Things to Do in Stratford-upon-Avon
The medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of iconic wordsmith William Shakespeare. Visitors can follow in the literary giant’s footsteps by exploring some of his homes and gardens—there are five in town, each offering a fascinating insight into Shakespeare’s life and works.
With a history dating back more than 1,000 years and a serene setting on the banks of the River Avon, the Holy Trinity Church has long been renowned as one of England’s most beautiful and most visited parish churches. An architectural highlight of Stratford-upon-Avon, the Grade I listed church dates in part from the 13th century and is celebrated for its fine Clopton Chapel, Victorian stained glass windows and series of 26 ornately decorated misericords, as well as a first edition 1611 King James Bible on display.
The lavish interiors are impressive enough, but for most visitors the main draw to the Holy Trinity is its connection with William Shakespeare. The iconic playwright was famously born in Stratford-upon-Avon and was both christened and buried at the church. Visitors can view Shakespeare’s Grave for a small fee, as well as the graves of Anne Hathaway, Dr John Hall and his wife Susanna, and Thomas Nash.
With its gabled roof, oak beams and elaborately carved façade, the Harvard House is undeniably attractive, and it’s long been touted as one of Stratford-upon-Avon's most beautiful buildings. The Elizabethan-era town house was built in 1596 by local businessman Thomas Rogers and is now a Grade I listed property, remarkably preserved and decorated in period style.
The Harvard House takes its name from Rogers’ grandson, John Harvard, who went on to found America’s famous Harvard University. Although he never lived in the property, the house is none-the-less an intriguing link between Harvard’s family and William Shakespeare, who lived just down the street.
Today, the house is preserved as a museum and offers a fascinating glimpse into Elizabethan life. Visitors can explore the three floors, where exhibitions chronicle the property’s history and life in Elizabethan and Tudor times, including fun hands-on activities for children.
There are few more fitting locations to watch one of Shakespeare’s plays than Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of the iconic playwright, and the most prestigious venue in town is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Built in 1932, the historic theater is the official home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose performances of Shakespeare’s works are renowned around the world.
Built to replace the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, which stood on the site since 1879, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was the design of Elisabeth Scott (one of Britain’s first notable female architects) and underwent extensive renovations in 2010. Today, the theater hosts regular performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in its 1,000-seat auditorium, but it’s also a popular destination for tourists.
A range of tours allow visitors to explore the Front of House, peek behind-the-scenes, visit the grounds and gardens, or even get a backstage look at the nearby rehearsal rooms and costume store. Alternatively, the theater’s 32-meter-high Tower offers far-reaching views over Stratford-upon-Avon, while the Rooftop Restaurant and Riverside café serve up everything from afternoon tea to cocktails, and a range of free temporary exhibitions are hosted on-site.