The best of the Bard: Britain’s top Shakespeare attractions

Monday 23 April 2012

Whether you’re a devotee of Shakepeare’s plays or just curious about life in 16th-century England, Britain’s Shakespeare attractions are absolute gems. You’ll find theatres devoted to his works, exhibitions and beautiful historic buildings - even the original houses he and his loved ones lived in. We've put together a few of the best for you:

Stratford: the Shakespeare Properties

Shakespeare's birthplace
Hallowed ground for lovers of literature and history alike, Shakespeare birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 remains a star attraction to this day. A half-timbered, Tudor-style cottage, it’s furnished as it would have been in Shakespeare’s time and transports visitors into the atmosphere of England’s past. See the house, the exhibition on Shakespeare’s life and be sure to explore the gardens too.

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Photo by babywalrus

Anne Hathaway's cottage
As well as Shakespeare’s own house, you’ll find a collection of other Tudor cottages in and around Stratford that belonged to his friends and relatives. Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife, lived in an idyllic cottage a short walk away from central Stratford, and this is where Shakespeare would have come to see her while they were courting. It’s a spectacular example of a Tudor farmhouse, and still contains furniture that belonged to the Hathaways themselves. The gardens are also beautiful, so be sure to explore.

Anne Hathaway's cottage

Photo by mweriksson

Hall's Croft
Shakespeare’s eldest daughter lived nearby in Hall’s Croft with her husband, Dr Hall — a medical visionary in his day. Another splendid Tudor house with a beautiful garden, you’ll be treated to an array of 16th- and 17th century paintings and furnishings, together with an exhibition on Dr Hall and medicine of that era. You can also buy herbs and plants, and take guided tours of the house.

Halls croft

Photo by babywalrus

Mary Arden's farm
Next up is Shakespeare’s mother’s farm, which is a little way outside Stratford in the rural setting of Wilmcote. The stunning timbered Tudor farmhouse is still there, and is now home to the Shakespeare Countryside Museum. This is a great one for families with young children as there’s a lot to see and do, from falconry displays to demonstrations at the blacksmith’s forge, and even Tudor archery lessons.

Mary Arden's Farm

Copyright Shakespeare Birthplace Trust/Amy Murrell

 

Shakespeare’s grave

Shakespeare is buried in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, the same church where he was baptised in 1564. His final resting place is famous for its inscription, believed to have been penned by the Bard himself, which lays a curse on anyone who moves Shakespeare’s bones. In case you’re curious, the verse reads: Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, to digg the dust encloased heare. Blese be the man that spares thes stones, and curst be he that moves my bones.

Shakespeare's Grave

Photo by kurafire

 

Shakespeare’s Globe

See Shakespeare's plays in his very own Jacobean theatre! A faithful restoration of Shakespeare’s 16th-century playhouse, it’s a truly atmospheric way to take in the Bard’s work, not to mention a rather grand building in its own right. Entry is just £5, which gets you a standing place as a 'groundling'.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - Linda Nylind

Photo by Linda Nylind

See our blog post on the Globe Theatre.

Royal Shakespeare Company

The primary theatrical body responsible for producing Shakespeare performances is the Royal Shakespeare Company. Based in Stratford-upon-Avon, visitors can tour the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres by day or by night on the RSC's spooky after-dark tour. This is the other main place to see Shakespeare performed, but you can catch the company in action elsewhere on its national tours.

Swan Theatre

Photo by Ell Brown

 

Shakespeare in Love film locations

You’ve seen the film, now see the settings! It just so happens that they include some of Britain’s most delightful places.

Viola’s House: The setting used for Viola’s House was Broughton Castle near Banbury, a bustling market town in Oxfordshire. A medieval manor house, it’s surrounded by lush woodlands, beautiful gardens and a spectacular moat.

Broughton Castle

Photo by David Stowell

The ‘Greenwich’ fireworks party: This scene took place in Hatfield House, just north of London in Hertfordshire. It’s a glorious Jacobean mansion full of rich oak panelling, artwork and period furniture, surrounded by acres of parkland. Just the place to spend a sunny day.

Hatfield House

Photo by Stuart Burns

Shakespeare begs forgiveness: Right in the heart of the City of London, the Church of St Bartholomew the Great was the grand backdrop to this scene in the film. Affectionately known as St. Barts, it was founded in 1123 and built when William the Conqueror’s son, Henry, was king. Visitors can stop in to hear the choir sing Evensong, take in the soaring architecture then explore the bustling bars and restaurants of Smithfields itself.

Smithfield

Photo by HerryLawford

 

Shakespeare memorial in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey

Keep your eyes open for the Shakespeare memorial in Westminster Abbey. While Shakespeare’s actual grave is in Stratford, you’ll find a special memorial statue in the famous Poets’ Corner, together with a collection of other famous writers.

Westminster Abbey

Photo by HerryLawford

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