Things to do in Colchester

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Colchester in one of Essex’s most vibrant towns and is widely regarded as Britain’s ‘first city’, being giving the status a ‘Roman Colonia’ as far back as AD49. The Romans saw Colchester as a top-notch settlement in their time, and so do we today.

Things to do in Colchester are made all the easier by the fact that the town is only a 30-minute drive from our park at Orchards, meaning it’s the perfect place for a day out off park when you head on a Haven holiday with us. There are so many places to visit in Colchester, so we’ve summed up our favourites in the article that will help you plan your itinerary.

1. Colchester Zoo

1. Colchester Zoo

An all-time favourite of Essex and the nation, Colchester Zoo has been welcoming visitors and animals big and small since it swung open its doors in 1963. A childhood staple of this writer, the zoo looks after over 180 different species, ranging from aardvarks and turtles to monkeys and tigers. All the continents on earth are represented in this corner of Essex, with world-class conservation efforts underway from its team of professionals.

There are a range of encounters to get involved with and feeding times with the animals too, and both can be found on the zoo’s website, where you can fully plan your day out with the kids.

2. Jump Street Colchester

Things to do in Colchester for the family don’t come much better than this. This arena of fun is filled up with over 90 trampolines for everyone to have a bounce on. Whether you’re bringing the little ones or the older kids, they’ll love this an energetic session on these state-of-the-art trampolines. There are classes for adults and tots together too, so both of you can learn some tricks under the guidance of an expert.

Jump Street also holds incredible dodgeball tournaments for groups to enter, and there are basketball hoops and party rooms for a proper event. Check Jump Street’s website for availability before you set off to avoid disappointment, and with prices more than reasonable, it lives up to its name as one of the best days out in Colchester.

3. Colchester Castle and Museum

3. Colchester Castle and Museum

Colchester Castle is a stunning piece of history in the heart of the town. This 11th-century masterpiece was built of the Roman ruins of the Temple of Claudius, and more can be seen on this at the Roman Theatre excavation site across the road. The castle has lived an eventful life, living under siege for three months in 1216 and housing prisoners at the turn of the 20th-century.

It was purchased by the local council in 1922 and since 1860 has housed a marvellous museum that adds to the draw of the place. A visit here really does put things to do in Colchester into perspective, so head for the park ride and get a bus into town to see this incredible historic site. Open every day of the week, tickets are available through the museum’s website and there are handy discounts for the kids too, so don’t miss out.

4. Castle Park

4. Castle Park

Castle Park brings a leafy peace to the heart of Colchester. Named after the historic Colchester Castle, the park is an oasis of calm in what’s otherwise a pretty bustling market town. The park is great for a walk around throughout the year, but summer is when it truly comes to life.

When the weather is good, head to Putt in the Park crazy golf course, or bring the kids to the fun-filled playground coupled with a café to sit and relax at. It’s also worth checking out the bandstand, which comes in handy when the park welcomes festivals throughout the warmer period.

5. Colchester Arts Centre

The Arts Centre must be one of the coolest places to visit in Colchester. This former church hosts a range of events during the morning, noon and night throughout the year. There’s always something going on, from farmer’s markets in the morning to gigs in the evening.

Specific events are listed on the centre’s website, so you can plan ahead and make the most of your visit. Even if you don’t fancy one of the many shows hosted by the centre, it’s still worth seeing to check out a church that’s been expertly remodelled.

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6. Colchester United FC

If you’re heading to Orchards from the London area, the chances are you’ve passed Colchester’s football stadium on the outskirts of town. A compact but modern arena, it has played home to the town’s football club since it was opened in August 2008.

The 10,000-seat capacity is rarely filled up on a match day, so it makes a Colchester home match ideal to turn up at on the day and see some high-quality lower league football with the family. Check out Colchester’s website to see the upcoming list of fixtures and plan a footie-filled day out in Colchester next time you stay at Orchards.

7. Firstsite Museum

An award-winning museum simply had to make our list of things to do in Colchester. The recipient of the coveted 2021 Art Fund Museum of the Year Award, which is looked at on a global scale.

The contemporary exhibits are housed in a swanky building to match and is grouped with 17 other museums of its kind that you’re sure to want to check out after a visit here. The best thing about this museum is that it’s free to enter, with the operation being funded through donations and memberships. You can take a look at what’s on via the museum’s website and plan your day out in Colchester in advance.

8. Layer Marney Tower, Layer Marney

8. Layer Marney Tower, Layer Marney

This stunning Tudor palace stands tall over the Essex countryside just west of Colchester itself. It’s a great stop off point on the way back from a day out in Colchester, with the structure overseeing over 500 years of history from its walls. Built to the liking of Henry VIII, the grounds are open to the general public from May until September.

A taste of lavish Tudor life is displayed by the spotless gardens and rooms within the mansion. There are loads of kid-friendly events like feeding the lambs throughout the year, so check out the attraction’s website and tie your visit in with the other places to visit in Colchester.

9. East Anglian Railway Museum, Wakes Colne

9. East Anglian Railway Museum, Wakes Colne

The East Anglian Railway Museum is a must visit for train enthusiasts big and small. Housed within the stunning station building of the functioning Chappel & Wakes Colne railway station, the museum is dedicated to the history of railways in England’s eastern counties. You’ll be welcomed by an old locomotive outside the museum’s entrance, brilliantly setting the scene for what’s to come.

There are steam and diesel train rides to try on specific days, and a whole calendar of events to get involved with. Have a look on the museum’s website to find out more. You can visit the museum on weekends and Wednesdays throughout the year.

How to get to Colchester from us

Colchester is only 14 miles away from us at Orchards, so it’s great for a day out off park. Here’s how to get to Colchester by car: 

  • Head into St Osyth and turn left passing the village’s park 

  • Travel north on the B1027 past Alresford and Thorrington 

  • You’ll pass the University of Essex campus, where you can park and bus it into town 

  • Alternatively, continue straight past Lidl and Waitrose to Colchester Town Centre 

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