Friday, August 17, 2018

10 Things to Know Before Visiting Stratford-Upon-Avon

Trinity Church Stratford-Upon-Avon from the river

Stratford-Upon-Avon has been on my list of places to visit since I was in high school and learning about Shakespeare for the first time. I love Shakespeare, but more-so because of his never-ending popularity, it seemed to me that Stratford would be a sort of untouched example of a time in history that would be fun to visit. It's taken me a long time to get there however because I always happened to look into it when it was super expensive like a Christmas or when there were festivals going on. This summer I lucked out when I found a great deal on both accommodation and train tickets, so it was finally our time and I'm so glad we went. Whether you plan a simple day trip from London which is totally doable or spend a few days there as I did, it is a great little village with lots of historical charm, fascinating architecture and plenty to do. It's the kind of place I could go back to time and again for weekend getaways because it's so beautiful, charming and quiet enough to be relaxing without being boring. Here are a few things you might want to consider before you book your trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon...

Rowboats on the river named after female Shakespeare characters
1. It's cool if you're not into Shakespeare...
Stratford-Upon-Avon is of course the birthplace and dying place of William Shakespeare, however it's not mandatory for you to be a massive fan of the Bard to visit this picturesque, countryside village. There's plenty to see and do that won't require any knowledge or appreciation of Shakespeare or his works whatsoever. Canal boats, rowboats, charming pubs, mini-golf and shopping can keep you occupied if Shakespeare isn't particularly of interest.

Shakespeare Monument in Stratford-Upon-Avon
2. Shakespearean Sights
If you want to do the whole touristy thing, it's beneficial to book what's called The Full Story Ticket which saves you money on admission costs if you plan to visit all the sights which include Shakespeare's Birthplace, Mary Arden's Farm, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Shakespeare's New Place and Hall's Croft. I stayed in Stratford for two nights and three whole days and I didn't visit a single one of these attractions, which goes to show that you can enjoy yourself without doing the whole Shakespeare touristy thing should that not be of interest.

Swans making a heart shape with their necks
3. Swans
There are beautiful white swans everywhere, but if you suffer from hay-fever or allergies, they might cost you a bit of comfort. The fluffy white swan feathers are floating through the air pretty much all over town. If you're a person who usually sneezes a bit, it's wise to pack some antihistamines and a pack of tissues just in case.

4. Getting Around
Most of Stratford-Upon-Avon is very easily accessible by foot. There seems to be parking everywhere, so if you'd prefer to drive you can, but the town centre is extremely pedestrian-friendly, so it's easy to do on foot if you're able. There are a few busses around and of course there are taxis, so however you choose to play it, it's not much of a challenge to get around if you plan to stay in the city centre.

Pasta dish
5. Food
Be prepared to keep it pretty simple and low-key when it comes to eating. You'll find all the major chains you're familiar with such as Pizza Express, Nando's, Cafe Rouge and the like, but other than that there aren't tons and tons of options. You won't starve to death, but perhaps do a little research, make reservations for anything you find that you'd like to try and supplement it with the old faithfuls mentioned above.

6. Pubs & Bars
There are some really cool pubs and bars in Stratford-Upon-Avon, so perhaps it's wise to bring a bit of a drink budget with you and don't plan anything too early in the morning. My favourite pub that we visited was Keys and Kitchen, which is known as the quirkiest pub in Stratford and has the coolest beer garden I've seen in a while. It's well worth a visit!

7. Timing
There are various events and celebrations that happen throughout the year in Stratford-Upon-Avon, so it's a good idea to see if something like that is happening when you'd like to visit. If you're keen to attend one of these events, you'll want to plan and make bookings well in advance. If you're not too bothered, try visiting another time because transportation and accommodation will be cheaper and it won't be as crowded.

Sculpture of Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream
8.  Theatre
If seeing something at the Royal Shakespeare Company is your main goal, you'll want to book your tickets well in advance. You might get lucky if you try last minute, but to avoid disappointment it's best to plan ahead.

9. Nearby Towns
If you want to make a longer trip of it or if you get a little bored in Stratford-Upon-Avon, you do have some nearby options. Warwick, Royal Leamington Spa, Alcester and Henley-in-Arden are all nearby places you can visit.

Pen & Parchment Inn and Pub in Stratford-Upon-Avon
10. Accomodation
Big hotels often have their advantages, however I'd encourage you to skip the big corporate options while visiting Stratford in favour of one of the many charming B&B's, pubs and inns. The smaller options are sometimes quite old and historical, so they simply add to the feeling of traveling back in time when you visit, Stratford, but of course they will have modern amenities. It's just another way of really experiencing Shakespeare's hometown and getting a proper British countryside vibe. We stayed at the Pen & Parchment - click here to read a full review of our stay.

Do you have any tips about visiting Stratford-Upon-Avon? If so, please feel free to share them with us in the comments below.

1 comment

  1. Love your review ...and definitely lots more to Stratford than Shakespeare!


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