10 'must-see' attractions when visiting Essex for the first time

Is this your first visit to Essex?

Culturally vibrant, redolent with over 2,000 years of history, Essex is a fascinating place to explore. So, ignore the received wisdoms and come and enjoy one of Britain’s most surprising and rewarding counties. We have also put together some quirky facts you might not know.

Here are our top ten suggested attractions for you to visit for a great day out. You could even stay a while longer and explore more of our county.

Picture of a leopard lying down and looking into the camera.

Enjoy a day out at Colchester Zoo

Featured attraction

Picture of horseriders and the main building in the background at night.
Raceday at Chelmsford City Racecourse
Picture of horseriders and the main building in the background at night.
Raceday at Chelmsford City Racecourse
Picture of three horseriders racing.
Raceday at Chelmsford City Racecourse
Fun at a raceday.
Enjoying a day at the races
Image of two riders on horses in a race.
Raceday at Chelmsford City Racecourse
PIcture of Simply Red
Simply Red concert on 1 July 2016
Picture of a band playing.
Buena Vista Social Club
Picture of the band playing.
Jools Holland
Picture of the band playing.

Kid Creole and the Coconuts

 

Britain’s newest racing venue offering thrilling all-weather racing and much more.

Chelmsford City Racecourse opened its doors to the public at the beginning of 2015. In the first year of racing the track hosted 58 fixtures, with 62 BHA fixtures scheduled for 2016 and three additional Arabian Racing Organisation meetings.

Building on the success of our inaugural music event when Madness played to a packed crowd in 2015, the venue will be host to five concerts. Simply Red kick off on the 1st July, followed by a three day event at the end of July with Katherine Jenkins, an eighties night with Paul Young, Rick Astley and Toyah and a Cuban Summer Night with the Buena Vista Social Club and Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

The racecourse is aiming to develop into a 365 day a year venue, with conference and events facilities, exhibition space and non raceday events including a monthly Comedy Night, Murder Mystery evenings and outdoor concerts so there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

The facility boasts two restaurants; the Club Restaurant on the first floor, home to the Members Lounge, offers exclusive dining and an almost panoramic view of the track. The more casual Fairwood Restaurant is situated along the final furlong of the home straight and offers a more casual atmosphere. The Sports Bar area offers two bars and is also situated along the home straight, allowing fantastic viewing for those with general admission passes.

Children are welcome to the course free of charge on all standard racedays. The course is fully accessible for wheelchair users (please contact the course for owners and trainers accessibility information). For special events, alternative arrangements may be in place.

Chelmsford City Racecourse opened its doors to the public at the beginning of 2015. In the first year of racing the track hosted 58 fixtures, with 62 BHA fixtures scheduled for 2016 and three additional Arabian Racing Organisation meetings.

Building on the success of our inaugural music event when Madness played to a packed crowd in 2015, the venue will be host to five concerts. Simply Red kick off on the 1st July, followed by a three day event at the end of July with Katherine Jenkins, an eighties night with Paul Young, Rick Astley and Toyah and a Cuban Summer Night with the Buena Vista Social Club and Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

Must see attractions for your first visit

Picture of a man in period costume sitting on a horse in front of Audley End House.

With glorious gardens and stunning countryside views, it’s not only the grounds at Audley End that are unmissable. The authentic Victorian Service Wing, impressive 17th century stable block, intricate interiors and wonderful works of art are all waiting to be discovered.

Aerial view of the historic building.

Magnificent Tudor building with the tallest Gatehouse in Britain and 16th century Italianate terracotta. Henry VIII was so impressed by the building he came to stay in 1522. Climb the tower and marvel at the views of the Blackwater estuary and beyond.

Picture of the exterior as seen through the trees.

The 110 feet high Norman keep of Hedingham Castle, the finest and best preserved in England, was built around 1140 by Aubrey de Vere and is still owned by one of his descendants. It's romantic, beautiful, ancient, historic and wild, it is somewhere to set your imagination free.

Picture of a family walking along exquisitely maintained flower beds.

With sweeping panoramas, big open skies and far reaching views over the countryside, this Essex garden provides somewhere to watch the changing seasons and get closer to nature.

Beautifully landscaped garden around a pond with a boat in it.

Beth Chatto is one of the most influential living gardeners in Britain, best known for her pioneering, ecological approach to gardening. Her gardens are internationally acclaimed.

Picture of the iconic Firstsite building at night.

The spectacular Rafael Viñoly-designed building, in the heart of the cultural quarter, is a modern art gallery in Britain's oldest recorded town. Regular new exhibitions run all year round.

PIcture of a leopard laying on its back and looking in to the camera.

The zoo features in the top 20 zoos in the world according to The TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Attractions Awards. With more than 270 wildlife species, over 50 daily displays, beautiful parkland and lakes, everyone will be entertained.

A group of people in a raft hurdling down the white water course. The are all looking excited.

Discover the thrill of white water rafting at Lee Valley White Water Centre, the London 2012 venue where the rapids challenged the world’s best athletes. Book your own white water adventure now.

Interior of the museum with a a young woman looking at the displays.

The biggest Norman Keep in Europe, Colchester Castle Museum, voted the Best Large Attraction in the 2015 Essex Tourism and Hospitality Awards delights thousands of families with its exciting new displays and hands-on activities.

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.