A historic market town dating back to Medieval times, Bedford is a bustling town that winds its way around the Great Ouse river. And the river provides a lot of the entertainment – from canoe trips to wakeboarding parks to gorgeous riverbank parks and leisurely bike rides, you’ll never be left wondering what to do in Bedford. You’ll also find Victorian-era shopping arcades, one of the best collections of watercolours in the country, a range of festivals and annual events, plus some impressive live music and theatre spaces. Coupled with the many wonderful Bedford hotels, restaurants and nightlife spots, this is an action-packed town that is full of surprises.
Things to do in Bedford
Using the Great Ouse river as a base, you can explore the region via a relaxing river cruise, go on a two-day canoe adventure or try your hand at wakeboarding. Back on dry land, families will love the Herrings Green Activity Farm, while big kids can try their hand at indoor skydiving, F1 simulators and surfing at the Twinwoods Adventure Centre.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a greener town than Bedford. From Bedford Park and its annual music festival to The Embankment and Russell Park, the town is alive with gorgeous green spaces. You’ll also find some epic country houses and even medieval castles on the outskirts of Bedford, all just a short drive from one of our hotels.
With one of the best watercolour and print collections in the UK, the Higgins Museum & Art Gallery is a must-visit on any art lover’s list. And then there is the host of events across the town, including live music, family-friendly festivals and even an international kite-flying extravaganza, plus museums that span aviation and the town’s varied religious history.
Towns twice the size of Bedford would be proud to claim Esquires, The Ent Shed and The Bedford Corn Exchange as their own, so important are they to the town’s cultural identity. Beyond live music you can also enjoy comedy clubs, musicals and plays across several theatres. While Bedford's impressive sporting heritage includes rugby, football, athletics and motor racing.
With a compact town centre full of bars, pubs and clubs, it’s easy to make the most of Bedford’s nightlife after the sun sets. From cool live venues that have hosted Coldplay to multi-roomed clubs and pop-up speakeasy bars to historic pubs serving up real ales, we’ll help find the right venue for your night out.
Places to eat
A historic market town, Bedford has a reputation for farm-fresh produce that continues to this day. And that local produce powers dozens of cool cafés and restaurants in Bedford that take you on a culinary journey around the world, while the markets, which date back centuries, are just as popular today.
Thanks to its compact town centre, shopping in Bedford couldn’t be easier. For all your mod cons, head to the Harpur Shopping Centre, a two-storey modern space that is home to over 30 outlets. Just around the corner are The Arcade and Church Arcade, two Victorian-era shopping districts full of boutique gems and independent stores.
Bedford Corn Exchange
The Bedford Corn Exchange is a 1,000-capacity theatre that puts on over 800 shows each year. Its programme spans everything from stand-up comedy to musicals, pantomimes to theatre, live music to tribute shows and much more. Find out everything you need to know about this fantastic venue in our in-depth guide to Bedford Corn Exchange.