Reading  (prounced like "redding", not "reeding") is a town in Berkshire in the South East of England. Its main attractions are the medieval abbey ruins, the rivers Thames and Kennet, the surrounding Thames Valley countryside, a major shopping center, restaurant and pubs.
More information is available from the Reading Tourist Information Site.
There are several possible derivations of the Reading's name, however the true source is obscured. Reading holds several Royal Charters permitting parliament to be held there during times of plague or rebellion in London.
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 '3Bs' of Biscuits (US English:Cookies), Beer and Bulbs (of which only Beer has survived though the brewery is scheduled to close by 2010) however, In recent years Information Technology and insurance have replaced these traditional businesses. As such it isn't 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 , located in the center of town, have recently been restored to their original Victorian Splendor. The adjoining ruins are the remains of a once powerful Abbey, sacked by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries.
Reading is also home to the gaol in which Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for homosexuality and where he composed his famous ballad. These days it is mainly a remand prison for young offenders.
Reading is at the heart of an attractive area of the Thames Valley, sitting across the confluence of the Thames and Kennet rivers amid green rolling hills, thatched cottages and pubs. It is surrounded by numerous small towns and villages such as Thatcham, Pangbourne and Streatley, many of great age and beauty. Much of it is now part of the Chilterns 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 routes, both rail and road. 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 eye-brow locally. Despite its size and population it is not technically a city. To become a city in the UK you need a royal charter. To gain a charter the town used to have to contain a cathedral and due to Reading having such a large abbey a cathedral was never built there, the law was changed in 1889 however many people still believe this to be the case. Charters are now granted periodically with Reading losing out, most recently to Newport, Wolverhampton and to the locals most annoyingly to their south coast rivals Brighton and Hove. However none of this has stopped the council pretending, with lots of new signs directing people to the “city centre” and all buses (Reading Buses is owned and operated by Reading Borough council and controls nearly all routes in and around Reading) for a while displayed “City Centre” as their destination, although this has now changed to "central Reading".
Reading has become more famous recently as the local football team was promoted to the Premier League, in part at least thanks to benefactor, John Madejski, who built the Madejski Stadium located south of the town. This has raised awareness of the town throughout the United Kingdom. The promotion also led to a resurgence in the south of the town with new commercial properties, new housing developments and new superstores such as B&Q and CostCo.
The city centre has been transformed over the past 10 years with a modern shopping centre called The Oracle. Further developments and new apartment blocks are being built.
Reading is well served by London's collection of airports. For travellers coming directly to Reading, the most convenient (in reducing order of convenience) are:
- Heathrow Airport is about 40 minutes drive straight down the M4 (westbound) motorway. Alternatively it is linked directly to Reading rail station by the RailAir express bus service running every 20 minutes or so and taking about an hour and, indirectly, by the Heathrow Connect train service (change at Hayes).
- Luton Airport is about 50 minutes drive away via the M1 (southbound), M25 (westbound) and M4 (westbound) motorways. Luton Airport Parkway connects the airport to Kings Cross station every 35 minutes, the tube to London Paddington station and then follow the directions below.
- Gatwick Airport is about an hours drive away via the M23 (northbound), M25 (clockwise) and M4 (westbound) motorways. There is a through train service to Reading from a rail station in the airport terminal complex, running twice an hour and taking a hour.
- Stansted Airport is about 90 minutes drive away via the M11 (southbound), M25 (anti-clockwise) and M4 (westbound) motorways. By train you will need to catch a Stanstead Express train to London Liverpool Street station, the tube to London Paddington station, then follow the directions below.
Reading is served by inter-city and regional train services from many different directions, including through services from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Oxford, Plymouth, Exeter, Cornwall, Portsmouth, Southampton, Swansea, Winchester and York as well as 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 minutes. There are other stopping services from both Paddington and London Waterloo, but these take so much longer it isn't normally worth considering them.
Train times can be found on the National Rail Planner or by calling 0845-748-4950 from anywhere in the UK.
National Express serve Reading with express bus (UK English:coach) services from around the country; advanced ticketing is necessary. Note that they serve a stop called Reading Coachway which sounds grand but is actually a drafty bus stop near M4 J12 with the only amenities being a nearby MacDonald's restaurant and a supermarket. You will need to catch a local bus or taxi (if you can find one) to take you into Reading. Buses to the station in the city centre are quite frequent during the week.
Be warned that the buses in Reading do not give change, so if all you have is a £20 note then you would be wise to change it by buying a newspaper or chocolate bar from the petrol station next to the bus stop. If you are planning to catch more than one bus within Reading then ask the driver for a busabout (day) ticket. This gives you unlimited travel within Reading for the rest of the day and through the night for less than the price of two single tickets. Currently, on a Reading bus, a daytime single fair is £1.70, and a daily busabout is £3.20. Concession and group tickets are also available on Reading Buses.
Reading 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 National Park and Ride at the Madejski stadium complex (just north of M4 J11 and well sign-posted) and catching the dedicated express bus from there.
The 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 centers , most (but not all, please check) hotels, pubs and restaurants without needing more than shoe leather.
Buses provide a moderately good way of getting around Reading itself (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) was extended to 24-hour operation in 2008, possibly with other major routes to follow.
- Reading Buses, telephone 0118 959-4000, provide service within Reading and some adjoining rural areas.
- Thames Travel, telephone 01491-837988 from within the UK or +44-1491-837988 from outside, provide services in other rural areas around Reading.
- Traveline, telephone 087-608-2-608 from within the UK, provide an impartial online travel planner and telephone query service for local bus services.
There are two sorts of 'taxis' operating in Reading, although only black cabs are strictly allowed to call themselves taxis:
- Black cabs (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.
- Private hire cars look like ordinary cars except they have a Reading Borough Council plate on the rear (don't even contemplate getting in one that doesn't). 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.
Whilst not as bad as either London or Oxford, Reading's roads can get very congested at peak periods. Especially if you aren't used to driving on the left, central Reading is probably best avoided.
On the other hand, a car is the 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.
If 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.
These maps can be found in any good bookshop in Reading (see 'Buy' section below), or can be bought online from the Ordnance Survey's web site.
Reading has several interesting sights to see within the central area.
- Reading Abbey Ruins & Forbury Gardens. These beautiful formal gardens were once part of Reading Abbey, and the ruins of the Abbey itself 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 recently restored to their former glory and reopened Spring 2005.
- Museum of Reading, Blagrave Street, . Open Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM; Su 11AM-4PM. Situated in 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. Free.
There are also many interesting things to see around Reading.
- Basildon Park, Lower Basildon (7 miles west of Reading on the A329; grid reference SU611782), telephone 984-3040, . Open Apr-Oct W-Su noon-5:30PM. This 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 currently 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). £4.70 (adult); £2.30 (child); National Trust members free.
- Mapledurham House and Watermill, Mapledurham (4 miles west of Reading on the north bank of the River Thames; grid reference SU766670), telephone 972-3350, . Open Sa-Su 2pm-5.30pm Easter-September. Mapledurham is a village with a special charm of it's own, set in the valley of the River Thames, below the Goring Gap. It's 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. Open Sa-Su 2pm-5.30pm Easter-September.
- Silchester Roman Town, Silchester (8 miles south east of Reading; grid reference SU625640),. Open every day sunrise-sunset. Known to the Romans as Calleva Atrebatum, Silchester 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, the amphitheater and an little mediaeval church. Away from the rivers that have dictated the area demographics, Silchester 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. Accessible by road or or catch a Reading Buses route 143 (see 'Get Around' section for contact details; ask to be dropped you at the Roman town; make sure you don't miss the last bus home). Free.
There are lots of things to do in and around Reading. You could try taking a river trip:
- Salters Steamers, telephone 01865-243421 from within the UK or +44-1865-243421 from outside, . Run day trips from Reading to Henley-on-Thames and return with 3 hours ashore in Henley (or you can return by train); 7 days a week from May to September. Also less frequent trips from Wallingford to Reading. Depart from outside the Riverside Restaurant just downstream of Caversham Bridge. £8.50-£11.
- Thames Rivercruise, telephone 948-1088, . Run 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. £3.50-£5.
Or there are many possible walks in the area:
- Thameside walk to Sonning. A very attractive walk can be had by leaving Reading on the Thames towpath from Reading Bridge and Caversham Lock (both about 5 mins 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 both 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 Tilehurst. Another attractive walk is to leave Reading on the Thames-side Promenade from Caversham Bridge (about 10 mins 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 in length.
- Views of the Thames, , a series of walks from Goring Railway Station (15 minutes by train or 10 miles by road). The walks are from 4 to 10 miles in length and a leaflet is available by calling 01844-271316 or from the website.
- The Marlow Donkey & River Walk, a 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. Walk description downloadable from website.
Reading 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 Festival. Even bigger than the Womad festival which used to be held in the town as well up until 2006 (now held near Malmsbury in Wiltshire  is the Reading Festival, held at the end of August (2008: August 22nd - 24th). This has had several names in its life, of which the most descriptive was probably the Reading Rock Festival; then up until last year the 'Carling Weekend Reading' although not surprisingly no-one ever called it this in real life, and this year we can expect to see it back to the Reading Festival Weekend. Headlining acts for 2008 include Rage against the machine, metallica and the killers.
Reading also hosts a number of smaller, community based events during the year :
- Reading Real Ale and Jazz Festival. (2007: 19th - 21st July).
- Water Fest. A variety of events and craft stalls wind their way through the Abbey ruins and along the Kennet and Avon canal. The event is a particular favourite with children (2005: 25th June).
Reading has a well established professional football team which until recently competed in the Barclay's Premier League. Relegated at the end of the 2007/2008 season, Reading FC now competes in the FA Championship with high hopes of a swift return to the top flight.
Reading also has long tradition of rugby, with many clubs in the town and surrounding areas. The three senior clubs of the town are Reading RFC, Reading Abbey RFC and Redingensians RFC.
In 2000 London Irish, a professional rugby union club with its administrative HQ in Sunbury, contracted to play their home matches at Reading FC's Madjeski stadium. Renewed in 2008, the contract is now extended until 2026. With a strong rugby heritage and a thriving Irish community, Reading has proved a good home for London Irish who beat the premiership attendance record in 2007 with over 23,000 people attending the annual St Patrick's Day match.
Reading is the home of The University of Reading which is ranked as one of the UK’s 10 most research-intensive universities and as one of the top 200 universities in the world. Reading University is based on a campus two miles from the city centre and provides a full set of university courses. Reading University enjoys a world-class reputation for teaching, research and enterprise.
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. Recently, 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. Although the University is spread across the Thames Valley, the University in Reading has 20,000 students alone.
Formerly Reading College and School of Arts and Design, TVU mergered with the College in 2004.
Reading is also the home of several commercial English language summer schools, including:
Reading is a significant commercial and information technology centre and if you have skills in these areas and the appropriate legal paperwork then finding a job should not be a problem. Reading also suffers from staff shortages in public service areas such as teaching or nursing, and campaigns are regularly run to attract overseas candidates for such posts. Otherwise there is the usual selection of jobs in pubs, restaurants, etc.
Reading 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.
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.
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 theraputic massage treatments, facials, manicures and pedicures.
Nearly 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 ATM's that are open 24x7. There are also clusters of stand alone ATM's in the Oracle Shopping Centre (see above) and the Rail Station.
The following restaurants are all within walking distance of central Reading.
- The Cerise Restaurant and Bar, The Forbury Hotel, 26 The Forbury (in city center), telephone 958-1234 or Freephone 0800 789 789, . Perhaps 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. Open Information needed. £30-50.
- Forbury's, opposite the above, 0118 957 4044, , is probably the best restaurant in Reading itself 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.
- London Street Brasserie at the foot of London Street, Tel 01189 505036  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 12pm-7pm every day. £30 - 350 including wine, a la carte
- Mya Lacarte, 5 Prospect Street, Caversham (in Caversham), 0118 9463 400 A 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 city centre for. Note that the address is in Caversham (there is also a Prospect Street in central Reading). £30 - £50 per head including wine
- Wok on Wheels Chinese takeaway
- Sweeney & Todd, 10 Castle Street (in city center), telephone 958-6466. A 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 tends to be a little sullen and although the delicious pies are made on site they seem to microwave them when you are eating in - best to take your pie away and pop it in the oven or eat it cold. It also has a real ale bar. Open: until 11pm; closed Su. £6-15.
- The Gulshan, 20-24 Station Hill (opposite rail station), telephone 958-9914. Despite being located 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. Open: information needed. £6-15.
- Bina Tandoori, 21 Prospect Street, Caversham, Telephone 946-2115, . Housed 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; 20 mins walk from city 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. Open: 12-2.30pm and 6.00-11.30pm. £10-25.
- The Griffin, 10-12 Church Road, Caversham (just over Caversham Bridge and turn left; 15 mins walk from city centre), telephone 947-5018, . Open M-Sa 11AM-11PM; Su 11AM-10:30PM (last food orders 1hr before close).A pub chain owned English pub, with a strong emphasis on traditional pub food favourites, vegetarian, fish and meat specialities. £6-20.
- Loch Fyne, Bear Wharf, Fobney Street (on River Kennet about 200yds west of the Oracle Centre), telephone 918-5850, . Open M–Sa 9am-10PM; Su 10AM-10PM. Housed 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. £10-25.
- Chronicles, 17-19 Valpy Street (in city center), telephone 950-4613, . Open M-F noon-10pm; Sa 6PM-11PM; Su noon-6PM. A very cosy and atmospheric cellar restaurant, serving excellent traditional and modern British cuisine. £15-35.
- Bel and the Dragon, Blakes Lock (just outside the centre), . This is a friendly restaurant with a good atmosphere and reasonable food. Around £25.
Many 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.
- Blue Cobra, High Street, Theale (4 miles west of Reading on the A4; grid reference SU714644), telephone 930-4040, . Open M-Sa noon-2:30pm and 6pm-11pm. This award winning restaurant is in Theale's attractive High Street. Fresh ingredients are used to create contemporary dishes with influences from Thailand, Bangladesh and south Asia.
- Cross Keys, Church Road, Pangbourne (4 miles west of Reading on the A329; grid reference SU765634), telephone 984-3268, . Open M-Sa 11AM-11PM and Su noon-10:30PM. This 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. £10-£20.
- Great House, Thames Street, Sonning-on-Thames (4 miles east of Reading on the River Thames; grid reference SU758756), telephone 969-2277, . Housed 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 with Mediterranean and pacific rim influences; whilst the Ferryman offers a barbecue menu on summer weekends. Open daily for lunch and dinner. £20-£30.
See also the Goring and Streatley article, for details of several other restaurants in these attractive twin villages which are some 8 miles west of Reading on the A329.
Like most English towns and cities of this size, Reading has many pubs and bars, for a complete guide see Reading Pubs In the downtown area, there is a large concentration of formulaic wine bars and cafe bars around the east end of Friar Street and Station Road. Whilst reasonably civilised at lunch times, this area becomes a magnet for the youth of the region in the evening (esp F-Sa) who get tanked up before hitting the club scene. If that is your bag, grab it, otherwise steer clear.
Over the last decade Reading has become increasingly popular with young and affluent urbanites, many of whom have moved to Reading from London due to the cheaper house prices and excellent rail links between Reading central station and London - Paddington. The huge influx of young people has meant that many pubs, bars and clubs have appeared to cater for the needs of Readings young cosmopolitan and up for it crowd. The University itself is home to some 17,000 students. The student population patronises a good selection of the town centres pubs and bars, while the young pros keep the best wine and cocktail bars alive, a useful and detailed guide is drinksinreading which lists many of Readings 200 + pubs and bars.
Reading has a relaxed atmosphere and a unique and vibrant night-life. Discerning drinkers and bar-owners alike have given rise to Readings new found reputation for being a lively and sophisticated place for a night out.Due to the compact size and nature of Reading it’s very easy to get around, most of the pubs, bars and clubs are in close proximity to each other, which has meant that like, many other uk’s towns and citys there is a circuit of pubs, bars and y.p.v’s (young persons venues) all battling it out with one another, and vying for your business, drinks promotions, happy hours and b.o.g.o.f (buy one get one free) are now common place 7 nights a week.
The town's grown up between two waterways: the Thames riverside to the north, and Kennet canal side to the south. The Thames riverside's next to the posh suburb of Caversham where you'll find a handful of well-established pubs and bars overlooking the water. The Kennet runs underneath the town centre, alongside the Oracle mall; chain and independent bars jostle for the best view on its banks.
To the east and west are another two distinct areas. East Reading used to be big with with Quaker movement, so it was dry until the students moved in. A couple of pubs have cropped up since, not to mention the students' union. West Reading is a bit grimy, we'll admit, but it's definitely one to watch. It's very cosmopolitan – 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.
It's hard to ignore Reading's appeal when you start to explore. There's plenty to do between drinks, too. There's the Oracle mall, home to a big House of Fraser store as well as countless other smaller shops. There's also boat-trips along the river and great live music to be enjoyed.
- The Butler. For a central pub that still retains the flavour of an old-fashioned English pub, try The Butler, Chatham Street (just west of downtown). Here you will find bare wooden floors and decent beer and a mixed (age/race/sex) but reasonably adult crowd of regulars.
- The Corn Store. If you are after a quiet and comfortable bar, with good, friendly service and away from the crowds, try The Corn Store, Vastern Road (opposite the large pink office block just east of Reading station). The bar is at ground level, with El Gusto Italian restaurant upstairs. The bar staff are unusually friendly and helpful, and free food often appears.
- The Hobgoblin at the east end of Broad Street. This favorite among locals serves a huge and often changing (4000 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.
- The Nags Head on Russell Street, just off the town-end of Oxford Road. A new rival to the Hobgoblin as Reading's premier real-ale pub with 12 ales on tap, limited but excellent food (including pies from Sweeney Todd) and a convivial atmosphere.
There are a large number of hotels and guest houses in the Reading area, but sadly prices are often akin to those in London and getting a room can sometimes be difficult.
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.
- The Crowne Plaza Caversham Bridge, Richfield Avenue Caversham. Telephone 925-9988. This 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.
For guest houses and bed and breakfasts, you may be better off contacting the Reading Tourism accommodation service on 956-6226.
Reading's area code (for landline numbers) is 0118 when dialed from within the UK or +44118 from outside the UK.
Cellphone coverage is generally good within the city and surrounding area; not surprisingly as most UK cellphone companies are headquartered in the vicinity.
If 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. Alternatively there are many WiFi hot spots in and around Reading and WiFinder provides a register.
There are also several places that offer web and other internet access if you are travelling without a laptop. These include:
- 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.
- Caversham Library, Telephone: 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 (6$(USD)/4.50€) /hour. Open M-Sa 7:30AM-9PM; Su 10AM-7PM.
Reading is perfectly safe to visit, and most visits should be trouble-free. That said, Reading does have an above-average violent crime rate, and also high rates of drug-related crime. Be careful not to get drawn into any confrontations, as these have been known to turn nasty (knife crime being pretty high in Reading). Also be careful if in the town centre on a Friday or Saturday night - binge drinking, and the associated violent crime, is on the rise in the UK, and Reading is no exception. Districts immediately west of the town centre, particularly the area around the Oxford Road, can be very unsafe areas after dark. 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 steer clear. Suburban areas with seedy reputations include Whitley,Coley,Southcote and Newtown.
- 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. Interestingly, St. Anne’s Road does not appear on the 1882 OS map, and Priest Hill was then known as Priest Lane.
- Goring and Streatley -- a pair of Thameside villages with great views and country walks
- Henley-on-Thames -- an attractive Thameside town within half an hours drive
- London -- only half an hour on a fast train
- Oxford -- a nearby Thameside city with its famous university
- Bristol -- a large port city on the river severn and the unofficial capital of the west country (approx 1 hr 15 mins by train)
- Bath -- a historic resort (spa) town and World Heritage Site (approx 1hr by train)
- 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
This page was last edited at 14:49, on 27 March 2009 by Owain. Based on work by Gareth Vaughan, Wikitravel user(s) Morph, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.