I live just 6 miles from Chester and normally visit at least once a week. I tend to take the place for granted.
Chester is in fact a major UK tourist destination. Earlier this month it was voted one of the best 10 cities in the UK in the annual Telegraph Travel Awards, ahead of places like Oxford, Liverpool and Canterbury.
When I was reviewing my blog posts for 2017 I realised that except for my favourite Chester pubs and bars, I had not featured this great city. So, I decided to do something about it! Jane wanted to do some last minute Christmas shopping, so armed with a camera, I spent an hour exploring Chester and taking some shots along the way.
I started off at the Old Dee Bridge, one of the 2 main crossings into the City.
In the spring and summer the river is really busy with pleasure boats and rowers. Obviously this isn’t the case in December but it’s still a popular place for a stroll.
Chester City Walls
The city walls are the most complete set in the UK. They are 3 kms in length and surround the original medieval city.
You can walk the complete circuit crossing busy roads at a series of town gates. As I was limited on time I just covered a small section. I started off at Bridgegate at the end of the Old Dee Bridge. Along this stretch of the walls you get some great views of the river, and you also pass the Roman Gardens and Amphitheatre.
The next city gate you reach is Newgate. This crosses Pepper Street, home of Chester’s newly developed Restaurant Quarter, which offers a wide choice of restaurants and bars.
The next stretch of the walls passes modern office blocks and a large multistorey car park, not at all attractive! However after a few minutes walking you reach Eastgate and the eponymous clock, said to be the most photographed clock in the UK after Big Ben. Eastgate crosses the main shopping street and was the original main gate to the Roman city of Deva. The clock was built in the 19th century to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.
Just after Eastgate you reach the cathedral, and this is where on my whistle stop tour I left the walls.
Chester Cathedral and Town Hall
Chester Cathedral has been the seat of the Bishop of Chester since 1541. It is a stunning building and well worth a visit.
The cloisters are cetainly worth a look. At the moment leading up to Christmas they are a setting for a Christmas Tree Festival, something I would have loved to visit but unfortunately didn’t have the time.
Across the square from the Cathedral is the Town Hall which is situated on Northgate Street, one of the major shopping streets. It is also home to the recently opened Storyhouse, a major arts centre and theatre.
At the moment the Town Hall square is home to the annual Christmas market.
The City Centre and the famous Rows
Chester City centre is packed full of black and white architecture dating back to the middle of the 19th century. Make sure you look up above the modern shop fronts and you will see some stunning buildings.
From the Town Hall I walked down Northgate Street towards Chester Cross. The Cross stands at the centre of the city, at the junctions of Eastgate Street, Bridge Street, Watergate Street and Northgate Street. Its very popular with buskers and street entertainers, on my visit I came across a chap playing a violin on a tightrope!
If I’d have had longer I would have taken a walk down Watergate Street, a lovely shopping street with a great selection of places to eat and drink. However my hour was nearly up and I had to include the famous Rows in my whistle stop tour of Chester.
The Rows are unique. They are covered walkways above street level containing shops, restaurants and pubs. Below the rows at street level are more shops etc, or the ground floor of a row level premises. Its difficult to explain, you have to visit to really understand what the Rows are! You won’t be disappointed.
Chester at Christmas
Chester is a year round destination but it is rather special at Christmas. As well as the Christmas Market, the Christmas Tree Festival, and carol concerts at the cathedral, one of the highlights are the Christmas decorations in St Michaels Arcade. Until my recent visit I hadn’t seen this year’s display and I wasn’t to be disappointed, they are stunning.
You enter St Michaels Arcade from Bridge Street row. At any time of the year its worth a visit with its up market shops and elegant interior. From here a walk through the modern Grosvenor Precinct (to be honest best avoided) fetches you back on to Eastgate Street where I had arranged to meet Jane for drinks at the Grosvenor Hotel, one of the few 5 star city centre hotels in the UK outside of London. If you want to spoil yourself its definitely the place to stay in Chester, with its Michelin starred restaurant and popular Brasserie.
What else is there to see and do in Chester?
I have only scratched the surface with this whistle stop tour of Chester.There is so much more to see and do including:
- The world famous Chester Zoo
- Chester Races from May through to September
- The Grosvenor Museum
- Grosvenor Park with its outdoor theatre performances
- Chester Castle
- A trip over the border to North Wales with its beautiful countryside and coastline
The Guestbooks Comment: “As you can see from this whistle stop tour you can see a lot of Chester in an hour. But to really to do it justice you need to visit for a full day or preferably stay for a short break so you can also sample some of my favourite watering holes and restaurants.”
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