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What you need to know about Reading

Reading has plenty going for it – it’s just half an hour from London by train, and based in beautiful Berkshire within tantalising reach of some of the UK’s most beautiful countryside, whether you fancy messing about on the Thames or exploring one of the many National Trust properties nearby.

FACT FILE:Reading

Currency GBP (Great British Pounds)
LanguagesEnglish
TimezoneGMT

The town itself has a long and fascinating history that dates back to Saxon times, and you can uncover the city’s heritage in the ruins of Reading Abbey or the lock gates of Kennet & Avon canal. With great shopping, plenty of places to eat and drink and a thriving business scene, Reading is definitely a big town with big ideas. 

Food and drink

You’ll find lots of variety in Reading – the riverside area has a surprising number of stylish restaurants, cafes and bars, where you can enjoy great food while you relax and watch the boats go by.

The city centre has all the usual high street chains, as well as some impressive tapas and sushi restaurants that will please a more sophisticated palate.

If pies are your thing, we’d recommend a trip to Sweeney & Todd, a Reading institution that’s been serving mouth-watering homemade pies in a friendly and relaxed environment for over 30 years. They also have a shop, so you can take a little slice of Reading home with you!  

Shopping

If you fancy splashing out on a spot of shopping, the best place to start in Reading is The Oracle. This modern shopping complex has over 80 high street and designer stores, a cinema multiplex and lots of great restaurants along the riverside. The shops are open until 8pm during the week, so you can make an evening of it with dinner and a movie too.

For department store lovers, Reading is one of the few places in the UK that has all four major stores (Debenhams, John Lewis, House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer) within a few minutes’ walk of each other.

If independent stores are more your thing, you won’t want to miss a poke about in the historic Harris Arcade, an old Georgian townhouse that was converted to a shopping emporium in 1930 and still looks much the same today. It’s full of lovely shops selling art, jewellery, books, flowers, vintage clothing and music. 

Local businesses

Despite being so close to London, more people commute into Reading than commute out, which reflects what an important commercial centre it has become over recent years.

As well as financial services companies like ING Direct, Reading is the UK’s main hub for technology companies - you’ll find the UK headquarters of companies like Microsoft and Oracle in Reading, along with many other tech firms like Agilent, Cisco, Ericsson, Symantec and Verizon. 

Getting around

Reading is a breath of fresh air when it comes to access and getting around – it’s just 25 miles from Heathrow with direct bus connections, and is a major junction point for local rail services, with London only half an hour away by train. If you’re driving, it’s just ten minutes off the M4, with plenty of parking in the town centre.

Bus services in and around Reading are frequent and pretty good value, and there are plenty of taxi firms in town to help you get around. The town centre itself is best explored on foot, particularly if you want to take a gentle stroll along the Thames or the Kennet & Avon Canal.

If two wheels are more your style, there’s an on-street bike scheme called Readybike (see what they did there?), with 200 bikes across 29 locations in the city. 

Things to watch out for

You might want to avoid Reading on the August bank holiday weekend, as well as the few days before and after, when Reading hosts its annual music festival. Roads are jam packed, you won’t find a hotel (or serviced apartment!) for love nor money, and the town will be full of music fans. If, however, you’re going to the festival, have a great time!

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Articles about Reading