#SuperStAlbans: City champions in Sunday Times best places to live list
- Credit: Archant
St Albans has been named as one of the top places to live in the country in a new guide released by the Sunday Times.
The Best Places to Live supplement hailed our Roman city a “period treat” with great shopping, a stonking beer and cider festival and applauded it for being “on the right track”.
As well as appearing in the competitive list, which featured 100 other entries, the city was singled out for greatness in two other areas which included best for commuting and for primary schools.
Long-time residents were quick to praise their historic home, with factors such as being able to arrange local events easily, the glorious countryside and easy travel links cropping up in their list of favourite things.
Local mum-of-two and one half of St Albans-based tourism marketing agency Loudbird PR, Sophie Banks, said: “As a St Albans resident of 10 years - I previously lived in London - I would definitely agree that this is a great place to live, and particularly amazing for families.
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“The schools are outstanding, the transport links to London are fantastic at 20 minutes, the wonderful independent shops and award winning bars and restaurants are constantly buzzing, and the history and heritage of the city is not only impressive but also highly visible.
“You can see it in the stunning Cathedral in the centre of town, the beautiful parkland filled with Roman remains and the many Tudor cottages lining the main hill of the city.
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“St Albans history creates a beautiful aesthetic that takes my breath away every day.”
But one question which lingers after the announcement is what the Sunday Times failed to mention - it’s not all schools, train stations and shopping as Sophie explained: “There is another side to the city that locals know about and is slowing becoming more widely known. And that is the cultural side.
“The hundreds of creative dynamic people who live here means that the independent music scene is thriving, the literary festival coming is sure to be a success and there are theatrical productions happening every day of the week in the many theatres in the city. Why would you want to live anywhere else?!”
Cllr Beric Read, St Albans district council’s portfolio holder for community engagement, said the city succeeded as it was an “all rounder”, adding: “I first moved here because of the location and then came to appreciate everything else.”
He said that the level of education was particularly high, with the city number three in the country for degrees just behind Cambridge and Richmond.
Neighbouring Harpenden was noticeably absent from the lengthy list, which town councillor Michael Weaver puts down to an unintentional exclusion: “We’re in the same district I think it’s just an accidental omission.
“Harpenden is a superb place to live and a friendly place to live. It has a real community feel, you can get too big in many ways - this is compact, most people know each other.
“It is very well worth living here, we’ve got super schools, the common and a number of clubs. There’s a lot going for it. I wouldn’t want to move away.”
The St Albans Film Festival is one of the best things to happen to the city, not only in terms of providing residents with a weekend full of diverse and culturally enriching events, but also for what it will do for St Albans in the future. Destined to get bigger and better with each passing year, the event truly is exceptional, with even more VIPs expected to attend and some major releases being screened this year. In just two years it is on par with many of the UK’s other major movie festivals.
From family run delis to record stores and comic book shops, St Albans has a number of brilliant and unique businesses to rival London. Marlowe and House in the Village Arcade offers a welcome alternative to your humdrum lunch with quirky groceries and ingredients for sale. Little Viking gives you a chance to rummage through rails of vintage gems and Empire Records saved the city’s music lovers post HMV closure with a vast selection of CDs and vinyl.
Greenery and nature
We have the buzz of a city complemented by ample greenery – something I think we forget to appreciate. We’re extremely lucky to have this balance and have a huge (and let’s be honest quite well maintained) park slap bang in the middle of St Albans – perfect to stroll through in both summer and winter. Butterfly World just off Noke Lane is another of the district’s charms and is the first large scale dedicated butterfly and conservation centre of learning.
We are surrounded by legacy and lore in the city and its well worth swotting up on stories about St Albans past – you never know what you might discover. A fun and fast way to hear about the district’s dazzling and often dark secrets is to book a place on one of the council’s many guided city tours.
We want you to tell us what you think is super about St Albans. Is it our majestic Cathedral? Or maybe you really love our street traders? Send us your tweets along with the hashtag #superstalbans