The first time I saw Chester, I thought its street after street of beautifully kept half-timbered buildings could not be real. Surely I had stepped into a modern theme park.
As it happens, I was partly right. Chester's famous "Rows" are partly Victorian reproductions of earlier buildings. But some of the best are really Medieval. The rows are continuous rows to galleries, reached by steps from street level and forming a the second level of shops. No one is quite sure why they were built in this way but some of them, including the Three Arches on Bridge Street, have been galleried shops since the 1200s, having survived the Black Death of the 13th century and the English Civil War of the 17th.
Roman ChesterChester, and the four ancient street that make up it's High Cross district - Eastgate, Northgate, Watergate and Bridge - are more than a thousand year's older that its Medieval Rows. The walled city was actually founded as a Roman fort in 79 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. It's one of the best preserved walled cities in England with some sections of the ramparts dating back 2000 years to the Roman originals. The city was a major center in the Roman province of Britannia. Recent excavations, the biggest archaeological dig in Britain, have uncovered a Roman amphitheater where fighting techniques were demonstrated.
Even if you're not a keen fan of history, Chester, in the heart of affluent Cheshire, is fun to visit. It's full of independent boutiques, has several good museums and art galleries, and is known for top restaurants, luxury hotels and spas.