Now, first things first: to get to the right place, remember there are many Stratfords and Stretfords in England, all of them towns and villages located at points where old Roman roads crossed rivers. The name is a combination of the Old English 'strǣt', meaning street, and 'ford', a site at which a road forded a river. Don’t mess it up! And once you’re in the most famous of Stratfords…
1.Feel the special atmosphere of Shakespeare’s hometown
Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town with more than 800 years of history, and many of its surviving buildings were familiar to Shakespeare. In 2016, a whole array of events and activities in Stratford will mark the 400th anniversary of the poet's death.
2. Visit Five Shakespeare Houses
1. Shakespeare's Birthplace is situated on Henley Street. Enjoy a multimedia exhibition about Shakespeare's early years and watch live theatre performances.
2. Hall’s Croft in the Old Town was the home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna. Learn about her life and visit the traditional herb gardens.
3. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is just one mile away from the town centre. Follow a pleasant, well sign-posted footpath to discover how young William courted his future bride at her charming family home.
4. Mary Arden’s Farm stands in Wilmcote, only 3.5 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. See where the playwright's mother lived, watch falconry displays and traditional craft demonstrations.
5. Harvard House at High Street, 26 was built in 1596 by the grandfather of John Harvard. Head over to hear the story of America’s most famous university in the former residence of its benefactor’s family.
3. Visit Shakespeare’s final resting place at Holy Trinity Church
William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, was born in 1564 on St. George’s day (April 23) and died on the same day in 1616. Or so the story goes, at least, as those days knew no records of births and deaths. There are records of his baptism and burial though, and both events took place at Holy Trinity Church. The church is open to the public, and you can find Shakespeare's grave towards the rear.
4. Watch a play or join a theatre tour
For a city with about 25 000 inhabitants, there are a lot of theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, The Swan, The Cube, The Courtyard Theatre, The Dell, The Attic Theatre, The Civic Hall and The Waterside Theatre. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre and The Swan are property of the Royal Shakespeare Company, one of the best-known theatre companies in the world.
The Royal Shakespeare Theater has recently undergone a £100m refit and is one of the star attractions in Stratford. Come and watch one of the performances if you have the chance, otherwise just stop by for an excursion. One-hour guided tours usually run 4 times a day throughout the year but are dependent on production, rehearsal and technical schedules.
5. Walk along the Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon stands upon the river (you guessed it) Avon, and a walk beside it is one of the delights of the town, especially on a sunny day. You may even find yourself quoting some Shakespeare while you watch thousands of people visit his birthplace to pay homage to the poet.
6. Watch the Queen’s swans
There are a lot of Queen’s swans in the Avon River. By law, the Queen owns all the swans in Britain, or, specifically, any unclaimed mute swan in open waters in England and Wales. This law was more valid back in the medieval times when swans were a delicacy reserved for the wealthiest dinner tables. Take your time to admire the noble birds.
7. Take a boat tour
Finished in 1816, the picturesque 25-mile long Stratford-upon-Avon Canal connected the town to Birmingham and the Black Country, ensuring the shipping of coal and industrial goods. Canal & River Tours will take you from the Stratford Canal Basin through the historic lock and down the river Avon for 45 minutes of leisurely sightseeing.
How to get there?
Stratford is 35 kilometers away from the UK's second largest city, Birmingham. At London Marylebone Station, board any of the 6 direct daily Chiltern Railways trains to get to Stratford in 2 hours. On weekdays only, take an hour longer if you prefer and reach Stratford by one of the 3 National Express coaches leaving from London Victoria Coach Station.
Where to stay?
The Stratford, a Qhotel. The hotel boasts a great location at a walking distance from the centre of Stratford and the railway station. Choose from a range of 4 star bedrooms and suites, all elegantly decorated, with LCD TVs and free internet access. The restaurant offers a mouthwatering menu and an extensive wine list.
Author: Anita Sāne
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