14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Chester
Chester, the county town of Cheshire, is noted for its vast array of historic monuments, including its magnificent medieval City Walls. Chester's roots date back to Roman times, and the Vikings, Danes, Saxons, Scots and Normans also occupied the settlement at various times. By far the greatest influence on the city, however, was its maritime trade from the 12th to 14th centuries, bringing with it commercial prosperity and cultural flowering.
The Old City has been a conservation area for over 50 years and retains numerous well-preserved half-timbered houses, as well as the Rows, its magnificent two-tier medieval arcades. Add to this mix its attractive bridges, parks and riverside walks (not to mention the city's many cultural events) and it's little wonder Chester ranks so highly on England's most popular places to visit.
1 City Walls
Built mostly of red sandstone, Chester's City Walls follow the even older Roman walls, except where they extend to the river to include the Castle. The complete circuit is an excellent two-mile walk taking in the four main gates: North and East Gates, Bridgegate and Watergate. At Eastgate you'll see a clock erected in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, while at Northgate traces of Roman foundations can be seen. Another must-see while walking the walls is King Charles' Tower. It was here in 1645 that Charles I witnessed his troops defeat at Rowton Moor during the English Civil War (the tower houses a small civil war museum).
Other City Wall highlights include Morgan's Mount, an impressive watchtower; Pemberton's Parlor, a semicircular tower with great views of the river area; Bonewaldesthorne's Tower, a solid sandstone Water Tower built in 1325; and Grosvenor Bridge, adjacent the Rodee (an ancient horse racing track). Finally, be sure to visit the famous Wishing Steps - anyone capable of running up and down twice without drawing breath will see their wishes fulfilled.
Location: Northgate Street, Chester
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Chester - TripAdvisor.com
2 Chester Rows
Among Chester's most distinctive features are its galleried walkways, with their shops running the length of the stone and half-timbered buildings. Dating from the 14th century, the Chester Rows evolved from houses and shops built partly in front of (and partly on top of) piles of rubble left from the Roman ruins. These rows are found in all four of the town's main streets which, following the Roman town plan, meet at right angles at the market cross. In Eastgate, Bridge and Watergate Streets the galleries are at first floor level, while in Northgate Street they're mostly at ground level.
Location: Bridge St, Chester
3 Watergate and Lower Bridge Streets
Watergate Street has several exceptional half-timbered houses, including God's Providence House, built in 1652 and so named as its inhabitants were spared the plague, and Bishop Lloyd's House with its beautiful carvings. Leche House (1579) also has elaborate half-timbering, as does richly decorated Stanley Palace (1591).
Lower Bridge Street is best known for its beautiful half-timbered houses, in particular Falcon House, Tudor House (built in the 16th century and the oldest dwelling in the city), the Old King's Head Hotel, and the Bear and Billet, a four storied half-timbered inn. Finally, there's the Chester Toy and Doll Museum, home to a splendid collection of dolls made between 1860 and 1950, as well as the world's largest collection of Matchbox toy cars.
4 Chester Cathedral
Chester Cathedral is built on the site of a much older church dating from 958 AD and a later Benedictine abbey. This in turn became a cathedral when, following the Dissolution, a new diocese was created by Henry VIII in 1541. Part of the old Norman church survives in the north transept. The Lady Chapel and Chapter House are Early Gothic (post 1240), most of the choir High Gothic (1280-1315), and the tower, west front and upper part of the nave Late Gothic (1485-90).
The three aisle pillared nave of the Gothic basilica is most striking, while the west end incorporates several features of interest: the baptistery, another relic of the Norman church, contains a 6th century Venetian font; and the Consistory Court, though less visually impressive, is nevertheless unique in England. On a musical note, Handel's Messiah was first rehearsed here.
Address: 12 Abbey Square, Chester
5 Cathedral Choir
The finest part of the cathedral can be found in the Early Decorated Choir. The 14th century stalls are superbly carved, with 48 droll misericords and an old abbot's seat inscribed with the Tree of Jesse. Part of a 14th century shrine to St Werburgh can be seen in the Lady Chapel. Be sure to visit the cloister and the surviving Chester Abbey buildings grouped around it on the cathedral's north side. The Chapter House and its vestibule are both Early English, as is the stone lector's pulpit.
Address: 12 Abbey Square, Chester
6 Chester Roman Amphitheatre
Chester Roman Amphitheatre is the largest in Britain and the subject of continual excavation and discovery. As recently as 2005, excavations revealed two successive stone-built amphitheaters with wooden seating. In Roman times, the site was used for entertainment and military training by the famed 20th Legion.
Location: Newgate, Chester
7 St John's Church
St John's Church, some of which dates from the late 19th century, retains part of a 12th century Norman church, including its still impressive nave. The triforium is Transitional (ca 1200), and the original choir and Lady Chapel were destroyed when the central tower collapsed and are now no more than picturesque ruins.
Location: The Cross, Chester
8 Dewa Roman Experience
Be sure to visit the Dewa Roman Experience, a fascinating interactive reconstruction of the sights, sounds and smells of life inside the 2,000 year-old Roman fortress buried beneath modern day Chester. Your visit begins aboard a Roman galley, before moving into reconstructions of the granary, barracks, bath house and market stalls that would have formed part of the fortress that was home to the 5,000 strong 20th Legion. Time it right, and you might be recruited for a fun "soldier patrol" through the city.
Location: Pierpoint Lane, Chester
9 Grosvenor Museum
The Grosvenor Museum boasts an exceptionally fine collection of Roman antiquities, and special displays illustrate the life of Roman legionary and the Roman fortification of Britain. At the rear of the museum is 20 Castle Street, the museum's Period House. Built around 1680, it's displayed as a sequence of nine period rooms dating from 1680 to 1925.
Address: 27 Grosvenor St, Chester
10 Cheshire Military Museum
The Cheshire Military Museum tells the story of the four famous Regiments connected with the area from 1685 to the present day. Among the groups and individuals featured in the display are Lord Baden Powell, founder of the scouting movement, and The Cheshire Yeomanry, the last horsed regiment in action during WWII.
Location: The Castle, Chester
11 Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo, located in Upton about 1.5 miles north of the city center, is home to over 11,000 animals and 400 different species. The 110-acre site also features prizewinning landscaped gardens. Animal attractions include Chimpanzee Island, a penguin pool and Europe's largest tropical house. Another great wildlife-themed attraction is Blue Planet Aquarium, home to over 50 displays. The largest is the stunning Caribbean Reef exhibit with over 700 fish, including southern stingrays and moray eels, as well as Europe's largest collection of sharks.
Location: Cedar House, Caughall Road, Chester
12 Chester Music Festival
This annual two-week event is one of England's most significant chamber music festivals. Featuring Ensemble Deva, a chamber group including some of the country's most celebrated chamber and orchestral musicians, the festival offers performances during the day and evening, as well as talks, walks and children's events.
Address: 55-57 Watergate Row South, Chester
13 Cheshire Workshops
Craftsmen at the Cheshire Workshop not only demonstrate their hand-carved candle-making skills, they encourage visitors to participate in the art, too. The facility also offers glass, pottery and jewelry displays, as well as a café and playground.
Location: Burwardsley Tattenhall, Chester
14 Beeston Castle
The history of Beeston Castle stretches back more than 4,000 years, to when it was a Bronze Age hill fort. An incredible view of the surrounding countryside can be seen from the ruins of the castle. A much newer fortress to check out is nearby Peckforton Castle, a medieval-style castle built in 1850 and made famous as the set for Kevin Costner's Robin Hood.
Location: Chapel Lane, Beeston