When to go to Chester

When to go to Chester: spring blossoms in Grosvenor Park © Jeanette Scott

The best time to visit Chester

Whether you want to know what’s on, how warm it gets at the races in summer, or just how bone-achingly cold – but beautiful - it can be during winter, I’ve got reasons why you should be in Chester in any season.

Spring – blossoming life

Chester comes to life in spring. Cherry blossoms flower across the city, café tables find their way outdoors again, the river boats and tour buses have been made spick and span, tour leaders compile their best anecdotes for the start of the tourism season in April, the parks are ready to welcome bums on lawns and everything has been, well, spruced up a bit.

The racecourse season kicks off in May (see www.chester-races.co.uk/fixtures). Be aware that during race events hotel prices can rocket. See my hotel advice for more.

It can still be chilly in March and April (there was overnight frost in April and May this year!) but daytime temperatures rise to an average and very pleasant 18C by June and rainfall is at its lowest around April and May. The weather is unpredictable to say the least. As well as the aforementioned May frost, by the end of the month the city sweltered in 28C day-long sunshine. It’s also a joy to have daylight until well after 9pm.

Summer – warm, busy and festivals-a-plenty

Tourists flock to Chester in the summer and the city centre and riverside is buzzing with activity. On a sunny day you’ll witness the well-practiced British sport of stubbornly sitting outside to have a drink – even if the thermometer is barely reading 15C. But you should see temperatures of around 20C+ on the sunniest days, even up to around 28C on the rare occasion…but of course, this is England – bring an umbrella as well as your sunglasses. You just never know.

As well as a packed race calendar at the Roodee (see www.chester-races.co.uk/fixtures), summer in Chester is festival-tastic; see www.chesterfestivals.co.uk for more.

Autumn – sunny and noticeably less busy than summer

Autumn is my favourite time of the year in Chester: the summer crowds start to dwindle; great deals are available at restaurants and hotels feeling the pinch of the departing visitors; attractions aren’t as busy; and the weather is still fair (expect sunny days and temperatures averaging 14C).

This year you’ll discover the Shell Chester Literature Festival from October 18-31.

Winter – cold but beautiful and atmospheric

Chester doesn’t suffer as badly with winter weather as some of its neighbours (in December 2009 there was a foot of snow in Manchester and not a flake in Chester!). But the moment the heavy snow arrived, the city transformed into a…cliché alert…winter wonderland. Down by the River Dee snow-laden old-fashioned lampposts gave off an orange glow in the early-evening darkness and tree branches heavy with snow all contributed to the Narnia-like feel. It was simply beautiful. And as Chester is such a pleasurable city to get around by foot, tourism still thrives.

Temperatures can dip into bone-chilling minus figures at night so layer up! The days are depressingly short in deepest winter, so get your outdoor sightseeing done before 4.30pm.

Shopping pre-Christmas can be a chore but the city does a tremendous, and classy, job of tarting itself up for the festivities. Thursdays offer late-night opening from around mid-November.

Like any typical tourist town, maintenance work is generally scheduled for the winter months when the views are spoiled for fewer tourists. I’ll be sure to let you know if any projects could spoil your trip to Chester.

For more expert advice on Chester, follow these links: