Chester

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The summer sun shines on the Eastgate Clock © Jeanette Scott

Why go to Chester?

The glorious city of Chester: it has a near-perfect complexion, though history and age positively seep out of its pores. That’s not to say it’s looking craggy, not at all: Chester is a fine-looking beast of a city, like a devilishly handsome Roman centurion with shiny locks and tanned skin – though he’s a little...well ...short. Don’t let that put you off; it might be small but Chester punches well above its weight in the tourism ring.

As you’re here you probably want more specific reasons why you should visit Chester, allow me:

For the Roman history

For those of you young enough to still be alive in 2079 make sure you’re in Chester – it’s going to be one hell of a 2,000th birthday. Founded in the year 79 as the Roman fort of Deva Victrix, the legacy of the Romans’ reign includes the most complete city walls in Britain. But it’s not some dusty, roped-off monument, no, no - you can actually stroll on the ancient stone remains of the fortress and savour the views as you circle the city.

Just outside the walls (locals use the walls as a geographical reference so it’s best to get your bearings early on), you’ll find the ruins of the largest amphitheatre uncovered on British soil – you could spend many an hour on the edge of the site daydreaming of gladiators wrestling in the mud...if you were so inclined. Other Roman leftovers are causally littered about the city – the Roman Gardens are particularly nice – and if the thought of ancient Roman central heating systems gets you going, you can see a hypocaust in the gardens and, bizarrely, in the basement of baked potato shop Spudulike in Bridge Street. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Also, keep an eye out for the "Roman centurions" that parade the city (you can’t miss them with their sandals and skirts; usually with hordes of school kids in tow). It’s especially amusing to catch one off duty, cigarette in one hand, mobile phone in the other – the centurions that is, not the school kids.

For the Tudor architecture

Striking black and white buildings are to be found everywhere – but the most beautiful legacy of Tudor times is The Rows. The original shopping mall, these first floor walkways above the ground level shops are unique to Chester. Shops, restaurants and homes line The Rows, which line the four main streets in the city centre (Northgate, Eastgate, Bridge and Watergate Streets) and are accessed by stairs from street level. They provide shelter during walkabouts on rainy days but on any day it’s simply pleasurable to stroll along them and savour the history.

For the shopping

From independent boutiques tucked up in The Rows, to numerous outlets for food-lovers and the designer-laden Cheshire Oaks outlet village nearby: shopping in Chester is something of a glamour sport. Designer labels are thrust at you from shopping bags draped over ladies’ forearms (or swung over the jacketed shoulder of the man with the credit card), jewellers show off their wares without price tags (if you have to ask, you can’t afford it), teenage fashionistas flaunt in vogue threads and buskers finger violin strings (oh yes, even the buskers are classy in Chester). See more on my shopping page (link to follow).

For the races

The atmosphere is electric in Chester as the thud of hooves penetrates the air at the Roodee – the oldest racecourse in England. It has the added advantage of being right on the edge of the city centre (just outside the walls).

For the two Cs

The clock and the cathedral of course. A quick image search on the web surely verifies the belief that the Eastgate Clock is the most photographed in England (after Big Ben). And I’m not one for worshipping cathedrals as a tourist, but Chester’s is particularly lovely.

For the river life

Fresh from Welsh mountains, the River Dee becomes a playground in Chester when the sun shines. Boats of the rowing, pedal, motor and tourist variety skim the water alongside herons, moorhens, ducks and Arctic terns as ice-cream licking hordes watch on from the benches and steps of The Groves.

For the food

Chester boasts a terrific food scene. You can go DIY at a host of truly excellent and award-winning food shops or take the easy option and plonk yourself down at one of my top restaurants or cafés. See Cheap restaurants in Chester for more taste bud-tickling temptations.

For its size

Wee Chester; you don’t need wheels to navigate this compact little beauty. That makes it a perfect tourist destination in my eyes. If you do need help getting around however, you’ll find it here: How to get around Chester.

For great value

You’re in the north of England + tourists love it = competitive rates at hotels and restaurants, which means more money in your pocket. Ideal reason to visit, no.9.

For the fun and festivities

It’s an energetic little city is Chester; there’s always something happening. See When to go to Chester and my blog posts for an up-to-date list of suggestions on filling your calendar.

Use the links on the left and below to find your way around Chester. Of course the joy of travel is also about finding your own way, so let me know if you’ve uncovered something fantastic. Let’s make sure Simonseeks users get the best of Chester.

For more expert advice on Chester, follow these links:

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Chester Restaurants

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor
Expensive
5.0
2. Olive Tree Restaurant
Expensive
4.9
3. Michael Caines at ABode
Expensive
4.7
4. Joseph Benjamin
Mid-range
4.7
5. La Brasserie
Expensive
4.5
See all expert-rated Restaurants in Chester

Chester Things to do

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. The City Walls and Eastgate Clock
Free
4.8
2. Chester Zoo
Expensive
4.6
3. River Dee boat trips
Mid-range
4.5
4. Chester Amphitheatre
Free
4.5
5. Chester Cathedral
Mid-range
4.4
See all expert-rated Things to do in Chester