Chester is a city close to my heart as it was where I chose to go to university all those years ago if I didn’t move to Australia. I got a place on the journalism course at Chester University so I often think what my life would have been like if I’d stayed — perhaps I would have ended up living there long-term?
Subsequently, this medieval city has been on my to-visit list all year. I did actually come to Chester a few weeks ago for a friend’s 30th birthday celebration at Chester Racecourse which was an unseasonably warm day filled with many drinks and lots of laughter. We stayed at a lovely Airbnb and I saw just enough of this walled city to want to return again asap.
With an 8th anniversary to celebrate and a crisp autumn day ahead, it was the perfect day to explore Chester properly. It’s about 75 minutes on the train from Manchester and we paid around £15 each for an off-peak return ticket.
It’s an extremely walk-friendly city — we did almost 22,000 steps in five hours! During that time, we managed to…
1. Shop at Chester Rows
In the heart of the city along Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and Bridge Street is Chester Rows — a unique outdoor shopping experience with shops across two levels. The ‘rows’ are half-timbered galleries, which form the second row of shops above those at street level. The Rows are unique (world-wide) to Chester and nobody is sure why they were built in this way. It’s difficult to explain how they look, but here’s a great photo:
2. Look Up at Eastgate Clock
Eastgate Clock is a prominent landmark in Chester and is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben. The clock was built in 1899 to belatedly celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria and the whole structure, including the gateway and clock, was designated as a Grade I listed building in 1955. It’s a stunning Victorian clock in a prime position on the site of the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix — you won’t miss it!
3. Visit the Grosvenor Museum
I always like to find the local museum when visiting somewhere new so I can get a feel for the place. The Grosvenor Museum explores the history of Chester, including its art and silver heritage, as well as its natural history. Through the exhibitions, you can learn more about life during the Roman military occupation. My favourite section was the Louise Rayner: Victorian Watercolours exhibition as it showed some charming paintings of Victorian Chester. It was really interesting looking at these before shots of what Chester use to look like. Admission is FREE but a £3 donation is appreciated.
4. Walk the City Walls
Chester is the only city in Britain that retains the full circuit of its ancient defensive walls. Walking the complete Chester Walls circuit provides wonderful views of the city down below — you can see out over the River Dee and imagine that this is the exact wall that kept intruders out. The walls can be accessed at various points around the city — enjoy the walk!
5. Stroll Along the River Dee
As you’re walking the city walls, there are many exits to wander down to the River Dee for an easy waterside walk. You feel like you’re in the Cheshire countryside so I can imagine that it’s especially lovely on a summer day. We saw a couple of Chester boat tours which looks like a great way to view the city.
6. Stand Outside Chester University
As I mentioned earlier, Chester University means a lot to me, though I haven’t been since I visited my friend in 2007 as she was studying and living there too. Blast from the past below. It was a messy night out during fresher’s week so there was absolutely no time for architecture then, but I can appreciate it now all these years later.
The uni is one of England’s oldest higher education establishments, pre-dating them all except for Oxford, Cambridge, London and Durham. Its original buildings were the first in the country to be purpose-built for the professional training of teachers. Ah, what could have been.
7. Enjoy a Drink at Ye Olde Kings Head
Located on Lower Bridge Street, Ye Olde Kings Head is a majestic, 17th-century, Tudor-style pub. Chester is one of those cities where there’s a pub on every corner so it’s difficult to pick just one, but we were super happy with this choice. The bar staff were instantly welcoming, the ambience was cosy and I was bobbing along to old-school tunes.
8. Wander Around Chester Cathedral
Another well-known attraction here is Chester Cathedral which is filled with history. Sadly we stumbled across this medieval building a few minutes after last entry but we were able to wander the surrounding gardens. I wish we had made it in time though as the reviews for looking inside are great. With stained glass windows, grand arches, fine details in the roof and a tower, I am sure it’s worth a proper visit.
9. Explore Grosvenor Park
A walk in the park is always best in autumn so you’re surrounded by red and gold leaves. Lucky for this day, we came across Grosvenor Park which dates back to 1867 and covers 20 acres. Situated just outside the city walls and overlooking the River Dee, it’s one of the finest examples of Victorian parks in the UK.
10. Almost Look Out Over the Grosvenor Bridge
Unknown to me, Joe had planned to propose on The Grosvenor Bridge but when we got there it was closed! Unfortunate for him but I was the none the wiser 😆. The moment still went ahead later that day so our engagement will always remind me of this lovely trip to Chester 💍