More than just a commuter town for London, Reading is in an attractive spot in the Thames Valley where the Kennet and Thames rivers meet. Full of historic sights – including a medieval abbey and the 11th-century Reading Minster – it’s also surrounded by the greenery of the Chiltern Hills and the Berkshire Downs.
Although the Reading Festival hogs all the attention every August bank holiday, the town also hosts more festivities along the Thames – not to mention lazy cruises along the river. Around the town and neighbor villages, you’ll find a good mix of independent hotels as well as chains.
The best hotels in Reading are:
- Best for easy travel: Malmaison, booking.com
- Best for riverside quirks: Bel & the Dragon, booking.com
- Best-for-business: Crowne Plaza Reading, booking.com
- Best for gamers: pentahotel Reading, booking.com
- Best for arty sophistication: The Roseate, booking.com
- Best for social foodies: The Market House, booking.com
- Best for old-fashioned charms: Beech House Hotel, booking.com
- Best for romance: The Great House at Sonning, booking.com
- Best for boaters: Bull Inn, booking.com
- Best nature lovers: The French Horn, booking.com
You can’t get closer to Reading station than Malmaison, which has done a pleasingly modern take on the old-fashioned railway hotel. The train theme is given a chic look in the contemporary rooms, with cleverly done artwork and modern bathrooms. There’s more industrial chic going on in Chez Mal Brasserie, which serves classic British gastropub fare (lots of steaks, burgers, and Asian-inspired dishes) along with a bottomless Sunday brunch.
Price: Doubles from £81
An old biscuit factory on the River Kennet has been turned into a restaurant with a collection of five rooms attached (although the sole single room is look and tiny). Bright rooms have homey, overstuffed chairs, nicely distressed pine furnishings and mini free bottles of sloe gin and whiskey. The waterside vibe extends to the private dining area on an attached canal boat, the Majestic Bel.
Price: Doubles from £99
Showing much more character than your average business hotel, this Thameside four-star is in an enviable spot just east of the vast Rivermead Park where the Reading Festival takes over every August. It’s decked out in classic contemporary decor – pale oak furnishings, plum throws, padded headboards – and some of the rooms have balconies overlooking the Thames. The terrace on the Thames in the Riverside restaurant comes into its own in the summer, and the well-equipped spa center includes an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna and a gym.
Price: Doubles from £72
Not many budget hotels offer PS4 games or, if you’re in a retro mood, Space Invaders and Pac Man. Splash out on a suite and you get a free pinball machine. But even standard rooms have sleek modern decor and a faintly Fifties feel in the furnishings. The cool atmosphere is reflected in the pentalounge, where there’s billiard table, 24-hour bar and games consoles to go with its gastropub-style menu and cocktails.
Price: Doubles from £64
Set in an imposing 1911 building facing Forbury Gardens, the Roseate has packed its elegant rooms with original art and wonderfully opulent furnishings. There’s a hint of minimalism in some of the rooms, but most have luxurious decor that’s meant for cocooning in comfort. There’s more pampering to be done in the spa, which has a sauna and steam room to go with its gym and treatment rooms. The Cerise restaurant ranges from an all-day menu of high-class snacks and small plates to a tasting menu that gets creative with British classics. When the weather’s dry, have a cocktail in the Secret Garden.
Price: Doubles from £85
One of Reading’s newest additions to its hotel and restaurant scene, the Market House combines a boutique hotel with a food emporium and bars. Rooms have chunky iron bedsteads to go with exposed brick walls and funky furnishings. When you’re not grabbing a drink in the garden bar that features a retractable roof to catch the sun, head to the rooftop terrace for cocktails with a view.
Price: Doubles from £65
This large Victorian house is in a residential area in the southern side of town, close to Prospect Park and Reading West station. Inside it’s as traditionally Victorian as you can get, with plenty of chintz and original fireplaces. The garden is delightful, full of shaded places to sit and relax after indulging in a generous breakfast. The free on-site parking is very handy.
Price: Doubles from £80
Follow the Thames eastward where it splinters into the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake, the marina and Reading Sailing Club. Here you’ll find the little hamlet of Sonning, where the Great House is in an enchanting riverside spot. Rooms in this Elizabethan coaching inn combine a country cottage feel with exposed brick and plush furnishings with sleek light fittings. For sheer romance, choose the riverside view room with a free-standing bath. There’s more rustic chic in the restaurant, which has a good selection of grilled fish dishes to go with steaks and salads.
Price: Doubles from £100
For more countryside cuteness, stay in Sonning at the 16th-century Bull Inn, which is only a few minutes’ walk from the River Thames and the Upper Thames Motor Yacht Club. The decor is exactly what you want in a country pub: lots of beamed ceilings, wrought-iron beds and feature fireplaces. The beamed Fullers pub has a menu that borrows freely from around the world but has British staples including fish and chips. On warm days, you can eat on the flowery covered terrace.
Price: Doubles from £98
With large gardens tumbling down towards the Thames, the French Horn is an enticing place to lie under the shade of the trees and watch river life in Sonning. This former coaching inn has light-filled rooms with classy traditional furnishings, many with river views. The French-inspired menu in the restaurant is pricey but has top-class ingredients including lobster and Dover sole – and, in keeping with the tranquil spirit of the place, mobile phones and laptops are banned from the restaurant.
Price: Doubles from £180