The hometown of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is very touristy, but it's still a must-see.

While in Stratford, which is 80 mi/130 km northwest of London, be sure to attend a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Take one of the city walking tours guided by a local playwright (they start from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre) and visit the sites associated with the Bard, especially Anne Hathaway's cottage in nearby Shottery, Shakespeare's birthplace (don't breeze past the exhibition), Holy Trinity Church (he's buried there—the riverside setting is idyllic) and Mary Arden's House, which is 3 mi/5 km away in Wilmcote and popular with kids.

Only dedicated fans need take time to see the other in-town Shakespeare properties.

Also check out the British Pewter Museum, which displays finely crafted tankards, pilgrim's badges and children's toys.

If time permits, walk around nearby Charlecote Park and visit the town of Warwick for its highly entertaining castle and the medieval Lord Leycester Hospital (across High Street from the castle walls). Stratford also makes a good base for exploring the Cotswolds.

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