Chester is the Capital of Cheshire, and I feel one of the most underrated cities in England. With a wealth of archaeological and architectural treasures, there’s more to discover in this small city than first imagined. Being on the border of Wales and the massive harbour made Chester an important strategic outpost in Roman Britain, evidence of which can still be seen today. The main attractions can easily be discovered on foot and the city is an enjoyable place to walk around.
The main city is encircles by a two mile ring of Medieval and Roman walls. Inside these walls is a wealth of Tudor and Victorian buildings. Plus the unique “Rows” which are raised arcades.
The Rows is the main shopping area, but still retains it’s historic charm. From the Rows you can easily wander through other side streets, finding hidden gems. Around the Rows you will also find a multitude of buskers and street entertainers. Find somewhere to sit and watch the world go by.
Walk the walls and you’ll find the main attractions within easy reach. With important towers and gates along the wall itself, you will also find the Cathedral, Castle, Roman Amphitheatre, Gardens and The Groves on this leisurely stroll.
During summer months The Groves will be filled with boat trips, boat hire and those selling ice cream. This part of the River Dee is the perfect place to spend a lazy summer afternoon.
Types of Girls about the Globe – Cultural, Sightseeing
Stay for: – 2 nights.
Chester is generally a safe place to visit. However, during peak tourist times, such as summer or Chester Races, keep your wits about you. As in every city, be aware of cons and pick pockets.
Did you know?
The slang term “Gee-gees” for horse racing was coined in Chester. The first recorded horse race in Chester was undertaken with consent of the Mayor of Chester, Henry Gee, whose name lead to the term “Gee-gees”.
Local’s Tip – “Be sure to head down into Spud U Like on the Rows, where you can see Roman remains in the basement.”
Solo’s Tip – “Wander around the streets near the Rows. It’s difficult to get lost and you can stumble upon great cafes or views.”
Top Sightseeing For Solos
1. Walk the Walls
Two miles of medieval and Roman handiwork surround Chester. These walls are the most complete in Britain. The walls can be accessed at several points and offer a lovely way to view the city. You can walk past all the towers, turrets and gates, all of which have some history or story to tell. The walk only takes an hour or so, but often it’ll take longer as you hop off to see the other nearby attractions.
Cost = Free
Time = 1-3 hours
2. The Rows
The four main thoroughfares of Chester meet at The Cross. Here the streets are lined by The Rows, galleried shopping arcades that run along the first floor of half-timbered buildings, with another set of shops at street level. The Rows are unique to Chester, yet there is no clear explanation as to why they exist. Along the Rows you will find some fine examples of Tudor buildings.
Cost = Free
Time = under 1 hour (omitting any shopping time)
3. The Roman Gardens
Just to the east of Newgate you can find the Roman Gardens. These interesting gardens are filled with odd bits of Roman artifacts. Bits of pillar, parts of the old baths and statues are dotted amongst the greenery. The small gardens are well worth a good explore and not far from here you come across the Roman Amphitheatre.
Cost = Free
Time = 1-2 hours
4. The Grosvenor Museum
In a Grade II listed building on Grosvenor Street, the Grosvenor Museum can be found. In this museum you will find fabulous collections about the city of Chester. From art to natural history, plus the Roman military occupation, there’s a lot of history here, plus interactive displays.
Cost = Free (£3 suggested donation)
Time = 3 hours
Escape the crowds – Being a popular shopping destination Chester can easily become crowded, especially during summer and during race days. The main crowds are found near The Rows and The Groves (especially during nice, sunny days) and can easily be escaped.
One of my favourite places to escape to is the Cathedral grounds. Here you will tend to find local students relaxing. Find a shady spot here to simply soak in the atmosphere.
Lose yourself at – The main ornamental garden in Chester – Grosvenor Park. This typically Victorian garden is great for a wander around. With formal avenues and sweeping lawns, there is a peaceful quality to this park.
Keep an eye out for events in the park too, such as the “Summer Music Festival” and “Art in the Park”.
Get a great view at:
- Along the Wall you are treated to a variety of splendid views. The best view is found at Morgans Mount.
- This mount extends from the north of Chester Walls and is a Grade I listed building. Constructed in 1645 during the siege of Chester in the Civil War, the Mount was originally used as an observation platform, and so gives clear views of the surrounding area. It is believed to have been named after Captain Morgan, of whom little is known.
Interact with the locals – The variety of shops and cafes surrounding The Rows. Also at Grosvenor Park during nice summer days and events.
Places to enjoy the sun:
- The Groves, along the banks of the River Dee. Here you can also take boat trips or hire a rowing boat to explore the river further.
- The Cathedral grounds is also a great place to relax in the sun and one of my favourite places to sit with a milkshake or ice cream.
Hire a boat at the Groves and spend some time rowing along the River Dee. It’s a great way to see a small part of the river.
Fifteen miles from Chester is the Gowy Meadows Nature Reserve. With just under 2 miles of footpaths that cross the reserve and it’s key habitats, you feel like you are completely in the wilderness.
The 400 acres is abundant with wildlife. A wide variety of birds are found here, plus the reserve is home to over half of the butterfly and dragonfly species that are recorded in Cheshire. There is also evidence of otters in the River Gowy, but these are rarely seen.
Arty & Museum GatG
The Grosvenor Museum is the best place to see the history of Chester. Here you will find exhibits on art, the city’s importance in the history of English silver and the natural history of the area.
Many of the attractions in Chester are free. Gardens, Wall, The Rows, the main attractions are free and easy to find.
Simply walking along The Rows is a great way to see the uniqueness of Chester. It’s completely free to do. Head in and out of the shops to get a feel for the old buildings.
Walking along the walls means that you can easily see the whole city and the main attractions. With brilliant views and plenty of info-boards you learn a lot about the history and stories of the city on this easy stroll.
Visit the Roman Gardens to see lots of historic artifacts. Columns, statues, parts of the old baths and more are dotted amongst the greenery here. None of the fragments on display came from this site, but were placed here to showcase the Roman Heritage.
Nearby you will also find the Amphitheatre. Although there is not much uncovered, it was once the largest Amphitheatre in Britain.
Experience Roman Chester at the Dewa Roman Experience. Explore the sights, sounds and smells of Chester during the Roman occupation. There is also an amazing collection of Roman artifacts.
Occupying a unique site at the heart of the legionary fortress, there is also a rare opportunity to view the Roman, Saxon and Medieval remains below Chester. Cost = £5.50
You can also book a tour with a Roman Soldier, to really see Chester through a Roman’s eyes. Cost = £3.50
At the Water Tower on the Walls you can visit Sick To Death. Not for the faint hearted, this museum tells of medieval disease and doctors. With some bad smells and actual human remains it is not for everyone, but gives an interesting look into medieval medicine. Cost = £4.75
The Falconry and Nature Gardens at Chester Cathedral allows nature lovers to get close to a variety of birds. With plenty of information about the birds of prey and other animals such as reptiles.
With a nature trail and daily flying displays, this is a great place to get close to nature without leaving the heart of the city. Cost = £4
Around and in The Rows is the main shopping area in Chester. With big chains and small shops sitting side by side there’s something for everyone's taste.
Have a tourist moment – Stop and take a picture of the Eastgate Clock. This part of the Wall is often used as a meeting spot and is generally the first part of old Chester that people see. So be sure to get a picture!
Also head into Spud-U-Like, in the basement there are remains of the Roman Baths. Just be sure to either buy something or donate.
Don’t have much time?
Simply take the hour or so walk along the walls to see the main sights of Chester. From the walls you can see The Rows, The Groves, The Roman Gardens, The Amphitheatre, Chester Racecourse and the Cathedral. All the main sights in one easy stoll!
Tours in Chester
The Chester Tour unravels 2,000 years of history. This walking tour takes in the Wall, The Rows, Eastgate clock and more. Cost = £7
Those interested in the defensive position of Chester should join the Chester Walls Walk. Following the footsteps of Roman soldiers for panoramic views and a complete history of the walls and their importance. Cost = £7
Where to Meet Others
The Eastgate Clock is a typical meeting place for most people. Otherwise find a bench at the Groves.
What to do in the Evenings
With plenty of bars, pubs and clubs Chester has a great nightlife. There are some great quiet pubs in the centre and waterside drinking spots. You’re spoilt for choice!
Where to Eat & Drink
Restaurants for typical cuisine
$ – The Watergate. Serving typical “Pub-grub” within a historic building.
Street Food: – Dinky Donuts, just off the Eastgate Clock, is the best place for donuts and ice cream.
Where to Drink
The Old Boot Inn – a local dating back to the 1600s with low beams and a great atmosphere.
From the Airport
The nearest airports to Chester are either Liverpool or Manchester International Airport. From Liverpool you can either take the bus or train. The train is quicker at only 45 minutes.
From Manchester airport the train ride is approximately an hour. You can also reach Chester by bus which is cheaper and takes an additional 30 minutes. Check Rome2Rio for your journey.
Accommodation in Chester
In a Georgian town house, this small, independent hostel is just a few minutes walk from the train station and the city centre. This historic building is 120 years old and is full of old worldly charm. Situated near bars, cafes and shops, it's in a great spot and also offers self-catering if you prefer to cook your own meals. There is free Wifi and free tea and coffee so you can make yourself feel just at home.
Prices start from £18 (weekdays) for a dorm room with 2, 4 or 6 beds. Or choose a double room from £34 per night.
Just five minutes from the train station and close to the Walls this hostel is a great choice. In a mock-tudor building, this cosy hostel may be small, but you'll find lots of facilities such as a laundry service, free tea and coffee and a tv/video lounge where you can mingle with the rest of the guests.
A single ensuite starts from £22 from Sunday to Thursday or £25 on a weekend. Breakfast is also available at an additional cost.
About the Author
Nat is a part time backpacker who first got ‘bitten’ by the travel bug on a round the world gap year. Since coming home she has been trying to explore more of the world closer to home and hopes to make travel a full time lifestyle. Follow her adventures on https://natpacker.com or on her social media channels at Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
N.b. This page contains affiliate links. These are of no extra charge to you and Girl about the Globe donates 10% of all affiliate sales to War Child, protecting children in war zones.