In all corners of England, you won’t find another town like Stratford-upon Avon. This sleepy town in West Midlands has something for everyone. It is charming and beautiful, it is historic and romantic. Stratford is a town of history, architecture and culture. It may enjoy worldwide fame as Shakespeare’s home town, but this medieval market town has much more to offer to its visitors. Follow the footsteps of William Shakespeare and discover the best thing to do in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Stratford is a popular travel destination for families, couples and also tourists visiting England from overseas. It is a popular day trip for everyone who loves the breath-taking scenery and wants to soak up British history, and culture.
Top things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon
Let’s find out why Stratford is a magnet for tourists.
1. Walk around the old town
Give yourself plenty of time to walk around the old town. Here you will discover beautifully preserved half-timbered houses, quirky shops and many historic buildings. You will also find many of Stratford’s attractions here. Don’t miss the Victorian Gothic HSBC building with a mosaic of William Shakespeare located on Chapel Street. The building also has a series of relief panels showing scenes from his plays.
Once you’ve explored the heart of town, take a ride on the Ferris Wheel located on the banks of the River Avon. A 40-metre high observation wheel offers stunning views, and therefore, it is a popular attraction in Stratford-upon-Avon.
2. Shakespeare’s Birthplace
No visit to Stratford would be complete without a visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace. As its name suggests, this two-story half-timbered building is where the world-famous playwright was born.
Take a trip back in time and learn more about Shakespeare’s family background. The house arranged with period furniture reflects the lifestyle of a lower-middle-class family. See carefully restored Tudor rooms where William grew up, had his meals and shared the bed with his younger siblings. Explore the house where he dreamt up all those plays and where he spent his first five years of marriage. Don’t forget to visit his father’s workshop and gardens which were once used to grow vegetables. Also, pay attention to costumed guides and various live performances, regardless if you are a Shakespeare fan or not.
A visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon, and therefore, it should be on your itinerary.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace is one of the locations linked to William’s life. Therefore, if you plan to visit more attractions, it is worth buying the Full Story ticket. A combination ticket will not only significantly save you money but also the time during the busier months.
The price of the full story ticket for an adult is £22.50 compared to £17.50 for the singe ticket to Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Due to the COVID restrictions, it is essential to pre-book an entry ticket to Shakespeare’s Birthplace and other attractions. You can book your entry tickets up to 2 weeks in advance.
3. Anne Hathaway’s cottage
The childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife.
Anna Hathaway’s cottage is another attraction worth making time for. This beautiful 500 years-old thatched cottage is the home where Shakespeare’s wife, Anne, grew up and spent her childhood.
Imagine life over 440 years ago and see where Shakespeare’s romance with Anne began. The beautifully maintained centuries-old farmhouse with half-timbering has period furniture and romantic gardens.
Exploring Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is one of the top things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon. This well-preserved Tudor cottage has expansive gardens, an orchard and a sculpture trail. It is the most romantic of the Shakespeare Houses and one of the most visited attractions in the town.
GOOD TO KNOW:
You can find Anne Hathaway’s Cottage on the outskirts of Stratford. A well sign-posted footpath will bring you to the cottage in just about 25 minutes from the town centre.
4. Royal Shakespeare Theatre
What is the better place to watch Shakespeare’s play than in his hometown? Shakespeare’s fans will surely want to see his play at the famous theatre. Keep in mind, though, tickets for most of his shows tend to sell out quickly. Hence, book your tickets beforehand.
Catching a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is one of the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon if you are a Shakespeare fan.
Royal Shakespeare Theatre Tower
Those who don’t want to watch a show can visit the RSC Tower soaring above the theatre on the waterside. The 36-metre tall tower offers stunning views of Shakespeare’s home town. Besides, it is possible to purchase Explorer Passes which allows you to visit RSC Tower and go on a guided theatre tour.
5. Shakespeare’s School Room and Guildhall
If you would like to learn more about the life of Shakespeare visit the Schoolroom and Guildhall. This is a place where William spent his school years, was educated and first experienced theatre. Also, his father served as mayor in the council chamber.
Step into Shakespeare’s schoolroom and sit in the room where he studied as a pupil. Take part in a Tudor-style school lesson, test out your skills, and imagine how this place inspired Shakespeare to become the world’s greatest playwright. The highlights are also a short film about the history and Shakespeare’s involvement and a medieval painting.
Shakespeare’s school is still part of a school today. At that time, the class contained up to 65 boys from 7-15 years. Only boys could study at school.
A black and white timbered wonky schoolroom and guildhall is one of the most significant buildings in Stratford. A visit to Shakespeare’s School Room and Guildhall offers visitors an engaging experience, and, therefore, it is a unique attraction in Stratford-upon-Avon. It is an excellent attraction, especially if you are visiting Stratford with children.
6. Shakespeare’s New Place
Just a stone’s throw away from Shakespeare’s Schoolroom you will find Shakespeare’s New Place. This is a place where the famous English playwright lived at the height of his creative powers. He also spent most of his married life here until he died. At that time, New Place was the largest and most expensive house in the town.
Sadly, the original house was demolished in the past. Today, you can find here an interactive museum and a memorial garden decorated with Shakespeare’ sculptures. You can learn more about the Shakespeare family in a museum in Nash’s House, where his granddaughter Elizabeth lived.
When visiting Nash’s house, do not miss the stunning view from the balcony.
7. Hall’s Croft in Stratford-upon-Avon
Travel back in time by visiting well-preserved timbered Hall’s Croft located only a short walk from Shakespeare’s New Place. This is another Shakespeare-related house which was once home to Shakespeare’s oldest daughter and her husband Dr Hall. Admire Jacobean rooms with period interiors, interesting medical exhibits and books in the doctor’s consulting room. Besides, the former home of Susanna Hall houses a beautiful art collection which you don’t want to miss while exploring the house.
A visit to Hall’s Croft with a walled garden is another popular thing to do in Stratford-upon-Avon.
8. Holy Trinity Church
Finish following Shakespeare’s life events by visiting the Church of the Holy Trinity. A tranquil walk through an avenue of lime trees will bring you to one of the most visiting Parish Churches in England. This 800-years-old church hidden among the trees is the place where William was baptised as a child. Moreover, Holy Trinity Church is also the final resting place of Shakespeare, his wife and other close relatives. Therefore, Holy Trinity Church is a top attraction in Stratford-upon-Avon. You can find it on the banks of the Avon River.
Walk around the oldest building in Stratford and pay respects to the great playwright who lies at the foot of the chancel steps. Also, admire Shakespeare’s monument on the wall above.
Holy Trinity Church is Shakespeare’s burial site not because he was famous, but because he was wealthy. His relatives paid a significant amount of money for him to be buried here. Yes, that is right, Shakespeare paid for his privilege.
Things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon which are not related to Shakespeare
Things Shakespeare are, of course, top attractions in Stratford, however, not every visitor is passionate about the world’s most famous playwright. Luckily, there are many things to see and do in Stratford-upon-Avon which are not related to Shakespeare. So now, we will show you some of the best attractions and activities that are worth visiting.
9. Walk along Stratford’s beautiful riverside
It is perhaps no surprise to say that walking Stratford’s riverside is a must when visiting this lovely town. Walk along the promenade, and you will have a chance to spot the local wildlife. The River Avon has an abundance of famous swans which you can feed during your relaxing walk. Alternatively, have a romantic picnic in the nearby gardens and enjoy a peaceful afternoon.
10. Stratford-upon-Avon from the river
Another great way to explore the town is from the water. Stratford is situated on the banks of the River Avon. And as you can imagine, the river provides many unique activities for curious visitors.
Take a boat cruise along the river to get the most out of your visit to Stratford-upon-Avon. Float down the tranquil river and see famous sites and lots of local wildlife along the river banks. During a boat ride, you can learn more about the area, and you can also soak up some sunshine. There are a few different companies which offer a range of water activities. You can also rent rowboats, motorboats or you can paddle around the waterfront in a canoe.
Floating down the River Avon is one of the top things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon because it allows you to see the town from a different angle while relaxing and enjoying the peaceful scenery.
11. Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm
Back on the land, there are plenty more sights to see. Stratford is home to the UK’s largest tropical butterfly attraction – Butterfly farm. Walkthrough exotic plants, fish-filled ponds and meet hundreds of flying butterflies flying in the greenhouse. See the world’s largest spider and, if you are lucky, you might even spot one of two iguanas who live here! Once here, don’t forget to visit the Discovery Zone, where you can learn about the butterfly’s life cycle.
A visit to Butterfly Farm is a popular attraction in Stratford-upon-Avon, especially if you visit the town with the children.
12. Garrick Inn
Alternatively, Stratford is home to many quirky pubs and restaurants where you can enjoy delicious meals. On the High Street, you can find Garrick Inn – one of Stratford’s oldest pubs. This beautiful half-timbered Tudor building with woodcarvings is three storeys high. Some parts of Garrick Inn may be as old as the 14 century. Garrick Inn is undoubtedly one of the top attractions in Stratford-upon-Avon. It has a rich history, including fires and plagues. Besides, the legend has it that it is also haunted.
13. Harvard House
Next, you wouldn’t want to miss out on visiting the neighbouring Harvard House. This beautiful half-timbered townhouse is an excellent example of Elizabethan architecture in Stratford. A 15th century beautifully preserved building once belonged to the mother of a founder of Harvard University.
14. Stratford town ghost walk
Perhaps, you would like spent the night of your trip getting scared? Stratford’s got you covered. Some say this sleepy medieval town is home to one of the most haunted buildings in all of England. So why not to take the Stratford Ghost Walk, where you can learn more about those ghosts and witches who haunt this area? Get spooked on a Ghost walk and listen to horror stories that capture your imagination and inspire your mind.
If this is our kind of thing, then exploring the chilling history is a must on your bucket list when in Stratford. This authentic walk runs every Saturday evening, and you must book it in advance. Tickets are £7 for adult and 5 for kids.
15. MAD museum in Stratford-upon-Avon
The MAD Museum is another popular thing to see in Stratford-upon-Avon, especially for kids and mechanic art lovers. The mechanical art and design museum showcases some interactive sculptures, marble runs, high-tech robots and other quirky attractions. The MAD Museum is a unique attraction in Stratford because it is the only specialist attraction of its kind in the United Kingdom. It is run by a local family, and you can find it in the centre of Stratford.
16. Day trip from Stratford-upon-Avon to Warwick Castle
If you have more time and want to visit other popular tourist attractions to keep you entertained while in Stratford, Warwick Castle is only 20 minutes away. The beautiful medieval Warwick Castle dominates the views from many corners of the town. Explore the castle built by William the Conqueror, walk along the defensive ramparts and make sure you also tour its dungeon! You might not find Prince Charming, but you will certainly witness one of the daily shows.
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17. Day trip to the Cotswolds from Stratford-upon-Avon
While in Stratford, make sure you take time to venture out of the town to visit the Cotswold villages. A twenty-minute drive from Stratford will bring you to the English countryside with honey-coloured limestone cottages lining small village roads. This region with quaint medieval villages tucked between rolling hill has certainly spectacular scenery. Hence, a day trip to the Cotswolds is one of the best things to do when in Stratford-upon-Avon.
There are many tranquil Cotswolds villages to explore. More active souls can enjoy plenty of walking trails to explore the area. There is even a castle with Queen Katherine Parr buried within the grounds. So, head to the Cotswolds and discover the stunning natural beauty in one of the most beautiful parts of England.
READ MORE ABOUT THE COTSWOLDS:
Have you been to Stratford-upon-Avon in England before or is it on your bucket list? Are there any attractions you`d add to this list? We`d love to hear!
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