Surrey is way more than just the greenbelt lands 30 miles outside of London – and at its heart is the pretty town of Guildford, a settlement which can trace its roots all the way back to Saxon times. Today, it’s a pretty market town, much favoured by well-to-do commuters who like it’s historic feel and close proximity to London. With more of a laid-back atmosphere, yet still close to the action, it’s a great destination for a UK weekend break as well. Generations of visitors have been charmed by this location which still retains a historic flavour while being so well connected to the vibrant capital. And while enough people sing the praises of Guildford for it not to be quite a hidden gem, it still feels like a wonderful place to discover for yourself.
Guildford’s Historic Charm
A stroll through Guildford on a sunny day is a stroll through the history of England. From a medieval castle right at the heart of the town , to the waterways of the Basingstoke Canal that brought prosperity during the Industrial Revolution, through to the striking 20th century cathedral, it’s a microcosm of British history. There’s even Guildford Lido, originally opened in the 1930s and the ideal destination for a warm summer’s day. Wherever you turn, there is history at your fingertips in this superb town. The town appears listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, and features a Norman castle built by William The Conqueror. If you’re after a history fix, then add Guildford Castle, Guildford House Gallery and the historic Undercroft to your must-visit list. There are also some famous ex-residents, most notable of whom might be Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. You can follow a trail of sites related to the renowned author, including Alice sculptures in the Castle Grounds and his grave at Mount Cemetery, as well as seeing memorabilia in Guildford Museum.
Adventures In Eating And Drinking in Guidlford
Foodies and fans of nightlife won’t be disappointed either. Guildford has a buzzing restaurant scene and enough bars and pubs to keep you entertained. From a full-on gastronomic experience, to girly cocktails, a pub crawl, grabbing a quick coffee or even going for afternoon tea, no matter what you like to do, there will be a venue to suit your taste. Highly recommended venues locally include Thai Terrace, where exquisite Thai banquets can transport you halfway across the globe. If you’re looking for a vegan option, Kalm Kitchen is renowned for it’s eco-friendly approach and delicious food prepared on the premises. Celebrating a special occasion or just want to go all out? The Ivy Castle View promises a fine-dining experience at an outpost of the world-renowned upmarket chain – with a stunning panoramic view of the town, first-class service and a very special ambience. Guildford is also a Purple Flag down, giving it special status as a safe night out. From cocktails and live music at Komo to the lively Cosy Club, there are plenty of places to meet up with friends and socialise – as well as later nightlife at PopWorld or Bar Thirteen for those wanting to party into the night. There’s so much to discover here by day or night.
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Retail Therapy: Shopping in Guildford
Of course, if you’re looking to treat yourself, Guildford has all the usual high street suspects, plus some lovely independent shops to discover as well. Try the recently opened Tunsgate Quarter, which houses brands like Lululemon, Cath Kidston and The White Company. You could quite happily while away an afternoon browsing the shelves there. The pretty cobbled high street is also worth exploring, and if you like fresh produce and local delicacies, then the Guildford Farmers Market takes place on a monthly basis with artisan providers.
Seeing and Exploring Guildford
As destinations go, Guildford has pretty much everything you might need. But should you want to explore London while you’re at it, you can get into the City on the train in around 35 minutes to explore further. And surrounding Guildford itself are some beautiful villages, like Albury (where you can take part in a vineyard tour and English wine tasting) and the beautiful Shere, which has appeared in films including The Holiday and Bridget Jones’ Diary, and boasts picturesque views, two Norman churches, gift shops and the wonderfully named Shere Delights for an ice cream or some other sweet treats.
Both a wonderful place in itself and well-linked to other locations, it’s easy to see why Guildford is enduringly popular with tourists, businesses and residents too.