Chester is an ancient, picturesque, and, at the same time, a small veteran city in England. It reflected the centuries-old history of Great Britain with a length of 2000 years. It is known for its Victorian and Tudor houses on the central streets with their unique covered shopping arcades from the Middle Ages. Well-preserved Roman fortifications with towers, an amphitheater, the Cathedral, the local Big Ben tell tourists about past eras. Chester remains one of the most visited cities in the Kingdom.
Districts of Chester
The Handbridge neighborhood is on the south side of the Chester Dee River, a short walk from downtown. This area used to be a major salmon fishing spot. It is now a fairly large residential neighborhood, though it still manages to retain the atmosphere of the former village. The winding streets are lined with houses with distinctive Victorian and Edwardian terraces. Handbridge is home to a public park known as Edgar's Field and the historic Saint Mary Without-the-Walls and Water Tower.
The Hoole neighborhood was known as the Valley of Demons, a place of thieves and brigands in the XII century. Today, it is a pleasant, mostly residential neighborhood consisting primarily of Victorian terraces and a few stores. It is also home to the Hoole Lawn Tennis Club.
The Boughton neighborhood is just east of downtown Chester. Ancient artifacts from the Roman era have been discovered on its grounds. The main attraction in the area is the Lead Shot Tower.
After 300 years, the Roman Empire fell, and the Saxons took the city, who called it by its new name — Chester. There were Danish invasions throughout England, so by the middle of the X century, the city was turned into a burg, thereby protecting the land from the attacks of the Normans. Leather, wool, and trade flourished there. Also, once a year, fairs were held to which people came from all over the county. The trading rows, thanks to which the city still retains its authenticity, were built during that time.
By the end of the Middle Ages, the port was gradually shrinking, and the town suffered several plague outbreaks. In 1642, the Civil War broke out between the king and parliament. The people of Chester supported the king, and defensive structures were erected around the city. During these battles, most of the medieval buildings were damaged. When there was no food left in the city at all, and the inhabitants began to starve, Chester surrendered to parliament, and in 1646, King Charles I was proclaimed a traitor.
In 1840, the port moved from Chester to younger Liverpool. Once again, the city became a center of prosperity, where the landowning aristocracy lived in buildings with elegant terraces. This trend continued during the Industrial Revolution.
By the end of the XIX century, the Eastgate Tower Clock, which is the most popular in England after Big Ben, was built on the arch of the eastern gate of the city. In addition to this important structure at the time, Chester had a Town Hall, the first free public library, a park, and the Grosvenor Museum.
By the beginning of the XX century, streetcars became electric, buses appeared, municipal buildings were built, and slums were demolished. The city now attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world, who come here searching for real medieval Britain.
The best time to visit Chester
The city hosts a large-scale gastronomic festival annually, to which tourists come from all over the world. In January, during this national holiday, there is a very unusual Championship of Cheese-Rolling. It is held directly on the city streets, where the participants are equipped with a special track with various obstacles. Cheese, used in the race, is mainly of local production and the most popular varieties. During the festival, popular restaurants invite you to try the best products of local farms and original dishes at the city fairs.
During the summer, Chester hosts the Music Festival, which features classical music concerts and open-air performances by contemporary musical groups.
June is the time of the popular Chester Heritage Festival. Music performances, art exhibitions, street performers, and various attractions take place in the city's decorated streets. Festival participants can be seen wearing historical costumes on downtown streets during the parade.
Despite the small size of Chester, it is quite a welcoming and festival city in England, which makes you go back to the old and cozy atmosphere.
Finding accommodations in Chester won't be a problem. But if your travel dates coincide with races, it's best to book overnight accommodations in advance.
All public museums and cultural centers in Chester are free.
It's worth getting adapters for electrical appliances in advance, as the voltage is 240V, and not all hotels provide them upon request.
It is not customary to call the waiter in bars and pubs, as the order must be placed at the counter.
Things to do in Chester
- Stroll through the wood-framed shopping aisles and galleries located on the four main streets in the heart of the city. These covered walkways are like no other in the world. They used to be home to owners of retail outlets whose stores were located on the second floor level of the building. The first floor was warehouses, and the third or fourth floors housed the owner's families. All the houses on the main streets stood shoulder to shoulder, and in order to stand out in some way, the owners came up with their own distinctive architectural designs. Preserving the history of Chester, these streets are still residential.
- Enjoy the stunning atmosphere at the Cathedral, a cultural center that blends modern and medieval history. One of the building's halls, with large stained glass windows, houses the Refectory Café dining room, where you can grab a bite to eat or lunch among heraldic paintings depicting the Earls of Chester. There is also a gift store on the cathedral grounds with a wide range of jewelry, books, toys, and postcards. Birds of prey, including a golden eagle, can be seen in the gardens next to the cathedral.
- Walk to the fortifications to the east of the cathedral. These are medieval Roman fortifications with towers and gates, the walls of which, in some places, are much higher than the level of the city streets. One of the XV century towers is named after King Charles (King Charles Tower) and is located in the northeast corner. It was from it that Charles I watched his troops lose the English Civil War in 1645.
- Step into Britain's second-largest zoo, where you can meet such rare animals as Asian lions and jaguars. This park was designed with the most natural conditions for the comfort of the animals — no bars.
- Visit the unique Storyhouse site in the city. This restored and renovated 1930s building houses an 800-seat auditorium, a studio theater, a restaurant, two bars, a boutique, and a separate movie theater. Many open-air festivals and performances are held adjacent to the structure.
- Experience the Middle Ages at the horse races. The Guinness Book of World Records officially recognizes the Chester Raceway as the oldest active racetrack in the world. It's genuinely spectacular action dating back to 1539.
- Marvel at the still-standing largest Roman amphitheater in Britain. In Roman times, it was used to host various city performances, which 7,000 people would come to see.
- Follow the English tradition of tea drinking in one of the cozy cafes. For example, if you drop into Alexander's Jazz Theatre restaurant and stay there until the evening, you can not only have a great dinner but also enjoy standup, live music concerts, burlesque, or poetry.