There’s plenty of things to keep you busy in the medieval city, but here’s all the best attractions and activities for the ultimate day trip to Chester.
Chester is instantly recognisable from its old black and white time-frame buildings, known as ‘The Rows’. It’s also surrounded by Roman walls and The River Dee, which make it a really charming city to visit and wander around. It’s particularly popular for day trips from Manchester, Liverpool and other surrounding cities, which is why a Chester city guide is always handy to have.
The history of Chester is quite significant too. It was founded as a Roman fortress in the 1st century AD, and served as as a military hub given its strategic position on the border with Wales. After the Roman era, Chester was a settlement for the Anglo-Saxons and later the Vikings. In 1066, William the Conqueror’s forces took Chester as part of the Norman conquest of England. The Normans built Chester Castle, which still stands today, and it played a key role in controlling the region.
If you love history, there’s no doubt you’ll love Chester and all its monuments, attractions and landscapes. But there is much more to do there too. It has some of the best restaurants around, as well as Chester Zoo, the University of Chester, great places to shop and more.
Although there’s lots to do in Chester, it’s quite easy to see the majority of the city in one day. You just need to know what’s on offer and plan your day right. Our Chester city guide breaks down how to spend a day in the city for the ultimate one-day itinerary in Chester.
How to have the best Chester day trip
Covering where to eat and what to see and do in Chester, this city guide ensures you make the most of the city.
This Chester day trip itinerary starts at one of Chester’s gorgeous eateries for breakfast which is only a few minutes walk from Chester Train Station and thus makes this an easy destination to get to and makes the best of your limited time there.
9am: Arrive in Chester
Begin your day by arriving in Chester, either by train or car. The train station is conveniently located close to the city centre so it is only a short walk to this independent coffee shop for breakfast.
9.30am: Breakfast at The Flower Cup
Chester is full of wonderfully charming artisan and independent coffee shops, so you have lots of unique options to choose from when it comes to starting your day trip to Chester. I’m suggesting The Flower Cup as it has the quirky and cool idea of being a botanical coffee shop. They are located within the roman city walls of Chester up on the historic Watergate Row level shops. They serve an all day brunch menu, with many vegans options, and provide specialty coffees and teas – but all the while you are surrounded by beautiful flowers and plants.
The in-house florist and plant shop may no longer exist but they have kept the botanical concept for the coffee shop and it makes for a wonderful environment. They still sometimes have a pop-up shop for all your green fingered desires so you can check their social media for information on the next one if you are interested.
So now you’ve filled up on a hearty breakfast from this charming cafe, you will be fuelled for your next stop on the day trip to Chester itinerary.
10.30am: Chester Cathedral
Chester cathedral welcomes thousands of visitors from all over the world. It’s an ancient abbey with a magnificent Gothic structure and stunning architecture both inside and out. It has a unique blend of mediaeval and modern history, is still an amazing place for worship and is surely one of the very best tourist attractions in Chester to see on your trip. It’s a staple of any Chester city guide.
The cathedral hosts performances, events and exhibitions so be sure to check ahead to see if there’s a particular event you’d like to see. Or you can opt to go on their acclaimed Tower Tour, which gives you panoramic views of Chester.
During this one-hour guided tour, you’ll ascend to the top of their 125 foot central tower, granting you views of one city, spanning two countries, and encompassing five counties. Along the way, you’ll see beautiful views of the Cathedral from up high, offering perfect photo opportunities. Furthermore, you’ll get to hear all about the history of the church from the people that know it best. Be aware, there are 216 steps up and down.
Tower Tours are scheduled at:
- 11 am from Monday to Thursday
- 11 am and 1 pm on Fridays
- 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm on Saturdays
Whilst there you simply must visit Cafe 1092 set in their 13th century monks’ dining hall – it even includes a 17th century tapestry on the west wall. It’s a stunning place to relax. You can even choose to have afternoon tea in the gorgeous hall from £18 per person. You will need to book ahead though at least 48 hours.
11.30am: The Rows
Stroll through The Rows, a unique shopping district with rows of distinctive black and white timber-framed buildings. You’ll find a mix of boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants, offering a wide variety of goods and souvenirs.
The Rows are unique two-tiered structures of half-timbered galleries that house shops above street-level shops on Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street, and Bridge Street. While some date back to the 13th century, others are Victorian reproductions, but that takes nothing away from their beauty.
Today, they are home to a variety of independent shops, restaurants, and bars with lovely outdoor seating area options too. While some continuity has been disrupted, the Rows are one of the most characteristic and most instantly recognisable features in Chester’s identity and so they are a must see on your trip to Chester.
12pm: Roman Amphitheatre
Next in this Chester city guide, make your way to the Roman Amphitheatre, which is a short walk from The Rows. This historical site offers a fascinating glimpse into Chester’s Roman past. You can explore the well-preserved remains of the amphitheatre and imagine the events that took place there.
Chester boasts the largest Roman amphitheatre in Britain, dating back to the 1st century when the Roman fort of Deva Victrix was established. The amphitheatre hosted activities like cockfighting, bull-baiting, classical boxing, wrestling, and gladiatorial combat. It has been suggested that it was also used for military training but most of the archaeological evidence points to being primarily used for entertainment.
The amphitheatre’s existence remained hidden until 1929 when one of its pit walls was discovered during construction work. Subsequently, extensive excavations were conducted between 2000 and 2006, initially by Chester City Council and later with the involvement of English Heritage. The Grosvenor Museum, conveniently located a short stroll away, houses a collection of finds from these excavations, providing visitors with insight into the site’s history.
Although only about two-fifths of the amphitheatre is visible it is still a beautiful place to visit on your day trip to Chester. It is an open site to the public therefore has no ticketing requirements making it a great free tourist attraction for you to check out.
1pm: Lunch at The Architect
Enjoy a delightful meal at The Architect, a gastropub known for its delicious British cuisine located within Chester’s historic city walls, with views of the Roodee racecourse. It is named after architect Thomas Harrison, who designed the building as his own residence. He also contributed to the design of Grosvenor Bridge.
The pub has both an original Georgian structure with intimate dining rooms and a modern garden room, featuring a bar and a wonderful atmosphere. There’s even an option to dine on their terrace.
2pm: River Cruise on the River Dee
After lunch, take a leisurely river cruise on the River Dee. This cruise provides a unique perspective of Chester, and you can relax while learning about the city’s history and landmarks from the water.
ChesterBoat is a family-owned company with over 40 years of experience, offering trips on the River Dee. Situated on The Groves, their Half-hour City Cruises run daily and you can learn about the history of Chester along with a scenic journey to the city limits. They also (handily) have a bar so you can have a drink too.
As you embark on their river cruises, you’ll journey upstream along the River Dee, passing iconic landmarks like Queen’s Park Suspension Bridge, the Boathouse Inn and Grosvenor Park. As you turn around, make sure you look out for local wildlife like swans, moorhens and kingfishers. On selected dates between May and September, you can opt for a leisurely Two-hour Iron Bridge Cruise, meandering through the Duke of Westminster’s Eaton Estate.
ChesterBoat offers flexible ticket pricing, and online bookings come with a 10% discount. Ticket Prices
- Adult – £7.65 online (£8.50 on the quayside)
- Concession (student, 60+, or disabled passenger) – £7.20 online (£8.00 on the quayside)
- Child (5-15) – £3.15 online (£3.50 on the quayside)
- Under 5 – Free
- Family (2 adults/concessions and up to 3 children) – £19.80 online (£22.00 on the quayside)
- Carer accompanying disabled passenger – £3.15 online (£3.50 on the quayside) Combined Boat & Bus Ticket
3.30pm: Eastgate Clock
Once you leave the river cruise go and visit the iconic Eastgate Clock, one of the most photographed clocks in the world. It’s located atop the Eastgate Street wall and is a historic part of Chester’s ancient walls.
While the original gate dates back to Roman times, the current structure is from the Georgian era. Interestingly, the clock itself was not added until the Victorian era, commemorating Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.
The Eastgate and its accompanying clock mark the location of the original entrance to the Roman fortress known as Deva Victrix. It is an icon of Chester and is perhaps the most recognized landmark in there. It is often said it is the second most photographed clock in England, following Big Ben.
4.30pm: Chester City Walls
Conclude your day with a walk along the well-preserved Chester City Walls. They are the oldest and most extensive city walls in Britain, with some sections dating back nearly 2,000 years. Uniquely for Britain, Chester retains its complete circuit of ancient defensive walls. A walk along these walls offers wonderful views of the city. You can access the walls at the Northgate, Eastgate, Watergate and Bridgegate entrances. There are additional entry points with ramps around the city.
You can walk a circular trail around the walls which are approximately 2 miles in length and should take roughly 40 minutes (or longer if you wish to stop for photos). It is generally considered an easy route.
6pm: Dinner at The Church Bar & Restaurant
For dinner, head to The Church Bar & Restaurant, nestled within a historic church building located in the heart of Chester. The Gallery Restaurant has a great reputation and the centrepiece of this venue is the beautifully restored organ.
Whilst dining on the mezzanine level you overlook the bar area beneath and makes for a special setting for dinner on your day trip to Chester.
8pm: Drinks at The Botanist
To conclude your day, head to The Botanist, a wonderfully decorated bar with an extensive cocktail menu and a vibrant atmosphere. It is situated just across from Chester Cathedral, with easy access via Godstall Lane. The Botanist presents a cool concept; it transforms a floral-themed lodge into a cosy retreat adorned with rustic details like watering cans.
The menu features a selection of botanical cocktails, over 80 world beers, cask-conditioned ales, Champagne, wine, and creatively presented dishes inspired by deli, rotisserie, and BBQ cuisines. With live music every night, The Botanist guarantees a great place to toast to your memorable day in Chester.
After enjoying your evening in Chester, wrap up your day trip and start the journey home or back to your hotel if you choose to stay over. Also, if you love Chester so much you want to stay for a second day we even have more suggestions for what to do.
(Optional) Day Two: Chester Zoo
One of Chester’s main attractions, Chester Zoo, would be hard to squeeze into the 1 day itinerary so we’ve suggested you give it a day all unto itself. There are over 27,000 animals and 128 acres of zoological gardens to explore making it one of the largest zoos in the UK.
It is divided into various themed zones, each representing different ecosystems and regions. Located in Upton by Chester, Chester Zoo was opened in 1931 and has a long history of conservation efforts. The zoo is actively involved in wildlife conservation and breeding programs. It works with numerous international organisations to protect endangered species and their habitats.
The zoo offers a great visitor experience with various attractions and experiences, including up-close encounters, talks, and guided tours.
The opening times are 10am – 3:30pm (sometimes later, check their website for dates). They have free on site parking and the last admission is 1 hour before the zoo closes.
Ticket prices when booked in advance on their website are as follows:
- Adult £30.50
- Child £23.00
- Student £27.00
- Under 2s are Free
But there are some discounts to be had so check ahead of time before you go. It’s a wonderful day out and a must do if you have two days available to be able to spend in Chester.
We hope this has whet your appetite for a day out in Chester and you enjoy exploring all the history, architecture, landscapes and cuisine it has to offer!
Chester city guide overview
- 9am: Arrive in Chester
- 9.30am: Breakfast at The Flower Cup
- 10.30am: Chester Cathedral
- 11.30am: The Rows
- 12pm: Roman Amphitheatre
- 1pm: Lunch at The Architect
- 2pm: River Cruise on the River Dee
- 3.30pm: Eastgate Clock
- 4.30pm: Chester City Walls
- 6pm: Dinner at The Church Bar & Restaurant
- 8pm: Drinks at The Botanist
- 9pm: Departure