It's the history that makes it interesting..
Once you're here, Coventry is a great place to hang-out as it's relatively compact in comparison with most cities, most attractions are easily walkable so you've more time to spend exploring - we've included a selection of our favorites in this section. We've also included a few suggestions for where to stay, including where to head for in the evening as, with a rapidly expanding student population (almost 50,000!) - we have an increasingly varied nightime and cultural scene developing in the city centre.
We've only mentioned the main visitor attractions so far; Coventry has dozens of lesser known (but very cool) relics from it's rich 1000 year history dotted around the city-scape..
Old Bablake School and Bonds Hospital, on Hill St are a picturesque example of 16th century architecture - sadly not open to the public but worth an external inspection from the open courtyard. The Greek Revival style 'Drapers Hall', (Bayley Lane) dates from the 1830's and is another gem presently awaiting Heritage Lottery funding for use as an artspace - whilst the late16th century 'Golden Cross' (corner of Pepper Lane and Hay Lane - original site of the Coventry Mint) is shortly to re-open as an up-market pub eaterie. The 'Coventry Cross' monument (Cuckoo Lane) is an impressive 1970's replica of the original dating from mid 1500's - soon to be re-located close to it's original site behind Primark in Ironmonger Row. Holy Trinity Church (adjacent to the cross - free entry), is Coventry's only complete medievel parish church, established in the 12th century but rebuilt following a fire in 1257, and next door, the ruins of the Benedictine Priory of St Mary (founded 1042), and priory undercroft (accesible via Priory Visitor Centre - scheduled for re-opening early 2017) are an interesting reminder of the City's first great age of prosperity, ending abruptly with the dissolution of the monasteries - including St. Marys - in 1539.
Old Bluecoats School, erected over the west end tower of St Marys, in 1856 is a very elegant gothic gem (finely detailed rear elevation can also be viewed via secluded upstairs garden terrace of adjacent Wetherspoons 'Flying Standard'), whilst the County Hall/Prison Governors House in Cuckoo lane have recently been restored and can be enjoyed today as 'The Establishment' pub restaurant.
Further out, close by Coventry University Science Block - and incongruously close to the ringroad - you'll find the Grade I listed Whitefriars (Carmelite) Friary - latterly residence to one of Coventrys wealthy noblemen, John Hales, at the time of Queen Elizabeth I stay during her visit to the City in 1585. The impressive original main entrance, 'Whitefriars Gate' is also still standing, although some distance away (in Whitefriars St) - both gate and friary are, unfortunately, not yet open to the public.
Kirby House (and no.7 ' The Castle' pub next door, on Little Park St) are both handsome early Georgian merchant houses , and just round the corner in Broadgate - no visit to Coventry is complete without a selfie next to William Reid Dick's 1949 Lady Godiva statue.
Coventry's third spire, 'Greyfriars' at the end of The Quadrant/Warwick Row stands alone today, but dates back to the original 14th century Fransiscans church, demolished in 1542, then rebuilt in 1830, only to be demolished again in 1950 following the loss of its roof during WWII. Also, on Warwick Row is George Elliots childhood school (marked by a blue heritage plaque), and the imposing Renaissance style United Reform Church - originally built as a Congergational Chapel in 1890 and worth a visit despite the ugly 1970's entrance frontage.
Further west along Greyfriars Rd, Coventry's circular 1950s indoor market - with innovative rooftop parking - has been recently listed by English Heritage along with the 1966 huge 'winged glass' Coventry Swimming Baths at the other end of town, on Fairfax St.
The two remaining medieval gates (Cook St and Swanswell aka Priory gate) are sadly not open to the public although they are worth a visit, and a good photo opportunity. A little further back heading west along Hales St, The Burges shopping street is another zone in-line for Heritage-lottery funding, with the close-by New Buildings (next to Priory Visitor Centre) being a great example of Coventry's huge late 18th/early 19th century boom in part-mechanised weaving - there were once 100's of 'Topshops' like these all over the City, and its suburbs.
An earlier beautifully restored example of cottage industry textile weaving - the 'Weaver's House' in Spon End is an interesting detour - 5 minutes walk from 'Medieval Spon St' via the (slightly grotty) ringroad pedestrian underpass - as is the fascinating St. Johns Church at the opposite end of Spon St. Built in 1344, on land granted by Queen Isabella, and open most days, it features beautiful stained glass window panels and soaring (if a bit wonky - the foundations sit on the ancient 'Bablake' lake bed) sandstone columns. Later use as a prison during the English Civil War gave rise to the saying 'Sent to Coventry' - Royalist prisoners having been shunned by the towns - mostly parliamentarian - citizens.
The quirky, but well-presented Coventry Watchmakers Museum is also in Spon St (look for signs in alleyway pointing behind 'Tiki Bar') - it's open Tuesdays and Saturdays - and a fascinating glimpse into 1850's Coventry.
Three venerable old buildings; The Old Grammar School (recently restored 14th century chapel, latterly a grammar school - bottom of Bishop St), Fords hospital (Almshouses, erected around 1509 - Greyfriars Lane) and Cheylesmore Manor Gatehouse (the original manor was first mentioned in 1250, but the present gatehouse is mostly 16th century - New Union St) are all steeped in history, worth checking out if passing.
FARGO is a great new Heritage-grant funded 1000m long street restoration, full of exotic barber shops, restaurants, cafes, grocers etc - linking the city centre to Gosford Green Park and the FARGO village (camden-market style creatives)/artspace ('the Box') . Only a five minute walk from the town's historic centre it's well worth the effort - with an excellent 'Far Gosford Street' heritage visitors guide available from Tourist Information.
Finally, the grade I listed remains of the Carthusian Priory of St Anne, founded in 1382 - soon to be re-developed as the 'Charterhouse Heritage Park' is a bit further out - not really walkable from town (but only 2 mins by car) it's not presently open to the public apart from occasional days. The garden, surrounding park - with free on-site parking - and the adjoining 'Paxton Arboretum and Cemetary' (also to be included in the heritage-grant park scheme - opp. side of London Road) are still however worth a visit.
There's a pretty good selection of restaurants in, and close by the city centre - mostly clustered around the Cathedral quarter, and Belgrade Plaza. If you fancy something a little more intimate/up-market then Da Vinci's on Earlsdon High St is excellent, and the 'Royal Bengal' on Albany Road is probably our pick of a very-good selection of super quality Asian Restaurants in Coventry (both 'Akbars' on The Butts opp. Ramada Hotel, and Turmeric Spice on Spon St run it a close second).
Most City Centre pubs open until late - and serve pretty good food if you fancy something more casual. The two Wetherspoons pubs in town are both ok (Earl of Mercia on Little Park St, and The Flying Standard on Trinity St), and we also like 'The Phoenix' on the corner of Gosford St and Whitefriars Lane. The Town Wall Tavern on Bond St is one of the few surviving examples of old style Coventry Pubs (also popular for home cooked pub grub) - and for real ale lovers, Whitefriars (Gosford St), The Windmill ('Medievel' Spon St) and Twisted Barrel Ale House (Fargo - micro-brewery on-site) are excellent.
In terms of evening entertainment, The Belgrade Theatre always has a selection of plays - and the Arts Centre at Warwick University (only a 5 minute taxi ride from Coventry Centre) is also excellent. The 'Tin Vaults' hidden away a little in Coventry's canal basin has live music most nights in an interesting setting, and the - mostly outdoor/summer-time - events selection at Coventry Cathedral and Old Cathedral Ruins are always excellent (click here for timetable).
Just a little note about hotel bookings in general - by all means use the various search apps and comparison sites - but be careful, we've found that booking direct is almost always a better deal (booking.com are particularly naughty with their 'best price guarantee' - which is definately not what it says on the tin!).
Hotels aren't something Coventry does too flamboyantly at present - we're waiting for some hipster-styled boutique accomodation to break-cover, but for the moment, here are our top recommendations for an overnight stay..
The new-ish 'Earlsdon Park' Premier Inn is situated within the characterful 1930's 'Butts Technical College' building - this is the pick of the bunch, as it's pretty stylish and in is a nice spot about 2 minutes walk from the City Centre - and only 5 minutes walk from Earlsdon High Street. Earlsdon is pretty good for up-market curry houses (Royal Bengal/Blue Mango/Bombay Palace), Italian Cuisine (Da Vincis), stylish traditional (The Street/Watchmakers Arms/Royal Oak) - and an excellent Wetherspoons (The City Arms).
The larger, more modern, Belgrade Plaza Premier Inn is in a good central location about 2 minutes from Broadgate. Another good budget choice is the Ibis hotel, again. is just a few minutes walk from the Cathedral Quarter/Coventry University - close to the ringroad in an old converted cycle-works.
Finally, the Ramada hotel (again, close by the Butts) is a smart choice popular with business travellers and families, with a decent restaurant.
The stylish Village Hotel Club is situated on the outskirts of Earlsdon, just off the A45 about a mile from the City Centre. 46 rooms, beauty salon, pool, sauna, gym plus free parking for over 300 cars it's popular with everyone from locals to visiting international rugby teams.
If you have a car, and don't mind a 15 minute drive into town, the Coombe Abbey Hotel, just outside Coventry nr Brinklow is a pretty spectacular option. Medieval splendour on a grand scale, the abbey was originally home to Cistircian Monks in the 14th century - now set in beautiful grounds and surrounded by a moat/lake landscaped by Capability Brown - this is a quite reasonably priced gem most folks miss out as it's a less well publicised independant still part-owned by Coventry City Council.
One of the great things about Coventry is it's extremely easy to get to from most places in the UK - located just twenty minutes or so from the motorway network (M45/M42/M40/M6). Parking is also relatively easy in Coventry vs. many cities - there are several large multi-stories located around around the city centre, so head for the ring road and then drop off at any of the junctions and follow the big 'P' parking signs. Expect to pay about £6 for 24hr long-stay, plus if you're lucky enough to own an electric vehicle - Coventry has several areas designated as free parking/charging (check Plugshare or Zapmap app's for details).
If you really don't fancy navigating into the City Centre, the local park and ride is an excellent option - located in a large 200 space car park at the southern end of The War Memorial Park with free bus service running every 20 minuntes.
Coventry Railway Station is just two minutes walk from the City Centre and has direct links with London, Birmingham, and Manchester (journey time from London Euston just 55 mins - 3 services per hour) - with Birmingham International Airport approx twenty minutes from Coventry Centre via taxi, driving or direct rail link (from Birmingham International/NEC station).
Kenilworth Castle (English Heritage, 10 minute drive from Coventry) - is pretty good value at £10 adult/£6 kids, as there's heaps to look at and explore - plus it's open almost all year round. Castle ruins have been made more accesible this year with introduction of a new skeletal staircase arrangement that lets you scale all five floors of the impressive Queens Chambers. Good on-site refectory, with a couple of excellent pub restaurants nearby (Clarendon Arms is our choice, free parking after 6pm - opposite castle),
Baddersley Clinton, and Charlecote Park (both National Trust, approx 20 mins drive) are excellent visitor attractions in beautiful settings - as is , Coombe Country Park (10 minutes drive, large parkland and lake - it's where the luxurious Coombe Abbey hotel is located), and Stoneleigh Abbey - a glorious setting on the banks of the River Avon just 4.5 miles from the City Centre with a 14th Century Gatehouse, 1730's Mansion House, Tudor Stately home and woodland walks (£5 entry).
Lastly, Allesley Village (13th century Church, atmospheric 'ancient-arden' country lane walks - try 'Staircase Lane') has its own Medieval pub 'The Rainbow' , Georgian Townhouses, timber framed cottages, plus 'The Elms' Harvester eaterie in a converted manor house - all approx 4 miles from town, and about a 10 minute drive. There's also the attractive Allesley Park Gardens to combine into your visit (600m to the south, accesed via downsloping path from 'Stone House' opp Church, via walkway-bridge over River Sherbourne) - making for a pleasant stop-off.
Thanks for reading.
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