Coming from Ireland, you can either fly into Liverpool or Manchester. The train to Chester goes directly from Manchester airport with no stops – about an hour or just over depending on the schedule. The train station is a taxi ride away from the true city centre.
We stayed in the Holiday Inn at the racecourse. It’s basic, but an all you can eat hot (& cold) breakfast and a lot of travelling stable staff stay there, so can be good for people watching in the evenings. What is good, is that the bar is only open to residents, so there isn’t a scrum of people in there before or after racing.
The most prestigious joint in town is the Grosvenor Chester, where you will find all the international set and domestic high-net worth types! – We had afternoon tea there and it was a very pleasant, unstuffy atmosphere.
A first observation in Chester is that if you go into a bar looking for food during raceweek, you invariably will be told that they don’t serve it that week! Instead, you’re more likely to find a live DJ set at 3pm in the afternoon. If you want to eat, you would be better off at a tearooms, such as Katies Tea Rooms on Watergate.
Chester is blessed with great dining options. We ate at Joseph Benjamin: https://www.josephbenjamin.co.uk/ – in Northgate, Chez Jules: https://chezjules.com/ also in Northgate & the brilliant Chefs Table: https://www.chefstablechester.co.uk/ in Music Hall Passage. All are great options if you like well-cooked, seasonal food. There are of course plenty of faster food type options.
Chester is certainly a party town, too many bars to mention, but a good sports bar is the Music Hall Tap. If you want something more rough and ready – the City Tavern in Frodsham Street is a good bet. If you want something a little less hectic – the Marlborough Arms bar which has good ales and sport too.
Before we get into the main feature – just a note for travelling ladies who don’t want to bring a hat with them, there are some really good quality 2nd hand shops in Frodsham Street, selling hats that have probably only had one or two wears!
Ok, so the racecourse, we’ll start with the positives, it’s very central, a real city track surrounded by the ancient city walls. Very pretty to look at from a vantage point. Known as the Roodee, racing dates back to 1539, which is also is believed to be the year racing began.
Chester disbanded the regular Tote betting facility and instead has their own pool betting offering – Chester Bet. I cannot comment on the value versus the ring, as I did not hand around long enough to use it.
There are multiple enclosures, see here for more details: https://www.chester-races.com/racing/enclosures We were in the County Long Stand, which cost (in 2019) about £55.
In mitigation, the main day that we went it rained heavily all day, which rendered all punters inside. However, having visited racecourses in France, Ireland and the UK extensively, Chester holds the unique characteristic of being the only racecourse with about 16 chairs – yes I did count them! There is also nowhere to place your drink, racecard etc. so it makes for a rather uncomfortable experience, unless you have the means to spend £300+ on a lounge set-up arrangement they offer. I am sure if the weather had been better, the whole experience would have been slightly more positive, as you could have probably got a seat in the outside champagne type bars, if you arrived early enough. As it was, it made for a sadly very disappointing experience and in Chester racecourse’s defence, they did refund tickets bought for the following day, of which we didn’t wish to endure.
I probably wouldn’t go again, unless I was in hospitality or O&Ts.
If you want to just have a good drinking racing break, Chester is the place to be. Has it all – all the ladies from Liverpool and Manchester and the fellas too. Non-stop partying from 10am until whenever you want.