St Albans is a charming market town, built where the ancient Roman city of Verulamium once flourished. Twice weekly markets, and sites from the city's medieval and Roman past are among the attractions in this picturesque Herfordshire town. St Albans is located a short train journey from London, and makes a great day trip from the capital.
St Albans Cathedral
Set in the heart of the city, St Albans Cathedral is the main attraction. It is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain, and contains a mix of architectural styles from its many centuries of life. The site, which includes the shrine of St Alban, Britain's first saint, started life as a monastic Abbey, before gaining Cathedral status in 1877. It has the longest nave of any cathedral in the country, and unlike most other cathedrals, is also used as a parish church.
A small donation is expected for entry, and limited tower tours, which should be booked in advance, are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The Clock Tower, located close to the market area, is the only surviving medieval town belfry in England. Magnificent views of the historic city await those who climb the 93 steps to the top. Take time to gather you bearings and look out over the narrow streets, tiled rooftops and beautiful Hertfordshire countryside.
The tower is open at weekends and on bank holidays, and costs just £1 to enter. The stairs are very narrow, and may be difficult for some to climb.
Verlamium Park and Roman Ruins
Verulamium Park, a short walk from the cathedral, covers the site of the ancient Roman city of Verulamium. It is also a popular recreational area, with a mini-golf course, lakes, tennis courts, and large grass areas suitable for a variety of activities.
The Hypocaust, in the centre of the park, is a well preserved example of Roman underfloor heating covered by a mosaic. Other examples of mosaics can be found alongside other Roman treasures in the nearby Verulamium Museum. Part of the original Roman town wall can also be viewed at the park, and the Roman Theatre, a short walk away, is among the best preserved examples in Britain.
Ye Old Fighting Cocks
Between the Cathedral and the park on Abbey Mill Lane is Ye Old Fighting Cocks, reported to be England's oldest licensed inhabited pub, and a popular refreshment point for tourists.
There are colourful street markets in the town centre on Wednesdays and Saturdays. A variety of stalls sell a full range of goods, but it is a particularly good place to buy fresh bread, fruit and vegetables. The market was established over 1000 years ago, and is one of the largest in the South East.
Other things to do
Other attractions include the Museum of St Albans, the tranquil Municipal Gardens and Clarence Park. The narrow streets host a range of independent shops, and the city boast more than 100 restaurants, coffee shops and bistros. Butterfly World, 15 minutes drive south of the city, is well worth a visit, as is nearby Gardens of the Rose. Other attractions in easy reach of St Albans include Heartwood Forest, and the villages of Wheathampstead, Redbourne and Harpenden.