Stratford upon Avon is a picture postcard town in Warwickshire. Two hours north of London, making it a perfect day trip if you want to escape the hustle and bustle. Shakespeare has put Stratford firmly on the map and it is hard to escape him here. As you would expect, there is a lot about Shakespeare here. But there are still lots of other things to do here.
Brunch at MOR Bakery
If you are going to have a jam-packed day galvanting around Stratford, you are going to need a hearty breakfast. There are some great options in the town, but if you have a soft spot for sourdough, you will want to make a beeline for MOR Bakery. This bakery has had a jilted start, first ‘opening’ its doors to a closed world in March 2020. The ethos here is quality sourdough in a Danish style of baking. MOR is actually the Danish word for ‘Mother’ which is the name of their sourdough starter.
Tucked on a side street in the new pedestrianized area of Bell Court, it is a tiny little cafe with limited seating so it makes sense to get there early. Sometimes the sun shines, and when (or if!) it does, there are a couple of tables outside if you want to enjoy your delicacies al fresco. No tables? Fret not, they also serve pastries, cakes, and other delicious goodies to take away, as well as top-notch coffee. Weather permitting (as is always the case in the UK!), take a short walk down the river. Here, you can enjoy your brunch while watching the world go by.
If you are desperate for a table or nothing tickles your fancy, you can also head over to Yorks Cafe, which is on High Street. Another independent cafe that serves excellent cake and coffee, they also serve some interesting takes on brunch. There are lots of Middle Eastern spices and there are some rather interesting lattes. Beetroot and rose anyone?
After you have enjoyed a fabulous start to the day, head over to Henley Street. This street is steeped in Tudor history, so it is worth having an amble down and enjoying the architecture. Towards the bottom is Shakespeare’s Birthplace and even if you aren’t a particular fan of the Bard, it is well worth a visit.
The museum is centered around the original house where Shakespeare was born in 1520. Trained staff explain how each room was used at the time, and give you a glimpse of how life would have been for Tudor people. Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust has also built a new center adjoining the house which gives a brief history of Shakespeare and Tudor England, as well as displaying some historical artifacts.
This house has been very well preserved and is still one of the best examples of Tudor buildings in the country. This is partly because the house was made into a museum all the way back in 1847. Charles Dickens was one of the voices who called for the house to be preserved for future Shakespeare fans.
You can either buy a single house ticket for this museum or a multi-property one. This gives you access to everything offered by the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust. It’s only a couple of pounds more so definitely worth doing if you are planning to visit any others.
Lunch on Sheep Street
Stratford has lots of good places to eat so you are spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a good lunch spot. There is no shortage of good eateries around Stratford town center, but you will find a good concentration and range on Sheep Street, which runs down to the park and rive. Here you will find restaurants serving everything from traditional English food, to wood-fired pizza, fish and chips, and sandwiches, so there is something to suit every taste, diet, and budget.
Loxley’s Restaurant and Wine Bar is a Stratford institution. Here you will find a good lunch menu, with burgers, sandwiches, and salads. There are also heartier mains on the menu in case you are feeling hungry. And you can wash it down with a good glass of wine, which all sounds pretty idyllic.
Another local institution is Lamb’s, where they serve traditional English mains with a few fusion dishes. There is also a well-priced set-price menu and a decent gluten-free menu.
Visit Mary Arden’s House/Butterfly Farm
After a good lunch, it’s time to use your Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust combi ticket and make your way over to Mary Arden’s Farm, which is in Shottery, a small village attached to Stratford. This is just outside Stratford so you will need to either drive or catch a bus/taxi.
Mary Arden was William Shakespeare’s mother, and while the Shakespeare link is very present, it is a fun experience even if you haven’t heard of him! This farm brings to life what life was like in the 1500s. There are lots of hands-on things to try, and is definitely family-friendly. The house is open and you can walk around and get a feel for how life was for Mary Arden.
It’s no secret that it rains a lot in the UK, so you may find yourself in Stratford in the pouring rain, with a farm seeming a little less appealing. If this is the case, Stratford Butterfly Farm is an entirely indoor experience and is perfect for kids.
Grab an Ice Cream and Take a Stroll Along the River
Again, the weather may thwart the best-laid plans in the UK. But, if the skies are clear, head down to Bancroft Gardens by the river. Grab an ice cream from the ice cream boat or any of the shops nearby and take a seat on the grass or one of the benches. This is in front of the RSC, so you may find buskers reciting a soliloquy or two.
Have Dinner at the RSC
After a day of exploring and learning, it’s time to take the weight off and enjoy a delicious meal with a view. The RSC’s Rooftop Restaurant offers some of the best food with the most jaw-dropping views at a reasonable price. They serve English food cooked using local, seasonal ingredients. The menu is small, with a set menu of 4/5 choices (£29 for two courses, and extra for three). They are incredibly accommodating to people with allergies, just try to give them a heads-up before you go. They also have a creative cocktail menu which you may feel inclined to work your way through.
If you are looking to go all out, Stratford is home to salt, the proud owner of a Michelin star. This is simple food cooked well, but expect to see some playful combinations. This place is pricey and booking in advance is essential.
Catch a Show
As you have probably gathered, Stratford is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. What better way to truly get what it’s all about than by catching one of his plays in the flesh? The Royal Shakespeare Company (known locally as the RSC) is considered one the best places to enjoy his canon of plays. Whenever you find yourself here, there is always something showing. They are known for their creative and innovative interpretations, that sure his century-old plays still feel relevant to today’s audience.
There have been some famous faces treading the boards here in the past, including Judi Dench, David Tennent, and Ian McKellen, to name a few! If you are lucky, you may even catch a legend reciting the Bard’s epic lines. Tickets don’t have to range the banks and they start as low as £16 for a restricted view.
Stratford Upon Avon is a buzzing and vibrant town with some great shops, cafes, and restaurants to explore. It is a picturesque place with some truly historic architecture. If you find yourself lucky enough to be here, make sure you have a good time exploring and enjoy what there is on offer.