Reading (England)Reading (pronounced like "redding", not "reeding") is a large, historic town in Berkshire in the South East of England. It is the largest town in the United Kingdom with just under 235,000 inhabitants. Its main attractions are the medieval abbey ruins and minster church, the rivers Thames and Kennet and surrounding countryside of the Berkshire Downs and Chiltern Hills. It is a major regional shopping centre with a wealth of restaurants and pubs.
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 "three Bs" of biscuits (US English: cookies), beer and (flower) bulbs. However, information technology and insurance 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, near the centre of town, have been restored to their original Victorian splendour. The adjoining Abbey Ruins, which reopened to the public in June 2018, are the remains of a once powerful abbey, sacked by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. They have long been held to be the burial place of King Henry of England. The Heritage Lottery Fund funding for the Reading Abbey Revealed project also included the Abbey Gateway, which was the former school room attended by Jane Austen.
Reading is also home to the former jail in which Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for homosexuality and where he composed his famous "Ballad of Reading Gaol". The prison closed in 2013 but the buildings remain and are to be preserved and redeveloped.
Reading is at the heart of an attractive area of the Thames Valley, sitting across the confluence of the rivers Thames and Kennet amid green rolling hills, thatched cottages and pubs. It is surrounded by numerous small towns and villages such as Caversham, Thatcham, Pangbourne, Purley on Thames and Streatley, many of which are of great age and beauty. Much of it is now part of the Chiltern Hills 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 rail and road routes. 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 eyebrow locally. Despite its size and population, it is not designated as a city. To become a city in the UK a royal charter is required, 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 made a city. This law was changed in 1889, but many people still believe it to be in force. Charters are now granted periodically with Reading losing out, such as to Newport, Wolverhampton and Brighton and Hove. However, none of this has stopped a number of signs and services referring to the "city centre".
Reading has become more famous as the local football team has fluctuated between the Premier League and the Championship, where it resides as of 2019. Reading FC play at the Madejski Stadium south of the town centre. The club has raised awareness of the town throughout the United Kingdom and overseas. There has been a resurgence in the south of the town with new commercial properties, new housing developments and new superstores such as B&Q and Costco and there are plans for an international convention centre, Royal Elm Park, next to the football stadium.
The town centre has been transformed with a modern shopping centre called The Oracle , a £900-million railway station and major private sector investment from a Business Improvement District. Further developments and apartment blocks continue to be built.
By planeReading 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. The times given for road travel assume no hold-ups - at busy times or in case of bad weather, road maintenance or traffic accidents you should allow considerably longer, especially if travelling to the airport to catch a flight.
- Heathrow Airport (LHR) is about 40 min via the M4 motorway. It is also linked directly to Reading rail station by the RailAir express coach service running every 20 min or so and taking about an hour and, indirectly, by the Heathrow Connect train service (change at Hayes & Harlington station).
- Luton Airport (LTN) is about 65 min away via the M1, M25 and M4 motorways. Luton Airport Parkway connects the airport to Kings Cross station every 35 min, the tube to London Paddington station and then follow the directions below.
- Gatwick Airport (LGW) is about 70 min away via the M23, M25 and M4 motorways. There is an hourly direct train service to Reading from the rail station in the South Terminal with a journey time of 75 min.
- Stansted Airport (STN) is about 90 min away via the M11, M25 and M4 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.
Reading station is served by inter-city and regional train services from many different directions, including through services from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Manchester, Oxford, Plymouth, Exeter, Penzance, Portsmouth, Southampton, Swansea, Winchester, York, and the airports described above.
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 30 min. Slower direct services can be taken from London Waterloo station (journey time approximately 80 minutes).
The route between Reading and Paddington is one of the most overcrowded rail routes in the UK. If you board in Reading during the peak morning commuter period into London, expect to be standing the whole way.
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 1 hr 25 min and so is only suitable for travellers from south west London.
Train times can be found on the National Rail Planneror by calling 0845 748 4950 from anywhere in the UK.
By coach and bus
phone: +44 871 781 8181Coach services from around the country; advanced ticketing is necessary. From 6AM to 9:30PM, they stop at Mereoak Park and Ride, Mereoak Lane on the M4 Junction 11. Overnight, they stop at Calcot, which sounds grand, but is actually a drafty bus stop near M4 J(12) with nearby amenities including a large Sainsbury's supermarket (known locally as "Savacentre"), a McDonald's restaurant, a petrol station and a chemist. You will have to catch a local bus or taxi (if you can find one) to take you into Reading. Buses to the station in the town centre are quite frequent during the week.
phone: +44 1865 785400Connects Reading with South Oxfordshire.
By carReading 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 at Mereoak on the M4 at Junction 11 or the Madejski stadium complex (just north of M4 J11 and well sign-posted) and catching the dedicated express bus from there. An alternative Park & Ride site is found at Winnersh Triangle at the north end of the A329(M).
There are a number of car parks in the town centre, including Oracle Riverside, Oracle Holy Brook, Broad Street Mall, Queen's Road and Garrard Street. 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 theatre 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. Reading railway station also has a multistorey car park, though this is the most expensive public car park in the town.
By footThe 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 busBuses provide a moderately good way of getting around Reading (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) runs a 24-hour operation with buses every 7 minutes in peak hours.
phone: +44 118 959-4000Provide bus services within Reading and some adjoining rural areas.
Their fares are not particularly cheap, however, if going with a group of people, between 2 and 4 people, you can buy a group ticket for £9 (reduced to £6 in the school holidays or weekends).
Reading's local buses have introduced contactless payments (credit/debit cards or Reading Buses' own payment card) to avoid the issue of having the correct change. When you board the bus, the driver will issue your ticket once the correct fare in coins is inserted into the slot. You can be smart though and buy either single, return, day or group tickets.
For a trip planner see Planning your trip section at the United Kingdom page.
By taxiThere are two sorts of taxis operating in Reading, although only black cabs are strictly allowed to call themselves taxis:
TaxisThe taxis proper (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.
MinicabsThey 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. Never get in a minicab that you haven't booked, because you may be robbed and they are uninsured in an accident.
By carWhilst 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 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.
Named after Reading Old Cemetery, 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 bicycleThe local authority has published a cycle map, which shows off-road and low-traffic routes around the town. In practice, if you are a reasonably confident cyclist you can comfortably use most of the roads in Reading.
That said, there are a few places that may be a little daunting - these are mostly near or outside the edge of town, and include the A33 (especially difficult) and A4 crossings of the M4, parts of the A33 between the M4 and the town centre, and parts of the Inner Distribution Road. If you need to pass these places and are uncomfortable cycling, there are easily-found alternative routes.
The town centre can be confusing. There are a number of one-way streets. You are not supposed to cycle in the central pedestrianised areas, even though motor vehicles are allowed access at certain times to service the businesses there, and there are cycle parking stands in the middle of the area; in practice, if you cycle slowly and give way to all pedestrians it is unlikely anyone will seriously object.
Cycle parking is generally adequate, with "Sheffield" stands in the town centre and elsewhere. If no stands are available, you can usually lock your cycle to railings or street furniture provided it is not explicitly forbidden (there will be signs) and provided you don't cause an obstruction to pedestrians or vehicles. The exception to the adequate provision of cycle parking is the area immediately around the train station, which can get seriously overcrowded. You may find it easier to park your cycle a couple of hundred metres away (e.g. in Friar Street) and walk to the station. Make sure your bike is locked as discreetly and securely as possible, as bike thefts in Reading are above the national average, and the number of thefts recorded by the regional police force (Thames Valley Police) is second only to Greater London.
You can rent bikes through the Readingbike scheme at 28 points around the town or a Brompton Bike at the railway station.
phone: +44 1189 571057address: Chain Steet, RG1 2HXA historic church from 11th century.
Reading Abbey Ruins & Forbury GardensThese beautiful formal gardens were once part of Reading Abbey, and the ruins of the Abbey 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 restored to their former glory and reopened in Spring 2005. The Abbey Ruins were re-opened in June 2018 following a £3 million Heritage Lottery Fund project, Reading Abbey Revealed.
phone: +44 1189 373400address: The Town Hall, Blagrave Street, RG1 1QHIn 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.
phone: +44 118 378 8660address: 6 Redlands Rd, Reading RG1 5EXA museum about the history of food, farming and the countryside in England. It has several galleries showing how the countryside is shaped by nature and human activities. There is also a garden and a cafe.
Surrounding areaThere are also many interesting things to see around Reading.
phone: +44 1491 672382address: Lower Basildon, RG8 9NRThis 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 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).
phone: +44 118 972-3350address: MapledurhamMapledurham 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
Silchester Roman TownKnown to the Romans as Calleva Atrebatum, the town 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 and the amphitheater. Nearby is an attractive little mediaeval church. Away from the rivers that have dictated the area demographics, Calleva Atrebatum 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. Parts of the walls are on private land with no public access. Unfortunately there is no bus service between Reading and the site. You can take the train to Bramley and follow the Silchester Trail from there. Alternatively, take the no.2 bus from Reading to Mortimer, and walk from there along quiet lanes and footpaths (about 3.5 km (2.2 mi) - you may need a map to find the way). There is some car parking space at the church and a larger car park at grid ref. SU637629. The site is some distance away from the modern village of Silchester.
phone: +44 118 944 8089address: Mohawk Way, WoodleySmall, but has a number of old aircraft.
phone: +44 1189 767480address: Lower Basildon, Pangbourne, RG8 9NWA 350-acre park dedicated to the conservation of birds and a smaller selection of mammals, with children's playgrounds, cafeteria and a narrow gauge railway.
River tripsThere are lots of things to do in and around Reading. You could try taking a river trip:
phone: +44 1865 243421Day trips from Reading to Henley-on-Thames and return with 3 hours ashore in Henley (or you can return by train). Also less frequent trips from Wallingford to Reading. Depart from outside the Riverside Restaurant just downstream of Caversham Bridge.
phone: +44 118 948-1088Run 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.
WalksOr there are many possible walks in the area:
Thameside walk to SonningA very attractive walk can be had by leaving Reading on the Thames towpath from Reading Bridge and Caversham Lock (both about a 5-min 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 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 TilehurstAnother attractive walk is to leave Reading on the Thames-side Promenade from Caversham Bridge (about a 10-min 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.
Views of the ThamesA series of walks from Goring Railway Station (15 minutes by train or 10 miles by road). The walks are from 4 to 10 miles and a leaflet is available by calling +44 1844-271316 or from the website.
The Marlow Donkey & River WalkA 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.
Kennet and Avon CanalProvides a walking (or cycling or even horse-riding) route from the Thames in Reading all the way to Bath. Even the part of the canal within Reading is quite pleasant and sometimes seems positively rural, in contrast to the commercial developments nearby. Since the Reading Westbury train line more or less follows the canal, it is possible to plan a trip on foot in one direction and return by train to your starting point.
FestivalsReading 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 also hosts a number of smaller, community based events during the year:
Water FestA variety of events and craft stalls wind their way through the Abbey ruins and along the Kennet. The event is a particular favourite with children.
- Reading on Thames Festival (26-29 September 2019). An arts and cultural festival against a backdrop of Reading's waterways.
- Reading Fringe Festival (20-18 July 2019).
- Watch football ie soccer at Reading FC. The men play in the Championship, the second tier of English football. Their home ground (capacity 24,000) is Madejski Stadium RG2 OFL, south of town near the junction of M4 and A33. The women play in the Women's Super League, with home games at Adam Park.
- Watch rugby union (15 a side) at London Irish. They were promoted in 2019 so they now play in the Premiership, the top tier of English rugby union. They too play at Madjeski Stadium.
Associated with Reading University is Gyosei International College, a Japanese/British bi-cultural institution which has led to Reading having a significant Japanese student population. Around 1988, Gyosei International College's links with the Japan-based Gyosei organisation were broken, and the College became a charitably funded institution called Witan Hall. It appears that this has also failed and Witan Hall has been purchased by the University of Reading, who have closed down student recruitment.
Reading is also host to one of the largest universities in England, Thames Valley University (renamed University of West London). Although the university is spread across the Thames Valley, the campus in Reading serves 20,000 students alone.
Formerly Reading College and School of Arts and Design, TVU merged with the College in 2004.
Reading is also the home of several commercial English language summer schools, including:
Reading has a diverse economy with string clusters in finance, technology, energy, professional services and pharmaceuticals. It is home to UK or European HQs for many large corporates, from Oracle and Microsoft to PepsiCo, Bayer, Thales and SSE.
ShoppingReading 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 and the Broad Street Mall.
There are three major department stores, John Lewis on Broad Street (often still known locally by its old name, Heelas), Debenhams and House of Fraser both in the Oracle Centre.
address: RG1 2AGA large indoor shopping centre with an Apple Store, Disney Store, River Island, Costa, the flagship Jessop's store and a Vue cinema.
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.
phone: +44 118 958 1270address: 89 Broad St, RG1 2AP
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.
phone: +44 118 959 8250address: 5 Union St, RG1 1EU
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 therapeutic massage treatments, facials, manicures and pedicures.
phone: +44 118 958 8190address: 32 Friar St, RG1 1DX
MoneyNearly 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 ATMs that are open 24x7. There are also clusters of stand-alone ATMs in the Oracle Shopping Centre (see above) and the rail station.
Central ReadingThe following restaurants are all within walking distance of central Reading.
address: Blakes LockThis is a friendly restaurant with a good atmosphere and reasonable food.
phone: +44 118 946-2115address: 21 Prospect Street, CavershamHoused 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; a 20-min walk from town 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.
phone: +44 118 958-1234address: The Forbury Hotel, 26 The ForburyPerhaps 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.
phone: +44 118 957-4044Opposite the above, is probably the best restaurant in Reading 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.
phone: +44 118 947-5018address: 10-12 Church Road, CavershamA pub chain-owned English pub, with a strong emphasis on traditional pub food favourites, vegetarian, fish and meat specialities.
The Gulshanphone: +44 118 958-9914address: 20-24 Station HillDespite being off a wind-swept walkway under an empty office block, the Gulshan provides tasty Indian and Bengali food at a reasonable price and with friendly service.
phone: +44 118 918-5850address: Bear Wharf, Fobney StHoused 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.
phone: +44 118 950-5036At the foot of London Street, 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 noon-7PM every day. £30-350 including wine, a la carte.
phone: +44 118 946-3400address: 5 Prospect Street, CavershamA 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 town 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: M-W dinner and lunchtimes daily.
Sweeney & Toddphone: +44 118 958-6466address: 10 Castle StA 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.
Wok on WheelsChinese takeaway.
The following chains have branches in central Reading:
- 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)
- Giraffe (Oracle Riverside)
- KFC (Broad Street)
- McDonald's (Oracle Riverside and Friar Street)
- Nando's (Oracle Riverside)
- Pizza Express (Oracle Riverside)
- Pizza Hut (Oracle Riverside)
- The Slug and Lettuce (Oracle Riverside)
- Subway (Friar Street)
- TGI Friday's (Caversham Road Roundabout - walkable from the town center, but has its own car park)
- Wagamama (Oracle Riverside)
Surrounding villagesMany 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.
phone: +44 118 988-8500address: Church Ln, Shinfield, RG2 9BYL’Ortolan, 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.
phone: +44 118 930-4040address: High Street, ThealeThis restaurant is in Theale's attractive High Street. Fresh ingredients are used to create contemporary dishes with influences from Thailand, Bangladesh and south Asia.
phone: +44 118 984-3268address: Church Rd, Pangbourne, RG8 7ARThis 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.
phone: +44 118 9692277address: Thames St, Sonning-on-Thames, RG4 6UTHoused 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 Mediterranean and Pacific rim influences; whilst the Ferryman offers a barbecue menu on summer weekends. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
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 through 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 less restrained, edgy and very cosmopolitan. It hosts a lively representation of the global village – there's a Jamaican restaurant, Asian supermarket, and Polish pub! Traditional British drinkers will like it here too: just off Oxford Road is Reading's best pub for real ale.
The Alehousephone: +44 118 950 8119address: 2 Broad St, RG1 2BHThis favourite among locals serves a huge and often changing (4,000 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.
phone: +44 118 959 5500address: 85-91 Chatham St, RG1 7DSA central pub that retains a traditional flavour. There are bare wooden floors and decent beer and a mixed but reasonably adult crowd of regulars.
phone: +44 7765 880137address: 5 Russell St, RG1 7XDA new rival to the Hobgoblin as Reading's premier real-ale pub with 12 ales on tap, limited but excellent food (pies and filled baguettes) and a convivial atmosphere.
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.
phone: +44 118 925-9988address: Caversham Bridge, Richfield Avenue, Caversham, RG1 8BDThis 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.
phone: +44 118 931 1311address: 39 Christchurch Road, RG2 7ANA privately owned and managed hotel built in the 1890s, The Hillingdon Prince Hotel is near the Oracle Shopping centre and Reading business park, with Thames Valley, Warton Grange and Green Park close by. It is a short drive from Madjeski Stadium and within walking distance of the University and Royal Berkshire Hospital.
phone: +44 118 334 1331address: 18-20 Station Rd, RG1 1JXPart of the Malmaison hotel chain. This branch is reputably the oldest railway hotel in the world, having opened in 1844. Has free Wi-Fi, 24 hour room service and same-day laundry service.
The riverside area in Newtown (just east of the town centre) is a known trouble spot, especially after dark, so it may be best to stay away. Suburban areas with seedy reputations include Whitley, Coley, Southcote, and Newtown. Of these, Whitley has a reputation for being the worst and should be avoided if possible.
PhoneReading's area code (for landline numbers) is 0118 when dialled from within the UK or +44 118 from outside the UK.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good within the town and surrounding area; not surprisingly as most UK mobile companies are headquartered in the vicinity.
InternetIf 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.
There are also several places that offer web and other internet access if you are travelling without a laptop. These include:
- Caversham Library, Telephone: +44 118 901-5103, . 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 ), . Cybercafe and online gaming centre. £3 /hour. Open M-Sa 7:30AM-9PM; Su 10AM-7PM.
- Reading Central Library, Abbey Square (eastern edge of city center), . 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.
MapsIf 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.
- Bath – a historic resort (spa) town and World Heritage Site (approx 1 hr by train)
- Bristol – a large port city on the river Severn and the unofficial capital of the west country (approx 1 hr 15 min by train)
- Caversham – 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 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.
- Goring and Streatley – a pair of Thameside villages with great views and country walks
- Henley-on-Thames — a picturesque town "round the corner" of the river, within 15 minutes drive
- London – only half an hour on a fast train
- Oxford – a nearby Thameside city with its famous university
- Swindon – The heart of the Great Western Railway, only half an hour on the train (or an hour by car on A417/A419 trunk road)
- 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