If you love beautiful churches, Roman history, and/or cute buildings, then St. Albans will make the perfect day trip from London.
During my time in London, I made a day 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 day trip from London.
If you’re looking for other day trips from London, check out my posts on Stonehenge/Salisbury, Cardiff, and Cambridge.
Updated October 2020.
A brief history of St. Albans
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. He became the first Christian saint in Britain. 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 the information on St. Albans’ website.
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 £9-25 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 36 minutes. Both trains will get you to St. Albans for the same cost.
The St. Albans train station is an easy walking distance from the center of town. Just follow the pedestrian signs.
What to do in St. Albans in one day
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower in St. Albans was built in 1412 and is the only surviving 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
St. Albans Cathedral was built 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. St. Albans Cathedral is the oldest place of continuous Christian worship and pilgrimage in Britain. It’s definitely a must-visit stop on your day trip to St. Albans!
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.
Markets in St. Albans
Every Wednesday and Saturday, a market runs the length of St. Peters Street in St. Albans. Dating back to the 9th century and officially chartered in 1553, the market is great to peruse as you wander around the centre of town.
If you visit St. Albans during Christmas, you’ll find a fantastic 60+ stall Christmas market, without the crowds of the markets in London. It’s in the walled garden just next to the cathedral and is easily one of my favorite Christmas markets to visit.
About 3/4 miles from the St. Albans town center lie the ruins of Sopwell Nunnery. Sopwell Nunnery was a Tudor mansion built on top of a medieval nunnery dedicated to St. Mary that was established in 1141.
The nunnery prospered for 400 years and it was supposedly where Anne Boleyn stayed 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 actually those ruins from the incomplete house.
It might not look like much, but it’s great to visit if you fancy going on a walk in some nature. You’ll also get great views of St. Albans Cathedral from Sopwell Nunnery.
Parish Church of St. Peter
The Parish Church of St. Peter has been on its 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 is relatively simple but the stained glass was really pretty. Not much of the original glass remains so the majority of the windows date from between 1863 and 1872.
The garden surrounding the church is also worth a visit on your day trip to St. Albans. It is a peaceful spot with several sculptures and lots of trees and plants.
The Verulamium Museum houses artifacts from the Roman city of Verulamium. It’s an everyday life museum, meaning you’ll find some recreated rooms depicting life from the Roman period.
Near the Verulamium 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. Near to the theatre are the foundations of a Roman villa and some Roman shops.
Also near to the Verulamium Museum is the beautiful mosaic floor of a Roman townhouse.
Shopping in St. Albans
I’m not huge on shopping, but St. Albans has a ton of shops. Check out their cute arcade or one of the many shops around the center of town during your day trip to St. Albans from London.
Where to eat in St. Albans
I can truly attest to the quality of The Boot because I ate there both times I took a day trip to St. Albans. 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 center of St. Albans, next to the clock tower.
Funnily enough, The Boot and Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, another landmark pub in St. Albans, pretended to shut their doors for good on April Fools Day in 2015 to protest rising rents.
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
Believed to be the oldest pub in Britain, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks dates back to the 8th century. The present building dates to the 11th century. There are even tunnels leading from the pub to St. Albans Cathedral that monks supposedly used to travel discretely between the two. With fresh, locally sourced meals available every day, this makes a great lunch stop on your day trip to St. Albans.
Abigail’s Tea Rooms
This is a tea room near the Cathedral. We almost ate lunch here but were really craving some pub food. It did look good, though, and it has great reviews online!
The White Hart
Dating to the 14th century, this pub 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 to spend the night in St. Albans? View accommodations here.
Looking for more day trips from London? Consider Cardiff, Stonehenge & Salisbury, and Cambridge!
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.
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 :)
Erika Ravnsborg says
What an amazing time. I am in your envy
Thanks for your comment :)
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.
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 :)
Talia B. says
I have never been to London, but it is one of those bucket list places. These pictures are gorgeous.
Thank you so much! I hope you get to visit one day!
Paige Strand says
Wow adding this to my list :) I love when people include great photos!
Glad to be able to add something to your list. Thank you for your kind comment! :)
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!
Thank you so much! I hope you can make it to St. Albans too!
Roy Miller says
We are going there next year. Thank you for the information. I liked your photos as well.
Thank you! I hope you enjoy your travels there!
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!
I hope so too! It really is a lovely place. Thank you for your kind comment :)
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
Thank you. Yeah, the stained glass is beautiful, right? I hope you can make it over to London one day!
Juliette | Snorkels to Snow says
What a beautiful Cathedral! The design & stained glass windows are just incredible! What a fascinating place to visit.
It’s a stunning place to visit! Thanks for your comment :)
What beautiful pictures!!
Thank you so much! :)
Christine Tatum says
I hope to visit England. The photos are fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing!!
I hope you can visit soon! Thank you for your kind comment :)
SOOOO beautiful, now definitely on my bucket list!! Great to have this resource. Will be pinning!
Thank you so much!! I hope you get to visit :)
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.
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 :)
Wow these all look great places to visit, I would love to make it to Europe next year, never been! thanks for sharing!!
Fashion and tRavel
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 :)
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 :)
Thank you! I hope you get to visit, it’s a lovely place! :)
My boyfriend lived there, and he didn’t know all of these facts! Thanks for sharing!
Ahh what a coincidence! Glad I was able to share some new facts :)
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!
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 :)
Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere says
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!
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 :)
Tanja (the Red phone box travels) says
interesting town:) nice photos!
I just need to make it over to London, then we will be happy to take that lovely trip! ;)
I hope you can! It’s worth a visit. Thanks for your comment :)
This looks like a lovely trip!
Great insight and guide!
Thank you so much! :)
A great place to eat is The Waffle House on the other side of the park from the Catherdral. It is in an old water mill. The menu is great and they have tasty specials. We normally get one savoury and one sweet waffle and share! I have three sisters and if one of us is missing when we visit the others love teasing her with pictures of our meal!
That sounds delicious! I will definitely go there next time I’m there.