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Revisiting Chester had been high on my to-do list for quite a few months. I visited it once with my former roommate back during my first time in the UK, but we hid from the rain in a cafe for pretty much the entire day. A day trip to Chester has so much more to offer than that! This North West English city was founded as a Roman fortress in the first century, giving the city its rich history that can be found back anywhere in the gorgeous city centre. The Tudor style buildings, Roman ruins and the friendly atmosphere makes Chester the perfect day trip. But what you should do when spending one day in Chester?
My friend Steph showed me some of the best spots in her hometown. Please check out her website, she is an amazing illustrator! Let’s dive into it – my guide to the best things to do in Chester when visiting for the day.
One day in Chester itinerary
Shopping in the Rows
The iconic Tudor styled buildings really give Chester that English feel. The Rows in Chester are a perfect example of this. This two-level galleried arcade was built in a Victorian and Tudor style and is filled with amazing independent shops. Some parts of the Rows date back to the 13th century!
Coffee break at Flower Cup
Three of my favourite things put together into one coffee shop: brunch, coffee and plants. You can find this independent botanical coffee shop in Chester’s Rows. Alongside with their adorable interior (plants and neon signs!), they serve some great speciality coffees. As well as a variety of filter coffees, they also serve teas from Manchester’s Tea From The Manor.
Flower Cup also does a crazy good brunch. Served all day long! Vegan options are available, too! If you happen to fall in love with any of the plants in the shop – no need for a tragic goodbye. Head over to their sister shop next door: The Violet Palm. They sell all the plants, pots and soil for you to take home with you.
Address: 61 Watergate St, South, Chester CH1 2LE
Opening hours: 9 AM – 5 PM from Monday till Saturday // 10 AM – 5 PM Sunday
Capture the Eastgate Clock
When in Chester, you have to see the second most photographed clock in the UK (after Big Ben): The Eastgate Clock. The Eastgate of the ancient walls was built in Georgian times to allow coaches to get into the city, but the clock wasn’t introduced until 1897. It was a celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and has since grown into an important and iconic symbol of Chester.
Walk the ancient Chester City Wall
Chester’s ancient city walls are probably one of the biggest highlights you should check out when visiting Chester for the day. These city walls are the oldest, longest and best preserved in the whole of Britain. Chester is also the only UK city with a full circuit of walls. With over 2000 years of age, these walls date back to when the Romans built them to protect the fortress of Deva Victrix in 70-80 AD. It now serves as a popular tourist attraction. You can walk the full circuit (1.8 miles/ 2.95 kilometres) and walk across all four gates. Also worth noting is the King Charles’ Tower. In 1645, King Charles watched the defeat of his troops from this tower during the English Civil War.
Fresh donuts at Dinky Donuts
Before heading up Chester’s Wall, you’d want to make a quick little pitstop for some sugary snacks at Dinky Donuts. This cute little donut shop is located right under the Eastgate bridge, right next to the steps that lead you up the wall. I tried some of the freshly made cinnamon sugar donuts and – oh my, they were amazing! A perfect little snack for your walk on the city walls, especially when it’s a bit colder outside. What’s worth mentioning is that all their straws, cups, lids, trays and forks are made from non-plastic materials, their oil is reused and they make sure their business has minimal impact on the environment. I’m all for that and I’m so happy to hear that Dinky Donuts is doing their bit!
Address: Eastgate St, Chester CH1 1LD
Opening hours: 11 AM – 5 PM on weekdays, 12 PM – 5 PM during weekends.
Admire the Cathedral
Even though I don’t consider myself as a religious person, there’s something about visiting cathedrals. And Chester’s cathedral is one amazing piece of architecture that should be admired. In total, it took almost 500 years to build. This gorgeous cathedral was founded in 1092 and was built on a spot where a former church once stood. Around the year 1250, the cathedral was rebuilt in a more Gothic style.
As well as a gift shop, a cafe (with a stunning stained glass window), you can also find a miniature version of the cathedral built in Lego stones inside!
Address: St Werburgh St, Chester CH1 2DY
Opening hours: 9 AM till 5 PM on Monday – Saturday, 11:45 AM till 4 PM on Sunday
Entree price: Free, but donations are welcome
Just outside the cathedral, you can find Chester’s falconry. As you might have read in my review of Owl Cafes in Tokyo, I’m a bit wary of tourist attractions that involve animals. But the falconry at Chester’s cathedral is a place I can support. They take very good care of their birds, make sure they’re out flying as often as possible and also spend a lot of time and effort in conservation and education about these beautiful birds of prey. They are part of the Vultures Program, which focusses on educating more people about these endangered birds. They not only explain the threads these birds are facing but also show how beautiful they are and why they should be protected.
Address: 9 Abbey Square, Chester CH1 2HU
Entree price: £6 for adults, £4.50 for children.
Opening hours: Open every day from 10 AM till 4 PM
Visit the Roman Gardens & Amphitheatre
Between the river Dee and the city walls, you can find Chester’s Roman Gardens. Because of Chester’s rich history and connection with Roman times, many artefacts and ruins remained in the city. These gardens were constructed in 1949 and display building fragments from the Roman fortress of Deva. You can also find the ruins of an old bathhouse, a Roman underfloor heating system and the famous amphitheatre.
Chester’s Roman amphitheatre is the biggest stone-built amphitheatre in the whole of Britain. It’s managed by English Heritage and its often a place where outdoor theatre productions are held.
Lunch at Jaunty Goat Coffee
I’m a sucker for independent cafes, as you might have noticed. My reasons for visiting Jaunty Goat Coffee? This cafe is so popular, they opened a SECOND cafe just a few streets from their first establishment. The second cafe (which can be found on 128 Northgate) is completely vegan, which I absolutely adore. It’s actually the first fully vegan cafe in Chester! Alongside their clean and minimalist interior, I’m a big fan! You can get some incredible brunch/lunch items as well as coffees and a range of delicious loose leaf teas.
Address: 128 Northgate St, Chester CH1 2HT (Vegan) &
57 Bridge St, Chester CH1 1NG
Opening hours: Both cafes are open from 8 AM till 6 PM Monday to Saturday and 9 AM till 6 PM on Sundays.
Visit the Storyhouse
This cultural hub opened in May 2017 and houses a library, cinema, theatre and a cafe. As well as offering over 2000 yearly activities for local groups, the Storyhouse is also the home of many festivals including the Chester Literature Festival and the Storyhouse Festival of Languages. It’s a perfect place to catch a movie or simply sit and get some work done with a coffee by your side. It’s a place of community and you can feel that through and through.
Address: Hunter St, Chester CH1 2AR
Dutch Snack at Chip’d
Walking through the streets of Chester, I definitely didn’t expect to find a little pick-me-up from my recent homesickness. But I did! Chip’d is a Dutch Style chip shop and it does an amazing job at traditional Dutch chips and fried snacks (bitterballen and frikandellen). Their chips are prepared using a special Dutch frying technique, and they really do taste authenticly Dutch! It really reminded me of all the snack bars in the Netherlands!
Address: 124 Northgate St, Chester CH1 2HT
Opening hours: Open every day from 11 AM till 6 PM (with late opening hours on Friday and Saturday, when Chip’d is open until 8 PM).
Like I mentioned before, I’m always a bit wary when it comes to animals combined with tourism. But Chester Zoo is definitely a zoo I can get behind. They are possibly the most ethical zoo in the UK. The Zoo funds global charities who support animals all across the globe, as well as putting a lot of money into research to get closer to excitintion prevention of some amazing species. You can find a list of all their current projects here. That’s definitely something to support!
Address: Chester CH2 1EU
Opening hours: Open every day from 10 AM till 5 PM
Entree fee: Ticket prices are usually around £28.00 for adults and £23.00 for children, but you can get a discount booking your tickets online.
How to get to Chester?
By train: From Manchester, it takes between 1 and 1.5 hours to get to Chester by train. From London, this journey takes about 2.5 to 3 hours.
By car: Driving to Chester is one of the easiest ways to get to Chester. You can park at the Race Court for a fiver per day (or a tenner if you’re planning to leave your car overnight). Make sure to bring cash, though! They don’t accept card.