Wondering how to spend a day in Chester? This one-day itinerary will help you to experience the highlights of this charming city.
Despite its relatively modest size, Chester boasts nearly two thousand years of history. The city has witnessed the Romans, Vikings, and Normans. It flourished in the Medieval period and later underwent further transformation during the Georgian and Victorian eras.
Chester is home to many historic attractions, including the most complete set of defensive city walls in Britain. It features beautiful architecture, enjoyable experiences, and a wealth of independent shops, eateries, and art galleries.
Thanks to its compact size, Chester is an excellent destination for a day trip. That’s exactly how I visited, living as I do in the nearby city of Manchester.
This itinerary for a day in Chester includes all the main historic sites of the city, a visit to a museum, and recommendations for cafés and restaurants. I’ve also included one of my favourite afternoon teas in the city for good measure.
Without further ado, let’s dive into how you can maximise your next trip to Chester and enjoy everything the city has to offer.
One Day in Chester Itinerary – Morning
This one day in Chester itinerary assumes that you arrive in the city nice and early in the morning to start your adventure.
10.00am – Walk Chester Walls
Chester boasts the oldest, longest, and most complete defensive city walls in Britain. Some parts of the walls date back to Roman times, nearly 2,000 years ago.
Over the centuries, they were modified and eventually ceased to serve as a defensive feature, becoming a walking promenade in the 18th century.
The main points of entry to the walls are at the four major gateways into the city: Northgate, Eastgate, Watergate, and Bridgegate, with other smaller entry points along the way.
Today, the walls offer a great way to get a feel for the city and provide amazing views over its many historic attractions. For this itinerary, let’s start our walk at Eastgate, above which sits the famous Eastgate Clock.
The elegant Eastgate Clock, installed in Victorian times to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, is now considered the most photographed clock after Big Ben in London.
After admiring the Eastgate Clock, head north along the walls. You will soon reach one of the city’s most famous historic landmarks, Chester Cathedral. Although the current building was constructed in the 16th century, a church has stood there for nearly 1,000 years.
If you wish, you can leave the walls to explore the impressive interiors and tranquil courtyard of Chester Cathedral. Entry is £3.00 (US $3.80) per person. Alternatively, continue walking north along the walls, enjoying the views until you reach the next stop.
10.30am – Pit Stop at Rufus Court
As you continue walking along the city walls and taking in the views, you will shortly come across Rufus Court on your left, near Northgate. This historic courtyard is a hotspot for independent cafes, bars, and restaurants.
It’s a great place to have a quick pit stop with a hot drink and a pastry. Excellent options include Fika+, which you can access directly from the city wall, or the Sunrise Patisserie, specialising in Pastel de Nata, the famous Portuguese tarts.
11.00am – Continue Walk Along Chester Walls
Once refuelled with a sugar and caffeine boost, you can continue your walk along the city walls. Along this section of the walls, you will come across the medieval Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower and Chester Racecourse, the oldest racecourse still in operation in the world.
The next attraction you will encounter is Chester Castle. Founded by William the Conqueror in 1070, only parts of the medieval structure remain today.
The castle is open to visitors from April to October. Be sure to check the opening times on the castle’s website before you go if you’re interested in visiting. Alternatively, you can simply enjoy it from the outside as you continue your walk along the walls.
Shortly after spotting Chester Castle, the city walls will lead you to the picturesque River Dee promenade, known as The Groves. Take some time to stroll along it and enjoy the beautiful views.
11.30am – Roman Amphitheatre and Gardens
Let’s continue along the city walls to the next set of historic attractions. Once you reach Newgate, take the stairs down to ground level. Just outside the gate and city walls, on the right, you will find the small but picturesque Roman Gardens.
These gardens contain numerous Roman artefacts discovered at various archaeological sites around Chester. Take a wander around this tranquil spot and learn more about the history of Roman Chester, thanks to the information boards located throughout the gardens.
Just a short walk from the gardens lies one of Chester’s most significant historic sites, the Roman Amphitheatre. Although today only a section of the amphitheatre is visible, it was once one of the largest in Britain.
The amphitheatre was originally used for entertainment and military training. Today, visitors can view the excavated areas of the amphitheatre and imagine what it was like to witness a spectacle there in times gone by.
Alternative: 10.30am – Chester Walking Tour (90 minutes)
If you would like to learn more about Chester’s fascinating history, instead of embarking on the self-guided walk suggested above, you can join a guided walking tour. Chester Walking Tours run daily guided tours starting at 10.30 am from the Town Hall Visitor Information Centre on Northgate Street.
The tour will cover the attractions featured in this itinerary. You can book your ticket in advance on the official website or directly from the guide on the day. The price of a ticket is £10 (US $12.70) per person.
12.00pm – Lunch
After a visit to the Roman Amphitheatre, you can return to the city walls at Newgate and walk back to where we started, at Eastgate. From there, you can go back to ground level and walk along Eastgate Street.
Eastgate Street is one of the streets where you will find the famous Chester Rows. However, before we take more time to explore them, let’s grab some quick lunch. Be sure to keep it light, as this one-day itinerary in Chester contains a decadent foodie experience later.
Popular choices for a light lunch are the Naughty Badger and the Jaunty Goat, both located on Bridge Street. To get there, just turn left once you reach Chester Cross.
Both places are popular with locals and visitors alike and serve delicious brunch staples, soups, and sandwiches.
One Day in Chester Itinerary – Afternoon
01.00pm – Chester Rows
After a pit stop at one of Chester’s popular independent cafés, it’s time to explore some more. If you chose to grab a bite at one of the suggested eateries, you will start this section of the itinerary on Bridge Street.
From there, take your time to explore the famous Chester Rows. These are a series of covered walkways connecting different buildings along Bridge Street, Eastgate Street, Northgate Street, and Watergate Street.
The Rows are accessible from street level via stairs, and today there are shops on both the ground and first-floor gallery levels.
The Rows are one of the finest examples of Medieval architecture. However, many facades today are Victorian replicas. The oldest surviving facade is the ‘Three Old Arches’ on Bridge Street, dating back to the 13th century.
The streets housing the Rows are a pleasure to wander around as they boast beautiful architecture and a vibrant atmosphere. Today, they accommodate a mix of independent and chain shops, cafés, and art galleries.
Take time to explore the Rows and check out some of the unique businesses located within the area.
02.00pm – Grosvenor Museum
The next stop on this itinerary is the Grosvenor Museum, just a short walk from the Chester Rows. It’s an excellent place to learn about the city’s history.
Discover what life was like in Roman Chester thanks to an extensive collection of archaeological artefacts found in the area, including rare Roman tombstones. There are also fascinating displays on Chester’s natural history and historic fine art from local artists.
The Grosvenor Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, with the displays changing regularly. Check out the museum’s website to find out what’s on during your next visit.
Please note that the museum is closed on Mondays. Admission is free, but donations are always welcome.
03.30pm – Afternoon Tea
For something decadent and fun, I recommend including an afternoon tea experience as part of your one day in Chester. The city boasts great options, from classic afternoon teas in luxurious settings to innovative takes on this fine British tradition.
If you are after a classic experience, book a table at the Chester Grosvenor hotel on Eastgate Street. Their afternoon tea features delicious finger sandwiches, fluffy scones, and delicate sweet delights created by award-winning chefs.
If tea and coffee just don’t cut it, you can elevate your afternoon tea by treating yourself to a glass of champagne.
Traditional afternoon tea at Chester Grosvenor starts from £37.50 (US $48.00) per person. It’s a popular experience, so be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Palm Cocktail Bar and Eatery
For something funkier, head to the Palm Cocktail Bar and Eatery on Watergate Street. With its glamorous pink interiors, this Instagrammable spot is impossible to miss.
Palm’s afternoon tea serves a creative take on sandwiches featuring favourite British ingredients and international favourites, changing with the seasons. My husband and I visited Palm in January and enjoyed their festive selection, including delicious pigs in blankets.
Don’t worry, fluffy scones and sumptuous sweet treats are very much part of the experience, which includes replenishable tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. There’s also a cocktail version available.
Palm’s afternoon tea starts from £25.95 (US $33.00) per person. You can book your table in advance on the eatery’s website.
05.00pm – Grosvenor Park
No matter which afternoon tea you opt for, chances are you’ll be quite full afterwards. Let’s burn off some of those calories in the next part of this itinerary.
If your visit is in the summertime, head to the scenic Grosvenor Park. Just a note: if your visit is in winter, it might be dark by the time you finish your afternoon tea, so you might prefer to skip this section.
Established in the 19th century, the park features tree-lined avenues, ornamental flower beds, and large lawns – the classic elements of traditional Victorian gardens. Overlooking the River Dee, Grosvenor Park is simply a great place to relax and unwind.
06.00pm – Historic Pub
If you’re not quite ready to head home yet and still have the energy, why not enjoy a pint at one of Chester’s historic pubs to end the day on a high note? There are quite a few to choose from.
The Victoria Pub on Watergate Street is believed to be the oldest in Chester. Dating back to the 13th century, the pub features cosy interiors, exposed beams on a low ceiling, and a unique atmosphere that has remained largely unchanged for centuries.
It’s a fitting place to conclude a day of exploring historic Chester before heading home.
When is the Best Time to Visit Chester
Although winters in the UK are relatively mild, I recommend heading to Chester in late spring, summer or early autumn. This is when the temperatures are more pleasant, and the days are longer.
It’s worth noting that summer, especially July and August can get quite busy as this is when the school holidays take place. Be sure to book tables at restaurants, accommodation and activities in advance then to avoid disappointment.
If you do decide to brave the weather in winter, December is a great time to visit Chester as this is when you can experience the charming Christmas markets in the city. Dozens of traders showcase their unique crafts and local produce right in the heart of the city centre.
How to Get to Chester
Chester is connected to major UK cities such as London, Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds by rail. Chester railway station is located a stone’s throw from the city centre, making it a convenient entry point.
You can also drive to Chester, where several car parks are available in the city centre, including Trinity Street, Delamere Street, and New Market. The costs vary slightly among these, but if you are spending a full day in Chester, expect to pay between £6.00 (US $7.60) and £10.00 (US $10.75) for the entire day.
I think taking the train is the easier way to get to Chester, as it simply reduces the hassle of dealing with traffic, which can be busy, especially on weekends.
How to Get Around Chester
Chester boasts a compact and walkable city centre. The attractions in this itinerary are all located within easy walking distance from each other.
Personally, I really enjoyed exploring the city on foot as it gives you a chance to take in the beautiful architecture and spot interesting features, public artwork and independent businesses.
In the past, visitors to Chester could also use the hop on-hop off sightseeing bus service to reduce the amount of walking, but on our last trip in January 2024 it was not operating. I recommend checking the official website of this service before you go if it’s something you would like to do.
Budget for a Day in Chester
The most expensive part of this itinerary will likely be the food, especially the afternoon tea. The historic attractions featured here are either free or low-cost.
If you decide to indulge in an afternoon tea as part of your day in Chester, budget approximately £100 – £120 (US $127 – $153) for two people. Without the afternoon tea, this budget could be easily halved.
Transport costs are not included in this estimate, and they will vary depending on your mode of travel and starting point. If you’re travelling to Chester by train, bear in mind that fares can vary depending on the day of the week.
If you’re planning an overnight stay in the city, add an additional £80 – £140 (US $102 – $178) per night, depending on your chosen accommodation’s standard. Opting for top-end luxury will naturally cost more.
Where to Stay in Chester
If you would like to stay overnight in Chester to extend your trip, here are some great options at different price points.
Budget: The Ormonde Guesthouse
Just a stone’s throw from the famous Chester Rows, this small hotel offers spacious, comfortable rooms with traditional touches. With free parking available, it’s an excellent choice for those driving to Chester.
There is no restaurant on site, but a variety of eateries are within a short distance. Whether you’re looking for breakfast or dinner, you’ll find what you need nearby.
Mid-Range: Oddfellows Chester Hotel & Apartments
Occupying an elegant Georgian building, Oddfellows hotel features unique interiors that blend classic design, original features, and modern touches with a splash of quirkiness. Each room in this boutique hotel has its own unique look and personality.
Oddfellows Chester is renowned for its excellent restaurant, offering a stylish setting and a sumptuous menu of modern British cuisine. For an indulgent treat, be sure to try their unique take on afternoon tea.
Luxury: The Chester Grosvenor
Situated in the heart of Chester city centre, The Chester Grosvenor hotel is a historic establishment offering traditional luxury and unparalleled comfort. Each room is individually decorated, featuring luxury finishes and stylish furniture.
The hotel houses two excellent restaurants: the award-winning The Arkle and the Parisian-inspired La Brasserie. To elevate your Chester experience, be sure to take advantage of the Grosvenor’s exceptional spa.
I hope this itinerary for an unforgettable day in Chester will inspire you to visit this charming historic city. You could even extend this to a whole weekend, including more experiences in the city itself or in nearby attractions like the famous Chester Zoo.
If you’re interested in exploring other great destinations in this part of the UK, take a look at these guides to weekends in Manchester and Liverpool. Although different from Chester in their feel and scale, these cities offer a wealth of attractions and activities to explore.
For history lovers, adding the city of York to their bucket list is a must. It’s one of those rare places where the marks left by the Romans, Vikings, Normans, and many others are still visible.
FAQs: How to Spend a Day in Chester
One day in Chester is enough to see the city’s main historic attractions. If you would like to take your time and include visits to attractions not located in the city centre, such as Chester Zoo, then allocating a weekend would be more sensible for this trip.
Yes, Chester is absolutely worth visiting, especially if you are exploring nearby cities or national parks in the North West or Wales. Chester boasts a beautiful historic city centre, featuring the most complete Roman and medieval defensive walls in Britain, charming architecture, and fun activities for the whole family. With its green spaces and a waterside promenade, it’s an ideal place for a leisurely stroll.
Chester is renowned for being home to many significant heritage sites. These include the largest Roman amphitheatre in Britain, the oldest racecourse, the most complete defensive city walls, and the unique Chester Rows shopping galleries. All of these are located within Chester’s compact city centre, making exploration effortless and enjoyable.
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