For a place of its size, few English towns have quite as many strings to their bow as Reading. Lining the Thames and criss-crossed by a network of waterways, you can expect postcard-perfect scenes at every turn. Though it may sit in the shadow of the capital, Reading is a destination in its own right, with historic sites, museums, festivals and parks aplenty. So, if you’re on a whistle stop tour of this Berkshire town and want to get straight to the best of the best, read on for our ultimate 48-hour itinerary.
Day one: your first day in Reading
Grab your morning caffeine at Coffee Under Pressure
Boost your energy for the day ahead with a quick stop at Coffee Under Pressure. Trains to Reading pull in at the town’s main station, and a branch of this much-loved local coffee joint awaits you within just a minute’s walk of here. Whatever your usual order, you can cosy up in the café’s Scandi-style interior or grab a cup to go.
Take a walk in Forbury Gardens
Beautiful green spaces are undeniably one area where Reading really excels. Just four minutes from the coffee shop, the whimsical Forbury Gardens is a Victorian town green, making it one of Reading’s most charming and historical parks.
Thankfully the years since its creation have been kind, and with a recent restoration of its most impressive structures, Forbury Gardens looks as elegant today as ever. Stop by the bandstand in summer and if you’re lucky, you might just catch a music group in action. Light lunches and delicious ice creams can be picked up at the kiosk, while the Maiwand Lion statue is a true town landmark.
Explore Reading Abbey’s ruins
If you’re looking for heritage, Reading certainly doesn’t come up short. Among the very best things to do in Reading is a stroll through the remnants of the town’s historic abbey, with more than 900 years of history for you to follow in the steps of.
The quarter that surrounds the ruins is punctuated by pretty lawns and several museums, marking this area out as Reading’s cultural heart. Depending on the route you take, it’s just 5 to 10 minutes from Forbury Gardens.
Lunch at London Street Brasserie
By now you’ve surely worked up an appetite after all your exploring. Just five minutes on from the Abbey Ruins, London Street Brasserie comfortably ranks among the best eateries in Reading.
With a cosy spot nestled right up against the River Kennet, the a la carte selection here combines the very best flavours from home and the continent. Think delicious halibut steak on the bone with Scottish clams, pink carved duck breast and dauphinoise potato, topped off with a take-home box of LSB fudge. And that’s before we mention the best-in-town Sunday roasts.
Visit the Museum of English Rural Life
Just a 13-minute stroll south of the brasserie is one of southern England’s most unique museums. While it may be a lesser-known attraction compared with the town’s big tourist draws, this fascinating exhibit charts the history of rural English life through the ages. Family-friendly and with plenty to learn along the way, it’s easily one of the best things to do with kids in Reading.
Dinner at The Corn Stores
After an afternoon of artefact hunting at MERL, it’s time to tuck into some delicious dinner. Via a 15-minute stroll back north towards Reading station, you’ll reach the rich, rustic, swish interiors of The Corn Stores. Of course, the style doesn’t stop there, with a down-to-earth British menu that comes with all the flourishes and trimmings. Mouth-watering steaks, Cornish cod, confit pork belly – you name it, they serve it.
Day two: your second day in Reading
Break your fast at Workhouse Coffee
After a good night’s rest, we hope you’ll be up and raring to see whatever else Reading has to offer. But if you do need a little help getting into the swing of things, a latte and a pastry from Workhouse Coffee should fulfil the brief. With bakery favourites fresh to go each morning, this spot will help you start your day right.
Stop by Basildon Park
Did we mention Reading’s plethora of green spaces? A light stroll through Basildon Park is the perfect way to spend a Sunday, with more than 400 acres of landscaped gardens centred around a stately home.
The property at this National Trust site dates back to the
century and was lovingly restored to full glory in the 1950s. You can get here by taking the 143 from Friar Street – close to Workhouse Coffee – for 30 minutes until you reach Goring.
Lunch at The Shed
All that walking will have worked up an appetite! Thankfully, you won’t have much further to go once the return bus drops you off. This family-run sandwich spot is just a couple of minutes down the road, with enough options on the boards to keep every member of your group happy. From golden sourdough toasties to colourful salad boxes – you'll be spoilt for choice!
Afternoon stroll on the Kennet & Avon Canal Walk
If you can’t get enough of all the picture-perfect scenery reading has to offer, a wander down the Kennet & Avon Canal will be just the ticket. Sure, you won’t be covering all 87 miles in a single day and ending up by the Bristol Channel, but that’s not to say the stretches close to town aren’t wonderful in isolation. Why not see what wildlife you can spot as you count your way along the bridges?
Dinner at Valpy Street Bar & Bistro
Your 48 hours in Reading may be coming to an end, but Valpy Street Bar & Bistro should help leave a lasting impression. The menus here change seasonally to make use of the finest local ingredients, so you can always expect something a little different. Orange and maple braised lamb shank, sesame crusted sea trout, and carpaccio of beef are just some of the highlights. A word of warning – expect to stick around for the full three courses!
Given the restaurant’s close proximity to Reading train station where you can catch Reading to London trains, you won’t have to travel far once you’re nicely fed.
After dinner drinks at Milk Bar
It’s only right you wash down dinner and toast your trip with a tipple or two. A must for fun things to do in Reading for adults, Milk Bar is a quirky little cocktail spot with just the right amount of atmosphere. In fact, it’s the only independent venue of its type in town, so pop down and see what catches your eye among their collection of rare rums and self-invented concoctions.
There’s so much to love about this Berkshire town, and thanks to the South Western Railway’s network, trains to Reading are easy to come by. Plan your trip in advance and book your tickets online, with a range of ticket types available to ensure you get the best price and most convenient way to travel. Looking for an even bigger saving? Check which railcards and discounts you may be eligible for.