Planning a day out in Chester? You certainly won’t be disappointed. There are a plethora of fun activities and attractions to see in this city near the border between England and North Wales, such as the world-class Chester Zoo, Roman ruins and beautiful riverside walks.
Chester may be small, but don’t be fooled – there’s more than enough to do here in this pretty historic Roman city.
Chester Zoo is undoubtedly one of the city’s major attractions, with over a million visitors a year flocking to see its famous animals. It’s one of the UK’s largest zoos at 125 acres and was recently voted the best zoo in the UK and the 7th best in the world by TripAdvisor. You’ll need at least half a day to get through the zoo in Chester with its 20,000 animals from 500 different species. The property is easy to get around with comfortable walking tracks, a monorail and a boat trip that runs on the Lazy River. In particular, you have to see the Elephants of the Asian Forest enclosure and its six elephants, and the Fruit Bat Forest, where over 300 bats fly freely around as you walk through their darkened habitat. There’s almost every kind of animal you can imagine in Chester Zoo, including endangered black rhinos, orangutans, red pandas, sloths, crocodiles and over 1,000 birds.
Return to Rome
Chester was once a major Roman settlement and there are many Roman ruins still visible in the city today. Chester has one of the longest Roman walls in Britain, which you can walk around the top and see into the old town below. The two-mile circuit takes you across the four main gates; King Charles’ Tower and the Civil War Museum, Morgan’s Mount, Grosvenor Bridge and the Rodee, an ancient horse-racing track. In the south east corner of the walls are a set of unassuming stairs, known as the Wishing Steps. Legend has it if you run up and down them twice without taking a breath, all your wishes will come true. Don’t worry though, there aren’t too many stairs!
Shopping with history
Today, Chester is known for its top-rated shopping, both for its choice and the traditional Tudor buildings the boutiques are housed in. Take a walk along the Chester Rows, a beautiful two-tiered shopping gallery dating back to the 13th century. The Rows are found in all four of the town’s main streets, spanning Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and Bridge Street. It’s the only shopping gallery of its kind in the whole world and well worth spending an afternoon picking up souvenirs or enjoying afternoon tea in a cute corner café.
The River Dee runs through the Grosvenor Precinct in Chester and is the best place to explore on a sunny day. Take the Groves Promenade which runs from the Old Handbridge to Grosvenor Park, a lovely classical park designed in typical Victorian layout. There are often events on in the park, including the Summer Music Festival, Art in the Park and Chester in Bloom. If you feel like taking a boat trip along the river, you can hire a row boat or otherwise sit back and relax on an all-inclusive tour that will show you the city’s main sights from the water. Boating is one of the best days out in Chester!
The Cathedral and Choir
Chester Cathedral is the heart of the city and is renowned amongst classical musicians as the place of the very first rehearsal of Handel’s Messiah. The cathedral dates from 1093, although the actual site has Roman origins dating back to 958AD. It boasts several different styles, from Norman and Gothic, all the way up to modern architecture after its 19th restoration. The most stunning part of the cathedral however is the Early Decorated Choir, built in the 14th century. Make sure you also take time to see the surrounding gardens and its long cloisters with saintly stained glass windows.