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Chester is a beautiful Roman city located in north west England, right on the border with Wales. Often overshadowed by its close neighbours Liverpool and Manchester, Chester is still worth a visit either from those cities, or as a weekend destination in its own right.
I actually went to university in Chester for a year many years ago and still enjoy returning to visit. I tend to go at least once per year and I know the city and surrounds very well!
But after speaking to some friends that were going to another part of the country, I realised that many don’t know what to do in Chester so I’ve created this guide to help.
It covers being in the city and a few things a bit furthe away but well worth the effort to see.
If this is your first time in the region, or you’ve been plenty of times before but wondering what are the top things to do in Chester, I’ve got you covered!
The 12 Things to do in Chester
Walk the city walls
The city walls of Chester have been standing since the roman times. Rebuilt many times and now constantly maintained, they now make for a pleasant 2 mile walk taking in all the major sights of the city and a perfect way to get a first taste of Chester.
The Roman amphitheater in Chester has only recently been discovered. It was only in the 1960’s when excavations occurred after they were hoping to extend a nearby church. Further excavations in 2001 gave a much more in depth history to the amphitheatre.
It is thought to date from the first century and is one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in the country. Chester was known as a Roman city before this, but this discovery has heightened interest.
Today, only about half has been excavated but with an abundance of signs and information around, it is worth visiting to learn more about the city’s past.
Enjoy time sitting down by the River Dee
The River Dee was once a major river bringing goods to Chester in the Middle Ages until a weir was built which changed the structure of the river and made it no longer accessible for larger ships which would then dock at Liverpool creating the hub that it now is.
Today the riverside is a lovely place to enjoy spending time. Check out the Old Dee Bridge, dating back to Roman times, or the more modern Queens Park bridge which takes you into Grosvenor Park. Hickorys Smokehouse is always popular for an evening meal or enjoy a coffee and ice cream during the day.
See the Eastgate clock
The Eastgate Clock was built to provide the time for patrons of the city and is said to be the second most photographed clock in the country after Big Ben. Make sure to get down to ground level on the main street to add your photo to the collection!
The cathedral has been on these grounds since around the 7th century but now it is a major tourist drawcard and one of the top sites in Chester. I was even lucky enough to graduate in this cathedral 10 years ago!
The cathedral is a stunning site and can be enjoyed from Northgate Street, the gardens surrounding the cathedral or on a walk on the city walls.
It is open daily from 9.30am to 6pm and guided tours are available from £6 (book in advance on their website).
The Victorian styled Grosvenor Park, located in the south of the city close to the river, now contains a beautiful selection or flowers and landscaped area and is open for the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre each summer as well as containing a miniature railway for children to enjoy.
Chester Roman Gardens
There are a variety of Roman ruins throughout the city that have been discovered over many years and the ruins in the Roman gardens gives a beautiful history lesson in a small tranquil corner of the city. The columns, statues and mosaics give an example of Roman art from the period that has been discovered around Chester.
Telfords Warehouse on the Shropshire Union Canal
One of my favourite places to eat and drink in Chester is Telfords Warehouse. Built by the former engineer Thomas Telford as a place to unload goods from the boats on the canal, it has been turned into a bar and drinking venue that gets incredibly popular on weekends.
Live bands often play in the warehouse that still contain remnants from its past such as the crane that would have lifted cargo from the boats.
The Rows are Tudor style buildings lining the four main streets in Chester that meet at the centre point, The Cross. Now filled with shopping arcades, the rows have an uncertain history.
Enjoy coffee from locally owned shops, get your retail therapy sorted or enjoy a beer at The Boot, one of the oldest pubs in the city which first opened its doors in 1643.
Further afield from Chester
It’s not just in the city that Chester has an abundance of things to do! There’s still plenty to see and do when you leave the city.
Cheshire Oaks is a retail park just outside the city of Chester, on the way up to the Wirral. More specifically it is a designer outlet park that offers designer clothes are much cheaper prices that you would find in regular city centre stores.
I actually used to work at one of the shops here during my time at university in Chester! But with names like Hugo Boss, Armani and Ralph Lauren, alongside more high street brands such as Next, Nike and Converse, there is something for everybody at Cheshire Oaks.
Foreign visitors will be particularly impressed with the VAT refunds that can be gained here when leaving the country. Ask at the check out when you pay for more.
Chester Zoo is one of the the UK’s largest zoos and now undertakes a mind boggling array of conservation work for a number of animals.
There are over 700 species at the zoo including many that are endangered. It is easy to spend a day in Chester Zoo and is a family friendly option for those travelling with little ones in the region.
Head into Wales
I regularly used to run and cycle in the hills of Wales which you can see from the town centre. Take a hike up Moel Famau, head into Wrexham the town that all football and celebrity fans are now talking about, or visit the smaller town of Llangollen which is just under an hour away.
A Special Mention
There is also so many things to do in Chester that don’t need to take up an entire entry. Visiting Chester Racecourse on a race day to cheer on the horse you’ve put money on or even to watch a football match at Chester FC is a great way to get your sporting fix.
The Deva Roman Experience gives a greater insight into the history of Chester and the Grosvernor museum and military museum will also give you plenty to learn.
Behind Chester Town Hall is Chester Market which used to just house traditional food but now has more of a street food style eating arrangement as well as a place to stock up on fresh produce. If you aren’t satisfied after all of that, spend some time in the incredible Cheshire countryside to enjoy a traditional English day out.
Summing up the best of Chester
Chester is on of my favourite cities in the UK. With so many things to do in Chester, there really isn’t an excuse NOT to visit.
An easy place to get to from both Liverpool and Manchester, a gateway to north Wales but also a destination to spend a few days in by itself.
I’ve loved Chester for a long time and I hope after reading the best things to do in Chester, you will too!
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.