Stratford-upon-Avon is a quaint market town that was home to revered playwright William Shakespeare. Credit: Shutterstock

Top Things To Do in Stratford upon Avon

William Shakespeare’s birthplace makes for an enchanting city break
Published 10/11/2021 by Becky Mumby-Croft

IIn the heart of the English Midlands is the quaint market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Harking back to the 16th century, the preserved Tudor buildings make it feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. The river Avon meanders throughout and, in the summer, when the trees are in full bloom, there’s nowhere quite as bucolic.

Of course, you can’t talk about Stratford-upon-Avon—often referred to as just Stratford—without mentioning its most famous inhabitant: William Shakespeare. The revered playwright and poet spent his formative years here as well as his last. Nowadays, the town is a subtle shrine to the playwright, with plenty of museums and theatres dedicated to him.

Eat

To those familiar with the British town’s food scene, Stratford’s offerings won’t come as a surprise. With high street chains, cute cafes and pubs, expect the food to be mostly British staples—think English breakfasts, roast dinners and pies. 

However, some places are pushing the boundaries of these hearty dishes, with a handful of Stratford’s restaurants having caught the eye of the Michelin Guide. Inspired by the natural cooking scene, The Woodsman is one of Stratford’s most exciting eateries. Having an on-site butcher, the restaurant hangs and cures its own meat. Most dishes—including the grilled wild deer, woodfired halibut and hay baked celeriac—are cooked over an open flame, giving every dish a distinct smokey flavour. 

For those who want a more casual affair, head to the cheekily named Boston Tea Party—a regional chain—which has been named Stratford’s best cafe several times over. This modern cafe is the perfect place for a sightseeing pit stop. Serving food all day, dishes range from an English fry-up to American-style pancakes to burgers. 

If you want your snack on the go, head down to the Avon’s riverbanks and seek out Shakee’s Ice Cream Barge—look for the boat with colourful bunting and Shakespeare caricatures. The popular venue serves small snacks and the best soft serve ice cream in the Midlands (according to the owners) so grab yourself a sweet treat and enjoy it as the river idly drifts by.

If you fancy a pint or two, Stratford has lots of pubs to choose from. Our first choice would be the Dirty Duck, close to the RSC Theatre. This 18th-century establishment is where thespians go for a post-play celebratory drink. Perhaps you’ll join them?

Play

We could try to give you an alternative guide to Stratford-upon-Avon, but let’s be honest, the town is on the map because of its most famous inhabitant—Will Shakespeare—so it’s worth embracing wholeheartedly. 

Throughout the town, you’ll find monuments to the Bard, and it’s hard to know where to start. So we suggest beginning your history lesson at Shakespeare’s Birthplace. This impressive Tudor building is where the playwright spent his formative years. Learn about his family history and see how life was back in the 16th century with live reenactments. 

Follow learning about his early days by visiting Shakespeare’s New Place, where he spent the last 19 years of his life. Sadly, the building was demolished in 1759, but in its place is an impressive garden that commemorates Shakespeare’s time there. Discover bold art pieces that were inspired by the works he wrote while living at New Place and visit the Knot Garden, which is designed in a style familiar to the Tudor times and Shakespeare himself. 

For theatre lovers, a trip to Stratford isn’t complete without seeing a play or two. Head to the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre to watch a contemporary retelling of some of his most popular tragedies or comedies—“Hamlet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are often on the bill—as well as new plays by up-and-coming writers. Some of Britain’s biggest actors, including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart, have trodden the boards here, so expect to see a top-rate performance.

Stay 

The White Swan Hotel 


For a more traditional stay, head to the White Swan Hotel. Just a short walk from the town’s best sights, this Grade-II listed building has the perfect blend of historic features and modern comforts. Rooms have exposed beams, open fireplaces and antique furniture that create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. In the foyer, the wooden paneling and roaring fire will make you feel as if you’ve gone back to the Shakespearean era.

The Townhouse


The Townhouse is an 11-bedroom hotel, situated right in the center of Stratford-upon-Avon. Opposite Shakespeare’s schoolroom and just a short walk from the RSC Theatre, it’s the perfect location for a short break. Grade-II listed, the building is more than 400 years old and has the distinct Tudor facade of white walls with black beams. All the rooms are designed in a contemporary style, but each has its own flair. Check out the hotel’s bar and restaurant, which are popular haunts with locals.