Stratford-upon-Avon

(Last Updated On: 13th November 2020)

A visitor’s guide to Stratford-upon-Avon and its surrounding attractions… 

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Royal Shakespeare Theatre within Bancroft Gardens

Literary fiends will revel in Stratford-upon-Avon. It is the birthplace and gravesite of famous playwright and poet William Shakespeare. Everywhere you look, there will be literary homages to the writer, with many contemporary artists travelling here for inspiration. There’s no better place to kickstart your creative juices as well. Enjoy a walk along Stratford’s Historic Spine, a route where most of the town’s important and historic buildings are sited, with many of the buildings connected to the Bard himself.  

Stratford is within the rural countryside of Warwickshire and is close to the both the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natual Beauty and the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – perfect for endless walks, with most pitstops being dog-friendly.  

The town itself is full of independent shops, with an emphasis on local food and drink. Winding streets open themselves up to courtyard boutiques, and the River Avon provides a picturesque backdrop while offering various activities – from stand-up paddle boarding to romantic boat trips where you can recite original poetry to one another, even if it’s not quite Shakespeare!   

With multiple festivals and seen as a cultural hub of Warwickshire, Stratford-upon-Avon is a feast for the senses all year round.  


Sightseeing & Activities 

William Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

William Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Author: John

Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust looks after five historical properties that are available to visitShakespeare’s Birthplace, Mary Arden’s Farm, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s New Place, and Hall’s Croft. Each depict a moment in the Bard’s time, with antiques on display, beautiful gardens to wander around, and professional performers that bring the stories to life. Combine this with the Tudor World Museum and you will have the most engaging history lesson.  

Continuing the Shakespeare theme, there is the famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Before your visit, it is worth looking online to see if there are any shows you can book tickets for, as these are incredibly popular and attract some of the most talented actors. Tours are also available, where you can see behind-the-scenes, from the makeup department to the props. 

Theatre passion aside, Stratford-upon-Avon is located picturesquely against the River Avon, meaning there are a variety of water sports to try, including river cruises. Bancroft River Cruises run for one hour and can include extras such as afternoon tea or private charters. It’s a perfect way to discover Stratford from a different vantage point. 

If you don’t have your river legs, then Stratford Bike Hire is available. Based in a Royal Mail train carriage, you can hire a bike and enjoy a 5-mile traffic-free cycle path along the Stratford Greenway, discovering the local countryside. 


…For Kids (little and big) 

Magic Alley 

There’s a bit of magic to Stratford, and it can be found at Magic Alley. Home to The Enchanted Manor, where stories spring into life and a magic school awaits you, it is also the location of The Emporium where everything from spells to candles can be bought. There are curious giftsvintage games, and books you never knew existed. Indulge yourself in a tarot card reading, treat your loved one to a unique present, or graduate with a diploma in Wizardry. This spellbinding attraction is like no other.  

The MAD Museum 

The Mechanical Art and Design Museum is one of Warwickshire’s best loved museums, and the country’s only permanent venue for mechanical art. Discover the creativity behind the science through interactive exhibits and incredible gift sets to take home with you. In particular, the museum focuses on kinetic art and automata. If you’ve ever been inspired by Scrapheap Challenge or Wallace and Gromit, this is the exhibit for you. 

Recreation Ground 

Known as the ‘Rec’ by the locals, Stratford’s Recreation Ground is on Swan’s Nest Lane. It is a large open space and plays host to many local activities and events throughout the year. When not in use for a celebration, facilities to enjoy with the family include the senior and junior football pitches, the pavilion, playground, paddling pool, outdoor gym, bandstand, bowling club, and perhaps most importantly – Stratford’s Premier Minigolf.  

Compton Verney 

Compton Verney

Compton Verney. Author: Tony Hisgett

(a 20-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon) 

Both an art gallery and 120-acre park, there’s something for everyone to discover at Compton Verney. Explore the historic Capability’ Brown landscape and world-class exhibitions and, if that wasn’t enough adventure for you, there is a dedicated adventure park as well. Various events are held throughout the year, both art and wellness focussed, and the grounds are dog-friendly.


…Time To Relax 

Stratford Manor 

(a 5-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon)  

Situated just 6 miles up the road from Stratford-upon-Avon is a beautiful, dog-friendly estate which aside from offering recreational activities also has a transformative spa. Partnered with ELEMIS, a luxurious UK skin and body care brand, you can enjoy a range of treatments at Stratford Manor, from facials, waxing and signature rituals. Let your stress melt away with a point-to-point massage.  

Hands on Hot Stone 

(a 5-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon) 

For a truly hands-on experience, visit Rheya, a professional massage therapist from Bangkok, Thailand. Set in the countryside on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon, Rheya offers various massage treatments to help you unwind and relax. 

Billesley Manor 

(a 15-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon)  

Billesley Manor

Billesley Manor. Author: Richard Croft

A luxury hotel and spa, various treatments are available to guests who are not staying overnight. Decléor’s holistic facials are famous worldwide for their results – discover your glowing complexion with 100% pure, preservative-free essential oils. Fitness facilities are also available, though alternatively you can enjoy yoga outside next to the fountain – such beautiful scenery!  


Parks & Nature 

Bancroft Gardens 

Located by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the centre of Stratford, Bancroft Gardens are the dreamy backdrop to the River Avon. True to its heritage, a performance centre is on one side, where outdoor theatre is often performed. There is also a Swan fountain, various statues, and two bridges over the canal basin and lock. It is the quiet slice of green within the town – a perfect pitstop for lunch or just resting the sightseeing legs.  

Hall’s Croft 

Not only is Hall’s Croft the Jacobean home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her husband, physician John Hall, it is also the location of a beautiful medicinal walled garden. Dr Hall would have used many of the herbs within his remedies, and you can enjoy the fragrant cures on your historic stroll. Hall’s Croft is centrally located within Stratford.  

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Garden 

(a 5-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon)  

Discover a romantic cottage garden, once home to the wife of William Shakespeare. There are nine acres of woodland, orchards and gardens to explore, and very often or not a player or two will be reciting a sonnet in the arbour. If not, you can be sure to see the various sculptures dotted about on the trail, all inspired by Shakespeare 

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Stratford-upon-Avon

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Author: RTPeat

Welcombe Hills 

(a 10-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon)  

Enjoy delightful walks through grassland and woodland on the Welcome Hills. The reserve may have got its name from a historic well found here with its inscription ‘SJC 1686’. Margaret, daughter of William Clopton who died in 1592, supposedly drowned here. It was around this time that Shakespeare was writing his famous play ‘Hamlet’, and it is believed that this tragic event provided the inspiration for his ‘Ophelia’ and her lonely death. Now though, there is no tragedy, only the sound of the green woodpeckers on your walk.  

Butterfly Farm  

(a 10-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon)  

A perfect day out no matter the weather. Discover beautiful butterflies in the exotic environment of tropical blossoms, splashing waterfalls and fish-filled pools. Very often, Stratford Butterfly Farm will host themed events, so if you are visiting around Halloween or Christmas, there are sure to be various decorations to enhance your stay. From the wildflower garden to the rainforest flight areas, Stratford Butterfly Farm is fun for all ages. Don’t forget to pack the camera! 


Events 

Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations (April) 

A unique event that takes places in central Stratford every year on the weekend closest to William Shakespeare’s birthday (23rd April)The town enjoys a large parade, and the streets overflow with music, pageantry and drama. There is a set programme of activities and has something for all of the family, with many choosing to dress up for the occasion.  

Bidford Vintage Gathering (May) 

(a 15-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon) 

Step back in time and discover tractors, traction engines, motorbikes and a range of classic cars at the Bidford-upon-Avon’s Vintage Gathering. Vehicles are at least 25 years old, and there are also stalls, a beer tent and funfair to keep the whole family entertained and to raise money for local charities and groups. 

The River Festival (July) 

Enjoy boatloads of music and festivities on the first weekend of July. An annual event, The Stratford River Festival takes place on the banks of the River Avon in the recreational ground and brings together the whole community. Discover live music, market traders, and delicious food and drink outlets as you enjoy the summer entertainment. Bob along the waters, or simply bob your head to the music.  

The Food Festival (September) 

As part of your leisurely sight-seeing in Stratford, partake in various mouth-watering treats as the town comes alive in September with food stalls, chef demonstrations, bake-offs and workshops. Enjoying Stratford’s fantastic food and drink scene is completely free, though some competitive events may require a small fee. One of the fan-favourite events is the Taste and Ale trails, where visitors can discover some of the best independent places to eat and drink in the town.  

The Music Festival (October) 

Enjoy a week of lunchtime and evening concerts every October. The Stratford Music Festival focusses on young artists and high-quality chamber music, for the whole community to enjoy. All productions are held at the Stratford Play House which is within the heart of the town.  

Stratford-upon-Avon’s Mop Fair (October) 

Two days in October, Stratford’s streets will close for the famous Mop Fair, which goes back hundreds of years. By custom, the mayor will open the fair following a roast lunch and then will choose which funfair ride to go on. On the first morning of the fair, children can enjoy the rides free of charge. The main mop is held on the second day, and a week after a smaller fair called the Runaway Mop is held. Whichever day you visit, expect loud noises, bright colours, and a family-friendly atmosphereKeep an eye open for the dates! 

The Contemporary Arts Festival (October / November) 

Taking place at the end of October, enjoy a couple days of premium artwork at Stratford Town Hall, right in the centre of the busy town. View high-quality pieces of art, which will be available for purchase from local artists, or discover a new style which will be available to commission, so you can take home that one-of-a-kind item. Entry is completely free, and a small café is on site for light refreshments.  

The Literary Festival (November) 

As Shakespeare’s birthplace, it wouldn’t be right without some sort of literary celebration. In November, The Literary Festival allows people to meet their favourite authors and celebrities, as well as a chance to learn new skills and network. From children’s poetry workshops to establishing links with literary agents, the festival is nothing short of wit and wonder. It takes place in various locations across town, as well as online.  


Walking 

Charlecote Park

Charlecote Park. Author: Tony Hidgett

There are a number of Warwickshire walks around Stratford-upon-Avon. To fully see what Stratford has to offer, enjoy a short circular walk along the River Avon up to the racecourse. This 1.5-mile route will pass key landmarks such as the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Stratford Butterfly Farm. Alternatively, follow the River Avon all the way to Marcliff on a leisurely walk or hop on your bike and embark on a 26-mile canal ride all the way to Birmingham. If you are a member of National Trust, Charlecote Park is only a 15-minute drive away and has a deer park and stunning waterfall.

Useful Links: 

Stratford Upon Avon Historic Walking Guide: https://www.visitstratforduponavon.co.uk/leaflets 

National Trust, In and Around Warwickshire: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/days-out/regionmidlands/in-and-around-warwickshire  


Shopping 

Bell Court 

Situated in the centre of Stratford, Bell Court is an upmarket retail outlet, home to the Everyman cinema, and a mix of national and independent bars, restaurants and shops. A vibrant courtyard, only steps away from the regular high-street.  

Maybird Shopping Park 

Just on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon is the Maybird Shopping Park – a selection of high-street stores in one outlet which will cover your every need. From Union Street, you can take a left onto the A3400 and follow it onto Birmingham Road where Maybird is situated. It is only a 10-minute walk from Stratford town centre. Alternatively, leave junction 15 off the M40 and follow the A46 to the A3400 where Maybird will be on your left-hand-side.  

Independent Local Stores 

Stratford-upon-Avon is dedicated to showcasing local and artisan producers of the region. As well as a bi-monthly farmers market, there are hideaway shops all along the streets, from Magic Alley to the Cosy Chic Pet Boutique.  


For Bigger Kids Only 

The Dough House  

(a 5-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon)  

Learn homely cooking techniques and enjoy unique baking experiences at The Dough House. You can have a session with just your group, or you can join others and make new friends. The Dough House offers a range of experiences, including mezze and flatbread experience, traditional afternoon tea class, and ravioli creation. If you’re looking to fine-tune your cooking skills or simply want to enjoy good conversation over good food, look no further.  

Shakespeare Distillery  

(a 10-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon) 

While you can pop into the dedicated Shakespeare Distillery shop on the High Street, you can also visit them directly – it’s only a short drive from the centre of town. Enrol yourself in their Gin School if you fancy becoming a distiller or simply would like to create your own blend of gin or enjoy a Cocktail Masterclass and learn from their in-house Master Mixologist. Distillery tours run regularly, but if you would like a longer session and are short on sightseeing time, why not purchase a ticket on one of their Gin Cruises? An hour-long cruise on the beautiful River Avon, seeing the riverside sights while enjoying a tutored tasting. If craft gin is your tipple, Shakespeare Distillery deserves a tasting.  

Welcombe Hills Vineyard  

(a 10-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon) 

Run by husband-and-wife team Nichola and Jonathan Kelsey, discover luxury English wine or dare to try their unique Grin: English Grape Infused Gin, made with their award-winning Sauvignon Blanc and Bacchus wine. Various vineyard tours and tasting experiences are available, as well as a local store to purchase single bottles or cases. For something that started as a ‘hobby vineyard’, it has certainly come a long way.  

Wellford-on-Avon Golf Course 

(a 10-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon) 

There are many golf courses near Stratford, but we have a soft spot for Wellford-on-Avon. A family run, 18-hole course, there are beautiful water features and stunning views whichever way you look. The course also stands out because of the contrast between the two nines. The front nine uses the undulating land with well-manicured greens; the back nine is longer and flatter, but that’s where the water features come into play. Finally, the 18th hole is not dissimilar to the 17th at Sawgrass, not that we’re giving anything away…  

SUP Stratford 

(a 10-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon) 

Stand up paddle boarding is a SUPerb sport for all abilities and fitness. With the River Avon a slow moving, shallow river, it is ideal for beginners and advance paddlers wanting to learn new skills. Book a session with an instructor and learn the basic skills before embarking on a tour into Stratford and back – a completely different way to sightsee!  


The Food Scene 

Bakeries and Snacks 

MOR Bakery & Kitchen  

An independent sourdough bakery and kitchen, MOR is most known for its excellent brunch and Monsoon Estate coffee. Choose to sit either in the kitchen or enjoy a takeaway from its small hatch. Fantastic price for expert baking.  

Knead It!  

It doesn’t get fresher than this. Enjoy bread and cakes which use local produce from Stratford, plus fruit, vegetables and herbs from the garden and greenhouse, which is owned by Knead It! You can choose to watch your bread being baked in the cottage kitchen before you take it home. Fresh and fantastic.  

Cornish Bakery 

The company has taken contemporary Cornish bakery across the country, and Stratford is no exception. Discover innovative flavours and friendly staff – it’s no wonder the locals regularly come back here for their morning pastry and coffee, which often has a deal on.  

Marco Italian Deli 

You can either sit inside the bistro or enjoy fine sandwiches to take away. With a choice of white or brown bread, they are deep filled using the freshest ingredients with all the succulent meats cooked in the kitchen.  

Ice Cream Boat  

Award-winning and a small local legend, the Ice Cream Boat can be found in Stratford’s Canal Basin. Not only is there wonderful ice cream, but they serve hot and cold drinks, snacks, slushies and coffees. The claim to fame is the coffee is specially blended by a local friend and expert who has worked for some of the top chefs in the UK, including Rick Stein. 

The Farm 

(a 10-minute drive from Stratford-upon-Avon) 

The Farm is a family-run collective of artisan food producers, farm shop, delicatessen and whole food café. They are dedicated to supporting local brands and independent suppliers. Enjoy a purchase within their shop, or perhaps take part in an educational workshop, nutritional seminar, foraging workshop, or simply watch their demonstrations. With onsite micro kitchens, you can learn exactly what you’re buying and how it can be cooked, direct from the producer. 

Lunch and Dinner  

33 The Scullery  

For mouth-watering simple, local food, look no further. 33 The Scullery has scoured Warwickshire and the surrounding counties to find the best farmers and suppliers, in order to bring you the freshest seafood, classic game, and vegan delights. Takeaway and delivery are also available.  

The Woodsman 

The Woodsman brings a traditional method to the table, celebrating wild food. All ingredients are sourced from the bountiful English countryside, the same lands have been hunted and foraged on for thousands of years. The historic nature of the restaurant probably stems from its personal history, having played host to The Royal Shakespeare Club’s annual dinner from as early as 1824. 

Loxley’s Restaurant and Wine Bar  

Previously a clothes shop in the heart of Stratford, it is now one of the top venues in town. A courtyard at the back is perfect for al fresco dining, or you can settle down in front of the log fire for those chillier afternoons. A specific cocktail menu is available and as it’s only a two-minute walk away from some of the tourist hotspots, why not pop in, grab yourself a G&T, and peruse the menu while you rest your feet? 

Lambs Restaurant 

Consistently tasty, Lambs is most known for its set menu deals – a perfect opportunity to try all the great food, and not having to choose. There are also fish specials that rotate regularly, with a speedy service perfect for pre-theatre dining.  

El Greco 

A contemporary restaurant that focusses on hearty, Greek family cooking. Chef Patron Dimitrios is in charge in the kitchen, and his wife oversees front of house. Even their son is learning the tricks of the trade, starting with glass washing! You cannot find a more friendly welcome in Stratford, and you will probably stay a lot longer chatting to the staff!  

Sorrento Restaurant  

Discover a taste of Italy in Warwickshire. Elegantly decorated in the Neo-Classic Style, the restaurant is stylish but relaxing, Enjoy al fresco dining on the patio, with a wide selection of Italian wines to complement your meal. Being only 4 minutes away from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, it is also ideal for pre-theatre meals.  

No 9 Church Street 

You need to visit No 9 Church Street more than once. Each time you visit the seasonal menu changes, so there is always another flavour to enjoy. A neighbourhood restaurant, many locals frequent it as it offers British food and artisan wines at sensible prices. Whether it’s a light lunch, pre-theatre meal, dinner or multicourse tasting menu, their ethos remains: simple, seasonal, delicious.   

Edward Moon 

Edward Moon was a travelling chef who worked in the British Colonial service in the early 20th century. He was famous for being an English eccentric capable of creating a culinary ‘Little England’ wherever he was posted. He was a creative cook, excited by local ingredients and cooking styles. He retired in 1940 and recorded his experiences, philosophy and recipes in a book ‘The Travelling Cook’s Companion.’ From that book, this restaurant was born. Discover large portions at great prices, quality English fayre, and a relaxed atmosphere. 

Salt 

Fine dining at its finest. Within this snug space, enjoy seasonal tasting menus with a huge variety of vegetarian and vegan options. They have recently opened Salt Cookery School and Chefs Table above the restaurant as well, much to high demand. Book in advance.  

The Countess of Evesham 

If you fancy something a bit different then all aboard The Countess of Evesham. A 70ft restaurant cruiser, operating from Stratford all through the year, you can enjoy an intimate meal as you float down the River Avon. We recommend an evening dine so the boat lights up the riverbanks, creating an atmosphere you won’t soon forget.   

The Countess of Evesham

The Countess of Evesham. Author: Peter Trimming

Takeaways and Late Dining 

Turquoise Kitchen 

Enjoy authentic Turkish cuisine and traditional Turkish barbeque mezze and grill. An extensive range of both food and drink is available for takeaway. 

Avon Spice 

Award-winning Indian food with chef specials changing regularly. The set menus are highly rated from the locals. 

Giggling Squid 

Rustic Thai food, with a unique Thai Tapas menu, perfect for lazy lunches, even offering a ‘Little Tapas for Little People’ menu 

Pubs  

Stratford Alehouse 

Discover the finest real ale, cider and wine. They only offer bar snacks, but it’s simple, dog-friendly, close to local restaurants, and only 400 metres from the train station. It’s a recipe for success. This relatively new establishment is a traditional, old beamed pub. They even host Stratford Folk Club on the first and third Wednesday of every month, if you fancy some live music.  

The Encore 

A premium pub, bar, and restaurant, with its own courtyard. Centrally located in Stratford, it serves up traditional pub food with a range of real ales. The menus are designed for every taste and occasion, including a Midweek Treat Menu and Sunday Roast.  

The Yard of Ale 

Not a typical tourist pub, rather a local pub for local people at local prices. You will be greeted with a warm welcome and a smile. Food is made to order, so you can guarantee the freshness, and the range of drinks is extensive.  

The Dirty Duck 

If you want to know where the theatre crowd hangs out, it’s here. There are even photographs of actors and actresses on the wall, having visited the pub and signed a few pieces of memorabilia. Ideal for a pitstop before or after a performance, just opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  

The Garrick Inn 

Welcome to the oldest pub in Stratford, dating back to the 1400s. It has a rich history including plagues, fatal fires and priest holes, and many former occupants still visit from the ‘other side’. A very small pub, but one that is worth the squeeze in. Pooches welcome!