Just 35km north of London, St Albans (pop. 120,000) is an agreeable cathedral town with Roman origins that make for a good day-trip.
The town has a long history. The area was already settled by the Celtic Catuvellauni tribe. The Romans founded the town of Verulamium shortly after invading Britain in 43 CE.
Around 209 CE, a Roman soldier named Alban was beheaded for giving shelter to a Christian priest, and thus became the country's first Christian martyr. The town became a major pilgrimage centre in Saxon times, and was then known as Verlamchester.
King Offa of Mercia founded a benedictine abbey there in the 8th century, which later became St Albans' Cathedral.
The main sight is obviously St Albans Cathedral. Established as an abey in the 8th century, St Albans was reconstructed as a Norman church in 1077 cathedral and has the second longest nave (116m) in England after Winchester Cathedral. The brick clock tower also dates from the 11th century and is the oldest of its kind in England.
The nearby St Albans School was founded in 948 by by Abbott Wulsin and is one of the UK's oldest (public) schools.
The Verulamium Museum & Roman Ruinsis one of the best Roman museums in England. It has mosaics, audiovisuals, interactive displays, models of Roman houses, etc. There is a ruined Roman theatre in the adjoining park, and every second weekend of the month, locals dress in a Roman legion uniforms.
How to get there
St Albans is 25min by train from London's King's Cross station (£10.20).