Christmas Lights in Red Lion YardLooking for ideas on what to get your loved ones for Christmas? Those friendly Visit Colchester elves have come to your rescue with plenty of ideas for vouchers, experiences, and gifts unique to Colchester.

Take a look below for suggestions of treats to suit all pockets, great presents, and that also give you the chance to support local businesses at the end of what has been a very tough year.

Memberships - The Gift That Keeps On Giving!

- Treat someone you love to a Colchester Castle yearly pass. History buffs can visit the Castle as many times as they like throughout the year, receive 10% off in the Castle gift shop and get invites to special events. 

Colchester Castle in the Snow

- With a Zoo Pass, you and your family can have unlimited entry to Colchester Zoo, entry to special annual events, and discounts in the Gift Shop and onsite restaurants. 

- Lovers of all things green will appreciate a Beth Chatto Garden Annual Garden Pass giving them unlimited entry to the beautiful gardens during opening season, and regular newsletters about the work of the team and Beth's charity, the Beth Chatto Education Trust. 

- Sign an art fan up to Firstsite’s Collectors Group. The Collectors group raises money to support exhibitions and the work of practising artists in the region. Members are also offered opportunities to participate in a special programme of visits to artists' studios, collections, Firstsite’s own exhibitions and other cultural attractions. 

Sculptures in Firstsite's Foyer

- Treat someone special to a Leisure World Colchester membership and give them the gift of hard work at the gym, but also relaxation at the Aqua Springs spa for a whole year.

- Have a friend who loves the theatre? You could pay for them to become a Friend of the Mercury Theatre, giving them the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with supporting one of the towns’ most loved venues, and also priority booking for performances, including the 2021 pantomime. 

Experience Days (& Nights) - Only In Colchester!

- Do you have animal lover in your midst? They can talk to the animals and be a keeper for a day at Colchester Zoo. The Zoo have a range of experiences that allow visitors to get up close and personal with the animals, and step into a keeper’s boots for behind the scenes access at one of Colchester’s most loved attractions. 

Sea Lions at Colchester Zoo

- Why not book a private tour of historic Colchester for you and your family? Guided walking tours are provided by Visit Colchester’s Qualified Town Guides - Bookable for any day of the week, your bubble of up to 5 people can take a walk around Colchester town centre to discover 2000 years of the town’s history. Perfect for history lovers, and the guides can tailor your tour to specific areas of interest and the ages of the people within you bubble.

- Have a train enthusiast in the family? Choo Choo Choo-se the gift of a very unique day learning to drive a steam train at East Anglian Railway Museum.

- Book a show in advance for lovers of live entertainment from Colchester Arts Centre. Comedy and Music events are bookable throughout 2021, with some names you might recognise including Dom Joly, Lee Scratch Perry, Lucy Porter, Stephen K Amos and many others.

Colchester Events Company also have some big names booked to perform in Colchester in 2021 – how about Olly Murs in Castle Park or Jimmy Carr at Charter Hall?

A large pop concert in Castle Park

- Treat the younger members of your family to a ticket to the Mercury Theatre’s streaming of Cinderella which was filmed in front of a live audience in 2019. Get in some snacks and enjoy the show from the comfort of your own home!

- Colchester Castle Museum have vouchers available for 'After Hours' visits, for those who fancy an evening of family fun after dark.

- An idea for someone who has it all, treat them to something really unique - there are many local private businesses that allow you to see the Borough of Colchester in a different way, be it on a Horse Drawn Carriage Ride, by Hot Air Balloon, on a Rib Boat Tour or by Glider.

Pampering  - Treat Someone Special To A Well Deserved Spa Day!

- Spoil someone you love to the Mediterranean vibe of Aqua Springs day spa. They can sweat out all of those Xmas toxins in the steam room, relax in saunas aplenty and have their pick of beauty treatments and massages.

A lady relaxing at Aqua Springs

- Or you could opt for something a little different by giving them the gift of floatation therapy with Float & Booch. Their premises includes a relaxing kombucha lounge where lucky guests can enjoy a nutrient rich mocktail after a float.

- Other spots in the wider Borough of Colchester where you can have a taste of relaxation and luxury, both in the spa & in the restaurant, include Bannatyne Kingsford Park & Milsoms Maison Talbooth

Local food & drink - Festive Treats For Foodies!

- Why not treat a friend to a voucher for afternoon tea? Tymperleys, Milsoms, Greyfriars, the Old Siege house, and Wivenhoe House are just a few of our recommendations for a place to enjoy this quintessentially English treat.

Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree have tea rooms across the area, a visit to one of these would be a real treat for any Jam fan.

Scones and Jam! Yum!

- If you’re shopping for something to wrap up for the foodies in your life, look no further than traditional grocers and deli Guntons who amongst other things sell an amazing range of cheeses and also stock local Mersea Island Beer. On your list should also be a visit to the luxurious Fenwick Food hall for artisanal festive foodstuffs and fine wines.

- Fans of a good tipple will enjoy a gift from Two Brews, selling craft beers, spirits and speciality coffee. Staff are on hand to give expert advice to help you find something to suit all tastes. People with a love for a good G&T need to look out for Jumbo Gin, Essex Citrus Dry or Oystermen Gin.

Bottles of Jumbo Gin

- Lovers of wine will be over the moon with a bottle or two from a local vineyard. At both Prettyfields Vineyard and Dedham Vale Vineyard you can buy wine online or book a future vineyard tour & tasting.

Souvenirs & Locally Made Gifts - Something To Pop Under The Tree!

- At Visit Colchester HQ we have souvenirs including mugs, tea towels, notebooks and tote bags. We stock Christmas Cards and 2021 calendars, ideal for people that love Colchester, whether they are local or just have fond memories of visiting. We also stock a range of books about the town for history buffs and a range of Tiptree jam, as well as Fudge, Boiled Sweets, Biscuits and Rock packaged up as a ‘Gift from Colchester’ 

A selection of Colchester Souvenirs
Firstsite has a range of prints, art books, toys and more to suit all budgets. They also sell jewellery handmade by local artists, perfect for those people that love to receive something really unique.

- Not just a Museum, Colchester Castle has a lovely gift shop with souvenirs featuring the famous building itself as well as replica fine jewellery inspired by jewellery from the Museum collection.

- Colchester Zoo also has a great Gift Shop for animal lovers. They sell Colchester Zoo Top Trumps, Colchester Zoo Monopoly, stuffed toy versions of your favourite animals alongside animal adoption packages. 

The Gift Of Art - Colchester’s Creatives Have Plenty To Offer This Christmas!

Colchester Arts Society Online Christmas Exhibition features some fantastic paintings and sculptures by artists from Colchester and the surrounding area. Prices range from £40-£500. 

Work by Local Artists

- The Sentinel Gallery in Wivenhoe will be holding their annual Christmas Kaleidoscope exhibition selling affordable ceramics, sculpture, glassware, prints and paintings.

Red Lion Books on Colchester High Street is an independent bookseller but they also sell local handmade gifts by local crafts people, as do Made & Found Café and the Foresters’ Arms Pub. Wivenhoe also has a splendid independent bookseller for the book worm in your life.

- Many of our local craftspeople share their work on Instagram, check out the @MadeinColchester collective of artists, designers and makers who have cards, prints, ceramics, wearables, and gifts available online.

- Fingers' crossed there will be a Christmas market or two going on for those last minute bits, either virtually or physically. Check out the Visit Colchester Events Planner to find out what's going on and when!


Well that was a much longer list of ideas than we first anticipated – so there’s really no excuse to be stuck for what to buy your friends and family this Christmas!

If we’ve missed anything off, please let us know in the comments below.

We would also love to hear of any positive shopping experiences you’ve had during 2020, and what items are at the top of your Christmas List!

Happy Holidays from the Visit Colchester elves x

An illustration of Hollytrees House at Christmas

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