Best known for its Roman history and pretty Medieval architecture, there are many wonderful things to do in Chester. It’s one of the hidden gems of the northwest that you simply have to visit (if you haven’t already).
Although the city is fairly small in size in comparison to its much bigger-scale neighbours (Manchester and Liverpool), it packs a lot in to a relatively small space.
From shopping in the beautiful Chester Rows to visiting an upscale bar at the end of a day with an Instagram-worthy cocktail in hand, there are a vast number of things to do in this Northern city to keep you entertained for a day or two.
This article outlines all of the best places to visit in Chester, so read on to find out more!
Things to do in Chester – The Highlights
Whether you’re a self-proclaimed history buff, aspiring foodie, holidaying with the family, or simply planning your next romantic getaway, this ultimate guide has got you covered.
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Looking to do a full circuit of the city? Follow our Chester City Centre walking route where you will see the city walls, Cathedral and Chester Castle, among other famous attractions.
This should take you around 1 hour to complete.
Start at the Little Roodee Car Park, CH1 1SL. Join the city walls then begin walking in the opposite direction to the racecourse, heading east, in line with the river. Follow the walls and you will be able to take in all of the city’s must-see historical sites on the way, starting with Chester Castle.
If you want to browse some pre-bookable tours in Chester check out Get Your Guide
Must-See Historical Sights
Here’s the rundown of the top historical sights the city has to offer.
Self-Navigating the Attractions
If you are self-navigating a walk using google maps, we would recommend seeing the sights in the following order, starting at the Little Roodee Car Park, CH1 1SL.
Chester City Walls
The Romans founded Chester as a fort in the 1st century, so the layers of history behind the place are truly outstanding.
The city is surrounded by walls, and a two-mile circuit walk around these is a picture-perfect opportunity to take in the overall impression of the city.
Along the way, you’ll discover a number of historical gems such as the iconic King Charles Tower, where legend has it that Charles I witnessed the defeat of his army at the battle of Rowton Moor in 1645.
A great starting point to join the walls is the Little Roodee Car Park or the Eastgate Clock.
High on the city walls, perched above an impressive arch, sits the North of England’s answer to Big Ben – the Eastgate Clock.
Built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, it is said to be one of the most photographed clocks in the world, so be sure to keep your camera handy for this one!
To the south of the city runs the River Dee, with its 11th century weir. The river can be crossed via three bridges, the oldest of which is the Old Dee Bridge, dating from the 13th century.
The Queen’s Park suspension bridge is specifically for pedestrians, and this unique skeleton-like structure offers the most spectacular views of the river.
You can also take a half-hour city cruise down the river. Click on the image below to pre-book your ticket with Get Your Guide.
Chester Roman Amphitheatre
One of Chester’s proudest landmarks is the Roman Amphitheatre, which just so happens to be the largest in Britain.
Although only two-fifths of the ruins are still visible, it’s still a pretty impressive sight and the two entrances that you can walk through today were once used for Gladiator battles (gulp)!
Close to the amphitheatre you’ll find the picturesque Roman Gardens, where most of the Roman building fragments now on display were unearthed at the end of the nineteenth century.
Another monument well worth a visit is Chester Castle, which was founded by William the Conqueror in 1070 and originally built from earth and wood.
During the 12th century, it was rebuilt in stone and extended to create what is now one of the city’s most prominent tourist attractions. Entry is completely free of charge, but the Agricola tower costs £2.
And last, but by no means least, Chester’s most imposing building – the cathedral. Starting life as an abbey in 1092, this architectural masterpiece became a cathedral in 1541 and boasts a fusion of Romanesque and gothic styles.
We strongly recommend climbing the Cathedral tower for the ultimate aerial views of the city. The tower tours cost £6 for 30 minutes and £8 for 1 hour.
Check out our
section above on the walking tour which covers all these attractions!
(2) Chester Attractions – Food & Drink
Chester is very well known for its pretty brunch spots and unpretentious eateries – the challenge is just knowing which ones to pick from!
After a busy day spent absorbing the city’s rich history and culture, you’ll be more than ready to refuel…
Cafes in Chester
The Jaunty Goat is one of the few, and arguably the best places to serve specialty coffee to the masses of caffeine addicts in the city. Their in-house blend of coffee is truly sublime, and their selection of homemade cakes is pretty mouth-watering too.
This is a particular good spot for vegans and coeliacs alike as you’ll find plenty of vegan and gluten-free options on the menu.
One thing to bear in mind is that this spot does tend to attract many customers with laptops who will quite happily perch on a table for hours, which does mean that finding a free seat can be quite challenging at times!
The Flower Cup
If a unique botanical environment sounds like your cup of tea, then The Flower Cupis the perfect spot for you. This independent coffee shop is practically dripping with living greenery and boasts the best all-day brunch menu in the city, so be sure to sit yourself down in a bohemian peacock rattan chair for the most Instagram-worthy lunch imaginable.
And if you fall in love with any of the plants you see on display, you can head next door to their recently opened sister shop The Violet Palm, selling plants, flowers and botanical goods.
Restaurants in Chester
If you’re looking for a dinner spot that ticks every box, then Urbano 32 is a pretty unbeatable choice.
The focal point of the restaurant is the rustic handmade clay pizza oven, which is responsible for the most incredible-tasting sourdough pizzas you’ll find outside of Italy – all costing around £12 each! The menu isn’t the only thing worth shouting about, as the service is also truly outstanding. To top it all off, the music is pretty great too…
Upstairs at the Grill
If you’re looking for a more up-market vibe for your evening meal, then Upstairs at the Grill is the go-to restaurant. A popular spot with high-profile footballers from the North’s Golden Triangle, this Manhattan-style steakhouse actually presents the cuts of steak available on a large wooden board to help you make your choice well-informed.
The steak is every bit as impressive as you would expect, but with the average dish coming in at around £25, you’ll need to prepare to spend the big bucks once the bill comes around…
In Chester – Retail Therapy
Whatever the weather, Chester is the perfect place for a
shopping spree, with undercover shopping centres and an abundance of independent
boutiques to choose from.
The Rows are perhaps the most photographed sight in Chester. These are a series of half-timbered buildings joined with long galleries, and the result is what appears to be a magnificent Tudor shopping mall.
The best examples of these are located Watergate, Eastgate and Bridge Street, where you’ll find a number of shops and independent boutiques well worth a browse. Search “Chester Cross” in Google Maps for a great starting point.
Grosvenor Shopping Centre
If you’re on the hunt for the usual high-street brands, then you’ll find most of these located in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. This premium shopping destination has over 60 stores and brands such as Boss, Build-a-Bear, L.K.Bennett and H&M, there’s something for everyone.
It’s located in the centre of town, near the Eastgate Clock.
If you’re visiting Chester by car then it’s well worth journeying a mile or two out of the city for an afternoon at Cheshire Oaks – the UK’s largest outlet shopping destination.
There are 145 luxury and high street brands to choose from, including the likes of Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Mulberry. Take advantage of the whopping 60% discount and with tax-free shopping available too! Its just a 15-minute drive from Chester.
(4) A Family Day Out
There are a number of things to do in and about Chester for
just about any age group, so if you’re planning your next family holiday in
this neck of the woods then you won’t be disappointed.
No visit to Chester would be complete without a trip to the zoo. The filming location for Channel 4’s The Secret Life of the Zoo, Chester Zoo was named the UK’s best zoo (and third in the world) by TripAdvisor in 2017 – and it’s not hard to see why. It was founded in 1930 and focuses on conservation and the environment.
With over 20,000 animals to see, you can visit replicas of South-East Asian islands as well as the Elephant House, a Black Rhino reserve and the Realm of the Red Apes. Adult entry costs £26, but you can save yourself a couple of quid if you book online up to 24-hours in advance of your visit!
Blue Planet Aquarium
If exploring the underwater world sounds tempting to you, then we’d recommend paying a visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium. The journey through the underwater shark tunnel is magical for both adults and children alike, with sharks and shoals of fish swimming overhead.
For a truly unforgettable trip, book for the Shark Dive Experience to see the marine life up close and personal! Note: This experience will cost you around £250, so you might want to loosen the purse strings for this one…
Ice Cream Farm
If you’re looking for a more inexpensive spot to bring the kids, then The Ice Cream Farmis just the place. Often described as a ‘real-life Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory’, this tourist attraction features incredible confectionery-themed playgrounds, from the strawberry waterfalls to a mysterious tree that blows bubbles!
The ice cream parlour holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest ice cream shop and it serves an incredible selection of flavours, including Blackcurrant Cheesecake and Bubblegum! Entry is completely free, with their pay and play activities costing between £1 and £4.50. It’s tucked away in the pretty village of Tattenhall, about 20 minutes outside of Chester, so you’ll need a car for this one.
(5) The Perfect
If you’re visiting Chester with a loved one, then there are
plenty of must-visit spots to help you set the scene for romance.
The city’s most iconic location for celebrating a special occasion during the summer months would have to be the Racecourse. It is the oldest, and smallest, racecourse still in use in England, with the history dating back to the 16th century.
If you’re visiting Chester during race weekend, we’d strongly recommend paying a visit to the Racecourse. Dressed in your very best attire, of course!
Chester Restaurants for a Date
Tucked away in Rufus Court, Covino is a charming independent wine bar and the perfect place to start your date night. There’s a fantastic variety of wines to choose from and the selection of tapas and small plates on the menu are pretty impressive too.
Due to its limited space, the ambience is enchanting and intimate – the perfect location for getting to know someone a little better over an indulgent glass of red.
The Chef’s Table
And as for dinner, we really can’t recommend a better choice than Covino’s sister restaurant, The Chef’s Table. This independent, 30-seater restaurant has opted for a distinctly pared-back interior in order to keep the focus solely on the food. And the menu does not disappoint!
With dishes to choose from such as Roast Quail Breast and Blood Orange Polenta Cake, these beautifully presented plates are almost too pretty to eat (almost).
If you’re the sort of person that really doesn’t do dates by halves, then Twenty 2 restaurant is just the place for delivering the wow factor. Located inside a beautiful Georgian villa decorated with classical art reproductions and a statement chandelier, in this unparalleled dining experience, you’ll find yourself welcomed with a flute of champagne and canapés upon arrival.
The chef’s tasting menu changes around every 6-weeks, but with five incredible courses to enjoy along with optional wine parings, this exceptional restaurant is bound to impress the heck out of your date!
Chester Grosvenor – 5 Stars
If you’re looking for an exceptional place to spend the night once you’ve finished your meal, then there is no place quite like The Chester Grosvenor. This luxurious 5* boutique hotel brings together a fusion of classic and contemporary styles and the result is truly outstanding.
If this is a little out of budget for you then Abode is an excellent alternative. With beautiful views of the racecourse and a rooftop bar with incomparable views, this contemporary 4* hotel offers a warm welcome into the very heart of the city.
(6) Chester Nightlife
Although the city itself may not seem huge, Chester actually
provides a rather vibrant backdrop for the busy social lives of the
twenty-something locals. There’s an abundance of quirky bars to choose from, so
we’ve rounded up three of our favourites.
Cocktails & Pre-drinks: The
In the shadow of the cathedral, down secretive cobbled lanes, sits an enchanting little refuge known as The Botanist.
This one-of-a-kind gastropub offers rejuvenation in the form of phenomenal botanical cocktails, served in an ethereal haze of dry ice in glass teapots or plant pots.
If you’re not much of a cocktail fiend, there’s also an expansive selection of real ales and bottled beers to choose from, as well as a darn good wine list.
Fancy Drinks & Dancing: Lono Cove
If getting those Insta-worthy shots is a pretty significant part of your night out, then you certainly won’t want to miss Lono Cove on Watergate Street.
With an impressive selection of Polynesian-style cocktails served in halved coconuts or hollowed out pineapples, Lono Cove pays a Northern nod to London’s reputable Mahiki bar. There’s an outrageous tropical bird mural painted onto the ceiling and some seriously on-trend flamingo wallpaper in the toilets. You’ll be taking selfies for hours…
A Top-Secret Experience: Prohibition
You may or may not already know about Chester’s speakeasy, Prohibition, which many have discovered by a rather happy accident of an evening in the city.
In true war-time style, the cocktails here are served in a quirky assortment of glasses and the menus are stashed into the bookcases in the walls, just in case of a ‘raid’.
Although Prohibition likes to keep itself as ‘off the map’ as possible, it’s become pretty popular due to its outstanding drink selection and friendly service, so we’d recommend heading there before 9pm to avoid disappointment.
Whether you’re coming to Chester for the day or planning on spending a few days in the city, there are plenty of attractions and activities to keep you occupied at all times of the year.
Whatever your reason for visiting, there are plenty of things to do for just about any age group. You’d be hard pushed to find such a beautiful city with such interesting history elsewhere in the UK, so adding this to your travel bucket list is simply a must!
Are you from Chester? If you’ve exhausted all the attractions you could consider planning a road trip to North Wales.
Have you ever visited Chester? We’d love to hear what you think.