best things to do in Chester

16 Fun Things To Do In Chester, Cheshire (UK)

The city of Chester is located in the northwest of England and has a rich history dating back to the Roman era which can be seen reflected throughout this baronial city’s architecture.

Chester is known for its iconic black-and-white half-timbered buildings and medieval barns, as well as its Roman walls and ruins.

The city also has a number of interesting museums and galleries, including the Grosvenor Museum and the Chester History Centre.

In addition to its historic attractions, Chester is also a vibrant modern city with a lively nightlife scene that makes for a great night out.

There are plenty of bars and clubs to enjoy and a wide range of shops and restaurants, so whether you’re looking for history, culture or excitement, Chester has a little something for everyone up its sleeve.

If you’re planning a visit, already here or just curious about what Chester has to offer, read on for my fun things to do in Chester, UK travel guide.

 

The Diverse History Of Chester

The city of Chester was founded by the Romans in the year 79 AD, and it quickly became a major settlement and an important hub for trade and transportation during the Anglo-Saxon period.

In 1066, the Normans invaded England and began to build Chester Castle, which still stands today. The medieval city walls were also built during this time, helping to protect Chester from attack.

For centuries, Chester was an important market town, and it was also home to a number of major industries, including shipbuilding and textiles.

Today, Chester is a popular tourist destination, known for its historic buildings and beautiful countryside. However, its rich history means that there is much more to the city than meets the eye.

 

16 Fun Things To Do In Chester, UK

 

chester cathedral best free things to do in chester chesire

 

1. Explore Chester Cathedral

Chester Cathedral is an imposing Gothic structure located in the heart of the city of Chester. The cathedral is built from sandstone and is decorated with numerous carved statues and gargoyles.

What makes this place so unique is that you can find different architectural styles throughout the whole of the medieval times, from Norman-Romanesque to Gothic.

The building we have today took almost 500 years to complete, with new works being completed through the 11th to the 16th century.

The interior of the cathedral is equally impressive, with a soaring nave and beautiful stained glass windows.

Visitors to Chester Cathedral can also explore the atmospheric crypt, which houses a number of tombs and monuments. In addition, the cathedral’s roof is home to a colony of over 500 pigeons! Whether you’re admiring the architecture or feeding the pigeons, Chester Cathedral is definitely one to impress.

How To Get Here: Chester Cathedral, St Werburgh St, Chester CH1 2DY

 

 

2. Historic Shopping at The Rows

 

visit the rows fun things to do in chester for free

 

The rows in Chester are definitely a sight to see. They’re a series of connected shops and houses that date back to the medieval era, and definitely one of the best things to see in Chester during your visit.

Long, stretching walkways filled with all sorts of shops and businesses, each with timber framed facades and timber intricate details

Walking through The Rows is like stepping back in time. Understood to have been built no earlier than the 13th century, you can almost imagine what it was like to live in Chester during those times as you wander around under the covered walkways.

Today, most of the buildings are now protected buildings, with the Three Old Arches in Bridge Street being thought to be the oldest shop face in the United Kingdom, with parts of the shop dating back to 1274.

Naturally, The Rows are also a great place to do some shopping. There are plenty of unique shops and boutiques to explore.

And if you get hungry, there are plenty of pubs and restaurants to choose from. So if you’re ever in Chester, be sure to check out the rows. You won’t be disappointed.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Chester for couples, then why to treat your other half to a spontaneous shopping trip in this historic city centre

How To Get Here: You can find The Rows on Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and Bridge Street in the centre of Chester Old Town

 

3. Walk Around Chester City Walls

 

roman city walls free things to do in chester for couples

 

Chester City Walls are a great way to get a feel for the history of the city. The walls date back to the Roman era and were built to protect Chester from attack.

The walls are over two miles long and you can walk all the way around them, taking in some of Chester’s most famous landmarks along the way.

As you walk around the original ancient walls of the city, you’ll pass by Chester Castle, the River Dee, and the Chester Cathedral, serving up some of Chester’s iconic, historical skyline from atop of the wall.

The sandstone walls and towers date back to the 13th century through to the 17th century, with the Bonewaldesthornes Tower on the west side dating back to 1249

It’s also really cool to see these walls from ground level as well, so don’t forget to pass at the lower levels and look up to admire the grand, imposing walls towering overhead.

Walking around Chester City Walls is a great way to spend an afternoon, find your bearings across the city and absorb a bit of this iconic city’s history and culture. The walls are definitely a highlight of this city, and one of the best things to do in Chester whilst exploring this historical place

How To Get Here: You can start your walk around the walls at any of the gates, but I recommend starting at Eastgate Street.

 

 

4. Admire The East Gate Clock

 

eastgate clock in chester

 

My favourite starting point to climb and make the Chester City Walls walk, and quite possibly one of the most recognisable features of the whole city.

The Eastgate and Eastgate Clock is a beautiful example of medieval architecture. The Eastgate is the main entrance to the city of Chester and was built in the early 13th century.

The original clock was installed in the early 14th century and is one of the oldest working clocks in the world. The clock was damaged during the English Civil War but was repaired and restarted in 1649 – where it has been ticking ever since!

The clock is a popular tourist attraction, towering over the Eastgate corner of the Old Town, and is a symbol of Chester’s rich and diverse history.

How To Get Here: 41-45 Eastgate St, Chester CH1 1LE

 

 

5. Visit Chester Zoo

 

chester zoo best things to do in chester for couples

 

Chester Zoo is the biggest and best zoo in the United Kingdom attracting over 2 million visitors every single year. Not only that but it’s ranked number 6 in the whole world, so it would be criminal to come all of this way and not pay Chester zoo a visit.

The zoo was founded in 1931 by George Mottershead, who is credited with pioneering the modern zoo concept we have today and covers an area of over 125 acres.

It is home to over a whopping 21,000 animals from 500 different species, making it the largest collection of mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians in the country.

Some of the most popular animals at Chester Zoo include elephants, tigers, lions, penguins and gorillas.

The zoo is also home to some really rare and endangered species, such as the Asiatic lion and Philippine eagle, as well as the Sumatran tigers, which are classified as critically endangered.

With its rich history, impressive size and commitment to conservation, it’s no wonder Chester Zoo is one of the UK’s top tourist destinations. So, if you’re looking for fun things to do in Chester for families (or just adults) that are also educational, Chester Zoo is the perfect place for you and the family.

Official Website: www.chesterzoo.org

How To Get Here: Chester Zoo, Upton, Chester CH2 1EU

 

 

6. The Grooves, Chester

 

walk along the grooves riverside in chester

 

The Groves riverside promenade in Chester is a lovely spot to while away a sunny afternoon. The tree-lined paths meander along the river, with benches dotted along the way so you can stop and take in the view.

On one side of the promenade is a grassy area, perfect for picnics or simply lying in the sun, and on the other side is a bustling stretch of quaint shops and cafes.

The promenade is also a popular spot for events such as farmer’s markets and street fairs, so there’s always something going on.

If you’re looking to relax, soak up some nature and get away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre, then a walk along The Groves might be just the ticket for you.

It’s also a popular spot to go to in Chester on a hot day. Just don’t forget the picnic!

 

 

7. Explore St John the Baptist’s Church

 

so john the baptist church free places to visit in chester UK

 

Sitting atop a cliff just to the east of the city centre you’ll find St John the Baptist Church glancing over to the River Dee.

The church was built on the site of an earlier Saxon church, with its first-ever recorded mention dating back to 1075 when William the Conqueror granted the Bishop of Chester permission to build a cathedral there. Hugh d’Avranches, the first Earl of Chester, gave the church its name, after the patron saint of baptism.

The church became one of the most important in Chester, and it remained so for centuries.

In 1539, King Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries in England, and St. John’s Church was no exception. However, the church was later resurrected under Queen Elizabeth I, and it has been a thriving centre of worship ever since, with the old Anglican ruins still set next door

Today, the history of St. John’s Church is still very much alive, with its beautiful elements of Romanesque architecture both inside and out which is a testament to its rich past and history.

How To Get Here: St John the Baptist Church, Vicar’s Ln, Chester CH1 1SN

 

 

8. Relax in Grosvenor Park

 

grosvenor park free things to do in chester for families

 

Located on the north bank of the River Dee, this 20-acre large, open green space is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the old town and city centre.

Grosvenor Park was designed by Edward Kemp and was thought to be one of the country’s most beautiful parks of this time.

This historical park is filled with beautiful gardens, well-kept flowerbeds and picturesque sculptures, with a wonderful lake in the middle, too.

Grosvenor Park is also home to a variety of animals, including ducks, geese, and swans.

Enjoy a warm afternoon lapping up the tranquil green space. Let the kids mess around in the playground whilst the adults enjoy a picnic.

Or just grab a coffee from the cafe whilst the kids play on the miniature railway that runs on Tuesday afternoons, Thursday afternoons and the weekends.

You’ll quickly realise that Grosvenor Park is a hidden gem in the city and well-deserving of its place on my “fun things to do in Chester” travel guide.

How To Get Here: Grosvenor Park Rd, Chester CH1 1QQ

 

 

9. Visit The Grosvenor Museum

 

grosvenor museum fun things to do in chester for couples

 

The Grosvenor Museum in Chester is a great place to learn about this magnificent city’s rich history. Located in the heart of the city, the museum tells the story of Chester from its Roman beginnings to its present day.

Visitors can explore interactive exhibits on the Roman history of Chester, view artifacts and weapons from the city’s medieval past, and discover how Chester has changed over time.

You can also find the largest single collection of 19th-century paintings by the watercolour artist Louise Rayner.

The museum has a café and small souvenir shop, making it the perfect place to spend a few hours exploring Chester’s rich past.

Official Website: grosvenormuseum.westcheshiremuseums.co.uk

How To Get Here: 27 Grosvenor St, Cheshire, Chester CH1 2DD

 

 

10. Explore The Roman Amphitheatre

 

roman amphitheatre best places to go in chester

 

The Roman amphitheatre in Chester is a fascinating relic of the city’s Roman past. The amphitheatre remained completely undiscovered for 1,700 years and was only recently found around 1978.

We now know there were in fact two amphitheatres built on this site, the larger of which was built in the third century and could accommodate over 8,000 spectators.

This makes it one of the largest ever discovered in the UK.

The issue was that, in the years since its construction, buildings had been built on just about every part of the site except for the north side, so we have only been able to discover the northern part of this ancient amphitheatre

The amphitheatre would have been used for a variety of public events, such as gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, and executions, and today, it is a popular tourist attraction which has been partially rebuilt to give visitors an idea of what it would have looked like in its heyday.

The amphitheatre is just one of the many Roman ruins that can be found in Chester, making it a fascinating place to explore and a super interesting thing to do whilst visiting Chester.

How To Get Here: Roman Amphitheatre, Little St John St, Chester CH1 1RF

 

 

11. Discover The Chester Cathedral Falconry and Nature Gardens (SADLY PERMANENTLY CLOSED)

 

chester falconry

 

Chester Cathedral’s Falconry and Nature Gardens connects ancient falconry with the cathedral’s historical origins and nature conservation right in the centre of town, just behind the city walls.

The gardens are home to a variety of birds, including falcons, owls, and kestrels. Visitors can watch the birds in action as they fly and hunt for prey.

The gardens also feature a pond, which is home to fish, frogs, and newts which kids usually love to look for. In addition to the animals, the gardens boast a variety of flourishing, colourful plants, including roses, daisies, and lavender.

The Chester Cathedral Falconry and Nature Gardens is a great place for a day out with family and friends. Visitors can picnic in the gardens, take a walk along the nature trail, or simply relax and take in the beauty of the surroundings.

 

 

12. Visit The Roman Gardens

 

roman gardens fun free places to go in chester

 

Housed right next door to the Roman Amphitheatre, these Roman Gardens were actually the conception of Graham Webster -the mastermind also behind the Grosvenor Museum.

These ancient fragments dating back over 1,800 years ago were placed here in celebration of the Festival of Britain back in 1951, and they have remained here and became a permanent fixture ever since.

You’ll find fragments on display here from local 19th-century excavation works of the old baths, as well as many different military buildings.

The Roman Gardens are an interesting part of the city’s history and a lovely outdoor space to escape for an hour.

How To Get Here: Chester Roman Gardens, Pepper St, Chester CH1 1DQ

 

 

13. Enjoy The River Dee

 

the dee chester boat cruise

 

When the sun is shining in Chester you’ll naturally be drawn toward the water. And in Chester, that can only be one – the River Dee.

The Dee is a popular spot for both fishing and boating. Visitors to Chester can take a leisurely stroll along the riverbank on a warm afternoon or you can hop on one of the river cruises that run daily.

The ChesterBoat is a popular river sightseeing cruise that typically lasts half an hour, but from May through to September you can enjoy an extended 2-hour cruise through the Duke Of Westminster’s Eaton Estate.

You can also enjoy special Friday night cruises if you’re in town, with events like ‘Fish & Chips Fridays’ and ‘Chilli & Quiz Cruise’.

It’s a fun way to break your day up, with some very unique photo opportunities and viewpoints of the City of Chester.

 

 

14. Visit The Chesire Military Museum

 

chesire military museum fun things to do in chester UK

 

The Cheshire Military Museum is a must-see for any history buff or fan of the military. Located in the heart of Chester in a converted Victorian barracks, the museum offers a wealth of information on the city’s military past, as well as plenty of exciting exhibits.

From Roman times to the present day, the museum tells the story of Chester’s many battles and victorious campaigns.

The museum’s collections include uniforms, weapons, paintings, and other artifacts. They all tell the story of the British Army from the 1600s to the present day, casting a glimpse into everyday life as a soldier through interactive displays.

The Cheshire Military Museum is also home to a large-scale model of the city, which provides a fascinating bird’s-eye view of Chester’s ancient walls and fortifications.

The Chesire Military Museum is a fun and educational way to spend an afternoon and it’s a great thing to do in Chester when it’s raining and you can’t enjoy the outdoors as comfortably!

Adult tickets are £4, and a family ticket costs £9.

How To Get Here: Colvin House, Grosvenor St, Chester CH1 2DN

 

 

15. Enjoy A Day At Blue Planet Aquarium

 

blue planet aquarium best things to do in chester for families

 

Located just a 10-minute drive on the outskirts of Chester, you’ll find the popular Blue Planet Aquarium.

This one is home to Europe’s largest collection of sharks, where you can come face to face with some of these underwater predators from the safety of the 71m underwater tunnel.

For those shark lovers out there, you can even book a swim session with these giants, but you need to make a booking in advance for this.

There are over 100 different exhibits on display and thousands of underwater animals from around the world, so plenty to keep everyone entertained, making this a top choice for things to do in Chester for families.

Official Website: www.blueplanetaquarium.com/

How To Get Here: Blue Planet Aquarium, Longlooms Rd CH65 9LF

 

 

16. Explore Beeston And Peckforton Castles

 

beeston castle fun free things to do in Chester UK

 

Just a short drive from Chester you’ll find two very unique and historic castles – Beeston Castle and Peckforton Castle.

Beeston Castle was built in the 13th century by Ranulph de Blondeville, Earl of Chester, and it sits atop a rocky crag overlooking the Cheshire Plain.

The castle has a long and varied history, having been besieged by the Parliamentarians during the Civil War and later used as a country house.

Today, visitors can explore the ruins of this once mighty fortress, including the Great Hall, kitchens, bedrooms, and chapel.

Peckforton Castle is a 19th-century country house that was built in the style of a medieval castle.

It sits atop Peckforton Hills and offers stunning views over Cheshire and Shropshire.

The castle is now used as a hotel, but visitors can explore the grounds and gardens, which include a vineyard, herb garden, and maze.

How To Get Here: Beeston Castle, Beeston & Peckforton Castle

 

Looking for more UK City travel guides? Check out some of my recent posts…

 

Best Things To Do In Chester, Cheshire

  • Explore Chester Cathedral
  • Historic shopping at The Rows
  • Walk around Chester City walls
  • Admire the East Gate Clock
  • Visit Chester Zoo
  • Walk The Grooves riverside
  • Explore St John the Baptist’s Church
  • Relax in Grosvenor Park
  • Visit the Grosvenor Museum
  • Explore the Roman Amphitheatre
  • Visit the Roman Gardens
  • Enjoy the River Dee
  • Visit the Chesire Military Museum
  • Enjoy a day at Blue Planet Aquarium
  • Explore Beeston and Peckfrton Castles

 

Free Things To Do In Chester, Cheshire

  • Explore Chester Cathedral
  • Historic shopping at The Rows
  • Walk around Chester City walls
  • Admire the East Gate Clock
  • Walk The Grooves riverside
  • Explore St John the Baptist’s Church
  • Relax in Grosvenor Park
  • Visit the Grosvenor Museum
  • Explore the Roman Amphitheatre
  • Visit the Roman Gardens
  • Enjoy the River Dee
  • Visit the Chesire Military Museum
  • Enjoy a day at Blue Planet Aquarium
  • Explore Beeston and Peckfrton Castles

 

FAQ

What is Chester famous for?

Chester is most famous for its Roman history and for being a walled city. The roman walls, amphitheatre and other military buildings draw in the crowds who want to come and explore this cultural and historic city.

The city is also known for its black and white timber-framed buildings which line the streets of the ‘ rows’.

How do I get to Chester?

There are a few different ways to get to Chester, depending on where you’re coming from. If you’re travelling by car, the M53 motorway connects Chester directly to Liverpool and the M56 connects it to Manchester.

If you’re coming by train, there are regular direct services from London Euston, Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly. The journey from London takes around two hours and from Birmingham and Manchester around one hour.

Finally, if you’re travelling by air, the nearest airport is Liverpool John Lennon Airport, which is around 30 minutes drive from Chester. Manchester Airport is also nearby, around 45 minutes drive away.

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