Colchester has everything an English hamlet should have. This Essex hamlet is rich with magnificent vestiges of its legendary history and is the earliest recorded city in Britain (approximately 5th century).
Only a few of the must-see features include a towering Norman castle, vast Roman walls, and surviving timber dwellings.
Other must-see attractions are more modern in character. There is a modern art museum, eccentric boutiques, and one of the greatest zoos in the nation, as well as meandering roads that bend their way through the town centre, lined with trendy stores of all sizes and a plethora of delectable eateries.
Colchester, around two hours northwest of London, is a favourite weekend getaway for city dwellers wishing to unwind.
A thriving arts culture ensures that tourists will never be bored. There’s always something enjoyable to do, from concerts to theatrical performances to festivals.
Discover where to begin your adventure with our selection of the best things to do in Colchester.
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It’s not every day that a zoo sits at the top of a list of things to do in an English town. When it comes to menageries, though, this amazing location should not be overlooked.
The Colchester Zoo’s 60 acres are home to over 220 species from throughout the world.
Among the wide grasslands and lakes that make up this unique tourist destination, you’ll come face to face with a Komodo dragon, hear a lion scream, and gaze at a white tiger.
The underwater tunnel in the Patagonia sea lion pool is one of the most exciting exhibitions.
This zoo, like many great zoos, offers animal experiences that allow people to feed giraffes and elephants or become a zookeeper for a day for an extra cost. Visitors may feed the rainbow lorikeets at the Australian Rainbows aviary for a fraction of the price.
Heckfordbridge’s address is Maldon Road.
Colchester Castle, the town’s most prominent attraction, is said to have been built in the late 1070s by order of William the Conqueror. It was built over the ruins of the Temple of Claudius, which was constructed during the town’s tenure as Britain’s first Roman capital.
Today, the well-preserved castle serves as a reminder of Colchester’s unique past and a lovely setting for countless photographs. Its Norman stronghold is Europe’s largest surviving example.
The Colchester Castle Museum, located within the castle, houses items from the castle’s illustrious past. These commemorate nearly 2,500 years of the town’s interesting history through ages governed by Celts, Romans, Vikings, Normans, and Saxons.
Inside the museum, the old world meets the contemporary, with interactive displays and stunning projections created with cutting-edge technology.
The Sheepen Cauldron, mediaeval artwork, Civil War armour, and different Celtic coins are among the most notable treasures.
Colchester, Castle Park (off High Street).
If you’re searching for peace and quiet, Beth Chatto’s Plants & Gardens’ six-plus acres of outstanding gardens are the place to go.
This natural wonderland is an awe-inspiring beauty and a delight for the senses, yet it’s only six miles from the centre of Colchester.
This enormous paradise, founded in 1960 by Beth Chatto and her husband, is one of the most remarkable gardens you’ll ever see. Instead of a single enormous, well-kept allotment, the estate is home to a variety of gardens, each of which flourishes in a distinct setting.
Beth was perplexed when she bought the site because she didn’t know how to turn the wild gravel, muck, and bramble sections into a blooming garden.
So she got to work, planting flowers, bushes, and shrubs that would thrive in the different environments.
As a consequence, there is a beautiful and intriguing variety of plants, as well as a Gravel Garden that is so unique (these plants are never watered) that it has gained international acclaim.
Insider’s tip: Make time to visit the Tea Room. This pleasant location is unusually bright and airy, and it delivers a mean cup of tea and wonderful sweet pastries.
Elmstead Market is located in Colchester, Essex.
The magnificent Victorian Park that surrounds Colchester Castle is not to be missed. These gorgeous grounds, a sumptuous setting appreciated for its enormous greenery, colourful blooms, and scenic lake, are the site of many a gathering.
This 11-hectare park neatly packages almost 2,000 years of history.
Colchester Castle Park, which is divided into Upper and Lower parts by the town’s Roman Walls, is designated on the English Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historical Importance. It’s also one of the town’s most popular attractions.
There’s always something going on in this lively place, from people picnicking on the weekends to wedding parties taking photographs to crowds gathered for concerts or firework displays.
A playground, mini golf course, and bouncy castle are ideal distractions for children, while adults may relax on the green.
Colchester’s address is High Street.
When touring the remains of one of England’s first Augustinian priory churches, it’s easy to forget you’re in the twenty-first century.
The majority of St. Botolph’s Priory, which was founded approximately 1100, was destroyed by cannon fire during the English Civil War siege of Colchester in 1648.
Only the destroyed nave exists now, yet it’s still magnificent to wander around. The nave was utilised for burials in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Today, the walls are in various degrees of ruin, but they all exhibit the Roman bricks that were originally used to create the elaborate pillars and circular archways.
One of the area’s features is the priory’s exquisite West Front. It is a magnificent and long-lasting example of Norman architecture. The priory is open to the public.
Colchester’s address is Priory Street.
Colchester’s Roman Town Walls are a tribute to the town’s final strength and perseverance. The Romans erected the walls to secure the city when Boudicca (Queen of the Iceni) destroyed it in AD 60. To get entrance via the huge structure, five gates were built.
Visitors may learn about the wall’s history by visiting one of the information boards situated around the structure. Those interested in learning more can join up for a guided sightseeing tour of Colchester (including the walls) at the Colchester Visitor Information Centre.
Insider tip: For a more personalised experience, schedule a visit with Jess Jephcott, a local history lover who leads tours of the walls every other month on the final Sunday (except during July through September).
From the exterior, you’d never guess there’s so much going on in this charming little church. The distinctive Colchester Arts Centre is a centre of entertainment for the entire community, hosting programmes for people ranging in age from one to 100. And you never know exactly what you’re going to receive.
You could discover a local farmer’s market, a teen dance party, a comedy event, or a knitting group depending on when you visit. Guests are frequently able to attend performances by the “greats” before they become “greats” (think Coldplay, The Killers, and The Strokes).
Inside these hallowed walls, you’ll discover a stage, cutting-edge lighting and sound equipment, and an unbeatable funky ambiance. The beautiful stained-glass windows create an otherworldly atmosphere.
Colchester’s address is Church Street.
The Dutch Quarter in Colchester is a photographer’s ideal location. The small lanes are lined with charming ancient structures, adding colour to an otherwise drab setting.
These 16th-century cottages were constructed before to the advent of the Dutch and were formerly home to Flemish Protestant refugees fleeing religious persecution.
The Dutch Quarter, located immediately north of High Street, was formerly a tranquil residential portion of town until falling into decay in the early twentieth century. Fortunately, the area was renovated in the 1970s after obtaining an award from the Civic Trust Building.
Today, this quaint region provides tourists with a tranquil reprieve from the hustle and bustle of town, as well as a great location for taking images that you’ll want to share with everyone back home.
Firstsite, a fantastically unusual visual arts institution, houses an intriguing universe of talent. This current culture is veiled in modernity, in sharp contrast to the old artefacts that lay outside its gates.
From the gorgeous golden crescent-shaped structure (built by renowned architect Rafael Vinöly) to the interesting contemporary art shows held within its walls, creativity pervades every pore of this venue.
Firstsite, located in the centre of Colchester, is more than simply a gallery. It’s an adventure. Guests are greeted by a diverse array of regularly changing displays. They also have access to a diverse range of events and activities that may be enjoyed by both children and adults.
Learn to paint, see a play, listen to opera, or see a ballet – the possibilities for amusement are nearly limitless. Then, get a bite to eat at the new café or browse for a souvenir. As an added benefit, entrance is free.
Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester.
Feel your problems disappear as you enter into Highwoods Country Park’s enormous expanse. In the spring, walk through woodlands bursting with bluebells, relax in a wildflower meadow, or go fishing in the lake. Whatever activity you pick, you’ll be glad to unwind in this gorgeous setting.
Rent a bike and ride throughout the park, observing the immaculate conditions that have helped the park receive the prestigious Green Flag Award since 2004. This is a popular area for folks to have a picnic, explore the trails, and enjoy unrivalled views of Colchester.
Highwoods was designated an Accredited Country Park in 2012, which implies it is free to access, well-staffed, has adjacent bathrooms, and has a primarily natural terrain.
On-site amenities include three playgrounds, a tourist centre, and a gift store (which also offers tea and coffee).
Turner Road, Colchester is the address.
Hollytrees Museum is adjacent to Colchester Castle. This intriguing site, housed in a lovely Georgian mansion, features hands-on displays that even the most museum-averse children can enjoy.
Guests may learn firsthand about family life in Colchester over the past 300 years as they walk around the building.
Kids may dress up as servants and try to wash clothes on a dolly peg, as was done many years ago. Perhaps they’ll be more eager to assist with a load or two at home now that they understand the value of contemporary conveniences like washing machines.
Costumed characters walk about the home, ready to answer questions and provide a more in-depth look at how the world changed over time for people of all classes and genders.
There are antique toys, clocks, watches, and artwork on show. The sensory garden is a peaceful spot to unwind.
Dedham, a little community seven miles north of Colchester, is home to the Munnings Art Museum. The scenery around this museum is a piece of art in and of itself, having been made renowned by John Constable’s pastoral paintings.
The museum, housed in a bright yellow mansion, displays an annual changing exhibit of Sir Alfred Munnings’ works (paintings, sculptures, and drawings). Among the eight gallery rooms, more than 200 items are exhibited (or shown) chronologically.
Insider tip: Make time to visit Flatford Mill, a water-powered mill previously owned by John Constable’s father and the subject of one of his most renowned paintings.
Dedham’s address is Castle Hill.