The city of Chester is rich in history, heritage... and bars. Take a pub crawl around the city walls and a slow meander along the river, with my guide to the best watering holes in town
Chester shines like a jewel in the North West, easily holding its own with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester. Compact and stylish, it mixes an abundance of history with cosmopolitan chic and has many attractions, both old and new, from its historic cathedral and Roman amphitheatre to the Cheshire Oaks designer outlet village and famous zoo.
The retail experience attracts shoppers from miles around, with the obligatory M&S and BHS sitting alongside expensive designer boutiques and quaint shops tucked away down dark cobbled alleys that seem straight out of a Harry Potter book. Many of these can be seen on a stroll along the famous black-and-white Tudor Rows, two tiers of shops that date back to the Middle Ages and run the length of Bridge Street and Eastgate Street.
Where the Rows end, by the prestigious Chester Grosvenor hotel, you’ll see the Eastgate clock, found, unsurprisingly, on Eastgate Street. The second most photographed clock after Big Ben, it stands as a gateway, leading visitors in and out of the city walls. Go up the steps here and you can wander along the two miles of defensive walls encircling the city, with picturesque views. Alternatively, go on a guided tour led by a Roman centurion with the Dewa Roman Experience.
Chester has a wide selection of pubs and bars, catering for everyone from the casual beer-drinker to the sophisticated wine connoisseur. Walk into any drinking establishment and you’ll be sure to hear discussions of the many obscure Chester bye-laws, one of which states that ‘any Welshman caught within the city walls after sunset is liable to be shot with a long bow’. A law imposed after the Welsh revolt, it's never been rescinded - but is no legal sanction of murder!
Here’s an overview of a few of the bars and pubs in Chester - a list created after many a late-night drinking session...
Slug & Lettuce
A good place to start a Chester night out, serving tasty light meals to fill a gap or line a stomach.
44 Bridge Street, CH1 1NQ; www.slugandlettuce.co.uk
Trendy bar that only sells doubles - so watch those shots!
75 Watergate Street, CH1 2LB; www.amberlounge.com
Good atmosphere and very upmarket venue, with bouncers on the door, an elite clientele and no chance of entry on race weekend unless you’re in attractive company.
75 Watergate Street, CH1 2LB; www.chesterwiki.com/Bar_Lounge
Cheap and cheesy venue, split over three floors playing classics 80s numbers, modern anthems and a bit of R’n’B, so everyone's catered for. Unpack your perm, roll up your suit sleeves and get down and boogie under those neon strip lights.
12-16 Northgate Street, CH1 2HA; www.chesterwiki.com/Rosies
Friday and Saturday night hotspot for locals, students and the occasional police dog unit. With cheap drink offers and free early entry, you won't spend much, but may still lose your wallet by the end of the night!
76 Foregate Street, CH1 1HA; www.brannigansbars.com
Near the station. Low lighting and funky atmosphere are the order of the day, and there's a variety of live DJs to suit everyone’s taste. Sit back and enjoy the vibe with a chilled-out drink.
21 City Road, CH1 3AE; www.chesterwiki.com/City_Bar
Minimalist and trendy, with a good selection of beer and wines. You could easily find yourself walking straight onto a Hollyoaks set.
Music Hall Passage, CH1 2EU; www.chesterwiki.com/Loaf
With every vodka flavour and a constant supply of attractive barmaids, this is a good place to start or finish any night in Chester.
106-110 Foregate Street, CH1 1HD; www.revolution-bars.co.uk/chester
Off the Wall
Sports bar on the City wall (as the name suggests), with wall-to-wall TVs showing back-to-back sports. A good place to have a pint, play some pool and watch the match. The DJs aren’t bad either!
12 St John Street, CH1 1DA; www.chesterwiki.com/Off_The_Wall
More sophisticated bar and music venue a little way out of the town (but still easily walkable), with regular live music from bands of every type. The place to be and be seen in.
Tower Wharf, CH1 4EZ; www.telfordswarehousechester.com
Watergates Wine Bar
Underground bar, with low-level lighting and relaxed atmosphere. Rumours abound this was once a crypt for bodies - or maybe just a wine cellar. Don’t expect your phone to work here, unless you’re on the roof garden.
13 Watergate Street, CH1 2LB; www.chesterwiki.com/Watergates
Quiet pub next to the river Dee - a relaxing spot to sit in the canopy-covered garden, watch the kayakers go by and partake in a leisurely Sunday pub quiz.
The Groves, CH1 1SD; www.chesterwiki.com/Boathouse
Ye Old Boot
Nicknamed ‘das Boot’ due to its limited size, it's very popular (especially with students), and has a good atmosphere. However, try the local draught beer at your peril!
9 Eastgate Street, CH1 1LG; www.chesterwiki.com/The_Boot
Where to stay
After a hard days’ shopping, sightseeing and a drink or two, Chester has many hotels to check in to. Premier League footballers head for The Chester Grosvenor and Spa; weekend tourists book the Mill Hotel and Best Western Queen Hotel; and business travellers on a budget opt for the Express By Holiday Inn Hotel in Chester Racecourse.