Lying on the banks of the River Ouse, Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire in East England. This historic market town is located only an hour and a half away from London, which makes Bedford a perfect escape from the tumult and commotion of London. The city has plenty of rich history and culture coupled with sweeping views of breathtaking landscape. The town has some excellent museums, churches, parks, and other stunning places that you can check out. Bedford is a popular location for tourists around the world to experience the breathtaking English countryside not far away from the capital. This quaint and charming town has something for everyone to do or explore. Here are the best things to do in Bedford, UK.

Higgins Art Gallery & Museum
Photo © M J Richardson (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Situated in the Castle Quarter, Higgins Art Gallery & Museum is the main museum and art gallery of Bedford. It is a perfect place to explore the local history and culture. The English art gallery and museum was founded by a local brewer, Cecil Higgins, in 1949 to display his collection of ceramics, glass, and other art. The museum houses nationally recognised collections of William Burges, the Victorian Gothic Revival designer along with the collections of Edward Bawden, the 20th-century artist and designer. Not only these collections, but Higgins Art Gallery & Museum also has several artefacts and exhibitions for you to gaze at. After exploring the museum and art gallery, you can visit the beautiful Higgins' House with stunning decorative arts and fantastic English architecture. The entry is free; however, a donation is appreciated. The building also has a fantastic restaurant where you can devour mouth-watering English food.

The World Famous Shuttleworth Collection

Shuttleworth Collection
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Located only 9 miles away from Bedford, Shuttleworth Collection is an automotive and aeronautical museum situated in Old Warden, Bedfordshire. It is one of the most esteemed museums of such kind and houses an assortment of various well-kept old aircraft. The charitable organisation aims to inform and educate people about Aviation and Automotive transport. Shuttleworth Collection has several exhibitions on display that you can see, such as exhibits of vintage aircraft, classic motorcycles, veteran vehicles, industrial heritage exhibition, and much more. After looking at all the exhibitions and other displays, you can visit the small cafe on the premises which serves delicious English delights.

The Stunning Bedford Park

Bedford Park
M J Richardson / Pavilion in Bedford Park / CC BY-SA 2.0

Largest urban park in the city, Bedford Park is an English Heritage Victorian park. This Grade II listed park was created in 1888 and even has been coveted with Green Flag Award. The park has several amenities such as playgrounds for children, sports facilities, swimming pool, and much more. There are trees and flowerbeds all around the park making the park stunning to look at. The park is perfect for strolling around with a beautiful landscape and serene environment. There are beautiful water fountains all over the park. The park has a cafe where you can enjoy snacks and tea. You can bring your own picnic and enjoy it on a beautiful sunny day.

Magnificent St Paul's Church

Located on St Paul's Square, St Paul's Church dates back to the 13th Century and is the largest Anglican church in Bedfordshire. St Paul's Church is an integral part of the Bedford community and has national importance as well. In 1941, during the second world war, BBC broadcasted the daily worships of St Paul's Church. The Bedford legend, John Bunyan, preached at this very church in the 1600s. The church hosts concerts on Tuesdays along with stunning recitals on the organ. The church has some magnificent stained glass windows and an impressive altar. This beautiful medieval gem has very ornate and beautiful features throughout. You can also attend the guided tours led by enthusiastic volunteers who will tell you about the history of this masterpiece. The church has a very tranquil environment where you can quietly reflect and contemplate.

River Great Ouse Embankment

River Great Ouse Embankment
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River Great Ouse is a river with a course of 143 miles and has been historically significant for the people to navigate and for other commercial purposes. The river passes through the town of Bedford as well. The riverside Bedford is a sight to see. The scenery from the embankment is worth swooning over. Take a stroll along the riverside to appreciate the splendid beauty of the river and landscape around it.

Spend Your Afternoon At Russell Park

Russell Park Bedford
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Located off Bedford Embankment, Russel Park is a large open park with lots to do. It was opened after the suspension bridge was completed in the 19th Century. The park has football pitches, play areas, tennis courts, swings, climbing frames, and much more. It is a paradise for the little ones. It is a perfect place to spend your afternoon just sitting, walking, cycling, running, or meandering along the riverside on a bright sunny day. You can also enjoy fishing by the river while enjoying the incredible views of the river. Along with small kiosks all around, Russel Park also has a little cafe for you to eat delicious and wholesome English delights while sipping your cup of tea.

Remains Of The Bedford Castle

Built in the 12th Century, Bedford Castle is a grand medieval castle situated on the banks of the River Great Ouse in Bedford. However, in 1224 Henry III of England ordered the destruction of the castle. Today only the remaining motte of the Bedford Castle stands in the place of the grand castle. The remaining part is now protected as a part of an archaeological park built in 2007.

Where To Stay in Bedford

Bedford riverside
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Bedford has plenty of fantastic hotels that will ensure that your stay is as comfortable and worthwhile as possible. You can choose from budget hotels to luxury hotels, Bedford offers it all. Some of the best hotels in the town are- Holiday Inn Express, Embankment Hotel, Travelodge Bedford Marston Moretaine, d'Parys Hotel, The Sharnbrook Hotel, and Mercure Bedford Centre Hotel.

The Splendid Priory Country Park

Located in the Newham area alongside the River Great Ouse in Bedford, Priory Country Park is a country park and is operated by Bedford Borough Council. The stunning country park was opened in 1986 and covered an area of 300 acres. Priory Country Park consists of woodlands, grasslands, and a river. The park was coveted with a Green Flag Award in 2007. The park also has a wealth of wildlife; you can spot grass snakes, otters, squirrels, grebes, herons, along with several small birds spread across all the trees of the park. At the end of the park, there is a little cafe where you can enjoy a pleasant cup of tea after visiting the park.

Where To Drink

You just cannot miss pubs when you're in England. Like all the other English towns, Bedford has some fantastic pubs and bars where you can grab a drink at the end of the day. Some of the best places to drink in Bedford are- The Crown At Northill, Three Fyshes, The Wellington Arms, and George and Dragon. Visit these places to eat mouth-watering pub food with the drink of your choice.

Bedford pubs
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The Weird and Fascinating Panacea Museum

Panacea Museum is dedicated to an early 20th-century religious community called Panacea society. This absolute gem of a museum is thought-provoking and a historical time capsule. It is in a stunning Victorian house called "Castleside" that was used as the headquarters by the members of the society. The museum has a lot of exciting and fascinating displays about the way of life of the Panacea community, which will leave you stunned and wanting to know more. The Victorian house is set in beautiful gardens that make the sight more pleasing to the eyes. There is a small cafe in the museum where you enjoy soft drinks, tea, coffee with an assortment of snacks and cakes. Panacea Museum is a wonderful place to visit where you can learn about the mysterious religious cult.

Stop At The John Bunyan Museum

John Bunyan Museum
Yohan euan o4 / CC BY-SA

Bedford's most famous son, John Bunyan was a writer and preacher who wrote The Pilgrim's Progress, one of the most famous and most widely read Christian allegory in the world. John Bunyan Museum is devoted to the works and life of the legendary John Bunyan. The museum consists of recreations of various parts and scenes of his life such as a recreation of the kitchen in his parents' home in Elphick. Along with recreations, the museum also houses artefacts related to John Bunyan such as Bunyan's flute and his iron violin and sore much items. The museum is fascinating and has a perfect balance of things to read and things to look at. Visit this charming museum to learn about the life and beliefs of the Bedford legend.

Watch and Feed Birds At Herrings Green Activity Farm

Situated only 5 miles away from Bedford, Herrings Green Activity Farm is an open farm with several species of eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, vultures and kites for you to see. The farm provides a fun and educational experience. You can learn about the conservation of these beautiful creatures and their habitats. You can even meet and feed some birds ar the flying displays that are held every day. Not only birds, but the farm also has a super cute alpaca that you can walk around the farm. The staff is friendly and will answer your questions about the farm and its animals. Visit this place to spend a wonderful day surrounded by these precious creatures and sweeping views.

Contemplate At St Peter's Church

St Peter's Church is located in the heart of Bedford in the St Peter's Street. This Christian place of worship dates back to the 12th Century, however, it was heavily rebuilt in the 19th Century. This local Anglican church is full of local history. It has magnificent architecture and stunning stained glass windows. The serene and tranquil environment of the church is perfect to reflect and contemplate in peace.

Beautiful Scenery Of Mowsbury Park

Mowsbury Park is a large park with many recreational activities for both grown-ups and children. The park has bowls green, car park, football pitches, cricket pitches, BMX track, play areas, outdoor gym, and more. The park has a cafe where you can replenish yourself by eating delicious treats. You can use these facilities or just walk around the park while marvelling at the beautiful scenery of the Putnoe woods.

Forest of Marston Vale

Passing through the lovely town of Bedford, Forest of Marston Vale is a community forest. It is an excellent place for walking or cycling with great trails designated for both. You can hire a bike to ride here. You can bring your food to enjoy a picnic at the picnic areas or grab a bite at the cafe. The grounds, as well as cafe, is very dog-friendly. Visit the Forest of Marston Vale to relax and chill surrounded by incredible scenery.

Summerfields Miniature Railways

A hidden gem of Bedford, Summerfields Miniature Railways lets your little ones ride miniature steam railways. If you're not a kid, you can admire the craftsmanship and the engineering of these miniature steam trains. The place also has a delicious station buffet and an area designated for picnics where you can eat food. You can also buy souvenirs from the gift shop to remember this place and town by.

Best Restaurants in Bedford

Bedford has a very diverse set of population, with more than 30 per cent and 10 per cent of the total population of Italian and Asian descent. The town offers delectable food of various cuisines and has something for everyone. Some of the best restaurants in the city are- Baja, Thali & Tandoor, and Herd. All these restaurants serve some of the best food in town and also offer various vegan and vegetarian options for you to choose from.

Best Cafes in Bedford

Bedford has plenty of cafes where you can just sit down and drink a cup of coffee or tea with a light meal. Coffee With art is a fantastic place to get coffee with beautiful decor and amazing books. Another great cafe is The Pavilion. It is located in Bedford Park and serves delicious, wholesome food made local produce.

Bedford is a wonderful town full of history and culture. Filled with parks, museums, churches, and so much more, Bedford is a perfect place to escape to and relax while exploring the town. This riverside town will win over your heart. So What are you waiting for? Do not forget to tell us your favourite thing from the list and make sure to do all these things when you visit Bedford.