Hitchin

Our Complete Guide on Where to Eat & Drink, What to See & Do and Where to Shop

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Why Visit Hitchin?

Hitchin, Hertfordshire is a small, market town of just over 30,000 residents, with records of its existence dating back around 1000 years. The historic town centre boasts pretty cobbled streets lined with a mixture of buildings from the Tudor and Georgian periods, housing more than the town’s fair share of independent cafes, restaurants and shops.

A small river, the River Hiz, flows lazily alongside St Marys Church, the largest parish church in Hertfordshire, creating a pretty and tranquil setting. In fact, much of Hitchin’s town centre is calm & peaceful and therefore a lovely place to window shop, people-watch and relax over an artisan coffee.

Many tourists visit the area for nearby Hitchin Lavender and often skip the town itself. This though is a mistake, for Hitchin has plenty to offer visitors who are looking to complement their day out in the lavender fields with a bit of shopping and perhaps a bite to eat.

Getting Around Hitchin

Hitchin is a small town and can be easily traversed on foot.

For attractions outside the town centre (like Hitchin Lavender), we recommend calling local cab company, Tiny’s on 01462 888 888.

How to get to Hitchin

By Train
Hitchin station is served by trains operated by Great Northern and Thameslink between London and Peterborough/Cambridge. Changes made in May 2018 means you can now catch trains to Hitchin from both St Pancras International and London Kings Cross.

To plan your journey from London, go to the National Rail website and enter ‘London Terminals’ as your departure station.

The town centre is a 15 minute walk from the station. Taxis are always waiting outside if you’d rather get a lift.

By Car
Hitchin lies a few miles west of junction 8 of the A1(M). There are plenty of pay & display car parks in Hitchin with cheaper rates after 3pm. You should check for free parking along Hollow Lane, though it’s a popular option for locals. Otherwise, we recommend Woodside Car Park (card or mobile payments only) on Walsworth Road.

By Bus
Hitchin is served by a variety of buses and long distance coaches. National Express runs coach 777 from Stansted Airport to Birmingham and coach 787 from Heathrow Airport (T5) to Cambridge calling at Hitchin town centre. More locally, Stagecoach run bus 71 & 72 to/from Bedford and Arriva runs Sapphire 100 & 101 buses between Stevenage and Luton/Luton Airport.

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Things to See & Do in Hitchin

While most visitors come for the Lavender, Hitchin has plenty of other attractions worth seeing.

Hitchin Lavender

1 Hitchin Lavender

Arlesey Rd, Ickleford SG5 3UA
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People come from all over the world to visit Hitchin Lavender, and rightly so. In peak flowering season (Jun-Aug), a carpet of purple flowers bloom in breathtaking style over picturesque rolling fields. Admission includes use of a pair of scissors so that you can cut and keep as much Lavender as you can carry in your bag. The on-site cafe serves tea, cake and good-quality lunches in a lovely rustic barn or outside in the garden.

Find out more: We’ve written a post all about our visit to Hitchin Lavender which contains plenty more information.

Admission is £6.00, including picking. Plenty of free on-site parking. If you’re car-less, get a taxi (see above).

Hitchin Lido at Hitchin Swimming Centre

2 Hitchin Lido

Fishponds Rd, Hitchin SG5 1HA
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Hitchin Lido, part of the Swimming Centre, opened in 1938 and retains all of the character and style of that era. The 50 metre-long pool is heated and is simply gorgeous on a sunny day. Many visit just to lie in the sunshine and enjoy an ice cream whilst watching more athletic visitors swim lengths. Entry is a little on the steep side, but if you spend an hour or two here, it’s worth it. If it’s chilly, there’s also a 25m indoor pool open year round.

Admission £5.00 off peak, £5.60 peak. Outdoor pool open May-Sept.

St Mary's Church in Hitchin

3 St Mary’s Church

Churchyard, Hitchin SG5 1HP
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This 14th-15th century church sits in the heart of Hitchin town centre and is Hertfordshire’s largest parish church. The church is notable for how spacious it is inside and, thanks to the window’s being unstained, how bright it is. It’s particularly lovely on a sunny day! When you visit, look up to admire the beautiful wooden ceiling and carvings.

Admission is free, though a donation would be gratefully accepted.

Market Place in Hitchin

4 Market Place

 Market Place, Hitchin SG5 1DR
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Hitchin’s cobbled central square is named Market Place. Most days, it’s a tranquil, mostly car-free space where locals like to sit for a coffee at the resident kiosk. Throughout the year, events are held here, including the popular Street Food Monthly and themed markets. Check out the official website to find out what’s on.

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Cafes in Hitchin

Hitchin is home to lots of fabulous independent coffee shops. Here are our favourites.

Hitchin Coffee Lab

5 Hitchin Coffee Lab

29 Sun St, Hitchin SG5 1AH
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At Hitchin Coffee Lab, they take coffee very seriously. Beans are sourced from all over the world and presented in lab beakers alongside detailed tasting notes. Not content with simply grinding and brewing these, there’s an on-site micro-roastery too. The atmosphere inside is always laid back with simple, uncomplicated decor. Savoury and sweet treats are also available to enjoy alongside your drink.

Vegetarian options available.

Gatefold Record Lounge in Hitchin

6 Gatefold Record Lounge

61 Hermitage Rd, Hitchin SG5 1DB
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Gatefold is a cafe and record store combined. Go to pick up the latest tunes, stay for the premium coffee and sweet treats. Live DJs play sets occasionally, supported by street food vendors. At other times, the tunes are chosen by staff and are wonderfully eclectic. A comfortable place to chat and soothe the soul.

Vegetarian options available.

A rainbow bagel from Hermitage Road Coffee & Bagel Bar

7 Hermitage Rd Coffee & Bagel Bar

25 Hermitage Rd, Hitchin SG5 1BY
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Three establishments in one, Hermitage Road is a stalwart provider to Hitchin’s thirsty, hungry and interior-decor-deprived residents. The Coffee and Bagel Bar prides itself on the quality of its coffee and serves a small selection of filled hand-rolled bagels (including the rainbow variety), quiches and cakes. Self-serve toast and jam is available all day in exchange for a charitable donation of any value. The attached decor/gift shop is awesome and the massive evening dining hall upstairs is very popular and has free live music at the weekends.

Vegetarian options available.

A board advertising Wakelin & Son

8 Wakelin & Son

Market place, Hitchin SG5 1AR
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A small, laid-back and welcoming coffee shop housed inside a bicycle store. Here, they don’t just serve the finest premium single origin coffee they can source. They also sell beans in the local market and to local businesses whilst also providing barista training. Coffee is clearly a passion!

Vegetarian options available.

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Places to Eat in Hitchin

Everyone’s dietary wants and needs are catered for in Hitchin.

Chia Naturally Healthy Cafe, Hitchin

9 Chia Naturally Healthy Cafe

 25 Churchyard, Hitchin SG5 1HP
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A fantastic fully-vegan cafe serving salad boxes, all day breakfasts/brunches and a long list of organic hot drinks and smoothies. We recommend a generous serving of blueberry cinnamon pancakes with a steaming mug of Golden Mylk, a gorgeous elixir of coconut mylk, turmeric, ginger & black pepper. Seating is sadly limited, so have a backup plan in mind in case you can’t get in.

Everything is 100% vegan!

The interior of Sukawatee in Hitchin

10 Sukawatee

88 Hermitage Rd, Hitchin SG5 1DB
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A perennial favourite of ours and seemingly every person in Hitchin. The authentic Thai and Malaysian cuisine served at Sukawatee is consistently brilliant and surprisingly good value. Service is always welcoming and efficient with staff juggling both sit-in and takeaway customers with remarkable ease. Closed on Mondays. Bookings at weekends are advised.

Vegetarian options available.

The exterior of Chilli Banana

11 Chilli Banana (Chilli B’s)

32 Bucklersbury, Hitchin SG5 1BG
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A well-established and well-run lunch spot with a take-away counter to the right and a eat-in area to the left. The menu is large and includes lots of inventive options to put on top of a baked potato or inside the sandwich bread of your choosing. On warmer days, the garden at the back is a quiet and secluded place for relaxing chats over a coffee. It’s a popular place and rightly so.

Several vegetarian options available.

The Groundworks

12 The Groundworks

1 Churchyard, Hitchin SG5 1HR
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This multi-award winning modern eatery is extremely popular with locals. Its Instagram friendly sandwiches and comforting brunches are made fresh to order with an emphasis on using local and sustainable ingredients. Inside, the decor is comfortable, minimalist and pragmatic; perhaps inspired by a wood cabin. Coffees and loose leaf teas are top notch and the Sunday breakfast specials are well worth waiting in line for.

Several vegetarian options available.

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Shopping in Hitchin

Hitchin has more than its fair share of independent shops. Here are the best.

Hitchin Market

13 Hitchin Markets

Churchgate, Hitchin SG5 1DN
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Hitchin hosts a range of markets in its dedicated market area. General markets are on Tuesdays and Saturdays with sellers offering a wide range of food, household goods and plants. On Friday’s, the general market stall holders are joined by antiques and collectibles traders. A craft and farmer’s market is held on the last Saturday of every month whilst a small car boot sale is held on Sundays.

Riot Lounge in Hitchin

14 Riot Lounge

6 Sun St, Hitchin SG5 1AE
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A fabulously funky clothing and accessory shop full of eclectic outfits and gifts you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. For women, there’s printed dresses, cardigans featuring animals & cacti and a range of shoes by Irregular Choice. For gents, there’s unique tees, rainbow knitted jumpers and record bags. Not even the Beast from the East can stop Riot Lounge!

Jolly Brown

15 Jolly Brown

12 Bucklersbury, Hitchin SG5 1BB
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A beautifully presented range of vintage garments for both men and women are the name of the game at Jolly Brown. There’s also a range of skater goods and a selection of homeware. A great place for finding unique styles and accessories.

H-Town Rags N Wax in Hitchin

16 H-Town Rags N Wax

33a Bucklersbury, Hitchin SG5 1BG
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You’d be forgiven for missing H-Town. It’s hidden in an old barn down an alleyway alongside The George pub. It’s marked only by a denim jacket hanging above the door embroidered with the shop’s name. It’s by far the best place in town to go for vintage denim and flannel shirts.

Fly9 in Hitchin

17 Fly9

 30A Bucklersbury, Hitchin SG5 1BG
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A carefully chosen selection of contemporary homeware and handmade goods can be found at Fly9. In the front room, you’ll find modern artwork, kitchenware and decor while in the back, there’s a small selection of furniture.

Vintage Bay, Hitchin

18 Vintage Bay

23 Churchyard, Hitchin SG5 1HP
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A tiny, but oh-so-pretty shop selling artisan homeware and eclectic gifts. There’s so many lovely things to look at, the stock spills out onto the street outside. Expect to find, among other things, rustic wooden storage boxes, bunting, curious clocks and vintage frames.

Vinegar Hill, Hitchin

19 Vinegar Hill

6 Bancroft, Hitchin SG5 1JQ
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A fabulous, upmarket shop selling gorgeous gifts, interesting books, fashion, jewellery and stylish homeware. The beautifully presented displays change frequently with the seasons. We just love popping in whenever we’re in town to see what’s new.

Beer Shop

20 Beer Shop

30-32 Hermitage Rd, Hitchin SG5 1BY
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The Beer Shop is split into two sections. In the ‘bottle shop’ to the left, a large selection of craft, traditional and foreign beers are available to purchase. You can take them home or you can start drinking them in the ‘tasting room’ to the right where you can also find a changing selection of draught beers.

About this Guide

Our travel guides are made to help you make the most of a visit to Hitchin. Everything in the guide is tried and tested by us and come with our heartfelt recommendation. Our guides are not intended to be an exhaustive list of everything there is to do and see. Instead, we choose a predetermined number of places and businesses for each category in the guide. We do this to ensure the guide is of high quality and to not overwhelm those who have never visited the town before.

Our guide to Hitchin is under constant development, so our recommendations may change over time and new places will be added. To keep up to date with any changes, follow us on Facebook & Twitter, where we’ll post updates.

If you have any feedback on this guide, or anything on our website, please drop your thoughts into the comments box below or contact us.

Hitchin: A Local's Guide on What to See & Do and Where to Eat, Drink & Shop