Locals Guide to Chester, England

To see previous City Spotlights here

The city of Chester in the north west of England is one of the most fascinating and charming cities in the UK – that’s exactly why I’ve made my home here for the past two years! As a Canadian living abroad I am perpetually amazed and in awe of the ancient history that can be seen around every corner in places like Chester, and I love learning more and more about the past everywhere I go. It might be a trek up if you’re staying in London, but the 2 hour train ride is more than worth it once you arrive in this little living museum.

What makes Chester magical?

Chester was settled by the Romans and was established as a Roman fort, or castrum, in the year 79. Since this time a city has sat along the banks of the River Dee in Cheshire, growing in size and influence all the while.

This long history means that Chester is packed full of fascinating history, from the Roman City Walls and amphitheatre, to Victorian Grosvenor Park, right up to the shops and restaurants of modern times. Just a simple stroll up the main street gives you glimpses into the city’s history, with leaning Tudor buildings mingling with elegant Georgian facades.

If I only had one day in Chester, England what would you recommend?

If you only have 1 day in Chester the first thing you have to do is take a walking tour of the Roman City Walls that still guard the city centre. These city walls are the most complete in Britain and a walk around the whole of the monument will take you no longer than an hour, including stops to read the historical interpretation provided along the way. Along the way you’ll glimpse the beautiful River Dee, go under the historic Eastgate Clock (the second most photographed clock in Britain), and pass by the magnificent Chester Cathedral. There really is no better way to see the city.

After your walk along the walls head down to ground level to explore the shops and attractions that make up the city centre. At the Chester Visitors Centre you can sign up for a guided city walk which will give you insights into the city that you never would have discovered on your own. My favourite little tid-bit? It is believed that Catherine of Aragon, first with of the infamous Henry VIII spent a night in a room that is now part of a sofa shop!

 

What are your 3 favorite free things to do there?

Everyone likes to save a little while travelling, and it’s much easier to do that in the North of England than it is in London. It’s easy to find free, or inexpensive, things to do in Chester and not feel like you’re missing out.

  1. Visit the Grosvenor Museum – Many museums in the UK are free to enter and Chester’s little museum is one of them. Here you can watch a movie about the history of Chester, learn about its Roman heritage, and take a tour through a recreated Victorian household.
  2. Take in the Races – The Chester Racecourse, also known as the Roodee, is set right in the centre of the city and dates back to the 16th century. Throughout the summer there are numerous horse races held here, all of which you can watch for free from the street side.
  3. Take a Walk Along the Canal – Along with the River Dee, Chester also has a beautiful canal that winds its way through the city. On a sunny day there are few things nicer than walking along the water in the countryside, and maybe popping in to one of the local pubs for a pint in the sun!

 

A trip to Chester is great whether you are looking for a romantic weekend getaway or a family summer holiday. The city centre is compact and virtually car free so it’s easy to get around, and with North Wales, Liverpool, and Manchester just a short drive or train ride away there are endless things to do and see. Make sure that the next time you visit the UK you venture out of the capital and come and visit the little places like Chester that make the UK great.