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Essex Destinations to Visit and Explore

Essex is the land of endless green, scenic views, and quiet villages and towns that hold a great history on their shoulders. Parish sets, winding streets lined with wood-framed buildings, olde worlde towns, early British and Roman settlements, unspoiled riverside towns, mellow plaster cottages steeped in history, traditional market towns, as well as bustling town centres offering first-class shopping are some of the things you will come across while exploring the beauties of the land of Saxons.

Visit and Explore Colchester – Britain’s First City

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 who are 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!

Family Fun

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!

Other Attractions

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).

Colchester 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. The Park & Ride service allows concessionary pass holders to travel free after 9am Monday to Friday and all day Saturday. If you have an older person's bus pass you do not need to use the ticket machines.

The Colchester Park & Ride service is located north of junction 28 (A12) and has meticulously designed facilities and seating. The buses run every 15 minutes Monday to Friday from 5.30am to 9pm and Saturday from 7am to 7pm. There is currently no service on Sundays and Bank Holidays unless otherwise stated.

Shopping, Dining & Nightlife

Formerly known as Williams and Griffin, Fenwick is a central department store where shoppers can discover a range of luxury fashion, beauty products and much, much more! It's truely a "West End shopping experience like no other in the region".

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 Tymperleys 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 Atik and Roberts, and bars, such as the Basement Gin Bar at Three Wise Monkeys or After Office Hours will keep you on your toes!

Take a look at our events calendar and Check out what’s on in Colchester

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