Visit Reading and Forbury Gardens are one of the first places you will encounter, This brilliant public park...Forbury Gardens
Some might tell you that Reading is more noteworthy for what’s nearby than as a destination in its own right: posh paradise Windsor and Eton is just down the road, and the surrounding Berkshire villages probably have more combined disposable income kicking about than the rest of the country. But there’s plenty of weird and wonderful stuff within the town limits to make this jumping-off point for upper class England worth a look. A surprising affiliation with ornithology and zoology is just the start. Reading’s got a successful football team; a massive modern shopping mall; and enough bars, restaurants and quirky eateries to keep the weary traveller happy for days.
There are also the rivers: the Thames and the Kennet both flow through Reading, creating a wonderful swath of valley that harbours dozens of quint olde English villages complete with waterside inns and pubs. It’s not all business, you know.Read more
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Not content to lead the way in finance and green technology, Reading’s also become something of a byword for business travel in general. As one of the UK’s most important centres for commerce and technology outside of London, the town is rated highly for investment and economic success.
When you’re done with meetings for the day, head out to the riverbanks for some quiet reflection. Catch a movie at the Oracle’s monumental cinema complex. Or go for a pint in a village boozer. Gastro-pub legends Michel Roux Jr and Heston Blumenthal are both within hailing distance, but if the upmarket pub dining crowd isn’t your thing you’ll find plenty of locally brewed ale in more down to earth establishments.
Close enough to London to make getting in and out of the big smoke a doddle, but bang in the heart of rural Berkshire, Reading’s a smart choice for foreign investors. Heathrow airport is easier to get to from the town than from London itself, and the motorway connections with the M4, M25 and M3 make logistics equally simple. As a result, swanky rural business parks away from the town centre have spring up in mushroom-like numbers, offering a genuinely pleasant alternative to the urban office environment.
Reading’s countryside is incorporated into the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and there are plenty of outstanding walks and cycle rides within a short distance of the town itself.
The history of the area is visibly Tudor and Victorian, with plenty of surviving buildings and landscaped public spaces reminding the traveller of times past. Incidentally, the old Gaol (which is now closed) was the place where legendarily snippy wit and writer Oscar Wilde was confined for his sexuality. The Ballad of Reading Gaol was composed after his release from the prison, in 1897.
If you ever foment a successful rebellion in London, Reading is decreed by royal charter as the place where parliament will be moved. In the meantime, the continually evolving town centre serves as a national Business Improvement District, and the wealth of the area continues to grow. Come join the party.
Reading is very close to Heathrow Airport, which connects with the town either via the M4 or by an indirect Heathrow Connect train service. All other London airports are within easy reach of Reading too – but Heathrow is closest.
Reading’s large train station serves as an interchange for services out of London, and feeds trains onto lines that take them to Cardiff, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Cornwall, Portsmouth, Exeter, Southampton, York, Swansea and Oxford. Trains to and from London may be taken out of or into either London Paddington or London Waterloo.
National bus services stop at Reading Coachway, which isn’t half as nice as it sounds: you’ll need to disembark from the national coach and find a local bus service to get into town. Either the number 1 or the number 26 services will get you into the centre.
Driving to Reading is easy – the M4 runs right past the town, and connects it with the M25 and the M3. Parking can be expensive, and rush hour times congest the areas around the business parks as well as the middle of town. There is a park and ride service operating out of the car park at the Madjeski Stadium (home of Reading Football Club).
You can walk around central Reading with ease. Both of the major shopping centres are accessible on foot from the train station, as are the main historic attractions in the town. You’ll find a route to the Thames and Kennet banks as well. Whatever you need – a bite to eat, a pint – you can get it without hailing a cab.
Local bus and taxi
There’s a good local bus service running in and around Reading. Taxis are either black cabs or minicabs. In the latter case, you need to phone ahead and book your car. Black cabs may be hailed on the street.
Reading’s most venerable historical landmark, Reading Abbey, was destroyed in the 16th century thanks to Henry VIII’s famous disagreement with the church.
Reading Minster was reputedly founded as early as the 7th century, by St Birinus. Like the Abbey, the Minster was hard hit by Henry VIII – its altar was removed, and all stained glass and statues were sacked. However, unlike the Abbey the Minster remained standing and was restored in the 16th century. Some of the existing body of the church is composed of timbers and stones taken from the Abbey ruins, so there’s a sense in which the Abbey still lives on.
The other St Mary’s, which is on Castle Street, is a monumental listed building comprising Georgian and Victorian elements. The original church was built in 1798 – a later architect (local builder Henry Briant) tacked the imposing Corinthian-columned façade onto the front.
It was in the 18th and 19th centuries that Reading started on the road to financial success: first as an iron founding town, and a place filled with successful breweries. Throughout much of the 20th century, Reading was famed for three Bs: bulbs, biscuits and beer. These industries died out in the 1970s, or (in the case of the breweries) the early 21st century. Fortunately, widespread business investment had already turned the tide of economic misfortune for the town, and its modern architecture is a clear legacy of its important place in the worlds of green technology, bio pharmaceuticals and law, among others.
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