Utterly beautiful, with a fascinating history and terrific shopping, it seems incredible that it took me so long to visit Chester. It’s just my sort of city – and absolutely perfect for a weekend break!
Staying at the sublime Queen Hotel, handily situated just across from Chester’s Rail Station, I adored getting to know the city. Frankly though, I’d have happily spent the whole time at The Queen – elegantly furnished, with a vibrant bar and superb food, it makes for a wonderful retreat.
The best way, I found, to orientate yourself in the city is to take one of the wonderful walking tours. Chester’s many must-see sights demand to be discovered; Grosvenor Park is beautiful, the boats on the River Dee (and the breath-taking views to the hills of North Wales), a walk on the city walls and the elevated shops on the city’s ‘rows’. The centre is terribly photogenic – you could easily spend hours snapping away! The distinctive mock-Tudor architecture (and, occasionally, the real thing) is a highlight, as is the famous Eastgate clock.
From High Street favourites to High-End Fashion, Chester’s shopping really is terrific too, and the nationally-renowned Cheshire Oaks Outlet is very easily reached. For a special treat, do drop into the traditional perfumery at Penhaligon’s – on the city’s Eastgate Street – and sample the sublime fragrances on offer there.
Be sure to have a break from the shops and visit the gorgeous Chester Cathedral – without a doubt one of the finest in the region. Take tea in the Refectory, in the glow from the pretty stained glass windows, or take a stroll in the distinctive courtyard garden with its lovely sculpture of two figures, The Water of Life. New to the Cathedral this year, you can also scale the heights and gain the most fantastic views of Chester’s skyline from the Cathedral rooftop – be prepared for a hike up 200 stairs though!
No trip to Chester is complete without a trip to the city’s zoo. Easily one of the best in the country, Chester Zoo is distinctive for being so spacious – its gorgeous gardens are worth seeing by themselves, but the animals are of course the star attraction. With over 11,000 of them living at the Zoo there’s plenty to see! In 2015 the Zoo is due to open a new Indonesian ‘Islands’ area, itself the size of Bristol Zoo! With over 100 acres to explore and miles and miles of pathways (don’t worry, the park’s handy monorail can also take you around!) devote a day to exploring the park in its entirety. With a shuttle bus behind the city centre’s Town Hall leaving every 15 mins, it couldn’t be easier to visit the brilliant Chester Zoo.
When evening rolls around you can enjoy a unique meal on one of the city’s fantastic Canal Boat restaurants. If you’d prefer to remain on dry land whilst tucking into a meal however, be sure to head back into the city centre – we recommend the quality modern cuisine and classic cocktails at the potting shed-themed The Botanist.
With so much to see and do – a beautiful city, scores of incredibly pretty country gardens and estates to discover and fast links into Liverpool, Manchester and North Wales – Chester really is ideal for a short break. I, for one, can’t wait to go back!
Planning a break in the beautiful North-West? Tell us about it in the comments section below!