Stradford-Upon-Avon is the embodiment of most people's idyllic idea of a quaint English town or old village. Stratford-Upon-Avon is a stunning town that draws crowds to its old thatched roofed houses and to see the town that was the birthplace and place of death of William Shakespeare. Note, while we are aware of the suggestions that Shakespeare was actually a different person writing under that name, but we will be following the generally accepted and conventional narrative that Shakespeare was the legit writer of the plays. Today Stratford draws some 2.5 million visitors to see the birthplace and gravesite of this most famous of Englishmen.

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Stratford is a market town (a title bestowed by King Richard I) in the West Midlands of England in the country of Warwickshire. It is situated on the River Avon (hence the name) and is 91 miles northwest of London. It is quite small with the town proper only having around 27,000 inhabitants. Stratford-Upon-Avon is not to be confused with Stratford in London (London is also filled with must-see sights and destinations).

What To See And Do In Stratford

Tudor World

One of Stradford's major attractions is the Tudor World museum. This museum is dedicated to Shakespeare and the life and times of that period. It is a stunning living history museum (with real people) in the heart of the town. It is set in a historic 16th-century building and really brings to life what life would have been like for William Shakespeare (including other contemporary notable people like Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake, Henry VIII as well as normal people of the period). Every week the museum organizes a walk around the town with "Shakespeare."

  • Opening Times: 10.30 am to 5.30 pm
  • Admission: Museum-Only $9 (Adult)
  • Shakespeare Tour Of The Town: $10 (Adult)
  • Virtual Ghost Tour (Night): $8 (Adult)
  • Live Ghost Tour (Night): $11 (Adult)

Hall's Croft

Hall's Croft is a fine timber-framed house that was owned by William Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna Hall (and her husband Dr. John Hall). They married in 1607. The building is now Grade I listed in England and is furnished with a collection of 16th and 17th-century paintings and furniture.

Hall's Croft is one of the most stunning and beautiful buildings in Stradford and is surrounded by a picturesque walled garden. Hall was a physician and in 1657 a selection of his notes was published (22 years after his death), they record his treatment of patients (these patients ranged from paupers to aristocrats). His notes offer a glimpse of the people associated with Shakespeare at the time.

  • Admission: $12.50 (Adults)
  • Summer Opening Hours: 9.00 am - 5.00 pm
  • Winter Opening Hours: 11.00 am - 4.00 pm

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Shakespeare's Birthplace is a very stunning half-timbered old building. It was purchased by Shakespeare's father who bought it in two stages in 1556 and then in 1575. This is where Shakespeare along with this brothers and sisters were born. This is where he grew up as a child.

When his father John died, William inherited the house, although by that time he already owned New Place - the second-largest house in town. He, therefore, had no need of it and rented it out to Lewis Hiccox who proceeded to convert it into an inn. It was renamed the "Maidenhead", later on, this was changed to the "Swan and Maidenhead."

The New Place

The New Place was Shakespeare's family home from 1597. This is where he resided when he wasn't in London. And it is where he died in 1616. It was earlier known in a will as the "Great House", while an even earlier description of it was a "praty howse of brike and tymbar" in older English spelling. Eventually, William Shakespeare purchased the house for perhaps around £120. This was then a very significant sum and a testament to how well William still in his early thirties was faring financially. Houses could be sold at the time for as little as £25.

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The house stayed in the Shakespeare family until 1647 - 150 years after he bought it. It was subsequently rebuilt and then largely demolished. Little of the original house survives today.

Other Sights

Other significant houses of interest include:

  • Anna Hathaway's Cottage: The Home Of Shakespeare's Earlier Wife
  • Mary Arden's House: Also Called Palmer's Farm - His Mother's Home
  • King Edward VI School: Where Shakespeare Is Thought To Have Added (A Grammar School)
  • Garrick Inn: The Oldest Pub In The Area Existing Since Medival Times
  • Henley Street: One Of The Oldest Streets With Many Of The Old Buildings

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There are a number of tours here. Mostly guided tours to explore the history of the individual buildings. Another option is the open decker sightseeing bus that provides a great narration of the town as a whole and of the life and times of the period.

Stratford is also centrally located in the heart of England and so it's a great base to explore other attractions in the region like the living Warwick Castle.

Stratford-Upon-Avon is a total must for those interesting in Shakespeare as well as those who just want to see the life and times of England in medieval times.

Next: 10 Completely Free Things To Do In England