Chester’s status as the setting for vapid TV soap Hollyoaks does the city something of an injustice, for its historic Roman walls and wealth of half-timbered buildings and cobbled streets give it character aplenty.
For a small city, Chester has a sizeable financial sector, while just over the border in Wales are a major Airbus UK facility and the offices of moneysupermarket.com. The city’s set of meeting, conference and event venues is impressive too, while the wider county of Cheshire further extends the choice.
As the region’s events bureau says, “Chester and Cheshire offer an inspiring combination of the ancient and modern, without compromising on the quality of facilities. From Roman sandals to killer heels, the county effortlessly blends centuries of substance with rolling acres of style.”
Name: Chester Grosvenor & Spa
Address: Eastgate, Chester, CH1 1LT
Tel: 01244 324024
Chester’s solitary five-star hotel is located in the heart of the city, adjacent to the landmark Eastgate Clock. The 145-year-old, grade-II-listed hotel has 68 guestrooms and 12 suites, a stylish spa and Michelin-starred restaurant, plus event facilities for up to 320 guests. The recently refurbished Westminster Suite consists of the Aldford and Belgrave Suites, the latter with capacity for 320 guests for a reception or 228 for a banquet. There’s also three boardrooms for up to 25 delegates theatre-style, and the Eaton Suite for up to 20 people, complete with videoconferencing facilities, wifi internet and the latest AV equipment. Private dining events for up to 250 people can be catered for.
Name: Chester Zoo
Address: Upton-by-Chester, Chester, CH2 1LH
Tel: 01244 650209
Chester Zoo welcomes over 1.4million visitors a year, making it the UK’s number one wildlife attraction. A small but not insignificant portion of that figure is corporate business, with a number of intriguing options on offer including meetings, conferences and team-building opportunities or even private hire of the entire zoo. The zoo’s Oakfield Manor was built over 100 years ago and is set in 110 acres of award-winning zoological gardens and is suitable for boardroom-style meetings for ten, through to conferences of up to 170 delegates. A wide range of catering options are available and there’s on-site AV facilities too. On summer evenings when the zoo is closed to the general public, a Chester Zoo Safari is available for groups of 60 to 140. A guided tour is followed by Pimms and a barbeque at the Oakfield Manor.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Name: ABode Hotel
Address: Grosvenor Road, Chester, CH1 2DJ
Tel: 01244 347000
The striking, new-build Abode Hotel Chester opened several years ago in the city centre, offering 85 guestrooms in four categories, a Michael Caines restaurant, 5th-floor Champagne bar, gym and meeting facilities. For private dining there’s the restaurant’s Paddock Club Room for up to 14; the Tattersalls meeting room is for up to 90 delegates theatre-style and overlooks Chester racecourse; and the Furlong boardroom has capacity for up to 14 guests.
Name: Crown Plaza Chester
Address: Trinity Street, Chester, CH1 2BD
Tel: 01244 899988
The brick-built Crowne Plaza lies within Chester’s historic city walls and has 160 guestrooms – including executive suites – across seven floors, an indoor pool, fitness suite and Silks restaurant which, like some others in the city, takes on a horse-racing theme. A business centre is open from 8am to 6pm, with fax, copying and printing facilities, plus PCs with internet access and courier and secretarial services. Wifi internet access is charged for and available throughout the hotel. There are 11 meeting rooms at the hotel including the 600-capacity Kings Suite ‘with cool blue spotlights’ and the Roodee room for views across the border to the Welsh hills. Technical equipment available for use is comprehensive, with an LCD digital projector, plasma screens, 35mm slide projector, CD/DVD/VHS player, stage lighting and AV system all on offer.
SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED
Name: Mill Hotel
Address: Milton Street, Chester, CH1 3NF
Tel: 01244 350035
Chester’s Mill Hotel straddles the Shropshire Union Canal and is home to 129 guestrooms across five grades: Standard Class, Business Class, Premier Class, Club Class and the ‘extra special’ Champagne Room. Its impressive selection of dining options include the Canaletto Restaurant, Brasserie, Peppermill Trattoria, Real Ale Bar and the Restaurant Cruiser which is available for private lunch and dinner sailings. Its meeting facilities, meanwhile, cater for no more than 40 delegates and are for hire by room-only, day delegate rates or 24-hour rates. The hotel also has a ‘technogym’, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steamroom, free parking and free internet access.
ON A SHOESTRING
Name: University of Chester
Address: Parkgate Road, Chester, CH1 4BJ
Tel: 01244 513112
It’s not unusual for universities to offer decent meeting and event facilities at highly reasonable rates, and Chester University doesn’t disappoint. Rooms range from plenary and syndicate rooms for one-to-one meetings, through to lecture theatres for up to 300 – such as the Best, Beswick and Blinks venues – and the Molloy Hall with capacity for 400 delegates. An on-site AV team offer full support along with the latest equipment such as projectors, microphones, fixed and portable PA systems, screens, monitors and laptops. Accommodation is also available both on and off campus. Catering is provided by the experienced in-house team either at the chosen venue or in one of the large dining halls on site.
How to get there: Both Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Manchester Airport are within a 45-minute drive of Chester, with flight connections across the UK. By rail, the West Coast line serves Cheshire, with services between Chester, Crewe, Warrington, Runcorn and Macclesfield. There are 13 direct trains from London Euston to Chester daily, with a journey time of around two hours. Chester lies close to both the M53 and M56 motorways which connect with the M6.