Why we love Colchester
It may be Britain’s oldest city, but Colchester never stands still in the face of time. A perfect blend of nature and urban living, this Essex city was made to be explored.
Uncover more than 2000 years of history, from the Romans through to the Victorians. Step into the past at Europe’s largest Norman Keep, explore its prisons and vaults and discover its hidden secrets. Or choose a nature-fuelled adventure in Dedham Vale for scenic cycling routes or foraging walks. There’s plenty of street cuisine and fine dining to sample too, alongside an eclectic mix of bars and pubs.
Whether its venturing out to the nearby Mersea Island to be immersed in nature, or surrounding yourself with contemporary art, discover a city that is bursting with cultural highlights and things to do.
Get to know Colchester’s resident animals at Colchester Zoo. With chances to spot roaring lions, cheeky penguins and grizzly bears, you’ll be in the know about the conservation and sustainability of wildlife. Look out for animal experiences to become a zoo keeper for a day.
Brave battles in a fortress that has stood the test of time, Colchester Castle is Europe’s largest Norman Keep with many a tale to tell. Delve into its secrets on a tour led by experts, explore its Roman Vaults and take to the heights of its roof for a unique perspective of this historic time capsule.
A cultural hub bursting with creativity and flair – see Colchester through a different lens at Firstsite, an exhibition, film and arts space in the centre of the city. Explore its sculpture park or see through the lens of a refugee at the Art in Exile exhibition, brought to the scene by Iranian rug-maker Mehdi Jalalaghdamian.
Things to do in Colchester
Featured things to do
Wander beyond Colchester’s urban centre along the River Colne for an art-fuelled exploration. The Town to Sea Trail spans from the city, to its historic port of Hythe, with 14 sculptures to spot along the way.Embark on Colchester’s Town to Sea Trail
An island adventure
Essex’s hidden gem, Mersea Island, is an idyllic spot for any nature-lover and experience seeker. Set sail across its waters on a boat trip, or test your balancing skills on the water atop a stand-up paddleboard. Tuck into its delectable seafood shoreside as you watch the sunset over this natural haven.Explore Mersea Island
Step into theatrics
Gigs, comedy shows, theatre, poetry and more all come alive in the city’s cultural hub, Colchester Arts Centre. Set inside an old church, you’ll be transported through the arts, whether you’re dipping into a beer festival or folk music club, this cultural space has got it all.Discover Colchester Arts Centre
Creative minds come together at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre. Check out their year-round jam-packed events calendar for unmissable theatrical moments for all ages, from classic plays to contemporary storytelling.Catch a show at Mercury Theatre
Places to stay in Colchester
Colchester’s centre is where you’ll uncover its rich history and heritage, alongside an exciting nightlife scene. Stay in modern hotels to self-catering options as you discover the city’s cultural gems.
Surrounded by flourishing nature, a stay in Colchester’s countryside will lead you to country houses, spas, boutique hotels and camping and glamping options. Look to the Colne Valley for breath-taking scenery and outdoor activities.
A coastal stay at Essex’s Mersea Island, just a 9-mile (14.5km) journey south-east from Colchester, offers accommodation to suit any budget. Pitch up a tent, or take to the many B&Bs across the island.
Getting to Colchester
Colchester is easily accessible by road, rail and air. Regular trains run from London Liverpool Street and take around 1 hour. National Express coaches run from London Victoria Coach Station and Stansted Airport.
Stansted Airport is 50 minutes from Colchester by road and there are regular coach transfer services between Marks Tey train station and Stansted Airport.
Colchester is best explored on foot, although there are regular bus services and a park and ride scheme. If you choose to explore its neighbouring Mersea Island, bus services run from the high street in Colchester to West Mersea.
First Bus operate regular services around Colchester, as well as to surrounding towns and villages across Essex.
The city has multiple National Cycle Networks running through it. Cycle Colchester provide a handy map of local cycle routes. The city is also introducing a bike rental scheme, including e-bikes.
Colchester can be easily explored by foot and there are many dedicated footpaths and trails in the surrounding countryside too.
Want to know more?
Head to Visit Essex for insider tips on Colchester from those in the know.