- For other places with the same name, see Bedford (disambiguation).
Once on the frontier between the Anglo-Saxons and Danes, it has a charter dating back more than 900 years. It is an important shopping centre, and there are also many pubs and bars. There are a number of good ethnic restaurants, reflecting the town's substantial Italian, Indian, Pakistani, and Polish communities. Bedford has also been heralded for having the widest range of ethnic diversity, boasting one of the few Eskimos in Britain. The Embankment along the River Ouse running through the centre of town is an attractive place for a walk, and once a year is given over to a traditional Regatta. On the picturesque town bridge is a memorial to John Bunyan, the author of 'The Pilgrim's Progress', who was imprisoned there. John Bunyan also lived in Bedford for most of his life, writing The Pilgrim's Progress here, and his life can be seen at the John Bunyan Museum in the town, where a statue dedicated to him can also be seen. There is a large and attractive park with tennis courts, and other niceties north of the town centre (Bedford Park).
Bedford is served by East Midlands Trains, London Midland and First Capital Connect. Travel to/from London St. Pancras takes about 40 minutes by East Midlands Trains and just over an hour if you take the First Capital Connect train. First Capital Connect trains are slower as they are primarily commuter services. The East Midlands Trains services only stop at a couple of stations between Bedford & London.
There is also a minor railway line going west to Bletchley (near Milton Keynes). Bedford's second train station (Bedford St. John's) is only used by Bletchley trains, whereas all trains going to/from Bedford end up in the main Bedford station sooner or later.
East Midlands Trains go north to Nottingham and beyond.
Bedford has a reasonably large bus station located in the centre of town, however there are few long distance services. The bus station and Midland train station are about 800m apart, so it's a max 10 min walk if you need to make a change here.
Bedford lies directly between the M1 and A1 motorways. Park and Ride facilities are available see, National Park and Ride Directory
The local bus services around Bedford are terrible, being both infrequent and expensive. Just about everything you'd want to see is within easy walking distance of the high street, however (at most 30 minutes if you're slow), so there's little need for anything more than your feet in good weather.
There's a reasonable but underused shuttle bus leaving the central train station, and the bus service to surrounding villages is excellent.
There are very few provisions for cyclists, though the town centre is pedestrianised. The one way system and endless traffic lights around the centre make for fun riding until you get to know the roads. Reasonably wide roads mean you don't get squeezed off too often.
Taxis are relatively expensive in Bedford & you may expect to queue for some time at town centre taxi ranks. It is usually faster & cheaper to call for a licenced minicab rather than waiting in line.
- 1 Embankment of the River Great Ouse.
- 3 The Higgins Bedford, Castle Lane, MK40 3XD. Tue – Sat 11AM–5PM, Sun 2PM–5PM. Art gallery and Museum containing a good range of Anglo-Saxon and Roman artefacts, and 19th century art. Admission Free.
- 5 Castle Mound. outside - always open. The remains of a castle built in 919 and destroyed in 1224, near the river embankment. free.
- 8 Priory Park. A large area of open land of the Eastern edge of town, featuring a man-made lake and nature reserve. free.
- 9 Willington Dovecote and Stables, Willington, Church End, near Bedford, MK44 3PX (4 miles east of Bedford), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Apr - Sep: Last Sunday of month or by appointment. 16th century stone dovecote
- Hire a boat on the rowing lake near the river. (Summer only)
- Bedford has a well known Rugby Union team. The grounds are on Goldington Road - if you're lucky you'll be able to catch a game during the rugby season (winter, basically). If you want to fit in, you should occasionally chant "Come on you blues.". However do not join in with the "Bedford, Bedford" moo style chant unless you are sitting in the stand, as they have paid for the privilege of singing this song.
- Walk east along the embankment from the main bridge, over the rainbow bridge, round past the boating lake, crossing the butterfly bridge and back along the embankment. A pleasant stroll either during day or night. Stop off at one of the restaurants or pubs on the embankment for refreshments.
In shopping terms, Bedford is quite typical for a town of its size. The centre of town has the normal chain stores. There is a small indoor shopping centre, the Harpur Centre, and one dingy end of it is called the Howard Centre. The central spiral walkway between the two levels of the centre has in recent years been named The Hub and is, apparently, "The place to be seen".
Originally being the region's market town, Bedford has a market every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday with various tradespeople and stalls. Bargains of all kinds can be found here, along with local produce. The market is split between Harpur Square and St. Paul's square.
Tavistock street contains wall to wall restaurants of every kind.
- Grand Indian, 39 Tavistock Street, MK40 2RB, ☎ . Has a particularly fine Chick Jalfrezi.
- 1 Saffron, 64 Tavistock St, MK40 2RG, ☎ . Does a superb and cheap Sunday lunch buffet.
- The Choudhury, Foster Hill Road, MK40 2EN, ☎ . Indian Cuisine
- Pizza Express, 22 St. Peters St, MK40 2NN, ☎ . Pizza Restaurant.
- Shanghai Beach, 61 Tavistock St, MK40 2RF, ☎ . A particularly fine Chinese restaurant offering a fixed price for anything off the menu but all freshly cooked food.
- Pizzeria Santaniello, 9-11 Newnham Street, MK40 3JR, ☎ . Traditional cheap and cheerful Neopolitan pizzeria, with wood-fired oven.
- Rice, 41 St Cuthbert's Street, ☎ . Small, good quality Thai restaurant.
Like all towns in England, Bedford has its fair share of chain pubs and bars packed to the gills on weekends. Walk down the High Street and you'll cover most of them, with a few bars found down Lime Street and various pubs along Tavistock Street.
For a quieter drink with good ales and ciders look out for the Wellington Arms on the corner of Wellington Street and Princes Street, which has won several CAMRA awards. Other good places to drink are the Castle and the Three Cups on Newnham Street; the Cricketers on Goldington Road; and the Bedford Arms on Bromham Road. There's a selection of live music at the Angel on Tavistock Street and Esquires
- 1 The Swan Hotel, The Embankment, MK40 1RW, ☎ . A good central location at the bottom of the High Street on the embankment. The hotel was built in 1794, with more recent extensions increasing its size to 113 rooms. Rooms start around £90..
- 2 Park Inn, 2 St Marys Street, MK42 0AR, ☎ . Modern concrete block on the other side of the river from the Swan.
- 3 Victoria Guest House, 26 De Pary's Avenue, ☎ . Pleasant but unexciting bed and breakfast on a tree lined avenue 5 minutes from the High Street. Single ensuite rooms £35..
- 4 The Elms Guest House, 24 De Pary's Avenue, MK40 2TW, ☎ . Single ensuite rooms £40..
- Taking the cycle route (an old railway line) out to Willington can be pleasant on a summer's day. Although the route does run right by the sewage works.
- Bedford is surrounded by small old villages with village pubs. Great Barford (7 km to the east), for example, is sure to please.
- The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has a nature reserve  (and headquarters) in Sandy, 11 km to the east.
- North-east to St Neots.
- East to Biggleswade
- South to Flitwick, Hitchin, Letchworth Garden City and Luton
- West to Milton Keynes, Stony Stratford, Towcester, Silverstone and Northampton
- North to Little Gidding, Kettering, Wellingborough and Rushden