Once on the frontier between the Anglo-Saxons and Danes, it has a charter dating back more than 900 years. It is an important shopping centre, and there are also many pubs and bars. There are a number of good ethnic restaurants, reflecting the town's substantial Italian, Indian, Pakistani, and Polish communities. Bedford has also been heralded for having the widest range of ethnic diversity, boasting one of the few Eskimos in Britain. The Embankment along the River Ouse running through the centre of town is an attractive place for a walk, and once a year is given over to a traditional Regatta. On the picturesque town bridge is a memorial to John Bunyan, the author of 'The Pilgrim's Progress', who was imprisoned there. John Bunyan also lived in Bedford for most of his life, writing The Pilgrim's Progress here, and his life can be seen at the John Bunyan Museum in the town, where a statue dedicated to him can also be seen. There is a large and attractive park with tennis courts, and other niceties north of the town centre (Bedford Park).
Bedford is served by East Midlands Trains, London Midland and Thameslink. Travel to/from London St. Pancras takes about 40 minutes by East Midlands Trains and just over an hour if you take the Thameslink train. Thameslink trains are slower as they are primarily commuter services. The East Midlands Trains services only stop at a couple of stations between Bedford & London.
There is also a minor railway line going west to Bletchley (near Milton Keynes). Bedford's second train station (Bedford St. John's) is only used by Bletchley trains, whereas all trains going to/from Bedford end up in the main Bedford station sooner or later.
East Midlands Trains go north to Nottingham and beyond.
Bedford has a reasonably large bus station located in the centre of town, however there are few long distance services. The bus station and Midland train station are about 800m apart, so it's a max 10 min walk if you need to make a change here.
Bedford lies directly between the M1 and A1 motorways. Park and Ride facilities are available see, National Park and Ride Directory
The local bus services around Bedford are terrible, being both infrequent and expensive. Just about everything you'd want to see is within easy walking distance of the high street, however (at most 30 minutes if you're slow), so there's little need for anything more than your feet in good weather.
There's a reasonable but underused shuttle bus leaving the central train station, and the bus service to surrounding villages is excellent.
There are very few provisions for cyclists, though the town centre is pedestrianized. The one way system and endless traffic lights around the centre make for fun riding until you get to know the roads. Reasonably wide roads mean you don't get squeezed off too often.
Taxis are relatively expensive in Bedford & you may expect to queue for some time at town centre taxi ranks. It is usually faster & cheaper to call for a licensed minicab rather than waiting in line.
In shopping terms, Bedford is quite typical for a town of its size. The centre of town has the normal chain stores. There is a small indoor shopping centre, the Harpur Centre, and one dingy end of it is called the Howard Centre. The central spiral walkway between the two levels of the centre has in recent years been named The Hub and is, apparently, "The place to be seen".
Tavistock street contains wall to wall restaurants of every kind.
Like all towns in England, Bedford has its fair share of chain pubs and bars packed to the gills on weekends. Walk down the High Street and you'll cover most of them, with a few bars found down Lime Street and various pubs along Tavistock Street.
For a quieter drink with good ales and ciders look out for the Wellington Arms on the corner of Wellington Street and Princes Street, which has won several CAMRA awards. Other good places to drink away from the chav types, are: the Castle and the Three Cups on Newnham Street; and the Bedford Arms on Bromham Road. There's a selection of live music at the Angel on Tavistock Street and Esquires