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16 Things to do in Reading, Berkshire: A Local’s Guide

After being named one of 2019’s best places in the UK to live and work, Reading has grown in popularity for both residents and visitors. Plus, being just 30 minutes away from London on the train, Reading makes a great day trip from London and other nearby towns. Recent investment in the town has introduced lots of new attractions, restored historic sights and lots of other fun things to do in Reading.

From shopping and eating at The Oracle, to visiting vineyards and strolling along the River Thames, this list of what to do in Reading will help you find plenty to keep you entertained in and around the local area. 

Top things to do in Reading with kids

See the animals at Beale Park

Just north of Reading, Beale Park is a wildlife park set in 30 acres of land along the River Thames. A visit here is one of the best things to do in Reading with kids, as there’s plenty to keep them entertained. Let them loose in the playground and take a trip on the mini railway, to animal enclosures holding lemurs, emus, deer and monkeys, as well as numerous exotic birds and reptiles. 

Though nothing beats seeing animals in their natural habitat, Beale Park has a number of conservation projects and breeding programmes that have successfully reintroduced endangered species into the wild. Not bad for a little wildlife park in Reading, is it?

Animals in Beale Park, one of the best things to do in Reading with kids

Spend a day in Wellington Country Park

Wellington Country Park is one of my favourite places to visit with kids in Reading. It’s a bit of a drive outside the centre – it’s technically in Hampshire! – but there’s so much to do there to make it worth the journey. You can take a stroll around the huge lake, play mini-golf, pet animals in the petting barn, let the kids loose in the playgrounds and enjoy barbecues in the dedicated picnic areas. 

If that sounds like too much to do in one day, it’s also possible to stay overnight in Wellington Country Park’s campsite. The campsite is set in a peaceful forest, away from the main park, meaning you won’t be disturbed until the bird calls in the morning.

The park hosts various seasonal events throughout the year, including themed summer festivals, Easter Egg hunts and Halloween parties.

Stroll around Dinton Pastures Country Park

Dinton Pastures Country Park is a peaceful area of woodland and meadow in east Reading. It has a giant lake in the centre and plenty of walkways and forest trails to get lost in, making it a popular spot for local dog walkers and runners. You’ll also find families going for a stroll and taking advantage of the country park’s facilities, including the play park, mini-golf and boat hire in the lake. 

The Dragonfly Cafe is open all year round for refreshments, but there are also catering vans in the summer alongside hammocks and deckchairs to make the most of the warm weather. The park is free to enter but you need to pay for parking if you come by car. 

Outdoor attractions in Reading

Stroll along the Kennet & Avon Canal

Another outdoor attraction in Reading, the Kennet & Avon canal runs from Bristol, through the centre of Reading, and out to join the River Thames on its way to London. It’s possible to walk the entire length, but you might prefer to stroll smaller sections of the canal, stopping at the lovely villages along the way to admire the scenery and drink at the pubs…

Stroll along the Kennet & Avon Canal - one of the best things to do in Reading

Relax in Caversham Court Gardens

Another bit of greenery close to the centre of Reading, Caversham Court Gardens is set on the River Thames so you can watch the rowers row, runners run and walkers walk. There are some beautiful old trees and pretty flowers that bloom in spring, but it’s just as lovely in autumn when the leaves turn golden and crunchy.

It’s a lovely place to enjoy some peace and quiet in its well-maintained gardens, away from the hustle and bustle of Reading’s town centre. The gardens host outdoor cinema, music and theatre events in the summer too. 

Caversham Court Gardens - one of the best things to do in Reading

Spend time at Forbury Gardens

Forbury Gardens is a haven of tranquillity in Reading town centre, thanks to the beautifully maintained lawns, plants, trees and fountains. In the centre of the gardens, there’s a giant lion statue as a memorial to the local soldiers that fought in World War II. 

In summer, it’s a great place to go for a picnic. In winter it’s host to a mini winter wonderland, which is more like a funfair than a Christmas market, but it’s still better than nothing! The rest of the time, it’s remarkably peaceful and a nice place to just sit and ponder. 

Historic things to do in Reading

Visit Basildon Park

Basildon Park is a National Trust property just a few miles outside of Reading. It’s a Georgian mansion that dates back to the 18th century, having been lovingly restored in the 1950s with many original features. 

Visit Basildon Park - one of the best things to do in Reading

Once you’ve paid your entrance fee, you’re free to explore the Manor House and its grand reception rooms in all their glory. If the house looks familiar, that’s probably because many of the interior shots of Downtown Abbey were filmed here! 

Outside, the manicured gardens and nearby woodland are ripe for exploring in all seasons, but especially spring and summer. In the warmer months, Basildon Park’s beautiful grounds are filled with visitors picnicking and playing games. 

Go back in time at Reading Abbey Quarter

After being closed for a decade, the Reading Abbey ruins have recently reopened after a huge investment in the area. Did you know that Henry I was buried here in 1136? That’s just one of the reasons to visit this Reading attraction and find out more about the fascinating history of the town and its royal connections. 

Though there are only crumbling remnants of the Abbey’s walls left, the grounds are free to explore at your leisure. Make sure to read the boards dotted about the site to discover how it would have looked in the 12th century and how it has changed since. 

Visit the ruins at Silchester Roman Village

Silchester is a village a short drive outside of Reading. Its ancient city walls and amphitheatre date back to Roman times, but were abandoned since the 6th or 7th century. The boards around the Roman village will help you imagine what it used to be like in the days of Julius Caesar, and how the ruins were uncovered by archaeologists. 

Entry is free during daylight hours, so spend a couple of hours wandering around the site. You may even meet the resident alpacas that live in a nearby pen. Just remember to pack some wellies if it has been raining. The place can get very muddy indeed…

Central Reading attractions

See a replica Bayeux Tapestry at Reading Museum

It turns out Reading has quite a fascinating history that I wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for Reading Museum. The museum is set in the Town Hall, which is an impressive building in itself. It houses artefacts from Reading’s industrial times, where it was famous for biscuits, beer and seeds, and there’s even a replica of the Bayeux Tapestry for real history buffs.

Reading Museum - one of the best things to do in Reading

Entry to the museum is free but £5 donations are recommended to help maintain the museum. Closed Sundays, Bank Holidays and most Mondays except during school half terms. 

Try your luck in an Escape Room

There are plenty of different escape rooms to try in Reading. From an Alice in Wonderland themed room at Escape Hunt, to a Great Fire of London themed room at TimeTrap Escape Rooms. Each one is different, so why not try them all?

Whichever you choose, an escape room in Reading is a great way to spend an hour testing your problem-solving skills and dexterity!

Go shopping

Reading is well-known as a place to indulge in a spot of retail therapy ever since The Oracle opened in 1999. With over 80 stores and well-known brands, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for here. 

Outside, the Kennet & Avon Canal runs through The Oracle’s Riverside area, which is also a great place to eat, drink and while away the time. The riverside often hosts seasonal events and catering vans, including a tiki bar in the summer and an alpine lodge in winter. 

The Oracle - one of the best things to do in Reading

Food & drink to try in Reading

Explore a vineyard at Stanlake Park Wine Estate

Stanlake Park Wine Estate is a working vineyard and winery in Twyford, just outside Reading. Without a doubt, a visit here is my favourite thing to do in Reading. I recommend it to everyone, even if you live miles away. Get a taxi! Book a hotel! Make the most of the wine! It’s worth it. 

If you book onto a tour, you’ll explore the vineyard, the grape press, the fermentation area and fizz room, all the while learning about how the wine is made. At each stop of the tour, you’ll be given a taste of eight different wines produced on-site.

The tour guide, Ruth, is fantastic as she has a completely no-nonsense approach to wine. Throughout the tour, she’ll dispell some common myths about what makes wine good quality, and why you shouldn’t knock English wine ‘til you’ve tried it here. 

Stanlake Park Wine Estate - one of the best things to do in Reading

Eat at Wellington Farm Shop

Part of the Wellington estate, Wellington Farm Shop serves delicious breakfasts, Sunday lunches and fresh coffee in its cafe. You’ll also find local ingredients and organic produce for sale in the shop. Staff are always really welcoming and friendly, even on the busiest mornings in summer. It can be tricky to get a table if you arrive during peak hours, but you can book in advance or turn up early and try your luck. There are also outdoor tables so you will usually find somewhere to eat in the summer. 

Outside, you can meet the resident chickens and pigs that live on the grounds, and there’s also a playground to keep the kids busy too. 

Relaxing things to do in Reading

Unwind at Nirvana Spa

If you’re looking for relaxing things to do in Reading, Nirvana Spa is a great option. The beautiful building houses multiple swimming pools, relaxation suites and blissful spa facilities in palatial surroundings. Guests can choose from a selection of packages to suit their needs, from massages and beauty treatments to facials and extra time in the floatation pool. 

Nirvana Spa also has a number of different places to enjoy restaurant-quality food and drink, so take your pick from poolside dining from the comfort of your lounger, afternoon teas in the courtyard, hot buffets and a salad bar or a delicious a la carte menu in the restaurant. 

However you choose to spend your time at Nirvana Spa, you’re certain to leave feeling much more relaxed than when you arrived!

Swim and eat at the Thames Lido

The Thames Lido offers sheer indulgence in the heart of Reading along the banks of the River Thames. Its outdoor swimming pool is heated up to a comfortable 25 degrees, all year round, and has been lovingly restored after it first opened to the public in 1902. 

As well as admiring the Thames Lido’s beautiful architecture, guests can book packages that combine access to the swimming pool and spa with meals in the highly-acclaimed tapas bar or restaurant. Booking in advance is highly recommended. 

It’s not your typical public pool as, unless you’re a member, you will only be able to swim during the non-member swimming sessions between 1-4 pm Monday-Friday, unless you’ve booked a different package in advance.

Where to stay in Reading, Berkshire

If you don’t live in Reading or nearby, you’ll need to find somewhere to stay! Luckily for you, there are a number of good hotels in and around Reading city centre for you to choose between. Here are just some of my favourites:

  • Ibis Reading Centre – as the name suggests, the ibis is located in the heart of the town centre. It’s just a few minutes walk from the train station and The Oracle, making it one of the best-located places to stay in Reading. Rooms are simple but offer everything you’ll need for an overnight stay.
  • pentahotel Reading – pentahotels are a chain of funky hotels, known for their bold interior design and the Pentalounge concept, combining reception, bar and lounge. Rooms at the Reading branch are comfortable, clean and contain satellite TV and Google Chromecast to keep you entertained. Some even have pinball machines and retro arcade games!
  • Malmaison Reading – The Malmaison Reading is said to be set in the building of the oldest surviving railway hotel in the world. If that’s not enough to get you booking, you might enjoy this design hotel’s striking interiors and its super central location, just across the street from the train station.
  • De Vere Wokefield Park – the De Vere Wokefield Park is set in 350 acres of manicured lawns and landscaped gardens. As well as comfortable bedrooms, the hotel boasts a golf course, a swimming pool and a number of bars and restaurants too. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a busy day out in Reading.

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Whether you live locally or are visiting the area for work or fun, these Reading attractions are sure to keep you busy! What are your favourite things to do in Reading? Let me know in the comments below!

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