Colchester is acclaimed to be Britain's oldest recorded town, and the largest settlement within the borough of Colchester, Essex. With a number of incredible attractions, it is a favourite tourist destination, especially during the summer months. Today, Colchester is a thriving centre, surrounded by inspiring rural landscapes, making it just right for a family holiday or a short break.
Castles, Museums & Galleries
Of the must-visit areas, one cannot exclude the award-winning Colchester Castle Museum with excellent hands-on activities and displays, such as the Colchester Mercury statuette and the Colchester Vase, that highlight the rich history of Europe's largest Norman Keep. There are also regular family events, as well as children's events, where children dress up and step inside a recreated thatched roundhouse, among many others. You can also take a tour up to the panoramic roof or down to the Roman vaults and feel like time stopped to many centuries ago. The Castle also enthrals with the Castle Park, an 11-hectare area listed in the Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Importance (Grade II) in the English Register. With a wealth of things to do, from fun picnics to numerous outdoor games, Colchester Castle Museum certainly ticks all the boxes.
Adjacent to the Castle are two more superb attractions, the Hollytrees Museum and the Natural History Museum, both exciting places to be. The first is a beautiful Georgian building showcasing the life in Colchester over a span of 300 years, featuring hands-on exhibits, whose highlights include the doll's house, clocks and watches from the 17th century, and many more. There are also exciting exhibitions throughout the year, so it is highly unlikely you will ever get bored!
The Natural History Museum is your fascinating chance to know more about nature and find out more about climate change, biodiversity, and wildlife habitats, as well as open salt marshes, and the so many creatures you never thought to exist just beneath your feet. If you feel drawn into natural history, this museum will amaze you. We bet you didn't know that Colchester was once an area where mammoths used to roam! Of course, hands-on activities are not scarce here either.
Those into contemporary art will find an inviting place at Firstsite, a gallery located in Colchester's Cultural Quarter. Housed in a top-quality building whose architecture has received dithyrambic comments from the press, it comprises a marvellous backdrop for stunning art. A spectacular venue where you can explore the areas' rich artistic legacy (as well as see international artwork displays) and admire unique landscape!
For some family fun, don't forget to visit Colchester Zoo, with more than 60 acres full of magnificent animals (more than 270 species overall). Rightfully rated as one of the top 20 zoos in the world (TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Attractions Awards)! It is also among the top 10 best zoos in the UK, with fabulous lakes and parkland, not to mention the action-packed activities, displays, and rides. You have the chance to feed the giraffes and animals yourself, allow your kids to release their wild side in the Jungle Tumble area, and take a ride on the Lost Madagascar Express road train!
You shouldn't leave without visiting the East Anglian Railway Museum, Beth Chatto Gardens, Abberton Reservoir, High Woods Country Park, and the many paths to walk or cycle (for a list of all the trails around Colchester, visit www.walkcolchester.org.uk).
New Park & Ride Bus Service
Colchester now offers visitors and commuters a more relaxed and quick transport with stops in the historic town centre and other key locations of Colchester. You just park up (no charges for car parking) and travel free (during a trial period, where authorities will test and evaluate the frequency of the service). The Park & Ride service issues bus passes for senior citizens, who can travel after 9am free of any charges permanently.
The new Park & Ride service is located north of junction 28 (A12) and has meticulously designed facilities and seating. The buses will be running every 15 minutes (at least) all days of the week (7am-19pm) except Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Shopping, Dining & Nightlife
A central department store with an exclusive specialist stockline is Williams & Griffin, where you can buy all sorts of gifts, ranging from cosmetics and fashion to furniture, imported items, and electronics that you won't find in any other store.
Hungry and looking for a filling and delicious meal? The local speciality is Mersea oysters and is a popular dish served at many seafront restaurants worldwide. Of the most appealing dining facilities, establishments such as Jacqueline's Tea Room and the Maharani Indian Restaurant definitely distinct!
Now, if your blood boils and you want some night-time fun, Colchester won't leave you disappointed. Nightclubs like Ice Essex, Liquid and Envy, and Silk Road, and bars, such as After Office Hours and Playhouse will keep you on your toes!
Check out what's on in Colchester today and take a look at our Essex events calendar.