Your freshman year is finally starting, bringing with it adventures, excitement and new experiences. Your bags are packed, you’ve said goodbye to your family, even the dog. The University of Chester is calling, and you’re ready to hit the road. Before you throw yourself full-tilt into student life, it’s worth learning a little about your new hometown and the delights that await you in Chester.
Chester lies on the River Dee in the county of Cheshire, a hop, skip and a jump from the Welsh border, and just two hours from London.
With origins that date back to the first century, Chester maintains its link to the past with the medieval buildings and old city walls, some of which are part of the original structure. Chester has the most complete city walls in Britain, and the two mile walk around them offers up some superb views of the surrounding countryside with the Welsh mountains in the distance.
The city attracts over eight million tourists a year, who come to experience the ancient history of the area as well as enjoy the wide range of attractions available in Chester. Among the historical attractions, you will find:
The Roodee – this is the oldest racecourse in England that still hosts horse racing and international polo matches. In days gone by, it was the site of the old harbour, parts of which can still be seen near the racecourse.
Chester Cathedral – The cathedral lies in the heart of the city and within the ancient city walls. It’s a functioning cathedral, and welcomes everyone for worship. For those wanting to get a glimpse of its history, the cathedral is free to enter, with a gift shop and café offering souvenirs and culinary treats.
The Eastgate Clock – Eastgate clock was built in 1899 in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. It’s the second most photographed clock in the world after Big Ben in London, and is displayed proudly in the city centre.
Town Crier – For a throwback to historic times, the Chester Town Crier can be found at the High Cross at noon, Tuesdays to Saturdays from June – August. Traditionally, town criers informed townsfolk of the latest news, and patrolled the streets after dark, arresting criminals and taking them to the stocks. Their more gruesome role was to attend public hangings to read out why the person was being hanged, and then to cut them down afterwards. Nowadays, the role of the Town Crier is purely for entertainment, and Chester is the only place in Britain where you can hear the town crier regularly.
While history is a large reason why tourists visit Chester, the city holds a lot more in store for students than just old buildings and a beautiful landscape. Your arrival in Chester is bound to be exciting, if not a little bit daunting, but the best way to start learning about your new surroundings is by attending the university’s Freshers’ Week.
Freshers’ Week is an orientation period for first-year students. It lasts for a week, and generally takes place sometime between the middle and the end of September. All freshmen should attend this orientation as it’s extremely beneficial for adjusting to life at university. Despite what the press and TV would have us believe, this week is not all about partying. Among the bar crawls and boozy nights, there are some interesting and informative events.
Freshers’ Fair – This event showcases the range of clubs and societies available at the university, and provides you with information about joining or getting involved in some way.
Campus Tours – It is the prerogative of every freshman to get lost on campus at some stage within the first few days. Campus tours will give you an idea as to where all the important buildings are located on campus so that when you set off for your first lecture, your surroundings will be a bit familiar.
City Tours – If you are new to the area, you should consider joining a city tour. You’ll learn where you can buy your groceries, shops for clothes and see a doctor, but more importantly, you’ll find out where all the best cafes, bars and restaurants are located.
Socials – It’s your first year of university. Chances are that your friends are spread far and wide around the country, each attending their own Freshers’ Week. This is a great opportunity to meet new people, and find a group of friends who you can experience university with. What better way to do this than to attend some of the exciting social events that take place during Freshers’ Week.
As much fun as Freshers’ Week is, it can also be a strain on your bank balance. Many of the activities and events come with a price tag. Make sure you plan your week so that you have an idea as to how much it’s going to cost you and you aren’t caught short at the end of it.
It’s important to pace yourself during this time. Many students come down with Freshers’ Flu, either during the week or shortly thereafter, simply because they have done too much and are completely exhausted. You don’t have to see and do everything in one week. You have plenty of time to meet people, and explore your new hometown.
Getting Around in Chester
You have a few choices when it comes to public transport in Chester, but possibly one of the easiest ways to get around is to take a taxi. Chester Taxi Service runs a tight operation, and all drivers have the necessary DBS checks. Previously known as CBR checks, these Disclosure and Barring Service checks are run by employers on their employees to check whether or not they have criminal records.
Chester Taxi Service is licensed by Hackney Carriages and what better way to get home from a shopping trip or a night out than in a traditional Black Cab. With this locally run transport service, you are guaranteed that your driver is knowledgeable about the area and will know how to reach your destination. Although Uber is also an option for transport in Chester, many of the drivers are either new to the area or not local at all and therefore possibly not as familiar with the roads. They drive their own vehicles, and although Uber does have strict operating standards, with Chester Taxi Service you have peace of mind and complete safety.
There are various ways of securing your taxi in Chester. You can book in advance by calling the service directly, book online or do so using the app. If you are out and about, there are a good number of evening taxi ranks and 24-hour taxi ranks dotted around the city. The Chester Taxi Service provides a comprehensive map on its website showing the location of the various ranks around the city.
- Call Direct: 01244 421 024
- Book Online: www.taxis-in-chester.co.uk/online-taxi-bookings/
- Taxi App: Google Play – App Store (IOS)
- Find on Google
When Mom and Dad come to visit you’re going to want to show them around your hometown, visit the tourist sights, go out for meals and generally just play tour guide. Chances are that they’ll have driven to see you, and this brings up the issue of where to park. Chester can get rather busy and parking can sometimes be difficult to find, which is not a situation that is specific to peak season. It’s a popular city and draws visitors throughout the year, for a day trip, a weekend, or just to enjoy the hiking and walking trails in the area.
There are a number of car parks in Chester, most of which are council-run with a few that are maintained by National Car Parks. Parking charges apply for most of the car parks in Chester, with the exception of the following:
- Bishop Street
- Curzon Street
- Walker Street
- Hamilton Place – FREE for the first four hours
Operating hours are from early morning until late at night, with most of the car parks staying open for 24 hours.
If you prefer not to struggle with trying to find a suitable parking spot to leave your car while you trundle around town showing your folks the highlights, it’s worth considering the Park & Ride.
Park & Ride
The Park & Ride car parks are located on the outskirts of Chester, and while you can park free of charge, the bus tickets cost around £2 each per adult. Park & Ride is a very cost effective way of getting into the city, and with fewer stops than local buses you are almost guaranteed a quicker journey.
Buses run at regular intervals and seven days a week with the exception of Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day when the service is suspended.
Due the Covid-19 pandemic, Park & Ride may offer a limited service so make sure you check the timetable for any updates.
The internet is an integral part of our lives, whether we use it for work or play. For students, it has the added value of being a useful tool for doing the research needed to write assignments or complete other university work.
Many of the bars, cafes and restaurants in Chester provide free Wi-Fi to patrons, making it easier for you to do the work that you need to, while in a social environment. Popular spots like Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Urbano 32 and Off The Wall all make it easy for you to connect with friends while being connected.
Eating and Drinking
Restaurants and Takeaways
Attending lectures, doing research and writing essays are all part of the daily grind of university, but you also need to make time to socialise and keep yourself nourished. It’s quite common for students to eat cheaply and unhealthily. Beans on toast, Pot Noodles, jacket potatoes and sandwiches are all cheap and cheerful, easy-to-make dishes, but once in a while it’s good to treat yourself to a meal at a proper restaurant.
Options abound in Chester, and with various types of cuisine available you will easily find something to suit your taste buds on any given day or night. Whether you favour traditional British pub grub, Chinese, Mexican, Spanish or even Japanese food, you won’t be disappointed.
There are also choices when it comes to your budget. Very few students have endless cash reserves, but all students like to eat out from time to time. Chester has some excellent well-priced eateries that will suit your palate as well as your pocket. Try one of the following when pennies are low and your tummy is grumbling:
- The Brewery Tap – wholesome pub food, prepared from locally produced ingredients and free from artificial additives, colouring’s and flavourings
- The Moorings – All-day breakfast and brunch menus with light bites, and traditional British food.
- The Slowboat – An Oriental restaurant with lots to choose from. For a fun night out, try their Full Belly Banquet on a Friday or Saturday evening
For days when you’re snowed under with work and have no time to cook, or you just want to enjoy restaurant food in the comfort of your own home, there’re a number of takeaway options in Chester that you can turn to. The usual fast-food outlets like MacDonalds or KFC are always affordable fall-backs, albeit rather unhealthy ones. You’ll find that most restaurants offer takeaway menus especially since the restrictions imposed on them as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some have a delivery service, but for those that don’t, phone your order through or order online and then catch a taxi for quick collection.
Bars & Cafes
Bars – the favourite meeting place for students throughout the world. Where else can you unwind after a stressful day of lectures, catch up with the latest news, make plans for the weekend and just hang out among friends and fellow freshmen. Chester has pubs and bars for all times of day and night, and for all moods. Some, like Ye Olde Custom House and Bear & Billet, are traditional pubs with history oozing from the walls and authentic beams of these old buildings, and others are part of a hotel or a traditional inn, like The Coach House and Ye Olde Kings Head. For something a little more modern, Liquor & Co may be more to your taste, offering an array of cocktails, beers, wines and spirits. Off The Wall is a favourite on most pub crawls, and is nicely located in the city centre. This is wonderful place to relax and watch some live televised sport, while enjoying a leisurely drink with friends.
You’ll find the usual chain coffee shop names in Chester – Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero – but don’t miss out on the more traditional tea rooms, like that in Booth Mansion where you can treat yourself to a delectable High Tea. It’s a lovely place to take your parent when they visit, situated as it is in a grade 1 listed building with an art gallery and small retail outlets offering a variety of quaint and quirky merchandise and gifts. If you love plants, you’ll love The Flower Cup in Watergate Street. This is a botanical bounty, where you can enjoy a variety of teas, coffees or a wonderful all-day brunch menu that includes vegan options, while surrounded by plants to lift your spirits. There are so many wonderful coffee shops and tea rooms in Chester, you will need to try them all to find your favourite!
Rainy Day Entertainment
It’s England, it rains, and Chester is unfortunately not exempt from experiencing rainy days throughout the year. Besides the varied assortment of cafes, bars and restaurants that you can find shelter at, Chester has some exciting attractions to keep you busy, and dry.
As a newbie to the area, you should most definitely visit the Chester Cathedral and get a glimpse of its rich history. Although currently suspended due to Covid-19, the tower tour takes you up 216 steps to the top of the central tower, affording you a view across the British landscape that spans five counties and two countries. Tower tours cost about £8 per adult.
The cathedral hosts various events throughout the year, so you may find just the thing to do on a rainy day.
This is a popular attraction, and yes, even in the rain! The zoo has put together a Wet Weather Walk that showcases the more sheltered areas so that you can stay dry while still experiencing parts of one of the largest zoos in England. Some of the areas that you will see on the rainy day trail are the Asian Forest, home to the Asian Elephants; the monkeys, including the Mandrill which is the largest monkey species in the world; the dark Fruit Bat Forest; the Painted Dogs Habitat where you will be see these wonderful African dogs; and the tropical Butterfly House with its delicate winged residents; and the Dragons in Danger, home to the largest lizard in the world, the Komodo Dragon.
Parking at the zoo is free of charge, and the facility is open from 10h00 – 18h00. Tickets cost in the region of £25, and it is preferable to pre-book your ticket due to limits on the number of people allowed in at any one time. On weekdays, you can try your luck without booking a ticket, but you may not be allowed access immediately if the zoo has reached its limit.
Blue Planet Aquarium
If you’re happy to take a little drive in the rain, head out to Cheshire Oaks, about 7 miles from the university to visit the largest aquarium in North West England. Blue Planet Aquarium has an underwater tunnel where you can literally walk through Europe’s largest collection of sharks. If it’s a tropical experience that you prefer, then try the Flooded Forest. This exhibit represents a branch of the mighty Amazon River in South America, and you’ll quickly be transported to rain forest through the symphony of sound and the humid temperature. In the Frog Zone you’ll learn all about these hoppy creatures and how they’ve evolved over the years in keeping with their changing habitats.
The aquarium is open daily from 10h00 – 17h00, with last entries at 16h00. Parking is available at a once-off cost of £2.75. Your entry ticket may be pricey at just under £20, but you can take your time through the facility and really get your money’s worth. Oh, and you’ll stay dry!
When you’re thinking of something to do to pass the time on a rainy day, visiting a museum may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But with the rich history in and around Chester, it would be a shame not to plan a trip to the Grosvenor Museum at least once. The museum itself is a historical building, having been built in 1885, and at the back of the museum, you’ll find 20 Castle Street, a house dating back to 1680 that was incorporated into the museum in 1955.
Entry to the Grosvenor Museum is free of charge however they welcome donations from visitors to assist with the upkeep of the facility.
It’s clear that not all attractions or activities are necessarily cheap or free in Chester, but there are still some places where you can get good value for money.
This shopping mecca has over 140 outlet stores where you can spend your allocated budget on clothes and shoes. Adidas, Birkenstock, Guess, Next, Monsoon and Superdry are among the big name brands that you can find at Cheshire Oaks. It’s easy to go a little bit shopping-mad and spend too much, but remember that you still need to feed yourself for the rest of the month.
There are plenty of options at Cheshire Oaks where you can grab a light bite or a quick coffee and rest your poor, tired feet.
Chester Ghost Tours
With 2000 years of history in Chester, this could be one of the most haunted cities in England. This night-time tour starts at the Town Hall Visitor Information Centre at 19h30 and follows a path through the eerie haunts of Chester. Tales of ghostly sightings and mysterious happenings will have you clinging to the guide’s every word. For an extra creep factor, try the Halloween tour!
Tickets are £9 for students, and the tours take place on Saturdays throughout the year, as well as Fridays in October, June, July and August.
The Great Outdoors
Not everything that you do in Chester costs money, and for students the less money you spend, the better! There are some beautiful walks that you can do in and around the area, and if you feel like travelling internationally, you can cross the River Dee into Wales and enjoy the scenery in a different country!
A trip to Grosvenor Park gives you space to relax while you soak up the fresh air. Pack a picnic, round up a small group of friends and spend the afternoon in good company and away from your books.
You’ve chosen Chester to be your home for the next few years. It offers a myriad of things to do, places to go and sights to see, and that’s without all the restaurants and bars that you’ll have on your doorstep. University life is bound to kick up some challenges, both within the study sphere and as you adjust to living away from home for the first time. But with the experiences and fun that Chester student life offers, you’re sure to breeze through your freshman year while making tons of memories, and be eager to return for another year of excitement.