When you are exploring the wonders of England, Chester is a must. One of the UK’s most beautiful heritage cities, Chester is steeped in history and packed with things to do and see. Chester dates back to Roman times, and the Vikings, Danes, Saxons, Scots, and Normans have all made their mark on the city. From the 12th to 14th centuries, the maritime trade along the River Dee brought commercial and cultural prosperity that shaped the town it is today. Its compact size works in your favour, making it easy to take in the iconic attractions in this veritable treasure trove of English history. You will find plenty of things to do in Chester, and a brief stay gives you time to explore most of them. So, go ahead and immerse yourself in the rich history of Chester, exploring its Roman walls, magnificent cathedral, Tudor architecture, and informative city tours. Together Travel will be right here to help, with a guide to some of the best activities in Chester.
The past and present meet in Chester Cathedral, an archaeological treasure that is still a vibrant community of worship to this day. Built where an older church stood in AD 958, and later a Benedictine abbey was built, this site became a cathedral in 1541. The architecture is imposing and splendid, and the Cathedral is a cultural hub and centre of musical excellence, where Handel’s Messiah was first rehearsed, and choirs still perform eight services a week. Take a tour, attend a service, or eat at Café 1092 in the Refectory, soaking in the beauty of a monastic dining hall that dates back to the 13th century.
For a true sense of history, along with a bird’s eye view of the city, do not miss the city walls. The Chester City Walls are the most complete in Britain, with sections that are nearly 2000 years old. The full circuit is almost two miles long, and along the way you will see King Charles’ Tower, where the monarch is said to have witnessed the defeat of his troops in 1645. There is also a clock erected to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, in 1897, and a solid sandstone Water Tower, built in 1325. Run up and down the famous Wishing Steps twice without being out of breath, and it is said you will see your wishes granted. Walking the Walls early will help you avoid the crowds, but the view they offer of the sunset is truly stunning.
One of the largest and most popular zoos in the UK, Chester Zoo houses over 20,000 rare and endangered animals, representing over 500 animal species. This 125-acre site is a wonderful place to spend some time, enjoying the wildlife, parks, and prizewinning landscaped gardens, and there are plenty of picnic sites where you can enjoy a snack when the weather is fine. In addition to being a great place to visit as a tourist, the zoo is also a charitable organisation dedicated to wildlife conservation and accessible education. There is plenty to see at Chester Zoo, just by exploring the enclosures and wandering through the curated garden. If you want a deeper dive, though, there are many exciting options, including the Botanist’s Lab, the Flamingo Experience, where you can feed flamingos and talk to their keepers, the Latin American Adventure, where guests meet sloths, capybaras, giant anteaters, and more, and the Fruit Bat Experience, where visitors learn more about important conservation work while also having the opportunity to feed bats. There is even a Secret Life of the Zoo Tour, offering a peek behind the scenes of this busy zoo.
Dating back to the 14th century, the Chester Rows are one of the town’s most unique and distinctive features. These charming, galleried walkways evolved from houses and shops built on and in front of Roman ruins, and today they feature many shops running the length of stone and half-timbered buildings. Located on all four of the main streets of Chester, these rows follow the Roman town plan, meeting at right angles at the market cross.
The largest Roman amphitheatre in Britain, this free attraction is still a site of excavation and new discoveries. In the days of the Roman Empire, it was used for entertainment and military training, and there have been two stone amphitheatres on this site. The first was similar to the amphitheatre at Pompeii, with stairs on the rear wall leading to upper tiers of seats, while the second offered seat access via spiral stairways. These two buildings are different from all other British amphitheatres, underscoring the importance of Roman Chester. You can see about two-fifths of the amphitheatre excavation from the pavement and footpath, with excellent views of the site.
Showcasing the stories of Chester from pre-history to the 20th century, the Grosvenor Museum is full of surprises. From an impressive collection of silver to paintings and sculptures to Roman remains in Chester, there are an abundance of things to see and experience at this museum. It has enough variety to hold the interest of everyone in your group, as you explore Roman life and death, discover the changing fashions in home interiors from the 17th century through the 1920s, admire paintings and sculpture representing half a millennium of art, and check out the geology collection, with its over 4,000 specimens of rocks, minerals, and fossils. There are special exhibitions and events year round, and admission to the museum is free, though they welcome donations.
Or, if cruising is not your thing, you can kayak it, take a rowboat or a motorboat, or just stroll along the riverside. Stretching through Wales and Chester, this river is 70 miles long, but at the Groves in Chester, you can simply rest and enjoy it. This paved promenade offers beautiful river views, ice cream sellers, public toilets, and a Victorian bandstand where you can still hear live music to this day. Along the river you will find cafes, pubs, and restaurants, and throughout the year numerous events are held on the river, including a duck race.
The oldest racecourse in the world that is still in operation, Chester Racecourse was established in 1539. It is a 365-days-a-year operation, featuring race day and non-race day events, and has consistently been awarded the Gold Standard Award by the Racehorse Owners Association since the award’s inception. The racing calendar goes from May to October, and the venue hosts many other events during the year, including food festivals, concerts, and outdoor cinema screenings. There is always a festive social atmosphere at Chester Racecourse, and dining options range from casual street food to fine dining.
An interactive museum on Roman life, the Deva Roman Experience gives visitors of all ages the opportunity to experience Roman Chester in person, rather than looking at it through glass. Board a Roman galley to travel back in time, and when you reach the port of Chester, you will be given an identity and occupation so that you can collect your pay and experience life as a Roman. It is a unique opportunity to experience history as a main character, as you wander the streets, learning about housing, soldiers, food, and hygiene through hands-on activities, reenactments, and exhibits.
Built in 1070 by the second Earl of Chester, at the behest of William the Conqueror, the original motte and bailey structure featured a wooden tower that was replaced in the 12th century by a stone tower now known as Agricola Tower. Chester was held by the Royalists during the English Civil War, and so the castle was under constant assault by Parliamentary forces. In the 18th century, the castle was rebuilt in the Neoclassical architectural style, and today you can tour what remains of the castle and be rewarded with amazing scenic views.
Located just outside the city walls, overlooking the River Dee, Grosvenor Park is an award winning park dating back to 1867. It is one of the finest examples of Victorian parks you will find throughout the UK, designed by Edward Kemp, and features tree-lined formal avenues, large sweeping lawns, ornamental shrub beds, and statues, all designed to create a spectacular and colourful display during spring and summer. There are plenty of things to do and see all year long, including St. Mary’s Nunnery Arch, the Quarry Garden, the Second Marquess of Westminster Statue, Billy Hobby’s Well Community Garden, and more. Children can enjoy a miniature railway and wonderful play area, yet despite all this activity, the park remains a peaceful and charming place to relax.
Home to more than 50 displays of fish and marine species, the aquarium is open daily, with regularly scheduled talks and feedings to engage and delight visitors. There are delightful exhibits like Pelican Cove, the Northern Streams, and the Flooded Forest, and the Ocean Exhibit is a showstopper, featuring a Caribbean reef, in a four million litre underwater display, complete with a tunnel that allows visitors to walk amongst stingrays, moray eels, colourful fish, and Europe’s largest collection of sharks. There is even a shark dive experience, if your budget allows.
Ready to visit Chester? Why not book a luxury stay in a floating pod on Tattenhall Marina or a charming bolt-hole in Goostrey and Lower Withington? No matter where you want to go in the UK, Together Travel Co. is here to bring your holiday dreams to life, just around the corner from home. All across the UK, we have luxurious, comfortable, unique properties located wherever you want to be, spending your family holidays connecting, relaxing, and enjoying all these vacation spots have to offer. Find out how we can make your trip amazing by contacting our expert concierge team at +44(0)1625 416430 or emailing us for more information.