Arriving in Guildford, my first impressions were mixed, until I realised the shopping district is literally a one minute walk away. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of busy roads and business districts on the riverside, the first point of call to your bank account is the Friary Centre. With its fairly new build and modern interior, it already boasts some of the biggest high street retail names such as Topshop, Urban Outfitters and Hollister, just to name a few. And the eclectic tastes of London’s savvy shopping like Muji, a Japanese lifestyle retailer and Tiger which is what you call an ‘everything’ store; from notebooks to spices to sunglasses to multi-magnifying make-up mirrors – you name it, they’ll probably have it. Not to mention, the Friary Centre is expanding its impressive list of favourite high street names with Zara – the global Spanish fashion house – which is sure to bring a flocking of European fashion fanatics. In addition, the Friary Centre offers luxury, too! The shopping mall boasts Armani Exchange, Kurt Geiger and Nine West for those who aren’t afraid to stretch their bank cards that little bit extra.
But for those foodies out there, there is a good variety for you to choose from. Starting with the Centre’s most popular, Thai Express, customers can order from a range of traditional Thai cuisine and tailor the spice level to taste – from Tom Yum to Pad Thai and appetizers like spring rolls, Thai Express is sure to tingle those taste-buds without hurting your wallet either! Friary Centre also offers the usual McDonald’s but also El Mexicana for those who want to dive into the spice sensation of South America, who offer burritos, nachos with jalapenos and tacos. But don’t forget to try the sweet potato fries! With new cuisine opening this summer, including Teriyaki Grill and Bamboo Fresh, the culinary mix will be sure to meet the needs of all its visitors.
For those who like their sweet treats, the Friary Centre also offers a sweet variety of yummy eats. Amidst your classic Snog FroYo to your Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, you can find Muffin Break who are the masters of baking muffins for all kinds of needs, including gluten free, dairy free – they can do it all! Drop by Mr. Simms for old classic sweets such as pear drops and liquorice laces and the tantalising tastes of their famous handmade chocolate, too! The suave Café Moka also offers great cake alternatives such as Carrot Cake and Lemon Tart as well as Red Velvet and a traditional German favourite, Apple Strudel.
After filling yourself up at the Friary Centre, make your way out to the main town centre streets to see a fantastic juxtaposition of dining and high street shopping, from New Look, TK Maxx and Superdry, to YO! Sushi, Nando’s and Wagamama. After that, embark on a gentle stroll up Guildford’s steep streets to everything you would expect from a cosmopolitan city. Relish in the beauty of the original architecture of Guildford’s buildings, through its strong Saxon style to the more Elizabethan period buildings – you can really breathe in the history of Guildford. Not to mention, this coming June, the town centre will be hosting an arts and crafts fair, so, for all those creative crafty makers, head on down to get some great bargains.
The peak aspect of Guildford would be Guildford Castle. One of Guildford’s most notable landmarks and sources of its history. For £3, you can explore the castle through your own eyes by ducking under low arches and finding yourself in a walk-in wardrobe, you can almost imagine living the life of an 11th Century Monarch. On making your way up the steep, spiral staircase, you become dizzy as you reach the top of the Tower, which dons a breath-taking 360° view of the town. From this point, you can see the intricate detail of the upper exterior of the castle and its warfare-like build, indicating that it might have been used as a fortress for refuge during the 1173 rebellion of Henry II’s sons. Guildford Castle is an absolute gem for a small payment and one not to be missed!
Overall, my experience of Guildford was delightful, although you’ll still have to endure England’s unpredictable weather. The town is bright, inviting and culturally diverse; you can experience anything from Guildford’s arts and culture offerings or relax with some essential retail therapy, with some exclusive names such as Kiehl’s and top sushi stop Kokoro. The shopping is quaint yet cosmopolitan, the environment rustic yet modern, and on top of all these great dualities is its rich history exhibited by Guildford Castle. Guildford is making its way to being named one of Britain’s best stops for visiting, so don’t hesitate to put this town on your list of places to see.