Shakespeare’s Stratford

In this month of love, there’s no better historical site to cover than the home of William Shakespeare, author of the romantic tale of Romeo and Juliet and more. From his birthplace to the site of his final home, Stratford-upon-Avon is a great addition to any England itinerary!


William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, a small town in Warwickshire located about one hundred miles northwest of London. His father was a successful alderman (town council member) and glove maker who had his shop in the family’s home, and his mother hailed from a local affluent family. Their home in Stratford was quite large and luxurious for the time. Shakespeare was educated at the local school, but at the age of eighteen, he married an older (26-year-old) local woman named Anne Hathaway. They quickly had a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet died at the age of eleven from what is thought to be one of the plague outbreaks.

Shakespeare wrote plays that made it to the London stage by 1592, and he divided his time between London and Stratford, leaving his wife and family in a newly built home, “New Place.” Many of his plays in London were staged at the Globe Theatre on the south bank. He continued building his reputation as a playwright until his untimely death most likely from a fever at the age of 52 in 1616. Who knows how many more plays he had left in his mind when he passed away?

He left the bulk of his estate to his two daughters, and it’s odd that the only mention of his wife in his will is in leaving her his “second-best bed.” The significance of this (perceived) slight is the focus of much scholarship! 

Shakespeare is considered the world’s best-selling playwright, and his legacy lives well past his actual writings, influencing almost all of literature to this day. From oft-quoted lines to the common themes of family, betrayal, and love that run through his plays, his outsized impact on all of culture is too large to ever trace.


You, too, can walk on the medieval streets of Shakespeare’s Stratford, seeing if inspiration will strike you! It’s a lovely town to visit and would also make a great base for any trip to the Cotswolds or the college town of Oxford. Kids will love its winding streets and its picturesque riverbank where they can feed swans and geese while taking a boat ride.

Stratford has enough to fill at least two days on an England itinerary, especially if you want to take in some of the fantastic plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company. To plan a stay here, check out the tourism board and Rick Steves’ recommendations

Stratford holds a special place in my memory because I spent two weeks living here during my college study abroad program. We attended every RSC play and wandered the quaint town, meeting soon-to-be-famous actors and just soaking up life in an English town. It was glorious!

The must-see Shakespeare historical site in Stratford is his birthplace.

This stunning example of Tudor architecture has been well-preserved and is a fascinating place to visit. Be sure to buy your ticket ahead of your visit since it’s the most popular stop in town! I recommend getting the story ticket so you can also visit some of the other Shakespeare historical sites in Stratford. 

At the birthplace, you’ll enter a small museum that tells the story of Shakespeare’s life. I could have lingered for a while, looking at the rare folios of his work, but my kids were ready to move on. Don’t miss the one Star Wars poster though!

The next place to visit is a lovely garden with a fun and educational timeline of his greatest works. Kids will enjoy it!

Walk on the bluestone path to the entrance to the birthplace (pictures below from 2022 and 1996 – not much has changed in over 400 years!). All of the rooms in his birthplace are furnished with authentic furniture from his life and time period. The docents are extremely well-versed and make the history come to life. 

You’ll see the parlor (which contains a bed that signified wealth) and the kitchen. For those who’ve read Hamnet, I could just picture little Hamnet curled up on the hearth. 

His father’s glove shop has been recreated.

The most moving part of the house to me was upstairs in the children’s bedrooms. After reading Hamnet, I could just picture him comforting Judith here. The little forlorn shoes about did me in. 

The main bedroom where Shakespeare was born is full of beautiful furniture, and our kids were fascinated with the stories about how they had to “crank” their bed straps (that’s why we say, “Sleep tight!”). 

Heading back downstairs, you’ll learn more about the birthplace after Shakespeare when it became a tavern.

Head back out into the garden in case there is a performance on the small stage! 

You’ll want to spend more time in Stratford so head out to explore the other Shakespeare-related places. Don’t miss the statue of the Bard near the birthplace. It’s a great picture spot! 

Another spot to see is New Place (reopening for the season in March). This is the site of Shakespeare’s family home once he acquired wealth and fame. While the house was demolished in the 18th century, the gardens are lovely. Tickets are part of the story combo ticket with the birthplace. Don’t miss looking at the next door Nash’s House, which belonged to Shakespeare’s granddaughter.

There are additional historical sites owned by the birthplace trust not currently open to the public, including Hall’s Croft (Susanna’s married home) and Mary Arden’s Farm (a Tudor farm).

You can also go to school with the Bard at the nearby Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall. This is a separate ticket from the birthplace sites. We didn’t get to visit but it looks like it has a lot of kid-friendly, interactive activities! Check out its virtual map to get an idea of the exhibits.

Just outside of town is Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, the preserved childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife. Tickets are part of the story ticket with the birthplace, and the home will reopen for the season in March. 

True Shakespeare enthusiasts will want to pay their respects at his grave in the Holy Trinity Church alongside the River Avon. It’s about a 15-minute walk from his birthplace to the church, which has a beautiful view of the winding river. We didn’t go there on this trip, but I remember visiting in college. Your kids will love walking there along the riverbank, feeding the ducks and swans. 

While you’re in town, don’t miss the opportunity to see some of Shakespeare’s plays in person. The excellent Royal Shakespeare Company has an extensive season at three theatres, and many of the actors will go on to become well-known in British theatre or cinema (I met a young Joseph Fiennes and David Tennant when I studied here in college!). 

The RSC also does plays adjacent to Shakespeare, like this upcoming play based on the popular book, Hamnet! I wish I could go!   

There is a lot to do in the town outside of its hometown boy-made-good. The riverfront is a must-see with kids who will love to feed the swans and take a boat cruise. They’ll enjoy running around the expansive Bancroft Gardens park in front of the main RSC theatre where they can pet the dozens of dogs out for a stroll and get an ice cream from a street vendor. On a warm summer evening, this is an ideal spot for family fun!

Another fun attraction for kids is Tudor World. This museum has lots of interactive exhibits but there are several plague doctors/scary mannequins so be aware before taking young children. For a fun adventure outside, check out the kid-friendly Stratford Butterfly Farm, just on the other side of the river. You can also go on a spooky ghost tour (always fun with kids!) through the Stratford Town Walk company. And your kids will love the big ferris wheel on the river! For train enthusiasts, check out the Shakespeare Express.


There are many hotels in the town, including the RSC recommended Arden Hotel. The nearby Hotel Indigo also looks nice. For a luxurious stay in the nearby countryside, look at the Welcombe Hotel. If you want to stay in the countryside, the Cotswolds has many amazing kid-friendly properties on Plum Guide (affiliate link), Baby Friendly Boltholes, or Kid & Coe. We stayed about an hour away at a little cottage in Castle Ashby.


Stratford has many great restaurants, including atmospheric pubs and quaint tea rooms. We enjoyed our hearty lunch at The Garrick, the oldest pub in town that dates to the 1400s. I like to imagine Shakespeare had a meal here too! A cool place to eat is the Rooftop Restaurant at the RSC main’s theatre. It overlooks the River Avon and has an amazing view! There are also several restaurants right along the river, like the Pen and Parchment and The Red Lion. If you’re there on a nice day, grab a picnic lunch from the local Marks and Spencer Food Hall on Bridge Street and take it to the riverside park. Just be sure to keep the pesky geese away!

Stratford-upon-Avon is a Shakespeare lover’s dream stop on any England itinerary. And it’s fun for kiddos as well. Be sure to add it to your next trip!

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