Chester is a small but scenic town in Cheshire county, just 20 miles south of Liverpool and about 200 miles north of London. Its history and eclectic architecture make it a popular spot to visit, not to mention its proximity to two of the U.K.'s most impressive national parks. It's easy and quick to reach by train, with direct service taking only two hours from London's city center. Buses are the cheapest method and good for last-minute plans, although the journey takes more than twice as long. Driving is the best way to freely explore the entire area, and from Chester, it's easy to continue on to Liverpool, Manchester, or even farther north to Scotland.
|Train||2 hours||from $24||Arriving on a time crunch|
|Bus||5 hours, 10 minutes||from $20||Traveling on a budget|
|Car||3 hours, 45 minutes||197 miles (317 kilometers)||Exploring the local area|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From London to Chester?
Buses through National Express are the most affordable way of traveling from London to Chester with tickets starting at about $20, although the five-hour journey is more than twice as long as taking the train. If you're able to finalize your plans in advance, the train and the bus are usually comparable in price, but taking the bus is ideal for last-minute trips. Bus seats may rise in price but they never soar as drastically as train tickets do, even if you purchase your ticket on the bus from the driver.
Buses depart in London from Victoria Station with connections to the Circle, Victoria, and District lines of the Underground. When you arrive in Chester, the Bus Interchange is just steps away from the town center.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From London to Chester?
Direct trains to Chester depart about once an hour from Euston Station in London, with the fastest journeys taking just two hours. Trains in the U.K. are punctual, fast, and very comfortable, but can get expensive if you don't book in advance. Tickets are released about eight to 10 weeks before the travel date through National Rail, so look at schedules and book your seats as early as possible to take advantage of the "Advance" pricing, which starts at roughly $24 for a one-way ticket. If you wait too long, prices can balloon up to $180 and you'll be stuck either paying or taking the bus.
The Chester train station is located just under a mile outside of the town center or about 20 minutes by foot. There are also a number of bus lines from the train station to downtown or you can take a short taxi ride.
Tip: The "Advance" pricing doesn't show up when you purchase a roundtrip ticket, so if you're planning to return directly to London try buying two one-way tickets, instead.
How Long Does It Take to Drive?
If you have access to a vehicle, driving to Chester is easy as it's just south of Liverpool and Manchester and therefore well-connected to London. It takes almost four hours to complete the drive without traffic, although exiting London you're almost guaranteed to hit some congestion. Plus, the route goes directly through Birmingham, the U.K.'s second-largest city and another traffic hotspot. There are a few different routes you can take and the fastest one depends on road conditions that day, so use a navigation app to check traffic before heading out. The M6 toll road around Birmingham may save you a significant amount of time if you're traveling during rush hour, but you'll have to pay to drive on it.
Thanks to a variety of parking garages around the city center, leaving your car in Chester isn't a difficult endeavor. Most of them charge under $10 to leave your car for the entire day and just a couple dollars more if you want to leave it overnight. It's a convenient and hassle-free way to explore the city without worrying about your vehicle.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Chester?
If you're driving to Chester on a weekday, the best time to leave is right after the morning commute around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. If you drive straight through, you'll also miss out on the busy evening commute when passing through Birmingham and approaching Liverpool.
Summer is the most comfortable time to visit Chester, as well as the rest of northern England, when the average high temperature is around 69 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius)—much cooler than other parts of Europe. It's also the high season for tourism and the city can fill up with visitors from around the U.K. and abroad. Spring and autumn are ideal times to visit since the weather is chilly but not freezing and there are much fewer visitors. Winter is very cold, but the Christmas market and occasional snowfall leave their own unique charm on the city.
What's the Most Scenic Route to Chester?
Chester is located halfway between two national parks: The Peak District and Snowdonia. Neither one is really on the way from London to Chester, but you could make a detour to pass through either one of these picturesque parks for a full day of driving but worthwhile viewpoints. Or if you're staying in Chester, either park is easy to reach for a day trip after you arrive, giving you more time to enjoy their natural beauty without having to rush off.
What Is There to Do in Chester?
Chester has a mix of architecture ranging from ancient Roman walls to medieval cathedrals to Victorian-era shops. The city walls are some of the best-preserved in the U.K. and show the reaching extent of the once-almighty Roman Empire. In the town center, the looming Gothic cathedral dates back to medieval times and is one of the most important attractions in the city. But Chester is perhaps most famous for its black-and-white buildings that line the downtown streets and were typical of the Victorian era, giving the whole area a distinctly "Alice in Wonderland" feel. Incidentally, Alice's Cheshire Cat is named for the Cheshire county that Chester is the capital of.