A buzzing university town with lively nightlife, plenty of tourist attractions and abundant shopping opportunities, Reading is the county town of scenic Royal Berkshire. The town's location, midway between London and Oxford, makes it a great base for exploring the south east of England and there are regular high speed trains connecting Reading with the rest of the UK. The town is surrounded by pleasant countryside and is home to some interesting historic buildings and traditional inns as well as a thouroughly modern drinking and dining scene. Each August bank holiday weekend, the town is flooded with music fans arriving to experience the legendary Reading Festival – a grand-scale outdoor music festival that has been going strong for some three decades. There are hotels in every price bracket, with many few-frills chain options as well as some charming guest houses and upscale hotels.
Reading's train station is well served by regular trains to London, Oxford, Cardiff and also to the north of England and up to Scotland. National Express coaches also pass through here on route to destinations across the UK. The town's proximity to London means that Heathrow and Gatwick Airports are reasonably accessible via direct National Express coach or via rail changes in central London. Regular buses and local trains connect Reading with surrounding towns and villages and are handy for visiting the various sites of interest within the town.
Things to See and Do
Reading has plenty to offer history buffs, with several sites of archeological interest to be found in the town. The ruins of a 12th Century abbey, once one of the most important religious sites in Britain can be seen here and Reading is also home to no less than three medieval churches, some handsome Georgian buildings and an imposing gothic town hall. With a student population of over 10,000, the town has a vibrant edge, with lively nightlife and a good live music scene. Walking trails lead through many of Reading's parks and gardens and boat trips along the River Thames are a wonderful way to spend a relaxing summer's day. Family-friendly attractions in the town include the Museum of English Rural Life, which brings to life the world over farming and illustrates how farming life has changed over the centuries. A dry ski slope and indoor ice rink are good options for active types and there are several swimming pools in the town. Visitors feeling the urge to splurge will not be disappointed. A large branch of the department store John Lewis can be found in the town and Reading town centre boasts all the usual high street suspects as well as some one-off boutiques and designer stores. There are several theatres and live music venues in the town, the oldest and best-known of which is the Progress Theatre, founded in 1951. During the summer, the Abbey ruins are the dramatic setting for live open air Shakespeare performances.
Drinking and Dining
The significant student population lends a youthful energy to nightlife in Reading and there are some interesting independent bars alongside well-known chains such as JD Wetherspoon. Reading University's Student Union is a good place to catch live bands touring the UK, as is the town's large leisure centre. The long-lived music festival has secured Reading's place on the rock music map and local bands and those new on the circuit often appear at smaller live music venues in the town. There are some very welcoming traditional pubs and inns, many of which serve food, as well as smart bar restaurants catering to a well-turned-out crowd. More formal dining can be found in and around the town centre, with the option to choose from a wide range of international cuisines that ranges from Italian to Indian, Chinese and Thai.
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