Basic guide to living in Reading

Map of Reading

Reading is a city known for its shops, and while it’s the perfect destination for shopping, it offers much more. Reading is located an hour and a half’s drive from central London and is one of the UK cities that has grown most in recent years because more and more people are settling there to work, study or just relax in the beautiful Berkshire countryside.

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and move to Reading, take a look at this guide that we have made in order to make your stay a little easier.

1. General information about the city

Reading is a city which belongs to the county of Berkshire, located halfway between London and Oxford and near the confluence of the Rivers Thames and Kennet. The original settlement was founded in the eighth century under the name Readingum, and in the year 871 was occupied by the Vikings. Reading Abbey was a center of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages, when the city was one of the largest in the county of Berkshire. In 1688, during the Glorious Revolution, various battles were fought in the city. The railroad came to Reading in 1841. Ten years later the city had 21,500 inhabitants and was famous for its biscuits and beer. More than a century later, in 1974, the city was officially declared the capital of Berkshire.

Reading

Its population according to the census of 2011 is 15,698 inhabitants, although as we have said before, the city continues to grow, so the number will probably be higher today. One reason for this growth is that Reading is possibly one of the most important business centres of South East England (after London). Many major UK companies are located in the city, which is full of multinational corporations and technology parks. Some of the companies that have established their headquarters in the city are Microsoft, Huawei, Ericsson, ING Direct, Intel and Cisco. Thanks to its strategic position, distribution centers of major companies like Tesco and PepsiCo are also located there.

2. Transport

The best way to get to Reading is to take a plane to London. If you arrive at Stanstead airport, you must take a bus to Victoria Station and from there you can take a bus or train to Reading. If you arrive at Gatwick you have the option of taking a direct train, and from Heathrow you can take a bus to Reading.

Once in Reading you can use public transport to get around the city: the Reading bus line will take you anywhere you want (within the city). However, Reading isn’t very big and you can also move around perfectly by bike; the city has a large student population, and there are many people who use this means of transport. To leave town you can take the train, which makes long-distance journeys and has direct connections to almost all major cities in the UK.

3. Tourism and leisure

Reading Abbey
Ruins of Reading Abbey

In Reading you can enjoy many things apart from an afternoon of shopping. The city also has some important cultural activities on offer. Lovers of history and architecture can visit the ruins of Reading Abbey, founded by Henry I in 1121. The abbey occupied about 12 hectares and was surrounded on three sides by a large wall with four reinforced doors, one of which, the western gate, served as a prison. In 1538, King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, and Reading Abbey was almost demolished and its stones were used to repair other buildings. The walls still remain today.

Close to the abbey is the church of St James & William of York, which was founded in 1840 and was built in a Romanesque style. If you find yourself in the area, you can also go visit the Reading Town Hall, the building that housed the city council. It was built between 1786 and 1897 and has now become a concert hall, with several smaller rooms for conferences and a public cafe.

Those who like museums and culture can go to the Reading Museum, where you can discover the history of the city and its surroundings, archaeological discoveries, antiques and various paintings and sculptures. Other museums of interest are the Museum of English Rural Life or Racing and River Boat Museum.

Fourbury Gardens
Fourbury Gardens

If you get bored with the museums and you’re looking for a walk in a quiet place, Fourbury Gardens is perfect for this. These gardens are the floral heart of the city and are nationally acclaimed. You can relax in a green, peaceful and natural environment there, and find the Maiwand Lion sculpture, a memorial in honor of the fallen at the Battle of Maiwand. You can also stroll along the banks of the Thames, a perfect place to walk your pet, go for a walk, cycle or play tennis with friends.

After a hard day of work or walking around the city, Reading has a wide range of restaurants with a variety of dishes. At the Oracle Shopping Centre, you can enjoy wonderful views of the River Kennet as well as eat.

Reading Festival 2015
Reading Festival 2015

Reading is also that hosts one of the most important music festivals in the area, the Reading Festival. This festival is held between the 26th and 28th of August on Richfield Avenue, and has the privilege of hosting big names from the music scene, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Imagine Dragons, Two Door Cinema Club, Foals and Disclosure. This event has been held since 1989.

4. Accommodation

As in many cities in the UK, find housing in Reading is not an easy task, but not impossible either. It’s around £500 per month to rent a room in the city. If you want, you can have a look at our article about the price of rent in Britain. Some of the pages that might be useful for finding accommodation in the city are SpareRoom, Gumtree and EasyRoommate.

This other article can also help:

5. Study in Reading

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The student community is also very present in Reading. The University of Reading was founded in 1892 as a college associated with the University of Oxford, but in 1921 it became independent, becoming the university as it is today. The institution has an annual budget of 25 million pounds, of which 10% comes from commercial and industrial financing. The university has three campuses distributed throughout the city, and about 15.000 students go to their classrooms, 3.000 of them foreigners. In summer, the main campus becomes a camp to learn English intended for foreign youth. In these language courses participate hundreds of teenagers from more than 10 countries.

The city also has a second university, the Thames Valley University (TVU), which was a result of the merger of the TVU (Ealing and Slough) with the Reading College School of Arts & Design. This university offers specialized technical studies that aren’t found at any other institution and only 40% of its approximately 53,000 students study full-time.

You can find more information on the country’s universities and the British educational system in the following articles:

6. Work

As we have said before, Reading is full of shops, so with a medium level of English it isn’t difficult to find something in one of the hotels, shops, restaurants or leisure complexes in the area. As there are technology parks, there is also a lot of work in the field of computer science and programming, so it is a good destination for those who have been trained in this area. One tip that we always give is that you should try to have some money saved in case it takes some time to find a job. It is also very important to have a good British-style CV and, above all, patience.

You can look for work online using the following pages: Fish4, Gumtree, Indeed and Reed.

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And if you want to know more about this topic, you can refer to the following articles:

7. Extra Information

Do you think we could expand the information and add something more about Reading? If you think we have forgotten to add something or have any questions about life in Reading, please send an e-mail to theukister@gmail.com. The Ukister team hopes that this guide will help you to start a new life in Reading.

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