Things to See & Do in Colchester

What to see in Colchester

Colchester and its surrounding area offer a wide variety of things to do for all our visitors. Explore history and heritage in the town centre or take in art, theatre and culture in our many museums and galleries.

Colchester is a fantastic destination for shopping too, with big department stores complimenting independent boutiques and a wide range of pop-up markets and fairs taking place throughout the year.

Further afield here are scenic walks and cycling routes which can be used to explore the beautiful borough, as well as guided tours which offer an insider's view of the the town.

If you're coming with children then be sure to check out our Great For Kids page, and for those on a budget we advise how to explore Colchester For Free.

Then, after a busy day's sightseeing wind down in a restaurant or bar - before perhaps enjoying some of the town's friendly nightlife.

Trinity Street

Historic Attractions

Explore Historic Colchester

Colchester's historic town centre is circled by the longest standing Roman town wall in the country. Within its perimeter lie many of the town's historic attractions from the famous Roman ruins to more recent Victorian splendour.

Colchester Castle contains the town's main museum, but there are several other important historic sites to visit including St Botolph's Priory, Hollytrees Museum, and the Dutch Quarter.

Close by attractions such as the Roman Circus Centre and Old Siege House tell more of Colchester's story, whilst exploring further into the borough delves deeper still, with historic houses, mills, and churches to explore.

Some of Colchester's Historic Attractions

Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle Museum

Colchester Castle is the largest Norman Keep in Europe. Constructed on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius. The Castle Museum today reveals many fascinating layers of history to visitors.

St Botolph's Priory

St Botolph's Priory, Colchester

The first English Augustinian priory church, founded at the end of the eleventh century from the Anglo-Saxon minster community of Colchester. Only the ruined remains of the nave survive today, under the care of English Heritage.

Dutch Quarter

Dutch Quarter

Located just north of the High Street and includes: Maidenburgh Street, West Stockwell Street, East Stockwell Street, Stockwell Street, St Helen's Lane, Northgate Street and Nunn's Road.

Hollytrees Museum

Hollytrees Museum

An important part of Colchester's rich history with three centuries of fascinating toys, costume and decorative arts displayed in an attractive Georgian town house from 1718.

Roman Circus Centre

Colchester Roman Circus Centre

The Colchester Roman circus (chariot-racing arena) was discovered in 2005. It was built in the early 2nd century AD and seems to have been in use for about 150 years. It is the only known Roman circus in Britain.

Castle Park and Gardens

Castle Park

Colchester's Castle Park provides a perfect setting for a huge range of events including shows, festivals and concerts.

Layer Marney Tower

Layer Marney Tower

Magnificent Tudor building with the tallest Gatehouse in Britain and 16th century Italianate terracotta. Climb the tower, visit the gardens, outbuildings dolls house, church and farm animals. Cafe and shop.

Bourne Mill

Bourne Mill

National Trust property, the mill was originally built as a fishing lodge in 1591 and features stepped "Dutch" gables. There is a millpond and some of the machinery, including the waterwheel which is still intact and working.

Dedham

Dedham

Set by the River Stour, Dedham is in the heart of Constable Country. It was here that Britain's greatest landscape artist went to school.

Bridge Cottage

Flatford: Bridge Cottage

A delightful 16th century cottage just minutes from Flatford Mill. Why not visit our Constable exhibition then sit by the river and enjoy a freshly baked cake at the National Trust tea room and find a gift in our shop.

Coggeshall Grange Barn

Coggeshall Grange Barn

Grange Barn stands as a reminder of the once powerful Coggeshall Abbey; with ancient pillars soaring to a cathedral like roof.

Theatre, Art & Cultural Attractions

Colchester Town Centre Arts & Culture Venues

firstsite, photo: Richard Bryant, arcaidimages.com

Firstsite

A spectacular new venue for contemporary visual arts, Firstsite offers a changing programme of exhibitions by international artists, creative events and activities for the whole family, plus talks, films, workshops and more. Entry is free.

The Minories

The Minories Galleries

The Minories Galleries is a professional contemporary art gallery run in conjunction with Colchester School of Art & Design and Media.

Mercury Theatre

Mercury Theatre

A highly respected regional theatre, home to the critically acclaimed Mercury Theatre Company, staging a broad mix of classic plays and new writing as well as working extensively within the local community.

Colchester Arts Centre

Colchester Arts Centre

The home of live music, comedy, theatre, poetry, dance, children's shows, clubs, farmer's markets, gigs and more.

Firstsite Art Gallery

Culture Vultures on a trip to Colchester are in for a treat. The town centre hosts two significant galleries, as well as a producing theatre, amateur theatre, and arts centre.

You can find more about what plays, shows, and exhibitions will be on during your visit by browsing our What's On pages, or head to our dedicated Arts & Culture Page to learn more about Colchester's Artistic Heritage and Contemporary Arts Scene.

 

Discover More Theatre, Art & Culture

 

Wildlife & Outdoor Adventure

Get Back to Nature with a trip to Colchester

From the pastoral fields of Constable Country to the Essex coast at Mersea Island there's plenty of outdoors to discover in and around Colchester.


Essex Wildlife Trust manage a number of sites within the borough, with the large reserves of Abberton Reservoir and Fingringhoe Wick being of particular significance.

For those with more exotic tastes in nature, Colchester Zoo is one of the finest in the country, with an expansive site housing many varieties of animal. 

Colchester offers plenty of parks and gardens to explore too, not to mention opportunities for scenic walks and cycling trails.

Outdoors Attractions in Colchester

Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo is home to over 260 species set in 60 acres of parkland and lakes and are proudly listed as in the top 2 zoos in the UK as part of the TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Attractions.

Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre

Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre

Centre run by the Essex Wildlife Trust in partnership with Essex & Suffolk Water, at a sight of international importance for winter wildfowl. Nature trails, bird hides, events & shop selling refreshments, gifts, optics & books.

Fingringhoe Wick Visitor Centre

Fingringhoe Wick Visitor Centre

Stunning 200 acre nature reserve situated on the banks of the River Colne. Visitor centre includes gift shop, tearoom, toilets and baby changing facilities.

Beth Chatto Gardens

Beth Chatto Gardens

2.5 hectares (6 acres) of gravel, water and woodland gardens, a large modern tea room and plant nursery.

Green Island Gardens

Green Island Gardens

20 acres of professionally designed gardens within woodland destroyed by the 1987 hurricane. Now a plantsman's paradise full of unusual plants for all year round colour.

Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum

Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum

A tree collection from all the temperate areas of the world set in more than 200 acres of historic landscape provides interest and enjoyment throughout the year at Marks Hall.

Castle Park and Gardens

Castle Park

Colchester's Castle Park provides a perfect setting for a huge range of events including shows, festivals and concerts.

Dedham

Dedham

Set by the River Stour, Dedham is in the heart of Constable Country. It was here that Britain's greatest landscape artist went to school.

High Woods

High Woods Country Park

370 acres of woodland, grassland and wetland with path network, including circular walks and easy access trail. Visitor centre and interactive displays, rangers organise a range of activities throughout the year.

Cudmore Grove Country Park

Cudmore Grove Country Park

Cudmore Grove offers visitors a trip to the seaside with a difference at the eastern tip of Mersea Island. The park includes a sandy beach and open grassland, perfect for picnics and great views.

Shopping

Explore some of the fantastic shopping options Colchester has to offer.

Get a feel for the small lanes with their independent outlets and boutique stores or discover East Anglia's largest department store - Fenwick Colchester.

Enjoy shopping for branded goods at a fantastic selection of High Street chain stores, in our pedestrianised shopping precincts or hunt out a bargain by browsing our dedicated event listings for markets, fairs and other pop-up shopping experiences.

 

Things to do in Colchester Today

Alfred Munnings

Behind the Lines: Alfred Munnings, War Artist 1918

Sat 23 Mar - Sun 3 Nov 2019

Exhibition of Alfred Munnings' War Paintings

'Rings of Wonder' by Patrick Elder

Sculpture in the Garden

Sun 26 May - Sat 28 Sep 2019

Sculpture Exhibition.

Mersea

Pay & Play - Mersea

Sat 29 Jun - Sat 26 Oct 2019

Essex Outdoors are opening their Danbury and Mersea sites to the public every Saturday! You and your family can experience a fun day out on our zip wires, archery and caving to name but a few.

Picture

1950s Fashion: A Decade of Glamour

Wed 3 Jul - Sun 25 Aug 2019

Touring exhibition

‘Burano Bull’

Chappel Galleries Summer Exhibition

Sat 6 Jul - Sun 1 Sep 2019

Chappel Galleries are hosting their Summer Exhibition with works by artisits Martin Battye, Simon Carter, Michelle Franklin, Brian Taylor- Sculptor (1935-2013) and new work from gallery artists.

Family Heritage Treasure Trail

Family Heritage Treasure Trail

Sat 20 Jul - Sun 22 Sep 2019

FREE town trail, with prizes!

Marks Hall Sculpture

Marks Hall Sculpture 2019

Sat 20 Jul - Sat 31 Aug 2019

Sculpture Trail at Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum.

Peacock butterfly

Self Led Trails

Mon 22 Jul - Fri 30 Aug 2019

Self Led Trails around our beautiful nature reserve

Archery at Mersea

School Holiday Activity Day

Thu 25 Jul - Fri 30 Aug 2019

Essex Outdoors action-packed activity day experiences run at our 4 centres during the school holidays and are the ideal way for young people aged 8-16 to try exciting new experiences in the outdoors!

Firstsite

MAKE @ Firstsite

Fri 26 Jul - Mon 2 Sep 2019

Free creative activities at Firstsite

Firstsite

MOVE @ Firstsite

Fri 26 Jul - Mon 2 Sep 2019

Free sports activities at Firstsite

Adorn

Adorn: Jewellery, The Human Story

Sat 27 Jul 2019 - Sun 16 Feb 2020

Jewellery exhibition at Colchester Castle

Beyond Plastic

Beyond Plastic

Mon 5 - Fri 30 Aug 2019

Art Exhibition at the Minories

Horrible Histories

Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans

Sat 17 - Thu 29 Aug 2019

New family favourite - connected to the History of Colchester!

Tudor Hands-On / High Summer Re-creation

Tudor Hands-On / High Summer Re-creation

Sat 17 - Mon 26 Aug 2019

This wonderful family event will transport you back to Tudor England during 1588.

Team Swing

Mersea Island Festival 2019

Sun 18 - Mon 26 Aug 2019

9 days of inclusive summer activities for children, young people and adults with and without a disability - including archery, zipwire, adventure course, art tent and band workshop . Each evening there's a band, disco or Camp Concert.

A Festival of Colchester

A Festival of Colchester 2019

Fri 23 Aug - Sun 15 Sep 2019

A new multi-discipline and heritage-based collaborative arts festival with a primary theme of Nursery Rhymes, Folklore and Storytelling.

Adorn

Adorn: Jewellery, The Human Story

Fri 23 Aug - Sun 15 Sep 2019

Jewellery exhibition at Colchester Castle

Mark Titchner

Mark Titchner: Some questions about us

Fri 23 Aug - Sun 13 Oct 2019

In this exhibition, Mark will present a number of works exploring the notions of displacement and belonging in connection to migration and national identity.

Siobhan Coen Unknown Knows

Siobhan Coen: Unknown Knowns

Fri 23 Aug - Sun 13 Oct 2019

English artist Siobhan Coen has been looking into the effect of RGB lights on different paint colours.

The information on our site has been supplied by third parties. Colchester Borough Council will not be held responsible for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of inaccuracy or error within these pages. We advise you contact the venue/event organiser in advance of your visit.