Nestled in the heart of England, Stoke-on-Trent is a historic city with a rich industrial past. Once famous for its pottery production, today, Stoke has reinvented itself into a vibrant cultural destination.
With its iconic bottle kilns, canals, and gardens, Stoke-on-Trent makes for an exciting weekend escape from London.
This 2-day itinerary covers the top attractions, neighborhoods, and eateries in Stoke that you can’t miss. Follow this guide to make the most out of your weekend in Stoke-on-Trent.
Table of Contents
Day 1 in Stoke-on-Trent
Morning: Explore the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Start your first day at the excellent Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in the city center. This museum tells the story of the Potteries and how Stoke contributed to the Industrial Revolution.
Wander through galleries displaying an expansive collection of locally produced ceramics and pottery. Learn about the history of Stoke’s pottery industry and its leading manufacturers like Wedgwood, Spode, and Doulton.
Don’t miss the museum’s WW1 trench experience, where you can walk through a life-size replica trench from the Western Front. Other highlights include antique bottle kilns, Victorian art pottery, and displays on the history of coal mining in Stoke.
After exploring the museum, take a short walk over to Tunstall Park. Have a relaxing stroll through this historic park lined with gorgeous floral gardens.
Morning Tea at Ford Green Hall
After the museum, take a 5-minute drive or 15-minute walk over to the 400-year-old Ford Green Hall in Smallthorne. This Elizabethan manor house turned museum offers a charming cafe serving morning tea and baked treats. Don’t forget to explore the historic house with its intricate wood carvings and period furniture.
Afternoon: World of Wedgwood
Next, head over to the World of Wedgwood in the suburb of Barlaston. This immersive experience celebrates one of Stoke’s most iconic pottery brands – Wedgwood. Tour the factory to see master craftspeople at work.
Learn about Josiah Wedgwood and view dazzling displays, including a 220-year-old pottery collection. Round off with afternoon tea or lunch at the stunning Wedgwood Tea Room.
Afternoon: Canal Cruise
After exploring the museums and sights in Burslem in the morning, continue discovering the top things to do in Stoke with a leisurely canal cruise departing from Middleport Pottery.
Festival Narrowboats offers 1-hour canal cruises departing from Middleport Pottery. Relax on the open-air upper deck as you glide by old canal-side warehouses, pubs, and villages.
The cruise passes Middleport Pottery, home of Burleigh ceramics. Along the way, your guide will share facts about Stoke’s pottery heritage and the history of its canals. It’s a laidback way to see Stoke from a new perspective.
Evening: Hanley Nightlife
Spend your evening enjoying Stoke’s nightlife in the district of Hanley. Start with dinner at one of Hanley’s many excellent restaurants. Miller & Carter Steakhouse offers incredible aged steaks in an upscale setting. For Indian, try Spice Grill known for their hot curries and flavorful dishes.
After dinner, head to Hanley’s lively pubs and bars for drinks. Top picks include The Reginald Mitchell Wetherspoons, The Exchange for craft beers, and The Sugarmill music venue. Or catch a show at the Regent Theatre to end the night on a high note.
Day 2 in Stoke-on-Trent
Morning: Trentham Gardens
On your second day, escape the city to the breathtaking Trentham Gardens. These award-winning gardens feature spectacular floral displays spread over 725 acres of parkland.
Stroll through meticulously designed Italian and English-inspired gardens. See sights like the Grand Floral Walk, Rivers of Grass, and the Fairy Dell grotto. Other highlights include serene lakes, enchanting woodlands, and panoramic views from Trentham’s hilltop perch.
Make sure to explore the gardens’ resident attractions like the barefoot walk, maze, and monkey forest. Top off your morning with brunch or morning tea at the Garden Kitchen Cafe. Get tickets in advance.
Afternoon: Alton Towers Theme Park
In the afternoon, get your adrenaline fix at one of the best theme parks in the UK – the legendary Alton Towers located just 30 minutes from Stoke-on-Trent.
Must-try thrill rides include the Smiler with 14 loops, Wicker Man combining fire and wood, and Nemesis inverted rollercoaster.
When you need a break from the rides, explore the immersive-themed lands and catch live shows. Don’t miss the picturesque Alton Towers Gardens showcasing conservatories and idyllic parklands.
Fuel up with lunch at one of Alton Tower’s myriad dining options. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Rollercoaster Restaurant while “riding” a coaster-themed dining experience.
Evening: Etruria Valley
After a thrilling afternoon at Alton Towers, wrap up your Stoke getaway with an evening exploring the scenic Etruria Valley.
This tranquil valley is home to the Etruria Industrial Museum set within a historic mill. Learn about the valley’s pivotal role in Stoke’s pottery industry. Don’t miss the museum’s Working Flint Mill powered by a steam engine.
Next, stretch your legs on a peaceful walk along the Caldon Canal. Soak up scenic views of the valley with its patchwork fields, meandering waterways, and abundant wildlife.
End your evening with dinner at one of Etruria Valley’s wonderful eateries. The Orange Tree is a cozy gastro-pub serving seasonal British cuisine and local ales. Or book a table at Juliana’s Tea Room for a scrumptious afternoon tea in a quaint cottage setting.
Where to Stay in Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent offers a great range of accommodations from charming B&Bs to design hotels. For location, stay in the Hanley city center close to restaurants and nightlife.
Burslem and Tunstall are quieter neighborhoods with easy access to attractions.
Top-rated picks include the modern Hilton Garden Inn Stoke-on-Trent, boutique Best Western Plus Stoke On Trent Moat House near the train station, and Premier Inn Stoke-on-Trent Central for affordable rates.
Getting To and Around Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent is conveniently located in England’s West Midlands. By train, it’s under 90 minutes from Birmingham and Manchester. Daily trains run to and from London Euston taking about 1.5 hours.
The city center is compact and walkable with attractions clustered around Hanley. For sights further afield, local buses provide connections throughout the city.
Taxis are affordable and widely available. Driving gives flexibility for day trips to Alton Towers, Trentham Gardens, and the countryside.
Travel Tips for Visiting Stoke-on-Trent
- Purchase a Potteries Pass to save money on entry to Stoke’s top attractions like the Potteries Museum, Gladstone Pottery Museum, and Wedgwood Factory.
- Try local delicacies like oatcakes (savoury pancakes) and lobby (a meat and potato stew).
- Use public transportation like buses, taxis, and trains to easily get around Stoke and to nearby cities.
- Book Alton Towers tickets online in advance to skip ticket lines and get the best deal on entry.
- Pack layers and an umbrella – Stoke’s weather can be temperamental with a mix of rain and sunshine.
- Explore Stoke’s heritage by taking a pottery factory tour or pottery painting experience.
- Walk along the canal towpaths for traffic-free strolling and relaxing views of Stoke’s waterways.
- Sample locally brewed beers at microbreweries around Stoke like Lymestone Brewery and Titanic Brewery.
- Stop by Emma Bridgewater Factory for their ‘Seconds’ sale of discounted pottery items and gifts.
- Try hiking up to Mow Cop Castle for panoramic views stretching to the Peak District on clear days.
- Book afternoon tea at Trentham Gardens or Juliana’s Tea Room for a quintessentially British experience.
Pinpoint the Best Times to Visit Stoke
- May, June, September and early October bring pleasant weather ideal for exploring Stoke’s outdoor attractions.
- Stoke-on-Trent Ceramic Festival and British Ceramics Biennial take place in September/October.
- Christmas markets like the Winter Funland and Potteries Christmas Markets run November-December.
- Visit in spring to enjoy Trentham Gardens’ blossoming floral displays at their finest.
- School summer holidays (July & August) bring peak crowds – visit earlier in the summer if possible.
Sumary: Stoke-on-Trent 2-Day Itinerary
Stoke-on-Trent often flies under the radar when it comes to English city breaks. But beyond the pottery industry that put this city on the map, Stoke has reinvented itself into a dynamic destination offering variety and value.
Learn about the Potteries’ heritage in museums and factories. Wander through the natural beauty at Trentham Gardens. Scream on record-breaking rollercoasters at Alton Towers. And replenish with meals from cafes to high-end eateries.
With its blend of industrial history and cultural regeneration, Stoke encapsulates 21st century England. It proves there’s plenty to fill a weekend from its underrated museums, charming outdoors, delectable dining, and unique attractions.
Next time you plan a weekend escape from London, consider heading north to discover why Stoke-on-Trent deserves more attention. Follow this guide to uncover the best of England’s heartland and let the Potteries’ vibrant spirit win you over.
What are the top attractions to see in Stoke-on-Trent?
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Trentham Gardens, Emma Bridgewater Factory, The Potteries Museum, canal cruises, and Alton Towers are the top attractions to see in Stoke-on-Trent.
What is Stoke-on-Trent known for?
Stoke-on-Trent is known for its pottery industry heritage, canal network, historic bottle kilns, and being the birthplace of famous pottery manufacturers like Wedgwood and Spode.
How do you get around Stoke-on-Trent?
Stoke-on-Trent’s city center is compact and walkable. Buses provide connections to outer neighborhoods. Taxis are affordable and widely available. Driving allows easy access to day trip attractions.
What is there to do in Stoke-on-Trent at night?
Hanley has a lively nightlife with pubs, bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues like the Regent Theatre. Top picks include The Reginald Mitchell Wetherspoons, The Exchange craft beer bar, and The Sugarmill music venue.
Where should you stay in Stoke-on-Trent?
The best areas to stay are Hanley city center for nightlife and restaurants, Burslem for attractions, and Tunstall for parks and gardens. Top hotels include Hilton Garden Inn Stoke-on-Trent, Best Western Plus Stoke On Trent Moat House, and Premier Inn Stoke-on-Trent Central.
How do you get to Stoke-on-Trent from London?
Stoke-on-Trent is around 90 minutes by direct train from London Euston. Driving takes around 2.5 hours via the M1 and M6 motorways.
How many days do you need in Stoke-on-Trent?
2 days is ideal to see the highlights of Stoke-on-Trent. This allows time for top attractions like the Potteries museums, Trentham Gardens, canal cruise, and a day trip to Alton Towers theme park. For a longer visit, allow 3-4 days.