With its picturesque black and white Tudor houses and the fame of being the birthplace of English poet, William Shakespeare, Stratford-Upon-Avon is a tourist draw. Situated just over 100 miles from London, on the brink of England’s Cotswolds, Stratford-upon-Avon is the perfect spot for a weekend break. This Warwickshire market town is packed with ye olde England charm, so it’s time to pack your travel bags.
In this guide, I’ll share the best things to do in Stratford-Upon-Avon from Shakespeare’s birthplace to the best sights, pubs and theatres. I’ve created a map of Stratford-upon-Avon including all the places in this article. You’ll find it at the end.
Considering a day trip from London? Check out my guide: 4 Easy Ways to Travel From London to Stratford-Upon-Avon.
1. Shakespeare’s Birthplace
Shakespeare’s birthplace is a beautifully preserved two-story, half-timber Tudor house located on Henley Street, and the house should be top of your list of things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon. Today, the house is a museum that includes a collection of Shakespeare memorabilia as well as a series of traditionally furnished rooms that you can wander through to see what life was like in the 1500s.
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust runs the museum and there are free expert guides on hand to answer questions and give more details about Shakespeare and his parents, John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. You must book tickets for Shakespeare’s Birthplace online – you cannot buy tickets at the house (the staff will make you stand in the street and buy them online).
2. Shakespeare Statue on Henley Street
Although it doesn’t have any historical significance, its hard to resist standing in front of the Shakespeare statue on Henley Street and taking a gawky photo. The statue is located close to Shakespeare’s birthplace, near Meer Street and is hard to miss. It’s a pretty recent addition to Stratford-upon-Avon. It was erected in 2020 as part of the £1.2 million redevelopment of Henley Street. James Butler designed the statue, and Tony Bird (OBE), a local business man, gifted it to the town.
3. New Place (Nash House)
New Place is the house where Shakespeare lived as an adult, and it’s where he died. Sadly, the last owner demolished the house in 1759 when he got tired of tourists looking in the window (quite an extreme reaction, I think!). Today, the plot has been re-vitalised with a museum built on the site of the old neighbouring property, Nash House. The replica house is styled as it might have been when Shakespeare lived there. The beautiful gardens are the real delight, filled with English herbs, flowers and plants. The sunken, sculpted knot garden was my favourite.
4. Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall
Shakespeare’s Gammar School was the highlight for me in Stratford-upon-Avon. It’s an interactive experience where you sit in an original 16th century classroom with a school master who delivers lots of fun facts. If you think you’re up to it, you can try writing with a quill and ink – it looks easier than it is. Impressively, the building is still a school for local children.
You can buy Guildhall Tickets in advance. If you don’t have time to go inside, at least walk past this long black and white Tudor building that runs the length of the street.
5. Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church is where Shakespeare was baptised, married and buried. Located in the Old Town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the church is the oldest building in the town, situated on the plot of an old Saxon monastery. However, the building you see today was built in the 1400s. You can see Shakespeare’s grave in the church chancel, but most people are drawn to the bright funerary monument. The church and chancel are free to visit and you don’t need to make a booking.
6. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
If you want to feel like you’re in the middle of an English period drama, visit Anne Hathaway’s cottage. The cottage is where Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, lived with her family before she got married. Inside, you can walk through the rooms of the cottage. However, on a warm English day, the gardens are simple picture perfect.
The cottage is a little further out of town, a 30 minute walk from the centre. Otherwise, the City Sightseeing bus stops at the cottage. The cottage also has paid parking available.
7. Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre (RSC)
If want to watch a Shakespearean play while you’re in Stratford-upon-Avon, you’re in luck because there are several theatres running daily performances. However, The Royal Shakespeare Company is the main theatre in town. Located in an impressive building at the riverside, the RSC has performances most nights. The plays change throughout the year and there are other theatres in the town if you don’t like what’s on (or can’t get tickets) at The Royal Shakespeare Company. You should book in advance, especially over holidays.
8. River Avon Canal Boat Trip
Taking a canal boat tour is a magical experience in Stratford-upon-Avon, especially on a warm summer’s day. The River Avon winds its way through the centre of the town so it’s very easy to hop onboard and sail along the river. As well as relaxing onboard, many cruises will take you through a lock, a fun way of crossing higher or lower bodies of water. Two of the most popular tours are Canal & River Tours and the Countess of Evesham if you want a canal boat dinner cruise.
9. Afternoon tea at RSC
Is there anything more British than afternoon tea? And Stratford-upon-Avon is a charming place to indulge in this British tradition. There are several tea rooms around the town but one of the most popular is the Rooftop Restaurant at the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre. It’s a wonderful tea complete with smoked salmon, cheddar cheese and egg mayonnaise sandwiches, as well as the obligatory scones. The scones come with ‘proper’ Devonshire clotted cream as well as a selection of other sweet treats. If you want to make things sparkly, add a glass of Prosecco.
10. Bancroft Gardens and the Riverside
One of the best free things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon is to take a stroll along the Riverside. Look out for Bancroft Gardens, an area with pretty, well-tended lawns. Other sights include the Gower Memorial, a statue featuring some of the characters from the works of Shakespeare, the swan fountain and the historic Stratford and Moreton Tramway. The Riverside is the perfect spot for a picnic, coffee or ice-cream.
11. Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm
Across the river from the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, you’ll find the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm. It’s the largest collection of tropical butterflies within the UK, all within a leafy-green rainforest setting. The farm is not only popular with kids, it’s perfect on a rainy day, and the greenhouses will keep you warm, too.
12. MAD Museum
The Mechanical Art Museum is a perfect activity for the kids in Stratford-upon-Avon. Just up the road from Shakespeare’s birthplace, on Henley Street, this small museum will keep the youngsters (or young minded) entertained. With a focus on mechanical art and design, there are plenty of interactive exhibits. You’ll want to book MAD Museum tickets in advance if you visit during the school holidays.
13. Old Thatch Tavern
There is an ongoing debate as to the oldest pub in Stratford-upon-Avon, but the Old Thatch Tavern is high on the list. The pub is a stunning black and white Tudor building with a dark wood interior and low ceiling beams, and a great place for a pint of ale or a plate of British pub food. The Old Thatch Tavern is a Grade II listed building which dates back to 1470, but thankfully the food and ale are much fresher than that.
Tip: If you’re looking for a good selection of cafes and restaurants in Stratford-upon-Avon, Sheep Street is a a great option. From pubs to cafes to chain restaurants, you’re sure to find something you like.
14. Hall’s Croft
Hall’s Croft was the home of Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna who lived there with her husband, Dr John Hall. Also located in Old Town, not far from the church, the house is another stunning example of Tudor architecture. Inside, you’ll find exhibits of Jacobean furnishings from the 16th and 17th century. The walled garden features many medicinal plants that John Hall is thought to have used as a doctor.
Update: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website says: “Hall’s Croft is closed until further notice”. Please check before you visit (and leave a comment if you find an update on the opening of Hall’s Croft).
15. Rother Street Market
Since Stratford-upon-Avon it a market town, there are plenty of markets to visit. The town’s most regular market is Rother Street, and takes place each Friday and Saturday. Rother Street Market features food vendors, antiques and hand-made arts. On Sundays you can find Upmarket, a market offering more upscale goods. And, if you’re visiting near Christmas, there is the famous Stratford-upon-Avon Christmas market. It’s popular so book your accommodation well in advance if you plan to visit during December.
16. Mary Arden’s farm
Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother, grew up on a farm just outside Stratford-upon-Avon, and Mary Arden’s farm is one of the best things to do when you visit the area. The farm gives a wonderful insight into what faming was like in Tudor times and is both highly enjoyable and richly educational. The farm is outside the town centre, in a village called Wilmcote, but the City Sightseeing Bus goes there if you’re in Stratford-upon-Avon without a car.
Update: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website says: “Mary Arden’s Farm is currently closed to the public.”. Please check before you visit (and leave a comment if you find an update on the opening of Mary Arden’s Farm).
Map of things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon
I’ve created a Stratford Upon Avon Map in Google Maps including all the places featured in this article.
That’s my guide to the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon. Have you been? Leave a comment or any questions below.
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