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The Capital of Shakespeare Country - Tips for Enjoying Stratford-upon-Avon

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As the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and home to well-preserved architecture from a bygone Tudor age, Stratford-upon-Avon is a hugely popular destination. Visitors come from all over the world to see the bard's famous plays in his hometown's custom-built theatres, eat and drink in old Elizabethan taverns, and stroll or boat along the River Avon.

Best time to travel

 

Being in the English West Midlands, Stratford-upon-Avon gets rainfall in every season, so don't forget your umbrella. Temperatures are generally mild and moderate, rarely rising over 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) or falling below freezing. The Shakespeare heritage industry keeps the town bustling year-round. July and August tend to see local hotels, restaurants, and theatres fully booked, so it's advisable to plan well ahead for summer trips. Certain Shakespeare-related events and anniversaries can draw an additional influx, and while spring is mostly nice and quiet the Stratford Literary Festival brings more book-lovers in April and May.

Not to miss

 

Even visitors who have never read a Shakespeare play nor seen one on stage will likely be captivated by a Royal Shakespeare Company performance. The costumes and sets, the electric atmosphere, and the music of the language make for an unforgettable experience. A robust Stratford-upon-Avon itinerary should include real ale in a 16th-century timber-framed pub, and a leisurely afternoon on the river in a chartered Edwardian barge. With the Cotswolds so close to town, you can also take a long scenic walk in some of England's most beautiful hills.

 

Getting around

 

Stratford-upon-Avon is so compact that you can easily get to most of its main attractions on foot, or rent a bike to cycle around town. Trains to nearby Birmingham run every hour and to London every 2 hours. There’s a regular bus service to towns and villages throughout Warwickshire and neighbouring counties, and coach connections to major cities nationally. You can also travel in and out of Stratford by barge, via an extensive canal network. The nearest major airport is Birmingham Airport (BHX), 26 miles away, and Gloucestershire Airport (GLO) is 38 miles; both have national and international flights.

 

Cuisine

 

Warwickshire and the West Midlands are well-known for farm-fresh produce, and Stratford-upon-Avon has been a main market town for these goods since medieval times. Quality local meat, fruit, and vegetables are used in traditional dishes like plum jerkum, savory groaty pudding, Warwickshire stew, and the region's famous pork pies. At any good Stratford restaurant you'll find plenty of local cheeses on the board, too - try the Berkswell, or a Forest Blue.

 

Customs and etiquette

 

Notwithstanding its great age and awe-inspiring history, Stratford-upon-Avon today enjoys a contemporary, casual air, and no more than common politeness is expected. Be respectful of the town's residents by keeping the noise down and cleaning up after yourself in parks and other public spaces. Talking or using a cellphone is no more acceptable in a Shakespearean theatre than it is at the movies. Restaurant and hotel staff are customarily tipped 10 percent or more for good service.

 

Fast facts

 

  • Population: 25500
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  • Spoken languages: English
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  • Electrical: 220-240 volts, 50 Hz, plug type G
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  • Phone calling code: +44 1789
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  • Emergency number: 999