The following post is our guide to visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, a historic town where William Shakespeare was born and which now is home to a bustling theatre scene. Read on to learn how to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, which tours to take, and what all visitors must see before leaving. Looking for other day-trips outside of London? Check out our posts on visiting Canterbury, Stonehenge, Oxford, Bath, Windsor Castle, and Cambridge.
Where is Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is a town just over 100 miles northwest of London along the river Avon. The area is most famously known for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Yet, in recent years, Stratford-upon-Avon has come to also be recognised as a cultural hub for theatre enthusiast. The surrounding county is Warwickshire, which is a county in the midlands near Birmingham.
+ By car:
Visitors traveling to Stratford-upon-Avon by car can do so via the M40. The route is relatively straightforward and should take approximately 2 hours. For those hoping to combine their day-trip to Stratford-upon-Avon with another destination should consider stopping in Oxford on the way there or back. Also nearby are the Cotswolds, which are renowned for their rolling hills and picturesque architecture.
+ By train:
Trains depart from London Marylebone or London Euston Station. Those departing from Marylebone take just over 2 hours to reach Stratford-upon-Avon, whilst those leaving from Euston take approximately 3 hours. The cost of the journey fluctuates immensely, depending on the time of day, speed of train, and how far in advance the ticket is booked. Same day tickets can be extortionate, so be sure to reserve your seat as far in advance as possible. Also, those travelling during ‘Peak’ hours will pay more than those travelling during ‘Off Peak’ or ‘Super Off Peak’.
Tips for saving money on train tickets:
- Buy ‘Off Peak’ or ‘Super Off Peak’, rather than the standard ‘Peak’ fare.
- Check whether it’s cheaper to depart from certain stations over others.
- Purchase your tickets ahead of time. Buy online by at least midnight the night before, and you’ll save.
- Buy a return ticket rather than 2 one-way tickets. This will massively reduce the overall price of the journey.
- Deliberate over buying an ‘Anytime Return’ ticket before you do so. Oftentimes, an ‘Anytime Return’ is more expensive than an ‘Off Peak Return’. The former means that you can hop on any train at any time when you’re ready to head back to London from Bath. However, the latter requires that you only travel during off-peak hours, such as after evening rush hour. ‘Anytime Return’ is much more convenient, but ‘Off Peak’ can be cheaper.
- Remember you might be applicable for discounted travel. Students, people between 16-25, and seniors over 60 all qualify for discounted rail cards.
+ By bus:
There are also several coach companies that offer services between London and Stratford-upon-Avon. The companies we recommend most are National Express and Megabus, as both have coaches departing from either location every 1-2 hours throughout the day.
The price of the journey varies immensely, depending on how far in advance you purchase your ticket. Tickets purchased within a few days of the journey, for example, can be astronomical, whilst tickets purchased at least a month in advance are often much cheaper than the train.
+ With tour group:
Golden Tours – This company offers several different day trips to Stratford-upon-Avon that are then combined with other stops at the Cotswolds, Oxford, or Warwick Castle. Regardless of which multi-stop day trip selected, all tours that include Stratford-upon-Avon last approximately 10 hours and depart from London.
Evan Evans – Also offers several muti-stop day trips that stop in Stratford-upon-Avon. Additionally, all tours last 10 hours.
Anderson Tours – Anderson offers one day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, which also includes stops at Oxford and the Cotswold villages. The trip is roughly 10-12 hours depending on your pick-up and drop-off location in London.
Stratford Town Walk – The highest rated walking tour of Stratford-upon-Avon, this company offers a historic town walk and an award winning ghost walk. Reviewers are almost unanimously positive, with many praising the guides’ knowledge and enthusiasm. TripAdvisor Rating: 5 stars.
Canal and River Tours – If you’re not keen on a walking tour, then a river tour is an excellent alternative. The trip feature an audio tour accompanied by live commentary and music. Reviewers are mostly content with their experience, though some comment that it was disappointing and overpriced. TripAdvisor Rating: 4 stars.
City Sightseeing – This international company also runs bus tours in Stratford. The tours are guided and operate on a hop-on, hop-off basis. Guests comment that the bus tour is useful, but not necessary, as all the major tourist sites are within walking distance of one another. Still, this is a good alternative for those who are unwilling or unhappy to walk. TripAdvisor Rating: 4 stars.
Shakespeare’s birthplace – Visit the place where Shakespeare was born! This site is obviously a must for all Shakespeare enthusiasts, though most guests speak fondly of their trip here. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens – This is where Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s future wife, lived as a girl. The lovely cottage offers guests insight into what an average person’s life was like 500 years ago. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars.
Mary Arden’s Farm – A Tudor farm replica that is more so targeted at children than adults, this is a fun option for families visiting Stratford-upon-Avon. Reviewers are very positive, though some complain that the price is too high. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars.
Holy Trinity Church – The church where Shakespeare is buried. Many recommend visiting, if only to read the comical inscription Shakespeare requested to be engraved into his tomb. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Ranked as the #1 “Thing to Do” on TripAdvisor, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is a pilgrimage site for serious Shakespeare fans. The stage extends into the crowd, making the audience feel like part of the experience. Reviews are extremely positive. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars.
The MAD Museum – Standing for ‘Mechanical Art and Design’, the MAD Museum is a welcome alternative for those less interested in Shakespeare. It is particularly popular with children, who can participate in several interactive exhibits. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars.