Half-timbered Tudor houses, a busy canal and a friendly, country-town feel are the things that impressed me most about Stratford-upon-Avon in England's Midlands. My visits to Stratford have both been day trips from the Cotswolds, about 25 minutes away, and Shakespeare's old haunt certainly offers plenty of fun things to do.
We arrived by car and followed signs to a car park just across the River Avon from the town centre. Crossing the bridge back towards town and following the path alongside the river with its hub bub of canal boat activity, we arrived just in time to see a barge passing through the lock by the lovely Bancroft Gardens. It's here that the Avon meets the canal basin and the gardens are a pretty spot to stop and watch the activity.
I could have stood and watched the boats for hours but time was limited and there are so many things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon that we didn't want to waste a minute. Off we headed to the town centre. Restaurants and souvenir shops lined the street opposite the Bancroft Gardens but we walked a couple of blocks to the heart of town and the pedestrian-only Henley Street.
After admiring the many half-timbered Tudor houses lining the streets, it was time for a bit of refreshment at the lovely Hobsons Patisserie. Never have I seen such a huge selection of cakes - and all very reasonably priced. We enjoyed a lovely cuppa and cake alfresco whilst watching Stratford-upon-Avon go about its business.
As much as its friendly, market-town appeal pleases its visitors, there's something else that makes Statford- upon-Avon so popular with toursits today. William Shakespeare.
England's most famous author was born and died in the town and his memory lives on with a number of houses linked to Shakespeare on the main tourist trail. As the saying goes 'When in Rome .....', so it was off on the Shakespeare trail for us, too!
Stratford-upon-Avon's hop on hop off bus has a one hour circuit around town via the most important sights and this seemed like a good way for us to get around.
Tickets are valid for 24 hours and you can get off at any of the 10 stops along the way and re-join a later bus. Audio guides provide commentary with fun (and sometimes frightening) facts so even if you don't hop off at each designated stop, you'll still learn a bit about that particular place's history.
We disembarked at Shakespeare's birthplace and his wife Anne Hathaway's cottage (where she lived before they were married), and enjoyed the tours at each place. Entry fees to both houses were additional.
Top things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon
City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus
Tickets are valid for 24 hours and stop at 10 locations around town. Click here for current prices and to buy tickets.
Visit Shakespeare's Houses
Entry fees apply to the five 'Shakespeare Houses' which are managed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. A "Shakespeare's Family Homes" ticket includes admission to Shakespeare's Birthplace, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Mary Arden's Farm, Hall's Croft and Shakespeare's New Place. Click here to check prices and purchase tickets. Individual tickets are also available but if you plan on visiting two or more of the houses, the 'family homes' ticket is better value.
Wander the streets
Enjoy the olde-world charm of Stratford's streets lined with half-timbered and thatched-roofed buildings.
You deserve a treat from Hobsons Patisseries on Henley Street. With such a large selection of cakes on offer, you might have trouble stopping at one!
Relax in Bancroft Gardens
Spend some time watching the barges coming and going on the Canal. There's ducks to feed, people to watch, and a lovely lawn on which to relax.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company
Why not enjoy a performance of one of the Old Bard's famous works performed by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company? Regular performances are held at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre alongside the Avon River.
Getting to Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is about 170 kilometres from central London, driving time is around 2 hours. If you don't have your own rental car, why not book a day trip from London to Stratford? Three of the most popular tours are:
- Oxford, Stratford and the Cotswolds day tour from London - click here to check prices
- Stratford and the Cotswolds day tour from London - click here to check prices
- Stonehenge, Stratford, Bath and Cotswolds day tour from London - click here to check prices
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