City Guide to Chester, UK| Must See Attractions
Chester, United Kingdom is a great destination if you’re looking for a city with traditional architecture (Chester Rows), ancient Roman ruins, an amazing zoo (Chester Zoo), a grand Gothic Cathedral (Chester Cathedral), the oldest racecourse still in use in England (Chester Racecourse), and a wonderful English town experience! Read on for the must see attractions in England’s best preserved walled city.
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In our travels around the United Kingdom, we made a stop in Chester... We first learned about the city of Chester when we came across a house sit opportunity. And after some research and seeing pictures, we discovered that Chester, United Kingdom is a marvelous city with a lot of history!
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity for an exchange of services that allowed us to stay in a comfortable home at no cost to us and care for one of our favorite cats, Smokey!
We planned our trip and purchased our train tickets to spend some time in Chester, United Kingdom.
Chester: A City with a Rich Roman History
Chester was the largest Roman fortress in all of England. Originally known as Deva, the city is located on the River Dee. And during medieval times, Chester’s history encapsulated battles between the Welsh and the Anglo-Saxons.
In modern times there’s been a push to preserve the history and buildings of Chester, making it a great place to visit! Walking through Chester today, it’s not hard to see and feel the history of the city.
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Must See Attractions in Chester
The Walls of Chester
Chester is the best preserved walled city in England (Telegraph).
Built as a defense to the Roman fortress, the walls encircle the city. The best part is that you can go atop the walls that surround the old city and walk cross the arches and bridges that formed the entrances to Chester! It’s about a two mile (three kilometer) walk.
Not only is it a nice walk, but it’s educational as well. Along the way, there are placards with information points and lookouts, making it not only a beautiful walk, but educational as well.
Free to explore!
The Roman Amphitheater
Dating back to the first century, Chester’s Roman Amphitheater is the largest known Roman Amphitheater in England!
While some think the amphitheater was built for military use, most evidence points to it being used for entertainment.
It was discovered in 1929 and further excavation efforts were made throughout the century. And in 2004, the Chester Amphitheater Project was launched by Chester City Council and English Heritage. Currently the northern half of the stone amphitheater is exposed, while the southern portion rests underneath buildings, some of which are listed*.
A mural in front of the covered southern half of the amphitheater is cleverly done to show visitors what the amphitheater may have looked like at its prime.
The amphitheater is just outside the city walls and can be seen on the walk from atop the Walls of Chester. Be sure to check the English Heritage site for more information on the excavation and history of Chester’s Roman Amphitheater.
Free to explore!
*Listed buildings in the UK are on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest and cannot be demolished, extended, or altered without special permission (British Listed Buildings).
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The Roman Gardens
Located next to the amphitheater, running parallel to the city walls, the Roman Garden was not actually a garden during Roman times. It was designed in the 20th century to feature Roman artifacts found throughout the city.
This is also a great place to see the damage on the wall where it was breached after 30 (or more) cannons were fired at it during the civil war in 1645 (Chester Tourist)!
Free to explore!
The Chester Cathedral can be easily seen from within the city and from the atop city walls. It was originally built in 1092 CE in a Romanesque or Norman style and then in 1250 rebuilt in the Gothic style it’s today (Chester Cathedral).
By the way, don’t miss the nature gardens and falconry that are attached to the cathedral!
Free to explore! Tower tours and the Falconry are available at a cost.
Chester Rows are for both those who love architecture and those who love shopping!
They are unique not only to England, but likely the world! The original purpose is not clear, but they are covered walkways on the ground level with stairways up to the second. Often, the lower level is below ground level and can be accessed by going down a few steps.
Today the rows are lined with shops making a walk in town a great way to enjoy the architecture or the shopping. The choice is yours!
Chester Rows can be seen along Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and Bridge Street (Visit Chester).
Free to explore!
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The Eastgate Clock in Chester is said to be the second most photographed clock in England, after Big Ben.
The gateway it rests on dates back to 1768, while the clock was designed and built in the 1890’s. The official opening of the clock on May 27, 1899 was Queen Victoria's 80th birthday.
From the top of the Chester Wall where the Eastgate Clock stands visitors can look in either direction down the picturesque views of city center Chester. The Victoria and Tudor style buildings line the street, making the view from the wall or from the street wonderful!
Free to explore!
With a goal of protecting endangered species, the Chester Zoo is home to over 20,000 exotic and endangered animals!
Started as a private collection by George Mottershead in 1931, it became a zoo in 1934. Mottershead had a vision of opening a zoo without bars and today the Chester zoo spans 125 acres! It’s one of the largest zoos in England and one of the top 15 zoos in the world.
We absolutely loved our time at the Chester Zoo and highly recommend it. We’ve been to zoo’s all over the world, including some of the most famous. However, Chester Zoo was one of the most memorable for us!
Buy tickets at the gate, or online for a discount. For an extra 15% savings ride a bicycle there like we did!
Chester Racecourse - Roodee
The Chester Racecourse is the oldest racecourse still in use in England! If you can believe it, the first horse race on record being in the early 1600’s.
Visitors can see the Chester Racecourse for an event, race, or have a meal at one of the restaurants.
Our Experience Visiting Chester
We very much enjoyed our time in Chester!
We even had the privilege of talking to a gentleman who was originally from Liverpool but moved to Chester as a young man. He told us about the history of the city, the Romans, the civil war and the bombing of Liverpool (which he lived through during World War II). His kindness and willingness to speak with us and share his knowledge and experiences is something we only hope of finding in each place we visit! Interaction with people in each new city adds an entirely new dimension to our experience and it’s one of the things we cherish about traveling.
While in Chester, like most places we did our exploring by foot. It wasn’t hard to find walks that we really enjoyed, and we found a great path along the river to jog! If you’re up for some good walks around the city, be sure to check Chester Cycle City for maps. They may be intended for cyclists in Chester, but they work just as well for pedestrians!
Chester, United Kingdom was a great city to explore! With a house sit for a wonderful family and adorable cat, we were able to explore the ancient Roman history of the city, see the medieval parts of the city that are so well preserved, experience a fantastic zoo, and simply live in a small English city for a few weeks. We can’t complain!