Shakespeare’s legacy has left an indelible mark on the town, attracting visitors worldwide to explore his birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and the renowned Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Cradled by the meandering River Avon as it flows southwest to meet the mighty Severn is the historic market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, set in the picturesque county of Warwickshire.

Few English towns loom as large as this timber-framed, cottage-filled hamlet, and that last noun explains why. The word is more famously known as Hamlet, a play by William Shakespeare, and Stratford-upon-Avon is the bard’s birthplace, home, and final resting place.

Almost every inch of this quiet idyll is steeped in heritage and culture. Most spots are associated with the playwright while others denote more than 800 years of history. So, there’s plenty to do here for a quick weekend break or an even more extended family holiday.

Like many British towns, Stratford has its origins rooted in the Roman invasion, starting out as a Roman road, and later growing into a settlement in the Middle Ages. During the Tudor period, the area became known for producing, marketing, and distributing sheep and wool, tanning, and glove making.

This is where the Shakespeare family enter the scene. William’s father, John, moved to the town in 1551 and became a successful glover and businessman. Later, he settled in the house known as Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street.

Shakespeare’s legacy has left an indelible mark on the town, attracting visitors worldwide to explore his birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and the renowned Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Not to mention the widely photographed Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, a local grammar school where the playwright spent much of his formative years.

Beyond this, Stratford seamlessly blends its historic charm with modern touches. Pop into the many independent bookshops that pay homage to Shakespeare’s love of literature. The Chaucer Head Bookshop is a particularly quirky establishment, with rabbit-warren-like rooms and stacks of books towering from floor to ceiling on shelves that are lovingly overstocked.

Or explore the shops, stopping at designer outlets, bustling markets, the Shakespeare Distillery, and unique companies like escape rooms or the Tudor World Museum. But don’t forget to experience the lively atmosphere along the riverbank. If you’re a nature or bird enthusiast, you’ll delight in seeing the town’s tranquil beauty, regal swans, and meandering paths that lead to tree-lined avenues and charming views of riverside cottages.

Now, let’s dive into the must-see attractions for your whirlwind visit.

Shakespeare Family Homes

The old-world charm of Stratford-upon-Avon is best seen at the Shakespeare family homes – Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. The latter is a five-minute drive from town, while the other two are in Stratford’s bustling centre.

Shakespeare's birthplace
Shakespeare’s birthplace (c) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Start at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, where you’ll travel to William’s birth, childhood, and the first years of his marriage to Anne Hathaway. Wander through the rooms furnished with period pieces, from a Tudor-style four-poster bed to his father’s glove workshop. The house has various exhibits and displays showcasing documents and artefacts about Shakespeare’s life, upbringing, and the Elizabethan era.

Later, stroll to Shakespeare’s New Place, where Shakespeare lived for the last 19 years of his life. Unfortunately, the original house no longer stands, but you’ll find the beautiful Knot Garden, modelled after a style of garden that was popular during the bard’s lifetime.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Then head to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, undoubtedly the most picturesque property in town. It’s a well-preserved example of a traditional English farmhouse. Wander through the house, learning about the family’s 13 generations who lived here, the gardens and an apple orchard – perfect for a picnic!

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guild Chapel

Shakespeare’s schoolroom is the most immersive glimpse into the 16th-century educational system. The tour begins with a quiet introduction to the Priests’ Chapel, where a 600-year-old medieval wall painting is beautifully preserved. Only fragments remain, but knowledgeable guides will point out depictions of John the Baptist and God.

Upstairs is an oak table (believed to have come from Shakespeare’s home) and a timber-framed room with wooden benches, tables, and the schoolmaster’s desk. Visitors can participate in interactive lessons led by a costumed guide who is meant to be Master Thomas Jenkins (William’s teacher). During your lesson, you’ll learn Latin and how to write with a quill.

Next door is The Guild Chapel, a medieval building built by the Guild of the Holy Cross, a religious organisation central to the town’s civic and cultural life. The most notable feature is the vibrant wall paintings, depicting the Day of Judgement.

Holy Trinity Church

Overlooking the peaceful River Avon is Holy Trinity Church, where Christians have worshipped for over 1,000 years. More importantly, this magnificent medieval parish church, with its soaring spire dominating Stratford’s skyline, is where Shakespeare is buried. In addition to visiting the Shakespeare family’s graves, marvel at the stained-glass windows and intricate carvings. Its serene churchyard, shaded by ancient yew trees, offers a tranquil oasis for an afternoon walk or picnic.


If you only do one thing in Stratford, it should be to see a play at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company). A modern adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost is currently showing, starring Luke Thompson, who plays the dashing Benedict Bridgerton in Netflix’s hit series Bridgerton. The RSC has an enormous gift shop stocked with t-shirts, books, notepads, and DVDs, all inspired by the works of William Shakespeare.

If watching a play isn’t your thing, head up the lift to the RSC’s tower where you’ll have sweeping views of Warwickshire’s countryside. Alternatively, book the 60-minute guided tours, which take you to parts of the building not usually accessible to the public and the Costume Workshop. Along the way, you’ll learn stories that shaped the RSC.

Avon Boating

Experience the tranquil beauty of Stratford-upon-Avon from a different perspective with a leisurely boat ride along the meandering River Avon. Hop aboard one of the charming river cruises and glide past idyllic landscapes, lush greenery, and historic landmarks. It’s the perfect opportunity to unwind and soak in the serene ambience of this picturesque town.

Day trip to Kenilworth

Embark on a short excursion to the nearby town of Kenilworth, renowned for its majestic castle and culinary delights. Explore the ruins of Kenilworth Castle, a stunning medieval fortress with a rich history spanning centuries. Afterwards, treat yourself to a culinary adventure at acclaimed restaurants like The Cross at Kenilworth, where innovative cuisine takes centre stage.

Where to eat

There are many places to eat in Stratford, including the quaint Garrick Inn – the oldest pub in town. Cox’s Yard is a cafe-restaurant situated on the River Avon’s banks, serving classic British cuisine.

Alternatively, head to The Giggling Squid for an explosion of Thai-inspired flavours, from aromatic curries and fragrant stir-fries to crispy spring rolls and succulent grilled meats. Each dish bursts with fresh ingredients.

Or, if you’re looking for a restaurant with a view, pop to the RSC Rooftop Restaurant. You can have a two-course dinner (£29) or three courses (£35). I’d highly recommend getting the sweet potato and chickpea pakoras starter and then the roast butternut squash risotto served with red peppers, toasted pumpkin seeds and kale. But everything coming from the kitchen looks fantastic, so you can’t go wrong!

Where to stay in Stratford-upon-Avon

There are many places to stay in Stratford-upon-Avon, including Hotel Indigo and Hotel du Vin. One of the most luxurious residences is The Arden Hotel, which is opposite the RSC and boasts a 2 AA Rosette restaurant. The spacious and comfortable rooms offer all the amenities you need for a relaxing break in Stratford-upon-Avon.

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