St Albans is a cathedral city in the south of England, within the county of Hertfordshire. It’s easily accessible in about 15 minutes by train from London, so is a good option for a day trip from the capital.
The city is famous for its Roman heritage. Known as Verulamium, St Albans was the second largest town in Roman Britain (after Londinium). Today, the city has a nice market place centre, a beautiful cathedral, lots of shopping options, nice restaurants and some interesting attractions near by. If you have a day in the city, here are my recommendations of the best things to do.
1. Visit the Cathedral
Officially known as the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban, the cathedral is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in England. Founded in the 8th century as a monastery, it officially became a cathedral in 1877.
The cathedral’s namesake Saint, St Alban, lived in Verulamium. St Alban is England’s first saint, and the story has it that he hid a Christian priest against persecution and was beheaded during the Roman era- the Cathedral is at the site of his martyrdom.
Today the cathedral is beautiful inside and out, and is also the burial site of an English royal – Humphrey the ‘good’ duke of Gloucester. He was son of Henry IV, brother of Henry V and Uncle of Henry VI and his tomb lies next to the shrine to St Alban.
2. Take a trip to Hatfield House
More English history awaits you at Hatfield House, a short 15 minute drive outside of St Albans city centre. The site of the house is home to two historic buildings – Hatfield Palace where Queen Elizabeth I of England spent the majority of her childhood in the 1500s, and Hatfield House which was built in the 1600s by Robert Cecil, chief Minister to King James I.
The house is still the home of the Cecil family today, but they open it up during the summer months for visitors. The gardens are beautiful, and there are even some well signed woodland walks around the grounds as well. It’s easy to spend at least a few hours at the site.
3. Visit the oldest pub in England
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is reputed to be the oldest pub in England. I’ve also heard this about a pub in Nottingham so I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but it is still worth a visit anyway – with the pub serving tasty food in a nice restaurant and bar area.
4. Explore Roman Verulamium
You can’t visit St Albans and not delve in to its Roman history. Stroll around Verulamium Park, take in the surviving Roman Mosaic and visit the Verulamium Museum to learn more about the Roman times in the city. I particularly liked the collection of almost 200 Roman gold coins!
5. Get lost in the shops and side streets
St Albans is a great place to stroll around and discover some of the beautiful shops and side streets. A route I particularly like is to start in the Market Place, stroll down towards the Cathedral and then turn on to Fishpool Street – one of my favourite streets in the city full of quirky, characterful houses.
To finish off your day in the city, there are also lots of great places to eat. My favourite is Lussmans, Per Tutti is nice if you fancy Italian, or Thompson is a good option for traditional English food.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve found my guide to St Albans interesting. I had hoped to be able to write a lot of varied travel posts in 2020, with adventures to over 10 new countries planned. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened, but providing more content on England has been fun. I may be venturing abroad in November, so I keep my fingers crossed for that. For now, stay safe and happy travelling.