Discovering the famous Chester Rows
Whether you are a Chester regular or a first-time visitor to this fabulous northern city, you may have heard of the famous Chester Rows but have little idea of the history behind them. The double-decker walkway design is unique to Chester and sets this historic centre of Cheshire apart from other Roman walled cities.
Spanning the edges of the central shopping streets: Watergate, Bridge, Northgate, and Eastgate, with The Cross at their centre, the Chester Row’s origins are much discussed and often heavily debated. Here I share my day as I shop, eat and discover the famous Chester Rows using the Visit Chester & Cheshire walking audio tour. For more details and the downloadable map, head to the link at the bottom of this blog.
The Chester Rows - the vibrant heart of the city
With the earliest buildings along the half-timbered elevated walkways dating from the 13th Century, the architecture is a fascinating mix of original Medieval and Georgian frontages with a spattering of later 20th Century additions.
Although arguably the more modern buildings appear somewhat as a disappointing juxtaposition; as a whole, Chester Rows are what makes the heart of this vibrant and bustling city tick. Traffic-free and sheltered from the often unpredictable British weather, the picture-postcard raised pathways are packed with independent businesses and eateries deserving of as much attention as their high-street counterparts.
Beginning your day on the Chester Rows
Start any visit to Chester with great coffee and the opportunity to plan your day away from the crowds exploring the Chester Rows. There are so many options for a heady caffeine hit in Chester; top choices include the popular Jaunty Goat, the neighbouring Cinderbox Coffee, both situated on Bridge Street, together with Chalk Coffee, set in the stunning arches on Watergate Street.
For a delicious brunch while seated among botanicals, head to The Flower Cup located on the upper level of Watergate Row, close to the pretty pink Palm Eatery and Panna Coffee, both also worth a visit. While at the Flowercup, be sure to try the pancake or French toast Special for a sugary sweet kick or the tasty Vegan fry up. After a relaxing chance to refuel, the possibilities for an enjoyable day spent discovering the Chester Rows, are endless.
Shop the independents' along the Chester Rows
From great shopping, eating, and walking, the Chester Rows have it all. For those with children, or gifts to buy for loved ones; Weasel & the Bug located on the lower level on Watergate Street, is the ideal place to begin. Filled to the brim with delightful wooden toys, there is something to suit all ages.
From here, take the steps upwards to the elevated section of the Chester Rows on Watergate Street and you will find Harriet & Dee occupying the God’s Providence House. This monochrome majesty is undergoing exterior renovation works but the upper interior floor ceilings, are equally worth viewing while shopping the array of beautiful cards, gifts, and home decorations.
Also situated on Watergate Row: The Olive Tree, Liquor and Co, and Watergates Bar are highly recommended venues to return to for dinner and drinks, after dark.
Hidden gems along the Chester Rows
Dropping down onto Watergate Corner, The Cross is often a busy meeting point with live performers and the Chester town crier. Following Bridge Street towards the River Dee, on the right-hand side at both street and upper level, Suzie Ks is an eclectic shop and cafe with a hidden secret garden. Filled to the brim with colourful dreamcatchers, incense, and tie-dyed clothing; you could lose yourself for hours in here.
Opposite Suzie Ks, the grand stairway leads the eye into St. Michael’s Arcade which continues into the Grosvenor Shopping Centre and towards the Grosvenor Hotel, a real grand dame of the city.
Finding treasure along the Chester Rows
For those with a keen eye for jewellery, Chester’s jewellery quarter is located close by on the corner of Bridge Street and Eastgate Street. The famous Lowe & Sons is a rabbit warren of treasures not least silver and jewellery, but also features a small private museum on the upper level. Showcasing a cabinet of Titanic memorabilia; the Lowe family are personally connected to the ill-fated liner through family member, Harold Lowe, one of only four officers to survive the sinking.
A short walk down Bridge Street on the upper level leads you to Carbonara at No49, and opposite, Carluccios both bringing a taste of Italy to the streets of Chester. For those with a strong stomach, the Sick to Death Museum a few doors away, tells the gruesome story of medicine through time.
The romance of the Chester Rows
Onwards towards the main shopping street of Eastgate and the much-photographed Eastgate Clock, the Chester Rows come into their own. With splendid half-timbered buildings on both sides, look out for a section of wattle and daub here, opposite The Old Baker’s Row, home to the entrance of the festoon-lit Godstall Lane. Often considered one of the most romantic streets in Chester, stop for a cocktail with a loved on at The Green House, before following the pathway towards the magnificent Chester Cathedral and imposing Town Hall.
Discovering more about the Chester Rows
The Chester Visitor Centre can be found here on Northgate Street from where you can find more information on booking a city tour with the Guild of Chester Tour Guides or Roman Tours. For more information on the history of the Chester Rows specifically, the public reference library at the Storyhouse is a useful port of call and a peaceful place to spend time reading.
The Visit Cheshire website features the full details of the Discover Chester Rows audio tour and accompanying imagery, available to download now.