I know I’m in Stratford-upon-Avon as soon as I see the swans. Their white feathers glide back and forth as canal boats motor under bridges and past theaters. The birds barely give me a glance as I walk alongside them, but even their indifference can’t dampen my enthusiasm for this place. It’s my third visit to the town, but my first that will be long enough to take it all in. I have a whole weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon, and I’m determined to see everything.

Weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon

Weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon

Well, everything I can. I’ve made the embarrassingly rookie mistake of planning a trip for my boyfriend and me over one of the few weekends when there are no plays on at the theaters in Stratford-upon-Avon.

I’m disappointed to miss the opportunity to see Shakespeare on stage in the town of his birth, but I’m resolved to make the best of my error in planning. We still have 2 days in Stratford, after all, and there’s plenty we can do and see in that time.

Church Street in Stratford-upon-Avon

London to Stratford-upon-Avon

It’s easy to get from London to Stratford-upon-Avon, too. There are regular trains from the UK capital to Stratford-upon-Avon railway station.

The train from London takes around 2 hours, sometimes with a change en route. When you arrive in Stratford-upon-Avon, the station is conveniently located near the heart of the Old Town.

There are also buses from London to Stratford-upon-Avon. They depart from Victoria Coach Station, which is located on the corner of Buckingham Palace Road and Elizabeth Street.

The journey takes around 2-and-a-half hours and is usually less expensive than traveling by train.

Shakespeare Statue in Stratford-upon-Avon

Things to Do in Stratford-upon-Avon

Once here, my boyfriend and I discover so many things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon beyond theater that we have no problem filling our days despite the lack of shows on offer.

We see everything from Shakespeare’s houses to the Old Town. There are great cafes and restaurants, and lots of beautiful parks, gardens, and historic buildings to admire, too. And that’s to say nothing of the views.

Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon

After checking into our hotel, the Macdonald Alveston Manor, I start our weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon by taking us to as many of the non-theatrical Shakespearean highlights as I can.

Beginning at the beginning, we visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace. As we explore the rooms of his house and the gardens outside, I wonder what his childhood was like all those centuries ago.

Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

Next we visit Shakespeare’s New Place, a garden and visitor center on the site of The Bard’s adult home. The hedges make waves of the trees and the sculptures add magic to the grounds.

As my boyfriend reads out quotes from a Shakespeare book he bought at the gift shop, I feel as if I’ve fallen into A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Visiting this place is one of my favorite things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare's New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon

Down the street is Hall’s Croft, home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her husband. The house is full of 17th-century furnishings, with heavy wooden chests and giant firebacks giving insight into life in their day.

Outside the garden is full of new life, and the gardener tells us it will be in full bloom come July.

Hall's Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon

Another of the most exciting things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon is walk through town to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. This historic thatched-roof house was Shakespeare’s wife’s family home.

The most impressive of all the Shakespearean highlights in Stratford-upon-Avon, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage has a warren of low-ceilinged rooms and expansive gardens with sculptures, trees, and benches galore.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon Old Town

When we’ve completed the Shakespeare circuit, we focus the rest of our weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon on exploring the Old Town.

The half-timbered facades and ye-olde-everything delight my eyes, and I can’t get enough of Sheep Street, Henley Street, and Church Street.

Speaking of churches, the Guild Chapel’s haunting 16th-century wall paintings draw me in, and the Holy Trinity Church’s cemetery begs me to walk in its peaceful surroundings.

Church Street in Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon Theater

Even though we can’t see a play during our weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon, we still manage to make it to the theater.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre tempts us with promises of expansive views from its tower and warming food in its restaurant. We enjoy both, and love walking around the waterfront outside afterwards.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon Restaurants

And the theater isn’t the only place in Stratford-upon-Avon with good food. At the suggestion of a local, we have an excellent lunch at Lambs of Sheep Street.

We also discover the joys of breakfast at Box Brownie, a coffee shop on Henley Street with sweet decor and cozy ambiance.

Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon

Weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon and Beyond

In fact, the whole of Stratford-upon-Avon has a lovely ambiance. I’m so glad I’ve had more time to soak it up than on my previous visits, and can’t believe I ever thought of coming here for less than a weekend.

There are so many things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon that it merits more than a day trip from London.

Shakespeare's Birthplace

As we walk back by the swans on our way out of town, I go over what an amazing time we’ve had. The birds may still ignore me, but maybe it’s because they know if they’re too welcoming the whole world would come here and never leave. Especially if there’s a play on.

If you liked this blog post, make sure to take a look at my Stratford-upon-Avon video.

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Weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon

16 Comments on Lady’s Guide to a Weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon

  1. I looked up the Lambs of Sheep Street restaurant menu. I would most definitely try their Herb Crusted Rack of Cotswold Lamb! Have a great upcoming weekend, Julie! 🙂

  2. I haven’t spent a weekend there, but three separate day visits (it’s not far for me to drive there from Cambridge). I loved Anne Hathaway’s Cottage the most. Shakespeare’s birthplace was fascinating. I highly recommend visiting in late spring or in summer, as the gardens in bloom are so beautiful.

  3. I’ve been there before when I was a kid and looking to head there around April for the Bard’s birthday. I don’t remember much of that trip but now with my new found appreciation for him, perhaps I shall. I hope to be able to watch his plays at least. Is there online bookings?

  4. I also didn’t get to see a play when I visited, but I had a great time exploring some of the Shakespeare sites like you. It’s on my list of places to return to – and this time I definitely do want to see a play!

  5. Julie, I enjoy your blog posts and this one was particularly interesting as I live in Stratford-upon-Avon! You covered it really well and so glad you enjoyed your weekend here.

  6. I got to go to London and Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2011 as a part of a graduation present with a group of friends. Easily the best trip I’ve ever been on! While we were in Stratford, we saw the Shakespeare houses, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, went to the Holy Trinity Church to see where Shakespeare was buried, and we got to see two RSC plays – Cardenio and The City Madam – both of which were excellent. We also had enough time to squeeze in a tour the theater which pretty amazing. After seeing Cardenio we went to The Black Swan aka The Dirty Duck and spotted a couple of the actors from the show there. It was a such a wonderful trip!

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