The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Stratford-Upon-Avon
Known as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK, Stratford-upon-Avon is a gem that belongs on everyone’s bucket list. Whether you’re visiting for a long weekend, on business, or for a whole week, there are plenty of things to see and do as well as numerous places to eat. Check out our comprehensive guide to visiting Stratford-upon-Avon.
A Brief History Of Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is well-known around the world for being the birthplace of the world’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare. It sits on the picturesque banks of the River Avon and is steeped in history and culture. With over 800 years of history, this town has plenty to offer.
The earliest recorded mention of Stratford-upon-Avon dates back to the 11th century when it was listed in the Domesday Book as a small village with only 29 households in 1086. During the medieval period, Stratford-upon-Avon became a market town, primarily focused on the trade of agriculture and wool.
In 1196 it gained a charter for a weekly market and by the 13th century, it had become prosperous thanks to its thriving trade. During the 15th century, Shakespeare was born and spent most of his early years in Stratford before moving to London to pursue his career in theatre. Due to Shakespeare’s notoriety, the town is a centre for Shakespearian heritage, attracting thousands of tourists from around the world every year.
Today you’ll see a lot of Stratford-upon-Avon’s history as your walk down the narrow streets. Notice the stunning architecture from the Tudor and Stuart Periods, get lost in the thought of following in the footsteps of William Shakespeare, and discover a vast history that can be seen throughout this thriving market town. The population of Stratford today is over 134,000 people which is a significant increase from 1086.
The easiest and best way to get around Stratford-upon-Avon is by foot. There are plenty of guided walking tours through Stratford where a knowledgeable guide will take you through the cobbled streets and immerse you in the stories and history of the town. There are also plenty of parking spaces and car parks should you wish to drive into Stratford.
Other ways to explore Stratford-upon-Avon is by open-top buses where you’ll have all the local attractions pointed out to you. Take a cruise down the River Avon and view the whole town from a new perspective. For the more adventurous ones, hire a bicycle and traverse the streets by bike or if you’re really looking for an unforgettable experience, book yourself onto a hot air balloon ride and get stunning bird’s eye views of Stratford from the sky.
Top 5 Things to Do in Stratford-upon-Avon
There are plenty of things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon, from guided walking tours and visiting Anne Hathaway’s house, to seeing a Shakespearian Play at the Swan Theatre. Here are our top 5 things to do in Stratford:
Royal Shakespeare Company and Swan Theatre
Opened in 1986, the Swan Theatre occupies the same spaces as the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and is a favourite amongst actors, directors, and audiences. Along with the Royal Shakespeare Company, they often have viewings of some of Shakespeare’s greatest works.
Check out our Royal Shakespeare Company attraction page for more information.
Stratford Butterfly Farm
Come rain or shine, the Stratford Butterfly Farm is a unique family-friendly attraction that allows you to discover hundreds of the world’s most beautiful butterflies. Explore the exotic environment of tropical blossoms with stunning waterfalls and amazing fish-filled pools and try to see how many different species you can identify.
Check out our Stratford Butterfly Farm attraction page for more information
The MAD Museum
Located in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon, The MAD Museum features a quirky display of interactive pieces of mechanical art and design. It’s the only permanent mechanical art museum in the UK and promotes science, technology, engineering, maths, art and design by combining inspirational imagination with clever, witty designs.
Be sure to check their website for opening times, ticket prices, and any scheduled closures.
Explore the house in which Shakespeare was born and raised as well as where he spent the first 5 years of his marriage to Ann Hathaway. Now owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the house is open to the public and it’s here that you can learn stories of his life.
Get up close to objects Shakespeare may have used during his time within the house. Discover how the world’s most famous playwright continues to shape our lives and enjoy a fun-filled day out.
Learn more by reading our Shakespeare Birthplace Trust attraction page.
Ghost Town Walk
If you’re looking for something spooky, Join Vincent, Edward, or the Man in Black as they take you on a ghostly evening tour along the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon. Discover ancient creaky buildings seeping with spooky stories. It’s a magical evening not to be missed.
Top 5 Places to Eat in Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is teeming with fantastic eateries. Whether you’re looking for a quaint cafe serving light bites, a pub with traditional pub grub, or a fancy fine-dining restaurant for date night, here are our favourite places to eat in Stratford-upon-Avon:
Best for: Coffee and light bites
With two locations in Stratford-upon-Avon, Yorks is a superb little cafe that boasts freshly brewed coffee every day of the week. You can even buy your favourite coffee to brew at home. Enjoy an all-day brunch menu that’s packed full of light bites from eggs on toast and breakfast rolls to tasty treats and cakes. Choose from their cafe on the main high street or tucked away in Bell Court where you can even enjoy mouth-watering dinners three nights a week.
Best for: luxury fine-dining
Housed in a Grade II listed building, Salt is a remarkable fine-dining restaurant that’s well worth a visit. Having been awarded a Michelin Star and countless other accolades, head chef Paul Foster has created a menu that showcases the best of British food.
The restaurant’s atmospheric timbered building, simple light-wood tables and chairs, and wood-panelled walls make for a very relaxed dining experience.
Loxley’s Restaurant and Wine Bar
Best for: A pre-theatre glass of wine
Loxley’s Restaurant and Wine Bar is considered by many to be one of the best wine bars in Stratford-upon-Avon and has gained a reputation locally for its innovative British creations.
Spanning two floors, the restaurant’s vibrant dining room designs as well as a rear courtyard for al fresco dining make it the perfect place to relax and grab a glass of wine before heading to the theatre to watch a Shakespearian play.
Countess of Evesham
Best for: A river cruise dining experience
The Countess of Evesham offers something a little different for its diners. Spend a pleasant evening cruising down the River Avon, passing some of Stratford’s most historic buildings whilst dining on a delectable menu of British cuisine.
This intimate cruise passes through three historic locks and sails past the 15th-century Holy Trinity Church and the monument showing where Shakespeare was buried. It’s a dining experience in Stratford-upon-Avon that really can’t be missed.
Best for: Greek cuisine with the occasional dancing waiter
Chef Dimitrios, along with his wife and son, has designed a traditional Greek menu right in the heart of Stratford. El Greco is located within a historic white building on Rother Street, its simple decor of white walls, dark wood tables, and leather chairs is key to creating a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.
Give your senses a vacation as they are transported to the Greek islands and enjoy a mouth-watering mezze selection. Continue the feast with several other award-winning dishes including creamy taramasalata, hummus, and chicken souvlaki.
Check out our blog for more places to eat in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Here at Short Let Space, we have several stunning properties within Stratford and the surrounding areas. Whether you’re travelling with family, friends, on your own, or for business you’re bound to find a property that feels like home. Check out these two incredible properties within Stratford:
Looking for an ideal base to explore Stratford-upon-Avon? Bill’s Place is a charming one-bedroom home situated just 1 and a half miles from the town centre. It’s the ideal place for one or two people and has a small private garden where you can enjoy al fresco dining in the summer.
Manor Road House is a comfortable three-bedroom home in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon. The property has parking onsite as well as a spacious living and dining area that overlooks a private garden. Enjoy al fresco dining in the summer, and cosy evenings in front of the log burner during winter, or bring your four-legged friend along too for some relaxation and historical exploration.