Last week, we left London for a two day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon. Although the trip was marred by three cancelled trains and some housing issues, my Aunt Jill, cousin Kendra, and I still managed to do some lovely sightseeing.
I had always pictured Stratford-upon-Avon to be a town that was rife with tourists, and didn’t actually have many people living there. As it turns out, the tourists flood the place mainly toward the end of the week and the beginning of the weekend. In fact, the first night we were there, we encountered only locals.
The town owes its fame to William Shakespeare, who was both born and buried in Stratford. The majority of the sight seeing options there are Shakespeare related—but even if you aren’t a fan of the bard, it is a quaint, easy-to-navigate place that is perfect for a weekend trip. There are myriad Bed and Breakfasts to choose from, as well as various restaurants on Sheep Street. While many of the eateries are a little on the expensive side, you can typically get a discount if you will be attending a show at the theatre later in the evening.
Armed with my copy of Rick Steves’, we decided to take the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour, which takes tourists around to the various sights. The only catch is that you have to pay for entrance to each historical site in addition to the bus tour. (There are options to save money, such as bundling the five main houses, or choosing three of the five.) But since we were low on funds, we chose to stick to the bus—which offers several audio recordings about the different areas of town you are driving through, as well as the historical sights—take pictures of the outsides of the buildings, and visit Shakespeare’s grave inside Trinity Church (the cheapest option of the sights, which only asks for a £2 donation for the upkeep of the building).
While it would have been nice to have seen the inside of the house where Shakespeare was born, being in a place that revels in its history and the greatest playwright who ever lived was rejuvenating. I will absolutely return to Stratford-upon-Avon to see some more sights, as well as catch a show at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
In addition to the basic sightseeing, I would also recommend the following to any other first-timers:
Where to stay: Quilt and Croissants Bed and Breakfast. The beds are comfortable, the free (full English!) breakfast is delicious, and the house is an easy 10 minute walk from the train station.
Additional activities: When you buy your tickets for the bus or entries to the historical sights, add on the boat ride. The Avon river is a beautiful, winding tributary that offers a slightly different glimpse of the town. Not to mention, its a nice way to relax after a day of sight seeing.