As you’d expect, Stratford-upon-Avon tourist attractions are all centred around Shakespeare himself. Our guide gives you an introduction to the town’s five hotspots that are owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, each of which gives a fascinating perspective into the life – and death – of William Shakespeare. You’ll also hear about some of the town’s stunning parks, as well as its popular racecourse.
Attractions in Stratford-upon-Avon
A mecca for lovers of literature the world over, the birthplace of William Shakespeare has been attracting people to Henley Street in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon for centuries – including famous names such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and John Keats. If you’re interested in following in their footsteps, check out the town’s star attraction, Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
Speaking of following in famous people’s footsteps, why not walk the route that William Shakespeare would have wandered to court his bride to be and make your way to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage & Gardens? Named the most romantic cottage in the country, it’s one of the most popular attractions in town. If you’re interested in its 600-year history, the 13 generations of the Hathaway family that lived there or the Shakespeare-inspired sculpture trail that weaves through the gardens, then read more about Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.
Hall’s Croft is another of Stratford-upon-Avon’s attractions that’s owned and operated by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It’s the marvellous Jacobean home of Susanna Hall, Shakespeare’s daughter, where she lived with her husband, the renowned physician John Hall. In fact, the restored walled garden is home to some rather weird and wonderful plant species, which the doctor would have incorporated into his treatments. You can explore the grounds for yourself and learn about the family’s history.
If you’re planning a visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place, Hall’s Croft, Anne Hathaway’s Gardens and Mary Arden’s Farm, by buying a Full Story ticket, you’ll save up to 60% on the total cost of individual tickets for each attraction.
Mary Arden’s Farm is the home of Shakespeare’s mother and is still working as a Tudor farm as it would have done back when she was growing up. So, if you pay a visit, you’ll be taken back in time to experience the sights, sounds and smells of what life would have been like way back when. You can watch as the farmer’s wife cooks up a meal using home-grown food in the farmhouse kitchen, observe the daily falconry displays and also do a bit of geese herding!
Our tour of Stratford-upon-Avon’s historic buildings must come to an end. And what more fitting place to end it than the final resting place of William Shakespeare? The Holy Trinity Church is where he was both baptised and buried. It’s the reason why well over 200,000 tourists come to the banks of the River Avon to visit the Grade I-listed church every year. It’s just downstream from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, so if you’re in town for a show, you can wander down through the Avon Bank Gardens afterwards and pay your respects when the church is beautifully lit up at night.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
Shakespeare’s New Place, which is the fifth and final attraction owned by Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust, heads up our list of Stratford-upon-Avon’s beautiful parks and gardens.
The site, on Chapel Lane, less than 10 minutes from our Central hotel, itself is where Shakespeare’s family home once stood. Bought with the proceeds of his fame and fortune, it was the finest house in Stratford and where he is believed to have written The Tempest. Sadly, we can’t see it today – there’s a story behind why, too.
After Shakespeare died, the house changed ownership for a handful of generations before becoming the home of a clergyman. Agitated by the sheer number of people coming to visit Shakespeare’s final home, one thing led to another before the Reverend Francis Gastrell retaliated by demolishing the house in 1759. As you’d expect, people didn’t take too kindly to his decision and he was driven out of town. Nowadays, Shakespeare’s New Place is a registered garden that’s been designed to reflect the footprint of Shakespeare’s family home. Visit and you’ll get an idea of the impressive scale of New Place, as well as the opportunity to see some incredible commissioned artworks and sculptures that commemorate the life and works of the world’s most famous playwright.
Interested in Stratford-upon-Avon’s other parks? We’ve already mentioned the beautiful Avon Bank Gardens that run south from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to the Holy Trinity Church. The Bancroft Gardens are even more impressive though. They’re on the north side of the theatre, running upstream along the riverside. There aren’t many better places to go for a wander while you’re in town. The gardens themselves have fountains, bridges, a human sundial, performance areas, seating spaces, statues and – last but not least – the Gower memorial that immortalises Shakespeare and four characters from his plays. These include Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Falstaff and Prince Hal – symbolising philosophy, tragedy, comedy and history.
On the other side of the River Avon, The Recreation Ground – or ‘Rec’ as locals call it – is the town’s largest public space. There are football pitches, a children’s playground, an outdoor gym, paddling pool, zip-wire, a bandstand, bowling club and mini golf. It’s also home to other events, including the Shakespeare Marathon and the Stratford Food Festival.
The town’s only sporting stadium is Stratford Racecourse. It’s a popular racetrack with a reputation as one of the country’s top small-fence courses, hosting 18 fixtures each year. If you’re around for a race day and you don’t happen to have your glad rags on you, not to fear; Stratford is one of the more casual racecourses in the country.