Located in Hertfordshire, just north of London, there are many amazing things to do in St Albans. Being a popular city to visit and explore, and hosting an abundance of cultural attractions, sites of historical interest, and fun activities for the whole family, there’s plenty to keep everyone busy.
St Albans is a vibrant city and popular destination for visitors, and not only because of its close proximity to the capital.
It also has a rich history, having been the site of an important Roman settlement. The ruins still visible of this two-thousand-year-old history, along with a stunning cathedral, are a big reason why tourists flock to this city.
Whether you’re looking for family activities, cultural hotspots to explore, or even date ideas in St Albans, check out this list of our top recommendations.
1. Look around St Albans market
On Wednesdays and Saturdays, you’ll find the market up and running along the main high street in the centre of St Albans.
On the second Sunday of each month, there’s also a farmer’s market if you’re more interested in looking at local produce, from fresh meats and cheeses to seasonal fruit and veg.
2. Climb up the clocktower
Right in the heart of St Albans is the medieval town belfry, which houses a 600 year old bell. When open, visitors can take the narrow staircase up to the top of the tower and get views of the city not available anywhere else.
The clocktower isn’t open over winter or during adverse weather conditions, so make sure to check the website for up-to-date information about opening times.
3. See the cathedral
St Albans Cathedral is steeped in history, with its roots dating back to a monastery founded in 793. Entry to the cathedral is free, and you can also join guided tours if you want to learn more about the impressive building.
Not only does it have a rich history, it’s a beautiful location to spend some time in the city and it’s one of the best cathedrals in England.
The surrounding grounds and gardens provide a serene backdrop, and you can sit with a picnic or ice cream on a sunny day. Take a short walk down the hill and you’ll find Verulamium Park, another great place to explore.
4. Visit St Albans Museum
After major renovations, the old St Albans Town Hall reopened in 2018 as the new St Albans Museum and Art Gallery. This impressive building now houses regularly-changing exhibitions displaying local art and history.
The cafe located inside is also a great option for lunch, especially as you can take your food into the old courtroom as a one-of-a-kind eating experience.
With general admission not costing a penny, it’s one of the best free things to do in St Albans and there’s no reason not to have a quick look-in if you have some time to spare.
5. Go to Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre
If you’re looking to do something active in St Albans, Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre offers a wide range of options.
You can use their swimming pool or gym, book one of their indoor courts, or even join a fitness class.
Look online to find the complete list of what’s available and how to book.
6. Walk around Verulamium Park
Situated roughly on the same site as the old Roman town, Verulamium, this park is a popular location for families, dog walkers, and other strollers to stretch their legs.
A play area, cafe, boating lake, and football fields are amongst the facilities it offers, as well as the lake with many birds ready to be fed. Not only is the park a great location for relaxing walks in St Albans, it’s also the site of a park run every Saturday morning.
From Verulamium Park, you can easily walk over to other nearby attractions, such as the Verulamium Museum, the Roman walls, Westminster Lodge, and St Albans Cathedral.
It’s one of the most popular parks in the city due to how beautiful and expansive it is, but if you’re looking for other green spaces to explore then read our blog about the best parks in St Albans.
7. See the Roman walls and mosaics
If you’re in Verulamium Park, you should take the time to see what remains of the Roman walls that protected this ancient settlement.
There are several sections of wall that still remain intact, but the most impressive can be found by heading southwest away from the lake by following the footpath to King Harry Lane.
Here, you’ll also see the foundations of London Gate, one of four gates that allowed travellers in and out of Verulamium. You’ll be able to identify the footprint of the gate which shows where merchants pass through, making it possible to imagine what it was like to have been there 2,000 years ago.
The park is also host to the hypocaust, an ancient form of underfloor heating. The building that it’s located in also houses a preserved Roman-era floor mosaic.
8. Visit Verulamium Museum
If the Roman walls have piqued your interest, Verulamium Museum is a necessary destination to learn more about Roman history.
The recreated Roman rooms and large-scale mosaics are impressive, as are the many Roman gold coins. There is also a more hands-on display to keep younger visitors entertained.
It’s the best place in the city to learn what everyday life was like as a Roman, and if you find the displays interesting you should definitely check out the nearby archaelogical sites of the Roman theatre and hypocaust.
9. Take a look at the Roman Theatre
Hidden out of the way is another must-see example of what the Romans left behind in the area. The ruins of this excavated Roman theatre date from around 140AD.
The theatre is host to an annual open-air festival, so if you’re in the area during summer make sure to look into what’s on.
The amphiheatre is one of the most well-preserved Roman ruins in this part of the country, and being near both St Michael’s Church and Verulamium Museum it’s worth stopping by to see.
10. Take a stroll down the Alban Way
The Alban Way is a former railway that’s now a useful route available to pedestrians and cyclists, running from St Albans all the way to Hatfield.
Depending on your plans for the day, consider taking an alternative path and stepping off the roads in favour of the Alban Way. One end finishes nearby to Westminster Lodge and Verulamium Park, so can be a useful path as well as a pleasant stroll.
It’s also a great way to get to green spaces like Longacres Park and other scenic spots to spend some time, such as the Watercress Wildlife Association.
11. Visit the Watercress Wildlife Association
Just off the Alban Way and alongside the River Ver is a nature reserve that’s looked after by the Watercress Wildlife Association.
This is a hidden gem in St Albans, with not many visitors knowing about it, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re a nature lover.
It provides the perfect way to escape the busy city centre and, despite not being very expansive, it’s a great spot to feel immersed in nature.
Wander across the walkways and through the verdant trails and you may be able to spot some of the local wildlife that live here. There are a number of benches too if you’re just after somewhere quiet to sit, relax, and enjoy the sound of birds chirping.
12. Walk along the River Ver
The River Ver is a small stream that flows through St Albans, and much of it can be followed on foot by using one of the paths and footpaths along the River Ver Trail.
Some of the best walks in St Albans involve following these routes along the scenic river, as it can provide a great way to explore some of the more rarely-visited parts of the city.
As well as flowing through Verulamium Park, you can follow the River Ver north or south through and out of St Albans, with each route offering some hidden and beautiful settings.
13. Have a drink at the UK’s oldest pub
When it comes to pubs, there are few places in the UK with more to offer than St Albans. In fact, some sources state that St Albans has a great density of pubs than anywhere else in the UK. There’s a reason it’s home to CAMRA.
If you’re looking for one pub in particular, it’s definitely worth try out Ye Olde Fighting Cocks. Claiming to be the oldest pub in the UK, it’s a landmark in St Albans and is steeped in history, having supposedly housed Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War.
14. See a film at the Odyssey
The Odyssey is a historic cinema dating back to 1908. It reopened in 2014 after a period of dereliction, and is now refurbished beautifully in a 1930s style design.
This single-screen cinema shows recent releases, international films, and classic movies. A bar also serves a range of tasty snacks and refreshments, so it’s a great venue for a memorable night out.
As the only cinema in St Albans (the next nearest is the Odeon in Hatfield), the Odyssey is a much-loved landmark in the city. If you have the time, take a look at what’s on. A night out here is one of the most romantic things to do in Hertfordshire for couples.
15. Watch a play at Abbey Theatre
While the Odyssey offers a great venue for film-lovers, fans of drama shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit Abbey Theatre.
St Albans may not have the same glitz and glamour of the West End in London, but this community theatre has long been a beloved part of the local community.
Abbey Theatre is home to the Company of Ten, a performance group founded in 1934 that continues to put on shows both here and across other venues.
The main stage has 230 seats, and they host a range of performances from classic plays to comedy shows.
16. Look around St Michael’s Church
As with any city with a long history, St Albans contains many old and impressive churches that are worth seeing for their beauty alone.
St Michael’s Church is a standout example in St Albans. With much of the building dating to the late 10th or early 11th, it’s a significant example of Anglo-Saxon architecture.
The church is also the burial place of several historical figures, including most notably the famous philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon.
It’s situated near Verulamium Park, just around the corner from Verulamium Museum, so if you’re nearby it’s definitely worth stopping by to see.
17. Visit Sopwell Nunnery
The ruins of Sopwell Nunnery can make for an interesting detour if your passing nearby. The ruins visible are the remains of a mansion that belonged to an adviser of Henry VIII.
The area around the ruins can be a great picnic spot, and they make for a great stop-off point if you’re been walking along the river Ver or down the Alban Way.
18. Relax at Sopwell House
If you’re looking for some R&R and you’re in the St Albans area, there’s no better option than Sopwell House. This luxury hotel offers accommodation, dining (including a brasserie, afternoon tea, and cocktail lounge), as well as a spa.
Whether you’re interested in trying out their sauna, steam room, state-of-the-art gym, or any of their other amenities, Sopwell House is the perfect place to relax.
19. Willows Activity Farm
If you’re looking for something to do with kids, Willows Activity Farm is the perfect place to spend a day as a family.
With hundreds of farm animals, various activities, and a maize maze, there’s plenty to do to keep the little ones entertained.
A cafe on-site can also provide all the snacks, lunch, and tea to keep you well-fueled, although you can bring a picnic if you prefer.
With such a wide range of activities that mean you could easily spend an entire day here, a visit to Willows Activity Farm is one of the best things to do in St Albans with kids.
20. Have a walk around Heartwood Forest
Take a short drive north of St Albans to find the breathtaking Heartwood Forest, an expansive expanse of new woodland that contains over 500,000 trees, including portions of beautiful ancient woodland.
Heartwood Forest attracts numerous dog walkers and individuals seeking a refreshing stroll, offering a plethora of superb walking trails in close proximity to St Albans.
In addition to the diverse meadows, fields, and woodland areas awaiting exploration, Heartwood Forest contains one of the best places to see bluebells in the UK.
Visit in spring and follow the signs up to the ancient Langley Woods, where you’ll witness the incredibly vibrant display of bluebells and be able to walk around this magical woodland.
21. Take a hike in the countryside
There are many spots in and around the city for those looking to stretch their legs and we’ve mentioned some already, such as taking a stroll down the Alban Way.
But you can also explore the surrounding countryside by following some of the best walks in Hertfordshire. Here are some of our favourites:
- Head to the village of Kimpton to discover a beautiful part of the county. There are several fun Kimpton walks, including a circular route past the small Ayot St Lawrence.
- Take a walk up Deacons Hill. This vantage point is part of the Chilterns and offers incredible views of the surrounding countryside.
- Explore Ashridge Estate and hike around the many trails in this beautiful woodland.
22. Visit the South Signal Box
Overlooked by many visitors to the city, the South Signal Box is a free attraction in St Albans that’s worth seeing for anyone interested in trains or transport history.
This meticulously preserved signal box was constructed by the Midland Railway back in 1892 and has been restored to resemble its original 19th-century appearance.
Not only can you see demonstrations of how the lever frame system worked, but visitors also have the unique opportunity to try it out themselves and feel what it was like to work in the signal box over a hundred years ago.
23. Head into London
This may not be an actual activity in St Albans, but it’s worth being aware that getting a train into London is a great option if you’re looking for a day out. Fast trains are super speedy – if you get one with no stops it’s less than 20 minutes into St Pancras!
24. Take a walk around the lakes at Stanborough Park
A short distance outside St Albans, by the nearby town of Welwyn Garden City, you can find the beautiful Stanborough Park.
This popular countryside park is best known for its two lakes that provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxing stroll to unwind on a weekend. On a sunny day, it’s also a great location for a picnic.
Along with providing one of the nicest walks near St Albans, you can also take part in a multitude of watersports and other activities on the lakes, such as trying out sailing, rowing, or hiring pedal boats.
25. Go on a pub crawl
The vast amount of pubs in St Albans means that it’s almost impossible to visit them all unless you’ve got a lot of time on your hands.
However, if you want to visit as many of the best pubs in St Albans in a short amount of time, there’s no better way to do it than as part of a pub crawl.
You can read our blog about the best St Albans pub crawls for full details, but this is a summary of one of our favourite places to stop by that make for a good route:
- The Crown
- The Horn
- The Victoria
- Farmers Boy
- The Boot
Other events in St Albans
Throughout the year, there are several fun events that take place in the city that are well worth checking out if you’re around.
Pub in the Park
Pub in the Park is one of the biggest events in St Albans, usually being planned for a weekend in September.
This lively festival has live music and, being hosted by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge, a range of fantastic food too.
For several days each summer, the St Albans Folk Festival takes place during the day and into the evening.
With live music, Morris dancers, and even workshops you can participate in, it’s a lot of fun for the whole family.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, St Albans hosts a Christmas market which has a range of stalls, fun street entertainers, and even Santa’s grotto.
Christmas is one of the best times to visit St Albans. The town centre is beautifully lit up with sparkly lights and decorations, and the market is a great place to spend some time.
Best things to do near St Albans
If you’re in need of more activities in St Albans, there are plenty of places to visit in the surrounding area. From country parks and estates to other attractions, it’s always worth exploring the rest of Hertfordshire and other nearby areas. Here are some of the best things to do near St Albans:
Discover the grandeur of Hatfield House, an impressive Jacobean mansion set within beautiful gardens and parkland. Take a guided tour of the house, explore the formal gardens, and spot the locations that area frequently used as historic settings in films.
Exploring the stunning buildings and surrounding gardens is a perfect romantic activity and one of our favourite things to do in Hertfordshire for couples.
Step into the world of renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw at Shaw’s Corner. Visit his former home, now a National Trust property, and gain insight into Shaw’s life and works.
Aldenham Country Park
Enjoy outdoor activities at Aldenham Country Park, including nature trails, adventure playgrounds, a farm, and boating on Aldenham Reservoir. It’s a great place to spend a day with family or friends.
Visit the historic Redbournbury Mill, a working watermill with a history dating back to the 11th century. Take a tour inside, learn about the milling process, and purchase freshly milled flour.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
Immerse yourself in the wizarding world of Harry Potter by taking part in the the Warner Bros Studio Tour, located near Watford. You’ll be able to see the iconic sets, props, and costumes from the popular film series, and even try butter beer!
Our rundown of top things to do in St Albans
- Verulamium Park: Explore this beautiful park, which features a lake, playgrounds, and plenty of open space for picnics and outdoor games. It also includes the Verulamium Museum, which provides insights into the rich Roman history in the area.
- St Albans Cathedral: Visit the stunning St Albans Cathedral, also known as St Albans Abbey. The architecture and history of this cathedral are fascinating, and children can participate in various educational programs.
- Willows Activity Farm: A fantastic destination for families with young children, Willows Activity Farm offers a range of activities, including farm animals, adventure play areas, and seasonal events like pumpkin picking and Christmas festivities.
- Dining at local restaurants: St Albans has a vibrant dining scene with many cosy restaurants and cafes. Consider booking a table at one of the city’s romantic eateries, such as Lussmanns, Dylans at the King’s Arms, or Per Tutti.
- Countryside walks: Venture into the surrounding countryside for a romantic walk. Consider exploring the nearby Hertfordshire countryside, such as the Chiltern Hills or Heartwood Forest, for a peaceful escape.
- Cocktail bars: Sample craft cocktails and enjoy a romantic evening at one of St Albans’ stylish cocktail bars, like The Snug or Mokoko.
- Movie night: Visit the independent Odyssey Cinema for a fun date night in front of a new blockbuster or a classic film.
See more in our blog about things to do in St Albans for couples.
- Local pubs and bars: St. Albans has a vibrant pub scene. Enjoy a pint of real ale or a craft beer at one of the city’s traditional pubs or contemporary bars. The Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, The Boot, and The White Hart Tap are popular choices.
- Cultural events: Check the local event calendar for cultural events, art exhibitions, and live performances at venues like the Alban Arena or the St Albans Museum + Gallery.
- Coffee shops and cafes: Relax at one of the city’s cosy coffee shops or cafes, offering a chance to unwind with a good book or people-watch.
- St Albans South Signal Box: While geared toward railway enthusiasts, the South Signal Box offers a unique glimpse into the history of railways in the area.
- Roman Theatre at Verulamium: Explore the ancient Roman Theatre ruins, which are an open-air site and free to visit. It’s a great place to learn about Roman history and archaeology.
- Redbournbury Mill: Take a short trip to Redbournbury Mill, a working watermill that you can visit for free on specific open days. It’s a picturesque spot for photography.
- Heartwood Forest: Explore Heartwood Forest, one of the UK’s largest new forests. Enjoy walking and exploring the woodlands and trails in this beautiful natural area.
- Local art galleries: Some local galleries occasionally offer free exhibitions and art displays. Check out venues like the St Albans Museum + Gallery for special events and displays.
Where to eat out in St Albans
It should go without saying that St Albans has a fantastic range of offerings when it comes to places to eat.
Outside of the usual major chains (many of the big franchises can be found around the city centre, including more recent additions such as Five Guys), there are also plenty of independent restaurants worth trying out. For example, Lussmanns is a fantastic sustainability-focused restaurant located by the cathedral.
You can check out this list of the best restaurants in St Albans if you’re in need of some inspiration, but here are a few of our top picks:
Located right by the beautiful cathedral which provides an impressive backdrop, especially in the evening, Lussmanns is one of the standout restaurants in St Albans.
Sustainability is the focus when it comes to all food served at Lussmanns, sourcing its produce from around the UK (including some locations very nearby).
It’s a small chain too with several locations in Hertfordshire, so it’s a local favourite.
Another fantastic choice for a memorable meal out in the city is Tabure, a modern Turkish restaurant situated just off the high street.
It’s on the top of our list of the best Turkish restaurants in St Albans, offering a selection of small and large dishes that are perfect for sharing.
We’d always recommend trying the barley risotto with organic pulled lamb for something a bit different but amazingly delicious!
La Cosa Nostra
While it’s a short walk out from the city centre, located nearer the train station, La Cosa Nostra is one of the best Italian restaurants in St Albans and well worth a visit.
With a lively atmosphere all through the week, this warm and inviting eatery is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a tasty meal out.
Pizzas here are the best in the city (in our opinion!) and you can watch as they’re cooked in the pizza oven before making their way to your plate.
Where to stay in St Albans
Like any popular tourist destination, there are numerous great options if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in St Albans. From budget hotels to luxury accommodations, there’s something for every occasion.
You’ll find plenty of options available on popular booking sites such as hotels.com, but here are some of our top picks.
A luxury option for those looking for an unforgettable time in St Albans, Sopwell House is a 4 star Georgian country house hotel on the edge of the city that offers everything you could want for a memorable stay.
Not only are there 128 rooms that are the perfect retreat for all the rest and relaxation you could possibly need, there’s a fantastic spa too where you can easily spend a whole day unwinding.
The Samuel Ryder Hotel
The Samuel Ryder Hotel in St Albans is part of The Tapestry Collection by Hilton, so you can be sure that a stay here will feel premium.
Based in the former home of golf legend Samuel Ryder, a famous local, the hotel is a short distance from all the best sights in St Albans, being a quick walk from the main high street and the stunning cathedral.
The White Hart Hotel
Located on Holywell Hill, The White Hart Hotel is another option for anyone looking to stay right in the centre of the city, making it perfect for exploring everything St Albans has to offer.
This historic timbered coaching inn is one of the oldest buildings in St Albans, making it feel like a truly special stay.
The restaurant attached to the hotel – Tudors – is also a fantastic choice for somewhere to eat, as it provides contemporary versions of traditional Tudor recipes
How to get to St Albans
With easy rail links from London, and located near two main motorways – the M25 and M1 – getting to St Albans is typically straightforward, wherever you’re travelling from.
You can read our guide on how to get to St Albans for a full breakdown of the different routes available, but this is a summary of the most accessible options:
- Train – St Albans is well-connected by train, with frequent services running from London. Join a Thameslink train from major stations such as St Pancras and Blackfriars and you can be at St Albans City Station within half an hour. St Albans Abbey Station is a smaller station which connects the city with Watford Junction.
- Bus – St Albans is served by a network of bus routes, providing transportation within the city and connecting it to neighbouring towns and villages, including locations on other major rail routes like Hatfield.
- Car – St Albans is easily accessible by car, as it is positioned between three major major roads, the M1, M25, and A1. There are various parking options available in the city, including public car parks and on-street parking.
- Aeroplane – Getting to St Albans after travelling by air can be straightforward as there are numerous airports nearby or straightforward to come from: Luton Airport is a short train or car journey away; Heathrow is just around the M25; Stansted is less than an hour away by car; Gatwick is accessible by a single train on the Thameslink line.
St Albans travel times
Here’s a breakdown of how long you should expect it to take if you’re planning on travelling to St Albans.
|Travelling from||Journey time by car (approx)||Journey time by train (approx)|
|London (central)||1 hour||30 minutes|
|Cambridge||1 hour||1 hour 30 minutes|
|Reading||1 hour 10 minutes||1 hour 30 minutes|
|Birmingham||1 hour 45 minutes||2 hours 20 minutes|
|Cardiff||3 hours||3 hours|
|Leeds||3 hours||3 hours|
|Manchester||3 hours 15 minutes||3 hours 15 minutes|
|Edinburgh||7 hours 15 minutes||5 hours 15 minutes|
The history of St Albans
Along with a fantastic range of restaurants, things to do, and a close proximity to London, many tourists visit St Albans each year due to its rich history.
From the Romans to the modern day, many of the best things to see in St Albans have a long and storied history which continues to fascinate the city’s visitors today.
Roman Era (circa 43 AD – 5th century):
St Albans, originally known as Verulamium, has its roots in the Roman era. Founded shortly after the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD, it quickly developed into a thriving Roman settlement. Complete with a forum, basilica, and city walls, Verulamium was a significant outpost of Roman civilization.
Its historical importance was further cemented when St Alban, the city’s namesake and the first British Christian martyr, was beheaded here. This event elevated the city to an important religious site.
Medieval Era (5th century – 16th century):
Following the Roman withdrawal, Verulamium declined as a settlement, but its spiritual significance as a Christian pilgrimage site continued to grow.
In the Norman era, construction of St Albans Abbey began, becoming a central fixture in the city’s medieval history. It wasn’t until 1877 that it became a cathedral, but it’s still the standout landmark in the city today.
During the War of the Rose, two battles took place near the city, including the First Battle of St Albans in 1455.
Early Modern Era (16th century – 18th century):
In the early modern era, St Albans continued to thrive as a market town. It played a role in the English Civil War (1642-1651) and experienced skirmishes between Royalist and Parliamentarian forces.
Victorian Era (19th century):
The 19th century saw significant developments in St Albans. The arrival of the railroad in 1858 connected the city to London, leading to rapid growth and its transformation into a commuter town.
Modern Era (20th century – present):
In the 20th century, St Albans continued to expand as a commuter town, benefiting from improved transportation links. The city underwent urban renewal and preservation efforts to safeguard its historic character.
Fast trains into London also make St Albans one of the most attractive locations to live for commuters, while the blend of ancient roots with modern amenities, businesses, and cultural attractions still make it popular with tourists from both the UK and abroad.
Things to do in St Albans FAQs
Are there any outdoor activities in St Albans?
St Albans offers several outdoor activities for nature lovers and adventurers, including exploring the beautiful Verulamium Park.
The Alban Way, a former railway line, has been transformed into a scenic trail for walkers and cyclists and so offers a great way to enjoy the fresh air.
If you’re seeking more active things to do near St Albans, why not try some watersports at Stanborough Park.
Is it worth visiting St Albans?
St Albans is a city worth visiting for a range of reasons. If you’re interested in history, it has some of the most impressive Roman ruins and mosaics which you can see in Verulamium Park and the museum.
St Albans also contains a fantastic range of independent restaurants and bars, so there are plenty of options to have a memorable lunch, dinner, or night out.
The city especially comes to life when the Saturday market is on. You can spend a lot of time wandering between the different stalls before seeing the other sites like the clocktower and cathedral.
What are the best free things to do in St Albans?
The city offers several enjoyable free activities for visitors. Here are some of the best things to do in St Albans where you don’t need to pay a penny:
- Explore Verulamium Park and take a walk around the lake.
- Visit St Albans Cathedral to discover the amazing architecture and history inside.
- Wander through the city centre and by historic landmarks like the clocktower.
- Discover Roman Verulamium, including the Roman walls and mosaic.
For more ideas of activities you can try while on a budget, read out blog on the best free things to do in St Albans.