Chester was founded as a Roman fort in the first century AD and located on the River Dee banks on the England-Wales border. The ancient walled city has medieval remnants everywhere. If you’re planning a trip to this Cheshire town and wondering what to do in Chester, check out these fun Chester attractions and places to visit near Chester.
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Where is Chester?
Chester is a scenic and ancient town in northwest England Cheshire county, just 25 miles from Liverpool and 200 miles from London. Chester is easily accessible by whatever mode of transport you prefer: train, air, car, coach, or even boat! Chester is ideal for visiting exciting places in England and Wales.
Unique places to visit near Chester include Manchester, Liverpool, the Peak District, and Snowdonia in Wales. This travel guide to Chester things to do has everything you need for an unforgettable trip.
How to Get to Chester
Plane: The closest airport to Chester is Liverpool John Lennon, just 25 miles away, and Manchester International, 40 miles away.
Train: There are trains from London Euston Station every few hours for Chester, and the trip takes roughly two hours. There are trains from Liverpool every 30 minutes (a 45-minute journey) and a 60-minute route from Manchester to Chester through rural Cheshire. Trains are also available from Crewe on the North Wales Coast Line—there are direct options and trains via Birmingham, Shrewsbury, and Cardiff.
Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?
The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing
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Car: Chester is directly linked via the M53 to the national motorway system and has M6 and M56 connectivity. London is about 200 miles by road, Cardiff is 150 miles, Edinburgh is 230 miles, and Southampton is 220. If you plan on touring the UK, renting a car is excellent for flexibility.
You won’t need a car in the compact walled city, which is best explored on foot or using public transport. Downtown Chester has numerous car parks, but the best way to experience Chester is by using the park-and-ride facility.
Boat: You can travel by sea to Chester by a 2 to 4-hour ferry ride from Holyhead, Dun Laoghaire, and Dublin.
How Long Do You Need for the Top Things to See in Chester?
How long you spend in Chester depends on what Chester attractions and things to do near Chester you plan to explore. Since Chester is a compact walled city, a 24-hour trip is enough to tick the main highlights off your list. There are many things to do in Chester city centre in one day.
To cherish your time, spend three to four days checking out all the things to see in Chester. You can wander around the walled city lanes, walk by the canals, and check out the zoo, among the many other fun things to do in Chester. You can also drive to nearby cities like Manchester or Liverpool.
When is the Best Time to Visit Chester?
Weather-wise, summer is always the best time to visit England, so May to September are usually best for a Chester trip. Clear skies, warm weather, and scenic views will make the journey unforgettable in summer, and you can walk to many of the top Chester attractions. Many local tourists also enjoy December and January for mind-blowing Christmas discounts at shops in Chester.
5 Interesting Facts About Chester
- Chester’s Roman amphitheater is the country’s largest.
- The covered walkways at The Rows are unique to Chester.
- The wall surrounding Chester is about 1.8 miles in walkway length, and most is intact except for a 100-meter section.
- Young Princess Victoria was the first to walk on Chester’s Grosvenor Bridge, which her mother opened on October 17, 1832.
- Chester’s racecourse is Britain’s oldest sporting venue in continual use.
Fun Things to Do Chester
Chester is one of the most distinct English towns, as a compact walled city with the country’s largest Roman amphitheater and the oldest racecourse. It has unique medieval-era structures and galleries for delightful shopping. There are so many fun things to do in Chester that you may get overwhelmed in deciding what to see in Chester. This guide to Chester things to do has you covered!
The first stop you should make is the Chester Visitor Center, where you can learn about seasonal events and Chester attractions.
1. Shop at the Rows
One of the most popular things to do near Chester is visit the Rows for shopping. The Rows, unique to Chester, are a series of black and white, half-timbered structures estimated to have been built in the 13th century. No one knows why the Rows were built, but they stand on the ruins of Roman buildings, consisting of covered walkways on the first floor with shops and more shops on the street level.
The Rows are located on Chester’s four main streets: Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street, and Bridge Street. Eastgate is the main shopping street with large retail stores and small, unique boutiques. Some shops to check out include Browns of Chester, Waltons the Jewellers, Boodle & Dunthorne, Jack Wills, USC, Next, Sole Trader & Ecco.
2. Walk the City Walls
Walk the 2-mile circuit of the walled city of Chester, which has four main gates: Northgate, Eastgate, Bridgegate, and Watergate. The red sandstone walls are the best-preserved structures that extend to the River Dee and Chester Castle.
You’ll find historical monuments at each gate and along the circuit’s path, which tell stories of the past. Look for remnants of Roman foundations at Northgate—Eastgate is home to an 1897 clock erected in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
We were only able to do a bit of this path as we had the pram and so it’s not completely accessable.
The city wall has various towers, including King Charles Tower, a symbol of British defeat during the English Civil War, Morgan’s Mount, a watchtower, Pemberton’s Parlor, and Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower, a solid sandstone water tower built in 1325.
You can also test your strength at the famous Wishing Steps. Local Chester folklore says anyone capable of running up and down twice without drawing breath on the steps will see their wishes fulfilled.
3. Visit the Chester Cathedral
The Chester Cathedral is a place of worship and a monument of archaeological importance built in the 10th century. The Cathedral was formerly the abbey church of a Benedictine monastery dedicated to Saint Werburgh. It’s a major tourist attraction and venue for concerts and exhibitions.
The Cathedral has a striking Gothic design with a touch of medieval English architecture. Both the Cathedral and the monastic buildings on the campus were restored during the 19th and 20th centuries, including the stained glass windows.
The finest part of the Chester Cathedral is its Early Decorated Choir—the 14th-century stalls are beautifully carved, depicting various humorous and grotesque subjects.
4. Eat at the Forge Restaurant
The Forge, established by restaurateur and chef Mike Robinson, offers specialties cooked over fire and charcoal mixed with wild, sustainable British ingredients. The head chef, Mike Peters, is a Chester native whose team guarantees a memorable eating experience.
The open kitchen uses oak, ash, and beech wood from local forests to fuel the cooking fire. This gives an extraordinary flavor to the menu’s beef, lamb, steak, and venison. Read my full restaurant review here.
5. Chill at the Grosvenor Park by the River Dee
Grosvenor Park is a beautiful riverside area for a pleasant evening stroll or to sit on a bench gazing at the Dee. It’s Chester’s central ornamental park, with a layout designed by Scottish horticulturist Edward Kemp. This place is perfect for every member of the family!
The park has sprawling lawns lined with well-trimmed trees and ornamental shrubs, making it one of the UK’s finest Victorian gardens. You can also check the Groves, a pretty riverside promenade north of the park. You’ll see old Georgian houses, the Edwardian bandstand, and an old Queen’s Park suspension bridge.
You can enjoy a lovely English summer family picnic at Grosvenor Park. The park’s mini train ride and play areas will amuse children, and the Lodge Café is perfect for light lunches and snacks. The park also hosts summer performances at the Grosvenor Park Open Theatre.
6. Tour the Grosvenor Museum
If you’re interested in the history of Chester, one of the top things to see in Chester is the Grosvenor Museum. The museum contains unique displays, antiquities, natural history preserves, and Roman-era relics.
You’ll find dinosaur footprints, tail marks, and skeletal remains of prehistoric birds, beasts, and humans. Many Roman antiquities in the Grosvenor Museum’s Roman galleries showcase life and death in the walled Chester fort, known as Deva at the time.
This British museum has Edwardian relics and Victorian-era art pieces. It also has an extensive geology collection and a gallery showcasing Chester silver. The exhibits here are interactive, with exciting activities that make the museum a fun place to visit.
7. Take a River Cruise
On warmer days, you can explore the River Dee on a cruise. We went with the ChesterBoat 30-Minute Cruise, which followed the Groves. They also offer a 2-hour cruise if you have more time on the River Dee. To float on the river for longer, check out ChesterBoat’s private charters.
Step aboard the cruise boats with names like Lady Diana, Mark Twain, and Jackie for a well-guided journey with fabulous views. A typical cruise takes you to the Chester meadows under the Queen’s Park Suspension Bridge, past regal waterfront properties. You can spot river wildlife like kingfishers and cormorants. The River Dee is also suitable for kayaking if you’re feeling adventurous.
View my full UK packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my UK Essentials shopping list here.
8. Look for Roman Remnants
Chester was once England’s largest Roman fortification, so Roman remains are scattered throughout the city. The city walls, amphitheater, and gardens bear evidence of Roman rule. Spend a day looking for Roman-era remnants while walking around the ancient city.
For a gladiator-guided tour, Roman Tours offers a unique trip that gives you an authentic experience of visiting the old Deva. You’ll go behind the scenes at key Chester sites to explore the drama of life in the Roman Army, all based on research by military experts. You can also expect reenactments of battles and military maneuvers with Roman Tours.
9. Get Gruesome at Sick to Death
Sick to Death is one of the newest Chester attractions that takes you on a unique journey through gory medicine stories. This medicine museum will thrill, shock, and appall you with its details of plagues and diseases.
Sick to Death is easy to locate, as it’s next to the iconic Rows within St. Michaels Church. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn about medical history in a fun and engaging way!
10. Hunt for Ghosts of Chester’s Past
Discover Chester’s eeriness on a ghost tour of the city’s famous haunted spots. Chester is considered the most haunted place in the UK!
The city has seen much death and devastation through periods of the Roman invasion, the English Civil War, a Viking invasion, and the Industrial Revolution. It’s also experienced its fair share of murders, disasters, plagues, and public executions.
Chester Ghost Tours helps tourists uncover the city’s dark secrets and supposed paranormal activities. The guided tour takes you through Chester’s cobbled streets while sharing spooky stories of the town.
11. Bet on Horses at the Racecourse
Experience the thrill of watching competitive horse racing while enjoying premium food and drinks at Roodee, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as “the oldest racecourse still in operation.”
Though it’s the smallest racecourse of significance in England at one mile and one furlong (1.8 km) long, horse racing has been happening here since the early 16th century. It once served as a harbor during the city’s Roman settlement. Dress up in your stylish best for an exhilarating and fulfilling weekend at the races.
12. Run a Sunset 5k
To enjoy a tour of Chester with some fitness fun, check out the award-winning social runs that Tours Around Chester hosts. The experience is a 5 km run through the historic lanes of Chester. You’ll see many of the city’s landmarks like the Cathedral, the Eastgate Clock, the Roman Amphitheatre, the racecourse, and the Chester Castle. It’s a fun and unique way to see Chester!
If you’re worried about not being fit enough to race, don’t worry—this one is just for fun, and you can also walk. Tours Around Chester also offers delicious desserts with a shot of alcohol at the final stop.
Places to Visit Near Chester
While there are many downtown Chester attractions, a short drive will take you to some fascinating nearby destinations. If you enjoy long drives, visit Manchester, Liverpool, or North Wales—for a day trip, check out the Chester Zoo and the National Waterways Museum.
1. Chester Zoo
Prepare to be transported to worldwide natural habitats at this well-maintained zoo. There are orangutans from the Southeast Asia rainforests, lions of the Savannah plains, lemurs of Madagascar, and many rare, exotic, and intriguing animals.
The Chester Zoo is also committed to conservation, so paying the visitor fee helps further its mission.
Another of my favorite places to visit near Chester is the National Waterways Museum, eight miles from town. Spend a day riding a boat in the canals as time slows down and history comes to life.
Located in Ellesmere Port on the banks of Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal, the museum has a fleet of historic boats, maritime archives, and stories of Britain’s canals and waterways. The National Waterways Museum is a fun place year-round, hosting events, festivals, rallies, and more.
Looking for a Place to Stay in Chester?
The Hotel Indigo Chester has always been my top choice for places to stay in Chester. For a more detailed overview, check out my Hotel Indigo Chester review.
UK Travel Guide Planning
🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for UK?
👩⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?
I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance. I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here
✈️ Any flight recommendations?
🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in UK?
🚗 Where can I book rental cars or private transportation?
I strongly recommend using RentalCars. They are available in more than 60.000 locations and customer service support in more than 40 languages.
📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?
I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.
With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using either Airhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.
🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?
🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?
Things to Do Chester: Final Thoughts
I hope this guide helps you decide what to do in Chester during your next UK vacation! This charming town has many fun and unique attractions for visitors of all ages. Whether you spend one day or a week there, you’ll never run of ideas for what to see in Chester.