Stratford is included in the Guardian's top 15 places to go for a pre-Christmas Break!
Winter Weekender: 15 picturesque UK towns for a pre-Christmas break
by Gemma Bowes
Christmas was not really a thing in Shakespeare’s day. There’s Twelfth Night of course, and a line in Hamlet (and did you know that Falstaff’s red-nosed drinking buddy, Bardolph, is believed to be the model for Rudolph?) ... yet the Bard only used the C word three times in his writing. How we celebrate today (or did before Black Friday and vegan wellington) is really Charles Dickens’ doing, with roots dating back no further than the 1840s. But that won’t stop Shakespeare’s birthplace going full-throttle on the festivities.
The house where he was born, now the Shakespeare’s Birthplace museum (£17.50/£11.50) is draped in winter foliage by local floral designers until 5 Jan, with exhibits telling how Tudors spent the 40 days prior to Christmas fasting and praying, with houses only decorated on Christmas Eve. Tudor Wassailing is revived from 30 Dec-1 Jan, with cups of traditional hot spiced cider to try. Tudor World (£6/£3), an interactive museum, has Christmas quizzes and atmospheric evening Christmas carol tours with (not Tudor but Victorian) “Ebeneezer”.
Further Tudor and medieval traditions, local history and more Bard facts than you can shake a spear at are covered on a town tour with Stratford Town Walk (£6/£3, daily, even on Christmas Day). Stallholders dress the part at the Victorian Christmas market today and tomorrow, with funfair and light displays.
Pick up gifts Uncle Drosselmeyer would approve of at the Nutcracker, a year-round Christmas shop on Henley Street; vinyl and collectables at Henley Street Antiques Centre; and artisan cheese from Paxton and Whitfield.
Where to eat? All ingredients come from within Warwickshire at 33 The Scullery, where December’s menu has roasted vegetable and walnut crumble or slow-braised local game with mulberry gin and puff pastry topping. Former OFM young chef of the year Paul Foster is chef-patron of Salt, doing clever cooking such as partridge with parsley ketchup and cured halibut with pear, kohlrabi, buttermilk and dill.
Three miles out of town, well-regarded Baraset Barn Restaurant (doubles from £140 room-only) added 16 bedrooms (neutral but with wild fabrics) this year.
Market Cross. Photograph: Stuart Black/Alamy