The second largest conurbation in Cheshire, after Warrington, and close to the English-Welsh border, Chester was originally a Roman fort, founded in 79 AD. The city, self-described as Chester International Heritage City, is steeped in history. The Roman-built walls are the best-preserved in the UK and the city centre has a medieval feel, though, while there are medieval buildings, most of the black and white buildings are Victorian restorations, originating from the Black-and-White Revival. During the Industrial Revolution, Chester grew in importance, primarily as a transport hub, where the train network met the all-important canals. In 1969, the city centre was designated a City Conservation Area, to preserve its historic architecture.
Today, tourism, with between 8 and 9 million visitors per year, plays a vital role in the local economy and as one of Britain's most famous heritage cities, it's easy to see why. From medieval walking tours of the walls to the Roman Amphitheatre; from boat cruises on the River Dee to Chester Zoo; from a myriad of museums and galleries to festivals and live performances. There is plenty to do and yet, perhaps, the biggest draw is simply the opportunity to walk through the city and take it all in. And it's not just the city that is attractive to tourists but its location helps. It is a gateway to North Wales and the spectacular landscapes that are found there and are also surrounded by the beautiful Cheshire countryside and the attractions that it holds.
Chester is so much more than a tourist destination. Other important areas of the local economy include the university, which attracts around 15,000 students, annually. There are large numbers of people employed in public administration. Financial and legal services are important, also. And there is a burgeoning and robust community of businesses, operating in information technology, media, marketing and creative/digital. The largest sector, however, is banking. The Bank of America, NFU Mutual, Lloyds Bank, Virgin Money and M&S Bank all have offices in the city and this list does not include all the banks that are present there. Manufacturing has less of a presence but the closeby Broughton is home to Airbus UK, which employs around 6,000 people.
The housing market in Chester is somewhat unique, due to considerable amounts of land and housing, including the nearby village of Eccleston, being owned by the Duke of Westminster, whose Victorian ancestor was responsible for much of the architectural style of the city. Nonetheless, the compact city centre has a lot to offer, in terms of period housing, flat conversions, student accommodation and even a few high-rise buildings. There are also a lot of short-term lets, mainly catering to tourists. Beyond the walls of the city is a sprawl of suburban villages consisting of detached and semi-detached housing, with plenty of rental properties available, with great access to amenities, that are more popular with families.