Visiting Chester – A City Guide
Chester can trace its roots back to Roman times, when it was founded as a military camp. During the Middle Ages it was a wealthy port, and since then the walled city has aged well. Its historic centre has a timeless feel thanks to dozens of picturesque half-timbered buildings.
Chester: city layout
The historic core of central Chester, where the majority of shops and restaurants are located, fills the space between the city’s cathedral and the north bank of the River Dee. West of the centre, beside a sweeping bend in the river, is Chester Racecourse. To the north and northeast are residential suburbs, as well as part of the University of Chester campus. Southeast of the centre and across the river are the surprisingly wild wetlands of Chester Meadows, while you’ll find more homes and business parks further south and southwest.
What to see and do in Chester
Central Chester is enclosed by two miles of medieval walls and has Chester Cathedral as its focal point. Don’t miss the former city entrance, Eastgate, or its photogenic clock. Throughout the centre you’ll also find streets lined with Tudor-style black-and-white half-timbered houses, although most are relatively modern Victorian recreations, despite their appearance. Take time for a stroll in leafy Grosvenor Park or, for a real trip into the past, visit Chester Roman Gardens, filled with ancient ruins. For a walk on the wild side, make a detour to Chester Meadows, a patchwork of riverside grasslands and wetlands southeast of the centre.
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Hotels in Chester
Chester has a wide range of accommodations to suit all tastes and budgets. You’ll find grand retreats in historic buildings that make relaxing bases for city breaks, and large hotels with modern facilities aimed primarily at business travellers. You’ll also have a choice of smaller family-run bed-and-breakfast guesthouses.
Many of Chester’s hotels are centrally located, leaving you close to the main sights and shops, as well as to lively nightlife and Chester Racecourse. There are more hotels to the northeast of the centre around Chester railway station, and another cluster of mainly family-run lodges even further northeast, along and around the A56. Similar guesthouses are located in the northern suburbs near the University of Chester. Hotels on the outskirts of the city have good transport connections to other parts of North West England, as well as convenient bus connections into the centre.
Eating Out in Chester
Chester has restaurants in every category: You’ll discover trendy cafés, exclusive bistros and pubs serving fine food. Ethnic cuisines such as Indian and Italian are popular. Salt has long been mined locally, and as a result the regional cuisine has become known for its cured meats and fish.
The city centre is a good place to find popular restaurant chains and bars serving ‘pub grub’, as well as cafés and more exclusive high-end eateries that serve both classic British and international fare. You’ll have a choice of everything from French mussels to Malaysian curries. Most restaurants in the northeast suburbs are either British-themed and based in the area’s guesthouses, or they serve familiar ethnic cuisines such as Chinese and Indian. Dining options on the outskirts of the city are mainly hotel restaurants and pubs with food, although you will find some Italian and other international eateries.
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Shopping in Chester
Chester’s shopping is more varied than most British towns’. You’ll find familiar nationwide chains and several shopping centres, but you’ll also be able to browse in two-tiered medieval ‘rows’ found nowhere else in the world. Bartering is not common, although you can try your hand in markets.
Don’t miss the characterful Chester Rows, the city’s ancient two-level covered galleries that pre-date modern shopping centres by about 700 years.
Though if modern is what you’re after, you’ll find around 70 stores including familiar fashion chains at Grosvenor Shopping Centre, and another 25 beside the town hall in the Forum Shopping Centre.
For specialist shops and independent boutiques, try cobbled Watergate Street.
To pick up exclusive brands at bargain prices, drive six miles out of the city and visit Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet.
Top markets in Chester
Culture & Nightlife in Chester
If you’re in Chester for the culture, you have options like a theatre show or a museum or art gallery visit. In the evening, you can relax in a traditional old pub, or perhaps dance salsa all night to addictive Latino rhythms.
You’ll find several art galleries in the centre, particularly in the area southwest of the Cathedral near the Racecourse. In summer, you can even enjoy a play in leafy surrounds at the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. If you want to stop somewhere for a drink, you’ll find plenty of atmospheric pubs, some of which are hundreds of years old – and modern cocktail bars if you’ve experienced enough history. After dark, many clubbing fans head for Cruise, where you can choose from six themed areas. Beer lovers may prefer a relaxing pint in the Brewery Tap, home of the Spitting Feathers brewery.
Live music venues in Chester
Visiting Chester with a Family
Chester’s family-friendly attractions appeal to children of all ages, and range from a ghostly guided night walk to a day out with animals at one of Britain’s best-known zoos. There are also parks and open spaces in the city centre where little ones can let off steam.
If you want to absorb all the sights with little effort, a hop-on-hop-off bus ride will take you on a tour around the city centre – in less than an hour if you decide to stay on board. In the heart of the city, the imposing medieval bulk of Chester Cathedral always captivates visitors, regardless of their age. Or if you simply want some fresh air, make your way to Grosvenor Park, where younger children can ride a miniature train around a quarter-mile circuit, or have fun in the play area beside the track.
Best family attractions in Chester