best places to visit in Reading

Top 50 Places to Visit in Reading, England, U.K : Reading is a large Minster town on the Thames and Kennet rivers in southern England, U.K. which attracts a lot of tourists to visit this significant historic town. Historically laden with a rich heritage, Reading has a lot to offer historically, culturally as well as socially, which we try to simplify for you by listing down top 50 places to visit in Reading U.K. Reading, according to popular theories, possibly has come down the whole of England’s history, from the time of being a part of the Imperial Roman Empire that had ended in the 5th Century A.D.

However, the first clear evidence of Reading as a settlement dates back to the 8th Century when it was known by the name Readingum. Since historic times, Reading has fallen within the hot zone of the constant conflict between the legendary warring Saxons and the Danes that lasted until the final Norman Conquest of England in the 11th Century by William the Conqueror, that had brought stability to the entire nation. You can also check Manchester and Nottingham whilst in England. 

Throughout history, the borough of Reading has grown to be the largest town in Berkshire County, comes off as a pleasant surprise for visitors as the centuries-old mound of history comes cascading down on you all at once. This article about top 50 places to visit in Reading, U.K. include the over eight hundred listed historical buildings and monuments, a world-renowned red-brick university, family friendly museums, two National Trails and two famous rivers with great riverine transport ferries, boutique hotels, Michelin Star restaurants, Reading is a wondrous town to visit. So much, that you’ll feel you should have taken out more time for your visit than you did. You can also check out York which is also a historic town. 

Top 50 Places to Visit in Reading, England, U.K.

1The Reading Abbey Quarter and The Abbey Ruins

top 50 places to visit in reading
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About: The Abbey Quarter is the name that refers to the grounds of the 12th Century Reading Abbey, which has been an integral part of the town of Reading’s history for more than 900 years since the Abbey was founded in 1121 by Henry I, King of England. Dedicated to Mary the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, for the lineage of his family, ancestors and descendants to be buried and honoured for years to come, the Abbey was largely destroyed in 1538 during the Tudor King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries and further during the English Civil War and now just the ruins of the Abbey remain.

Why should you Visit: The significance of the Reading Abbey lies in the fact that it is the resting place of some of the most powerful kings of England, having been founded by King Henry I, who was the grandson of William the Conqueror of the House of Normandy. Since the last ten years, the Abbey had been closed from the public, but now, after undergoing a conservation project for 3 years it has been reopened to the public in June 2018. There is no access given to tourists to enter the Ruins, but they can still be viewed from various points around the perimeter. Among other things to check around the Abbey Quarter is The Abbey Gateway, which was reopened in April as Jane Austen’s old Schoolroom which attracts a different category of tourists like literature buffs and school children on historical field trips to the venue.

Timings: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m

Entry Fees: Free entry, national historic/religious site. Suggested donation of 3GBP at Reading Abbey Museum

Official Website: The Reading Abbey Quarter and the Abbey Ruins

2Forbury Gardens and The Maiwand Lion

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About: The Forbury Gardens is a public park in the town of Reading in the English County of Berkshire. The Park is situated on the outer court of Reading Abbey. The site was formerly known as the Forbury. In 1150, what is now Forbury Hill, was constructed to help fortify the Abbey during the civil war between King Henry I’s daughter, Matilda and his nephew, Stephen. During the English Civil war, the Royalist garrison used Forbury Hill as a gun emplacement, and during the Napoleonic wars, Forbury grounds were used for military drills and parades. Village country fairs (especially the Michaelmas fair) were held on this site three times a year until the 19th Century.

Why should you Visit: Like the nearby Reading Abbey, the Forbury has a royal past. Despite its long dark past Forbury Gardens in the current day has been turned into a beautiful garden in the town of Reading. Things to see in Forbury Gardens are the Maiwand Lion statue erected in 1886, and the much recently installed memoir for Trooper Fred Potts who was awarded Victoria Cross in 1915 for bravery in battle at the Battle of Scimitar Hill.

Timings: Open 24 hours.

Entry Fees: Free

Official Website: Forbury Gardens

3Reading Museum, Reading Town Hall

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About: The Reading Museum is a museum of the history of the town of Reading, Berkshire, and the surrounding area. The Reading Town Hall was built in phases between 1786 and 1897. In 1879, the foundation stone was laid for a new wing containing a library and a museum, and the museum was duly opened in 1883. Three art galleries were added in further extension in 1897.

Why should you Visit: The Reading museum is accommodated within the Reading Town Hall and contains galleries describing the history of Reading and its related industries. The Reading: People and Place Gallery documents Reading’s History, from its origin as a Saxon settlement in the 6th Century with a mixture of oral history presentations. Silchester Gallery displaying artefacts discovered during the excavations of Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester Roman Town), the Bayeux Gallery containing the UK’s only copy of the Bayeux Tapestry (made by the Leek Embroidery Society in 1885) a 70 metre long cloth depicting the events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England, concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Closed on Sundays and Mondays)

Entry Fees: Free

Official Website: Reading Museum, Reading Town Hall

4Silchester Roman City Walls and Amphitheatre

top 50 places to visit in reading About: Just outside the boundaries of the town of Reading, in the county of Hampshire lies the ruins of the ancient walls of Calleva, a city built by the Atrebates during the Iron
Age, which was later conquered by the Romans from the classic era of the Imperial Roman Empire. These ancient city walls lie partly underneath the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Silchester.

Why should you Visit: Silchester in Hampshire has its origins as Calleva, a centre of the Iron Age Atrebates tribe from the late 1st century BC. After the Roman conquest of 43 AD, it became the large and important town of Calleva Atrebatum. Unlike most Roman towns, it was never re-occupied or rebuilt after it was abandoned in the 6th or 7th century, so archaeological investigations have given an unusually complete picture of its development. There, visitors will be able to see the complete circuit of the Roman walls, some of the best-preserved Roman town defences in England, and remains of the amphitheatre still stand.

Timings: Reasonable daylight hours.

Entry Fees: Free entry

Official Website: Silchester Roman City Walls and Amphitheatre

5River Thames in Reading

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About: The River Thames waterfront in Reading has been an age-old hub of social, cultural and trade activities in the town since the time the country was a part of the Roman Empire. In fact, the town grew up as a river port at the confluence of the Thames and the Kennet, and with the two trails of Thames Path and the Ridgeway trail has always drawn visitors and adventurists to this side of the English countryside.

Why should you Visit: There is so much to intrigue and inspire, including miles upon miles of unspoilt Thames frontage, where you can walk, take a cruise, feed the swans or watch elite rowers in training. You can also walk from the Thames along Kennet Mouth to find yourself at Blake’s Lock, where you can see the Riverside Museum and relax in a waterfront restaurant that started life as a Victorian pumping station.

Timings: 24 hours

Entry Fees: Free

Official Website: River Thames in Reading

6Prospect Park, Reading

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About: Prospect Park is the largest open space in the Town of Reading. Originally the site of Dirle’s Farm, the land was part of the Calcot Park estate. In the 1760s, Benjamin Child turned the farm into a mansion. He named the park after its views over Reading; it was formerly known as Prospecthill Park. Child was the widower of the famous “Berkshire Lady”, Frances Kendrick.

Why should you Visit: Prospect House, or Prospecthill Park as it was then known, was built in the late 18th Century, set on the south side of a hill formerly covered in woodland and encircled by roads. The park was laid out in the early to the mid-19th century. The site was acquired by the Reading Corporation in 1902 and subsequently was developed as a public park, with the insertion of sports pitches and associated buildings, and the loss of the walled garden and eastern section of the park to development. The present regency style house, known as The Mansion House (and originally named Prospect House) is currently used as a restaurant.

Timings: 12.00 a.m – 11:59 p.m.

Entry Fees: Free Entry

Official Website: Prospect Park, Reading

7Museum of English Rural Life, Reading

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About: The Museum of English Rural Life, also known as the MERL, is a museum, library and archive dedicated to recording the changing face of farming and the countryside in England. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books.

Why should you Visit: Today, a part of The University of Reading, the MERL Museum holds over 25,000 objects, almost all of which are on display. These objects provide a material record of rural England covering happenings from the year 1750 to the present day. It cares for a collection of livestock portraiture, representations of rural life, agricultural hand tools, ploughs, farm machinery among other equipment. The museum has a specialist library and houses other collections including the library of the Tools & Trades History Society.

Timings: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Entry Fees: Free except for a few events for which visitors can be charged.

Official Website: Museum of English Rural Life

8Caversham Court Gardens

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About: Caversham Court Gardens on the banks of the Thames is a garden of National Importance and listed in the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England. There used to be monastic cell earlier within the grounds of Caversham court, which was replaced during Tudor times by a beautiful Tudor-fashioned mansion during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, part of both now being preserved in the Reading Museum. It dates back to the 12th century and was refurbished and re-opened in 2009.

Why should you visit: Reopened about a decade ago, the Caversham Court Gardens are of great Tourist interest in the town of Reading. This Public park comes with year-round floral displays, a tea kiosk and a gazebo overlooking the river Thames. Caversham Court hosts the annual Reading Open Air Shakespeare festival, staged by Reading’s Progress Theatre each July. The festival originated in 1995, and until 2008 was staged in the ruins of Reading Abbey.

Timings: 8:00 a.m. – sunset.

Entry Fees: Free

Official Website: Caversham Court Gardens

9Dinton Pastures Country Park

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About: Dinton Pastures is a country park in the civil parish of St. Nicholas Hurst in the borough of Wokingham, near the Borough of Reading. The park has a stunning figure approximate of 450 acres of ground space filled with a total number of seven lakes, two rivers three public bird hides and spacious meadows. One of the lakes, Lavells Lake is designated as a local nature reserve. The two rivers that flow through the park are the River Loddon and the Emm Brook.

Why should you Visit: Anglo Saxons farmed the park’s river meadows and called the area Whistley, where “wisc” means marshy meadows and “lei” means a woodland clearing. The site is popular for a wide variety of sports and outdoor activities including sailing, angling, kayaking and canoeing. Other facilities around the park include a play area and a cafe that used to be a farmhouse built in 1904.

Timings: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Entry Fees: Free admission.

Official Website: Dinton Pastures Country Park

10Mapledurham Estate

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About: Mapledurham is a small village, civil parish and country estate beside the River Thames, in southern Oxfordshire. Although the parish borders the large town of Reading, Berkshire, the village has a rural and picturesque character. Significant historic buildings include the Church of England parish church of St. Margaret, Mapledurham Watermill and Mapledurham House.

Why should you Visit: Well, this location has such a magnificent history it is sure to stun you right out of your mind. A 12th Century family house and farm tucked away from the busy lifestyle of UK’s metropolitan districts, nestled just near the River Thames the Mapledurham Estate has a stock of unique anachronisms for visitors to marvel upon, such as a dairy farm, a hydroelectric Archimedes screw turbine, a traditional watermill for production of flour, an arable farm, a golf course, several commercial lettings, a tea room, two art studios, moorings and passenger boats to and from Mapledurham, a biomass heating system and a country events park among others.

Timings: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Entry Fees: Nil

Official Website: Mapledurham Estate

11Mapledurham Watermill

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Why should you Visit: Mapledurham Watermill is located within the grounds of the historic Mapledurham Estate and House. This is a privately owned country estate which has been in the same family since 1492. However, it is a fact that there has been a watermill at the Mapledurham riverfront for over 1000 years as it appears in The Domesday Book of 1086, which had been sponsored by the first Norman Kings of England. In 2017 the Mapledurham Manor House celebrated 50 years of being open to the public tours and visits, has now been closed off for a while as an extensive restoration project is being undertaken. Tours will begin again in 2019. The Tea Room at Mapledurham is famous for its traditional Cream Teas, freshly baked scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Timings: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Entry Fees: Nil (Pre-booked guided tours only)

Official Website: Mapledurham Watermill

12Thames Path – Walk to Shiplake

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Why should you Visit: Designated a National Trail, the Thames Path follows the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton, south east London. The Thames Path is about 184 miles (296 km) long, however, only a small part of the trail falls within the peripheries of Reading Town. From Reading train station you can join the Thames Path at Caversham Lock. Six and a half miles long, this walk from Reading to Shiplake will take you through some really beautiful, rural English countryside. Before reaching Shiplake, you’ll find Sonning, where you will find the picturesque Bull Inn, as visited by Jerome K Jerome in the film, ‘Three Men in a Boat’ then see the Mill at Sonning, and cross the bridge to Playhatch and continue on to Dunsden Green for a visit of the Loddon Brewery.

Timings: Open 24 hours

Entry Fees: Nil

Official Website: Thames Path – Walk to Shiplake

13View Island

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Why should you Visit: View Island is a small Riverine Island near Caversham Lock, on the River Thames at Reading. The island was a derelict boatyard when Reading Borough Council took it over in 1998 and restored it. Now it is a quiet, relaxing island with grassy paths and seating. It is set out as a small park containing several chainsaw carved sculptures. It connects to Caversham via the Heron Island which has private riverside housing. Go there to spend a day in the solitude of View Island park.

Timings: 24 hours

Entry Fees: Nil

Official Website: View Island

14King’s Meadow

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Why should you Visit: King’s Meadow is a park in Reading, Berkshire, located on the banks of River Thames. Land of King’s Meadow was originally part of the land given to the Reading Abbey, which became King’s Meadow only after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 and the subsequent destruction of the Reading Abbey. In 1869, the town of Reading purchased 12 acres of the Meadow from the monarchy as a recreation ground. Since then this area has been used as the site for a variety of public events such as the Reading Market, a racecourse, Reading Shows and fairs. It is a popular picnic site with groups of mature trees. Within the Kings Meadow Park, there are playing fields used by the public and football clubs throughout the year. Also, there is a pleasant walk along the towpath up to Reading Bridge and Caversham Lock is at the eastern end. It is also a popular spot for mooring and fishing. Nearby there is also a large Tesco Supermarket.

Timings: Open 24 hours.

Entry Fees: Free

Official Website: King’s Meadow

15Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry

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Why should you Visit: To get a wholesome idea of the story of how William, Duke of Normandy defeated the newly crowned Anglo-Saxon King of England, Harold Godwinson or Harold II, in 1066, one should definitely visit the Bayeux Gallery of the Reading Museum and check out Britain’s only copy of the extraordinary Bayeux Tapestry where this story is illustrated explicitly over a 70 metre long well-preserved piece of cloth from the 11th Century.

Timings: Closes 4:00 p.m.

Entry Fees: Free entry. Admission from Reading Town Hall and Museum

Official Website: Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry

16Cole’s Museum of Zoology

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Why should you Visit: The Cole Museum of Zoology is a university museum, part of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading. The collection was established in the early 20th century by Francis J. Cole (Professor of Zoology), Dr Nellie B. Eales (who catalogued the collection), and Mr Stoneman, from 1907 to 1939 when Cole retired. A refurbishment of the museum was completed in 2004. The new larger museum contains about 4,000 specimens of which about 400 are on display at any one time. Specimens are arranged in 27 cases in taxonomic sequence, thus enabling a complete tour of the diversity of the animal kingdom.

Timings: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Entry Fees: Nil

Official Website: Cole’s Museum of Zoology

17Grey’s Court, Henley-on-Thames

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Why should you Visit: Greys Court is a Tudor country house and gardens in the southern Chiltern Hills at Rotherfield Greys, near Henley-on-Thames in the county of Oxfordshire, England. The name derives from an old connection to the Grey family, descendants of the Norman knight Anchetil de Greye. The estate or manor of Rotherfield Greys is referred to in the Domesday Book. Since the estate falls just outside the town of Reading in Berkshire County, tourists can easily visit scenic, historical Grey’s Court.

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Entry Fees: Adult: £11.70

Official Website: Grey’s Court, Henley-on-Thames

18Christchurch Meadows

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Why should you Visit: Christ Church Meadow is a well-known flood-meadow, and popular walking and picnic spot in Oxford, England. This Riverside area is a self-sufficient popular location with a lot of local as well as touring visitors as this area offers a wide variety of activities to chose from, like fields for athletic sports like football and rugby, and land tennis courts & a bike path along with a kids’ paddle pool & fishing among other activities.

Timings: Open 24 hours

Entry Fees: Free

Official Website: Christchurch Meadows

19Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology

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Why should you Visit: The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology contains one of the most important collections of Greek antiquities in the United Kingdom. The Museum forms part of the Department of Classics at the University of Reading. The museum houses a collection of material from the Greek and Greco-Roman civilisations of the Mediterranean, most notably Greek and Etruscan ceramics and terracottas. Other exhibits include prehistoric pottery, metal and stone artefacts from classical Greek and Roman times, and a collection of Egyptian antiques, ranging from the Pre-dynastic to the Roman period.

Timings: 9:00 a.m – 4:30 p.m.

Entry Fees: Free

Official Website: Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology

20Basildon Park

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Why should you Visit: This is a scenic country house situated 2 miles south of Goring-on-Thames and Streatley in Berkshire, between the villages of Upper and Lower Basildon. The house was built between 1776 and 1783 for Sir Francis Sykes and designed by John Carr in the Palladian style at a time when Palladianism was giving way to the newly fashionable neoclassicism. Today, Basildon Park is as notable for its mid-twentieth-century renaissance and restoration, by Lord and Lady Iliffe, as it is for its architecture. The Illife’s gave the House and grounds to the National Trust to protect it for future generations to enjoy.

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m

Entry Fees: Adult: £12.70

Official Website: Basildon Park

21Wellington Country Park

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Why should you Visit: Spread across 350 acres of beautiful coniferous and deciduous woodland, now converted into parkland, the Wellington Country Park offers a safe, open-air and fun-filled venue for the whole family! Special attractions include walking trails, a special area for kids and a mini railway within the park, plus a petting barn and a crazy golf course.

Timings: 9:30 a.m – 5:30 p.m.

Entry Fees: Adult (high season): £13.50

Official Website: Wellington Country Park

22Museum of Berkshire Aviation

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Why should you Visit: The Museum of Berkshire Aviation is a small aviation museum in Woodley, a suburb of Reading in Berkshire, England. The museum is on the edge of the site of the former Woodley Aerodrome and many of its exhibits relating to the Phillips & Powis company later renamed Miles Aircraft, which was based there from 1932 to 1947. Despite being a small museum, several of the exhibits are unique survivors. These include a Miles Martinet (a World War II target tug), the only Miles Student two-seat side-by-side jet trainer ever built, and a Fairey Jet Gyrodyne — a composite helicopter and autogyro.

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (opens on Sundays and Wednesdays only)

Entry Fees: Adult: £3.50

Official Website: Museum of Berkshire Aviation

23Arthur Newbery Park

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Why should you Visit: Arthur Newbery Park is a park in Tilehurst, Reading, Berkshire. It is named after Arthur Newbery, who donated the land in 1932. It is one of Reading’s oldest parks and was once part of Kentwood Common. Hollows in the park are remains of chalk and clay pits. The Park slopes down to the north giving views to the River Thames and across its valley. It is mainly grass, with scattered trees, although there are small wooded areas and a play area. The park is of 26 acres and was once owned by Arthur Newbery, who owned and ran a high-class furniture shop located at the junction of Friar Street and Queen Victoria Street in Reading town centre in trade for over forty years. The Park was originally known as Hare Moor.

Timings: Open 24 hours

Entry Fees: Free

Official Website: Arthur Newbery Park

24Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock

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Why should you Visit: A subsidiary of the Reading Museum, the Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock tells the story of Reading’s two rivers – the Kennet and the Thames – the Museum occupies two listed former waterworks buildings, the Screen House and the Turbine House. The Screen House displays our beautiful gypsy caravan built by Reading firm Dunton and Sons to the ‘Ledge’ design, and a video about gypsy life. It houses preserved turbine machinery.

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m

Entry Fees: Free (but there is a suggested donation of £3)

Official Website: Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock

25The Mill at Sonning

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Why should you Visit: The Mill at Sonning is a theatre and restaurant (or dinner theatre), converted from an 18th-century flour mill, on an island in the River Thames at Sonning Eye in the English county of Oxfordshire. There has always been a mill at Sonning for many centuries. In the Domesday Book of 1086 three mills at ‘Sonninges and Berrochescire’ are mentioned. For a perfect experience of the past colliding into the present, tourists and visitors are advised to visit this place and let the history and present of the Town of Reading amaze you thoroughly.

Timings: 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Entry Fees: Free, but shows are charged accordingly.

Official Website: The Mill at Sonning

  • #26. Reading Minster of St. Mary the Virgin
  • #27. Knockout Escape Room
  • #28. Museum of Berkshire Aviation
  • #29. St. Peter’s Church, Caversham
  • #30. Sol Joel Park
  • #31. St Mary’s Church, Castle Street, Reading
  • #32. Holy St. Anne’s Well
  • #33. Maiden Erlegh Local Nature Reserve
  • #34. Southcote Linear Park
  • #35. Reading Central Library
  • #36. Wantage Hall
  • #37. Moor Copse Nature Reserve
  • #38. Oxfam Bookstore
  • #39. Greyfriars Book Shop
  • #40. Banff Mountain Film Festival
  • #41. Cheese Feast, Forbury Garden
  • #42. Reading Contemporary Art Fair
  • #43. Are You Listening Festival
  • #44. L’Ortolan French Restaurant
  • #45. Buon Appetito, Italian Restaurant
  • #46. Miller and Carter Oracle Steakhouse
  • #47. The Lyndhurst Gastropub
  • #48. Sweeney and Todd, Bakery & Deli
  • #49. Bill’s Reading Restaurant, Contemporary Dining
  • #50. Creams Reading Dessert Parlour

Loved the city of Reading? Well ! check out other wonderful places to visit nearby Reading as well.

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