Coming “up North?” you’ve got to visit Chester!

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This is why you should visit Chester

Over the years I have been blessed with many opportunities to visit Chester, sometimes for leisure and quite a few for work but every time I’m there I see another little piece of this beautiful historic city. According to a four-week long pole done by best10.com, Chester was voted the 5th most beautiful city in Europe. Beating many, more know hotspots such as, Venice, Bruges, Prague and Budapest, just to name a few.

With over 35 million tourists visiting Chester every year, Chester is one of, if not the most visited city in the north of England. To be completely honest as I walked around the city centre on Good Friday and listening to the multitude of accents/ languages being spoken, that fact really does not surprise me. The City centre was heaving, as you’ll see from my photos. I’d normally try to get a good angle and wait for the people to move out of the way for a clean shot but, yeah, there’s more chance of being kicked by a snake…


 


A little back story on Chester…

History in Chester starts all the way back in 79AD, back then Chester was named Deva by the Romans and was the largest Roman fort in the whole of Britain. Some historians even believe that it was meant to overcome London as the capital of England. When it was built back in the first century AD there would have been no one but the Roman army living here, but where ever you’ve got close to 10,000 soldiers, there’s always going to be trade and trade means money. Over the years following, civilians started to build their settlements around the Roman fort and Chester expanded from there.
Chester remained under Roman control up until the end of the 4th century when all Roman forces retreated from Britain.

Since then, Chester and its fort has been occupied the Welsh, Saxons, Danish and obviously the English! Reading the history, it seems Chester has had its fair share of bloodshed. Some of Britain’s most historical battles were fought here.


Chester tour bus
See some history on a piece of history!

 


A few interesting facts about Chester…

 

Chester had the largest Roman amphitheatre in the country – It had an estimated seating capacity of 7000.

Henry V expelled the Welsh from Chester – In 1403 before he was king, Henry V ordered that all Welsh should be banned from entering Chester before sunrise and remaining after sunset or face the pain of decapitation! Still to this day there is no evidence to say that this order has ever been repealed… Nice chap that Henry V bloke.

Chester Cathedral – The North West’s most popular tourist attraction. (more on that further down)

Birth place of James Bond – Well, Daniel Craig, the chap that plays James Bond!

Roodee race course – Opened in 1539 and still being in continual use makes it Britain’s oldest sporting venue.

5th prettiest city in Europe – Well, what can I say it is pretty stunning to be fair.

Chester Zoo – Named 7th best zoo in the world… I’d say it’s worth a look.


 

 


 

A few interesting things to do when you visit Chester…

Chester Cathedral –

Inside a hallway of Chester cathedral

First founded in 1092 as the Benedictine Abbey, it was originally built in a Normal style. Parts of the original can still be seen today but as of 1250 the church went under a major re-model, in fact, it took over 275 years to turn the humble church into the stunning cathedral you see today.

275 years!!! I know builders these days always get a bad rap for having too many toilet and tea breaks but 275 years!! Can you imagine being the guy who commissioned the build!?

“Right, you see that knackered old church over there!? We’re going to knock it down and build the most stunning cathedral you’ve ever seen. Actually, you won’t see it, neither will your children, or their children, or their children…..”

Who worked out how much it would cost? £10’000 might be a lot of money now but let’s be serious you’re not even going to get a Mars bar for that in 275 years!

Who did the drawing for it? With my “on-site” experience, architectural drawings are lucky if they last a month before they ripped to pieces and covered in coffee cup rings. Surely after a few decades there’s going to be nothing left other than something that resembles a bit of wet bog roll!!!

Right, sorry for going a bit off topic there but it just boggles my mind!

Back to the cathedral. As I said earlier I was in Chester on good Friday and me being a bit of an unreligious doughnut, the notion of they’ll be “services” on all day didn’t even cross my mind. Although, it’s still open to the public photography was forbidden in the main hall so, I’m afraid you’ll just have to enjoy my photos from outside the main hall and take my word for it that it’s utterly stunning in the main hall.

The cathedral opening times are:

January – March: 9AM – 5PM daily.
April – December: 9AM – 6PM daily.

Although there isn’t an entrance fee, they would like you to donate £3 per person as it cost in excess of £3,000 per day to keep the building in good repair. Either that or they’re still paying off the original builders 😉
Tours up the 125ft tower are available, £8 for adults and £6 for children.

Walk the Chester walls

one of the towers along the Chester wall
On the square stone above the door it states “King Charles stood on this tower sept 24 1646 and saw his army defeted on Rowton Moor”

The oldest parts of the Chester city walls date back as far as the Roman occupation in 70 AD. Since then they have been updated and added to with each occupying ruler. It’s thought that after the Norman conquest, the walls to the west and south were added to complete the circuit around the city. It is estimated that it wasn’t until the middle of the 12th century until the complete circuit was finished.

part of the Chester wall

The wall is free to walk and takes around 1.5 hrs to complete the 1.8 mile journey. It’s crazy to think that nearly 2000 years ago Roman soldiers would have been walking the same route on their patrols.
Free to do and well worth the walk when you visit Chester. You can even get off right next to the cathedral, do a tour and then hop back on to finish the circuit.

The Chester Rows!!

Chester rows
The stunning Chester Rows

Dating back to the 13th century the Chester rows are truly one of a kind. Well the 4 streets of them are. (Upper Bridge Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and Watergate Street)

“The Rows” Refer to the way that these buildings are constructed, low level “crypts” and a covered upper level with shop fronts and walkway. Basically, two levels of shop fronts along each side of the street. There is nowhere else in the world that you will find this type of architecture. It is truly unique to Chester.

Apart from the architectural layout, these buildings are an absolute masterpiece. The black and white timber frames really make them stand out from anything else you’ve ever seen.

Chester city centre is full of quality high street brands, trendy restaurants and luxury accommodation.

I don’t know why but every time I walk through Chester it just makes me think of Shakespeare.

 

See the Eastgate clock.

chesters eastgate clock
The Eastgate clock

Situated on the east side of the Chester wall walk, the Eastgate clock and the red sandstone arch on which it stands, as of 1955 are grade l listed.

Added to the Eastgate arch in 1899 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond jubilee two years earlier, the Eastgate clock is the most photographed clock in England, after Big Ben of course.

Surely, you’ll be doing the Chester wall walk. Then you can’t miss it!


 

 


Logistics of visiting Chester

Transport

To be fair Chester has pretty good transport links. Only 40 minutes from Manchester and Liverpool airports. There’s even high-speed trains leaving from London every hour that will get you to Chester in roughly 2 hours. Obviously, you can get a bus from London but well, it’ll take forever.

Normally, I’d recommend hiring a car but on this occasion, I’m not going to. Chester is a very busy, congested city with not that many places you can park for extended amounts of time without it costing the earth. Trust me, I used to deliver fruit machines around Chester, leave your car on double yellows and those pesky traffic wardens will be all over it like flies on a big, steaming, turd loaf!

You'll see buskers when you visit Chester
Busker getting his moneys worth out of that violin… Quite literally!

Accommodation

For anyone who’s stumbled across this blog before, you’ll probably know that I’m all about living cheap/have short arms and deep pockets. So, when it comes to accommodation, hostels are always my first port of call.

Well I say I always look at hostels first because I’m a tight arse but, in all truth another reason I’m team hostel is that, there’s always a much better atmosphere than in hotels. Unfortunately, I can only find two hostels in Chester and they’re 2 miles out of the city centre and cost from £18 per night per person. On the other hand, when you visit Chester you can book a room in a cheap hotel that is situated just 300yrs from the city centre for £35.

So, by the time you’ve paid £18 for a bed in a dorm and then added the cost of travel to and from the city centre, you’re not really that much better off. Especially if there’s two of you then the hotel is most definitely the way to go.


 

 


 

To sum it all up…

All in all, Chester is another must see city if you’re coming “up North”. So much history, so many beautiful buildings and plenty of good quality high street shops. There really is something for everyone.

I’d have to say the ideal amount of time to spend in Chester would be between 2 and 3 days and then off to somewhere like the lake district maybe!?
So there you have it, my reasons to visit Chester. Have you been? What would you recommend?

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2 thoughts on “Coming “up North?” you’ve got to visit Chester!

  • April 8, 2018 at 6:03 pm
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    I haven’t been there, but your article makes it sound like something I would enjoy. I love old architecture and the wall walk is right up my alley! Thanks for the tips about accommodations. Definitely on my list of places to visit.

    Reply
    • April 9, 2018 at 8:14 pm
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      Hi Jill, I’m glad you found the article interesting. Chester really is an amazing place, filled to the brim with history and culture!!

      Reply

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