Things to do in Chester
Things to do in Chester
Located in the county of Cheshire in the north-west of England, about 40 minutes from Liverpool, the charming and historic city of Chester on the River Dee is a great choice for a short break. The city was founded as a Roman fortress and you can see traces of Chester’s past everywhere, not least the impressive Roman Walls. There are also some great cultural highlights to enjoy, as well as shopping, entertainment and delightful open spaces.
You can travel to Chester by rail from across the country, with direct trains from such cities as Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester. The city is compact enough to explore on foot.
To help you plan your trip, in this article, we highlight some of the best things to do in Chester. We also introduce you to some super spa hotels within easy reach of the city, so you can add some much-needed downtime to your Chester trip.
Chester City Walls
The city walls around Chester are the longest and most complete in Britain. You can walk a circuit of the city and take in the impressive views. Parts of the walls are over 2,000 years old. You can access the walls at various points in the city, so you can walk a portion of the circuit. The walls are free to access and are open year-round, weather permitting. Find out more:
Museums & art galleries
Explore Chester’s long and fascinating history at the city’s museums. One of the most popular is the Grosvenor Museum, which features exhibitions and displays dedicated to shedding light on Chester’s past. There is also an art gallery to enjoy. For a more interactive experience, pay a visit to the Dewa Roman Experience, where you can discover the archaeological remains and get involved in the hands-on activities and events. Find out more:
Dating back to 1539, Chester Racecourse is the world’s oldest. Located on the edge of the city centre, the venue hosts horse races during the May to September racing season and also polo matches. There is a selection of restaurants and bars that are open year-round. Find out more:
With its focus on conservation and education, Chester Zoo is a worthwhile day out. The site features 20,000 animals across 128 acres. You can also attend talks and other events to learn more about the species housed there and also the efforts to protect them for future generations to enjoy. The park is about 12 minutes by car north of the city or a 20-minute bus ride. Find out more:
If you’d like to add some retail therapy to your Chester trip, you’ll find plenty of options in the city centre. Browse the stores at the Forum Shopping Centre and the Grosvenor Shopping Centre, or find high street retailers and independent stores along Eastgate and Foregate. Be sure to check out Chester Market and the impressive Rows, which comprise 700-year-old covered shopping galleries that extend across the four main streets of Chester city centre. Find out more:
While you’re here, be sure to visit this imposing medieval cathedral that stands in the heart of the city. Built in 1092, Chester Cathedral continues to hold services, as well as offer guided tours and events. You can also enjoy a drink or lunch in the magnificent Refectory Café, a 13th-century monk’s dining hall, with a beautiful stained glass window. Find out more:
One of the best things to do in Chester is to enjoy a stroll along the banks of the peaceful River Dee, which is spanned by the historic Old Dee Bridge and Queens Park Bridge. When you’re in need of refreshments, you can find some charming cafés and eateries by the riverside. If you prefer to sit back and enjoy the sights from the water, you can take a river cruise. Find out more:
Historical sites & landmarks
In addition to the cathedral, Chester is home to lots of well-preserved historical sites and landmarks. Wander along pedestrianised Eastgate and The Cross in the city centre to see some beautiful old buildings and landmarks, including Crypt Chambers and Eastgate Clock. Also be sure to visit Chester Roman Amphitheatre, the country’s largest, which is free to enter and hosts military reenactments in the summer. Find out more:
Live entertainment & cinema
Chester is home to some great live entertainment venues. Chester Little Theatre, the city’s longest-running theatre, stages a range of productions throughout the year. Meanwhile, Storyhouse is a multi-purpose venue that features theatre, cinema and cultural events. You might also want to check out what’s on at Alexander's Live, which offers a lively and eclectic mix of music, comedy and more. If you’re here in the summer, you might like to attend a performance at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, which has refreshments on-site, so you can enjoy a drink and pizza while watching a show. Find out more:
Parks, gardens & open spaces
Chester boasts some lovely open spaces that offer a welcome break from the hustle and bustle, while providing even more sightseeing opportunities. For example, Chester Roman Gardens near the amphitheatre include Roman ruins and are bordered by the ancient Roman city walls. Meanwhile, Grosvenor Park on the River Dee extends across 20 lovely acres and is regarded as one of the finest examples of a Victorian park. You can also cross Queens Park Bridge to explore tranquil Chester Meadows on the opposite side of the river. Find out more:
Drinking, dining & nightlife
Whether you’re looking for a refined evening of drinking and dining or a livelier night of clubbing, you can find lots of options in Chester. The city is home to many traditional pubs and inns, such as Ye Olde Custom House on Watergate Street, where you can also find other eating and drinking establishments. These include the popular BarLounge and Vin Santo Chester. Also worth a visit is the historic Bear & Billet near the River Dee on Lower Bridge Street. For late night entertainment, try Havana Chester, also on Watergate, or The Church on Newgate Street. Find out more:
If you want to explore beyond Chester, you might like to visit the Cheshire town of Ellesmere Port. Here, you can find the large Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet and learn more about canal history at the National Waterways Museum. Ellesmere Port is around 30 minutes by bus from Chester or about 20 minutes by car. The town also has a train station. Find out more:
Add some spa pampering to your Chester trip
If you would like to include spa pampering on your list of things to do in Chester, here is a selection of properties within easy reach of the attractions of the city centre.
Crabwall Manor and Spa, Chester: Dating back to the 11th century, this stunning stately home spa hotel enjoys a peaceful location and offers superb facilities. The spa amenities include a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. The property is located around three miles from all the attractions of central Chester and benefits from good public transport links to and from the city. Book now.
Spa at Mollington Banastre Hotel, Chester: This refined 19th-century country house spa hotel is set within lovely grounds and promises a relaxed stay. The facilities include an indoor heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and sauna. There are also squash courts and a gym. The hotel is located a few minutes away from Crabwall Manor and less than 10 minutes by road from central Chester. Book now.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Spa Chester: Enjoy some well-deserved downtime at this refined 18th-century manor house spa hotel set on 12 acres of landscaped grounds. The facilities include a swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna, and outdoor hydrotherapy pool. The hotel is less than 15 minutes by road from the city centre. Book now.
Macdonald Craxton Wood Hotel, Chester: Set amid 27 tranquil acres of grounds, this upmarket hotel is a great choice for a relaxed spa day or overnight spa break. The facilities include a swimming pool, herbal sauna and aroma steam room. Located less than 10 miles from central Chester, the property offers a country escape within easy reach of the city. Book now.
Grosvenor Pulford Hotel & Spa by Kasia, Chester: This elegant spa hotel is the ideal choice for combining relaxation with sightseeing in Chester. The facilities include a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. The hotel is located around 15 minutes south of Chester and is also within easy reach of nearby Wrexham. Book now.
Macdonald Portal Hotel, Golf & Spa, Chester: Retreat to the lovely Cheshire countryside for some welcome relaxation at this smart spa hotel. The facilities include a swimming pool, rock sauna, and an aroma steam room. There is also an on-site Championship golf course. Around 12 miles from Chester city centre, this is a great choice for country getaways and golfing breaks. Book now.