Sometimes the coolest places are in your own backyard. That’s what makes Chester, England so nice to visit! Chester is a charming bustling little city that bears all the marks of its nearly 2000 years of history while still being liveable and convenient.
Strategically located on the River Dee, Chester was founded by the Roman legions in 79 AD – the same year that Mount Vesuvius exploded and buried the ancient city of Pompeii. Originally founded under the name of Deva Victrix, this city is still surrounded by the ancient Roman walls of the legionary camp.
Visiting will tickle the Dickens out of you!
Here’s a Pro Tip: Before booking your trip to Chester, check the race schedules as the city is home to one of the oldest racecourses in the country! Landing on race day adds a fantastic buzz to the city, but make sure you pre-book your accommodation and places to dine well in advance because it is packed on race day.
Most international travellers will touch down at Manchester Airport which sits just 30 miles north-east of the city. From there, the journey into Chester town centre is easily made by taxi or train. While the car journey takes roughly forty minutes, the train ride takes one hour and departs from Manchester Airport Train Station. There are convenient train connections from all over England. Once in Chester, exploring the city can be entirely on foot. If you’re keen to explore wider Chester, both public buses, trains, and tour buses are readily available and for a fraction of the cost of hiring a car.
Gothic or go home!
Chester is packed with museums, castles, and churches, as you might expect, but it also has other cool attractions. To help plan the ultimate visit, here are my favourite things to do in the city:
- Old City – Old City is home to well-preserved half-timbered houses and traditional medieval arcades (known as the Chester Rows). Start your time in the city by exploring its quaint environs.
- Chester Cathedral – The mighty Chester Cathedral is a splendid display of gothic architecture, and a visit to the 6th-century Venetian font (found inside the church baptistery) is interesting to the historical minded visitor. The cathedral choir is also a sight to behold as the hand-carved stalls date back to the 14th-century.
You don’t have to Rome far to see Chester!
- Chester Roman Amphitheatre – Stand in the very spot where the Roman 20th Legion trained some 2,000 years ago! The Roman Amphitheatre is free to visit and makes a nice addition to a historical tour of the city. During the summer, there are lots of visitors who lounge on its grounds.
- The Grosvenor Museum – Covering the history of Roman settlements in Chester, and the Roman occupation of Britain in General, the Grosvenor Museum is one of the city’s most popular attractions. Check out the period rooms found behind the museum!
- Chester City Walls – The city walls wind their way around the town creating a two-mile circuit that takes in Roman foundations, King Charles’ Tower, and Pemberton’s Parlor watchtower!
- Golf Courses – Chester has some of the oldest and nicest golf courses in England – including very well kept municipal courses open to all.
- Chester Race Course – the city has a long history of hosting exciting horse racing competitions and a day at course is bound to be full of excitement and fun.
- Chester Zoo – This Zoo is the most visited U.K. attraction outside of London and lucky for you it’s located just a mile north of Chester! Here you’ll find over 11,000 animals (400 species) roaming the 125-acre site.
Rhino you’ll love the Chester Zoo!
Award-winning restaurants serving haute cuisine, vegan eateries paving the way for exciting plant-based dishes, and traditional Italian eateries and all available in Chester. Here are my three favourites:
Hypha-n’-ate your veggies!
- Hypha Chester – Hypha restaurant is revolutionising Chester’s plant-based gastronomy with its innovative vegan dishes, each made using fresh seasonal fare. The restaurant decor is cosy yet contemporary, and the wood panel walls add rustic undertones.
- The Yard Chester – The Yard is arguably the best Italian restaurant partly because the head chef trained under Gordon Ramsey. The restaurant has managed to keep its family roots and continues to produce authentic dishes made with generations of love.
- Joseph Benjamin – At Joseph Benjamin, you can expect to enjoy creative, contemporary British food, served in a relaxed environment. Tasty delights such as Grilled Swordfish, Cauliflower Paella, and Salt Baked Celeriac populate the menu.
There’s only so much history you can soak up in a day without having to stop for a drink! Thankfully Chester is brimming with bars, each as quirky and quaint as the last. Here are my favourite watering holes in the city:
- Liquor and Co – This upbeat bar is a popular hangout and one where vintage-chic style meets a modern cocktail menu. The bar also stocks a wide variety of craft beers, and bar snacks are available in the evening.
- Prohibition – Prohibition is a dimly lit cosy tavern where leather-bound books line the walls and men with long beard’s sip Espresso Martinis while a jazz band plays in the background. It really is heavenly.
- Commonhall St. Social – Known as a ‘hidden gem in the heart of Chester’, Commonhall St. Social is a hip bar with a fantastic outdoor terrace. The bar’s exposed-brick walls give the venue character, and it’s the perfect place for a midday drink or two!
After a day exploring the city, you’ll want to return to somewhere you can call home. From luxury spa-hotels to boutique accommodation, here are my favourite places to rest my head:
- The Chester Grosvenor Hotel – This 5-star boutique hotel sits in the heart of Chester and boasts an onsite spa, restaurant, and afternoon-tea service. If you’re looking for upmarket luxury, you’ll find it here!
- Oddfellows Chester – This is a neoclassical boutique hotel with stylish decor, located just a short stroll from the city’s best attractions. My favourite feature? The outdoor bar with heated terrace seating.
You’ll clock good buys in Chester!
- Crabwall Manor Hotel & Spa – If you’d prefer to stay a little outside of central Chester the Crabwall is an affordable country hotel with an onsite spa, swimming pool and restaurant. The hotel sits just a 15-minute ride north.
Here’s a Final Pro-tip: Homestay rentals are readily available in the area. The last time I was there, I rented a small Elizabethan manor house which even boasted a ghost! It was beautiful and quite affordable.
The ancient city of Chester is breath-taking and walking in the footsteps of Roman Legionnaires isn’t something you can do in any old place! Aside from a rich history and well-preserved archaeological sites, Chester is also a place where you can let your hair down, relax, and enjoy hearty British cuisine at a good old-fashioned pub.