Day Trips from London: St. Albans

If you love beautiful churches, Roman history, and/or cute buildings, then St. Albans is a must for you.

During my time in London, I made the trip up to St. Albans twice. Once to see the Christmas markets and again just for fun because I liked it so much the first time. It’s such an easy trip from London that I thought I’d show you why you need to visit.

If you’re looking for other day trips from London, check out my posts on Stonehenge/Salisbury, Cardiff, and Cambridge.

A little history

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St. Albans was first settled during the Iron Age by the Celts and, in AD 43, adopted the name Verulamium after the Roman conquest of Britain. It then became one of the largest towns in Roman Britain. Around AD 250, a citizen of Verulamium named Alban was martyred for his Christain faith. In 793, King Offa founded St. Albans Abbey and the town grew from it. In 1455 and 1461, St. Albans was host to two battles during the War of the Roses. King Henry VIII dissolved the abbey in 1539. In 1877, the Abbey Church was granted Cathedral status and the town was given a city charter. Today, the city and its surroundings have 129,000 people. To read more about the town’s history, check out this link.

Getting to St. Albans

Trains to St. Albans City Station leave from either Blackfriars or St. Pancras International on the Thameslink train service every 5-10 minutes or so for £8-12 return depending on when you travel. If you take the train that terminates in St. Albans, your trip will be about 45 minutes. If you take the train that terminates in Bedford, your trip will be around 30 minutes. Both will get you to the same place for the same cost!

What to do in St. Albans

The Clock Tower

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The Clock Tower was built in 1412 and is the only medieval town belfry in England. The townspeople used it to assert their freedom, power and wealth in the face of the premier Benedictine Abbey of England (St. Albans Cathedral). You can climb to the top for views of the city.

St. Albans Cathedral

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St. Albans Cathedral was begun in 1077 atop an earlier Benedictine abbey founded by King Offa in 793. It’s probably most famous for its shrine of St. Alban, Britain’s first Christian saint, making it the oldest place of continuous Christian worship and pilgrimage in Britain.

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The cathedral is truly a monstrosity, dominating the skyline of St. Albans. It also takes quite a bit of time to walk around! You know I love churches, so I wouldn’t recommend this one lightly.

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Markets

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Each Wednesday and Friday, a market runs the length of St. Peters Street. Dating back to the 9th century and officially chartered in 1553, the market is great to peruse as you wander the centre of town.

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If you visit around Christmas, you’ll find a fantastic 60+ stall Christmas market, without the crowds of London’s. It’s in the walled garden just next to the cathedral.

Sopwell Nunnery

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The ruins of Sopwell Nunnery, about 3/4 miles from the town centre, are of a Tudor mansion built on top of a medieval nunnery dedicated to St. Mary, and established in 1141. The nunnery prospered for 400 years and supposedly Anne Boleyn stayed there before she wed Henry VIII! Henry dissolved the nunnery in 1537 and gave the property to a military architect, who then demolished the nunnery to build a new house. He later decided to build a bigger house at the spot but died before it was completed, so what you see are those ruins from the incomplete house.

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It might not look like much, but it’s pretty cool to wander around the ruins and take a couple photos. You’ll also get great views of the Cathedral.

Parish Church of St. Peter

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The Parish Church of St. Peter has been on the site since the 12th century. During the 13th century, it was constructed into the form it retained until the 19th century. The church appears today as it was in the 19th century. The interior was pretty simple but the stained glass was really pretty. Not much of the original glass remains so the majority of the windows are from between 1863 and 1872.

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The garden surrounding the church is also really pretty, with several sculptures and lots of trees and plants.

Verulanium Museum

The Verulanium Museum houses artefacts from the Roman city of Verulanium. It’s an everyday life museum, meaning you’ll find some recreated rooms.

Roman Theatre

Near the Verulanium Museum are the ruins of a Roman Theatre that could seat up to 2,000 people. It was built around 140AD and it’s the only example of its kind in Britain. Nearby are the foundations of a Roman villa and some Roman shops.

The Hypocaust

Also near the Verulanium Museum is the beautiful mosaic floor of a Roman townhouse.

Shopping

I’m not huge on shopping, but I noticed that St. Albans had a ton of shops. Check out their cute arcade or one of the many shops around the town!

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Where to eat

The Boot

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I can only attest to the quality of this pub because I ate there both times I visited. It’s delicious and has been around since the 1400s. In fact,the War of the Roses started just outside its doors! It’s located in the town centre, just by the clock tower.

Abigail’s Tea Rooms

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This is a tea room right by the Cathedral. We almost ate lunch here but were really craving some pub food. It did look good, though, and it has great views online!

The White Hart

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This pub, from the 14th century, is the place where England declared war on Spain. It’s also supposedly haunted by a lady who hit her head in their restaurant. If you’re keen on it, it also has 15 rooms you can stay in.

Looking for more day trips from London? Check out Cardiff, Stonehenge & Salisbury, and Cambridge!

Have you been to St. Albans before?

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Just 30 minutes away from central London by train, St. Albans makes a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. If you love history, ancient Rome, and a cute market town, then St. Albans is the place for you!

England, Travel Guides, Travels
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45 Comments

  • Reply
    heidi
    18 October 2016 at 13:04

    Great guide! The pics are beautiful, I love old churches. I’ve never been to England but it looks amazing and is on my list.

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 13:16

      Thank you! I hope you get to go soon! There are so many amazing places to see. I have so much left on my England bucket list :)

  • Reply
    Erika Ravnsborg
    18 October 2016 at 14:16

    What an amazing time. I am in your envy

  • Reply
    Rose
    18 October 2016 at 15:12

    Such a beautiful place. I would like to go over there for maybe a year. Still not enough time to see every thing but, I would see more then versus a month long vacation. Ruins from an incomplete house is interesting just because I always assume it was a house falling down not being put up. Interesting post. Thank you for sharing.

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 16:50

      Agreed! I would love to spend a year or two just traveling around the UK. There is so much to see over there! Thanks for your comment :)

  • Reply
    Talia B.
    18 October 2016 at 15:24

    I have never been to London, but it is one of those bucket list places. These pictures are gorgeous.

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 16:48

      Thank you so much! I hope you get to visit one day!

  • Reply
    Paige Strand
    18 October 2016 at 15:31

    Wow adding this to my list :) I love when people include great photos!

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 16:47

      Glad to be able to add something to your list. Thank you for your kind comment! :)

  • Reply
    Aisha
    18 October 2016 at 15:54

    This is such a detailed guide with amazing photos! I love the history and quaint facades! I really hope I can make it to St. Albans the next time I visit the UK!

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 16:15

      Thank you so much! I hope you can make it to St. Albans too!

  • Reply
    Roy Miller
    18 October 2016 at 15:56

    We are going there next year. Thank you for the information. I liked your photos as well.

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 16:56

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy your travels there!

  • Reply
    Nicole
    18 October 2016 at 16:17

    Oh my gosh this is all so beautiful! I hope that one day my blog is able to take my family around the world to see other places! This is simply beautiful! I would love to go !! Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 16:55

      I hope so too! It really is a lovely place. Thank you for your kind comment :)

  • Reply
    karyl
    18 October 2016 at 17:16

    Wow, what stunning pictures! I especially love the stained glass at the Cathedral. I’ve never been to London, but it is on my bucket list for sure

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 17:48

      Thank you. Yeah, the stained glass is beautiful, right? I hope you can make it over to London one day!

  • Reply
    Juliette | Snorkels to Snow
    18 October 2016 at 17:50

    What a beautiful Cathedral! The design & stained glass windows are just incredible! What a fascinating place to visit.

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 18:04

      It’s a stunning place to visit! Thanks for your comment :)

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    18 October 2016 at 19:03

    What beautiful pictures!!

  • Reply
    Christine Tatum
    18 October 2016 at 19:54

    I hope to visit England. The photos are fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing!!

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 20:02

      I hope you can visit soon! Thank you for your kind comment :)

  • Reply
    Beth
    18 October 2016 at 21:00

    SOOOO beautiful, now definitely on my bucket list!! Great to have this resource. Will be pinning!

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 21:09

      Thank you so much!! I hope you get to visit :)

  • Reply
    Tina
    18 October 2016 at 21:00

    Wow, I can’t believe that pub was built in the 1400s – mind blown! I’d never heard of St Albans before, but now that I have, I really want to see it! I love cute little towns with an extensive history.

    • Reply
      almathews
      18 October 2016 at 21:11

      Yeah this town has such a long and interesting history, and there’s so much to do there! I found about it online in a list of Christmas markets in England and knew I had to visit! I hope you get to visit too :)

  • Reply
    valerie
    18 October 2016 at 22:28

    Wow these all look great places to visit, I would love to make it to Europe next year, never been! thanks for sharing!!

    Valerie
    Fashion and tRavel

    • Reply
      almathews
      19 October 2016 at 09:01

      I hope you can make it to Europe! It’s the only place I’ve traveled to and there is SO much to do and see! Thank you for your comment :)

  • Reply
    Shem
    19 October 2016 at 02:17

    Great post! I can’t believe I’d never heard of St. Albans when I last visited London. I’m definitely going to save this for my next trip :)

    • Reply
      almathews
      19 October 2016 at 08:59

      Thank you! I hope you get to visit, it’s a lovely place! :)

  • Reply
    Nicole
    19 October 2016 at 04:20

    My boyfriend lived there, and he didn’t know all of these facts! Thanks for sharing!
    xx nicole
    http://www.nicoleparise.com

    • Reply
      almathews
      19 October 2016 at 09:02

      Ahh what a coincidence! Glad I was able to share some new facts :)

  • Reply
    Valerie
    19 October 2016 at 05:02

    Great guide for a day trip – I used to live in London, but I’ve actually never been to St. Albans. I especially loved learning about the nunnery and Anne Boleyn!

    • Reply
      almathews
      19 October 2016 at 08:58

      Thank you! Yeah I love it because it’s not crawling with tourists and you actually feel like a local when walking around because of it! The nunnery is really cool as well. Thanks for your comment :)

  • Reply
    Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere
    19 October 2016 at 07:55

    I love this! Smaller towns like this are the reason I want to move to Europe one day. They seem like a perfect day trip for any age, and a great place to retire when the time comes. I love visiting churches as well, and St. Alban’s Cathedral is calling to me. From the outside, it looks almost like a miniature castle. Thank you for sharing this cute little spot!

    • Reply
      almathews
      19 October 2016 at 08:57

      Exactly! I want to move to Europe for the same reason! The Cathedral is amazing! I’ll be writing about a few more towns with great cathedrals soon, so be on the lookout! Thanks for your kind comment :)

  • Reply
    Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
    19 October 2016 at 08:15

    interesting town:) nice photos!

  • Reply
    Brittany
    19 October 2016 at 08:49

    I just need to make it over to London, then we will be happy to take that lovely trip! ;)

    • Reply
      almathews
      19 October 2016 at 08:55

      I hope you can! It’s worth a visit. Thanks for your comment :)

  • Reply
    Mandi
    19 October 2016 at 11:37

    This looks like a lovely trip!

  • Reply
    LeeLee
    19 October 2016 at 16:15

    Great insight and guide!

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