Reasons to visit Hertfordshire’s county town this spring
Written by Jacqui Hagen
Hertford is an attractive market town with a wealth of restaurants, independent shops and pretty riverside walks. Located where four river valleys meet, the town centre boasts Georgian townhouses, timber-framed buildings and a picturesque castle set within beautiful gardens. The labyrinth of tunnels, said to lie beneath the streets, adds mystery to its historic charm.
Things to do in Hertford
The Hertford Heritage Trail is a fantastic way to explore the town and appreciate its historic buildings and fine architecture. The trail’s blue plaques highlight no less than 41 fascinating locations including its once royal castle, the Georgian Shire Hall overlooking Fore Street’s rare ornamental plastering, the oldest purpose-built Quaker meeting house and the site of the former Christ’s Hospital School, where an ancient water pump still graces the courtyard. You can pick up a copy of the trail map from the Hertford Town Tourist and Information Centre or download a copy at gohertford.co.uk
Every weekend from April to September, you can hop aboard the water bus which cruises alongside the picturesque flood plains of the River Lee between Hertford and Ware. The journey, which begins next to The Old Barge pub and passes through two original working locks, takes around 75-90 minutes each way. Return tickets are £12 and can be purchased in advance or on board, subject to availability. Treat yourself to a drink from the bar and enjoy the scenic views across The Meads which has an abundance of wildlife.
Shopping in Hertford
While exploring, you’re bound to notice Hertford’s many quaint and quirky shops. The town boasts an array of independent traders and specialist retailers. Head to Five and Dime for contemporary interiors, Azir for designer menswear and Eye Mind Heart for gifts. If you’re looking for ethical fashion, Frankie and Olive offer sustainable clothing while Rossi’s Attic is a mini emporium full of antiques and collectables. Visit Hertford on a Saturday and you’ll also find the Charter Market at Salisbury Square, Maidenhead Street and Bircheley Green with stalls selling olives, bread, cheese, furniture, flowers and more.
Where to eat in Hertford
Hertford caters for every taste with cafés, restaurants, pubs and bars waiting to tempt you around every corner. Graze on tapas at the super chic Anexo or enjoy a burger with dirty fries on the riverside terrace at The Woolpack. The stylish and award-winning Lussmanns is well worth a visit (read our interview with founder Andrei Lussmann), as is Giambrone’s family-run Italian deli and coffee bar. Like Japanese food? No problem, head to Mr Tanaka’s for katsu curry or pick up some sushi at Oishii by Elle. For more Eastern delights, book a table at Baan Thitiya, a contemporary Thai.
A night out in Hertford
If you want to make a night of it, start with cocktails at The Snug Bar before moving on Cinnabar, a bustling venue with lively vibes from DJs on Fridays and Saturdays. Popworld is a late-night bar, billed as ‘cheese with style’. Here, you can party the night away with fun-loving people to all the familiar pop tunes. If live music is more your thing, The Jungle Bar hosts live bands, open mic nights and karaoke while The Corn Exchange reopened under new management in February and has a full list of gigs already lined up.
The Salisbury Arms, which dates back to the 18th century, is a popular place to stay, right in the centre of the town. Nearby, Hertford House is a beautifully converted Grade II listed, Georgian townhouse hotel with period charm and contemporary interiors. If you’d prefer to rest your head a short walk away from the bustle, Number One Port Hill is an elegant bed and breakfast with shimmering chandeliers, corniced ceilings and huge mirrors.
Haunted Hertford, Friday 25 February, Friday 25 and Saturday 26 March
An atmospheric guided walk through the ghostly haunted sites of Hertford. Walks are £7 and begin at the White Hart Pub in Salisbury Square. Booking is essential.
Hertford Arts Festival, Saturday 9 April to Saturday 7 May
The Hertford Arts Festival is back to showcase the local arts and culture in the town. Immerse yourself by visiting pop up exhibitions, shows and performances. This year sees the launch of the Hertford Castle Children’s Art Trail – forage the castle grounds and make a masterpiece or paint, draw or photograph the castle with selected works exhibited at the next open day. Pick up your festival programme from the Town & Tourist Information Centre.
Cars at the Castle, Sunday 15 May
Motor on down to Hertford’s largest free car show set within the picturesque castle grounds. Exhibiting up to 80 modern and vintage cars, there will be plenty to marvel over. The event will feature food and refreshment stalls, live music, and more, fuelling an afternoon of family fun.
Hertford Castle will also be open for visitors to explore.