Stratford-upon-Avon is a historic market town located in the county of Warwickshire, about 146 kilometers northwest of London. The town is located on the river Avon, hence the naming. However, it is more commonly known as just Stratford. There are many things to do in Stratford and some attractions you can’t miss while visiting the town.
Stratford is most popularly known as the birthplace and burial place of the legendary playwright William Shakespeare and attracts many tourists from around the world every year. Over 2.7 million people visit Stratford every year, so if Stratford is on your bucket list, keep reading to learn about the activities and things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Why visit Stratford? What is it known for?
Stratford is one of the most popular tourist destinations because it is associated with the playwright William Shakespeare.
However, Stratford is also a beautiful town with many medieval architectures as well as modern museums throughout the town. So many architectural establishments from the 16th century are preserved so well that you might feel like you took a trip back in time using a time machine.
Places to visit in Stratford
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Royal Shakespeare Theater is one of the 3 theatres in Stratford owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Royal Shakespeare Theatre is considered the flagship theatre of the Royal Shakespeare Company and is located in a picturesque location on the bank of the River of Avon. This is a location you must visit if you’re visiting Stratford.
The theatre regularly hosts many plays by Shakespeare, and the theatre setting is also inspired by theatres back in Shakespeare’s time. Royal Shakespeare Theatre facility consists of a “one-room” theatre where the audience and actors share the same space, similar to the setting back in Shakespeare’s time.
Furthermore, there is a rooftop restaurant on the third floor of the facility where you can have a pre-theater meal. There is also an exhibition space with displays relating to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s productions.
You can also head up to its 118-foot-high tower, there is a stunning view of the town and its surrounding area from up there.
Birthplace of Shakespeare and Shakespeare Center
You can head to Shakespeare’s birthplace next, on Henley Street in the town. It is the birthplace of Shakespeare and where he spent his childhood, so it’s a historic place in its own right.
It’s a two-storied, timber-framed house that was carefully restored. However, the interior is unaltered and paints a clear picture of the residential lifestyle of a lower-middle-class family in the mid-16th century.
Upon admission, you’ll be offered 3 exhibitions – Shakespeare’s Treasure, Shakespeare Aloud, and Glover’s Workshop.
Shakespeare’s Treasure is a rotating display of objects and stuff used by Shakespeare; Shakespeare Aloud is Shakespeare’s plays acted out by professional actors; Glover’s Workshop is a display of tools used by Shakespeare in his early life, from when he was a Glove Maker.
Alongside the timber, house is Shakespeare Center, the headquarters of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and has its library and study rooms.
Church of the Holy Trinity and Shakespeare’s Tomb
Church of the Holy Trinity is a 13th-century parish in the Old town of Stratford-upon-Avon. It is best known for being the church where Shakespeare was baptized and where he was buried. Church of the Holy Trinity is also popularly known as Shakespeare’s church and gets over 200,000 visitors yearly.
Besides Shakespeare, his wife Anne Hathaway and his daughter Susana Hall are buried on this church premises. The original building for the Church of Holy Trinity is also the oldest in Stratford and dates back to the 12th century.
Shakespeare’s tomb lies in the chancel between the high altar and the pulpit and has Shakespeare’s epitaph inscribed on a stone slab that reads – “Good friend for Jesus sake forebeare, to digg the dust enclosed heare. Bleste be ye man y’spares the stones and curst be he y’moves my bones.”
William Shakespeare was baptized in the church on 26 April 1564 and buried on 25 April 1616. Based on the historical value and how beautiful this church is, if you’re in Stratford with your family, this church is also one of the places you must visit.
Magic Alley, located in the Bell Court Shopping Center of the town, is one of the most fun things to do with the family in Stratford. It’s an emporium in Stratford that sells many magic-related things and has some fun activities.
Magic Alley is famous for selling potions, spells, candles, incense, puzzles, and steampunk-themed figurines. Furthermore, you can take part in an “Enchanted Treasure Trail,” where you take part in an interactive quest through themed rooms solving riddles and puzzles to gather the hidden treasure.
Stratford Butterfly Farm
Visiting the Butterfly Farm in Stratford can be a good break from its many Shakespeare-themed locations. Located on the bank of the River of Avon, it is located right beside Royal Shakespeare Theater.
Stratford Butterfly Farm is the UK’s largest tropical butterfly attraction and there are multiple activities to be done there. Besides seeing hundreds of tropical butterflies flying within a large greenhouse that you can walk through, you’ll also find waterfalls, ponds and tropical plants in the greenhouse.
Furthermore, in the premises you’ll also find Discovery Room, Caterpillar room, Minibeast Metropolis and Arachnoland, each having different exhibitions.
In the Discovery Room, you’ll get to know about butterflies’ life cycle; in the Caterpillar room you can check out their Butterfly breeding program. In the Minibeast Metropolis you’ll find various other insects on display like – stick insects, centipedes, beetles, praying mantis and leaf cutting ants. In Arachnoland you’ll find various spider species to view like – tarantulas, black widows and world’s largest spider – called Goliath Birdeater.
You’ll also find a nature-inspired gift shop in the butterfly farm, if you want to buy some souvenirs or gifts from your visit.
The Mechanical Art and Design (MAD) Museum
The MAD museum is the only permanent display of this kind in the UK as it displays many Kinetic Art and Automata (interactive Sculptures) sourced from many pioneering artists around the globe.
Kids, in particular, will have fun visiting the MAD museum, so this is another good activity to do in Stratford-upon-Avon with family. In the Museum, you’ll find many interactive sculptures made with moving parts that you can also interact with yourself. Some attractions include – marble runs, high-tech robots, flying mechanical birds, 3D faces, etc.
You should have at least one hour on hand if you want to get the full experience of the MAD museum. The Museum is located on Henley Street in Stradford, and you’ll also find a gift shop on the museum premises.
Besides the MAD museum, the UK has other interesting museums you can check out!
Stratford Armouries is located on the outskirts of Stratford, in the former RAF site on Snitterfield. Four galleries offer a mixture of exhibitions, including one on Winston Churchill.
The Armoury boasts a huge collection of a broad range of historic armours and arms on display, assembled over a period of 250 years. Some of the highlights of the museum are – one of the world’s oldest canon which dates back to 1450, a fully armoured Indian elephant, and a giant crossbow based upon an original design by Leonardo da Vinci.
If you’re into history and arms or both, Stratford Armouries is a must-visit for you while visiting Stratford.
Things to do in Stratford
Alongside visiting the museums, the armoury and many Shakespeare-inspired places in Stratford, there are many more interesting and fun things to do there.
Visit the Canal Basin
The Canal Basin interconnects the main shopping area and the Shakespearean theaters and could be a perfect place to visit on a lazy afternoon.
It’s one of the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon for couples, so if you’re visiting Stratford with your significant other, spend an afternoon/evening with them roaming around the Canal Basin.
There’s a riverside garden, and you’ll find a boat for sightseeing trips, and you can hire them by the hour. If you get hungry, head to the ice cream burges for having some lunch, or have some local baguettes there.
Take Guided Tours
Stratford offers road and canal guided tours for tourists and visits most of the significant places in Stratford.
The Canal tours last around 45 minutes and include narrated audio. In the tour, you’ll discover the history of Stratford, the Wildlife of and alongside the river, and things you never knew about Shakespeare while taking a ride through the canal in a rowboat.
On the other hand, you can also take an open-air bus tour that starts its journey from Pen and Parchment Inn on Warwick Road. The bus will go through most of the notable attractions in Stratford, including – Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and Mary Arden’s Farm.
Hire a Boat
There are more than 3 miles of river to be explored by boat. You can hire different boats offered by Avon Boating while in Stratford.
Avon Boating was established in 1898 and offers rowing boats, self-drive motor boats, punts, and canoes from Late March to October.
This is one of the best ways to spend a good time with couples in Stratford.
Shop in the Farmer’s Markets
If you’d like to buy some local produce, visit the Farmer’s Markets in Stratford. There are two popular Farmer’s Markets in Stratford, and they are available 3 days every week.
In most Stalls, you’ll find stallholders selling their own products and you don’t have to have any doubts about their quality. They also use local ingredients wherever possible, so you’ll get a taste of Stratford if you shop there.
There are two markets, one on Rother Street and the other on Waterside. The one on Rother street is open every Friday and Saturday, and the Waterside Upmarket is open every Sunday.
Some more things to know about Stratford
- Stratford is about 146 kilometers northwest of London, 35 Kilometers southeast of Birmingham and 13 kilometers southwest of Warwick.
- It takes a little over 2 hours to go to Stratford from London if you take the train. There are usually 4 trains each day that heads to Stratford from London
- Stratford has a maritime climate, which means, there are no extreme high or low temperatures throughout the year.
- The Warmest month in Stratford is July and the coldest is January. In July, the average maximum temperature is 22.8 °C, while in January, it’s 7.4 °C.
- According to 2011 data, the town had a population of 27,894.
Stratford-upon-Avon is a beautiful medieval market town with many places to visit and things to do. So whether you’re visiting with family or with your significant other, this town has something to offer to you.
Being the birthplace of Shakespeare, this town perfectly tributes him with its many establishments relating to Shakespeare. Furthermore, there are many more activities and places to visit.
If you’re into traveling, you should surely include Stratford on your bucket list, the town certainly won’t disappoint.