A warm welcome to new We Are Chester writer, Holly Price. Holly is a student at the College of Law in Christleton and when she isn’t busy completing assignments she enjoys writing and travel writing in particular. Here, she shares her recommendations for the best places to go if you are planning on spending a weekend or even a day in Chester. We hope she inspires you for the next time you go out and about in our beautiful city. Holly’s own travel blog is A Restless Spirit.
A bit about me
My name is Holly. I am currently a law student studying in Christleton with a dream of becoming a writer. I am a lover of travel, dogs, Fleetwood Mac, snowboarding, books and chocolate.
Is there anything more intoxicating than the experience of a new city? Does anything quite control your senses like adapting to new surroundings? Desperately endeavouring to fit everything in, the sightseeing, the food, the drink and admittedly – the shopping.
As a local to Chester, when the prospect came up to write about it, I thought, well Chester is Chester, a place I’ve known all my life, surely there can’t really be anything exciting to write about? But then I got started – and found it difficult to stop. It’s amazing how easy it is to rediscover a city you know so well.
So here it is, a guide on what to eat, drink, see and do in a small amount of time in Chester.
Despite the fact that Chester is a city made famous by our long gone Roman ancestors, what lies inside the sandstone stretch of the infamous walls is very much alive and kicking.
Forty eight hours spent on the cobbled streets of Chester could only leave you besotted with the architecture, amazed by the history and swamped by that wonder found in any bustling city. So, in order to get to grips with the city, the best way to greet it is surely how you would an old friend – with a few good drinks.
The streets of Chester are adorned with bars and pubs – there is enough variety to satisfy the needs and requirements of any weary (and thirsty) traveller. For the confident cocktail lovers, Watergate Street boasts a brilliant selection of hidden gems amongst the listed buildings.
Kuckoo, a glamorous cocktail bar, is reached by climbing up stairs and through soundproofed glass. It is a delectable den decorated in luxurious red and black where indie rock and roll is blasted into the small hours and friendly bar staff create delicious concoctions ranging from their Rainbow road to cookie dough delight. Yes, they taste as good as they sound. Here you will find indie rockers of all ages, walls adorned with music posters and cocktails priced at £7+.
Fiesta Havana, just over the street from Kuckoo offers a similar, cheaper experience if you replace the indie rock and roll with cuban music and the occasional current chart number. Here you will find a basement vibe due to the low concave ceiling and a smattering of students. Cocktail prices start at £4.95.
At the end of this street, situated on the corner overlooking the busy St Martins Way, is Bar Lounge. This place was made for sipping on the Dee Breeze cocktail whilst sitting in the heated outdoor seating area enclosed in green foliage and twinkling fairy lights. Here you will find glamorous gossipers snacking on the delicious bar food. Cocktails start at £6.50, late night snacks at £4.
For the drinkers seeking something more in keeping with the city’s historical theme, Lower Bridge Street offers The Brewery Tap, where real ales are drunk from flagons in a medieval dining hall.
Alternatively, just a few steps back up Lower Bridge street is the Falcon, originally a house built in 1200, which is bursting with history and wallet-friendly prices.
Providing a happy medium between the two is The Botanist, discreetly placed in between Godstall Lane and St Werburgh Street. This is the perfect place to transition between afternoon into evening.
With live music every night and decor that can only be described as your garden shed meets vintage treasure chest, it is a sure bet to satisfy the wants of even the fussiest drinkers.
If live music is your thing, a visit to Telford’s Warehouse on the canal basin should be high up on your list, as they offer multiple gigs for multiple tastes and an open mic night every Sunday, as well as providing the tasty Telfords Burger.
The Architect, which is a beautiful building overlooking the racecourse (bear in mind that it can get very busy on a race day) is a sure bet providing the perfect mashup of history, real ales, gins and wines aplenty and British dishes with some tasty exotic influences.
When it comes to special places to enjoy a drink in Chester, Oddfellows Chester on Lower Bridge Street is not only a quirky boutique hotel but also an essential for those who like the finer things in life delivered to them in a bar themed around a secret garden with picket fences and oversized lamps. Room rates start at £89.
With the drinking taken care of, Chester is also home to a wide selection of restaurants and cafes including Central Perk – a replica of the legendary cafe in the American TV show, Friends. Whether it’s a light veggie snack or a 10oz meaty steak you’re after, Chester has the answer within its walls.
La Fattoria is a firm favourite for anyone who knows Chester – located on Lower Bridge Street and run by an Italian family, this rustic styled, patriotically decorated restaurant is sure to drive any Italian lover into a drooling frenzy just by the mere smells that drift down the street.
The prices here are relatively cheap and the portions very generous but be warned – a table is hard to come by due to its popularity so booking is necessary, well in advance for weekend dates. The restaurant is also closed on a Monday.
The Chef’s Table serves up award-winning dishes and describes itself as ‘an independent foodie hub’, located on Music Hall Passage just off St Werburgh Street. The Chef’s Table is exactly what it says on the tin with only seasonal fresh foods on the menu – main dishes range from £14 to £25 (A La Carte menu starts at 6pm).
For the more thrill-seeking oriental eaters, Siam Thai & Teppanyaki Restaurant comes highly recommended with the teppanyaki restaurant on the ground floor offering guests the chance to marvel at the chefs turning the process of cooking up delicious dishes in front of them into something of a theatrical performance. As for the Thai restaurant on the second floor, expect colourful cuisine overlooking the canal at reasonable prices. Siam Thai & Teppanyaki is located on City Road.
The more sweet-toothed tourists will find a haven in Off The Waffle located on Rufus Court, just off Northgate Street. Hidden in a pretty courtyard adorned with artistic street art, Off The Waffle is a must-try, boasting American waffles with a range of toppings, from white chocolate to Ferrero Rocher and thick delicious milkshakes (Average of £6 per waffle – you won’t be disappointed at the portion sizes).
If you haven’t already spent all of your time tasting what Chester has to offer, you may be wondering where to start in the city that has it all. A trip to Chester Zoo is always a good idea, with tickets ranging in price but generally being cheaper if booked online. If it happens to be a rainy day, don’t let this dampen your spirits as some of the enclosures are indoors – and the baby elephant Nandita (born August 2015) will no doubt be playing in the rain and mud which is a delight to watch and will surely take your mind off the weather. A Number 1 bus runs from the Town Hall bus exchange every 20 minutes to provide access to the zoo from the city centre. Parking at the zoo is free.
If animals aren’t your thing, you could opt to take a stroll back in time along the Chester walls, into the amphitheatre and roman gardens and continue to uncover artifacts in the Grosvenor Museum (admission to the museum is free).
Also, Grosvenor Park offers a peaceful green oasis to stop and people watch – and also to squirrel watch as plenty of them call the park home. As well as the peace of the park, the hustle and bustle of the rows provide a good spot to sit and watch the world go by, or to simply take in the sounds of the town crier and the many talented buskers that linger along Eastgate Street.
More of a shopper than a sightseer? Don’t worry, Chester’s got that covered too. The Grosvenor shopping centre is home to Debenhams, a newly installed TK Maxx, Topshop and many other shops and it conveniently leads out into the high street which is enough to make the heart of any shopaholic flutter.
Amidst the sea of bustling bodies and rustling bags brimming with new buys, just be sure to look up as you shop on Eastgate Street to catch a glimpse of the famous Eastgate clock, only then will your trip to Chester be complete.