This month (April 2016) marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare - and, as anyone who truly loves the bard will know, the only way to commemorate this historical event is to pay a visit to his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, where a range of major new tours, exhibitions, renovated buildings and fascinating events are beckoning.
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These include the opening of Shakespeare's Schoolroom and Guildhall to the public for the very first time. This 15th century building has undergone major restoration and conservation work in order to provide visitors with an insight into Shakespeare's education and his inspiration to act and write. An engaging, interactive and fun visitor experience includes projections, films and displays, and guides will be on hand with many anecdotes to bring Shakespeare's story and those of the Guildhall to life. You'll even have the opportunity to take part in a Tudor lesson.
In July, the site of Shakespeare's family home for the last 19 years of his adult life, The The New Place, will also open to the public after an extensive archaeological project. Although the original house was destroyed, the site has been carefully reimagined in a contemporary landscape setting that beautifully reflects the original footprint of the 15th century home. Elements of the Great Garden, the largest surviving part of Shakespeare's estate, have been conserved and restored, and the beautiful sunken Knot Garden will also be open to the public. Commissioned artworks and displays evoke a sense of family life and the 26 major works written during Shakespeare's ownership of New Place.
The Royal Shakespeare Company is also going out of its way to deliver something special to visitors this year, with a brand new free self-guided tour to mark the anniversary. Shakespeare Stepsputs you in the shoes of the world's most famous playwright, walking you all the way along Stratford's historic spine. At each stop, you'll find speech bubbles painted on pavements that work as instructions for acting out mini-dramas. A free map gives the historical background and features include a treasure hunt challenge for children. Start at Shakespeare's Birthplace.
There's even more excitement to be had at The Other Place, a re-developed Royal Shakespeare Company venue that opened in March this year. It includes a cafe bar and a 200-seat flexible studio theatre hosting festivals and performances throughout the year. This is the new home for the world-renowned RSC Costume Hire department, which you'll get a glimpse of if you take the brand new guided tour, 'From Page to Stage' which gives unprecedented access to the rehearsal process at the RSC. The tour also shares some of the fascinating history of The Other Place including the life its founder, the director Buzz Goodbody. Tours of the building will run daily from Spring 2016. Tickets cost from £8.50.
If you're thinking of visiting Stratford upon Avon, check out our favourite things to do in the slideshow below.