5 things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon for a first time visitor

Steeped in Shakespeare's history is Stratford-upon-Avon, one of the many heritage cities in England. Located in Warwickshire, this tourist town boasts of nearly 3 million tourists coming in every year. Tourism is a major reason for the town's prosperity and as such the council ensures that everything is well maintained and tourist friendly. I have put together a quick guide listing the top 5 things to do in Shakespeare's town which will help you make the most of your visit.
  1. Shakespeare's houses
  2. The Holy Trinity Church and Shakespeare's grave
  3. Butterfly Farm
  4. Boat trip on River Avon
  5. Museums - MAD and Tudor World
The major attractions in the town are the five houses related to William Shakespeare. Listed below are the 5 houses and if you plan to visit all 5, then a good way to save money is by purchasing the 5 House ticket. You can check with the Visitor  Information Centre for discounted tickets and other deals.

Shakespeare's Birthplace: The house where Shakespeare was born and grew up. This is the house where he also spent the first five years of his married life with Anne Hathway. The building has been preserved well and enables you to picturise how family life would have been in those times. Shakespeare's father's glove making workshop has been furnished the way it would have been back then and is ready for work.

Nash's House and New Place: The home of Shakespeare's granddaugher and also the final resting place of Shakespeare. Though New Place is no longer there you can see the site. The house has been converted to a museum and has some interesting artefacts. The gardens are well maintained and fabulous.

Hall's Croft: This was the home of Susanna Hall (William Shakespeare's daughter) and her husband Dr John Hall. The 17th century house has interesting exhibits that throw light on the medical practices of that period. There is also a lovely walled garden which was in bloom when we visited.

Anne Hathway's Cottage: This beautiful thatched 15th century cottage was the childhood home of Anne Hathway, Shakespeare's wife. This was my favourite of all the houses. There is a lot to see and take in. Apart from the house, there are beautiful gardens and grounds to explore. There is an arboretum, woodland walk and also a lavender maze. When we went, the sweet peas were in full bloom in the garden and made for a lovely sight.

Mary Arden's House and Museum: Home to Shakespeare's mother, this Tudor farm has been maintained as a working farm, just like it would have been in those days. Apart from the working farm, there is also a daily falconry display and archery event on some days. There are some animals and birds on display and a nature trail as well. This place is in the village of Wilmcote around 3 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. You could take the train to Wilmcote and then walk to the farm which is a short distance away or take the hop-on-hop-off bus.

The Holy Trinity Church and Shakespeare's grave: This Grade I listed parish church is famous because this is where Shakespeare was baptised (1564) and also buried (1616). Both the church and the grounds are pretty and tranquil. The stained glass windows are lovely and at the altar is the grave of Shakespeare along with that of his wife and daughter.

The town also has lots of other attractions not related to Shakespeare. For nature lovers, there is the Stratford Butterfly Farm. A lush green tropical environment with colourful butterflies flying all around. It is easy to reach the farm as it's a few minutes walk from the town centre. It's definitely worth a visit if you are visiting Stratford-upon-Avon and have an interest in wildlife and nature. This was my favourite attraction in the town. Read more about the butterfly farm here.

If you are looking for something totally different, then you could go to one of the many museums in the town. The MAD (Mechanical Art and Design) museum houses kinetic art, automated contraptions and some really quirky gadgets. There is a collection of old and modern pieces of modules and machines which will interest both children and adults alike. It's a small place but entertaining and educationally beneficial as well.

Another interesting museum is Tudor's World - The Falstaff's Experience which provides a scary insight into the life of Tudors. Different aspects of the Tudor world like story of Kings and Queens, crime, witches, scary medicine, the plague and of course William Shakespeare are all explained excellently with the help of props and sounds. Apart from the museum, Tudor World also conducts ghost tours, pub walks and theatre events.

For those of you who are interested in stage theatre, there is the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres on the western bank of the River Avon. The theatres owned and managed by the Royal Shakespeare Company underwent a major renovation a few years back. The adjacent Bancroft Gardens provides a scenic riverside setting and hosts local markets and street performers. If you are visiting in summer, then the river is busy with cruisers, rowing boats and motor boats. A visit to Stratford-upon-Avon is incomplete without a trip on the River Avon.

There is so much to do and explore in Stratford-upon-Avon that it is no wonder tourists flock back every year to discover more. Whatever you decide to do, I am sure you will have a memorable stay in Stratford-upon-Avon.

You can visit the Stratford Visitor Information Centre for more information, maps, accommodation booking and tickets to attractions.
Stratford Visitor Information Centre
Bridgefoot, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6GW
Phone:: 0871 978 0841

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