Stratford-upon-Avon is one of Britain's most popular towns for international visitors. Yet getting there from London, about 100 miles away, especially if you don't want to have to sprint for a train after a show at the Royal Shakespeare Theater, can be a challenge. Use these travel directions to plan a trip to Shakespeare's home town. The information resources below will steer you to the best journey for your budget and travel style. They'll also help you decide whether staying overnight after a show might just be the best option.
How to Get There
Chiltern Railways run a limited number of direct trains per day in each direction between Stratford-upon-Avon Station and London Marylebone Station. The trip takes between two hours and ten minutes and two and a half hours. Advance purchase round trip fares vary wildly - with anything from about £16 when purchased in advance as two one-way tickets up to £116 (prices checked for July 2019. Tickets for the least popular (very early and mid-evening) are the cheapest.
If you are willing to change trains you can actually save some time and have a bigger choice of trains. There are services from Marylebone station to Stratford through Leamington Spa that, with the change at Leamington Spa, still take under two hours and have comparable fares. Be careful to avoid the trains leaving from Marylebone that change at Birmingham Moor Street. They take about the same amount of time but can be considerably more expensive.
If you are planning to see a matinee at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre or not planning to see a show at all, it is easier to take advantage of these cheaper fares because they leave Stratford too early to see an evening performance.
TripSavvy Tip - This is one journey where it's worth searching the Cheapest Fare Finder because the variety of ticket prices for the same trip seem inexplicably random. Reviewing fares for July in June 2019, we found a round trip ticket for direct service, with no changing trains there and back, arriving and leaving with adequate time to see a play for only £31.50. Persist and you could get lucky.
National Express runs three coach trips a day on weekdays to Stratford-upon-Avon Riverside Bus Station from London Victoria Coach Station . The journey takes just under three hours to a little over 4 hours. The cheapest advance fare one-way tickets in July 2019 cost £7.70 each way. Use the company's online Fare Finder to find the cheapest tickets.
If You Are Seeing an Evening Performance at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre
- First of all, plan on a train back to London instead of a coach. The trains run later than coach services.
- Check with the theater for information about the final curtain. The longer shows may not leave you enough time to get to the train station. The last train of any practical use leaving Stratford-upon-Avon for London is at 11:15pm. The trip takes just under three hours with one change at Oxford. There is an 11:30pm train that goes through Birmingham but there's a long wait in Birmingham, making the total journey time more than seven hours so it's of little realistic use.
- The train station is about a 15 minute walk from the theater. To have any chance of making that train, Book a taxi in advance to meet you at the theater as soon as the curtain comes down.
- If you do book that last train, it will arrive at London Marylebone after public transportation services end and the station is virtually deserted. So book an Uber car or Addison Lee car to meet you at Marylebone Station. It can be a very lonely place to hang around late at night.
- A better solution, really, is to plan to stay overnight. There is a good selection of B&Bs and a few good hotels and inns in and near Stratford-upon-Avon. The Royal Shakespeare Company website has suggestions.
Stratford-upon-Avon is 104 miles northwest of London via the M4, M25. M40 and A46 roads. It takes at least two to three hours. All the roads on this trip are important commuter routes in and out of London and other communities along the way. Time your trip to avoid key rush hours or you could spend a lot of time burning gasoline - and your temper - in a motorway traffic jam. Keep in mind also that gasoline, called petrol in the UK, is sold by the liter (a little more than a quart) and the price is usually between $1.50 and $2 a quart.
Parking in Stratford-upon-Avon can also be costly and the traffic wardens are aggressive about giving out tickets. If you do decide to drive, try to stay at a hotel or B&B that includes parking.