Chester, England: One of the World’s Most Beautiful Towns

Chester is a charming and historic town of around 100,000 people located in northwest England. Not far from Manchester and Liverpool, it is the county seat of Cheshire, a region renowned for rural villages and its Industrial Revolution heritage. Chester was founded by the Romans in the 1st century A.D., when they established a fortress there. Extensive Roman walls surround the historic town, made with local red sandstone. Throughout my travels around the United Kingdom over the years, Chester certainly ranks among the highlights.

Chester, England’s Midsummer Watch Parade has taken place since 1498. It is the oldest and one of the most colorful parades in the UK.

Chester was recently named the world’s most beautiful city according to its percentage of buildings adhering to the “golden ratio.” The golden ratio, which are proportions expressed as 1:1.618, is frequently represented throughout nature in things like shells and flowers. Humans tend to perceive this ratio as inherently beautiful.

Gothic revival style Chester townhall at dusk with a blue sky and golden clouds in the back ground
Chester Town Hall.

A team of mathematicians, using Google street view, determined that 83.7% of Chester’s buildings adhere to the golden ratio. That bested Venice, Italy, which came in second with 83.3% of buildings categorized within the golden ratio. Everyone has heard of Venice, but far fewer people know Chester, England.

Nearly 100 years ago, Britain’s leading travel writer traversed England for his travelogue ‘In Search of England’. He wrote “There is nothing like it in any English town – the Chester Rows. So rich is Chester with beautiful, ancient buildings, no-one considered it strange to drink coffee in a medieval crypt.”

Traveling to Chester

Picture of a walkway a top a wall with brick homes lining the wall on one side and green trees the other side
Sandstone walls built by the Romans wrap around Chester England’s historic center.

Chester, England is around 20 miles (33 km) south of Liverpool. It is around 33 miles (55km) from Manchester to Chester. As both Liverpool and Manchester have international airports, it’s easy to add Chester to a UK itinerary in the region. You can pick up a rental car from the airport or opt to catch trains (my usual preference traveling in the UK).

Frequent train service connects Chester with Liverpool. Trains depart every 30 minutes and the journey takes 30-40 minutes, depending on the number of stops. Train service between Chester and Manchester, England also run around every 30 minutes, with the route taking around an hour.

Chester, England is recognized as one of the world’s most beautiful towns, with the highest percentage of buildings adhering to the “golden ratio.”

Chester is near the border of Wales. So it is also connected to Welsh train lines. Fun fact: On Welsh train service, announcements and signs are in both Welsh and English, with the Welsh language coming first. From Chester, it is easy to take a quick day trip to Wales.

I traveled to Wrexham, Wales, which is not the most impressive Welsh town, but it has gained recent notoriety thanks to actor Ryan Reynolds purchase of the Wrexham A.F.C football club (whose stadium is right next to the main Wrexham General train station). Wrexham A.F.C recently won their league championship, which promoted them to EFL League Two after a 15 year absence.

Manchester, Liverpool and Chester make a great triangle of cities to visit during a UK trip. You can easily spend a week in this region, and you will not see everything worthwhile. Manchester, England and Liverpool have an abundance of world class museums (many of which have donation based admissions) and rich football (soccer) traditions.


The Rows

Chester’s old city includes the Rows, a shopping district featuring two-level covered arcades and Tudor-style half-timber buildings. There are a variety of great restaurants, pubs, cafes and shops housed in the charming and unique Rows.

The Eastgate Clock

Shopping street with Tudor style buildings and people on the pedestrians street with a blue sky
Chester’s Eastgate clock dates to 1897. It stands above the east gate of the ancient city’s defense walls.

The Eastgate clock is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben. It was erected in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Three of its four sides have clocks. The west-facing side of the tower, which faces Wales, remains blank.

Local legend believes the reason for the missing clock was because ‘Chester won’t give the Welsh the time of day.’ Historically and to the present day, Chester is generally wealthy, while nearby Wrexham, Wales is a more blue collar town.

Chester Roman Amphitheater

The Chester Roman Amphitheater lies just outside the old city’s walls. It is the largest amphitheater in the United Kingdom. Ongoing excavations surrounding the amphitheater continue to uncover discoveries from Roman times. Entry to the Chester Roman Amphitheater is free.

Chester Cathedral

Chester Cathedral dates to 1541. The impressive house of worship is among the town’s cultural highlights.

Chester Cathedral is an impressive cathedral dating to 1541. It is among the most significant cultural centers in the United Kingdom. The Church of England cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Chester. Entrance to Chester Cathedral is free, with a donation box at the entrance. The impressive architecture and art makes it well worth visiting.

Chester Racecourse

Established in 1539, Chester Racecourse is recognized as the world’s oldest horse racing track still in operation. The Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) has consistently awarded the track the Gold Standard Award. Chester Racecourse has also been awarded the prestigious title of Large Racecourse of the Year in 2015, 2018 and 2019. I did not make it to a race, but some of the more prominent races draw vast crowds similar to the Kentucky Derby at Churchhill Downs.

Chester Hotels

The Chester Grosvenor

The Chester Grosvenor is a lovely 5 star property located in the center of the charming old city, less than a 5 minutes’ walk from both Chester Cathedral and Grosvenor Park. Guests can unwind in the spa’s Thermal Suite, featuring an herb sauna, steam room, salt grotto, and foot baths. Every Luxurious room has their own individual color scheme, and includes large, plush beds.

The Pied Bull

Vintage decor at the Pied Bull, within Chester’s historic Roman walls.

The Pied Bull offers spacious rooms with vintage decor above a historic pub dating to 1155, within the Roman Walls, in the heart of Chester. I received a complimentary room upgrade booking via the booking platform. I enjoyed my stay and being able to walk downstairs to the pub and restaurant.

The historic Pied Bull in Chester, England dates back 869 years to 1155.

The Pied Bull features its own microbrewery and bar serving a solid selection of cask ales, wines and beers. Their on-site restaurant serves up traditional British pub favorites using local ingredients when possible. Note that the Pied Bull has some steep stairs that date back centuries, without an elevator. A staff member was nice enough to carry my heavy suitcase up the steep stairs. The stairs are not applicable if you just go for the pub or restaurant.

The Pied Bull’s steep stairs date back centuries.

Chester Restaurants

Chester has a wonderful selection of restaurants, pubs and cafes. Whether you’re looking for a casual pub meal, international cuisine or fine dining, there are many options. There are also plenty of chic cafes in town to sit and chat, read a book, people watch or work remotely while traveling. These were a few of my favorite restaurants and cafes in town during the week I spent in Chester.

The Old Harkers Arms

Classic British pub fare at Old Harkers Arms in Chester, England.

The Old Harkers Arms was the best pub meal I enjoyed Chester. The canal side upscale pub serves classic British pub fare and delicious dishes that pair great with a crisp draft beer or cask ale. I enjoyed their fish n’ chips, made with deep fried cod in beer batter, served with chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce. Fish n’ chips are one of my favorite dishes to order in a British pub, and theirs is great. They have a section with table side service so you don’t have to just order at the bar.

Chez Jules

Chez Jules is a convivial French bistro offering rustic French cuisine made with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. I enjoyed their version of the French favorite, Beef Bourguignon – slow cooked beef, shallots, mushrooms, bacon, thyme & red wine. You can also enjoy seafood, a steak or their take on a popular British pub favorite, seasonal vegetable “Shepherd’s Pie” made with sweet potato mash. If you have a hankering for a delicious French meal paired with nice wine, Chez Jules is a great place to dine.


The chef of Hamayuu has over 20 years experience cooking in fine restaurants across Asia and Europe. The experience presented itself in the expertly crafted flavor profile and texture of the food. The Chicken Yakisoba, stir fried noodles with chicken and vegetables, I ate there was excellent. It is also fantastic value for £10.45 ($13 USD) for a quality dish served with table service in a British izakaya. This might have been the best meal I ate during my week in Chester, England.

Hickory’s Smokehouse Chester

Hickory’s Smokehouse is a family-friendly restaurant and bar inspired by a road trip across the southern United States. Located on the bank of the river Dee, they have a spacious terrace with a lovely view of the river. Barbecued meats, steaks, fajitas, burgers and American southern classics like chicken n’ waffles encompass a vast menu in their bustling establishment. Their bbq pulled pork was not my favorite meal in town, but it scores additional points for an excellent housed brewed pale ale, charming riverside views, bustling atmosphere, friendly service and good enough food. It is a popular spot.

Chester Market

I highly recommend having a meal at Chester Market – especially for lunch. The state of the art award-winning indoor market combines modernity and tradition with a wide selection of international and local food stalls. There are many fantastic options there including fresh seafood, fresh pastas, Thai, burgers, Mexican, South Asian as well as several cafes. There are also butchers and bakeries to pick up some local favorites like meat pies. The venue is open Tuesday through Sunday, and is closed on Mondays.

Jaunty Goat Coffee – Vegan

Vegan pancakes and cappuccino at Jaunty Goat in Chester, England.

Jaunty Goat has two cafes in Chester. Being lactose intolerant I appreciated the vegan options. Carrot cake is a favorite, and I while I won’t lie and say you cannot taste the difference, the vegan carrot cake at Jaunty Goat is a tasty treat. A good selection of pastries, great coffee, friendly baristas and a chill ambiance makes it a great stop in a town spoiled with quality cafes.

An apt mural in Chester, England as the town is spoiled for cafe and restaurant choices for a town of its size.


Large puppets dressed in Tudor style clothes are in the street and people are watching them surrounded by beautiful Tudor architecture in Chester’s watch parade
The Chester Midsummer Watch Parade, which takes place around the summer solstice in June, is an ideal time to visit.

The county seat of Cheshire, Chester is one of the most beautiful towns in the United Kingdom. Whether you’re a mathematician calculating a golden ratio, or simply a visitor using your eyes, the result is the same. The town strikes a great balance between activities, aesthetic beauty, authentic pubs and great dining. Planning a trip to Chester, Manchester and Liverpool offers an abundance of highlights for a trip to northwest England. You can also add Chester to a Wales itinerary, since it is nestled alongside the Welsh boundary.

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  • Alex Kallimanis

    Alex Kallimanis is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner who has visited 67+ different countries, including all 27 European Union countries across all continents except Antarctica. He has resided around the world, living in countries like Australia, the Netherlands and Ireland for over 7 years combined. Currently residing in the Tampa, Florida, area with his wife Bell, he still spends much of his time in Europe as a dual Greek citizen. Alex is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor of arts degree in history, and was the president of Phi Alpha Theta (Honors History Society) during his senior year there. Alex is an avid enthusiast of sports, spas, delicious food, the outdoors, craft beverages, history and culture.

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