8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in St Albans
The old market town of St Albans lies on a hill above the left bank of the River Ver and attracts particular interest because of its abbey and the old Roman settlement of Verulamium. The town owes its name to St Alban, a Roman mercenary, who was converted to Christianity by St Amphibalus and suffered a martyr's death in 304 AD. His relics were discovered in 793 when Offa, King of Mercia, founded a Benedictine monastery here.
At the time of the War of the Roses, two decisive battles occurred in St Albans in 1455 and 1461 between the Houses of Lancaster and York.
1 Old Town
Standing in the center of the old town of St Albans is the Clock Tower, built in 1403 and providing fine panoramic sightseeing views down to the historic town streets. The bustling center is also the setting for the Market Place and Town Hall (1829).
The Museum of St Albans is well worth a visit and documents the town's history from its beginnings to the present day. To discover a magnificent collection of mechanical musical instruments, old music boxes and barrel organs, head to St Albans Organ Theatre.
Location: Hatfield Rd, St Albans
2 St Albans Cathedral
St Albans Cathedral sits on the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain. Alban, the first martyr, was buried here after giving his life for his faith over 1,700 years ago. Built in 1077, the cathedral has been extended several times: the nave was enlarged in 1214, the monks' chancel was added in 1235, the Lady Chapel in 1308 and the west front in 1879.
Inside the west entrance are a few bays in early English style, with five more on the south side of the nave. Remains of 13th Century frescoes, including a notable depiction of the crucifixion, can be seen on the columns flanking the north side. A beautiful wooden coffered ceiling spans the lay chancel, separated from the nave by a 14th Century rood screen. The large gatehouse (1361) on the south wall is all that remains of the former monastery, and the southern section of the transept still contains Saxon balustrades.
The cathedral's Monks' Chancel is roofed by ribbed vaulting featuring painted ornamental stucco dating from 1461, while the altar wall at the east end contains many statues. A small chapel stands on either side, with the southern one containing a slab commemorating the abbot Thomas de la Mare (d. 1375). The Saint's Chapel (1315) houses the tomb of St Alban, reconstructed in 1872. The tomb of St Amphibalus, who converted St Alban to Christianity, is situated on the north wall of the gallery. With a total length of 556 ft, St Albans Cathedral is second in size only to Winchester Cathedral.
Location: Sumpter Yard, St Albans
Settlement on the site of Verulamium arose in about 45 AD and was the first Roman municipium in Britain. Finds from various archeological digs are displayed in the adjoining Verulamium Museum.
A short walk away is the Roman Theatre, the only visible example in Britain. Linked to two temples, it was used for religious festivals, armed combat and wild animal shows. Across the River Ver is Britain's oldest inn, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks Inn. Built in 1539, its foundations date from 793 AD. Tunnels once ran between the cathedral and the inn's cellars.
Location: St Michaels St, St Albans
4 St Michael's Church
On the site of the ancient forum and next to St Albans Museum stands the trim St Michael's Church. Its Norman nave contains the tomb of philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626), also commemorated here by a monument. The picturesque 16th Century Kingsbury Water Mill (now a restaurant) is located nearby on the banks of the River Ver.
Location: St Michael's St, St Albans
5 Gardens of the Rose
A favorite tourist attraction for horticulturalists, the Gardens of the Rose are located at the headquarters of the Royal National Rose Society. The grounds boast the largest rose gardens in England with over 15,000 individual roses and more than 5,000 varieties. Some date from the 1800s. Set amidst five-acres, the display gardens and International Trial grounds were established in the late 1960s after the society moved from its original offices in Westminster, London. It is open to the public, and in bloom, from June to July.
Location: Chiswell Green, St Albans
6 International Organ Festival
The International Organ Festival and competition takes place every two years in early July (odd-numbered years only). Events include orchestral, choral and chamber concerts, as well as recitals, art exhibitions and lectures. The repertoire ranges from traditional to neo-modern. Visitors can catch performances in the cathedral, local churches and St Albans School.
7 Old Gorhambury House
Old Gorhambury House includes the remains of an Elizabethan mansion built in 1563 by Sir Nicholas Bacon, Queen Elizabeth's Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. The once-grand ruins include a two-story porch with parts of the hall, chapel and clock tower.
Location: St Albans, Hertfordshire
8 de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre
Preserving Britain's first aviation collection, the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre presents a variety of de Havilland aircraft, aero-engines, propellers, missiles, rockets and memorabilia. Among the attraction's collection, a unique Mosquito prototype is the only surviving WWII prototype in the World. It's all part of an interesting hands-on experience suitable for the whole family.
Location: Salisbury Hall, London Colney, Hertfordshire