A day out in...St Albans
PUBLISHED: 20:46 07 April 2014 | UPDATED: 20:46 07 April 2014
Ancient, beautiful and busy with commerce and culture, St Albans has been attracting visitors since Roman times. Spend a rewarding day out in the city this month
Food and drink.
Like most things in St Albans, if you are looking for somewhere good to eat, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Just some of the highlights include Jamie Oliver’s restaurant on Chequer Street. Opened in 2012, it has a contemporary feel, and offers a great choice of rustic Italian dishes, from classic favourites to pasta dishes incorporating wild rabbit, truffles or crab.
For a pub food menu with a modern twist, head to The Blue Anchor on Fishpool Street. The 17th century Grade II listed building has a cosy panelled dining room with a real wood fire for cold days, and a south-facing beer garden overlooking the River Ver for warmer ones.
For those who fancy something a little different, Thompson@Darcy’s on Hatfield Road is a modern, vibrant restaurant which offers dishes such as red wine braised ox cheek, roast breast of wood pigeon and roast haunch of Balmoral Estate venison.
Enjoy sweet or savoury Belgian waffles at The Waffle House, at the lower end of Verulamium Park on St Michael’s Street. Situated within a working 16th century watermill, it overlooks the River Ver and is a buzzing destination established for more than 25 years.
To book at the above, see: jamieoliver.com/italian/st-albans 01727 221266
blueanchorstalbans.co.uk 01727 855038
thompsonatdarcys.co.uk 01727 730777
The imposing St Albans Cathedral showcases a mix of architectural periods, from Saxon through to Victorian - its tower even includes Roman bricks taken from the ruins of Verulamium – the Roman town on which St Albans now lies.
The cathedral’s shrine of St Alban – Britain’s first Christian martyr – attracts visitors from around the world, while you can also enjoy a range of guided tours, exhibitions and concerts here.
Visit at lunchtime on Wednesday, April 16, when organist Michael Papadopoulos will be playing from 12.30pm until 1.05pm. Admission is free.
The Verulamium Museum on St Michael’s Street features original Roman mosaics and recreated Roman rooms. There are hands-on discovery areas, video presentations and touch screen databases, with convincing re-enactment group Legion XIIII there to explain the tactics and equipment of the Roman army on the second weekend of each month. Entry is £3.80 for adults, £2 for children and free for under-fives and St Albans district residents.
A short walk from Verulamium Museum is a Roman theatre – the only visible example in Britain of a theatre with a stage, rather than an amphitheatre. Close by are the foundations of a Roman town house, a shrine and a row of Roman shops. Entry is £2.50 for adults, £2 concessions, £1.50 for children and free for under-fives.
In the same area, there are the remains of a hypocaust – a heating system that must have seemed out of this world to shivering Britons – covered by a mosaic floor, forming part of a suite of rooms in a large town house built in about 200AD. Admission is free.
At the also free Museum of St Albans on Hatfield Road, visitors can discover more about the city, from the departure of the Romans to the present day.
Arts and music.
There are numerous excellent venues in the town featuring theatre, music, dance, film and art. This month includes:
Swan Lake will be performed by the Vienna Festival Ballet at the ever busy Alban Arena at 2.30pm on Saturday April 5. Enjoy Tchaikovsky’s music and watch a compelling love story told through ballet, with lavish costumes and stunning scenery. Tickets are £22.50, concessions £18.50 and under-16s £14.50. Call 01727 844488 to book. See alban-arena.co.uk for the venue’s full programme.
St Albans Jazz Ensemble will be performing at the Abbey Theatre at 8pm on Thursday April 17. Expect everything from big band swing and Latin to funk, soul and blues. The ensemble will also be showcasing original material. Tickets are £10 and £7.50 for concessions. Call 01727 857861 to book.
Visit abbeytheatre.org.uk for more information about what’s on at the theatre.
Claire Dowie’s Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt? – an award-winning comedy of sexual stereotyping – will be performed at the Maltings Arts Theatre on Saturday April 5 at 8pm. Tickets are £10. Call 0844 8700 887 to book and visit maltingsartstheatre.co.uk for a full programme of events.
Live music venue The Horn on Victoria Street will be hosting Mark Morriss – the singer-songwriter who fronted English indie outfit The Bluetones – on Saturday April 19 at 8pm. Tickets are £8 in advance and £10 on the day. To buy tickets or to see the extensive programme of planned music events at the venue, visit thehorn.co.uk
St Peter’s Street is the city centre’s main street, with shops continuing into Chequer Street and down into Holywell Hill, as well as spilling out onto the High Street, London Road and Market Place.
There are two shopping precincts – Christopher Place and the Maltings – and a narrow cobbled walkway off George Street leads to a number of antique shops brimming with treasures.
St Albans hosts a vibrant market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which runs the length of St Peter’s Street and into Market Place. With more than 160 stalls it offers everything from fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables to beautiful bags, gifts and artwork.
On the second Sunday of each month, there is a farmers’ market, and at various times throughout the year St Albans hosts a continental market.
If you have time.
Head to Verulamium Park and enjoy an ice cream – if the weather permits – while strolling around the lake, before stopping for a drink in the delightfully quirky Ye Olde Fighting Cocks on the edge of the park.
Did you know?
Built between 1403 and 1412, the Clock Tower on St Albans High Street is the only medieval town belfry in England.
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks on the edge of Verulamium Park is reputedly the oldest pub in Britain. It is recorded as being an 11th century structure on an 8th century site.
Bells have been rung at St Albans Cathedral since it was built by Abbot Paul de Caen.in the late 11th century.