10 Best Things To Do In Colchester
20th February 2023

10 Best Things To Do In Colchester

Last Updated: 19th February 2023

Colchester, Essex, claims to be the oldest recorded town in Britain. And it is older than London!

It was even the capital of Britain for a short time, known as ‘Camulodunum’ in Roman times. (Londinium was the name given to London.)

Colchester and its surrounding areas have a wide range of activities, sights, and fantastic attractions to explore.

From family activities and contemporary art museums to Colchester Zoo! The famous and largest zoo in Essex.

There’s always plenty to keep you entertained in Colchester no matter how long you stay or what the weather is like!

If you’re planning on moving to Colchester, this is the article for you!

Here are the 10 Best Things To Do In Colchester:

1. Explore The History at Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle
Colchester Castle. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Colchester Castle is a Norman castle from the second half of the 11th century and is Europe’s largest Norman keep.

It was built on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius, which was built when Colchester was Britain’s first Roman capital.

Inside the castle, you can see various displays and artefacts from Essex’s 2000-year history.

The Castle is a popular attraction in the East of England and one of England’s most important heritage sites.

The grounds of Colchester Castle are free to walk around, but there is a fee to enter the castle museum to see the displays and the guided tours led by the experts; which takes you down into the Roman vaults and up onto the Castle roof.

The Castle Museum has interactive displays and star exhibits such as the Colchester Gladiator Vase and the Fenwick Hoard of Roman treasure.

Please visit the website for more details about the entrance fees here. You can also check out the Google reviews here about Colchester Castle.

2. Have A Walk Around The Colchester Castle Park

Colchester Castle Park
Colchester Castle Park. Image Credit: Depositphotos

Colchester Castle Park is located to the northeast of Colchester’s town centre and is part of the Colchester Castle grounds.

The park is divided into upper and lower parks by the Roman Wall.

This Victorian Park is a landscape moulded by the people of Colchester and is a popular spot for people to relax and enjoy nature.

It’s also a great open space for a picnic, as many college and university students come here for their lunch breaks.

The park is 11 hectares in size and offers activities for people of all ages.

There is a playpark, a boating lake, crazy golf for the young, a bandstand, beautiful gardens, and museums for everyone to enjoy.

Various events are held here at Castle Park throughout the year, such as the Classic Car Show and Music festivals as well as the 5k park run that take place almost every Saturday.

You can also explore the free Castle Park trails with family and friends to learn more about the history and wildlife of this park in the heart of Colchester.

However, the boating lake and the crazy golf will cost a small fee if you want your children to have some fun.

Please visit the gov.uk website for more info and check out the Google reviews here about Castle Park.

3.Explore The Hollytrees Museum

Explore The Hollytree's Museum in Colchester
The Hollytree’s Museum in Colchester

Hollytree Museum, located within Castle Park, is worth a visit while you’re there. This Georgian building, built in 1728, is surrounded by a beautiful garden.

It houses a wide range of collections such as toys, art, costume, and clocks, some with over 300 years of history.

Here you can learn more about the rich and poor’s family life, dress up as a servant and try out the dolly peg from before the washing machine was invented.

The collections and displays at Hollytrees Museum change on a regular basis, so you can learn something new every time you visit.

If you like clocks, the Bernard Mason Clock Gallery displays a collection of clocks made locally in Colchester, ranging from long cases to lantern clocks.

Admission to Hollytree Museum is free, you can visit the website here for more information and check out the Google Reviews here.

4. Have A Fun Day At The Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo Wolf
Colchester Zoo Wolf. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Colchester Zoo is a popular attraction that brings visitors from all over the country. It is also home to over 180 species of animals and is set on 60 acres of beautiful parkland and lakes.

The Colchester Zoo is located on the edge of Colchester; the easy way to travel here is by car. However, there is a direct bus service that departs from the Colchester bus station and stops just outside the Colchester Zoo.

The Zoo is constantly developing, and it has received many awards for its efforts. There is plenty to see and do at the Zoo. You can learn more about the animals and get up close by watching one of the 50 daily displays.

You can feed the elephants and giraffes yourself, as well as ride on the ‘Lost Madagascar Express’ road train!

And don’t forget to visit the discovery centre and try your hand at handling some unusual bugs, or get your face painted like your favourite animal!

If you’re in Colchester, this is a must-see attraction.

The zoo has over 16,000 positive Google reviews with 4.7-star ratings, you won’t be disappointed with the trip.

Don’t miss it because you and your family will have a fantastic day out!

For more information about the entrance tickets or daily performances, visit the website or check out the feedback on Google here.

5. Visit The Firstsite Art Museum

Firstsite Art Gallery in Colchester
Firstsite Art Gallery in Colchester. Image credit: Wikipedia

Firstsite is a visual arts organisation in Colchester that is only a four-minute walk from Colchester Castle.

Opened in 2011, Firstsite exhibits a wide range of well-known artworks by internationally recognised artists, as well as local exhibitions.

Housed in a spectacular golden building designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects, Firstsite is a gallery as well as a community hub; it was also named Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2021!

Firstsite is open all year with free admission and a vibrant programme of exhibitions, films, learning activities, and events to spark your imagination, as well as a café and shop.

There are some special events that involve the local community, ranging from drop-in sessions to full-blown festivals.

Art lovers will certainly enjoy a trip here, having been named the national Art Fund’s Museum of the Year in 2021!

Please visit their website for more information and also check out the Google reviews here about Firstsite.

6. Have A Walk In Highwoods Country Park

Highwoods Country Park in Colchester is a popular nature spot with habitats for thousands of different birds and mammals.

You can unwind here, enjoy the natural beauty of the large open space, and it’s a great place to bring your dog and children.

If you enjoy walking, Highwoods Country Park has some circular walking trails of varying lengths. The walking path passes through the Bluebell woods, with glimpses of the lake and wildflower meadows, as well as spectacular views of Colchester.

Near the main car park, there is a children’s adventure playground where the kids can play and burn off some steam.

The visitor centre sells refreshments and provides park interpretation as well as some family activities. However, the visitor centre is only open during peak time, so please check before you go.

You can visit the website for more information and check out the Google reviews here.

7. Visit The Award-Winning Garden – Beth Chatto’s Plants & Gardens

The Water Garden, Beth Chatto Gardens
The Water Garden, Beth Chatto Gardens. Image credit: Wikipedia

Located in Elmstead, Colchester, Beth Chatto’s Gardens is an award-winning and internationally renowned garden created by the famous British plantswoman – Beth Chatto OBE.

In the 1960s, Beth and her team began transforming these 7.5 acres of land into an inspirational, informal garden that consists of several types of gardens such as the Gravel Garden, Water Garden, Reservoir Garden, Woodland Garden and Screen Garden.

Her work at the garden has won 10 Gold medals at the Chelsea flower show in the 70s and 80s.

If you love nature and flowers or are a keen gardener, this is a beautiful place to visit and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Beth Chatto’s Gardens.

For more information about Beth Chatto’s Plants & Gardens such as the entrance tickets, please visit the website or check out the online reviews on Google here.

8. Mercury Theatre

Mercury Theatre Colchester
Mercury Theatre Colchester. Image credit: Wikipedia

The prestigious performing arts centre in Colchester is well known for its annual “Made in Colchester” season-long series of original homegrown performances. Newly written plays or family-friendly renditions of classic fairytales like Peter Pan and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs can be included.

The Mercury Theatre is considered one of the UK’s top-producing theatres thanks to the calibre of these performances!

Other than these annual performances, there is constantly something going on in one of the theatre’s two auditoriums.

Whether it be celebrity interviews, stand-up acts, musical productions, dance performances or live music, there is sure to be something to appeal to you!

9. St Botolph’s Priory: A Historic English Heritage Site

St Botolph's Priory, Colchester

One of England’s most notable Augustinian convents, St. Botolph’s Priory is located a short distance from Colchester train station.

The priory, which was established at the beginning of the 12th century, has a rich history that is reflected in its spectacular architecture and distinctive features.

The main west door sometimes referred to as the Pardon Door, is the most striking aspect of the priory.

With its semi-circular arch and delicate zigzag patterns, it is a prime example of early Norman architecture. The Pardon Door is a superb illustration of the expert craftsmanship used to construct St. Botolph’s Monastery.

A row of massive columns welcomes you as you step inside the ancient church nave.

Despite its extraordinary beauty and historical significance, St. Botolph’s Priory was a victim of King Henry VIII’s monastic dissolution in 1536.

It was also severely damaged during the Siege of Colchester in the summer of 1648, leading to it falling into further disarray!

With such a rich history, St. Botolph’s Priory is now open for visitors to explore and take in its distinctive features and fascinating past.

The priory is a wonderful destination for individuals interested in history, architecture, and English heritage.

10. Colchester’s Natural History Museum

The All Saints Church, a historic structure from the Norman era, has served as the Natural History Museum of Colchester’s home since 1958.

The cathedral has been standing for longer than the museum itself, making it a perfect and intriguing place to house a collection of natural wonders.

When entering, guests are welcomed by a wide variety of fascinating exhibits that highlight the area’s rich natural history.

The tale of the earthquake that struck Colchester in 1884 is among the most captivating exhibits.

Visitors can find out everything about this historic incident and how it influenced the region.

The museum is a must-see site for many reasons outside of the earthquake exhibit.

Hippos and mammoths are interestingly two of the animals that previously roamed this region of the UK so it is fitting that they can be found in the Natural History Museum.

Extensive exhibits provide visitors with a close-up view of the physical characteristics, behaviours, and habitats of these creatures!

Visitors can also browse the museum’s exhibits on modern-day natural wonders.

One of these displays is centred on the stag beetle, a bug that is mostly found in Kent and Essex.

Visitors will discover everything about this intriguing creature, including its special traits, mannerisms, and ecological function.

Overall, Colchester’s Natural History Museum is an informative, educational, and engaging destination that offers something for visitors of all ages.

From the historic building itself to the fascinating exhibits inside, there’s plenty to discover and explore.

2 boys looking at a pond

Other Top Sights To See In Colchester

There are so many places to visit and things to do in Colchester that we can’t possibly include them all in this post.

However, we have listed some additional top attractions for you to consider visiting and enjoying! Don’t forget to check the website for more information before you go!

1. The Munnings Art Museum
2. Roman Circus Visitor Centre
3. Cudmore Grove Country Park
4. The Colchester Arts Centre
5. The Markshall Estate

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article.

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