Things to See & Do in Colchester

What to see in Colchester

Colchester offers every visitor a huge range of great things to see and do and many interesting places to visit, whatever your taste or budget. With so many activities, events, places to eat, drink & shop to choose from, you never need be at a loss for things to do in Colchester and the surrounding area.

There are plenty of attractions and activities in Colchester town centre and beyond. Browse our listings for things to do in Colchester today or plan ahead and find out what’s going on when you visit.

Find your Colchester accommodation now and plan your perfect fun-packed visit to Colchester, full of great activities and unforgettable experiences.

Colchester Castle

Historic Attractions

Discover 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 Museum

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 Peter Froste CAT

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 Country Park

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!

Brightlingsea Regatta

Brightlingsea Regatta

Sat 20 - Sun 21 Jul 2019

A weekend of fun by the sea for all the family

Mark Titchner

Mark Titchner: Some questions about us

Sat 20 Jul - 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.

Marks Hall Sculpture

Marks Hall Sculpture 2019

Sat 20 Jul - Sat 31 Aug 2019

Sculpture Trail at Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum.

Siobhan Coen Unknown Knows

Siobhan Coen: Unknown Knowns

Sat 20 Jul - Sun 13 Oct 2019

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

Sir Tom Jones

Tom Jones - Live in Castle Park

Sun 21 Jul 2019

Sir Tom Jones brings his band to Colchester's Castle Park.

Waldegraves Car Boot Sale

Car Boot Sale in West Mersea

Sun 21 Jul 2019

At Waldegraves Family Holiday Park, we hold car boot sales every Sunday from 5th May to 8th September 2019, including over Bank Holiday Weekends. Car boot sales are weather dependent, so please call us on the day with enquiries.

An Extraordinary Steampunk Fair

An Extraordinary Steampunk Fair

Sun 21 Jul 2019

Ladies and gentlemen…we cordially invite you to join us at the East Anglian Railway Museum for this, our first ever Steampunk fair hosted in conjunction with the League of Essexordinary Gentlemen.

Knights of Hedingham

Knights of Hedingham

Sun 21 Jul 2019

Coming in 2019, a new whole experience at Hedingham Castle.

Magic Weekend

Alix Massey

Sun 21 Jul 2019

Are you ready to enter into the world of witches, wizards, fairies, dragons, alchemists, wise women, pixies and lots more.

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.