Are you looking for fun, free things to do in Chester? Then you’ve come to the right place! Situated in the heart of Cheshire, this beautiful English county boasts a wealth of exciting entertainment options that won’t cost a penny.
From striking architecture and green walks at historical parks to family-orientated attractions, there’s something for everyone here, all without breaking the bank! So, if you’re seeking an adventure packed with culture, natural beauty and fascinating discoveries, it’s time to start exploring Chester!
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Free Things To Do In Chester:
Located close to the Welsh border in North West England, Chester is one of England’s most historic cities. The city was founded as a Roman fortress in the 1st century A.D. and is well known for its extensive Roman walls and historic architecture. Throughout the city, you will find countless Tudor-style buildings and many remnants of its Roman history, such as its Roman amphitheatre and gardens.
Living only a 20-minute drive away from Chester has meant I have spent many days and nights exploring and enjoying this beautiful city over the years. This place is one of the most fascinating cities in the North West and probably the rest of the UK. There are so many things to do in and around the city, but for those wanting to keep to a tight budget, here’s my pick of the best free things to do in Chester!
1. Take a walk along the Roman City walls
Chester city walls are the oldest, longest and most complete in Britain, dating back almost 2000 years. Chester is the only city in Britain that retains the entire circuit of its ancient defensive walls. Follow in the footsteps of the Roman soldier patrols and enjoy a stroll along the 2-mile circuit, offering a unique perspective of Chester with panoramic views to both sides.
You can access the walls at the city’s four main gateways: Northgate, Eastgate, Watergate and Bridgegate. I recommend staring at the Eastgate Clock located next to the Grosvenor Hotel and walking in an anticlockwise direction, taking you past the cathedral, castle, River Dee and Roman Gardens before finishing back at the clock.
Please note: In some parts of the circuit, work is being carried out to strengthen and preserve the walls, so some parts may be closed, and a slight diversion may be in place.
2. Visit Chester Cathedral
One of my favourite free things to do in Chester is to walk in and around Chester Cathedral.
Chester Cathedral sits boldly in the city’s centre, just a short walk from the Eastgate Clock. This magnificent Cathedral dates back to 1093 when its original structure was a Benedictine Abbey. The building was extensively rebuilt in Gothic style during the 13th and 14th centuries and, in 1541, became the Cathedral of the Church of England. Built in local red sandstone, it may not be one of the biggest cathedrals in Britain, but it’s up there with some of the most impressive!
This cathedral is not only fabulous to look at, it’s even more impressive inside! One of my favourite parts of the cathedral is the mosaic wall on the left-hand side as you enter the central part of the cathedral. The detail is fantastic! If interested, you can also pay a small fee to climb the tower and view some magnificent views across Chester. Please also be sure to take a stroll in the gardens. They are a lovely place to sit, relax, or even picnic.
You will also find a lovely cafe inside a 13th-century monk’s dining hall. Where else can you sit enjoying a cuppa, cake, or even some afternoon tea surrounded by such unique historic architecture?
The cathedral is free to enter. However, a small donation is expected, which is used to help with ongoing restoration works.
3. Check out the Eastgate Clock
Along the Chester city walls, you will find four main city gates, one home to the Eastgate Clock! This prominent landmark is said to be the most photographed clock in Britain after Big Ben.
The Eastgate clock stands at the original entrance to the once-Roman Fort; the original gateway was only a timber tower but was rebuilt in stone in the 2nd Century and then again in the 14th Century. The current structure dates back to 1768, with the clock added in 1899 to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria two years earlier.
The Eastgate clock is a great place to admire the clock and give great views of the main Chester High Street with its countless Tudor-style buildings. The clock is also a great starting point for walking along the city walls.
4. Go window shopping along the Chester Rows
Spread throughout the city centre and unique to Chester, Chester Rows date back to the Middle Ages. Housed within the beautiful Tudor-style buildings, these rows are continuous half-timbered galleries, reached by steps, which form a second row of shops above those at street level along Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and Bridge Street.
Nobody knows why these buildings were built this way, but it has been suggested that owners were ordered to make ground floors fireproof due to a fierce fire that ravaged the city in 1278. This, in turn, developed into this two-floor shop design. Another theory is that the rows were built on top of debris left by the Romans. It is thought that debris was excavated during the 13th century, and these hollows gradually turned into shops with upper levels built on top, which overlapped the lower storey, providing a covered walkway.
Whatever the reasons for these unique structures, they make an excellent addition to Chester’s architectural history and an exciting shopping experience. You can spend an afternoon window shopping and admiring some fascinating architecture.
5. Visit the Grosvenor Museum
The Grosvenor Museum is housed within another of Chester’s fabulous listed buildings. The museum houses many collections that explore the history of Chester. It’s a great place to learn more about Chester’s Roman occupation and its more recent history. Check out the Period House, which dates back to 1680 and houses a series of rooms from the 17th century to the 1920s.
Entrance to the museum is free. However, they do expect a small donation to help with running costs.
6. Check out Chester Castle
Chester Castle dates back to 1070 when it was founded by William the Conqueror. The original castle would have been just a timber ‘motte-and-bailey’ castle and then rebuilt in stone with an outer Bailey added in the 12th Century.
English Heritage now owns Chester Castle, which is only accessible by organised tour.
However, you can still observe the castle from the outside for free. Looking for it while walking along the city walls is the best way. The castle is perched high, looking down onto the River Dee near the racecourse.
7. Visit Minerva’s shrine
One of Chester’s most random attractions is the Minerva’s Shrine, situated in Edgar’s Field on the south side of the River Dee.
This unique rock resembling a hobbit house is the site of ancient Roman worship. It’s where quarrymen came to honour Minerva, the Roman equivalent of the Greek Athena, goddess of war, art, wisdom, and artisans. Although the shrine now sits quietly in a local park, it is also the location of what was once a large quarry used to build Chester’s Roman walls.
Historic England believes this is Western Europe’s only representation of a Roman goddess still in its original location. As such, it’s the only shrine in the UK. Although now looking a bit worse for wear, you can still make out with a close eye the once adorned Minerva, her figure holding a spear and wearing a helmet and an owl over her shoulder on the right.
8. Take a stroll along the River Dee
The River Dee originates in Snowdonia and passes through Wales before reaching Chester and then towards the Irish Sea. Stroll along the quiet riverbank and then relax on the ‘Groves’. This lovely Promenade has numerous cafes, bars, restaurants, and a few Ice cream shops selling excellent local handmade ice cream!
Throughout the year, there are numerous events on the river, ranging from a duck race to live music on the Victorian bandstand. It’s the perfect place to picnic and enjoy some summer sun while watching the world go by. If interested, you can also have fun on a pedalo or cruise along the river. Relaxing on the “Groves’ with an ice cream in hand is one of my favourite free things in Chester!
For more information on upcoming events, check out Visit Cheshire.
9. Visit Chester Roman Gardens
Chesters Roman Gardens are located between the River Dee and the Eastgate clock. The gardens are not ancient Roman gardens but are made up of fragments of old Roman buildings that have been excavated in the city.
The original Roman Garden was established in 1949 by Graham Webster, then curator of the Grosvenor Museum, and Charles Greenwood, the City Engineer, as Chester’s contribution to the 1951 Festival of Britain. The gardens were remodelled in 2000 to provide access to the River Dee, and many informative displays were installed.
Today, it’s a quiet oasis in a bustling city; you will usually find people sitting quietly, reading a book or enjoying lunch.
10. Check out The Roman Amphitheatre
Another favourite spot to relax with a coffee or picnic is Chester’s Roman Amphitheatre.
Chester Roman Amphitheatre was built in the late first century AD and lay just outside the southeast corner of the Roman fortress. The amphitheatre was probably used for entertainment, practising troop manoeuvres and weapon training. Today, it is used for outdoor events and entertainment. You will usually spot the odd tour guide dressed up as a Roman soldier chilling out and having lunch on the grassy verge.
Only part of the amphitheatre has been excavated; today, only two-fifths of the oval arena is visible, with the rest hidden underneath a stone wall. It is the largest stone amphitheatre in Britain and the scene of Britain’s most significant archaeological excavation, which occurred in 2005. Finds uncovered at these digs are now on display in the Grosvenor Museum.
11. Visit Chester’s original cathedral; St John the Baptist
Just across the way from the Amphitheatre, you will find the city’s original cathedral: St John the Baptist. The church comprises two parts: the newer present-day church and the old remains of the former cathedral.
Origins of the church date back to AD 689 as a Saxon Minster church. In 1075, St John’s was raised to the status of a cathedral for the region of West Mercia until the reformation. The cathedral status then later changed to the now-known Chester Cathedral. During this time, much of the church was destroyed and now still lies ruined. However, part of the church was redeveloped during the 12th Century and is now seen as one of the finest examples of Normal architecture.
You are free to enter the church and wander around the ancient ruins. While walking the ruins, look for quirky tombstones and a medieval coffin!
12. Admire the historic architecture
As you have probably already realised, Chester has many historic buildings and fascinating architecture.
As Chester is such a compact city, it feels more like a large town than a city. You can easily see what the place offers in just a day. So, if you are short on time or want to explore Chester on foot, I recommend just walking around getting lost and finding all its hidden gems. No matter where you go in Chester, you are bound to find some historic sites or beautiful architecture.
Out of all the free things to do in Chester, I find exploring the city on foot one of my favourites. Even though I have visited Chester many times, I still see something new each time.
Read more: 30 Fabulous things to see & do in Cheshire!
Where To Stay In Chester
Whatever your budget, Chester has many hotels, guest houses and hostels. However, some more budget-friendly options are outside the city centre.
The YHA Chester Trafford Hall is my recommendation for those on a budget. It is situated just outside the city centre; Trafford Hall was built in 1756 and combines the grandeur of a glorious Georgian house with modern, sustainable facilities. Guests can use shared spaces in the hall, including a spacious lounge, dining area and fun games room. There is also a drying room and kitchenette for essential food preparation and washing. There are also 14 acres of organic grounds complete with nature walks and landscaped gardens.
If you have never stayed in a hostel, check out my guide for newbies for more information on whether hostel stays are for you. They are not for everyone, but the low cost gives me more money for activities and attractions.
For booking accommodation, I recommend using Booking.com. This website offers the best-priced accommodation catering for all budgets and styles. Just pop in your requirements, and it will give you a list of available accommodations. Perfect for picking out the best hostels, B&B or even some luxury escapes.Booking.com
Chester is a beautiful city with plenty of free things to do. Whether you’re exploring the outdoors or strolling through the charming city streets, there’s something for everyone in Chester. And best of all, it won’t break your budget. The next time you’re looking for a fun and affordable way to spend your day, look no further than right here in Chester! So explore, have some fun in the sun and create memories without breaking the bank, all while discovering everything that makes Chester great!
Thanks so much for stopping by; I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content in the next few weeks, so make sure you pop back to catch up!
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