Opinions about Berkshire’s shopping centres are divided, but parking charges are a common bugbear
It’s undeniable that shopping centres have become an unmistakable feature of modern towns.
And Berkshire has several shopping centres, with some towns like Newbury, Reading and Windsor having two.
But which are the best for a bit of retail therapy or picking up some essentials?
Lots of shoppers have left Google reviews about their experiences around the county.
When they have praised the centres, it often because they have a good range of shops, are clean and have easy access.
But some shoppers have lamented the selection of shops and how expensive parking is.
Some of the centres have also been slammed for looking tired and ‘dying’ as a consequence of the struggling high street.
Here’s shoppers’ best to worst:
Windsor Royal Station, Windsor
Google rating – 4.5/5
Definitely one of the more elite shopping centres in the county,Windsor Royal Station tops our list.
However, not even this shopping centre is immune to store closures, with Links of London the jewellery store closing down last year.
Nevertheless, visitors love the shopping centre’s unique feel, even though it is a bit too ’boutiquey’ for some.
“Such a well done shopping venue, and using the train station just gives it more allure.
“It’s a beautiful building with some high end commonly known shops, as well as some more local sounding individual shops featuring local UK items.
“Lots of fun to explore and many funky eateries with delightful common seating areas, along with ice cream places, chocolate and candy stores, and small surprises along the way.
“Glimpsing the castle through the turns and alleys makes it even more of a treat, knowing you are right there, walking where the Royals have walked over the years.”
“Not really many shops here that suit me, all a bit boutiquey and a feel that they are designed to snare tourists going between the station and the castle. The cafés are decent.”
The Lexicon, Bracknell
Google rating – 4.4/5
Berkshire’s newest shopping centre is also one of its best, according to visitors.
Shoppers like the clean broad streets, shops and layout.
However, sceptics have complained about portions of The Lexicon remaining empty after its opening in 2017.
“The Lexicon is a great shopping centre and I am not usually a fan of either! It is very clean with wide covered avenues leading to an open area with more shops.
“There is a wide variety of restaurants and a cinema. The car park is well laid out with generously sized spaces, lots of disabled and mother and baby parking and charging for electric cars! There are also spotlessly clean toilets on one of the parking levels, which is a big plus for me! The toilet cleaning staff should be commended.
“I try not to go to The Oracle in Reading anymore, unless I have to visit John Lewis or Lakeland, as Reading seems dirty and crowded now, when compared to the lovely Lexicon.”
“Lack of decent shops. Three years after opening, parts are still under construction. Lack of bars and the place is a ghost town after 9pm.
“Reading is a 15 min drive away and so much better.”
The Oracle, Reading
Google rating – 4.3/5
Just getting pipped by its younger competitor in Bracknell, The Oracle in Reading, Berkshire comes in third.
It has already had a busy start to the year, with Japanese restaurant Osaka the first opening of 2020 and NatWest also moving in. And now healthy fast food restaurant Leon and shoe shop Skechers will be joining them.
Bosses have also had plans to transform the House of Fraser unit into a food hall, bowling alley and golf, shops and restaurants approved.
Many shoppers still travel from their respective towns to shop and eat here.
However, it has been slammed by some for store closures and expensive parking.
“Reading is my home town, but I haven’t lived there in decades. I can really appreciate the changes in the town centre, especially Broad Street, The Oracle and the canal area.
“I think that The Oracle is a great place to shop and I was impressed by the selection of retail outlets. Outside the mall, the canal area had a vibrant atmosphere.
“There is a very good selection of places to eat, both here and elsewhere in the town.
“I look forward to visiting The Oracle again when I have more time to enjoy what it has to offer.”
“Shops are closing down all the time. Nothing exciting. Car park is a total rip off.
“Went to The Oracle after probably six months. Won’t be back in a hurry. Since Lexicon has opened we go there and find it a lot better. Easier to park and cleaner.”
“Nice mall but parking is so expensive which is a bit off-putting. The Riverside is beautiful though, especially at night and a lovely place to have a walk, go to a restaurant along the river or for a movie perhaps. It’s a pleasant visit every time we go, which is not so often as we’ve moved now but always go back to Reading as that’s where out favourite restaurant is.”
Windsor Yards, Windsor
Google score – 4.3/5
There’s not a great deal separating Windsor Yards and Windsor Royal Station, as they are right next to each other.
That said, the Yards have more appeal, with mainstream fashion chains like H&M and New Look.
It used to be known as King Edward Court, and some people from Windsor are not keen about the rebrand.
On the other hand, shoppers have praised the range of shops.
“Lovely setting, lots of boutique shops, designer shops, plenty of court yard cafes, bistros and restaurants lovely atmosphere.
“Good wheelchair access. Parking in the multi story car parks and designated parking areas.”
“Why spend so much money rebranding what will always be King Edward Court to locals and then take forever fixing the lift by Waitrose.
“Out of order for six weeks not long ago and now about four weeks this time, had to wait 10 minutes this morning for a lift with my mother who is in her 80’s. Get your priorities sorted.”
Parkway Shopping Centre, Newbury
Google score – 4/5
The verdict on Parkway Shoppping Centre is good for the most part.
Located just north of the River Kennet, the shopping centre boasts a number of popular high street fashion brands.
However, the shopping centre took a hit after the announcement the Topshop and Topman store will close this spring.
Shoppers have praised the big name brands located there.
“Parkway shops enrich Newbury’s town centre with High Street shops that we historically had to drive to Reading or Basingstoke to shop…what an amazing venue!”
“Bit pricey at some of the shops. It’s an ok place but you wouldn’t spend long here, [there’s] not a lot of variety of shops. I prefer The Oracle in Reading.”
Queensmere Observatory Shopping Centre, Slough
Google score – 3.5/5
Opinions are definitely divided over Queensmere Observatory Shopping Centre in Slough.
Some say the shopping centre is dying, and are lamenting the loss of Debenhams, which closed in January.
However the more optimistic are looking forward to what may replace the empty unit.
Plus there is a soft play centre in Queensmere to take your children to.
“My local shopping centre in Slough has so much to offer however I’m saddened about the closure of Debenhams and hope it will be replaced with something good!
“The stop smoking cessation stall is located outside of Carphone Warehouse and is useful for those intending to quit smoking.”
“The Queensmere is shocking.
“I grew up in the local area and it was a a good shopping centre years ago with a good selection of shops. Passing through on this occasion it was shocking how the Queensmere and the general High Street in Slough has gone downhill.
“It is not worth going there at all. Pretty much the best example of the death of the high street. Would not recommend going here, Staines or Windsor would be a better bet for shopping eateries etc.”
Nicholsons Shopping Centre, Maidenhead
Google score – 3.5/5
Similar to Queensmere, there is quite a lot of scepticism surrounding Nicholsons in Maidenhead.
Some shoppers have blasted it for its looks and ‘horrendously expensive parking’.
But a major redevelopment is in the pipeline.
“Reasonable selection of shops under cover. Good size car park with lifts and stairs. Toilets clean.
“Several access points to other shopping areas of the town, but these close about 6pm so then access to cars only by car park (lift and stairs).
“Pay upfront system with horrible machines that take ages to use and are not very reliable for card payments. Free parking Sunday and Bank Holidays.”
“Awful. Like a dilapidated mall. Very complicated and horrendously expensive parking.
“Don’t go on through Nicholsons in search of better shops, unless you have an overriding need for chain coffee, mobile phones, or crumbling charity shops!”
Kennet Shopping, Newbury
Google score – 3.4/5
Kennet Shopping Centre is a big part of Newbury town centre.
Located on the south bank of the River Kennet, it is in competition with Parkway Shopping Centre, which is on the north bank of the river.
“Probably one of the quietest shopping arcades around.
“It always feels safe and pleasant to pop in and out of various smaller shops.
“Restaurants, cafés, cinema, pop-up shops, health shops, charity shop, chemist, shoe shop, lovely haberdashery shop at unbelievably good prices over a vast range of items.
“I’m sure I’ve missed shops off the list.”
“Not worth travelling to but it does have a TK Maxx, a Poundland and a Cafe Nero. It’s okay but a little dated with empty units.
“If you are looking for an indoor shopping experience, I would head to Basingstoke Festival Place, Reading The Oracle or Southampton West Quay.
“There is however a shopping district at the other end of town with a Superdry, John Lewis, Lake Land and L’Occitaine.”
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