Visit Colchester: more than Britain’s oldest recorded town

Some of the most important events in British history have taken place in and around Colchester over the past 2000 years. The Romans, Saxons, Normans and Victorians have all left their mark here which you can discover today. But it’s not just history. Colchester today is a modern and fast growing town with many award-winning places to visit and eat. People love the shopping here too with its excellent range of small, specialist shops alongside all the big-name stores in a compact town centre bordered by the most complete Roman wall in the country.

Poised at the gateway to East Anglia with its picturesque villages yet only minutes away from the coast, Colchester is the perfect destination for a well-deserved short break or day trip.

Colchester is known for its history but it’s also a really modern place with loads of award-winning places to visit and eat. With many specialist shops alongside all the big-name stores in a compact town centre surrounded by the Roman wall people love the shopping here too.

Explore Colchester

Link to the VisitColchester
website

Walking through Colchester is a walk through 2000 years of Britain’s eventful past. If history’s your thing then it’s easy to discover the people, places and finds which make Colchester the place it is today.

But it’s not all heritage. The mix of long history, art, artists and architecture plus a cosmopolitan range of cafés, bars and restaurants in and around the town means there’s more than enough things to do for three or four days.

And there’s serious money being spent on making your visit even better than ever before. The town boasts one of the top 50 museum collections in the country as well as one of the country’s leading contemporary art galleries at Firstsite. The award-winning Castle Museum is an absolute must-see, there’s the town’s much-loved department store, Williams & Griffin, and Castle Park provides a perfect escape just off the High Street.

Why not take a lesson from the Romans and make Colchester your base for a longer stay? And with a great range of accommodation you'll be ideally placed for exploring the surrounding picturesque villages and wide skies of East Anglia, walking in the footsteps of John Constable and enjoying the fruits of the sea at nearby Mersea Island.

If history’s your thing then it’s easy to discover the people, places and finds which make Colchester the place it is today. But it’s not all heritage. The mix of long history, art, artists and architecture plus a cosmopolitan range of cafés, bars and restaurants in and around Colchester means there’s more than enough to do for three or four days. So, why not take a lesson from the Romans and make Colchester your base for a longer stay? You will be ideally placed for exploring the surrounding countryside and the picturesque Constable Country and enjoying the fruits of the sea at nearby Mersea Island.

Highlights of the area

Interior of the museum with a a young woman looking at the displays.
A visit to Colchester Castle is now bigger, brighter and better than ever before, with brand new interactive displays and try out some exciting new experiences. Explore the Roman vaults, have a go at building a Norman archway, or try your hand at excavating a Roman doctor’s grave (and much more besides!).
PIcture of a child playing with shaddows on the wall.
Firstsite is the East of England’s contemporary visual arts organisation. Its spectacular golden building, designed by Rafael Viñoly, in the heart of Colchester’s town centre is also a place to meet, eat, discover, learn and relax. With a rich programme of events for all ages throughout the year there is always a reason to go back.
PIcture of a leopard laying on its back and looking in to the camera.
With over 270 species to see, set in 60 acres of beautiful parkland and lakes, the zoo is well worth a visit. Learn about the animals and see them up close by watching one of the 50 daily displays. You even get the fantastic opportunity to feed the elephants and giraffes yourself and take a ride on the ‘Lost Madagascar Express’ road train!

More highlights

Image of the statue of Mercury on top of the theatre by night.

The Mercury stages an exciting programme for all ages and tastes. It's the most active producing theatre in the East of England, welcoming a host of top touring productions including live music, comedy, opera, magic, dance and family shows.

A delightful piece of late Elizabethan playfulness. Built for banquets and converted into a mill in the 19th century. The grounds are an ideal spot for a picnic or pond dipping and garden games to keep children of all ages occupied.

The home of Colchester United Football Club, Weston Homes is not just a place for watching football and other sporting events. It's somewhere you can socialise and enjoy comedy and tribute nights, fashion shows, birthday parties, weddings and much more.

More information

Image of two members of staff from the Visitor Information Centre.

Colchester has a wealth of incredible heritage attractions, a buzzing arts and cultural scene, fantastic restaurants to name but a few reasons to visit. Let the friendly team help you with any questions you might have.

Picture of a sunset with a wrought iron sculpture superimposed on it.

This unique art trail, designed for walkers and cyclists, follows the tidal River Colne through some of the lesser known areas of Colchester.                                           

Picture of a man's upper body dressed in a Roman soldier outfit.
One of the best ways to find out about the dramatic events that have taken place in Colchester is to take a guided walking tour led by a qualified Town Guide. The themes include historic and ghost tours.

Explore our county

Picture of the iconic Firstsite building at night.
Discover Essex’s creative spaces. They come in all shapes and sizes and are crammed with artistic treasures, from international names to emerging local artists.
Picture of a sunset over the The Naze waters with some rocks protruding from the water.

Explore our 350 miles of coastline, the longest shoreline of any county in England, a place of surprising wild beauty, rich in wildlife and sprinkled with history and hidden cultural gems.

Essex’s history has been shaped by a wide variety of cultures. Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans – all left their mark. Echoes of their influence can still be seen today.
Picture of a cow at the edge of the River Stour and drinking water.
A scenic patchwork of rich farmland speckled with pastelwashed villages of thatch and timber, the views interrupted by mighty oaks and ashes presided over by the hurrying skies.