12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Warwick, England
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Situated on the River Avon, Warwick – the principal town of the English county of Warwickshire – has been dominated for more than 900 years by spectacular Warwick Castle. While the origins of the town date back to a fortress built by the daughter of Alfred the Great in AD 915, it rose to prominence later when the powerful Earls of Warwick not only controlled the land surrounding their impenetrable fortress, but also dabbled in English politics, most decisively as "kingmakers."
In the late Middle Ages, this important trading town, protected by the fort, became increasingly affluent. After a devastating fire destroyed most of its medieval buildings in 1694, the town carefully reconstructed many of the most important of these old buildings.
Today, you can find many fun places to visit and attractions to enjoy in this picturesque old town. These include enjoying a pleasant stroll among the market stalls in Old Square and Jury Street, and hunting through the town's many antiques shops to shopping for local produce at the weekend Warwick market.
When putting together your travel itinerary for this historic destination, be sure to use our list of the top attractions and fun things to do in Warwick, England.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Discover Historic Warwick Castle
The market town's most popular tourist attraction, Warwick Castle is a massive battlement-crowned fortress that can trace its roots all the way back to the time of William the Conquerer. It is reached via the former stable yard and adjoining moat, where visitors are faced with an extensive area of parkland that boasts a number of gardens, among them a peacock reserve and rose garden.
The inner courtyard is entered through the imposing 14th-century Gatehouse, where visitors will first notice the castle's walls and towers, which stand up to 131 feet high in places. The fortifications themselves date from the 16th century, with major renovations having taken place in the 17th and 18th centuries. At this time, the castle became the country seat of local nobility, and its magnificent collection of furniture, porcelain, sculptures, and paintings also date from this period.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and today Warwick Castle is considered one of the UK's top tourist attractions. Other notable features within the castle include unique interactive experiences, the 14th-century Castle Dungeon, and a full-scale working siege machine (trebuchet). It's also home to the country's second largest collection of old weapons and armor (as welded and worn by knights of old), and a wax model museum designed by London's Madame Tussauds.
A new addition just for kids is the fun Horrible Histories maze. Based on the bestselling history books and TV shows, youngsters must find their way through the maze while facing such challenges as boarding a Viking vessel and surviving the trenches of WWI. Interesting accommodation packages are also available that include a stay in a glamping-style tent, or in an attractive knight-themed cabin.
Address: Castle Lane, Warwick
Official site: www.warwick-castle.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Warwick
2. Explore Old Town Warwick
Many of the streets in Warwick's old town still have attractive 17th- and 18th-century buildings that will appeal to tourists. Points of interest include the Court House with its Georgian ballroom, Landor House, and the lovely Shire Hall with its octagonal tower lantern. The West Gate has been retained from the old town walls, and guilds have assembled in the early-Gothic St. James' Chapel since 1383.
An especially fun thing to do is visit the always-bustling Saturday Market. A Warwick tradition that has been held in Market Square for more than 500 years, the market is a great way to experience the historic town center as you sample delightful tasty treats or buy locally grown produce.
Shoppers should also venture over to Swan and Smith Streets to explore the boutique shops, a particularly fun thing to do during one of the town's many excellent festivals. One of the best of these is the town's popular folk festival. For those visiting in winter, there's also an enchanting Victorian Christmas Evening.
Location: The Court House, Jury Street, Warwick
Official site: www.visitwarwick.co.uk
3. Visit Medieval Lord Leycester Hospital
Located in the very heart of the Old Town on Warwick High Street, the Lord Leycester Hospital consists of a series of magnificent half-timbered medieval buildings that date as far back as 1383. Named after a benevolent local aristocrat, the buildings became a charitable home for aging soldiers and their spouses in 1571.
While still serving this purpose, much of the complex is open to visitors and is often used for various ceremonies, private functions, and even as a film set. A must-do is to book a meal in the Brethren's Kitchen, a superb eatery that's been serving up great meals (and high teas) for over 500 years.
This splendid complex also houses the Regimental Museum of The Queen's Own Hussars. This fascinating collection provides a comprehensive history of the regiment from its foundation in the 17th century to the present time, including displays dealing with its role in the Battle of Waterloo. Guided tours are available.
Address: 60 High Street, Warwick
Official site: www.lordleycester.com
4. Take a Stroll through St. Nicholas' Park
Known affectionately to locals as "St. Nick's," St. Nicholas' Park is a Warwick point of interest that's well worth a visit. If you can squeeze this large 40-acre public green space into your Warwick travel itinerary, head for the banks of the River Avon for splendid views over this most famous of English rivers: it makes for a romantic picnic spot for couples and families alike.
Amenities guests can enjoy include the town's leisure center, including an indoor swimming pool, as well as a "children's corner" featuring a mini-fairground with fun rides that's suitable for kids up to age 12. Also available for families to enjoy are an outdoor paddling pool and mini-golf.
Be sure to spend some time wandering the formal gardens. Highlights include a pleasant pagoda in which to relax, or renting a rowboat for a paddle on the river. There's also an on-site café, as well as a program of musical concerts in the warmer months of the year. Other nearby gardens worth exploring include the charming Guy's Cliffe Walled Garden, adjacent to the ruins of the 18th-century Guy's Cliffe House.
5. Visit Historic Hill Close Gardens
Hill Close Gardens is a delightful network of 16 fully-restored Victorian gardens, with high hedges between the quaint summerhouses, old fruit trees, and heritage flowerbeds. Notable as the only surviving gardens of this type in the UK, it's a remarkable opportunity to step back in time while enjoying what would once have been the pride of Victorian families who purchased plots of land outside the town center to indulge their passion for gardening.
Set overlooking the popular Warwick Racecourse, visitors can also choose from a wide selection of plants and historic varieties of fruit and vegetables available for sale. The visitor center offers refreshments at the tearoom plus exhibits about sustainable gardening practices. For families, an educational (and fun) children's garden has been established for young gardeners to enjoy.
Address: Bread and Meat Close, Warwick
Official site: www.hillclosegardens.com
6. The Collegiate Church of St. Mary
Built in 1443, the Collegiate Church of St. Mary was reconstructed after a 1694 fire with help from Christopher Wren. The most splendid feature of this must-visit historic attraction is the Beauchamp Tower on the south side of the choir, which can be climbed. While admission to the church is free, a small fee is charged for the privilege of climbing the tower, but is worth it for the great views.
The tomb of the church's founder, Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (1381-1439), is located in the middle of the chapel; his marble sarcophagus features 14-gilded copper mourners made by medieval sculptor John Massingham. The tomb of the Earl of Leicester, a favorite of Elizabeth I, is also here. The choir, completed in 1394, has finely-carved choir stalls (1449), a cedilla, an Easter Sepulcher, and the tomb of Thomas Beauchamp (d. 1369), while its ancient Norman crypt dates from 1123.
Informative guided tours are available. There's also a shop located on-site, and for a small fee, you can create (and take home) your own brass rubbing. Concerts and organ recitals are also held here frequently.
Location: Old Square, Warwick
Official site: www.stmaryswarwick.org.uk
7. The Warwickshire Museum: Market Hall
The Warwickshire Museum is really two excellent attractions in one: the Market Hall Museum and St. John's House (you can read more about the latter below). The Market Hall is itself somewhat of a Warwick landmark, and has dominated the Old Town since being built in the 1600s.
Originally constructed as a shelter for traders doing business in the once thriving market held here, it's now home to an extensive early history collection covering archaeology, social history, geology, and natural history.
In addition to the building itself, highlights include its famous Irish Deer skeleton plus a large stuffed bear, and the 16th-century Sheldon Tapestry. Displays and exhibits show how the building itself was used over the centuries, including a tiny room that once served as a city jail cell.
Time here is certainly well-spent, and it's widely considered one of the top free things to do in Warwick. A gift shop is located on the premises.
Location: Market Hall, Market Place, Warwick
8. St. John's House Museum
While much of The Warwickshire Museum's large collection is kept in the city's historic Market Hall, the museum's Jacobean home, St. John's House, boasts a number of other exhibits of interest to sightseers. These include fascinating reconstructions of a Victorian kitchen and classroom (the mansion once served as a school house), along with exhibits of period costumes, toys, dolls, and games.
Also located in St. John's House and well worth a visit is the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum (Royal Warwickshire). Highlights include displays focusing on the regiment's storied history, numerous weapons and artifacts, and an impressive collection of medals.
Another military museum and one of the top things to do for free in Warwick-is the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum, which records the history of the Cavalry of Warwickshire.
Address: St. Johns, Warwick
9. Take a Drive to Royal Leamington Spa
Royal Leamington Spa lies only two miles east of Warwick and is famous for its wonderful medicinal springs and gardens. While enjoying this popular day trip from Warwick, tourists can take a stroll through the attractive glasshouses and flowerbeds at Jephson Garden or visit the splendid Royal Pump Room Gardens with its art gallery and café.
One of the other popular things to do here is to simply wander the town's idyllic tree-lined avenues, with their Victorian and Georgian architecture, stopping to enjoy the numerous specialty shops and restaurants. Theatergoers are spoiled for choice, too, thanks to the rich program of regular productions on offer at the Royal Spa center and the Loft Theatre Company.
Address: 35c Park Court, Park Street, Leamington Spa
Official site: www.royal-leamington-spa.co.uk
10. Learn about Shakespeare's Connection to Charlecote Park
Just four miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon and six miles south of Warwick, Charlecote Park is perhaps most famous for its connection to Shakespeare. Legend has it the Bard was supposed to have been caught poaching here, and after receiving a lashing as punishment, went on to lampoon his captor in the somewhat laughable justice of the peace in Henry IV.
Visiting this delightful (and very large) Tudor mansion today is a treat. Highlights include some of the best preserved Victorian-era décor and furnishings in England (the home was extensively refurbished during the 19th century), in particular the huge and ornately decorated library and the still operating Victorian kitchen.
Also of note is the perfectly preserved laundry house from the same period, along with a tack room and a fine display of historic carriages. The extensive gardens and grounds are also well worth exploring.
Location: Charlecote, Nr Wellesbourne, Warwick
Official site: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/charlecote-park
11. The Mill Garden
Situated on the banks of the River Avon and butting up against the outer walls of Warwick Castle towering high above it, the delightful Mill Garden is a must-see for gardeners, as well as those who appreciate a great view. Although measuring just a half acre in size, this privately owned and extremely picturesque garden has become something of an icon, due as much to its incredible location as the hard work that went into its construction over a 60 year period that started in 1938.
Spending some quiet time here will reward visitors not just with views of the castle walls, but also the ancient Old Castle Bridge (now ruins), as well as a number of swans who nest nearby.
Address: 55 Mill Street, Warwick
12. Cross the New Avon Bridge
Although part of a busy roadway into Warwick, it's worthwhile making the short walk from the medieval town center to the "new" bridge across the River Avon. Here, you'll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of Warwick Castle and the river over which it looks (you'll be in good company as this is also a favorite spot for photographers).
Afterwards, take a slight detour to Bridge End, a charming row of houses with half-timbered and stone buildings dating from the late Middle Ages.
Location: Bridge End, Warwick
Where to Stay in Warwick for Sightseeing
- Situated a short drive from Warwick Castle, Mallory Court Country House Hotel & Spa offers high-end accommodations in a pleasing park-like setting. The chic rooms come with marble bathrooms, great garden views, and a fine-dining restaurant.
- Also set in an old manor house, Wroxall Abbey Hotel & Estate features huge grounds to explore, along with sumptuously decorated rooms and suites, plus a spa.
- Not only does The Old Fourpenny Shop Hotel boast the town's best name, this charming place to stay also features a great central location just four minutes' stroll away from Warwick Castle, as well as uniquely decorated rooms and a complimentary breakfast.
- Even closer to all the fun and excitement is Warwick Castle Knight's Village. Situated on the castle grounds, the unique accommodation here-a collection of tents and cabins-has a medieval theme, some with classy four-poster beds and balconies (a limited number of suites are also available in the castle itself).
- If these aren't available, look into The Falcon At Hatton Hotel, a popular choice for its contemporary rooms and décor, and great free full English breakfast.
- The quaint Castle Limes Hotel is a good choice for those on a tight budget, and is set in an old coach house featuring comfortable suites and rooms with spacious ensuite bathrooms.
- Featuring quality rooms at cheap hotel rates, the Holiday Inn Express Warwick - Stratford Upon Avon is conveniently located near the motorway and Warwick's top attractions.
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