HTT Guide to Bedford

Things to do, points of interest and where to eat & drink in Bedfordshire's county town

Why Visit Bedford?

Bedford is a small, unassuming market town of around 80,000 people. In proportion to its size, it is one of the most culturally diverse towns in the UK with nearly 10% of the population originating from South Asia and almost 30% of Italian descent.

The cultural patchwork is reflected in the town’s extensive offering of restaurants serving high quality and reasonable priced cuisine from all over the world. As well as ubiquitous Italian and Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants, there are eateries serving French, Japanese, Mexican and Turkish food, to name but a few.

It’s cliche, but Bedford really does offer something for everyone, not just in terms of food but in attractions and activities. Fabulous museums, well-tended parks, a stunning riverside area, multiple sporting facilities, a burgeoning arts scene and cute independent shops all help to ensure everyone’s needs are catered for.

With minimal planning, a day out in Bedford would be very well spent. To get the most out of a visit, a stay of at least one night is recommended.

Local Info

Opening Hours
Shops are generally open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-4pm. Museums have their own individual opening hours.

Smoking
You can smoke in designated outdoor smoking shelters, in the street (provided you’re not near an entrance to a public building or at a sheltered bus stop) and in private dwellings. In all other cases, it is against the law to smoke both tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Alcohol
It is against the law to drink alcohol in public in Bedford town centre.

Tipping
Tips are not expected, shouldn’t normally be more than 10% of the bill per table and should only be offered to reward good service. You will normally be offered the option to tip when paying by card. If paying by cash, you can hand a quid or two to your server or you can leave it on the table.

Getting Around Bedford

By Foot
Bedford is easy to navigate on foot. Almost all of the listings on this page are within walking distance of one another.

How To Get To Bedford

By Train
Bedford has two railway stations, but you should avoid Bedford St. Johns and alight at Bedford.

  • Thameslink trains run frequently from Brighton and London St Pancras International, via both Luton Airport & Gatwick Airport and terminate at Bedford.
  • Faster East Midlands Trains also run from London St Pancras International and continue to Sheffield, Nottingham & Derby (Off-peak only from May 2018).
  • A route from Bletchley (near Milton Keynes) is serviced by London Northwestern Railway.

Upon arrival at Bedford, the 5-10 minute walk into the town centre is clearly signposted (follow town centre and/or bus station). Alternatively, council-operated taxis are always waiting outside, though fares are expensive.

By Car
Bedford sits between the M1 and A1(M) via the A421. All of the town centre car parks are run by the council and are reasonably well looked after. All are free for the first two hours on Saturdays and free all day on Sundays.

By Bus
If you’re travelling within the borough or just across the border, Stagecoach and Grant Palmer provide reliable services. If you’re travelling from Cambridge or Milton Keynes, Stagecoach runs the half-hourly X5 coach route. If you’re travelling from further afield, we wouldn’t recommend travelling by bus.

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Bedford At A Glance

We’ve numbered all of the places in our guide so that you can find them easily.

Things To Do in Bedford

Bedford offers plenty of interesting and unique attractions. Here are some of our favourites.

Panacea Museum, Bedford

  1  Panacea Museum

 AWESOME | 9 Newnham Road, Bedford MK40 3NX
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Discover the amazing and peculiar story of the Panacea Society, a religious community formed in the early twentieth century that created its own Garden of Eden in the centre of Bedford. We found it fascinating! Once you’ve explored the well-presented displays, visit the lovely & peaceful cafe and garden at the back of the property. Worth visiting Bedford for this alone!

Admission free

Higgins Museum, Bedford

  2  The Higgins

Castle Ln, Bedford MK40 3XD
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Bedford’s recently refurbished main museum and art gallery charts the history of Bedford from the stone age to the modern day in a fabulously contemporary style. As well as fossils, pottery, furnishings and costumes, there are priceless works of art by Picasso, Turner and Constable. There are frequent visiting exhibitions and events and there’s an adjoining cafe/restaurant (see below).

Admission free (surcharge for visiting exhibitions)

  3  The Embankment

 AWESOME | The Embankment, Bedford MK40 3PD
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By far the best part of Bedford is its riverside area, colloquially known as The Embankment. Finely manicured flower beds, huge leafy trees, wide green meadows & parks, plenty of wildfowl and thoughtfully placed paths and bridges combine to create a beautiful & relaxing setting.

Boat & bike hire   4  is available at the recently revamped cafe, The Longholme and there’s a putting green   5  in Russell Park (both spring/summer only).

There’s plenty of parking along The Embankment and along adjacent streets.

  6  Priory Country Park

Barkers Ln, Bedford MK41 9DJ
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A peaceful and well-maintained 145 hectare green space consisting of lakes, meadows and woodland. It’s where locals head to for a breather. A brisk walk around the lake takes around an hour, leaving time to visit the nearby Beefeater pub or the newly opened cafe in the visitor centre. Check the website for information on guided walks by experienced park rangers.

Access is best by car. Plenty of free on-site parking.

Points of Interest in Bedford

Things to spot as you wander around the town.

  7  Michelangelo Fresco

 Corner of Howard Street/Mill Street

The exterior wall of a coffee shop isn’t the first place you’d expect to find a two-story recreation of Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl, the original of which can be found in Rome’s Sistine Chapel. Using a technique dating back to about 1500 BC, the artist completed the work in three months at a cost of £12,000.

  8  Suspension Bridge

 Near The Embankment/Bushmead Ave junction

Every self-respecting Bedfordian knows of this beautiful and surprisingly steep iron bridge. It’s as close to being an official emblem of the town as it can be without actually being one. Opened in 1888, it still offers pedestrians a terrific view and to cross from the north to the south bank and vice-versa. A great selfie spot!

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Cafes in Bedford

Bedford offers plenty of places to sit down with a drink and people-watch. Here are some of our favourites.

  9  Coffee With Art

 AWESOME |  82 High St, Bedford MK40 1NN
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A cosy, welcoming and unpretentious cafe which mixes local art with great coffee, loose leaf teas and lots of tasty sweet and savoury treats. While the artwork changes regularly, books play a big role in the permanant decor. A staircase and an entire wall is seemingly constructed from old books while more books appear to emerge from a large split in another wall. It was an instant hit when it opened in 2013 and it’s still really popular today.

Vegetarian options available.

  10  The Pavilion

 AWESOME |  Park Ave, Bedford MK41 7SS
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A friendly, local eatery set in the heart of Bedford Park’s   11  award-winning leafy, green acres in a building that was dormant for decades. All day breakfasts and lunches are hearty, British and made using locally sourced ingredients. Sit inside and admire the tall ceiling, sit outside on the heated veranda or grab a quick snack from the window on the side. Check the website for events and the regular supper clubs.

Vegetarian & gluten-free options available.

Where To Eat in Bedford

Bedford is a town that’s full of great restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world, typically at very reasonable prices. Here are some of our favourites.

burrito-baja-bedford-600
baha-bedford-600

Baja 

7.6Good££££ |   12  17 Castle Ln, Bedford MK40 3NX
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An small independent restaurant serving satisfying mexican-inspired street food. Portion sizes are generous and prices are reasonable. We really like the wall of photos depicting scenes from Mexico. Keep things simple by getting a burrito (with a choice of fillings) and an Aguas frescas to wash it down. Delicious!

Vegetarian options available.

thandi-tandoor-bedford-600

Thali & Tandoor

7.0Good££££ |   13  28 Castle Ln, Bedford MK40 3US
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Bedford has plenty of traditional Indian restaurants, but this isn’t one of them. Here, the specialty is street food and regional delicacies. The menu is extensive and exciting and comes with detailed descriptions to help you choose. If you can’t decide, go or the Thali, an assortment of small dishes.

Vegetarian options available.

Spaghetti John’s

7.1Good | ££££ |   14  15 Castle Ln, Bedford MK40 3NT
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Bedford isn’t short of Italian restaurants, but this bright & modern eatery is a welcome addition. The menu isn’t huge, but the pasta is freshly made on-site and can be served in sharing portions if you prefer. If you’re just after a sweet treat, you can visit just to try their gelato, which is also homemade.

Vegetarian & gluten-free options available.

Riverside Grill

7.5Good | ££££ |   15  19 Castle Ln, Bedford MK40 3NT
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A popular independent restaurant serving mainly meat and fish-based dishes, inspired by many different cuisines. Minimalist decor with work from local artists adorning the walls and set in the peaceful Castle Quarter with a view of the river. Food is of a high quality and reasonably priced.

Vegetarian & gluten-free options available.

Herd

7.1Good££££ |   16  5 St Cuthbert’s St, Bedford MK40 3JG
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There are just six burgers on the menu (one veggie) at this small, super-cool burger place. Each option is simple, but expertly prepared using high quality ingredients. Prices are okay and decor is rustic and on-trend. There an adjoining bar serving craft and artisan beers that’s worth checking out too.

Vegetarian option available.

Gunn’s Bakery

7.1Good££££ |   17  51 High St, Bedford MK40 1RZ
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Since 1928, this family-run bakery has been making a local delicacy, the Bedfordshire Clanger. This suet crust pasty has a savoury filling in one end and a sweet filling in the other – it’s a whole meal in one. This is one of the only places in the world where you can get one, so don’t pass on your opportunity.

Vegetarian options available.