The city of St Albans has a history stretching back more than 2000 years, and it shows! With everything from Roman ruins to medieval cathedrals to explore, this treasure of Hertfordshire was once one of the most important cities in England. London is less than an hour away, so it makes a fantastic day trip, or if you are wanting to take your time, stay in one of the many old coaching inns that St Albans is known for. Whether you are traveling with children or flying solo, it’s tough to narrow down the best things to do in St Albans. Whatever you choose, a visit here is a memorable way to experience the long history of England.
1. de Havilland Aircraft Museum
This is a working museum, dedicated to the restoration and preservation of de Havilland aircraft, including the WWII Tiger Moth, one of the most historically iconic planes ever created. Here you can see the evolution of aircraft design - from wooden, pre-WWII planes to sleek jet airliners. If you are visiting in the summer, you can reserve a place in the ‘Cockpit Experience Event’, a perfect opportunity for you to channel your inner fighter pilot! During your visit, knowledgeable volunteer aircraft restorers will happily answer any questions that you have and children are welcome.
Opening hours are 10:30 am to 5 pm but closed to the public on Mondays and during the months of November through February.
de Havilland Aircraft Museum
Address: Salisbury Hall, Shenley, London Colney AL2 1BU
Website: de Havilland Aircraft Museum
2. Verulamium Park
Once an ancient Roman city and now 100 acres (40.5 hectares) of beautiful, green public space, take a breather from the hustle and bustle of St Albans and roam around this stunning park. Look back in time at the ruins of ancient city walls, then meander around the lake and enjoy the wide variety of waterfowl or, if you are feeling energetic, there are is an outdoor fitness area, tennis courts, running track, indoor swimming pool, and golf course!
If you have young children, let them enjoy the splash park (don’t forget to pack a towel!). The park is free to visit, but keep in mind that you will have to pay 1.50 GBP (2 USD) per hour, for parking.
Address: St Albans AL3 4SW, UK
Website: Verulamium Park
3. Redbournbury Watermill and Bakery
A working mill and museum on a site that has housed a mill for over 1000 years, the Redbournbury Watermill has been carefully restored and celebrates the long history of grain milling. If you are feeling spry, climb the stairs to the top of this four-story building, to inspect the inner workings of this watermill and its impressive Victorian machinery.
While children are welcome, keep in mind that it is not an interactive museum and the huge machinery can be dangerous, so younger children should be well supervised, at all times. Only open on weekends, the best time to see the mill in action is on Sundays. The bakery side of this mill is open on Saturday mornings and has a tasty selection of hand-shaped traditional loaves.
Redbournbury Watermill and Bakery
Address: Redbournbury Watermill, Redbournbury Lane, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL3 6RS
Website: Redbournbury Watermill and Bakery
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4. Verulamium Hypocaust and Mosaic
Take an easy 10-minute walk across Verulamium Park and find an unimpressive, low, white building - but don’t ignore it, because inside this protective shell is a spectacular Roman mosaic, preserved in the very place it was built, nearly 2000 years ago. Once part of a floor for the reception rooms of a large Roman townhouse, this intricate mosaic is a fantastically preserved example of this ancient artform.
With a galleried walkway around the entire ruin, you can view it from all angles, to see the hypocaust underneath (ancient Rome’s answer to central heating).
Verulamium Hypocaust and Roman Mosaic
Address: Verulamium Park, St Michael’s Street, St Albans, Hertfordshire, England, AL3 4SW
Website: Verulamium Hypocaust and Mosaic
5. Willows Activity Farm
It can be difficult to keep younger children interested in culture and history, but never fear! St Albans has more to offer than just Roman ruins and museums. Designed for children under the age of 10, Willows Activity Farm has hours of fun. Kids can meet the farm animals, run wild in the new Peter Rabbit themed adventure playground, ride on a tractor, make music in Jeremy Fisher’s music pond and meet Peter Rabbit himself! If you are traveling with young children, this is a day out they will remember!
Willows Activity Farm
Address: Coursers Road, London Colney, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL4 0PF
Website: Willows Activity Farm
6. Old Gorhambury House
A small ruin with a fascinating history, Old Gorhambury House is the remains of an Elizabethan mansion. Free to visit, and open every day during daylight hours, this important piece of English heritage can be reached after a gentle 30-minute walk through the private estate of Lord Verulam, or, if you prefer, you can ride a bike.
Once a hugely impressive country house, very little remains, but the beautifully carved porch will give you an idea of how stunning the house was when Queen Elizabeth I visited. Please note that the ruin is closed every Saturday, from September to January.
Old Gorhambury House
Address: English Heritage, Gorhambury, St Albans AL3 6AH, UK
Website: Old Gorhambury House
7. Roman Theatre of Verulamium
This stop is definitely worth a visit as this is the only Roman theater of its kind, in Britain. Once surrounded by shops and houses, the foundations of which you can still see here, this is not your usual Roman amphitheater. Despite being close to 2000 years old, the Verulamium had a raised stage, similar to the modern ones we know today.
Unlike the other ruins in St Albans, it is not free to visit but entry is very cheap and will only set you back 2 GBP (2.59 USD). There are small information boards dotted around the site, describing the history here, but the gatekeeper is a walking encyclopedia of the history of the area and will happily answer any questions you have.
Roman Theatre of Verulamium
Address: Bluehouse Hill, St Albans AL3 6AE, UK
Website: Roman Theatre of Verulamium
8. Verulamium Museum
On the edge of Verulamium Park, you will find this small museum, dedicated to showcasing the ancient Roman history of the area. With recreated rooms and interactive displays, the museum does a wonderful job of documenting Roman life in England, but the show stealing exhibits are the gorgeous mosaics and wall plasters, and a stunning collection of 1500-year-old gold coins.
9. St Albans Cathedral
Dating back to 1115, the cathedral and surrounding abbey were once a self-contained community and the original gatehouse and the striking tower of the church are still standing, after more than 1000 years. The abbey is also home to the shrine of St Alban, England’s first martyr, for whom the city is named.
To make the most of your visit here, take a free guided tour, run by a very knowledgeable local volunteer, who will explain the exquisite sculptures and stained glass windows. After your tour, have a refreshing cup of tea and slice of cake in the Abbott’s Kitchen. Keep in mind that this is still a functioning place of worship and there may be days that services or special events, like weddings, interrupt the regular tour schedule, so call in advance to be on the safe side.
St Albans Cathedral
Address: St Albans AL1 1BY, UK
Website: St Albans Cathedral
10. St Albans South Signal Box
If you want to visit this charming railway attraction, you will need to plan your visit, as it is only open on the afternoons of the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month. But, having said that, if you make it here, you can expect an afternoon of railway fabulousness, especially if you have young children.
Free to visit, the original and beautifully maintained signal box has all the bells and levers you could hope for! An interactive display, with a small museum downstairs, you and your children can learn all about the intricate workings of the railway systems of England, up until 1970. When you are finished in the building itself, you can enjoy a coffee in the well-kept gardens, while the kids explore the miniature railway.
St Albans South Signal Box.
Address: St Albans AL1 3AJ, UK
Website: St Albans South Signal Box
History buff or not...
Whether you are a history buff or not, St Albans has a fascinating past and effortlessly incorporates its ancient roots with modern life. Pack a picnic and enjoy an easy afternoon in Verulamium Park, soaking up the ancient Roman ambiance, or spend a morning marveling at the sculptures in the cathedral. Whatever your style, you certainly won’t find it difficult to fill your day, here.
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