St Albans is a rather pleasing city – in terms of size and population, it’s really a historic market town that earns the honour of city status due to its ancient and beautiful Norman cathedral. But the city’s location only 19 miles north of London makes it a popular commuter town, with all the shops, bars, restaurants and events that come with a diverse population of long-time locals mingled with city workers and ex-Londoners with young families. The result is a charming and welcoming English country town with big city ideas and a delightfully cosmopolitan feel.
Where to stay in St Albans
Where to stay in St Albans
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Food and drink
St Albans has plenty of good places to eat and drink, boosted by the growing number of commuters and migrant Londoners. The city centre has everything from cosy restaurants to award-winning eateries serving delicious local produce, and you’ll find plenty of choice from modern British cuisine to French, Italian, Green, Thai, Moroccan, Lebanese and Japanese. St Albans is also the home of the Campaign for Real Ale, so it’s no surprise that the city is home to some outstanding real ale pubs, and hosts a huge CAMRA beer festival every year.
If you prefer independent stores and high street browsing to indoor shopping malls, then St Albans is a lovely place for some relaxed shopping. The historic city centre is a great place to take a stroll, with everything from high street names to speciality boutiques, delis and gift shops. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the city centre plays host to one of the biggest markets in the south east, with over 160 stalls selling everything from local veg and wholefoods to household goods and clothes. St Albans market has been running since the 9th century, so you’ll be in good company!
St Albans is a popular town for small businesses and start-ups, but it’s also the home of several larger businesses in the management consultancy, legal and financial sectors. You’ll find companies like Deloitte, Aecom, PwC, Premier Foods, Logica and Aon Hewitt are based in St Albans, as well as two renowned environmental research centres - Rothamsted Research and the Building Research Establishment (BRE).
St Albans is just off the M1 and M25, so it’s easy to drive to and has plenty of parking in the city centre. There are two train stations in the city, with London St Pancras just 22 minutes away by train, and a direct line to Bedford, Gatwick airport and Brighton too, with London Luton and London Heathrow airports both just a short drive away. Once you’re here, you’ll find you can walk from one side of the city to the other in an hour, so it’s a nice city for a wander. You can also take one the city buses, or pick up at a taxi at the main railway station or on St Peter’s Street.
Things to watch out for
If you visit St Albans in late September/early October, chances are the 13-day St Albans and Harpenden Food and Drink Festival will be taking place, starting with the CAMRA beer festival and ending with the Festival Awards. If you love real ale and good local food, it’s definitely not to be missed!