Stratford-upon-Avon, is famous primarily as the town where William Shakespeare was born in 1564. The town is a major tourist destination, most of them coming to pay homage to him and, with the five Shakespeare properties that are preserved in and around Stratford-upon-Avon, to get a glimpse of life in 16th century England. But with 800 years of history, art and culture, the Stratford District with its beautiful countryside, bustling market towns, historic mansions and pretty little villages offers many other things to do and see, such as historic castles, theatres, award winning gardens, racing, stunning country and hillside walks, adventure parks, pubs and restaurants, art and antiques.
Things to do
The house that is thought to be Shakespeare's birthplace and the place where he spent his formative years is probably one of the most famous and most visited literary landmarks in Britain. Originally, it belonged to Shakespeare's father John, a successful Stratford businessman. The family moved to Stratford’s Henley Street in 1529 and until the 19th century, their house remained in the hands of Shakespeare's descendants. In 1847 the house was obtained by the Shakespeare Birthday Committee with the financial support of the public. It was originally constructed out of local materials such as oak timber and stone and even today, much of the original stone, oak beams and fireplaces remain. The house has been furnished with contemporary Elizabethan furniture. The Visitors' Centre, which you pass through to get to the house, hosts a comprehensive exhibition about Shakespeare's life.
Shakespearience is Stratford upon Avon’s popular and relatively recent attraction. With modern technology and special effects it presents Shakespeare in a unique and extraordinary light. The tour is a visual story of William Shakespeare’s early life in Elizabethan Stratford during which you will get to see the town’s historic locations such as Shakespeare’s Birthplace and the Holy Trinity Church. The second part of the tour will have Shakespeare appear as an ethereal voice talking to a contemporary actor. Using advanced staging effects, theatrical lighting, moving scenery and surround sound Shakespearience gives you the chance to see very unusual performances of the highlights of some of Shakespeare’s plays, such as Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Richard III, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest.
The Falstaffs Experience is another one of Stratford upon Avon’s exciting and rather unusual tourist attractions, an educational but still fun journey through history. it takes place in the 16th century Shrieves House Barn (which incidentally is said to be haunted!) There, in the museum’s theatrical settings, you will hear about some remarkable tales relating to the history of Stratford as well as England. For the more adventurous, there also is a night version of the Falstaffs Experience: experienced mediums and the establishment’s own historian will there to make this night a unique experience that you will never forget.
Directly opposite the museum there’s the reconstruction of Emm's Court, which used to be Stratford's most notorious slum.
Located in a heritage 16th century building, this famous Teddy Bear Museum has existed since 1988. It is devoted to the history of the teddy bear, from his arrival in the early twentieth century to his worldwide popularity today. Bears from all over the world are on display at the museum, many have been loaned or generously donated their owners or creators. Famous bears include the first television Paddington Bear, the BBC's Children in Need Pudsey Bear, Roger de Courcey's naughty Nookie, Super Ted and Sooty. The museum’s oldest bear is Arden, who was lovingly made in 1913 and has now found himself a great retirement home!
In the library, there are more bears, many of them with famous owners, such as Barbara Cartland's bear, the "Prince of Love", the sixth Marquees of Bath’s bear, “Percy”, Omar the bear of Edwina Currie, Jeffrey Archer's bear, Prince Phillip's bear and many more.
Originally opened in 1878, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, with its large proscenium arch stage and raked style seating with stalls, circle and balcony areas, is the main venue for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford. The venues has a seating capacity for about 1500 people and is well-known for its Art Deco features, such as the staircase and corridors at either side of the auditorium. It is a Grade II listed building.
Holy Trinity Church is the site where William Shakespeare is buried, and has therefore also become a place of pilgrimage for his fans and admirers. Since the church is not a "tourist attraction" as such, church services and other functions have priority. Entry is free, although those who’d like to view the grave are asked to make a donation.
Stratford is a relatively small place, which has the advantage that you can walk to get to all the major tourist attractions.
Recommended places and events to visit in Stratford