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 a surprisingly high number 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.
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The best things to do in Hitchin
While most visitors come for the Lavender, Hitchin has plenty of other attractions worth seeing.
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.
Plenty of free on-site parking. If you’re car-less, get a taxi (see Plan & Book section below).
Find out more: We’ve written a post all about our visit to Hitchin Lavender which contains plenty more information.
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.
Outdoor pool open May-Sept.
St Mary’s Church
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.
At selected times of year, it’s possible to scale the clock tower for great views of the town. Check out the website for more information on this.
Admission is free, though a donation would be gratefully accepted.
North Hertfordshire Museum
North Hertfordshire Museum’s very existence has been tumultuous. Thankfully, after years of delays and land disputes, the museum is now fully open. On the ground floor, a small gallery of historic artefacts tells the history of the district, whilst an adjacent gallery houses visiting collections on a variety of themes and topics. On the first floor, two more galleries bring the county’s local history to life. There’s now also a cafe serving drinks and light lunches.
Admission is free.
Also check out: Experience a Victorian school lesson and discover thousands of historic artefacts at the British Schools Museum (Google Maps / Tripadvisor* / Website) on Queen Street. Currently ranked as the number one thing to do in Hitchin on Tripadvisor*.
Cafes & Coffee Shops in Hitchin
Hitchin has more than its fair share of independent cafes & coffee shops. Here are some of our favourites.
Hermitage Rd Coffee & Bagel Bar
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 a 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.
Hitchin Coffee Lab
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.
Molly’s Tea Room
For a vintage & intrinsically British experience, head to Molly’s for tea and cake. Teas are served from teapots kept warm by hand-knitted cosies and poured into bone china sets. Cakes are freshly made on the premises and, as you might expect, afternoon teas are available (bookings by phone essential).
Fussey & Baer
Fussey & Baer on the High Street is Hitchin’s newest coffee shop and our new favourite place for a quick hot drink and maybe a spot of lunch. Serving speciality coffee in minimalist surroundings with environmental-friendliness at the forefront and a superb range of light lunches, we heartily recommend you pay a visit.
Places for Brunch & Lunch in Hitchin
Hitchin is home to several super-cool independent eateries, serving delicious, healthy and beautifully presented food. Here are a few of our favourite places.
Chia Naturally Healthy Cafe
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.
V/Ve: Everything is 100% vegan!
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.
V/Ve: Several vegetarian options available.
Chilli Banana (Chilli B’s)
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. A popular place and rightly so.
V/Ve: Several vegetarian options available.
Also check out: Granello Lounge on Brand Street (Google Maps / Tripadvisor* / Website) is part of a chain, but the food is great, the prices are low, the interior is splendid and we like how they do business. They’re also really good at catering to dietary needs, including a dedicated vegan menu.
Restaurants in Hitchin
While you’ll find several national chain restaurants in the town centre, Hitchin’s independent restaurants are often much better. Here are a couple of our favourites.
A perennial favourite of ours and seemingly every person in Hitchin. The authentic Thai and Malaysian cuisine served at Sukawatee is consistently brilliant and really 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.
V/Ve: Vegetarian options available.
Huge portions of fresh, tasty and authentic Turkish food can be enjoyed at Bosphorus on Sun Street. The menu is large without being overwhelming and caters to both meat eaters and vegetarians. A generous lunch menu, every day between 12-4pm, offers two courses for £9.95, including complimentary hot bread and dips.
V/Ve: Vegetarian options available.
Also check out: Los Reyes on Bucklersbury (Google Maps / Tripadvisor* / View Website) serves high-end tapas (including plenty of veggie options) and consistently gets rave reviews. Another restaurant that is highly-rated and we love is Kazoku on Bancroft (Google Maps / Tripadvisor*), serving Japanese cuisine (bookings essential).
Shopping in Hitchin
Hitchin has more than its fair share of independent shops. Here are some of our favourites.
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.
Jolly Brown Vintage
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
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.
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.
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.
Specialising in ethical, fair-trade and spiritual products sourced from all over the world, Harvest Moon is always a delight. There are some great, unique gift ideas and plenty of opportunities to treat yourself, safe in the knowledge you’re supporting a family-run business that itself supports lots of community projects.
The Wholesome Weigh
The Wholesome Weigh are part of a new wave of shops that sells products without unnecessary packaging. You simply bring along your empty containers and fill them up with their range of organic, healthy wholefoods, herbs, nuts and seeds and even household cleaning products. There’s plenty more to see in store, including ethical toiletries and biodegradable homewares, so pop in and take a look.
Also check out…
Hitchin hosts a range of markets in its dedicated market area (Google Maps). General markets are on Tuesdays and Saturdays with sellers offering a wide range of food, household goods and plants.
If you’re after a top-notch haircut, Felix (Hitchin’s unofficial mayor) runs welcoming barber shop & hair salon Farley’s on Hermitage Road (Google Maps, bookings advisable).
Arcade Walk, leading off of Market Place (Google Maps), is home to several independent shops & cafes, including twistedfabric, where you can get mainstream fashion and Stephanie Rose Florist, whose window display is always picture-perfect. Keep walking through the Arcade and bear right and you’ll find more independent businesses along West Alley (Google Maps). Here you’ll find vintage clothing and excellent art studios.
Nights Out in Hitchin
While party animals might be a bit disappointed, culture-vultures and socialites will be delighted by Hitchin’s nighttime offerings.
The Victoria (The Vic)
A brilliant and welcoming pub that has firmly embedded itself into the local community through its programme of themed food evenings, live music events and quiz nights. What was formerly a car park is now a sizeable beer garden which plays host to happy revellers, particularly during the summer months.
A packed programme of live music from across the musical spectrum can be enjoyed in this small, open-minded and independent music venue. Monthly jazz series, ‘JazzUp‘ is ever popular and there’s even occasional live wrestling by Fallout Pro Wrestling. Tickets are good value and can be purchased in advance via the website.
Club 85 is an easy ten minute walk from the town centre.
The Queen Mother Theatre
A modern theatre hosting amateur productions and concerts. In the adjoining studio, art house and indie films are shown twice a month, making up for Hitchin’s lack of a cinema. Tickets for the theatre can be purchased in advance from QMT website, while tickets for film showing can be bought from the Hitchin Films website.
Plenty of parking on-site (pay & display up until 6pm)
Live Music at Hermitage Rd Bar & Restaurant
Enjoy live music in a relaxed, modern setting every weekend (Fri, Sat & Sun evenings) throughout the year. Best of all, entry is completely free and you can just show up without having to buy a ticket. Check out their website to see what’s on.
Also check out…
The Snug on Sun Street (Google Maps / Tripadvisor* / Website) is part of a local chain of bars serving cocktails in a cosy setting. Occasionally, particularly at weekends, there’s live music.
Plan & Book your visit to Hitchin
In this section, we’ll go through how you can plan and book your visit to Hitchin.
Trains to Hitchin
Hitchin station (Google Maps) is served by trains operated by Great Northern and Thameslink between London and Peterborough/Cambridge. Trains to Hitchin depart from both St Pancras International and London Kings Cross.
For spur of the moment visits from London, we recommend visiting Kings Cross primarily, as departures from both Kings Cross and St Pancras International are displayed on the departure boards. Tickets can be purchased right before you travel from ticket offices or self-service machines.
Once you’ve arrived in Hitchin, the town centre is a 15 minute walk from the station. Metered taxis are normally waiting outside the station if you’d rather get a lift.
Booking your train tickets in advance not only brings peace of mind, it also often means you pay the lowest fare. To find the best value train tickets to Hitchin from anywhere, we recommend Trainline*.
Since trains produce significantly less CO2 than planes, taking the train is a Responsible Travel Choice.
Flights to Hitchin
Hitchin is located between two of London’s airports – London Luton (LTN) and London Stansted (STN). London Luton is closest and has the best onward transfers
Skyscanner* is a great place to start your search for the best prices on flights to Hitchin. They compare fares from multiple airlines and travel agents all at once.
Transfers from the airport
From Luton, buses 100 & 101 run twice hourly services from the bus station outside the arrivals hall to Hitchin town centre. You can also hail an Uber for collection from the drop-off/pick-up area though this will considerably more expensive.
From Stansted, coach 777 (operated by National Express) calls at Hitchin on its way to Birmingham.
Buses to Hitchin
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 9a & 9b to/from Bedford and Arriva runs Sapphire 100 & 101 buses between Stevenage and Luton/Luton Airport.
Search and compare bus fares with Busbud*, which offers comprehensive and up-to-date timetable and ticket price information for destinations all over the world.
Taking public transport is a Responsible Travel Choice, as sharing your journey with others is much better for the environment than taking journeys by car.
Getting to Hitchin by road
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 and free parking on Sundays. You should check for free parking along Hollow Lane (one side of the road is restricted to a maximum of two hours, the other side is unrestricted), though it’s a popular option for locals. Otherwise, we recommend Woodside Car Park (Google Maps, card or mobile payments only) on Walsworth Road as it’s pretty good value and not far from the centre.
Getting around Hitchin
Hitchin is a small town and can be easily traversed on foot.
Wheelchair users and those with limited mobility may have a little difficulty on the cobbled streets of the historic centre and in traversing the steps (Google Maps) alongside the river near St Mary’s Square car park. There is a ramp from the market area to the car park behind the public toilets (see approximate location on Google Maps) but it’s not signposted.
For attractions outside the town centre (like Hitchin Lavender), we recommend calling local cab company, Tiny’s on 01462 888 888. Uber also operate a limited service in the area.
Hotels and Holiday Homes in Hitchin
To get a feel for everything Hitchin has to offer, particularly the town’s night-time offerings, we recommend spending at least one night in the town.
The highest rated hotel in Hitchin (according to Tripadvisor), The Farmhouse at Redcoats (Google Maps / Tripadvisor*), is actually a 5-10 minute drive from the town centre. The best rated hotel in the town centre itself is Premier Inn Hitchin Town Centre (Google Maps / Tripadvisor*), a perfectly acceptable option, though you should factor parking costs into your room rate.
For general accommodation searches, we recommend Tripadvisor*.