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Disclaimer – I was hosted by Visit Shropshire but all opinions are my own.
I recently visited Shrewsbury in Shropshire for the first time and I was SO pleasantly surprised. After a wonderful weekend, I’m here to tell you about the countless things to do in Shrewsbury and where to eat, drink, stay and play.
The first thing to know about Shrewsbury is that it ISN’T a city! Despite having a cathedral, it’s actually a town. But with over 600 listed buildings, a museum, cinema, theatre, river, parks, shopping and fantastic food and drink, it’s well worth a visit.
Shrewsbury is almost an island, nestled in a loop of the River Severn, full of crisscrossing medieval streets lined with wonky buildings and independent shops and cafes. The historical nature reminded me of York, Oxford or Bath while the cool local businesses made me think of Brighton or Bristol.
Getting to Shrewsbury
Direct trains run from Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Manchester. Regular trains from London Euston take 2.5 hours changing in Birmingham.
We travelled with West Midlands Railways on comfy, on-time trains.
Most of the top Shrewsbury attractions are easy to reach on foot so you don’t need to worry about transport while there, provided you’re staying centrally.
Where to stay in Shrewsbury
There are a range of accommodations for all budgets with some seriously stunning properties to pick from. With centuries of history, many lodgings are inside period buildings, some preserved as they were centuries ago and others boasting modern revamps.
Castle Gates by Leonis Estates
We were lucky enough to stay in this beautiful, two-bedroom apartment at the top of Castle Street, just 5 minutes from the train station. It comfortably sleeps four adults in two king-size beds.
Located in a period building with red stone and timber beams, the interior of Castle Gates by Leonis Estates is bright and modern with amenities including a TV and fully-equipped kitchen. But my favourite part was the views towards the Castle and the historic Library where Darwin went to school!
If coming by car, there’s gated parking, plus a lift making it suitable for those with disabilities.
Wesley House, Fish Street
Wesley House is a cosy cottage on attractive Fish Street, perfectly placed for sightseeing in Shrewsbury. Dating back to the 1500s, it’s a restored historic building with wood panelling and original features including a cosy wood-burning fireplace and old kitchen range.
It has a lounge, kitchen, pantry, modern shower room, a double bedroom, twin room and a single room suitable for a child or small adult. Outside is a lovely, sunny courtyard.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church preached from here in 1763.
Book Wesley House on Booking.com.
Things to do in Shrewsbury
Despite its quaint feel, you won’t get bored in this charming Shropshire town. From market shopping to historic castles and many, many eateries, we whiled away two and a half days easily. Here are the top attractions in Shrewsbury starting with one of the oldest…
For more activities, events and tips, check out the Visit Shropshire website
1. Marvel at Shrewsbury Castle
This 11th-century castle with its red sandstone walls is a Shrewsbury landmark not to miss. The grounds are free to visit, sit and even have a picnic. Inside, it hosts the Museum of the Shropshire Regiments dedicated to the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
2. Climb Laura’s Tower for the best views in town
Climb a few steps up to Laura’s Tower, a Grade II listed building since 1972, for wonderful views across the town. The Town Walls Tower was built by the famous Thomas Telford in around 1790 for the daughter of Sir William Pulteney MP for her 21st birthday as a summer house.
3. Take a Sabrina boat ride
For a fun activity in Shrewsbury, take a Sabrina Boat Cruise. They run six daily boat trips around the River Severn loop with live commentary and table service. The 45-minute trips run on the hour from 11am-4pm (from 10am, May to September) from Victoria Quay near the Welsh Bridge.
They serve drinks and snacks so why not live it up with a cheeky Prosecco? Dogs are welcome, toilets are on board and there’s disabled access onto the boat. They also offer a Sunday lunch cruise and themed trips including autumn ghost cruises!
4. Shop, eat & browse at Market Hall (my favourite thing to do in Shrewsbury!)
Beneath the iconic clocktower is the town’s award-winning indoor market. From Beijing dumplings to Champagne and oysters, there’s a variety of vendors from cool cafes to thrift shops, fresh fruit stands, butchers, vinyl records, organic wine producers and gin bars. The traditional and modern meet perfectly!
Highlights at Shrewsbury Market Hall:
- House of Yum – tasty Thai food with authentic details that’ll transport you to Bangkok!
- Petitglou Wine Shop – pop by for natural wines and small plates
- Gindifferent – a bar and cafe upstairs with gin cocktails and charcuterie boards made from fresh market produce.
Opening days: Tues, Weds, Fri & Sat (some stallholders open Thurs).
5. Browse at Market Square (Fri & Sat)
Don’t miss the beautiful 16th-century Market Square and the Old Market Hall at the centre of the Historic Town Centre. It’s home to several of the most important buildings in Shrewsbury as well as events and markets.
The Old Market Hall is an impressive timber-framed building hosting a cinema and cafe serving teas, coffees and a selection of sandwiches (Mon-Sat only), cakes and snacks.
We were lucky our trip coincided with Shrewsbury Farmer’s Market (held on the first Friday of the month) AND the Made in Shropshire market (on the second Saturday of the month) with artisan food and crafts.
6. Spot Shrewsbury architecture & historic streets
Discover the interesting street names such as Grope Lane and Fish Street (where the famous 1984 Christmas Carol was filmed) Wyle Cop, Pride Hill and Dogpole, and explore quirky passageways (called Shuts) which weave their way through the town.
Look out for Bear Steps, Golden Cross Passage and Gullet Passage to name a few.
Another historic street is Wyle Cop with its characterful 16th and 17th-century timber-framed buildings. The Lion Inn was a coaching inn that held the record in the 1700s for the fastest couch journey from London to Shrewsbury: 16 hours!
Shoppers will confirm Wyle Cop is one of the best places to visit in Shrewsbury. It’s said to be the longest row of uninterrupted independents in the UK, to this day boasting designer clothing, jewellery and vintage stores.
7. Step back in time at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery
Visiting the Museum & Art Gallery (SM&AG) is one of the most cultural things to do in Shrewsbury. Uncover history via items including fossilised raindrops to Queen Victoria’s stockings and a fun photo montage of Darwin’s face.
The Museum’s Stop.Cafe Bar boasts award-winning coffee, speciality teas and homemade cakes as well as a savoury menu including daily specials. Plus, there’s a lovely outside courtyard.
Visitor details: Free entry; open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-4pm & Sunday 11am-4pm.
8. Take a guided tour of the town
The Visitor Information Centre offers walking tours of Shrewsbury in the heart of the historic town. Knowledgeable guides will walk you through the history and notable sights during a 90-minute tour costing £9 per person.
Starting at 2pm, Mon to Sat and 11.30am on Sun, the tours begin at the Museum.
9. Have a smokin’ time at Hickory’s Smokehouse
Hickory’s is an atmospheric restaurant on Victoria Quay inspired by Deep South cooking. With several trips to the States under their belts and even an OG meat smoker shipped in (that the kitchen had to be built around!), you can’t deny the attention to detail nor the bustling evening vibe, especially at weekends.
From ribs to steaks, brisket and pulled pork, it’s a meat lovers’ dream although there are options for pescatarians (such as seafood gumbo and shrimp fajitas) and even vegans! I tucked into the delicious gumbo, a hot and spicy New Orleans-style stew with a giant pretzel on the side.
We also enjoyed the cheesy nachos and creative cocktails (2 for £12 between 6 and 9pm on Fridays). The gin & raspberry collins was fantastic!
10. St Mary’s Church & cafe
Explore historic St Mary’s Church boasting one of the tallest spires in England. The church dates from Saxon times and has some beautiful stained glass.
Stop off at the River View Cafe for a locally sourced lunch with menu highlights such as satay sweet potato curry, sandwiches, baked potatoes and cakes. It has seating inside and outside on the terrace with stunning views of Shrewsbury’s landmarks.
Situated in the old hospital next door is a Grade II listed building housing 20 or so independent shops.
11. Other religious houses
Other places to visit in Shrewsbury include:
- St Chad’s occupies the second-highest point in the town. Dating back to Saxon times, all that now remains is the 15th-century Lady Chapel. Don’t miss the fictional grave of Ebenezer Scrooge! In 1984, Shrewsbury transformed into Victorian London for the filming of A Christmas Carol and his headstone still remains.
- St Alkmund’s Church stands at the highest point of the town. The structure here today is part medieval and part Georgian with a tower and 56-metre spire.
- Shrewsbury Cathedral – steeped in history in a prominent position on the Town Walls, the Cathedral is a must-visit place in Shrewsbury, designed by Edward Pugin and completed in 1856. The Orchard Cafe is a new addition on a relandscaped site beside it.
12. Shrewsbury Prison
Another popular place for Shrewsbury sightseeing is the Prison, built in 1868. For many years, Shrewsbury Prison was a place of execution carried out in public and drew huge crowds. People used to arrive early to ensure a good seat and posters were produced as souvenirs. Gulp!
But since 2015, it’s been a heritage-led Shrewsbury attraction. Also known as The Dana, it offers a wide range of heritage tours, activities and events including ghost tours and prison break events with 10 escape rooms. You can even stay overnight in your very own cell!
The Prison Restaurant on-site offers excellent homemade food.
13. Stop by Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings (museum & cafe)
The newest tourist attraction in Shrewsbury (opened in September 2022) is Flaxmill Maltings. Once a purpose-built flaxmill, maltings and temporary army barracks in WWII, it has a pioneering iron frame that inspired the design for skyscrapers. It’s the building that launched a thousand skylines!
Interactive displays and fascinating architecture make it a great place to visit in Shrewsbury, a 20-minute walk from the centre.
Afterwards, don’t miss visiting onsite Turned Wood Café offering a delicious range of vegetarian meals and snacks in the form of paninis, homemade soups and cakes, plus hot and cold drinks including special house blend coffee.
Entry to the flaxmill costs £7.50 for adults, £5 for children and £23 for families.
14. Eat brunch at the Loopy Shrew
The Loopy Shrew is a family-run restaurant and bar serving modern British food using locally sourced produce. We tucked into a tasty brunch of a full vegetarian breakfast and Eggs Royale.
Reward yourself after exploring the many things to do in Shrewsbury with a leisurely lunch, dinner, afternoon tea or drinks including local and craft beers, cocktails and wines. For a lovely place to stay in the heart of the town, check out their 12 boutique bedrooms.
15. Follow the Darwin Trail
Did you know that Charles Darwin was born and went to school in Shrewsbury?
Find his statue outside Shrewsbury Library which originally housed the school buildings. You can find the staircase to the old school rooms on the right-hand side as you walk in. Ask the friendly staff if you need a hand.
Another location on the Darwin Trail is the Quantum Leap sculpture on the riverbank, built to mark Darwin’s 200th birthday.
A final place to visit in Shrewsbury for Darwin fans is the Bellstone. Cross the road from the Market Hall to the entrance of Morris Hall (marked by a pair of black iron gates) and discover a large granite boulder in a small courtyard. This remnant from the last Ice Age was Darwin’s first introduction to the science of geology!
16. Wander idyllic Fish Street
There are few more attractive spots to wander and snap photos than Fish Street, leading to other notable streets like Butchers Row (full of excellent restaurants) and Grope Street, an atmospheric alleyway linking to the main road.
While on Fish Street, make a pitstop at cosy pub, the Three Fishes Inn.
17. Visit Bear Steps Art Gallery and Medieval Hall
Historically, the central area was filled with traditional traders lending the surrounding streets names such as Butcher Row and Fish Street. Bear Steps is named after The Bear Inn Pub (no longer in existence) which was allegedly home to one of the city’s bear pits!
For a lesser-known thing to do in Shrewsbury, pop your head inside Bear Steps Art Gallery, a small venue featuring work by local artists. Beside it sits a lovely cafe in a historic building with outdoor seating.
18. Drink cocktails at Blind Tiger
If you like to listen to new music in very old venues, mix mojitos in cool cocktail lounges or join a real ale trail, you’ll be spoilt for choice by original night-time finds.
The Blind Tiger is an atmospheric cocktail bar in a characterful 17th-century building. With a 1920s bootlegger vibe, they play vintage blues and gospel with a modern twist.
Other cool bars to check out include:
- The Libertine Cocktail Bar & Tearoom – a delectable tearoom by day, a trendy cocktail bar by night. With fine coffee and fifteen varieties of loose tea, it’s the perfect afternoon pit stop and a nighttime haunt with cocktails from the classics to inventive house blends.
- Ten & Six – in an iconic town centre building, this Champagne bar is inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
19. Take a walk in Quarry Park
Visit Quarry Park and take a seat beside the river where you can watch passing boats or simply sit and have a picnic. At the heart of the Quarry lies Dingle Garden, a delightful sunken garden landscaped with alpine borders, brilliant bedding plants, shrubbery and charming water features. Perfect on a summer’s day!
20. Sniff out speciality coffee
Shrewsbury is a fantastic place for independent businesses and the coffee houses are no exception! We liked Shrewsbury Coffeehouse near the station with quality coffee, tea and cakes. For lunch, they serve homemade soup, bagels and the like.
Another cute cafe I had my eye on is Palmers of Shrewsbury, a non-profit cafe in the central Baptist Church. Do your bit for a local charity by stopping for breakfast, light bites, drinks and sweet treats!
21. Historic Shrewsbury Abbey
It wouldn’t be a complete list of things to do in Shrewsbury without Shrewsbury Abbey founded as a Benedictine monastery by Roger de Montgomery in 1083 and easily accessed by a pleasant walk over the English Bridge.
The part that still survives following the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of King Henry VIII is still a Parish Church to this day. Brother Cadfael fans will recognise it as the setting for Ellis Peters’ books about a medieval monk.
22. Catch a show at Theatre Severn
A leading theatre (according to comedian Jason Manford, ‘easily one of the top 5 theatres in the country’), Theatre Severn is a modern building lit up at night in bright colours. Look out for the old chapel building which is embedded between the Stage Door and the public entrance.
If you have time on your visit to catch a show, you’ll find a varied programme of music, theatre and comedy.
23. Time for your trip around a festival
Also known as ‘the Town of Flowers’, every August the town hosts the Shrewsbury Flower Festival (the longest-running in the world) as well as Shrewsbury Folk Festival. If you’re visiting in the summer, see if your trip lines up!
24. Visit the parks in Shropshire
Although we’ve now covered plenty of amazing attractions, if you’re still wondering what to do in Shrewsbury, consider a jaunt into greater Shropshire. For scenery and walks, it’s a majestic county with notable outdoor spaces not limited to:
- Hawkstone Park – with 100 acres of stunning scenery, this is one of Britain’s original theme parks. The landscape full of bridges, towers and caves has been inspiring visitors for over 250 years. In particular, the Follies are a range of dramatic natural sandstone hills developed to include gullies, caves, towers and bridges. Open on selected dates from Feb-Oct.
- Attingham Park – this National Trust property outside Shrewsbury is an 18th-century estate with 200 acres of parkland and a Regency Mansion. It’s open daily from 8am-6pm.
- Haughmond Hill – visit for beautiful views and extensive woodland suited for season-round walks. After drinking in views of the River Severn and the Welsh hills, refuel at Haughmond Hill cafe.
- Stiperstones National Nature Reserve – formed during the last Ice Age, this dramatic area is a walker’s dream. Take the 8km walkway or one of the many shorter trails soaking up striking landscape and spotting wildlife such as frogs, lizards and red kites.
More food options in Shrewsbury
Since eating & drinking is one of the best things to do in Shrewsbury (and also because of who I am as a person!), I couldn’t finish this guide without mentioning a few other local eateries.
Ginger & Co (brunch, lunch & coffee)
In a Grade II listed building just off the main square, Ginger & Co is a lovely venue with well-prepared drinks, tasty food and homemade cakes. We had a brunch of avocado on sourdough toast with a side of halloumi.
House of the Rising Sun (best Asian food)
The best Asian food in Shrewsbury has to be at the House of the Rising Sun, an atmospheric restaurant on Butchers Row. Expect modern Australian cuisine with an Asian twist. Choose from the Earth, Land and Sea menus with treats like bao buns, teriyaki beef, chicken katsu and sweet potato & crayfish empanadas.
It’s tapas style so order 2-3 dishes per person depending how hungry you are. Between two, we tried the pani puri, bibimbap, takoyaki and tempura shrimp. Many of my favourites from my extensive Asia travels!
When we visited on Saturday night it was dimly lit with (perhaps a little too loud) tunes playing and drinks flowing. Dinner for two including a glass of wine each cost us £60.
St Nicholas Bar & Grill (in a refurbished church)
Located inside a converted old church, St Nicholas Bar & Grill is a licensed cafe, mezze bar and grill perfect for an early evening G&T or glass of wine. Pair your drink with mezze dishes include whitebait, beef kofte, scallops and calamari.
Dough & Oil (best pizza in town)
After a long day of Shrewsbury sightseeing, Dough & Oil is your destination for great sourdough pizzas, homemade sides, desserts, coffee, wines and craft beers. Over the road is their sister bar Oil known for cocktails, wines and live music.
Classic margherita pizzas start from £9.50 or you can update for toppings including fennel & chilli sausage, pistachio butter, piquante peppers, gorgonzola, jackfruit and whipped ricotta (maybe not altogether, though!). Overall, the pizzas are inventive, creative and, more importantly, delicious!
Ask anyone where to find the best doughnuts in town and they’ll tell you Planet Doughnut! With 5 stars on Trip Advisor, they’re known for their creative flavours like Biscoff, Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Cherry Bakewell. There are as many vegan ones as non-vegan!
Glouglou Wine Bar & Shop
GlouGlou wine bar is a lovely place in Shrewsbury near the station and Castle. Known for their wine tastings and live jazz nights, they’re also a member and supporter of Slow Food and serve small platters of cheese, meat, hummus, veggies and more.
Also check out their little sister, PetitGlou, next door to their wine shop, Iron & Rose, in the Market Hall.
Free things to do in Shrewsbury
If you’re travelling on a budget, these are the top Shrewsbury activities that won’t cost you a penny…
- Hunt down Ebenezer Scrooge’s Grave
- Walk in Quarry Park and the Dingle
- Learn about the history at the Museum and Art Gallery
- Wander the Castle Grounds and climb Laura’s Tower
- Browse at Shrewsbury Market Hall
- Explore the quirky streets and passageways.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you have a better idea of what to do in Shrewsbury and that you have a wonderful trip!
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