Only one day to drink it all in? Don’t panic. It’s a city with a lot to offer, but it’s also a pedestrian dream. We’ll get you around the best bits on foot and at a leisurely place – a pitstop tour of what we consider, the city’s true highlights and hidden gems. We’ve pointed out the nearest cafes along the way, so you can fuel up on sugar and caffeine and keep moving. There are also a few additional notes if you’re especially speedy or keen to cram. Clicking on most of our venue links will take you to interviews and features; in-depth info from the amble team.
THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM…
It’s breakfast time and you’re famished. For something filling and indulgent, it has to be Hanky Panky Pancakes on Commonhall Street– where you can customise your breakfast to your heart’s content. Go savoury, scotch or sweet, every which way. We consistently opt for ‘Home on the Range’ – two Hanky pancakes topped with maple syrup and bacon. Dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian options available.
You’ll emerge full and happy and find yourself in central Chester, a perfect starting point for a late morning spent browsing our independent offerings.
UNIQUE AND LOVED
Before the cross, on Bridge Street, climb the many floors of Nichols & Co for all sorts of wonderful collections: clothes, candles, jewellery, second-hand furniture etc. Sally’s Secret Garden, alongside doubling as a coffee shop with, you guessed it, a charming garden out back, stocks Fair Trade and festival clothing, fragrance lamps and oils, and finely crafted items – there’s a lot to browse.
Left from the cross is Watergate Street. Harriet & Dee will sort you out for cards, quirky gifts: illustrated coasters, chunky doorstops, special occasion treats. Weasel and the Bug is great for gifts for kids – environmentally-friendly toys powered by children, not batteries. Violet Palm is a must-visit if you’re after plants, flowers and inspired accessories. Keep it old school with The Antiques Shop and dress your walls at the Watergate Street Gallery. Snacky and thirsty? You’ll want to top-up at Chalk or PANNA.
Right at the cross will take you down Eastgate St, the main shopping area in Chester for your standard high street crowd: Debenhams, M&S, Boots etc. Saint Werburgh St peels off it to the left, connecting with Northgate St and is worth a look for some of the quirkier chain clothes shops.
But we’ll hone in on Northgate St for our Independent tour, starting with Chester Market, halfway up. There are A LOT of great happenings beyond the dated facade of The Forum Shopping Centre. Highlights include Tea Island (for tea and coffee), Bookingham Palace for second-hand reads, Pip Decor for lovely bits for the home, and It’s a Vinyl Countdown for records. Here’s a full list of traders. Chester Market is absolutely thriving in the city, thanks to an influx of new, exciting traders and the high-quality offerings of loved, established ones. Late opening hours on Thursdays, Fridays, and some Saturdays (especially in December, check out exact times here.) This is where the cool kids hang out on Foodie Fridays.
Further up this street, make time for The Cheese Shop and Chester Art Centre (a small gallery which often showcases the work of local artists and 2nd Floor – our most colourful, multi-functional place – think clothes, funny cards, gifts, art prints and a lot of stuff from local makers (oh, and craft events galore).
IT’S ALL NATURAL…
If you’re keen to explore the greener spaces in the city, you’ll want to work your way down to the River Dee; head down Bridge St and a little further, take a deep break inside Wild – striking flowers aside, they have a second room of stunning plant pots and accessories – great gift ideas. If you’re feeling curious, you’ll find Dollectable on the other side of the road – even if it’s closed, the window display of life-like dolls are certainly a talking point.
On your way to the river, stop at Obscure for cake or a cappuccino (or both) – a dog-friendly and beautifully decorated coffee shop. Weather permitting, stroll along the River Dee – treating yourself at Snugbury’s or Cheshire Ice Cream along the way. Drift off left and enter Grosvenor Park – the perfect picnic spot or a pretty walk around on a chilly winter day.
Where the city centre blends into the River Dee (just before Handbridge) is a good place to get on the walls, if you want to walk around the city (they’re just shy of 3k in total). There are many access points – find a map detailing them all here.
LUNCHTIME – DON’T GET HANGRY…
If time’s on your side, it’s worth walking a little into Handbridge, to Meltdown, enjoying a toastie from Chester’s famous Melty Queen – we suggest Halloumi Lollipops with a Hammy McHam Face (ham shank from Edge the Butchers, gherkin, Dijon mustard).
In Chester Market, your group can all order from different vendors and eat together in the middle. We love Peak Sandwiches, Death by Tacos, Stile Napolitano (pizza) and Crustum (bakery, soups, sandwiches etc.), but there are a lot to choose from.
GET STUCK IN
A newcomer in 2019 to the city, Chester: A Life Story (Bridge St) is worth a visit for those looking to get to know us a little better. Explained as an attraction which, ‘gathers and re-tells the rich tapestry of stories created in and about Chester. Of the people and the places. The tales and the spaces. About living, loving, being. Expect to be amazed, be entertained, entranced. Expect the unexpected!’
Looking to escape for a little bit? Then Virtual Reality Escapes (Northgate St) will take you where you want to go: bottom of the ocean, the middle of a haunted house, running from zombies, you name it.
We highly recommend checking out Chester Food and Running Tours if you’re a foodie, into your fitness or history, or like to combine all of the above. The food tours are a great way to sample small bites of the best grub at a number of independents, in one day.
Don’t forget to check out what’s happening in our Event Calendar too.
Hoole is a little set apart in comparison, but worth a visit if you have time. We recommend heading there via Brook Street (not far from Chester Train Station – there are some great places on this street including Moss for coffee, Pierogi for a Polish lunch, Chai St for the best vegetarian Indian food going and ThaiNamoon for relaxation inc massages.
Once in Hoole itself, don’t miss Short+Stout (great brunch menu) and Little Yellow Pig for coffee, The Suburbs for cocktails, Sticky Walnut for a special meal (booking strongly advised), Deli-vert to pick up treats for later, and pop into the cool little shops, inc Olivia&Smith (gift, accessories etc.) – all within a concentrated area.
For a top-quality meal out, we love 9 Elephants (Thai), Porta (Tapas), Hypha (Plant-based), Da Noi (Italian), Chef’s Table (special occasion, range of food) and Dough Dough and Urbano 32 (pizza) – all in central Chester.
There aren’t a huge amount of options for big nights out in Chester, (unless you fancy partying at the infamous Rosies and Cruise) but by God can we deliver a classy bar crawl – recent years have welcomed many stylish additions.
Our perfect Friday night out starts at That Beer Place (they also do a solid range of gin etc.) or Vinological (wine) in Chester Market, where we’ll likely gorge ourselves silly at Death by Tacos. Then it’s time for the Royal Three, all close neighbours on Northgate St – Docket No.64, PicNic, and Covino (all do great bar snacks too). After, it’s a short walk off-road down Godstall Lane for some jazz at cozy Metronome. We’ll drink in the night air en route to Paysan on Bridge St for wine (or Cavern of the Curious Gnome upstairs for beer), then head (sure-footed) to Prohibition (top-notch cocktails amongst other things), where we try to remember which staircase on Watergate St leads to the unmarked door. Our final pitstop is usually Craft&Co which is small but perfectly formed which good music, and stays open until 3:30 am on a Friday. Cheers.
*Please check opening hours with venues in advance of your visit to avoid disappointment. Many places mentioned offer a lot more beyond how we’ve referenced them, so it’s worth checking their websites to see their full range inc events. This is by no means an exhaustive list – but does reflect the best way to spend a day in Chester, in our opinion.