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St Albans

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St Albans is an English cathedral city, located to the north of London, in the county of Hertfordshire.

St. Albans Cathedral seen through the Roman wall.

Understand

The hypocaust and mosaic.

St Albans [1] started life as the Catuvellauni settlement of Verlamion, renamed and developed by the Romans as Verulamium. Ruins of portions of the Roman wall, the theatre and a hypocaust [2] can be visited today. The Cathedral, originally founded as the Abbey Church of the monastery on the site, is built partially of stones taken from the old Roman town.

Get in

By car

St Albans is close to the M1 (Junction 6 for the A405) and M25 motorways (J21a for the A405, J22 for the A1081). The short M10 also links from the M1 (J8 southbound).

By train

St Albans is easily accessed via the First Capital Connect railway which runs from London St Pancras (20 minutes, easy connections to the Eurostar, and King's Cross Station for Edinburgh and York)to the main St.Albans Station. Going north is Bedford (40 minutes) and London Luton Airport. For the airport, you need to alight at Luton Airport Parkway (10 minutes), then take the bus (£1.50) to the terminal. If your ticket says Luton Airport (rather than Parkway), the bus connection is free, and takes 10 minutes. From Luton and Beford, you can connect north to Leicester, Sheffield and Leeds. Going south, the train runs to Gatwick Airport (70 minutes) and Brighton on the south coast (100 minutes). Trains also stop at the London stations of West Hampstead Thameslink, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, London Bridge, East Croydon, Elephant and Castle and Wimbledon.

Fares to London are relatively high, but are slightly cheaper if travelling off peak (departing St.Albans/London after 0930, and departing London 1630-1900), or super off peak (weekends and bank holiays). Open returns (return within 1 month) are not available from St.Albans, but are from London. A Travelcard bought from St.Albans includes the return fare from St.Albans to London, as well as unlimited travel around London on the tube, overland train, bus and trams service.

The city's second railway station, St Albans Abbey Station, is located to the south of the city centre at the foot of Holywell Hill, and is the terminus of the local line to Watford Junction Station from which you can connect to London Euston, and north to Northampton and Birmingham.

By bus

St.Albans is well linked to neighbouring towns, although despite the distances, journey times are relatively long. There is a frequent direct bus service to London Heathrow Airport, the No. 724 [3]. This takes between 70-120 minutes (depending on the time of day) and costs £9 one way. This stops at the main station and the Abbey station (on request only).

Get around

Walk. From edge to edge St Albans takes an hour to walk, the city centre, most hotels and B&Bs and the main attractions much less. The main station (for London, airports, Bedford & Brighton) is a 10 minute walk to the city centre, with Abbey station (for Watford) down a steep hill but right next to Verulamium Park and near the Abbey (around 15 minutes walk). Buses run around the city, but are not of use for most visitors. There is a taxi rank both at the main station, and on St.Peter’s Street.

See

  • The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban[4], which has the longest true nave in Britain. There is no entry free, just a suggestion donation. Most weekdays there is a free Evensong concert at around 5pm. There are free guided tours at 1130 (Mon-Sat), 1400 (Sat) and 1430 (Sun-Fri). A shorter “highlights” tour runs daily at 1305. Tower Tours run on some Wednesdays and weekends between May and October, and cost £8 per person. Approximately 4 times a year there is a candlelit Night-time tour. Tickets cost £10 per person and include a drinks reception before the tour. The building is referred both as the Cathedral and the Abbey….they are the same place, so don’t “do” one, then go looking for the other!
  • The pubs!.... St Albans has the largest number of pubs in one square mile in England (and the EU!). The Fighting Cocks pub is reputed to be the oldest pub in the UK.
  • The medieval Clock Tower[5] was built in the early 15th Century. You can climb the tower most weekends and bank holidays from Easter to September, open 1030-1700. Adults cost £0.80 and children £0.40. [4]
  • St Albans market takes place on St Peter's Street, the city's main shopping street, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is one of the World’s longest running street markets, with almost unbroken continuance since the late 1200s.
  • The Farmers market takes place on St Peter's Street the second Sunday of every month.
  • Starting in 2012, the St.Albans Festival [6] runs for two weeks in late June, and features a series of events in and around St.Albans.

Do

  • The Museum of St Albans [7] on Hatfield Road tells the story of St Albans from the time of the Romans to the present day. It puts on special exhibitions throughout the year, as well as arranging fun and educational events. Free admission, open Mon-Sat 1000-1700, and Sunday 1400-1700.
  • Verulamium Museum [8] - tells the story of the Roman city, and exhibits Roman mosaics, pottery and other artefacts. Entrance is £3.80 for adults, and £2 for children. Free for residents of St.Albans (with proof). During the week there are often school groups, so try and schedule your visit for after the school day. Open Mon-Sat 1000-1730, Sun 1400-1730, last admission 1700.
  • The Roman Theatre of Verulamium [9] is a well preserved stone theatre and lies the other side of the main road near the Verulamium Museum. Entry is £2.50 for adults, and £1.50 for children over 5. Open Summer 1000-1700, Winter 1000-1600. From here you can walk up to the manor house of Gorhambury (home of the Earl of St.Albans) which is rarely open to the public. Further on the road lies Old Gorhambury House[10] which is free and open nearly every day of the year and at “any reasonable time”.
  • The Organ Museum [11] - contains theatre organs, punch-card cafe organs and other instruments. It opens every Sunday afternoon, when visitors have the opportunity to see and hear the fascinating instruments.
  • Verulamium Park is an enormous stretch of greenery lying to the south of the city centre. There is a lake in the middle, and the River Ver flows to the side. To get here, walk from the Chapter House entrance of the Cathedral through the Orchard to the Fighting Cocks pub, then over the little bridge. Alternatively walk down George Street from the Clock Tower, turning left onto Romeland, and then through the millennium old Abbey Gateway, then following the road down the hill to the pub and bridge. From the park, you can easily walk to the Verulamium Museum.
  • Batchwood Hall Nightclub, Batchwood Drive, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL3 5XA (Off Batchwood Drive), 01727 856596, [12]. Local nightclub situated just outside St Albans town centre to the north-east. Buzzing with 18-24 year olds every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which are the only nights it is open. Guarantees a good, inexpensive night out and a chance to really see how the locals party! Usual open times are 10:30pm-4am. £4.50-£7.50.


Eat

St.Albans has a wide variety of restaurants.

  • Wagamama, Unit 6, Christopher Place, tel 01727 865 122 M-Sa 12noon-11pm, Su 12noon-10pm. trendy Japanese noodle restaurant located in the town centre. Prices are moderate (£10-15 / person) and the staff are well trained and friendly.
  • Pizza Express, 11 Verulam Road, tel 01727 853 020, [13]. Su-W 11.30am-11pm, Th-Sa 11.30am-12midnight. The local branch of the popular pizza restaurant chain.
  • Côte Brasserie [14]. Excellent French style restaurant, with a little garden in the back. Mon-Fri 0800-2300, Sat 0900-2300, Sun 0900-2230. Tel: 01727 858 587. 3 High Street, AL3 4ED.
  • The Albany [15]. This small restaurant has a varied and tasty English-style menu. Set menus start at around £22 for 2 courses. Tel: 01727 730 888, 7 George Street, AL3 4ER

As with most UK cities, there are plenty of curry houses

  • Devdas [16]. Tasty selection of Indian food, and winner of a few awards. Tel: 01727 730830, St. Peters Street, AL1 3DQ
  • Veer Dhara [17]. Centrally located on the high street, Veer Dhara serves good quality versions of old favourites in nice surroundings. Lunch menu from £6. Tel: 01727 847070, 81 St. Peters Street, AL1 3EG

Drink

St.Albans has an large range of pubs and bars given it's relative size. On Friday and Saturday nights, most bars and pubs are full, and may have bouncers on the door checking ID. Closing times vary between 11pm and 2am, so ask when you're at the bar what time 'last orders' is. There are plenty of very nice country pubs nearby St.Albans, although you'll need your own transport to get there. On sunny days, plenty of people drink in Verulamium Park. This is allowed in certain areas. There are signs where alcohol is prohibited. Tesco on St.Peter's Street is generally cheaper than off licenses.

St.Albans is home of CAMRA [18] (Campaign for Read Ale), and hosts a beer festival every September [19].

  • The Fighting Cocks - Britain's oldest pub that still runs today. There is a nice beer garden in the back.
  • St Michael's Village is one of the oldest areas of St. Albans, and features some lovely old pubs including the Six Bells, the Rose and Crown and the Lower Red Lion.
  • Other reccommended pubs include The Boot next to the Clock Tower, The Blacksmith Arms which has a large range of Ales and a large beer garden, and The Goat which is quieter and has a large number of board games for a rainy day. There is also a branch of the Weatherspoons chain, The Cross Keys

Sleep

St.Albans has a range of hotels and B&Bs, although no youth hostels. If visiting from London on a day trip, there is no need to stay in the city overnight, although there are some nice options if you want to get out of London.

  • St Michael's Manor Hotel [20] has a good location in St.Michaels’ Village, approximately 10 minute walk from the city centre. It was very close to the Verulamium Museum. There is a good restaurant, and nice grounds. Rates from £145 to £265 per night. Fishpool Street, AL3 4RY.
  • The Comfort Hotel [21] has rates from around £75 per night. 27 Holywell Hill, AL1 1HG
  • Ardmore House Hotel [22] from £65 per night including breakfast. 54 Lemsford Road, AL1 3PR

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