CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Things to do in Guildford - where to eat, shop and visit

PUBLISHED: 19:47 18 December 2014 | UPDATED: 11:38 24 June 2015

Guildford's cobbled High Street

Guildford's cobbled High Street


Surrey’s county town, Guildford is a great place to visit at any time of year, but especially now, when its beautiful cobbled high street is lit up for Christmas…

Guildford CastleGuildford Castle

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2014


Share your Guildford photography @


A potted history…

Seated firmly in the North Downs gap, and with the River Wey running through the middle of the town, Guildford has been an important place in Surrey for hundreds of years, becoming a centre for commerce as early as the mid 17th century.

Add to this the fact that, give or take a few miles, the town lies midway between London and Portsmouth – a strategic route for traders, businesspeople and holiday makers for centuries – and you can see why it has become such a focal point for our county.

As befitting a town of its stature, several important buildings lie dotted around.

The castle, believed to have been built just after the Norman conquest of 1066, lies to the west. Built of local Bargate stone it has, during its life, been used for royal apartments, HQ of the sheriff and even the county gaol for Surrey and Sussex.

The Guildhall in the High Street, built in the 1300s and extended in the 16th century, was formerly the courtroom and Council Chamber and still serves many civic functions.

More recently, the striking red-brick cathedral was added to the town, opened by the Queen in 1961. Currently the focus of a big campaign to raise money for essential repairs, the cathedral is hosting a whole range of fund-raising events at the moment (see

Today, many innovative businesses have made Guildford their home with the nearby Surrey Research Park being at the cutting edge with medical services, satellite technology and gaming companies.

On top of that, there’s also the university too – which recently achieved an eleventh place ranking in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2015 league table.

As a centre for the arts, Guildford also boasts the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, The Electric Theatre, G Live, The Odeon Cinema, The Boileroom and the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM).

And then there’s all that fabulous shopping too (read more about all that above and below right...).


Did you know…?

Author Lewis Carroll, who penned the much- loved children’s classic Alice in Wonderland, has long been associated with the town. Although not actually a resident of Guildford, he owned a house near the castle grounds where his six unmarried sisters lived. What is more, next year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, so look out for all sorts of commemorative events coming up, which we’ll be covering in the pages of Surrey Life.


Food and drink

When it comes to having a coffee or getting a bite to eat in Guildford, there’s a great range of independent cafés and restaurants, and some good pubs.

There are far too many to list them all here (click here for some more recommended Guildford restaurants), but an enduring favourite is Olivo, a lovely family-run Italian restaurant at 53 Quarry Street (tel 01483 303535). A winner in Experience Guildford’s recent awards, they offer classic Italian cuisine with Chef Specials, a set menu for lunch and evening à la carte. Pansotti al Sugo di Noci anyone?

A finalist in Surrey Life’s own Food & Drink Awards, Glutton and Glee at 6 Tunsgate (tel 01483 452934) can serve you gourmet coffee, salads, artisan breads and “Yummy Jams” among other delights.

Last but not least, there’s also Coffee Culture at 2 Angel Gate (tel 01483 564200) – an independent coffee shop owned by husband and wife team Will and Clare Gill. Precision roasted coffee, handmade paninis, bagels and more give this place a unique buzz. Oh, and there is wifi and daily newspapers too.



Loads of independents and several large chain stores mean you will be dizzy with the choice of where to swipe that credit card.

If you love music (and who doesn’t?), pop into Ben’s Collectors Records at 5 Tunsgate (tel 01483 301165). This wonderful treasure trove of vinyl and CDs

is run by Ben Darnton, who seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge not just of the music industry but also Guildford as well.

Fancy a bit of pampering in-between all that Christmas shopping? Well, head to Champneys, at 194 High Street (tel 01483 455850), where at their Day Spa you can de-stress and indulge a little with a pedicure, a manicure or even a St Tropez tanning treatment.

While we’re on the subject of looking good, tucked away at 22 Chapel Street (just off the High Street), there is a specialist running shop called Fitstuff (tel 01483 533133). Offering everything for the serious runner, they can even give you a free “video gait analysis” to ensure you buy the right running shoes for your style. Did you know, running one mile means your feet hit the ground 1,600 times?!

Finally, we couldn’t finish without mentioning the fantastic furniture showroom of the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice at Tunsgate (tel 01252 719917), where you never know what second-hand gems you’ll find – and where their scented candles come highly recommended.




My favourite Guildford...

As a relative newcomer to Guildford, Matthew Milliken, general manager of the four-star Mandolay Hotel, has enjoyed exploring his beautiful adopted town. Here, he reveals five of his favourite things to do there…


1. Shopping… The House of Fraser is heaven for a committed shopaholic like myself; there’s always something to tempt me. It’s a proper traditional department store and I love the place.

2. Rumwong is one of the finest Thai restaurants I have ever eaten in – a real experience with exceptional levels of service and superb, authentic Thai cuisine.

3. G Live has been a tremendous addition to Guildford. I have attended a number of shows and concerts there and I have never been disappointed with the quality or the variety on offer.

4. I may be biased, but my ideal afternoon treat is tea at The Mandolay. I have a real weakness for pastries and our chef makes all ours fresh every day. It’s easy to see why he has won so many awards.

5. Time to walk off a few calories, and I love a stroll through Stoke Park, a real local treasure. As it’s just a couple of hundred metres from the hotel, it is ideal for a lunchtime escape.

• For more on The Mandolay Hotel, see their website at




Getting there…

Trains from London Waterloo run through Guildford frequently and the whole area is served by a huge network of buses. There are also numerous car parks, but beware – it does get very busy especially during the Christmas season and it would be wise to use one of the three Park and Ride services. They are situated at the Spectrum Leisure complex on Parkway (sat-nav GU1 1UP), Artington, Portsmouth Road (GU3 1LP) and Merrow, A25 (GU4 7AA). Services operate every 12 minutes until 7.30pm then every 20 minutes. Check out the details online at


More from Surrey Life


Education expert Dr Ryan Hinchey, Coordinator of College Counselling at ACS International School, with campuses in Cobham, Egham and Hillingdon, answers your questions

Read more

Surrounded by reservoirs and located on the banks of the famous river from which it takes its name, Staines-upon-Thames (as it is now called) is a town working to reshape its future and celebrate its picturesque riverside setting

Read more
Yesterday, 16:30

She may have recently moved to the seaside, but Surrey still holds a uniquely “precious” place in the heart of legendary children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson – not to mention the crucial role the county played in bringing everyone’s favourite and newly-returning feisty foster-kid to life

Read more
Yesterday, 11:59

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (23, 24 and 25 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search