If you are looking for the best places in Reading then look no further. Reading is a great university town in southern England, on the Thames River, and only 25mins to London. The town has so much to offer students, offering, great shops, riverside restaurants, the famous Reading Festival and a load of history including Reading Abbey, the 12th Century ruins by Forbury Gardens, a Victorian formal garden.
We have found you 7 great places to visit, whether you are a fist year student yet to move into their accommodation, to student needed a break from their final exams. The best way to experience any new city is going out and exploring and trying out what the town has to offer, which in Reading’s case, a lot.
The Thames Lido is one of the best places in Reading and a secret gem of town, less well known then it deserves as it is truly unique. The Lido has recently received a 3 year restoration brining back to live the Edwardian Kinds Meadows Baths. The Lido is tucked away off the River Thames, by Kings Meadow, which offer students in Reading a quiet space to enjoy the pool, have a swim and relax.
The Thames Lido not only has a great pool but offers great food and drinks, which you can drink inside in their restaurant or outside by the pool. England is less well known for its outside swimming facilities, mainly due to the rainy weather but on a summer’s day, this is the perfect destination to take in the sun and have a bit to eat at the same point. If you are wanting a break from your studies and decided you want to find the best places to go as a student in Reading, this should be one of the top of your list. The Thames Lido also offers some great opportunities to take some photos for your Instagram or WeChat. We highly recommend you take a stroll past town and head to the Kinds Meadow to find the Thames Lido.
2. Highgate Castle
You might already recognise Highclere Castle, as it’s used for filming the famous BBC dram Downtown Abbey, which is seen across the world by many. The castle allows visitors to visit the castle and get to see behind the scenes of the set, and the true history of this magnificent building. The first records of the estate can be dated back to 749, when an Anglo-Saxon King decided to grant the Bishop of Winchester the estate. The Bishop William of Wykeham originally built a medieval palace and gardens; however, later on the palace was complete rebuilt into Highclere Place House in 1679 to resemble what you see now. It was later purchased by Sir Robert Sawyer, who was a direct ancestor of the Earl of Carnarvon. Later, in 1842, Sir Charles Barry who was known for designing the Houses of Parliament, took on the task of transforming Highclere House to reflect the current house you see today.
The house had an important role during both world wars. In the First World War, Highclere Castle was used as a hospital for injured solders. Then throughout the Second World War, the castle was used again and was used as a home to children being evacuated from London.
The house is really as big as it looks with 250 to 300 rooms in the castle, of which during the tour you get to explore the main state rooms which are used in Downtown Abbey. The castle sadly is not in Reading but in a nearby town in Newbury which is around 40mins drive. However, it is well worth a visit when in Reading.
3. Abbey Ruins
What is famous in Reading? we’d have to say Abbey Ruins which is one of the oldest things you will see in Reading. The Reading Abbey Quarter was constructed to bring together the unique, cultural heritage that had previously existed in the former site of Reading Abbey which was originally one of the largest monasteries in Europe. The site is set in the centre of Reading, the Abbey Quarter has stood the test of time and witnessed hundreds of years of history. The key features to see when visiting the site is the Reading Museum, the Town Hall, St James Church, Reading Gaol, St Laurence Church, the Forbury Gardens and the original remains of Reading Abbey. The Abbey Ruins and Gateway are both considered Grade 1 listed buildings and scheduled Ancient Monuments, making them a part of Reading and English history.
The Reading Abbey has much to offer for students as it is currently developing projects through conservation, interception, signage, volunteering and activities for the public. The local area offers a great contract of the old and new, being in the Abbey Quarter Business Improvement District, which has a range of large companies and offices.
If you are interested in history, agent ruins, or would like to learn something new then this is one to add to your list of places to visit in Reading. A lot of the ruins are available to see for free, and can be viewed on week and weekends; however, to see more you will need to check times on the official website.
4. Reading Museum
Reading Museum is another historical trip if you have a thirst of knowledge and enjoy history. Reading Museum offers a great selection of exhibits and information on Readings and its surrounding areas over the years. The Museum is the centre of town as part of Readings Town Hall. Reading Museum offers galleries describing the history and its related industries, an amazing gallery of artefacts that have been discovered during the excavations of of Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester Roman Town). One of the most famous pieces is a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry alongside other art collections.
The town hall itself is part of the exhibition as it has been built in several phases which started between 1786 and 1897 and designed by Alfred Waterhouse working on the facades in 1975. The town hall is home so the late Horatio Bland’s eclectic art collection as well as three art galleries. Although known as the town hall, in 1975, the council decided to move the civic offices out of the Town Hall and move them across town to the Reading Civic Centre. Later Reading Library moved out which left the town hall to host the museum and art gallery making it a key part of the towns cultural and art hub.
The town hall is in the centre of town and can be seen as part of other activities planned for the day as it does not take up a full day to see, nor does it mean you have to detour from town to see it which makes it the perfect spontaneous exploration when you are next in Reading town centre.
5. Caversham Lakes
Caversham Lakes is another great outside activity to do with a group of friends when wanting to do something different. The site offers a range of activities for you and your friends to do, from water sports, lakeside bar and pergola serving food and drinks, family beach, swimming courses, shops, cafes and much more over the 80 acres of water. The site offers a great friendly day out for people who like to be active with their activities.
A brand new venue has opened up; however has already climbed the ranks as one of best places to go in Reading offering a range of fun activities to do without your friends inside. The site offers, mini golf, darts, bowling, food, and drinks all in one location. This is something very new to Reading and makes you feel like you could be in London. The independent venue allows you to get competitive with your friends while enjoying a few drinks and some pizza. Whether you are a keen golfer, top bowler, darts champion or just there for the food, this place has a lot to offer.
The venue is still very new but so far we have only hear great things from our students in Reading and would suggest checking it out.
7. Coppa Club – Sonning
Despite being part of a grand old hotel in a quiet riverside setting beside pretty Sonning Bridge, Coppa Club is a modern, chilled-out spot. Its high-backed leather banquettes, funky hanging lanterns and smart wooden tables and floors are more often found in trendy, town-centre bistro-bars. The loosely Italian all-day menu follows suit, being amenably priced and of mass appeal. Traditional dishes of truffled gnocchi bites, greaseless fritto misto (scallops, prawns, whitebait), and tomato and basil bruschetta share space with the international likes of baby chorizo sausages in honey and mustard, grilled chicken in lemon and
rosemary, or a quality rib-eye steak buried under juicy flat mushrooms. There’s also a bar, meeting rooms and several lounge-like areas popular with families – as are the pizza and pasta options, and the marvellous sticky toffee pudding with honeycomb ice cream. A short wine list, brought by the exuberant staff, delivers both value and variety.
We hope we have provided you with some great activities to enjoy as students with our list of the best places to go in Reading when starting at the University of Reading. We will continue to write helpful content for students studying in the UK. If you are interested in applying for a placement year whilst studying, feel free to check out our blog for more useful information for students.
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