William Shakespeare, Capability Brown, Francis Bacon, Leonardo da Vinci, Rube Goldberg machines, time-travelling wizards, Tudor ghosts and firework displays have all played their part in Stratford-upon-Avon’s culture scene. As you will see from our guide to the town’s galleries, museums and events, there’s no shortage of interesting places for you to explore.
Culture in Stratford-upon-Avon
A 20-minute drive from our Stratford-upon-Avon Central hotel, Compton Verney Art Gallery is well worth going to see. The 18th century mansion is surrounded by 120 acres of grounds landscaped by the legendary Capability Brown. The parklands are so stunning that on sunny days, it almost seems a shame to step inside. But when you make your way through the doors of the Grade I-listed Compton Verney House, you’ll find an award-winning gallery that’s home to six permanent collections that range from Neapolitan art from between the 17th and 19th centuries to British portraits from the Tudor period, Chinese bronzes and much, much more.
Stratford-upon-Avon’s museums really do range from the downright weird to the wonderful. The MAD Museum for example is well and truly one of a kind – it’s the only museum in the country dedicated to Mechanical Art and Design. In this case, MAD is an acronym as well as an adjective!
To give you an idea of what you can find there, try and imagine some of the most complex marble runs you’ll ever see, Rube Goldberg machines along with all kinds of awesome exhibits where you’re actively encouraged to press buttons, pull levers and play. It’s a refreshingly interactive place and a lot of fun. If you’re interested and you want to find out more, we’ve dedicated a page to the MAD Museum page.
Depending on what time of year you’re visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, you should keep an eye out for some of our most popular annual events. The Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival has been running for over a decade, with talks from celebrity authors, workshops, theatre productions, quizzes and debates taking place over the course of a week in April, the majority of which are held at Stratford ArtHouse.
Stratford-upon-Avon’s Annual River Festival is an award-winning two-day boaters’ celebration taking place on the banks of the River Avon in July. More than 70,000 people make their way to The Recreation Ground to take part in the festivities, which include live music, street entertainment, craft traders, food stalls, pop-up bars and an incredible 100-boat-strong parade and firework display. It’s absolutely free and one of the best weekends on the local calendar.
The Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations take place every year on the weekend closest to 23rd April – Shakespeare’s birthday. The event itself is a tradition that goes back nearly 200 years, bringing people and performers from around the world, as well as the local community, to celebrate the life and works of William Shakespeare. Everyone gathers to see the parade make its way through town before the streets overflow with music and drama. Plus, the five famous Shakespeare houses run a series of fun activities and events.
Last but not least, here’s one for the foodies. The Stratford Town Centre Food Festival takes place in September, with well over 100 stalls of local produce where you can peruse and purchase all kinds of delicious food and drink. There’s also a programme of workshops and demonstrations from some of the town’s top chefs. Meanwhile, the Taste and Ale Trail gives you the chance to explore some of the town’s favourite independent restaurants, pubs and bars.