My Britain: Chester

Anna Walker 29 April 2022

A stones-throw from the Welsh border, this charming city has beguilling markets and Roman ampitheatres to offer

Close to the English/Welsh border, the walled cathedral city of Chester was founded as a Roman fort back in 79 AD. The city has a fascinating history—one of the last in Britain to fall to the Norman conquest, it's littered with buildings of historic note, including medieval architecture, and some of the best-preserved historic city walls in the country.

The Industrial Revolution shaped Chester enormously, and visitors to the city today will see its traces in the railways, canals and impressive Victorian architecture from the period.

For tourists planning a visit to Chester this year, there's plenty on offer, including Discover the Rows a new, free, self-guided audio tour of the medieval Rows that line the city's four main streets. Chester's Rows are unique in the world.

They are continuous half-timbered galleries, reached by steps, which form a second row of shops above those at street level. Nobody is quite sure why they were built this way, but the new tour offers an insight into their fascinating history and continuing role in shaping the identity of Chester.     

Brian Clarke

Managing director of ChesterBoat, Brian, 63, has lived near Chester all his life

I was born in the small village of Mancot, six miles from Chester and once I moved, I have simply never wanted to leave the city. 

I like Chester's close proximity to the coast, Liverpool and Manchester. The city itself  has so much to offer but most of all I love the beautiful River Dee. People in Chester are always so friendly, and after living and working in Chester all of my life, it is great to know so many people and have such nice friends here.

"I like Chester's close proximity to the coast, Liverpool and Manchester"

My favourite spot in Chester has to be the tree-lined banks of the River Dee along the Groves promenade. I walk into work at ChesterBoat every day and it's great to be able to walk through Grosvenor Park and come out at the suspension bridge [Queens Park Bridge]. I never tire of it.

ChesterBoat is the trading name of Bithell Boats Limited. That was the original name of the passenger boat business established in Chester over 100 years ago. I started with Bithell Boats back in 1979 as a boat driver and have had a wonderful life within the business and now owning it with my wife Raquel.

Katrina Kerr

Katrina, 66, is the chair of Chester Business Improvement District and has lived in Chester for 24 years

I'm a Londoner but in 1998 my husband and I moved to Chester. It was the perfect location and as city folk, we really felt we had "escaped to the country".

There simply ain't nothing like Chester. It packs a lot in. It looks different from other cities—so many black and white buildings, Roman ruins, a complete city wall and Victorian gothic sandstone. It does things differently—the medieval Rows are a two-level shopping experience and we have some crazy pagan festivals! And it has a great vibe. During the summer it is busy with tourists and race-goers, lots of al fresco eating, and in the winter, you can enjoy comedy clubs, jazz and folk bars, plus the programme at Storyhouse, our amazing performing arts centre.

"During the summer it is busy with tourists and race-goers, lots of al fresco eating, and in the winter, you can enjoy comedy clubs, jazz and folk bars"

The city's food offer is great too—one restaurant has a green Michelin star and so many others are at the top of their game. It's a small city but with an increasingly big food scene.As a resident, Chester is very accessible—walking, cycling and scooters are all popular. It also feels very connected, being only two hours to London. Chester is right on the border with Wales so for centuries it has been a bit of a melting pot—a bit English, a bit Welsh. It has a reputation for relative affluence, and I would say up to a few years ago was getting a little sleepy. However, a new generation of can-do entrepreneurs have started businesses (several in travel, some in finance), made Chester their home and the city now feels young and buzzy.

My favourite thing to do in Chester is to walk into the city along the riverbank on a cold winter's night when the lamps light up the cobbles and it feels a tiny bit mysterious.

I head to a wine bar like Covino or a top-notch pizza place like Stile Napoletano for a bite to eat and a glass of something rich and fruity, and then amble home past the Storyhouse and the cathedral which are lit up and welcoming. 

To plan a future trip to Chester, go here

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