Most people go to Stratford for one reason: Shakespeare. That’s just as well as the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon are almost all Shakespeare-related and will certainly take you a full day to enjoy.
There are some other things, like the Butterfly Farm, and we’ve listed the non-Shakespeare attractions at the end of this page.
Here in no particular order is a fairly comprehensive list of the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon, to help you plan your visit. Most of them are in the town centre or within easy walking distance of each other. Note that you can get a combined ticket that provides cheaper admission to several of the Shakespeare sites, which are all administered by the same organisation, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Shakespeare Centre
This should be your first stop, and where you can buy your combined admission ticket, if you want to visit several attractions. The Centre has a very good and comprehensive set of displays about the life of the Bard of Avon, and it leads through to the house where he was born. You can see the very bedroom in which the world’s most famous playwright was born, in 1564.
Shakespeare’s Grave at Holy Trinity Church
Shakespeare died in 1616 and is buried in Stratford, at Holy Trinity Church. His simple grave is right in front of the altar and there’s also a statue of him nearby.
Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
Another must-see site is the cottage in which Anne Hathaway lived until she married Shakespeare in 1582. The Hathaway family continued to live there till 1892, and today it displays many original 16th-centurt furnishings. There are also beautiful gardens, and it’s a pleasant walk of about 20-30 minutes to get to the cottage which is in the village of Shottery, south of the town centre. If you prefer you can also catch a bus or take a taxi.
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
The Theatre is also in the town centre, in a lovely location right by the River Avon. It’s worth seeing, whether you have time to take in a Shakespeare production or not, though you should try to do so if time allows. It will be an unforgettable experience, and you should be sure to pick your dates and book tickets well in advance. You can also take guided tours of the theatre, which you should also book in advance, or you can have a self-guided tour. The rooftop restaurant also makes a great spot for lunch or dinner.
Hall’s Croft is the house that Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna lived in with her husband, Dr John Hall, who was a physician. You can see his consulting room with original medical artefacts, some of the house’s 17th-century furniture, and enjoy the garden.
New Place and Nash's House
New Place was the home which Shakespeare bought for his retirement in 1610, and where he died in 1616. Nothing now remains but the gardens, which contain a mulberry tree said to have been planted by the playwright. The adjacent Nash’s House is named for Thomas Nash, who was married to Shakespeare’s grand-daughter. There’s a display on the history of the house and period furniture, and it leads you through to the New Place gardens
Mary Arden’s Farm
Mary Arden was Shakespeare’s mother, and she lived here at this Tudor farmhouse as a child. You can see what life was like at the time, and there are some rare breeds of animals to see, an orchard, and a wild-flower meadow among its many attractions. It is, however, over 3 miles north of the town centre, so although you can walk you might want to make use of the hop-on and hop-off City Sightseeing bus.
Tudor World at the Falstaff Experience
Tudor World isn’t strictly a Shakespeare attraction, but it does show the broader Tudor world in which he lived. It’s the largest museum in the town and has won awards for its lively displays. You get to the museum by walking along the only cobblestones that remain in Stratford, and along which Shakespeare himself would have walked. The museum is housed in a large 16th-century barn, and there’s plenty of gruesome stuff to appeal to the children, a Tudor dungeon, a school classroom, a plague cottage, and much more to see.
Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm
The UK’s largest collection of tropical butterflies is a welcome change from all the Shakespeare and historical stuff in Stratford. It’s easy to find, on the other side of the River Avon from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. As well as the hundreds of butterflies living in a natural environment in a tropical rainforest, you can meet the world’s largest spider, see the Caterpillar Room, experience Insect City, see a scorpion colony, and a lot more besides. Highly recommended.
At the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm
River Avon Boating
Also near the theatre is the boatyard from where Edwardian boats will take you on a short cruise on the River Avon. It’s a chance to see some of the countryside right outside the town, as well as get a different perspective on places including the theatre and Holy Trinity Church. If you don’t want to take a cruise you can rent rowing boats and have your own fun on the River Avon.
Cruises on the River Avon
A wider range of cruises is offered by this company, which you’ll find near the Holiday Inn Hotel. They offer a 45-minute river cruise, or longer cruises of two, three or four hours.
City Sightseeing Tours
These open-top bus tours take about an hour to cover the whole town, or you can hop-on and hop-off as they take you to all of Stratford’s main Shakespeare sights, including Mary Arden’s Farm, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and the Armouries Museum, all outside the town centre. If you’re not too keen on walking, or are unable to walk too far, they’re a great way to get around and will take you to most of the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Stratford Armouries Museum
The Stratford Armouries also now incorporates the Wellington Aviation Museum and they are set in 86 acres of land three miles north-west of the town centre. You can get there on the City Sightseeing tour bus, and there’s lots to see if you’re interested in aircraft and weaponry. The world’s oldest cannon is one of its exhibits, and for Shakespeare fans it does have some items from the playwright’s birthplace.
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