Things to do in Colchester

Located in the heart of Essex, Colchester is a vibrant town rich in history and culture. With plenty of activities and attractions to choose from, here are the top 8 things to do in Colchester.

Colchester Castle

What is it?
Colchester Castle is an impressive Norman castle located in the heart of Colchester, Essex. It was constructed on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius, which dates back to 43 AD. The castle was built in the 11th century and has a rich and fascinating history, having been used for various purposes over the centuries.

Why should you go?
A visit to Colchester Castle is a must for anyone interested in history or architecture. The castle offers a fascinating insight into the history of the town and the region. Visitors can explore the castle's many rooms and exhibits, which include Roman artefacts, medieval armour and weaponry, and Victorian toys and games.

One of the highlights of the castle is the underground vaults, which were used as a prison in the 19th century. Visitors can explore the vaults and learn about the harsh conditions that prisoners would have endured. Another highlight is the castle roof, which offers stunning views of the town and the surrounding countryside.

The castle also offers a range of interactive exhibits and activities, including a children's trail, a virtual tour of the castle, and a range of events and workshops throughout the year. There is also a gift shop and a café on-site.

Hollytrees Museum

What is it?
Hollytrees Museum is a historic Georgian townhouse located in the heart of Colchester, England. It was built in 1718 and is a rare example of a middle-class home from this period. The house was opened to the public as a museum in 1953 and has since provided a glimpse into the daily life of a Georgian family.

Why should you go?
Visitors to Hollytrees Museum can explore the beautifully restored rooms of the house, which are furnished with a fascinating collection of period furniture, ceramics, and toys. The museum offers an immersive experience that transports visitors back in time to the early 18th century, showcasing how middle-class families in Colchester lived during this period.

One of the highlights of the museum is the period kitchen, which is set up to replicate a typical Georgian kitchen with an open fireplace, traditional cooking utensils, and food preparation tools. Visitors can see how food was prepared and cooked in a traditional way during the Georgian period.

Another notable feature of the museum is the Toy Gallery, which showcases a range of toys and games from the 18th century to the present day. Visitors can explore a range of toys from dolls and board games to rocking horses and train sets. The collection is particularly interesting for families with children, who can compare and contrast the toys from different eras.

Colchester Zoo

What is it?
Colchester Zoo is a popular zoological park located in Colchester, Essex, UK. It is home to over 220 species of animals, including some rare and endangered ones.

Why should you go?
Colchester Zoo is a great place to visit for animal lovers and families with children. You can observe a wide range of animals up close, including elephants, giraffes, lions, tigers, chimpanzees, zebras, and many more. There are also daily talks and shows featuring different animals, giving visitors a chance to learn more about them and their habitats. In addition, the zoo offers various activities such as feeding sessions and encounters with some of the animals. There are also playgrounds, a train ride, and a soft play area for children to enjoy.

The zoo is committed to conservation and works closely with several conservation organizations to help protect and preserve endangered species. Colchester Zoo also has a dedicated research team who conduct scientific research and monitoring of the animals under their care. Visitors can learn more about the zoo's conservation efforts and the challenges facing the animal kingdom through various educational exhibits and displays.

Firstsite Gallery

What is it?
Firstsite Gallery is a contemporary art gallery located in Colchester, Essex, England. It was established in 1994 with the aim of promoting contemporary art and artists, particularly those from the East of England. The gallery has a varied and dynamic programme of exhibitions, events and activities, showcasing a diverse range of contemporary art, from painting and sculpture to film and digital media.

Why should you go?
Firstsite Gallery is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in contemporary art. The gallery is known for its thought-provoking and innovative exhibitions, which feature works by emerging and established artists from the UK and beyond. The gallery's programme is diverse and inclusive, with exhibitions and events that cater to a wide range of interests and tastes.

One of the highlights of Firstsite Gallery is its building, which was designed by world-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly. The building's striking design and curved shape make it a standout landmark in Colchester, and its spacious galleries provide the perfect backdrop for contemporary art exhibitions.

In addition to its exhibitions, Firstsite Gallery offers a range of activities and events, including workshops, talks and film screenings, making it a great place to engage with contemporary art and meet like-minded people. The gallery is also family-friendly, with activities and events designed specifically for children and young people.

Beth Chatto Gardens

What is it?
The Beth Chatto Gardens is a stunning 7-acre garden located in Colchester, Essex, England. The garden was created by plantswoman Beth Chatto and her husband, Andrew, on what was once an overgrown wasteland. It is now home to a variety of beautifully designed gardens, each with its own unique theme and selection of plants.

Why should you go?
The Beth Chatto Gardens is a must-visit destination for gardening enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With its wide array of plants and gardens, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The gardens are also a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind.

One of the most popular features of the garden is the Gravel Garden, which was created in 1991 and is now world-famous. The garden was designed to demonstrate how plants can thrive in poor, dry soil conditions. It features a wide range of plants, including cacti, grasses, and Mediterranean herbs.

The Water Garden is another popular attraction and is home to a stunning collection of water lilies, as well as a variety of other aquatic plants. The garden is designed to be a peaceful haven, with gentle waterfalls, meandering streams, and hidden seating areas.
For those interested in wildlife, the Wildlife Garden is a must-visit. The garden has been designed to attract a variety of different species, including birds, butterflies, and bees. Visitors can watch these creatures in their natural habitat and learn more about their behaviors and habits.

Tiptree Jam Factory Museum

What is it?
Tiptree Jam Factory Museum is a museum located in Tiptree, Essex, dedicated to showcasing the history of jam-making and the Wilkin family's Tiptree Preserves.

Why should you go?
If you're a fan of sweet treats or interested in the history of food production, then Tiptree Jam Factory Museum is a must-visit attraction in Colchester. The museum provides visitors with an insight into the history of Tiptree Preserves, which was founded by the Wilkin family in 1885, and showcases the traditional methods used to make the company's famous jams and preserves. The museum features a collection of vintage and antique jam-making equipment, as well as exhibits that explain the history and development of jam-making in the UK.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the factory to see how Tiptree Preserves are made, from the fruit being picked in the orchards to the finished product being packaged and shipped. The factory tour also includes a visit to the museum and a tasting of the company's award-winning jams and preserves.

In addition to the factory and museum, Tiptree also has a tea room, where visitors can enjoy a traditional cream tea or a slice of cake accompanied by Tiptree jam. The tea room overlooks the beautiful Tiptree fruit farm, where visitors can take a walk and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery.

Colchester Arts Centre

What is it?
Colchester Arts Centre is a cultural hub in Colchester, Essex that hosts a variety of events such as music concerts, comedy shows, theatre performances, and exhibitions. The center is housed in a former church, St. Mary-at-the-Walls, which was built in 1865.

Why should you go?
If you're looking for an entertaining evening out in Colchester, the Arts Centre is a great option. The venue offers a diverse range of events throughout the year, with something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you're a fan of live music, stand-up comedy, or theatre performances, you're sure to find something to suit your tastes.

In addition to hosting events, the Arts Centre also has a bar and café where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat before or after the show. The center also has a small art gallery, which showcases the work of local artists.

Beyond its cultural offerings, the Arts Centre is also an important community hub in Colchester. It runs a number of workshops and educational programs for local residents, providing opportunities to learn new skills and get involved in the arts.

Cudmore Grove Country Park

What is it?
Cudmore Grove Country Park is a 120-acre park located on the coast of Mersea Island in Essex, England. The park includes a mixture of grassland, scrubland, and woodland, as well as a number of sandy beaches and a salt marsh.

Why should you go?
Cudmore Grove Country Park is a great place to visit for anyone who enjoys nature and the outdoors. The park has a number of walking and cycling trails that allow visitors to explore the different habitats and landscapes within the park. There are also several picnic areas and benches scattered throughout the park, making it a great place for a leisurely lunch or snack.

The park's beaches are also a big draw, with plenty of opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and playing beach games. The salt marsh is another unique feature of the park, home to a variety of bird species and other wildlife.

Cudmore Grove Country Park is also a great spot for birdwatching, with a number of different species of birds known to frequent the park. In particular, the salt marsh is home to a number of wading birds, including curlews and redshanks.