Former native William Shakespeare is now the area’s industry; you’ll find even the vaguest connections to the Bard fully exploited. Of course, all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten the exhaust from tour buses, but beyond the “Will Power” t-shirts, the aura of Shakespeare remains in the quite grace of the Avon and the pin-drop silence before a soliloquy in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
HENCE, AWAY! Thames trains ( 08457 484 950) arrive from: Birmingham (lhr. every hr. £3.80); London Paddington (214hr. 7 per day, £23); and Warwick (25min. 7 per day, £2.80). National Express ( 08705 808 080) runs buses from London Victoria (3hr. 3 per day, £13).
The tourist office, Bridgefoot, across Warwick Rd. offers maps and a free lodgings guide. (293 127. Open Apr.-Oct. M-Sa 9am-5pm, Su 10:30am4:30pm; Nov.-Mar. M-Sa 9am-5pm.) Surf the Internet at Cyber Junction, 28 Greenhill St. (£3 per 30min. £5 per hr.; students £2.504.) Postal Code: CV37 6PU.
To B&B or not to B&B? Bed and Breakfasts line Evesham Place, Evesham Road, Grove Road, and Shipston Road, but reservations are still a must. The YHA Stratford , Wellsboume Rd. is located 3km from Clopton Bridge. Follow B4086 35min. from the town center, or take bus X18 from Bridge St. The hostel includes B&B amenities like breakfast, a kitchen, and Internet access (£1 per 15min.), all housed within a gorgeous 200 year-old house. (297 093. Midnight lockout. Dorms £17, under-18 £12.) Carlton Guest Houes , 22 Evesham PL, has spacious rooms and spectacular service. (293 548. Singles £20-26; doubles £40-52.) Melita Hotel O, 37 Shipston Rd. is an upscale B&B that offers its patrons a lovely garden and an “honesty bar,” where guests can help themselves to a drink. ( 292 432. Breakfast included. Singles £39; doubles £72.) Riverside Caravan Park O, Tiddington Rd. l’km east of Stratford on B4086, has camping with beautiful but crowded views of the Avon, (a 292 312. Open Easter-Oct. Free electricity and showers. Tent and up to 4 people £10.)
Opposition , 13 Sheep St. is a bistro that receives rave reviews from locals for its varied cuisine. The lasagne (£9) and lamb steak (£12) are definitely worth a try. (Open M-Sa noon-2pm and 5-10pm, Su noon-2pm and 6-9pm.) Hussain’s Indian Cuisine , 6a Chapel St. has fantastic chicken tikka masala; keep an eye out for regular Ben Kingsley. (Lunch £6. Main dishes from £6.50. Open M-W 5pm-midnight, Th-Su 12:30-2:30pm and 5pm-midnight.) A great place for delicious breads, sandwiches, and pastries is Le Petit Croissant , 17 Wood St. (Baguettes from 80p. Sandwiches £1.80-2.50. Open M-Sa 8:30am-6pm.) A Safeway supermarket is on Alcester Rd. (Open M-W and Sa 8am-9pm, Th-F 8am-10pm, Su 10am-4pm.)
Traffic at the Shakespeare sights peaks around 2pm, so try to hit them before 11am or after 4pm. Die-hard fans can buy a ticket for admission to all five official Shakespeare properties: Anne Hathaway’s cottage, Mary Arden’s House and Countryside Museum, Shakespeare’s Birthplace, New Place and Nash’s House, and Hall’s Croft (£13, students and seniors £12). You can also buy a ticket that covers only the latter three sights (£9, students and seniors £8). Shakespeare’s Birthplace, on Henley St. is part period re-creation and part exhibition of Shakespeare’s life and works. (Open summer M-Sa 9am-5pm and Su 9:30am-5pm; mid-season M-Sa 10am-5pm and Su 10:30am-5pm; winter M-Sa 10am-4pm and Su 10:30am-4pm.) New Place, on High St. was Stratford’s finest home when Shakespeare bought it in 1597. Only the foundation remains it can be viewed from Nash’s House, which belonged to the husband of Shakespeare’s granddaughter. Hall’s Croft and Mary Arden’s House also capitalize on connections to Shakespeare’s extended family, but also provide exhibits of what life was like in Elizabethan times. Pay homage to Shakespeare’s grave in the Holy Trinity Church, on Trinity St. (Admission £1).
Get thee to a performance by the world-famous liRoyai Shakespeare Company; recent sons include Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Rennes. Tickets for all three theaters the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Swan Theatre, and the Other Place are sold through the box office in the foyer of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, on Waterside. (403 403, 24hr. ticket hotline s (0870) 609 1110; www.rsc.org.uk. Open M-Sa 9:30am-8pm. Tickets £5-40; highly demanded student standbys £8-12. Tours M-Sa 1:30,5:30pm, and Su noon, 1, 2,3,5:30pm. £4, students and seniors £3.)