There are plenty of things to do in Reading, a vibrant town with a history dating back to Roman settlements in the 8th century. Situated at the meeting point of the River Thames and the River Kennet, you can find a delightful mix of old and new in this largest town in the county of Berkshire.

    The UK town has a unique atmosphere that makes it a wonderful place to visit. Enjoy lively nightlife venues, outstanding art institutions and performance spaces. If you decide to visit, don't miss your chance to tour Reading's centuries-old structures and soak up its numerous wide-open spaces.

    What are the best things to do in Reading?


    Reading Abbey Ruins

    Medieval ruins hosting food and cultural events

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Reading Abbey Ruins is the town's most enduring landmark. Dedicated to the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, the ancient site was established by King Henry I in June 1121. The ruins remain in remarkable condition, as you can wander through the ancient transept, the treasury, and the chapter house which is where the abbey's monks would meet.

    The Reading Abbey Ruins serve as a stellar event space throughout the year. From food festivals and live performances to arts events, head along and enjoy a cultural showcase surrounded by this important medieval destination.

    Location: Abbey St, Reading RG1 3BA, UK

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1189 373400


    Reading Museum

    Stop for lunch and learn about Reading's wonderful local history

    • History
    • Budget

    Find Reading Museum in the ornate Victorian Town Hall, at the town’s centre. There are 3 levels of historical displays that provide remarkable insight into the region and its venerable past. Founded in 1883 by local collector Horatio Bland, the museum's collection has expanded to include 500,000 objects across art, archaeology, and an array of other collector's items.

    The Reading Museum is an excellent place to learn about the town's recent industrial history or delve into the 8th-century when the Romans occupied Britain. Once you've finished exploring the collection, head along to The Pantry Cafe and Kitchen to sample their signature slow-cooked chicken casserole.

    Location: Blagrave St, Reading RG1 1QH, UK

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

    Phone: +44 (0)1189 373400


    photo by Reading Tom (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Museum of English Rural Life

    Get a first-hand glimpse of British agricultural traditions

    • History
    • Budget

    Reading's Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) is one of the region's top art institutions. Here, both adults and kids will have a wonderful time exploring numerous displays based on English agriculture and country life.

    Across 9 different gallery spaces, the museum features fascinating farming equipment dating back centuries. Each space has its own themes, including Shaping the Land, A Year on the Farm and Forces for Change. Just a short distance from Reading town centre, the MERL offers an inviting space where everyone can learn about farming traditions before taking a tea break at the onsite cafe.

    Location: 6 Redlands Rd, Reading RG1 5EX, UK

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +44 (0)1183 788660


    photo by Adamkoszary (CC BY 4.0) modified


    Thames Path

    Go for a wander through the classic English countryside

    • Photo
    • Budget

    Thames Path is an excellent way to explore England's best-known river. Stretching for 184 miles, the Thames begins in the Cotswolds, in the west of the country, traversing through some incredibly picturesque landscapes before winding its way into London. But before it gets there, Reading's section of the Thames is particularly scenic.

    Following alongside the river for miles, the Thames Path is where you can enjoy a relaxing stroll as the waterway passes through the town centre and out towards the community of Henley. You can enter the path next to Reading Bridge and make your way to the charming village of Sonning, where you'll find several great spots for afternoon tea.

    Location: Thames Path, Reading, UK


    photo by Jim Linwood (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Kings Meadow

    Roam these lush gardens before heading to the rejuvenated lido for a swim

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Kings Meadow is one of the most popular parks in Reading. It offers a range of picnicking possibilities, as well as shaded pathways through the Coal Woodland. Bordered by the River Thames, there are also has several playgrounds and scenic spots to admire the riverboats.

    On the western corner of the park, you'll come across Reading Lido. It's situated on the site of Edwardian-era baths, which was the oldest outdoor swimming pool in England. You can head inside for a dip before sitting down for a top-notch meal inside a modern restaurant, which serves Moorish and Mediterranean cuisine.

    Location: 92 Napier Rd, Reading RG1 8AB, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1189 373737


    photo by Ben Sutherland (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Basildon Park

    Explore this world-renowned mansion and wander the gardens

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Basildon Park is certainly one of the most recognisable landmarks in Reading, having been seen by millions of people around the world. That's because the opulent 18th-century mansion is a key location for the long-running hit television series, Downtown Abbey. Even if you're not a fan of the show, there are still plenty of reasons to visit.

    Since the mansion was bought in 1771, it's been the home of numerous noble families. You're welcome to take a tour of the mansion and explore its outstanding collection of English and European paintings dating back to the 17th century. The mansion is also surrounded by 400 acres of parkland, featuring landscaped gardens, livestock, and places to unpack a picnic box.

    Location: Lower Basildon, Reading RG8 9NR, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1491 672382


    photo by Glen Bowman (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Kennet & Avon Canal

    Enjoy the scenic views provided by this classic British waterway

    • Photo
    • Budget

    The Kennet & Avon Canal is a landmark English canal, snaking for 87 miles. It connects London with the Bristol Channel and passes through countless villages and towns. There are a plethora of highlights lining its path, but you'll get the chance to see the pastoral fields of Wiltshire and the rolling hills of the Cotswolds.

    The Reading section of the Kennet & Avon Canal follows a path right through the middle of the town centre and into County Lock, an area renowned for its shopping and dining opportunities. Dotted along this section, you'll find numerous spots where you can soak up the sun and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere as the boats slowly pass by.


    photo by Ronald Saunders (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    The Oracle

    Visit the town's top shopping destination and stock up on high-end goods

    • Shoppers

    The Oracle is Reading town centre's most popular shopping destination, featuring 80 high-end stores across massive department stores, tech giant brands, and stylish boutiques. Alongside the retail offering, the complex has interactive play areas for children alongside the bustling Vue Cinema, which screens both classic and blockbuster movies.

    Set along the Kennet & Avon Canal, The Oracle is positioned right in the middle of the town. There are several riverfront cafes and bars, providing awesome places to spend a lazy weekend. Meanwhile, the shopping centre also boasts more than 20 awesome restaurants, serving everything from classic English dishes to Italian delights and hearty American burgers.

    Location: Riverside Rd, Reading RG1 2AG, UK

    Open: Monday–Friday from 9.30 am to 8 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 7 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1189 659000


    photo by Jim Linwood (CC BY 2.0) modified


    View Island

    Explore the native wildlife found amid this local secret

    • Photo
    • Budget

    View Island is a peaceful escape set in the middle of the Thames River. Spanning 4 acres of overgrown parkland, it's just a 5-minute walk from Reading Station and provides a lush little-known pocket close to the town centre. In the past, View Island was simply a downtrodden boatyard, but has since been trimmed down and made suitable for visitors.

    The tiny island offers 2 main footpaths lined with picnic areas, benches, and 2 boardwalk bridges. It's also a great spot for wildlife lovers, as you'll see native birds like kingfishers, grebes and herons, while there are also migrant species such as blackcaps, chiffchaffs and whitethroats.

    Location: Mill Rd, Reading RG1 8BP, UK


    The Hexagon

    Catch some world-class entertainment at Reading's top performance venue

    • Nightlife

    The Hexagon is Reading's premier entertainment venue, having hosted a wealth of the world's best concerts, theatre productions, and comedians. Designed by architecture firm Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall in 1977, the striking Brutalist architecture ensures the towering structure stands out amongst Reading's streets.

    The Hexagon has an impressive capacity of almost 1,700 guests, who jam-pack the venue to experience some world-class entertainment. Alongside the massive theatre space, there's also a delightful cafe and bar that serves tasty snack food and drinks before and during the show. Find your place in the stalls on the floor or high up in the balcony section and enjoy the performance.

    Location: Queens Walk, Berkshire, Reading, Reading RG1 7UA, UK

    Open: Hours vary by showtime

    Phone: +44 (0)1189 606060

    Hudson Brown | Contributing Writer

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