Chester: The UK’s Most Underrated Destination

the main street in Chester England; Photo by Andreas Mortonus (Flickr: @purpleseadonkey)
Updated: 01/05/19 | January 5th, 2019

Chester, England an old city. It was founded in 79 A.D. as a fortress for northern expansion of the Roman empire. The city is still surrounded by ancient walls and has one of the most complete wall systems in England. During the early industrial revolution, it became a hub for industry but those days are long gone!

But Chester is the embodiment of a “typical English town” with its Victorian buildings, cottage homes, cobblestoned high street, expansive parks, and ancient walls.

And that’s why most people visit the city.

The Chester center looks like something out of an old novel by Charles Dickens. The old taverns, hotels, and little shops all have retained their charm and original paint. The homes in Chester are typical Victorian. I keep waiting for Mrs. Havisham to come out in a wedding dress sometime. Small cottages with bricks and criss-cross wood fronts and glass window.

It’s a quiet town too. I’m amazed by the quietness that always seemed to envelop me. It’s often as if there were no inhabitants of the city. You rarely hear the sounds of cars, people, or even birds.

I think Chester is a very under visited destination. Not a lot of travelers visit Chester so if you’re looking to get a little off the beaten path in England, this is the place!

While most of Chester’s allure and charm comes from its Dickens feel and architecture, there are still plenty of things to see and do in Chester!

The Best Things to See and Do in Chester

pedestrians walking along the city walls in Chester England; Photo by Sheri (Flickr: @bellatrix6)
1. Walk Along the city walls
The city is home to the most complete city wall in the country, dating from the Roman conquest over 2,000 years ago. Today, you can walk the 2-miles of the wall and admire the beautiful heritage of Chester. They were built to protect the city from tribal invaders and built between 70 and 80 AD. Allow about forty-five minutes to walk the entire thing. The most famous part of the wall is the East gate. On top sits the 2nd most photographed clock in all of England (the first being Big Ben, of course!). Known as the Eastgate Clock, it was built in the late 19th century to commemorate a visit by the Prince of Wales.

2. Go to The Grosvenor Museum
This museum showcases Roman history, artifacts, silverware, and captivating artwork. It is the best way to learn about the long history of the city. Best of all: admission is free! You only need a few hours here too!

27 Grosvenor Street, +44 01244 972197, grosvenormuseum.westcheshiremuseums.co.uk. Open 10:30am-5pm Monday-Saturday and 1pm-4pm on Sundays. Admission is free.

3. See the 700-year-old rows
This row of houses showcases the historic architecture of the city. Shoemakers and Iron Mongers once sold their wares in these magnificent 700-year-old medieval houses. The double-decker houses are unique to the city and now host retailers and galleries. They give you a phenomenal and picturesque look at the city’s history.

You can find the houses on Bridge Street, Watergate Street, and Eastgate Street.

The medieval Chester Cathedral on a sunny day
4. Visit the Chester Cathedral
Parts of Chester Cathedral are almost 1,000 years old, making this one of the best examples of medieval architecture left in the country. Other additions were added all the way up to the 16th century, and while there were heavy restorations made it still has a very medieval feel to it. Tower tours are available, making this a great place to look into the city’s past while peering out over its present.

12 Abbey Square, +44 01244 324756, chestercathedral.com. Open Monday-Saturday from 9am-6pm and Sundays from 1pm-4pm. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

5. Head to the races
This is the oldest racecourse still open in the country, dating back to the 16th century. It was built on a Roman settlement near the harbor and now offers one of the most popular activities in the region. When the races are on, everyone comes out to celebrate them in their finest attire to get drunk (while being stylish). It’s more a social event than anything else!

The Racecourse, +44 01244 304 600, chester-races.co.uk. Check the website for upcoming events as well as pricing information.

The river cruise boats in Chester England at sunset; Photo by Tim Dutton (flickr: @specky4eyes)
6. Take a river cruise on the River Dee
The River Dee winds its way through both Wales and England, stretching 110km before it empties into an estuary. With the city so close, a popular activity is taking a cruise on the river. You can do half-day, full day, or evening tea cruises through the Duke of Westminster’s Estate. And, as the city is popular with stag and hen parties, there are even party cruises!

The Groves, +44 01244 325 394, chesterboat.co.uk. The days and times of cruises will vary depending on the season. Don’t expect regular service in the winter. Prices start from 7 GBP and go up for longer cruises.

7. Visit the Chester Zoo
This is one of the best zoos in all of Europe and a great place to visit if you’re traveling with kids. They have a cool bat cave with free-flying bats as well as a great elephant area. It’s a bit out of town, but it’s an easy place to spend a few hours walking and exploring.

Upton by Chester, +44 01244 380280, chesterzoo.org. Open daily from 10am. Admission is 18-23 GBP for adults with discounts available for students and children.

***

Chester is the type of city you see in brochures advertising England- country homes, old Victorian buildings, and lots of “quaint” shops. The city is definitely worth an overnight stay or at least a day trip from Manchester or Liverpool. This is the England you’ve been looking for! Don’t skip out on a visit!

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Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
To find the best budget accommodation, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. You can book your hostel – if you want that instead – with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory. My favorite places to stay in the city are:

  • The Bunkroom – Conveniently located right next to the train station, this hostel is really clean and has really friendly and helpful staff.
  • Chester Backpackers – A typical backpacker hostel that’s cheap and great for meeting other travelers.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on England?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on England for even more planning tips!

 

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4

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