This weekend, I visited the historical English city of Chester, to celebrate my friend’s birthday and go exploring. It’s amazing what you can see and do in just a day in Chester.
How long should you Spend in Chester?
How long should you spend in Chester? In my opinion, two days in Chester is absolutely perfect. If you can manage three or more days, this will allow you to book some local activities. If you only have one day in Chester, is it worth it? Absolutely!
Chester – Getting the and Away
Chester is extremely accessible by train. You can visit as a day trip from Liverpool (approximately 40 minutes) and from Manchester (approximately 1 hour 20 mins). If you are flying into the UK, you can fly to Manchester Airport or Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
Travelling from London to Chester is quite a distance. You would definitely need to stay over for at least one night, preferably two, if you plan to do this.
If you are travelling on the cheap and want to get the Megabus, be aware that it does not stop at Chester. However, you can get the Megabus to Liverpool (approximately £17.00 to £25.00 return from Londo depending on the time and day) and then get the train from Liverpool to Chester for £6.90 (return price in July 2016 booking in advance).I travelled by train from York and had to change in Manchester. My journey was just over 3 hours. Remember that if you are travelling around England by train, it is much cheaper to book in advance. See my blog on Travel Hacking UK Trains.
The Three Old Arches, Chester, next to contrasting Georgian Architecture.
Arriving in Chester
When I arrived at Chester train station at 1pm, my friends Mark and Michelle were there to greet me. It was the first time Michelle had seen my ‘brace face’! (I’m wearing braces at 36!). With a train at approximately 1pm the very next day, it was time to see how much we could pack into 24 hours in Chester!
We paroused a pop up market near the station, with gluten free cakes and hand made chocolates, before heading to their flat to drop of my bag.
Then it was a beautiful 15 minute walk down the river to the centre, from their flat in Hoole. There was an unexpected ‘pirate ship’ on the canal side – a barge decked out with pirate paraphernalia, and a woman wearing a pirates hat shouting ‘What’s a pirate’s favourite letter of the alphabet? rrrrrrrrrrr!’ (Bad joke, I know, but not mine, so please don’t judge!)
Chester City Centre – Eastgate and Eastgate Clock
When you arrive in the centre of Chester, head straight to Eastgate and the Eastgate clock. The stunning Victorian clock stands prominently on the original Roman gate to the city. The clock was built in 1897 and unveiled to the public in 1899, on Queen Victoria’s 80th birthday. The Eastgate clock is the second most photographed clock in England after Big Ben (London).
There is an astounding melting pot of historical architecture in the centre of Chester. Look carefully for the contrasting Medieval, Tudor and Georgian styles.
Medieval Architecture of Chester
‘The Rows’ are medieval buildings built in the four main streets of Chester cross. Look to your left and right on Eastgate and Watergate Street, and you can’t miss the ornate wooden beamed black and white houses. There is some historical evidence that these house date back to the 13th Century.
We had a lovely lunch at the Watergate Deli, before heading to the Roman Amphitheatre.
Chester Roman Amphitheatre
The Roman Amphitheatre in Chester is the largest so far uncovered in Britain and dates back to the 1st Century AD, when the fort of Deva Victoria was founded (this fort is what later developed into the city of Chester). The amphitheatre would have been used for cock fighting, bull bating, wrestling and gladiator style combats.
Nearby the Amphitheatre, we went for a drink in ‘The Church’, which is, as it sounds, a Church converted into a bar. Seems rather sinful to drink in here, but I guess that’s all part of the fun! If you want to have a drink there (and you really should) I recommend that you go early on, especially on a weekend, as it can get very busy and full of hen parties and stag dos!
The Parish Church of St John the Baptist and Eastern Ruins
From the Roman Amphitheatre, we walked round past the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, to see the Eastern ruins of the Church.
Church of John the Baptist, Chester
The ruins include part of the Norman Chancel, the 14th Century Lady Chapel and two medieval side chapels. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, the Eastern chapels and the transepts were abandoned, the parishioners built a new Eastern wall, leaving the ruined East end just outside the Church (not the one that serves alcohol this time!).
Eastern Chapel ruins, Chester
City of Chester Queens Park Suspension Bridge
The Queens Park suspension bridge allows pedestrians to cross the River Dee. It was constructed in 1923. From there, we walked along the riverside back to the highly sought after district of Hoole.
Queens Park Suspension Bridge, Chester
Drinks along the River Dee
We finished the night with a drink at the Old Harkers Arms on the Riverside, which, if you look at one side of the wall, fools you into thinking that it’s a library rather than a pub! Here, I celebrated 31 years of friendship with my bestie – wow, that makes me feel old! 😉
Breakfast at the Mad Hatters Tea Room
Calling all ‘Alice in Wonderland’ fans…the next morning we were up and out for a leisurely breakfast at The Mad Hatters Tea Room! This place was full of character and inspiration from Lewis Carols novel. The walls are splattered with oversized playing cards, upside down tea pots hang from the ceiling and the odd Flamingo looks apprehensive about being used for a game of croquet!
The menu displayed food options with prices listed as 7 1/2 (£7.50) and 5 1/4 (£5.25) and we took away the most delicious cupcakes. It was so good, it deserved a blog in it’s own right (watch this space!).
Walking the City Walls of Chester
From there, we started to walk the city walls at Water Tower, which used to protect the medieval port of Chester.
Construction of the city walls started between 70-80AD as a wooden palisade, then they started to use sandstone around 100AD. The walls were extended after the Norman conquest (11th Century) to form the medieval walls of the city.
We walked round the Roman Walls of Chester, past the King Charles Tower. This was where King Charles I saw that they were losing the English Civil War, and fled.
The full circuit of the city walls is 1.8 miles (2.95 km). It can be hot in the summer and cold in the winter (take a raincoat), and the walk usually takes around 45 minutes. If you would like more information and a map of the city walls, follow this link.
One Day in Chester: Abbey Square
We descended the city walls by Chester Cathedral and walked through the Abbey Gateway. This 14th Century Gateway was the main entrance to the Abbey of St Werburgh, which is now the Cathedral. Directly facing the Abbey Gateway is Chester Town Hall.
Also on Abbey square, look out for Jayna the elephant. This bronze sculpture was a gift from Chester zoo to the people of Chester to celebrate the strong friendship between the Zoo and the City. Jana means ‘life’ in Hindi, and this symbolises the Zoo’s global role in conservation
If you’re lucky, you will see the vintage bus pull up near Abbey square (you can book tours online). The bus goes from the town hall Monday to Saturday and from Chester Cathedral on Sundays.
Vintage Bus, Chester
Our fantastic weekend ended with some photography of Chester Cathedral. There are daily tours and tower tours in the Cathedral, as well as falconry displays and experiences that can be booked. Sadly, just one day in Chester didn’t allow time for this. If you have 2 or 3 days in Chester, these activities will certainly possible.
What to see and do in Chester
One day in Chester – Follow the above itinerary and you will not be disappointed.
48 Hours in Chester – In addition to the above, go inside the Cathedral, walk the full length of the walls and perhaps book some falconry. There will also be time for the vintage or open top bus tour.
3-5 Days in Chester – Animal lovers could incorporate Chester Zoo into their plans! You could also consider a visit to Chester Racecourse (the oldest racecourse in Great Britain). If you like Museums, explore the Grosvenor Museum (Natural History, Art and Local Silver) or the Cheshire Military Museum.
Other Recommended UK Cities
If you enjoyed this blog, and like historical UK cities, you might also like to read about Things to do in Oxford and York, UK.
Liverpool and Manchester are the to Northern Cities that you should visit (Liverpool in particular if you are a Beatles fan!)
London is, of course, not to be missed, but it can be expensive. Check out my blog on How to see London on a Budget.