Proudly proclaiming the fact that it is "Europe's largest", the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm affords a peaceful retreat away from all things Shakespearean. Hundreds of butterflies can be viewed at close quarters, many of the species sporting spectacular colors. For those interested in less attractive, more frightening creatures, other insect displays are available, including stick insects, leaf-eating ants and the world's largest spider.
This landmark church is located in a picturesque setting on the edge of town, beside the river and approached through an avenue of lime trees. The burial site of famous playwright Shakespeare, Holy Trinity Church is considered to be one of the finest parish churches in the Midlands, and one of the most beautiful in England. A bust of Shakespeare on the north wall brings about and the much debated question: is it lifelike or not? Admission to the church is free, however they ask for a small donation.
This is the ideal park for the entire family, offering a variety of facilities including boating lakes, playgrounds, tennis courts, tropical greenhouses and nature conservation areas. It is also the home of the Midland Arts Centre. A walking/bicycling route winds through the grounds that has recently been extended. The park also plays host to a variety of concerts, performances and the annual Fireworks Fantasia.
Situated across Church Hill Road, the St Alphege Parish Church is a historic church that dates back to the 12th Century. Over a period of time, it was refurbished several times; the bells and the church's shire were renovated too. It is a beautifully restored religious space and its ancient organ pipe organ, stained glass windows that belong to different time periods and the overall architecture is worth exploring. Apart from that, this church is home to community functions, choir concerts, youth groups, sermons, lectures and similar events.
These fine gardens, opened in 1832, were designed by John Claudius Loudon, a leading garden planner and horticultural journalist. The gardens offer you the chance to see some of the most beautiful greenery in the world along with stunning glasshouses. Attractions besides plants include indoor aviaries, a restaurant with a fantastic view of the gardens, a children's adventure playground, a gift shop and plant center and a gallery displaying work by local artists.
This square has transformed over the past decade from a grassy slope where office workers would picnic on a summer's afternoon to a pedestrian-friendly European plaza accessible all year. Birmingham's Town Hall and Council House are located on the square, but graded steps replace the slope and there's now a large fountain containing a sculpture known fondly by locals as the Floozie in the Jacuzzi. Stone lamps and statues of sphinxes adorn the grounds, as does a statue of Queen Victoria. Victoria Square has now become a popular meeting point and relaxing place to people watch.
In striking contrast to the typical 15th-Century style of this area sits Stratford Town Hall. It owes its classic stone design to the fact that it was completely re-built in the 1800s. The original building, which housed the Market Hall, dated back to 1634. However, it suffered extensive damage from a gunpowder explosion during the Civil War when parliamentarian forces were in occupation. Look out for the statue of Shakespeare, presented to the town by David Garrick, set in a niche on one of the exterior walls. Beneath this is a plaque commemorating the silver jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.
It is well worth spending time studying the frontage of Harvard House, for it is Stratford's most ornate structure and a splendid example of an Elizabethan town house. Look in particular for the initials of the owners who had it re-built following the severe damage sustained in the Great Fire of 1594. It was their grandson John who, having emigrated to the United States, founded the university which bears his name. In 1909, the house was purchased by a Chicago millionaire who paid for it to be restored before presenting it to Harvard University. Today the house is managed on behalf of Harvard by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Inside the house, in addition to fine pieces of 17th century furniture, is part of the Neish pewter collection. This collection of great national importance boasts items spanning over two thousand years.
This award-winning museum in a Tudor period mansion has interactive exhibits, Shakespeare tours, night-time ghost tours, and organized school visits that bring 16th-century Elizabethan England to life. Visitors can take a seat at a period dining table, rest on a monarch’s bed and throne, and listen for spirits by candlelight.
The Chapel, established by the Guild of the Holy Cross in the 13th Century and subsequently re-built in the 15th, looks more like a church than a chapel from the outside. This, together with The Guild Chapel's proximity to the town center, sometimes makes visitors think that they are approaching the Holy Trinity Church. The Guild Chapel, however, deserves a visit in its own right as it houses some stunning frescoes. The frescoes were painted over during the reformation in the 16th century but fortunately were revealed during restoration work some 300 years later. Of these, the fresco representing the day of judgment, above the chancel arch, is one of the largest of its type anywhere in the country. Services are held at The Guild Chapel every Wednesday morning and on the first Saturday of each month. There are no Sunday services. The Guild Chapel also serves as the school chapel to the adjacent King Edward VI Grammar School.
For those who like their leisure activities passive, this is an ideal spot to relax. Feeding the ducks at the water's edge is about as energetic as it gets! However, there are lots of things to see including the colorful narrow-boats moored in the canal-basin and the impromptu street-entertainers. And that is not all. On one side of the gardens is the splendid Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and on another is the truly inspirational Gower Memorial. The Gardens are also just a short walk from the town center, making them particularly popular with visitors recovering from whistle-stop tours of Stratford's heritage sites.
In the heart of the city, is the house where Shakespeare was born in 1564. The entrance to the house is via the visitors' center. Here you will find the highly acclaimed Shakespeare Exhibition. This comprehensive display superbly illustrates the Bard's life and career in the city. Having walked through the exhibition, you emerge into a garden laid out with flowers, trees and shrubs that were familiar to Shakespeare and that were mentioned in his work. The house itself has been faithfully reconstructed and now offers a fascinating insight into Shakespeare's life as a child. Rooms have been furnished as accurately as possible with replicas of 16th Century everyday objects, furniture and textiles having been commissioned. Take yourself back in time and reflect upon the tales that began here.