want to obtain a decent map of the area. You should ensure that any map you buy clearly shows the national grid reference lines and explains how to use them, as grid references are frequently used to indicate out of town locations. The best maps for this purpose are those published by the Ordnance Survey (Britain's national mapping agency) and the following maps cover all the locations mentioned below:

  • Ordnance Survey Landranger 175. This map covers the area around and between Reading and Windsor at a scale of 1:50000 and is best for exploration by car or cycle.
  • Ordnance Survey Explorer 159. This map covers the area around Reading at a scale of 1:25000 and is best for walking.

These maps can be found in any good bookshop in Reading (see 'Buy' section below), or can be bought online [14].

See[edit][add listing]

Central Reading[edit]

Reading has several interesting sights to see within the central area.

  • Reading Abbey Ruins & Forbury Gardens. These beautiful formal gardens were once part of Reading Abbey, and the ruins of the Abbey itself can be found between the park and the river Kennet. The Abbey's founder and benefactor was Henry I and he was buried in front of the high altar in 1136. The Abbey went on to become one of the most important religious and political centres in England. A few of the Abbey's buildings still exist intact, including St Laurence's Church and the Gateway, and the ruins themselves offer a fascinating glimpse of the abbey. Open during daylight hours. Free. The gardens were recently restored to their former glory and reopened Spring 2005.

The Abbey ruins have been closed due to the risk of falling masonry. As of Oct 2010 no date for reopening the ruins has been set.

  • Museum of Reading, Blagrave Street, [15]. Open Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM; Su 11AM-4PM. Situated in Reading's Victorian Town Hall, the museum explores the history of the area, from the Roman city at nearby Silchester through mediaeval Reading and its Abbey to the coming of the railways and Reading's 3Bs (Biscuits, Beer & Bulbs) economy. Among the items exhibited are a traditional painted Gypsy caravan, and the Roman eagle excavated from the ruins of nearby Silchester that inspired author Rosemary Sutcliff to write her historical novel "Eagle of the Ninth". Free.

Surrounding Area[edit]

There are also many interesting things to see around Reading.

  • Basildon Park, Lower Basildon (7 miles west of Reading on the A329; grid reference SU611782), telephone +44 118 976 7360, [16]. Open Feb-Dec everyday 10.00-5:00PM. This beautiful Palladian mansion was built in 1776-83. The interior is notable for its original delicate plaster work and elegant staircase. The early 19th century pleasure grounds are currently being restored, and there are waymarked trails through the parkland. Accessible by road or take the Thames Travel 132 bus from Reading (see 'Get Around' section for contact info). Adult: £11.50; Child: £5.75; Family: £28.75;National Trust members free.
  • Mapledurham House and Watermill, Mapledurham (4 miles west of Reading on the north bank of the River Thames; grid reference SU766670), telephone +44 118 972 3350, [17]. Open Sa-Su 2PM-5.30PM Easter-September. Mapledurham is a village with a special charm of its own, set in the valley of the River Thames, below the Goring Gap. Its cottages, church, almshouses and Watermill, with the old brick and flint walls, backed by the Elizabethan mansion and the still older manor house of Mapledurham Gurney, together retain an ancient village pattern which is rare today. The Watermill produces flour for sale, with wheat still ground by the traditional millstones. Accessible either by boat (see Thames Rivercruise in the 'Do' section) or a 15 minute drive from Reading. Open Sa-Su 2PM-5.30PM Easter-September.
  • Silchester Roman Town, Silchester (8 miles south east of Reading; grid reference SU625640),[18]. Open every day sunrise-sunset. Known to the Romans as Calleva Atrebatum, Silchester was abandoned after the Roman era which means that much of the archeology remains. All that is left on the surface now are a complete ring of city walls, the amphitheater and an little mediaeval church. Away from the rivers that have dictated the area demographics, Silchester is about as isolated a place as you will find in south-east England; on a spring weekday you are likely to find yourself sharing the ruins only with cows. Unfortunately there is no longer a bus service between Reading and the site. You can take the train to Bramley and follow the Silchester trail [19] from there. Access to the site is free of charge.

Do[edit][add listing]

River trips[edit]

There are lots of things to do in and around Reading. You could try taking a river trip:

  • Salters Steamers, telephone 01865-243421 from within the UK or +44 1865 243421 from outside, [20]. Run day trips from Reading to Henley-on-Thames and return with 3 hours ashore in Henley (or you can return by train); 7 days a week from May to September. Also less frequent trips from Wallingford to Reading. Depart from outside the Riverside Restaurant just downstream of Caversham Bridge. £8.50-£11.
  • Thames Rivercruise, telephone +44 118 948 1088, [21]. Run cruises to Mapledurham House & Watermill (see the 'See' section) at 2PM on Sa,Su & public holidays from April through September; and shorter trips during the same days. Depart Thameside Promenade just upstream of Caversham Bridge. £3.50-£5.

Walks[edit]

Or there are many possible walks in the area:

  • Thameside walk to Sonning. A very attractive walk can be had by leaving Reading on the Thames towpath from Reading Bridge and Caversham Lock (both about 5 mins walk from the downtown area) and simply following the towpath to the old village of Sonning. This walk is about 4 miles in length, and traverses both open landscape and wooded river margins. Return the same way, or catch a bus back (buses roughly hourly; no service on Sunday).
  • Thameside walk to Tilehurst. Another attractive walk is to leave Reading on the Thames-side Promenade from Caversham Bridge (about 10 mins walk from the downtown area) and follow the towpath to the point where it abruptly ends (the site of an old ferry where the towpath crossed to the other bank). From here a path brings you up to the main Reading to Oxford road in the suburb of Tilehurst. A five minute walk towards Reading on this road brings you to Tilehurst rail station, from where there are frequent buses and trains back to Reading. This walk is about 3 miles in length.
  • Views of the Thames, [22], a series of walks from Goring Railway Station (15 minutes by train or 10 miles by road). The walks are from 4 to 10 miles in length and a leaflet is available by calling 01844-271316 or from the website.
  • The Marlow Donkey & River Walk[23], a trip by train. Catch the train from Reading to Bourne End station and then take a delightful 6 mile stroll along one of the most attractive stretches of the River Thames to the pretty Thameside town of Marlow before catching the train back. Walk description downloadable from website.

Festivals[edit]

Reading is the home of one of Europe's major annual music festivals, held on the Rivermead site (an open area alongside the River Thames) over a period of several days. The festival can be guaranteed to fill the town with visitors and happening things; if you are planning to visit during these festivals do book your accommodation and festival tickets well in advance.

  • Reading Festival [24]. Even bigger than the Womad festival which used to be held in the town as well up until 2006 (now held near Malmsbury in Wiltshire [25] is the Reading Festival, held at the end of August (2008: August 22nd - 24th). This has had several names in its life, of which the most descriptive was probably the Reading Rock Festival; then up until last year the 'Carling Weekend Reading' although not surprisingly no-one ever called it this in real life, and this year we can expect to see it back to the Reading Festival Weekend.


Reading also hosts a number of smaller, community based events during the year :

  • Reading LGBT Pride [26]. Usually held the Saturday after the Autumn Bank Holiday. Volunteer run and organised, it is free to enter and open to all. Donations will be requested on site.
  • Reading Real Ale and Jazz Festival [27]. (2007: 19th - 21st July).
  • Water Fest. A variety of events and craft stalls wind their way through the Abbey ruins and along the Kennet and Avon canal. The event is a particular favourite with children (2005: 25th June).

Sports[edit]

Reading has a well established professional football team. Reading FC [28], who have yoyo-ed between the Premiership and the Championship in recent years - they currently compete in the Championship.

Reading also has a long tradition of rugby, with many clubs in the town and surrounding areas. The three senior clubs of the town are Reading RFC, Reading Abbey RFC and Redingensians RFC.

In 2000 London Irish [29], a professional rugby union club in the Aviva Premiership with its administrative HQ in Sunbury, contracted to play their home matches at Reading FC's Madjeski Stadium. Renewed in 2008, the contract is now extended until 2026. With a strong rugby heritage and a thriving Irish community, Reading has proved a good home for London Irish who beat the premiership attendance record in 2007 with over 23,000 people attending the annual St Patrick's Day match. London Irish also play in Europe-wide club competitions each year—either the top-level Heineken Cup or second-tier European Challenge Cup, depending on their performance in the Premiership in the previous season.

Learn[edit]

Reading is the home of The University of Reading [30] which is ranked as one of the UK’s most research-intensive university and as one of the top 200 universities in the world. Reading University is based on a campus two miles from the city centre and provides a full set of university courses. Reading University enjoys a world-class reputation for teaching, research and enterprise.

For a while, Reading was also host to one of the campuses of Thames Valley University [31] when the Reading College and School of Arts and Design merged with Thames Valley University in 2004. However in 2010, responsibility for further education along with the Kings Road site were transferred to Reading College [32]. Since then, Thames Valley University has been renamed the University of West London [33] and only a small 'hub' remains in Reading. [34]

Reading is also the home of several commercial English language summer schools, including:

  • Padworth College [35]
  • Parkland Language School [36]

Work[edit]

Reading is a significant commercial and information technology centre and if you have skills in these areas and the appropriate legal paperwork then finding a job should not be a problem. Reading is ranked No. 1 in the UK for the percentage of people in the labour market in employment and there is usually strong demand for well qualified employees. There is the usual selection of jobs in hotels, pubs, restaurants, etc.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Shopping[edit]

Reading is a major regional shopping centre, with most of its shops clustered in a fairly compact downtown area. Shops are split between those on outdoor pedestrianised shopping streets, of which the principal is Broad Street, and those in indoor shopping malls such as the Oracle Centre [37] and the Broad Street Mall.

There are three major department stores, John Lewis [38] on Broad Street (often still known locally by its old name of Heelas), Debenhams [39] and House of Fraser [40] both in the Oracle Centre.

One store that should definitely be visited is Waterstones in Broad Street, if only to see the way this old United Reformed Church has been reused as a good bookstore. This store stocks a good selection of local maps and guides.

Eclectic Games on Butter Market is a specialised hobby board-gaming store that does regular game nights. It stocks a wide range of Magic and role-playing materials as well as eurogames.

In general stores open M-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM and Su 11AM-4PM although many stay open longer on some days and some do not open on a Sunday. The stores in the Oracle Centre are open M-F 9.30AM-8PM; Sa 9AM-7PM; Su 11AM-5PM. The John Lewis department store has now discontinued Heelas's reputation for benign eccentricity and is now open on Mondays and Sundays.

If it's pampering you're after Reading has a great town centre option. Ayurveda Retreat on Friar Street is a medispa offering health and wellbeing consultations as well as theraputic massage treatments, facials, manicures and pedicures.

Money[edit]

Nearly all major British banks and building societies have branches situated in Reading, and most of them are based around the eastern end of Broad Street or around the adjacent Market Place which is also where most of the major financial institutions that make the town their home are based. These branches normally open M-F 9AM-4PM and Sa 9AM-noon.

Most bank and building society branches have 'through the wall' type ATM's that are open 24x7. There are also clusters of stand alone ATM's in the Oracle Shopping Centre (see above) and the Rail Station.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Central Reading[edit]

The following restaurants are all within walking distance of central Reading:

  • The Cerise Restaurant and Bar, The Forbury Hotel, 26 The Forbury (in city center), telephone +44 118 958-1234 or Freephone 0800 789 789, [41]. Perhaps a little style over substance, frequented by Reading 'glitterati' and business professionals. Decor is very stylish and cocktails are to die for. Check out the restrooms with their unique artwork displays and piped comedy. Prices are at the top end. Open Information needed. £30-50.
  • Forbury's, opposite the above, +44 118 957 4044, [42], is probably the best restaurant in Reading itself with two AA rosettes and a very creditable 5 in the Good Food Guide. About the same price as The Cerise and opposite it on Forbury Square. Service is far superior to Cerise, with a definite French air. Their set menu is available all day Monday to Friday and until 7.15PM on Saturdays at only £10 for 2 courses for lunch and £13.95 for dinner.
  • London Street Brasserie at the foot of London Street, Tel +44 118 950 5036 [43] with views out to the Kennet and Oracle this is a young and informal restaurant serving modern European food. The atmosphere is relaxed and service is always friendly if occasionally haphazard. The set menu is particularly good, at £15 for two courses or 3 for £19, as prices a la carte can be relatively high. This is served 12PM-7PM every day. £30 - 350 including wine, a la carte.
  • Mya Lacarte, 5 Prospect Street, Caversham (in Caversham), +44 118 946 3400. [44] A relative newcomer to the Reading restaurant scene, Mya Lacarte offers British food "with a twist". Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, the menu changes seasonally and the decor is more Brighton than Reading with relaxed but polished service. The food is delicious and well worth the trip out of the city centre for. Note that the address is in Caversham (there is also a Prospect Street in central Reading). £30 - £50 per head including wine. There is also a set menu at £13.95 (2 courses) which is very good value: Mon- Wed dinner and lunchtimes daily .
  • Wok on Wheels Chinese takeaway [45]
  • Sweeney & Todd, 10 Castle Street (in city center), telephone +44 118 958-6466. A well known Reading establishment, which specialises in a huge range of delicious pies ranging from the traditional to new and innovative. Originally just a small pie shop, the restaurant has now extended into a conservatory out back, and into a maze of whitewashed cellars that must extend under several adjoining shops. Service is friendly and chatty, and really shows off the family-run atmosphere. Pies are baked on-site, and served fresh from the oven, though there is a takeaway service as well. If you order a pie that has not recently been baked, they will be happy to heat one up for you from the cold selection. It also has a real ale bar. Open: until 11PM; closed Su. £6-15.
  • Bina Tandoori, 21 Prospect Street, Caversham, Telephone +44 118 946-2115, [46]. Housed in the charming village of Caversham just over the river from Reading on the north side (just over Caversham Bridge and turn right and then left into Prospect Street; 20 mins walk from city centre - but worth it). The food is authentic Indian and Bengal cuisine. Tastes divine and the service is exemplary. Ladies receive a rose on departure. Decor is contemporary with deep blue glass being a signature of the restaurant. Takeaway service is also available. Open: 12-2.30PM and 6.00-11.30PM. £10-25.
  • The Griffin, 10-12 Church Road, Caversham (just over Caversham Bridge and turn left; 15 mins walk from city centre), telephone +44 118 947-5018, [47]. Open M-Sa 11AM-11PM; Su 11AM-10:30PM (last food orders 1hr before close).A pub chain owned English pub, with a strong emphasis on traditional pub food favourites, vegetarian, fish and meat specialities. £6-20.
  • Loch Fyne, Bear Wharf, Fobney Street (on River Kennet about 200yds west of the Oracle Centre), telephone +44 118 918-5850, [48]. Open M–Sa 9AM-10PM; Su 10AM-10PM. Housed in an old brewery maltings, this restaurant provides excellent (and apparently eco-friendly) seafood in an attractive environment with friendly staff and overlooking the boats passing through County lock. £10-25.
  • Chronicles, 17-19 Valpy Street (in city center), telephone +44 118 950-4613, [49]. Open M-F noon-10PM; Sa 6PM-11PM; Su noon-6PM. A very cosy and atmospheric cellar restaurant, serving excellent traditional and modern British cuisine. £15-35.
  • Bel and the Dragon, Blakes Lock (just outside the centre), [50]. This is a friendly restaurant with a good atmosphere and reasonable food. Around £25.

The following chains have branches in central Reading:

  • McDonalds (Oracle Riverside and Friar Street)
  • Burger King (Broad Street Mall and Kings Walk Arcade - this is a little-used shopping arcade with an entrance just beyond Debenhams on the Riverside)
  • KFC (Broad Street)
  • Wagamama (Oracle Riverside)
  • Jamie's Italian (Oracle Riverside)
  • Nando's (Oracle Riverside)
  • Pizza Hut (Oracle Riverside)
  • Subway (Friar Street)
  • The Slug and Lettuce (Oracle Riverside)
  • Tampopo (Oracle Riverside)
  • TGI Friday's (Caversham Road Roundabout - walkable from the city center, but has its own car park)

Surrounding Villages[edit]

Many of the villages surrounding Reading have interesting restaurants or country pubs that serve food, and here is a selection. You will probably need to use a car or taxi to get to most of them.

  • L'ortolan, [51] Church Lane, Shinfield (just of Junction 11 of the M4). Telephone: +44 118 988 8500. Open Tues-Saturday for both Lunch and Dinner. L’ortolan, located in the beautiful village of Shinfield, is Reading’s only Michelin starred restaurant. Chef Patron Alan Murchison is passionate about his cooking, but also ensures that the same quality of interpretation extends right through the whole experience and is as integral to the wine, the service and the style of the environment as it is to his food.
  • Blue Cobra, High Street, Theale (4 miles west of Reading on the A4; grid reference SU714644), telephone 0118 930-4040, [52]. Open M-Sa noon-2:30PM and 6PM-11PM. This award winning restaurant is in Theale's attractive High Street. Fresh ingredients are used to create contemporary dishes with influences from Thailand, Bangladesh and south Asia.
  • Cross Keys, Church Road, Pangbourne (4 miles west of Reading on the A329; grid reference SU765634), telephone 0118 984-3268, [53]. Open M-Sa 11AM-11PM and Su noon-10:30PM. This old-fashioned country inn has low-ceilings, oak-beams and roaring fires for winter dining, and a delightful open-air terrace backing onto the babbling River Pang for balmy summer evenings. The food is good too; try the smoked haddock chowder if it is available. £10-£20.
  • Great House, Thames Street, Sonning-on-Thames (4 miles east of Reading on the River Thames; grid reference SU758756), telephone +44 118 969-2277, [54]. Housed in the old White Hart Hotel at the center of the Great House estate are two restaurants and two bars, an intriguing mixture of the historic and the contemporary. Both restaurants have outdoor terraces overlooking the river. The Regatta offers contemporary food with with Mediterranean and pacific rim influences; whilst the Ferryman offers a barbecue menu on summer weekends. Open daily for lunch and dinner. £20-£30.
  • The French Horn Restaurant, The French Horn, Sonning on Thames, Berkshire, phone: 0118 969 2204, [55].

See also the Goring and Streatley article, for details of several other restaurants in these attractive twin villages which are some 8 miles west of Reading on the A329.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Reading, as a sizeable town, has many and varied pubs and bars. A healthy population (numberswise at least) of students and young city workers makes sure that pubs, wine bars and cocktail lounges are all well represented. The compact centre of town ensures stiff competition between establishments, which works well for the consumer, who has many well-priced drinking options within stumbling distance of each other.

Several formulaic wine bars and cafe bars are bunched around the east end of Friar Street and Station Road. These provide reasonably civilised drinking at lunchtime but becoming fuelling stations for binge drinkers in the evenings. Predictably, the area is heaving on Friday and Saturday nights.

The town's waterways provide atmospheric drinking: to the north, the Thames riverside hosts well-established pubs and bars in the well-to-do Caversham suburb. The Kennet runs underneath the town centre emerging near the Oracle mall, which hosts chain and independent bars jostling for positions along its banks.

Outside the centre, East Reading used to be largely Quaker and so was dry until the students moved in. A couple of pubs have cropped up since, not to mention the students' union. West Reading is, edgy and very cosmopolitan. It hosts a lively representation of the global village – there's a Jamaican restaurant, Asian supermarket, a closed down Polish pub, some brothels and a thriving hard drug scene! Traditional British drinkers will like it here too: just off Oxford Road is Reading's best pub for real ale. Aside from this most of West Reading's pubs are closing down because West Reading is dying, with most young, outgoing and open minded Reading residents moving to East Reading.

  • The Butler, Chatham Street (just west of downtown). A central pub that still retains the a traditional flavour. There are bare wooden floors and decent beer and a mixed but reasonably adult crowd of regulars.  edit
  • The Corn Store. If you are after a quiet and comfortable bar, with good, friendly service and away from the crowds, try The Corn Store, Vastern Road (opposite the large pink office block just east of Reading station). The bar is at ground level, with El Gusto Italian restaurant upstairs. The bar staff are unusually friendly and helpful, and free food often appears.
  • The Alehouse (formerly The Hobgoblin) at the east end of Broad Street. This favorite among locals serves a huge and often changing (4000 to date) selection of real ales and ciders, many local. Try to get there very early if you'd like to take up one of the rooms around the back. Otherwise you'll be standing in front. Also do please shut off your cellphone before entering: if it rings in the Hobgoblin you may well find yourself tossed on the street.
  • The Nags Head on Russell Street, just off the town-end of Oxford Road. A new rival to the Hobgoblin as Reading's premier real-ale pub with 12 ales on tap, limited but excellent food (including pies from Sweeney Todd) and a convivial atmosphere.
  • l'ortolan, Church Lane (Just off Junction 11, M4), +44 118 988 8500. Reading's only Michelin starred restarant is in the suburb of Shinfield. Chef patron Alan Murchison is passionate about his cooking, and the sommelier is skilled with his selections of wine to compliment the dishes.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are a large number of hotels and guest houses in the Reading area but, sadly, prices are often akin to those in London and getting a room can sometimes be difficult.

For mid or up market hotels, your best bet is to use one of the online booking services, such as those found in our article on Finding accommodation.

  • Crowne Plaza, Caversham Bridge, Richfield Avenue, Caversham, RG1 8BD, +44 118 925 9988, [56]. This hotel was burnt out and left derelict for some years before becoming the Holiday Inn. It has now been fully refurbished and has become the Crowne Plaza. It is owned by Prince Charles (Royal heir to the throne) as part of the Princes Trust - as disclosed in March 2007 on a BBC television program. It includes a swimming pool and fitness centre and overlooks the river. The river walk up river towards Pangbourne is delightful. Parking for 200 cars and 122 rooms  edit
  • Hillingdon Prince Hotel, 39 Christchurch Road, Reading, Berkshire RG2 7AN, [57]. A privately owned and Managed hotel built in the 1890`s, The Hillingdon Prince Hotel is centrally located by the Oracle Shopping centre and Reading business park, with Thames Valley, Warton Grange and Green Park close by. It is just a short drive from the well known Madjeski Stadium and within walking distance of the University and Royal Berkshire Hospital.  edit
  • Mercure George Hotel Reading, 10 - 12 King Street Berkshire, RG1 2HE, +44 118 957 3445, [58]. The George Hotel Reading is an extremely historic building, possibly the oldest in Reading, and it has retained many of the period features dating back to when it was an 18th century coaching inn. A special, comfortable and affordable place to stay.  edit
  • ibis Reading, 25A Friar Str, Reading station, For Car Park Use RG1 1NR, +44 118 953 3500, [59]. Ibis Reading Centre is a budget hotel 182 contemporary rooms located in central Reading.  edit
  • Novotel Reading, 25b Friar Street, RG1 1DP READING, phone, [60]. Novotel Reading Hotel is located in the city centre, close to Reading Football Club as well as the town's shopping and entertainment.  edit
  • Holiday Inn Reading M4 Jct10, Wharfedale Road, Winnersh Tirangle, (0118) 944 0444, [61]. New 2 AA 4 Star Merit luxury hotel in Reading, located adjacent to Winnersh Triangle train station within close proximity of the M4, Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell and well placed for London on both the Reading to Waterloo and Reading to Paddington services (20 minutes).  edit


Stay safe[edit]

Reading is perfectly safe to visit, and most visits should be trouble-free. That said, Reading has an above-average violent crime rate and incredibly high rates of drug-related crime. Be careful not to get drawn into any confrontations, as these have been known to turn nasty (knife crime being pretty high in Reading). Also be careful if in the town centre on a Friday or Saturday night as binge drinking, with the associated violent crime, is on the rise in the UK, and Reading is no exception.

Garrard Street should be avoided after dark, but it runs between derelict buildings so there is little reason to go there. The walkway between the Thames Tower and the pub opposite the station leads nowhere (it was the entrance to the now-disused Friar's Walk Arcade) but should also be avoided after dark.

Suburban areas with seedy reputations include Whitley, Coley, and Southcote. Of these, Whitley has a reputation for being the worst and should be avoided if possible.

Get out[edit]

  • Caversham [62]. Across the river from Reading on the north side of the Thames River. Caversham has been mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as one of the areas where some of the earliest evidence of mankind in England has been found. Be sure to check out the Holy Well [63] if you are a historian or religious. It is to be found, appropriately, on Priest Hill just next to the junction with St. Anne’s Road. Interestingly, St. Anne’s Road does not appear on the 1882 OS map, and Priest Hill was then known as Priest Lane.
  • Goring and Streatley -- a pair of Thameside villages with great views and country walks
  • Henley-on-Thames -- an attractive Thameside town within a quarter of an hour's drive
  • London -- only half an hour on a fast train
  • Oxford -- a nearby Thameside city with its famous university
  • Bristol -- a large port city on the river severn and the unofficial capital of the west country (approx 1 hr 15 mins by train)
  • Bath -- a historic resort (spa) town and World Heritage Site (approx 1hr by train)
  • Winchester -- a cathedral city within easy day-trip distance and with many interesting and historical sights
  • Windsor -- a nearby Thameside town with a splendid castle and royal residence

Contact[edit]

Phone[edit]

Reading's area code (for landline numbers) is 0118 when dialled from within the UK or +44 118 from outside the UK.

Cellphone coverage is generally good within the city and surrounding area; not surprisingly as most UK cellphone companies are headquartered in the vicinity.

Internet[edit]

If you are travelling with a laptop then you will find broad-band internet access in the rooms of most, but not all, medium to high end hotels. If this is important to you check before booking. Alternatively there are many WiFi hot spots in and around Reading and WiFinder [64] provides a register. A list of pubs, bars and cafe's in Reading with free WiFi hotspots can be found here [65]

There are also several places that offer web and other internet access if you are travelling without a laptop. These include:

  • Reading Central Library, Abbey Square (eastern edge of city center), [66]. Open M,W,F,Sa 9:30AM-5PM; Tu,Th 9:30AM-7PM. Offers (free) web access, although this requires (free) library membership which in turn requires proof of address; not sure if they will take a foreign address, but worth trying.
  • Caversham Library, Telephone: +44 118 901 5103, [67]. The library is a Carnegie building which opened in 1907. It is a busy branch library situated in the heart of Caversham. It has a very distinctive clock tower. Internet access. Check out the Costa coffee bar opposite. Open: M,F 9:30PM-5PM; Tu,Th 9:30AM-7PM; Sa 9:30AM-4PM. Access By BUS: Caversham Library can be visited using bus numbers 9, 27,44, 45, 329 By CAR: The nearest car park to Caversham Library is in Chester Street. Disabled customers may use the car park at the rear of the library. There is a wheelchair ramp at the front entrance.
  • Quarks, Union Street (pedestrian alley between Broad Street & Friar street in town center also called 'Smelly Alley' to the older locals), [68]. Cybercafe and online gaming centre. £3 /hour. Open M-Sa 7:30AM-9PM; Su 10AM-7PM.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!






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