Whether you’re a devotee of Shakepeare’s plays or just curious about life in 16th century England, Britain’s Shakespeare attractions are absolute gems. You’ll find theatres devoted to his works, exhibitions and beautiful historic buildings – even the original houses he and his loved ones lived in. We’ve put together a few of the best for you:
1. Stratford: the Shakespeare Properties
Hallowed ground for lovers of literature and history alike, Shakespeare birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 remains a star attraction to this day. A half-timbered, Tudor-style cottage, it’s furnished as it would have been in Shakespeare’s time and transports visitors into the atmosphere of England’s past. See the house, the exhibition on Shakespeare’s life and be sure to explore the gardens too.
Photo by babywalrus
Anne Hathaway’s cottage
As well as Shakespeare’s own house, you’ll find a collection of other Tudor cottages in and around Stratford that belonged to his friends and relatives. Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife, lived in an idyllic cottage a short walk away from central Stratford, and this is where Shakespeare would have come to see her while they were courting. It’s a spectacular example of a Tudor farmhouse, and still contains furniture that belonged to the Hathaways themselves. The gardens are also beautiful, so be sure to explore.
Photo by mweriksson
Shakespeare’s eldest daughter lived nearby in Hall’s Croft with her husband, Dr Hall — a medical visionary in his day. Another splendid Tudor house with a beautiful garden, you’ll be treated to an array of 16th and 17th century paintings and furnishings, together with an exhibition on Dr Hall and medicine of that era. You can also buy herbs and plants, and take guided tours of the house.
Photo by babywalrus
Mary Arden’s farm
Next up is Shakespeare’s mother’s farm, which is a little way outside Stratford in the rural setting of Wilmcote. The stunning timbered Tudor farmhouse is still there, and is now home to the Shakespeare Countryside Museum. This is a great one for families with young children as there’s a lot to see and do, from falconry displays to demonstrations at the blacksmith’s forge, and even Tudor archery lessons.
Copyright Shakespeare Birthplace Trust/Amy Murrell
2. Shakespeare’s grave
Shakespeare is buried in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, the same church where he was baptised in 1564. His final resting place is famous for its inscription, believed to have been penned by the Bard himself, which lays a curse on anyone who moves Shakespeare’s bones. In case you’re curious, the verse reads:
GOOD FRIEND FOR JESUS SAKE FORBEARE,
TO DIGG THE DUST ENCLOASED HEARE.
BLESE BE THE MAN THAT SPARES THES STONES,
AND CURST BE HE THAT MOVES MY BONES.
Photo by kurafire
3. World Shakespeare Festival
The World Shakespeare Festival kicks off on 23 April, and is part of the London 2012 Festival. Expect Shakespeare on an incredible scale, with theatre companies from around the world performing Shakespeare’s works in a host of different languages throughout Britain. London and Stratford-upon-Avon will see much of the action, as will Edinburgh and South Wales.
4. Shakespeare’s Globe
See Shakespeare’s plays in his very own Jacobean theatre! A faithful restoration of Shakespeare’s 16th century playhouse, it’s a truly atmospheric way to take in the Bard’s work, not to mention a rather grand building in its own right. Entry is just £5, which gets you a standing place as a ‘groundling’.
5. Royal Shakespeare Company
The primary theatrical body responsible for producing Shakespeare performances is the Royal Shakespeare Company. Based in Stratford-upon-Avon, visitors can tour the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres by day or by night on the RSC’s spooky after-dark tour. This is the other main place to see Shakespeare performed, but you can catch the company in action elsewhere on its national tours.
Photo by Ell Brown
6. British Museum – Staging The World
July 2012 will see a brand new exhibition begin at the British Museum, dedicated to Shakespeare and the world that was developing at the time of his plays. Staging the World looks at the history of London as a world city, and brings the city of centuries past to life through a series of incredible objects, from arms and armour to drawings, paintings and maps.
7. Shakespeare in Love film locations
You’ve seen the film (probably), now see the settings! It just so happens that they include some of Britain’s most delightful places:
The setting used for Viola’s House was Broughton Castle near Banbury, a bustling market town in Oxfordshire. A medieval manor house, it’s surrounded by lush woodlands, beautiful gardens and a spectacular moat.
Photo by David Stowell
“The ‘Greenwich’ fireworks party”
Firstly, it’s not in Greenwich — cinema tricked you. This scene took place in Hatfield House, just north of London in Hertfordshire. It’s a glorious Jacobean mansion full of rich oak panelling, artwork and period furniture, surrounded by acres of parkland. Just the place to spend a sunny day.
Photo by Stuart Burns
“Shakespeare begs forgiveness”
Right in the heart of the City of London, the Church of St Bartholomew the Great was the grand backdrop to this scene in the film. Affectionately known as St. Barts, it was founded in 1123 and built when William the Conqueror’s son, Henry, was king. Visitors can stop in to hear the choir sing Evensong, take in the soaring architecture then explore the bustling bars and restaurants of Smithfields itself.
Photo by HerryLawford
8. Shakespeare memorial in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey
Keep your eyes open for the Shakespeare memorial in Westminster Abbey. While Shakespeare’s actual grave is in Stratford, you’ll find a special memorial statue in the famous Poets’ Corner, together with a collection of other famous writers.
Photo by HerryLawford