It bills itself as Shakespeare’s birthplace but Stratford-upon-Avon has plenty to offer those who aren’t big fans of the man himself. From walks along the river to cocktails with a view, here’s our pick of the top things to do in Stratford-upon Avon.
For those who still haven’t recovered from the trauma of studying Shakespeare at school, a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon should still be at the top of your British bucket list. The town offers abundant things to do without going anywhere near an historical landmark. Stray away from the Shakespeare-obsessed coach parties and you’ll find a range of quirky and picturesque places to shop, dine and explore.
If you're planning a weekend break, we've got you covered. These are our favourite things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon. And if you do want to delve into the world of Shakespeare in Stratford, read our guide here.
Get there: Stratford-upon-Avon may feel as if it’s tucked away in the countryside, but getting there is relatively straightforward. Hop on the train from London Marylebone and you’ll arrive in just over 2 hours. If you’re driving, the town is only ten minutes away from junction 15 of the M40.
Check-in to: The Arden Hotel. Just minutes from the River Avon, this upmarket boutique hotel is perfectly located for exploring the whole town on foot. The rooms are have luxury touches and, as the hotel itself is on a peaceful side street, you’ll get a great night's sleep too. Should you not want to venture out far, the hotel houses a Champagne bar and a riverside restaurant.
Enjoy a cocktail at: the RSC rooftop bar. Stroll straight past all the theatregoers and head up to the rooftop bar on the third floor for the Royal Shakespeare Company building. Grab a cocktail (the blackberry and bay leaf martini gets our vote) and nab a table in their outdoor seating area which overlooks the river.
Dine out at: The Townhouse. A recently-opened revamp of a Grade-II listed building, the stylish setting and seasonal menu make The Townhouse a pleasant dinner spot. We recommend the melt-in-your-mouth, twice-baked cheese soufflé and the ultimate comfort food: ribeye steak with triple cooked chips.
Explore: Henley Street. This is the ideal starting point for your exploration of Stratford-upon-Avon. Take a moment to enjoy the street performers and then hunt for a bargain at one of the many independent boutiques. Magpiebox is perfect for stationery lovers whilst Domino is great for independent fashion finds. Kids in tow? Head to Magic Alley with its Harry Potter paraphenalia.
Grab lunch at: The Garden Cafe. A few minutes' walk from Henley Street will see you arrive at The Garden Cafe. If you’re a Bake Off fan, then you’re in for a treat. Owner Tizzy was trained by host Prue Leith, and the proof is literally in the pudding. Tuck into a slice of gin and tonic cake and a pot of tea before moving on.
Stroll along: the River Avon. Outside The Royal Shakespeare Company lies the east side of the River Avon. Start here and head south to pass many landmarks as you go, including Holy Trinity Church, the oldest building in Stratford-upon-Avon (it also happens to be the final resting place of the bard).
Get back to nature at: The Butterfly Farm. On the other side of the river you’ll find The Butterfly Farm – a gigantic tropical greenhouse which houses thousands of beautiful butterflies in every colour imaginable. Be prepared for the humidity and make sure you have your camera to hand.
Eat at: salt. This is the latest contribution to Stratford-upon-Avon’s plethora of fine dining restaurants. Set up by award-winning chef Paul Foster (who funded his dream using crowdfunding platform Kickstarter), salt offers unfussy food with locally-sourced ingredients. Opt for the two-course tasting menu which offers an interesting collection of dishes – such as wood pigeon and pine pickled gooseberries.
Get brunch at: The Boston Tea Party. Once a former school hall, The Boston Tea Party is now brilliant brunch spot. Located at the top of Henley Street, the menu features dishes like halloumi and sweet corn hash; avocado on rye and Scotch pancakes.
Visit: The MAD Museum. After brunch, head to the UK’s only permanent mechanical design museum. Its eccentric exhibitions showcase contraptions from all over the world and most have interactive elements. As you take in each piece, you’ll be prompted to press buttons, push pedals and even move your body to make it come to life.
Stop off at: Henley-in-Arden. Take a short detour to nearby village Henley-in-Arden, known for its for its stretch of quaint country pubs and the best ice-cream in the UK. It’s a short 10-minute drive or a few stops on the X20 bus. After trying one of the 50 flavours Henley Ice Cream offers, rummage through antique homeware and clothing at Henley Vintage and Interiors.
Dine at: The Nags Head. Henley in Arden is lined with country pubs and no Sunday is complete without a roast dinner. Head to The Nag’s Head, who serve epic roast sharing boards perfect fuel for your trip home.
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