Head to Reading for your Christmas shopping this year

PUBLISHED: 15:56 22 November 2013 | UPDATED: 14:12 13 December 2013

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If you haven’t yet started your Christmas shopping, head for Reading, says Katy Eachus. You’ll find all the style of London shopping but without the stress.

Reading is full of surprises, from history and culture to shopping and leisure. The centre has been rejuvenated in recent years with modern shops, luxury apartments and fashionable waterside cafes, making it the premier shopping destination west of London. With regular events, including music, literary and comedy festivals, and excellent transport links, this is a vibrant, cosmopolitan, university town that’s worth a visit at any time of year, but is fabulous at Christmas.

There is plenty of parking but for an enjoyable, stress-free experience, make use of the park and ride system or take the train. Stepping off the train at the newly refurbished station, you’ll immediately feel you’ve arrived in the centre of things. Walk to historic arcades, Broad Street (high street names including TK Maxx) and the Oracle shopping centre. You’ll find the largest branches outside London of shops like John Lewis, House of Fraser (Click here for details of the Reading store), Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Primark, and lots of little independent shops too. Latest stores to open include The Tasting Table (fine wine and charcuturie), Cath Kidston and Bills Produce Store.

Helping to drive the town’s prosperity is Reading UK CIC, an enterprise bringing together all those who have an interest in sustaining this vibrant local economy. The CIC is very much a voice for Reading when it comes to influencing policy and promoting business and investment.

Reading has over 100 parks and playgrounds, including five miles of riverside paths. Take a stroll through the Forbury Gardens, restored to their Victorian splendour, explore the ruins of Reading Abbey to the Kennet and Avon Canal, passing Reading Gaol where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned. Or take a boat trip along the Thames.

There are 850 listed buildings and monuments. The family-friendly Museum of Reading in the Victorian town hall and the Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock, and MERL, the Musuem of English Rural Life are worth a visit.

Reading will have a Super Cool Christmas this year. Don’t miss the switching on of the Christmas Lights on 16 November. The Oracle Christmas Spectacular starts from 7pm. Stock up your Christmas larder and buy festive foodie gifts at the Christmas Farmers Market in Broad Street on 30 November. From 13 to 15 December an Après Ski Christmas Market will be held there so you can relax in an Alpine wonderland.

For more details of the above events see our Countdown to Christmas feature in this issue. For more info on Reading, visit www.livingreading.co.uk

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