markets & market towns
East of England
St Albans has been familiar with the bustle and cries of market traders for centuries. The City has had a Royal Charter since 1553 although documents from the 9th century suggest that Markets have been a feature of City life since then.
Its historic Market makes this Hertfordshire city, 20 miles north of London, a great place to visit any week of the year. Even if you can’t buy cattle nowadays, there’s still a palpable sense of history, with a fantastic array of stalls lined up cheek by jowl with half-timbered buildings.
Up to 150 stalls on Saturdays and 140 on Wednesdays stock everything from fresh fish to luggage and sporting goods. Picture framers, jewellers and stalls featuring handmade gifts and unique clothing rub shoulders with the staple fruits and vegetables. The market functions as a series of pop-up shops and boutiques that complement the fantastic array of established chains and quirky independent businesses in the City centre.
The bright blue and yellow canopies (the City’s colours) are easy to spot and make for a colourful sight. But St Albans Market is a feast for all the senses. On Wednesdays there’s a sound of sizzling in the air and the delicious aromas of hot food waft across the Market’s street-food zone. This tempts workers from shops and offices throughout the City centre, eager to taste everything from exotic Brazilian feijoada (pork and bean stew) to Middle Eastern falafel. Alternatively, there’s Caribbean cuisine and gourmet burgers, and you can always take home a box of cupcakes to enjoy.
Of course this is a City renowned for its food culture. As well as a thriving restaurant scene, the District’s tenth Food and Drink Festival takes place this year promising to be bigger and better than ever. This is fitting for the home City of one of the pubs claiming to be the oldest in Britain – Ye Olde Fighting Cocks. It’s also birthplace of the Campaign for Real Ale, whose fabulous annual Beer and Cider Festival forms a centrepiece for the Food and Drink Festival.
You might like to combine your visit to St Albans with a tour from the blue badge accredited City Guides. Their popular Martyrs, Monks and Markets tour is an opportunity to discover the true heart of St Albans. It includes a visit to 11th Century St Albans Cathedral, a guided walk through the historic streets of the city, and an amble through the market place.
Looking to the future, the Grade II* Listed Georgian Old Town Hall reopens in 2018 as a fantastic state-of-the-art Museum and Art Gallery. It will be a unique space for arts, culture, entertainment and exhibitions, as well as historic court rooms and prison cells often used in film sets. The £8M project is part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is well worth a visit.
Your group will receive a warm welcome in this historic City, where a venerable tradition of market trading is still going strong.
fact fileGetting here: St Albans is close to the M1 (junction 6 or 7/8), A1(M) and M25 (junctions 21A and 22), making it easily accessible from all parts of the UK. The coach drop-off point is on St Peter’s Street, AL3 5DJ, right in the heart of the Market. There is coach parking available at various sites around St Albans city centre. Find details at www.enjoystalbans.com/coaches Market days: Wednesdays and Saturdays, throughout the year. Farmers Market: Second Sunday in the month. Christmas Market: Late November – December. Dates for 2018 tbc. Continental markets take place throughout the year, check www.enjoystalbans.com for details