With its quaint timber-framed buildings, intact medieval walls, and street plan that dates back to the Roman Empire, history is everywhere in Chester. In fact, you won't find many better preserved historical cities in the whole of Europe.
Take a step back in time, 500, 1,000 or even 2,000 years by walking the two miles of walls, spending some time absorbing the serenity of Chester Cathedral and seeing Roman tombstones at the Grosvenor Museum. Then, take a few moments to adjust and you'll discover a thriving modern city with everything tourists could need.
You'll find fine French and traditional British restaurants, lively pubs, theaters, music venues, race courses, and even boating along the River Dee. In other words, you'll discover one of England's finest vacation destinations.
There aren't many better places to explore Roman history than Chester (Dewa or Deva in Latin). You can't miss the walls, which were set out in Roman times, but make time for the amphitheater, the Dewa Roman Experience, and guided tours with kilted legionaries too.
The heart of Chester is a collection of picturesque black and white timber-framed stores and houses. Wandering around areas like the Rows is a magical experience, with houses that jut out above street level (to dispose of medieval household waste), and sights like St John the Baptist Church or the cathedral are also highlights.
Chester will keep any museum fan occupied during their stay. The Grosvenor Museum is the place to start, with its Roman remains and reconstructed Georgian home, but the Cheshire Military Museum and the Dewa Roman Experience are fascinating as well.
Families will also adore Chester's range of attractions. There's Chester Zoo (the largest in England) and the Blue Planet Aquarium (also the largest in England), along with theme parks nearby like Gulliver's World and beautiful green spaces like Grosvenor Park - the ideal spot for a riverside picnic.
Above all else, Chester is a fun-loving city. Its racecourse attracts thousands of people to its regular meets, while the city center probably has more nightclubs per square mile than any other English city. Art events like ARK and open air concerts at Bolesworth Castle round off a diverse selection of cultural attractions.
The Chester City Walls are a must-see for any history buffs, dating back to 100 AD. Walk through the 2-mile stretch of relics from the Roman fortress that surrounded the central part of this former Roman commune. The structure includes four major gateways - Eastgate, Bridgegate, Northgate, and Watergate. Walk in the footsteps of medieval archers and Roman soldier patrols and take in amazing sites like the Chester race course, the Chester Cathedral, and the Roman Baths. While you're at it, capture lovely photos while marveling at the spectacular display of Chester City and River Dee at the end of the exploration.
This remarkable icon stands magnificently above what was originally the entrance to the Roman fortress Deva Victrix and later formed part of the ancient Chester City Walls. The clock was intricately designed and erected to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Stand at the wall just beneath the clock and enjoy a views of Foregate Streets and East Gate Street in all their splendor. Click away for photos with the country's second-most-photographed clock as the backdrop, and after that, refill at the Bella Italia with hearty fine Italian cuisine.
This majestic cathedral dates back two thousand years and offers a rich and captivating representation of Chester's heritage, having been founded as a Benedictine abbey in 1092. Walk into the magnificent cathedral up to the alluring stained-glass windows and unique painted ceilings. Stop by the ARK sculpture exhibition and revel in the curated modern art collection on display. Visit the expansive gift shop and later stop by the Refectory Café for a well-deserved coffee break, also conveniently located on the cathedral's grounds.
Sitting on an expansive 125 acres, the Chester Zoo holds the title of UK's number-one wildlife attraction, and one of the largest zoos in Europe. Here, you'll get to see 15,000 wild animals and 500 different animal species. See elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and orangutans in action: a perfect set up for a family photo shoot. Ride the 1-mile-long Monorail connecting the two halves of the park and gawk at the monkeys and lions from above. Have a picnic in one of the well-maintained picnic spots and stop by the zoo's gift shops located at the main entrance for wonderful souvenirs.
Located close to Chester Shopping Center, these ruins of a former 1st-century arena are the largest of their kind in the country. Historians suspect the structure was used for military drills and even gladiator fights. Awe at the optical-illusion mural and imagine what the Roman Amphitheater would have looked like in Roman times. Also worth visiting near the Amphitheater is the Grosvenor Park, Chester Roman Gardens, as well as the Wesley Church.
Summer is a wonderful time to visit Chester, with the prospect of lazily boating on the Dee, walking in Grosvenor Park, and ranging along the city walls, but it can be very busy. Try May or October for mild weather and thinner crowds. With students in town during these months, the nightlife picks up as well.
The closest airport to Chester is Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LPL), which is just 25 miles away and has regular connections to North American cities. The best way to get to Chester other than renting a car is to take the AirLink Bus 501 (£2.50) to Liverpool South Parkway station, then the train to Chester (£4.70), which takes around an hour in total. Expect a taxi to cost £40.
Chester is a major train station on the route between London and Liverpool, with hourly services throughout the week, and if you fly into Heathrow or Gatwick, you can get to Chester within 90 minutes.
If you are driving from London, take the M1 motorway, then the M6 towards Manchester before changing to the A54 (Junction 18) towards Chester. The best route from Liverpool is probably to take the M62 and switch to the M6 at Junction 21A.
Chester has excellent bus connections to London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and North Wales, and is served by companies like National Express and Megabus. Buses stop on Vicars Lane, not far from the center of town.
There are many atmospheric old hotels in historic Chester, along with modern hostels. The Chester Grosvenor may be the most lavish of all, with its Tudor-style exterior and plush furnishings, but B&Bs like the Grove Villa offer more personal, small-scale luxury that is just as enjoyable. Other reliable options include Roomzzz, which offers spacious penthouse accommodation.
The Medieval Center - enclosed by two miles of city walls, Chester's city center is a bewitching place. Much of it seems to have remained the same for hundreds of years, but beneath the Tudor facades, you'll find dazzling boutiques, pubs, and restaurants aplenty.
Riverside - Chester was once a major port, and although the River Dee doesn't have sea access any more, it is still at the heart of the city. You can rent boats to row along its peaceful banks and enjoy the views in Grosvenor Park or head to Chester Racecourse, which is tucked into a bend in the river.
Handbridge - located south of the River Dee, Handbridge has a distinct feel. It's a more workaday place, with bustling pubs and excellent restaurants like the Ship Inn. Just to the east, Handbridge is also home to Chester Meadows, a lovely place to walk and relax with great views of the cathedral across the water.
Although Chester is small enough to walk around easily, the Arriva bus service is often a handy way to get around. It's also very cheap if you purchase a PlusBus ticket, which gives you unlimited bus transport for a day for £2.50.
Taxis in Chester are easy to book and plentiful, but they aren't cheap. Expect to pay a meter drop of £1.50, then at least £4 per mile after that, with higher rates applying in the evenings and at weekends.
Chester is at the heart of some great sightseeing country, and both Liverpool and Manchester are less than an hour away (traffic permitting) so having your own car makes perfect sense. Car rental companies in town include Enterprise, Thrifty, and Europcar and rates can be as low as £12 per day in some cases.
You'll be surprised by how much world-class shopping can be packed into a city center as compact as Chester's. The place to start is the Rows, with its Tudor architecture, which hosts perfumers like Penhaligon's, family-run jewelers like Chique, and apparel stores like Jigsaw. Then, move onto the Grosvenor Shopping Centre, a more conventional mall with international chains.
You won't be short of places to buy groceries during a stay in Chester. Supermarkets like Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and Sainsbury's will have whatever you need at reasonable prices. Expect to pay just over £3 for a gallon of milk and £1.90 for 12 eggs.
Dining out is always a pleasure in Chester, where you'll find gastropubs like the Ship Inn and the Albion Inn, French brasseries like Chez Jules, great Italian places like Piccolino and La Fattoria, and even Texan BBQ at Hickory's Smokehouse. Expect mains to range from £8 to £30, depending on where you eat.