20 Reasons to visit Chester
PUBLISHED: 19:39 17 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:42 14 April 2016
Chester is a magnet for tourists and, from amphitheatre to zoo, has plenty to offer visitors. Here are the top 20 reasons why you should visit this great city.
The historic clock on Eastgate Street is Chester's best-known landmark and the second most photographed clock in Britain. It was paid for by Colonel Evans-Lloyd out of his own pocket to celebrate Queen Victoria's 80th birthday in 1897.
The magnificent building has been the Cathedral of the Diocese of Chester since 1541, but there has been a church on this site for more than 1,000 years. Among its many attractions are the intricately carved 800-year-old 'quire' stalls and the medieval shrine of St Werburgh.
See the city by water on the River Dee with half-hour cruises every 30 minutes, plus showboats for private charter, two-hour cruises through Eaton Estate, home of the Duke of Westminster to Ironbridge; and to the village of Eccleston on the Grosvenor Estate.
Chester was recently voted one of the best shopping cities in the country, hardly surprising considering it boasts a wide variety of smaller independent shops as well as big chain store names and there are two levels, meaning even more choice.
Go wild for Chester Zoo, the UK's number one charity zoo. It's famous for its large enclosures set in 110 acres of award-winning gardens and home to more than 7,000 animals and 500 species.
This is the 65-acre home of Chester Races and there has been racing here for more than 450 years. The name is said to come from Saxon times and means Island of the Cross. Events here in August include a family fun day, a horse show and our Cheshire Life Nursery Handicap on September 15th.
The first walls were built of earth and timber by the Romans around 70 AD. The sandstone version, along with the fort, came a little later. Today many people enjoy walking the two-mile circuit around the city.
The city hosts festivals all year round including music, literature, fashion, food and drink, plus St Werburgh's festival and the Great Roman.
Chester had a market as early as 1139 but its first shopping charter was issued in 1208. Today it is still an extremely lively and busy covered market in the centre of the city with plenty to tempt buyers, from food to fabric to frames.
Besides the obvious Roman influence, there are many examples of medieval Chester still in existence, including the Cross on Watergate Street which would have marked the centre of the fortified walled medieval settlement.
From Tuesday to Saturday until the end of August, the Town Crier will make a regular midday proclamation in Chester's historic centre. Chester was the first location on mainland Britain to host a World Town Crier Tournament.
The river Dee, which is 70 miles long, flows right through the centre of Chester and it inspired the Romans to name their fortress Deva, which translates as 'divine' or 'goddess'. Boat trips are available (see Chesterboat).
In full Roman soldier battledress, Caius Julius Quartus will take you on patrol around Fortress Deva and evoke the exciting adventures of an Imperial warrior. Or you can watch Roman battles re-enacted in the city and the changing of the Roman guards, a 2,000-year-old military ceremony.
The two-tier shopping gallery in the centre of Chester is known as the rows and they are 700 years old. They are unique to Chester and are thought to have been built by traders on top of Roman walls. They are home to many of Chester's shops.
For the best introduction to the city's past, visit the Chester Timeline Gallery. The Grosvenor Museum also plays host to temporary exhibitions.
The largest stone-built arena of its kind in Britain. Archaeological excavations are currently taking place at the 2,000 year-old amphitheatre with finds on show in a new exhibition at the nearby Chester Visitor Centre.
Whether on foot or by bus, organised tours are great ways of seeing Chester and learning about its history, mystery and secrets. There are quiz tours, ale trails and literary links as well as many more.
You can hear spine-chilling tales of ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night on a guided night-time journey around the eerie haunts of the city. Reputed spectres include Roman soldiers and monks, serving maids and pining lovers, Royalists and grey ladies.
Food and drink
Chester has a plethora of places to eat and drink in cafes, restaurants and bars. Chester's oldest pub, the Boot Inn on Eastgate Street, dates from 1643. It had a facelift in the late 19th century and again in 1988.
The origins of Chester pub names
The Shropshire Union Canal goes right through the heart of Chester, making it one of the most relaxing ways to discover the city. It follows the old Chester Canal built in 1772 to connect Chester and Nantwich.