Top Things To Do In Shrewsbury
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Shrewsbury is a city of living history, quirky contemporary culture, and most notably of all, firsts. As a city which sat at the heart of Britain's industrial revolution it saw the opening of the world's first metal bridge, its first iron-framed building, and all the modern day heritage that comes with it. To give tourists better access to all that Shrewsbury has to offer the town recently launched a sightseeing bus tour service with 16 stops positioned outside key landmarks.
To celebrate the start of the service we decided to whip up a little travel inspiration for would-be visitors, and so created a list of our favourite festivals and attractions. Also, we spoke to Emma from 'Shrewsbury, The Original One-Off', who provided us with even more amazing things to see and do.
Have a browse below and find out which attractions you can't afford to miss, which festivals crown the events calendar, and where to find great bars/restaurants.
Wroxeter Roman City (Wroxeter Roman City, Wroxeter, Shropshire SY5 6PH)
At its height it was fourth largest city in Roman Britain, and today it continues to boast the largest surviving free-standing Roman wall in the UK. Wroxeter Roman City is a fantastic English Heritage attraction where history comes to life like few other places. You'll be able explore the remains of a sprawling bathhouse with its exposed hypocaust, a reconstructed town house featuring replica Roman furniture, and the vast foundations of an open-space basilica. From August 30-31 the site will play host to an event called 'A Really Roman City', whereby original life in the city is revived with the help numerous costumed reenactors. Sample ancient Roman cuisine, see military displays and learn about the daily life of a British-based Roman citizen.
The Iron Bridge (Ironbridge Gorge)
'The' first all-metal bridge, constructed towards the beginning of the Industrial Revolution between 1777 and 1778. By the start of January 1781 it had opened to traffic and continues to operate to this day. You can reach it by hopping-off at stop 5 on the Shrewsbury Sightseeing Bus Tour.
Ditherington Flax Mill (Ditherington Flax Mill, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1)
Often termed as the 'Grandfather of Skyscrapers' this place, like the Iron Bridge, is a first for Shrewsbury. It's notable for being the first iron-framed building in human history. Anyone with an interest in the development of the industrial revolution should certainly give it a lookout. You can reach the Flaxmill hopping-off at stop 16 on the Shrewsbury Sightseeing Bus Tour. Note that come June 13th the 'Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings' will be running guided tours on alternate Saturdays at 14:00.
Shropshire Regimental Museum (Castle Street, Shrewsbury SY1 2AT)
Housed within Shrewsbury Castle this military museum features the very best of the Shropshire Regimental Museum Trust's extensive artefact collection. Objects include pictures, weapons, uniforms and badges dating from the 1700s to the present day. Be sure to also check out the Modern Army display, which explores the contemporary story of The Rifles. During your visit Emma from Original Shrewsbury additionally recommends a walk to the top of Laura’s Tower, an octagonal structure constructed atop Shrewsbury Castle motte in 1790 by Thomas Telford as summerhouse for the daughter of Sir William Pulteney.
Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery (Market Street, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1LG)
Located within the Old Music Hall this historical art gallery features a multitude of wonders from the realms of fine and decorative arts, archaeology and biology. Each item in the collection provides a new and unique perspective on the culture of both Shrewsbury itself and wider world. See historical photographs of the city from the early 20th century, countless watercolour and oil paintings of significant figures, and stunning ornaments which once adorned the homes of the rich and noble. Don't miss the museum's incredible archaeological galleries, which showcase well-preserved treasures from Ancient Egypt as well as Roman Medieval, Tudor and Stuart Britain.
Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival (Throughout April)
Taking place on various dates throughout April the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival is a chance for young and old alike to revel in the art of comic and satirical illustration. Hear words of wisdom from leading cartoonists and take part in fun drawing/colouring workshops. While it has already passed as of this blog's publication date keep it in mind for next year, when it's sure to return to local venues such as St. Chad's Parish Hall and Shrewsbury Square.
Shrewsbury Regatta (May, 2015 Cancelled)
Organised by the Pengwern Boat Club his lively annual event takes place along the banks of Quarry Park each spring. This year's event (2015) seems to be cancelled but we'd highly recommend baring it in mind for a future visit. When it's on the go, however, there's said to be a race taking place every 2 minutes across a whole weekend.
Eat Street Shrewsbury (May 22)
More than just a culinary celebration, Shrewsbury's one and only street food festival incorporates drink, music and more. Devised by celebrity chef Marcus Bean the event will see traders from across the country converge outside St Alkmund’s Church between 16:00-22:00. Expect a buzzing atmosphere and for the air around central Shrewsbury to be thick with tantalising scents. Emma from Original Shrewsbury notes that as well as taking place on May 22nd Eat Street "will be continuing in the summer at various historic but underused locations within the town". So keep your taste buds trained on Shrewsbury this month!
Shrewsbury Grand Prix (May 31)
Bernie Ecclestone hasn't quite brought Formula One to the windy, cobbled streets of Shrewsbury yet, and something tells us it won't be any time soon. But no, what we're referring to is a top class cycling event taking place at the end of May 2015. Thousands of eager spectators and enthusiasts are expected to line the pavements in support of 100+ professional cyclists, who have previously counted amongst their numbers Olympic gold medallist Joanna Rowsell. The popularity of last year's event prompted organisers to make it an annual event, and so it returns this year hopefully better than ever.
Shrewsbury Carnival (June 13)
Set up to raise money for local charities Shrewsbury Carnival is an annual event that sees fairground entertainment spring up in Quarry Park and a parade march through the town centre. Attractions including arena tents, rides and food stalls open at 10:00 and by 14:00 a procession of themed floats, dancers and marching bands will be livening up the streets.
Shrewsbury Dragon Boat Festival (June 21)
Similar to the regatta, but with a more upbeat edge, the Shrewsbury Dragon Boat Race sees up to 33 teams race each other along the River Severn in 40ft Dragon Boats. There's about 17 competitors per boat, often dressed in amusing regalia, including a single drummer who keeps the pace and trumps up fervour. You can see the fun unfold by heading along to Quarry Park on June 21st.
Shrewsbury Food Festival (June 27-28)
The Shewsbury Food Festival is a defining event in the town's summertime culture calender. Celebrate the mouthwatering diversity of 200+ food & drink exhibitors within the stunning surrounds of Quarry Park and the town centre. Numerous special events will be taking place including a month-long 'Restaurant Safari', and Pudding Tastings at the Baptist Church on Claremont Street. Follow the title link above to discover just how much there is to do during the festival.
Amongst the many great restaurants and bars in Shrewsbury, Emma from Original Shrewsbury recommended the following the establishments:
The Libertine Cocktail Bar (16-17 Butcher Row, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1UW)
This was the first of three drink venue recommendations we got from Emma at Original Shrewsbury. Tucked away down Butcher Row it's a quirky and colourful spot where you can kick-back with a tea or coffee during the day and a chilly Long Island ice tea by night. Check out their Facebook page (link above) to get an idea of just how spiffy their cocktails are.
The Alb (14 Smithfield Road, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1PB)
Want to enjoy a tipple in 5-star surrounds? You can't go wrong with the The Albert Lounge & Bar. Established in 1835 as a top class hotel The Alb retains 30 luxury rooms along with its own brewery, three bars and a restaurant. Pull up a chair for expertly prepared dishes and cocktails with pizzazz to match the venue.
St. Nicholas Cafe-Bar-Spa (24 Castle St, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1BQ)
Ever been to a cafe-bar that doubles up as a luxury spa? Well this is what you get at St Nicholas on Castle Street. Have yourself groomed Moroccan style with their full thermal suite experience, grab a nibble in the fancy cafe, or pitch up come sundown and peruse the cocktail menu.
Lion + Pheasant (49-50 Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury SY1 1XJ)
Emma's first restaurant recommendation creates class dishes using only the best locally sourced produce from Shropshire and beyond. You can either have your meal on the garden terrace or in one of the beautiful indoor dining areas, where modern design and Tudor architecture meld seamlessly.
Porterhouse SY1 (15 Saint Mary's Street, Shrewsbury SY1 1EQ)
Fine dining not your thing? Pop along to the Porter House and dig into some hearty American cuisine. The restaurant does burgers of every variety, from a bacon & cheese to a spicy 'Nacho' patty. Then there's the steaks, all served with homemade fries and a choice of four sauces. If you have any room left after the main try one of Mama’s Pumpkin Pies as a sweet, or if you're a real glutton try and tackle Elvis's Last Sandwich.
House of the Rising Sun (18 Butcher Row, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1UW)
Where 'East Meets West' is its motto. The Rising Sun blends contemporary Australian cuisine with the diverse palate of east and south-east Asia. Even the opulent décor harkens to a romanticised era of French and British colonialism, alluring geisha of the Japanese Edo period, and the oriental mystique of 18th century Indochina. Pick from a menu which includes mixed sushi and sashimi, tempura, and a generous range of sides.
Shrewsbury has plenty more great restaurants. In addition to the three above you could also check out Henry Tudor House, Carluccios, the Cornhouse, Riverbank Kitchen and NY Bar and Lounge, or Drapers Hall amongst many others. Note that Henry Tudor House and Drapers Hall also do brilliant cocktails.