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
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 resolved to make the best of my error in planning.
Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon
I start 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.
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.
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.
A lovely walk through town brings us to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s wife’s family home. The most impressive of all the Shakespearean highlights in Stratford-upon-Avon, the thatched-roof house has a warren of low-ceilinged rooms and expansive gardens with sculptures, trees, and benches galore.
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.
Even though we can’t see a play while we’re in town, 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.
And the theater isn’t the only place in Stratford 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.
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.
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.
Have you spent a weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon? What were the highlights?