31 things to do and places to go in Essex this weekend

Make the most of your time off with dozens of attractions and activities in Essex

  • 11:16, 21 APR 2019
  • Updated 09:22, 22 JUN 2019

places to visit in essex this weekend

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A bank holiday in Essex with your kids or your partner doesn't have to be ruined by the weather, and there’s nothing better than going on a fun day out.

Luckily, we are spoiled for choice for places to visit and activities for all ages.

There’s certainly no need to go up to London for a great day out when there’s so much happening right on our own doorstep - whether you're in Chelmsford, Colchester, Maldon, Southend or Saffron Waldon.

Here are 31 of the best things to do in Essex at the weekend:

An elephant at Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo

Maldon Road, Stanway, Colchester

Often described as one of the best zoos in Europe, Colchester Zoo is well worth a visit with your kids.

It boasts more than 260 species of animals and many of them are rare or part of breeding programmes. There is everything from the impressive elephants, giraffes and rhino in Elephant Kingdom and Kingdom of the Wild, down to the tiny marmosets and butterflies in the Butterfly Glade.

You can feed the elephants, run around in the play areas and take a trip on the mini train to see the lemurs into Lost Madagascar. It is a great day out.

Opening hours for Colchester Zoo: 9.30am – 4.30pm (although closing times may vary from season to season)

Cost of Colchester Zoo tickets: On the gate - adult £22.99, child £15.99, concs £20.99 but these are cheaper if booked in advance

Find out more here

Colchester Castle is said to be one of the most haunted places in Essex.

Colchester Castle

Castle Park, Colchester CO1 1TJ

The castle, which is part-ruin, became a museum in 1860 and is a great place to visit in the holidays or at the weekend.

It underwent a huge refurbishment in 2014 to transform it into an even better attraction, with interactive displays and major exhibits. Top attractions include the Colchester Vase - one of the finest pieces of art to have survived from Roman Britain.

There is also the Fenwick Treasure, a hoard of Roman silver and gold found in 2014, or your kids will love activities like excavating a Roman doctor’s grave or steering a chariot.

You can book extra tours down in the Roman vaults or go up onto the roof with a panoramic view of Colchester and beyond.

Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10am – 5pm, Sun 11am – 5pm

Cost: Adult £9.95, child £4.95

places to visit in essex this weekend

Clacton Pier

No.1 North Sea, Clacton-on-Sea , CO15 1QX

Clacton Pier is one of the most popular things to do in this Essex seaside town. It is 360m long and hosts all manner of attractions including rides, amusement arcades, a Seaquarium, a 10 pin bowling alley, a Circus Fantasia and sea fishing trips.

The rides include a helter skelter, dodgems and roller coasters. It’s had a facelift over the last few years and is now a top attraction in the area. Of course you can grab all sorts of seaside treats there, including fish and chips, candy floss and doughnuts.

Opening hours for Clacton Pier: Most of the attractions (except bowling) are closed in January. The rest of the year varies according to season.

Cost of Clacton Pier: It varies but you can get special wristbands and passes that let you have unlimited rides and games for £19.99.

Hylands Park in Chelmsford

Hylands Park

London Rd, Writtle, Chelmsford , CM2 8WQ

Hylands Park is the largest park in Chelmsford and a great trip out for the family.

It’s part of the 574 acres of the Hylands Estate. It includes huge fields to play on, ancient woodlands, play areas, formal gardens and ponds. Children love this place as they can run free, play games or go on the play equipment.

You can also feed the ducks and explore the gardens. There’s a café, shops and loos in the Stables Area too. Hylands Park hosts lots of events too including music festivals like V, dog shows, garden shows and drive-in movies. It’s a great cheap day out with the kids.

Opening hours at Hylands Park: The gates open at 7.30am and close between 5-10pm depending on the month.

Hylands Park

Hylands House

London Rd, Writtle, Chelmsford CM2 8WQ

Hylands House is a grade II listed mansion with restored rooms from the Georgian and Victoria eras. The house has beautiful architecture and furniture to admire and an interesting basement - perfect for nosing around into the history of Essex.

There are also events held there throughout the year including craft markets, Christmas events and banquets. Hylands House is also available for weddings.

Opening hours at Hylands House: The House is open to the public on select days. Public open days on the first Sunday of every month will start in March 2018. Check their website for details.

Hollytrees Museum in Colchester

Hollytrees Museum

Castle Road, Colchester CO1 1UG

This Georgian building in Colchester has been turned into a museum showing what home life and childhood has been like in Colchester for the last 300 years.

This is a fun day out with the kids as you can show them first-hand what life was like for the rich and the poor and how people managed before they had washing machines and tablets.

You can try out a dolly peg, dress up in costumes and admire one of the star attractions – the huge Hollytrees dolls house. You can also find out how and why the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was written in Colchester.

Opening hours for Hollytrees Museum Colchester: Mon-Sat 10am – 5pm, Sun closed.

Hanningfield Reservoir

Hanningfield Reservoir

Hanningfield Reservoir Visitor Centre, Hawkswood Road, Downham, Billericay , Essex CM11 1WT

At 870 acres, it’s easily one of the largest reservoirs in Essex. It’s lovely and peaceful to look out over the water in all seasons, but there’s lots to do there too.

The visitor centre is set in woodland at one edge of the water and acts as a base for all your family activities. Here you can go bird watching, go searching for wildflowers and funghi, look for reptiles and spring migrant birds or just go for a pleasant walk in the quiet woods. Lovely for a quiet, cheap day out with the kids.

Opening hours for Hanningfield Reservoir: Daily from 9am – 5pm (but 9am – 4pm in Nov, Dec and Jan)

Cost: Suggestion donation at the visitor centre £2 adult, £1 child, £5 family

Edible garden at RHS Hyde Hall

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Creephedge Lane, Chelmsford CM3 8ET

This is dubbed one of the loveliest gardens in the East of England, this attraction is on a 360-acre estate. There are rolling hills, panoramic views, historic hedges and woodland. There are so many different areas to explore including the Dry Garden, the Robinson and Woodland Gardens and the Hilltop Garden. They hold loads of events throughout the year too including crafts, talks, demos, children’s activities and workshops.

Opening hours of RHS Garden Hyde Hall: March – October 10am – 6pm, November – February – 10am - 4pm

Cost: Adults £10.35, children £5.18, family £26.10

Firstsite in Colchester

Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester CO1 1JH

An arts and cultural centre in Colchester where they hold exhibitions, events, activities and workshops. These range from art exhibitions and food markets to book festivals and dance sessions.

The also show lots of films, live opera and ballet screenings. There’s always something going on for adults, kids and families.

Opening hours of Firstsite: Mon – Sun 10am – 5pm

Cost: Many events are free but others have separate charges

Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead

Beth Chatto Gardens

Elmstead Market, Clacton Rd, Elmstead, Colchester CO7 7DB

Beth Chatto is an award-winning gardener and she opened up this attraction in 1960 in Essex. It’s around seven acres and includes a gravel garden (which was once a car park and is never watered), scree garden, water garden, woodland garden and reservoir garden. They also hold lots of events throughout the year for all ages. A nice way to show your kids some nature in Essex.

Opening hours of Beth Chatto Gardens: Mar - Oct): Mon-Sat 9-5pm, Sun 10-5pm.

Nov - Feb: Mon-Sat 9-4pm, Sun 10-4pm.

Cost: Nov-Mar: £4.50 per adult.

March – April and October: £6.95 per adult.

May - September: £7.95 per adult.

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood CM15 0LA

Essex most non-secret, secret attraction has been attracting visitors for decades – and it’s 80ft underground. What is so fascinating about this place is that it gives visitors a glimpse into a world we’d never normally get to see.

It started life as an RAF Rotor station but was then adapted to become a secret civil defence centre in the 1960s around the time of the Cold War. The bunker housed military equipment and beds and supplies for hundreds of military and civil personnel who would have been rushed there in the event of a nuclear attack. Now you poke around the equipment, the bedrooms, a surgery, canteen, washrooms – you name it. A brilliant day out with the kids in Essex.

Opening hours of Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker: March – October – weekdays 10am – 4pm, weekends 10am – 5pm

November – February – Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm

Cost: Adults £7.50, children £5.50, family £18

A steam train at East Anglian Railway Museum

East Anglian Railway Museum

Station Rd, Wakes Colne CO6 2DS

It's a real steam railway museum where you can get up close and personal with the steam trains, diesel locomotives and vintage carriages. There’s so much to explore including the goods shed and an escape room.

The Heritage centre, the restoration shed, the codebreaker experience, the miniature railway and the station café. You can also book a driver experience day here.

Opening hours of East Anglian Railway Museum: 10am – 4.30pm most days

Cost: Adults £6, children £3, seniors £5.50

Poltergeist activity has been witnessed at Layer Marney Tower.

Layer Marney Tower

Layer Marney, Colchester, Essex, CO5 9US

This stunning building is England’s tallest Tudor gatehouse and looks over the River Blackwater. It was built for a friend of Henry VIII’s, Lord Marney in Tudor times. It’s steeped in history and full of lovely things to discover. As well as the house, there are the gardens, a farm, a tearoom and gift shop. No visit is complete without climbing the 99 steps to the top of the tower – see if your kids can count all the way up.

Opening hours at Layer Marney Tower: Approx 12pm – 5pm but it varies throughout the season.

Cost: Adults £9, children £5, family £25

Tiptree Jam Museum

Tiptree Jam Museum and Café

Tiptree Jam Shop & Tea Room, Factory Hill, Tiptree, Essex, CO5 0RF

One sweet trip to go to at the weekend is a jam factory! The home of Wilkin & Sons – one of the most famous jam-makers in the world and the owner of a Royal Warrant. This small but perfectly-formed museum is a hive of old jam-making equipment, old photos, documents, machinery and fascinating titbits from the history of the famous Essex company. Of course you have to visit the attached tearoom, which serves all manner of goodies. A nice day out in rural Essex.

Opening hours Tiptree Jam Museum and Café: Winter – Mon – Sat 9.30am-4.30pm, Sun 10am – 6.40pm

Summer Mon – Sat 9.30am – 7pm, Sun 10am – 5pm

Naze Visitor Centre at Walton-on-the-Naze

The Naze Visitor Centre

Old Hall Lane, Walton-on-the Naze, CO14 8LE

The Naze at Walton-on-the-Naze is one of the most important parts of the Essex coast.

The visitor centre opened in 2016 and is a great centre to find out more about the wildlife and heritage, as well as a café and gift shop. On the Naze itself you can spot migrating birds and small wildlife, and go hunting for shark’s teeth down on the beach. You can also visit the historic Naze Tower. If it’s warm you can build sandcastles and splash about in the sea. You and your kids will have a great day out here.

Opening hours The Naze Visitor Centre: Daily 9am – 5pm (Nov-Jan 9am – 4pm)

Lee Valley White Water Centre

Lee Valley White Water Centre

Station Rd, Waltham Cross EN9 1AB

If you and your family are looking for wet and wild things to do, then this is the place to come. It’s one of the only places in Essex where you can try out sports like white water rafting, hydrospeeding, hot dogs, tubing wipeout, canoeing, paddle boarding, kayaking and more, all in one place. For families, there’s also a farm, the River Lee country park and kartway.

Opening hours at Lee Valley White Water Centre: Mon 8-12.30, Tues 8-8, Weds 8-10, Thurs 8-10, Fri 8-10, Sat 8-6, Sun 8-6

Cost: Various depending on the sport

Audley End House and Gardens

Audley End Road, Saffron Walden CB11 4JF

A stunning Jacobean mansion in the Essex countryside. There’s so much to see and do here including exploring the mansion house, visiting the nursery, coal gallery and 1800s service wing. You can see a Victorian stable yard and roam around the gardens. Kids will love interacting with the traditional staff, and there’s also a play area and café.

Opening hours of Audley End mansion: Vary throughout the year. See here for latest.

Cost: Adults £17.50, children £10.50, family £45.50

Great Notley Country Park in Braintree

Great Notley Country Park

Great Notley Country Park Braintree CM77 7FS

This great park has around 100 acres of grassland and the longest play trail in Essex. There are all sorts of activities to try out along the way including a climbing forest, tyre swings, rope climbers, giant seesaw, slides, forts and sandpits. You can also go walking, cycling, fishing, horse riding, play sports or have a picnic. It also houses a Sky Ropes centre. An active day out with the kids.

Opening hours: 8am - dusk

Cost: Free but you pay for parking

Promenade Park in Maldon

Promenade Park Maldon

Park Drive, Maldon , CM9 5JQ

A large park on the banks of the River Blackwater in Maldon. There’s so many things to do here with your kids and places to walk at the weekend. The children’s playgrounds including the pirate ship, and the sandpits are open all year round and there’s a splash park in the summer.

There’s adventure golf, a skate park, crabbing lake and model boatlake too. There’s loads of wildlife to admire including swans, you might be lucky enough to spot a seal. There’s lovely walks to be had along the promenade and a good choice of pubs and kiosks where you can get an ice cream, chips or hot drink, depending on the weather.

Opening hours: 7.30am - dusk

The Gruffalo characters are hiding in Thorndon Country Park

Thorndon Country Park (the Gruffalo Park)

This lovely park is packed full of things to do with your children. It’s split into two parts:

Thorndon North

The Avenue, Brentwood CM13 3RZ

Full of wildlife, birds and the famous Gruffalo Trail where you explore the park with a map looking for the carved statues of the characters from the popular children’s book.

Thorndon South

Arterial Road, Brentwood CM13 3LW

Known for its countryside views, kite flying and barbecues and picnics.

Opening hours at Thorndon Country Park (the Gruffalo Park): 8am - dusk

Old McDonalds Farm and Fun Park

Old McDonalds Farm and Fun Park

Weald Road, Brentwood CM14 5AY

A large family-friendly attraction just off the A12 which provides a great day out for the kids. It’s packed full of animals including alpacas, otters, meerkats, deer, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds of prey, horses and chickens. There’s also a big range of rides, amusements, play areas and games.

Opening hours Old McDonalds Farm and Fun Park: Closed in the winter. Open approx. 10am – 5pm in peak times.

Cost: Adults £16, children £15, seniors £14.

Barleylands Farm Park


Barleylands Road, Billericay CM11 2UD

A family-friendly farm park which has something for everyone. You can admire all the animals which include sheep, goats, pigs, birds of prey, alpacas, Highland cows, horses, donkeys, bunnies and ferrets.

There’s creepy crawlies too in the reptile house. There’s loads of great play equipment too including giant bouncy pillows, tractor rides, discovery barn, zipwire and more. Kids will find so much to do here at the weekends.

Opening hours at Barleylands: Every day from 10am – 5pm (this may vary in winter)

Cost: Adults £12, children £11, family £42

Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park

Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park

Marsh Farm, Marsh Farm Road, South Woodham CM3 5WP

This attraction is bursting with activities, animals and play areas so it’s a fun day out with your family. There’s a giant sandpit, bouncy pillows, tractor rides, crazy golf, playground, indoor playbarn and more. Animals include llamas, alpacas, Kune Kune pigs, geese, pets and aviary. There are loads of special events too like unicorn weekends, Halloween week, Christmas Wonderlands and more.

Opening hours at Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park: 10am – 5pm

Cost: Peak: £13.50 (online £10.99), family £49, under 2s free.

Harwich Redoudt Fort

Harwich Redoubt Fort

Behind 29 Main Road, Harwich, Essex CO12 3LT

An anti-Napoleonic circular fort that stands over Harwich harbour. It is currently open as a museum and there are 11 guns on battlements and other guns on display. There are also reconstructed rooms and exhibitions on the lower level. Events including battle re-enactments are held in the summer.

Opening hours of Harwich Redoubt Fort: May 1 – August 31 – 10am – 4pm daily, rest of year – Sundays 10am – 4pm

Cost: Adults £3, children free

Royal Gunpowder Mills in Waltham Abbey

Royal Gunpowder Mills

Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey EN9 1JX

A great place for anyone interested in history, explosives and rockets. You can find out about the history of gunpowder and rocket propellants through science shows, exhibitions and children’s activities, including an interactive museum, mad lab and rocket vault. A fascinating place for kids to visit and a day out on the weekend in Essex.

Opening hours for Royal Gunpowder Mills: It’s open mainly in school holidays, special events and open days, 10am – 5pm.

Cost: Adults £11.55, children £9.35, concs £9.90

Two knights jousting at Hedingham Castle

Hedingham Castle

Bayley Street, Castle Hedingham, Halstead CO9 3DJ

The majestic 900-year old Norman keep are all that remains from the original castle but it’s more than enough. The keep has been turned into a mini museum featuring artefacts and fascinating architecture and curiosities including the original castle toilet. The castle itself is part of a 160-acre estate filled with woodland and landscaped gardens. There are special events throughout the year including jousting tournaments and outdoor theatre. A lovely thing to do with your kids who can pretend they are real-life knights and princesses.

Opening hours: The castle is open at various times and days throughout the year. Check the calendar on the official website.

Cost: Normal admission: Adults £8.50, children £6, concs £7.50. Special events are more.

Adventure Island in Southend

Adventure Island

Western Esplanade, Southend-on-Sea SS1 1EE

One of Southend’s biggest attractions, Adventure Island is far more than just rides. There are lots of outdoor rides, indoor rides, soft play, as well as adventure golf, dodgems, karting and a Sea Life Centre. The main rides include Rage, Scorpion, Dragon’s Claw and Sky Drop. There’s loads of places to eat too such as fish and chips, cafes, a milkshake bar and ice creams. A great family day out.

Opening times:

Low Season: 11am or 12pm, closes between 4pm and 8pm High Season: 11am, closes between 8pm and 10:30pm

Adventure Inside (indoor attractions)

Monday – Friday: Opens 12pm, closes between 5 – 8pm Saturday – Sunday: Opens 11pm, closes between 5 – 8pm Cost: You can buy different colour wristbands from £20 - £30 (£15 - £22.50 online)

Combined Military Services Museum in Maldon

Combined Military Services Museum

Station Road, Maldon , Essex CM9 4LQ

A hands-on journey through British military history which is a great day out for the whole family. There’s so many exciting things to discover including the secret world of spies and their gadgets, weapons and disguises. There are uniforms, medical equipment, medals and one of the biggest public collections of firearms. You can dress up in armour, see tanks, swords and artefacts.

Opening hours for Combined Military Services Museum: Wednesday – Sunday, 10.30am – 5pm. And bank holiday Mondays.

Allow 2-3 hours for a visit.

Cost: Adults £5.75, concs £4.75, children £4, family £18

Hadleigh Castle

Hadleigh Castle

Castle Lane, Hadleigh SS7 2PP

This is great for a cheap day out with the kids. Described as ‘the romantic ruins of a royal castle overlooking the Essex marshes’. It was built after 1215 during the reign of Henry III by Hubert de Burgh when it was a grand affair and surrounded by parkland. Although it’s now mostly ruins, it’s full of history and a great place to explore as a family. It also has great views across the Thames Estuary. The building is now protected by English Heritage as a grade I listed building.

Opening hours: ‘Any reasonable time during daylight hours’

places to visit in essex this weekend

Epping Ongar Railway

Station Approach, Chipping Ongar, Ongar CM5 9BN

This popular attraction is the longest heritage railway in Essex and you can go back in time as you travel on the historic route through the countryside. Your journey can start with a vintage bus ride from Epping or Shenfield stations, and then you can pick a trip on the heritage steam and diesel hauled trains.

Opening hours: Times vary so check on their website.

Cost: From around £14 for adults

Colne Valley Railway

Colne Valley Railway

Castle Hedingham, Halstead CO9 3DZ

Train fans young and old will love this attraction so it’s a great family day out. You can take rides on steam and diesel locomotives on this short but sweet heritage running line. Activities include a full-size demonstration train ride, an interactive model railway, museum, travelling postbox and signalbox visits. You can also book driver experiences. There are lots of special events including Days Out with Thomas and visits from Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol.

Opening hours: These vary so check the website.

Cost: An average steam day is £10 adults, seniors £7.50, children £5, family £27.50, under 3s free

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places to visit in essex this weekend

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The 900 year old Norman keep of Hedingham Castle stands in 160 acres of spectacularly beautiful landscaped gardens and woodland where the Lindsay family, descendants of the original owners,…

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Colchester Chamber Choir is a small, very friendly and supportive choir and we are always looking for new members.

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Activities in Essex

Explore indoor and outdoor activities throughout Essex

Danbury Leisure Centre

01245 224515

Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa

01206 262836

Get To Know Animals Ltd

0208 923 3456

Rivenhall Oaks Golf Centre

01376 510222

Nuclear High Ropes

01277 260001

Eastern Quest

07484 673101

Fingringhoe Wick Nature Discovery Park

01206 729678

Arts, Culture & Entertainment

Experience arts, culture and entertainment in Essex at craft centres, galleries, theatres and a variety of entertainment venues

Le Keux Vintage Salon & Parties

Leigh on Sea

07803 372543

Harwich Arts & Heritage Centre

07425 145022

Southend Planetarium

Southend on Sea

01702 212345

Roman River Music


07926 623529

Players Theatre Company

07766 604094

Cineworld Harlow - Harvey Centre

0330 333 4444

Lakeside Theatre

01206 873261

Essex Attractions

Discover a multitude of Essex tourist attractions, such as animal centres & zoos, country parks & gardens, historic buildings & monuments, steam railways, theme parks and much more

Topsail Charters Ltd

01621 857567

Chelmsford City Football Club

01245 290959

Colchester Castle Museum

01206 282939

Combined Military Services Museum

01621 841826

Promenade Park

01621 854477

Maldon Splash Park

01268 520176

Barnards Miniature Railway

Family Friendly

Family friendly activities & attractions in Essex for you and the kids

Oxygen Romford

0208 050 1315

Partyman World of Play Cambridge

01223 321203


01206 713700

Castle Park

01206 282962

Cressing Temple Barns

03330 132738

Benton Hall Golf & Country Club

01376 502454

Sightseeing & Tours

Experience another side of Essex with a boat trip along the coast or river cruise on its waterways, take a steam train journey through the beautiful Essex countryside, or a guided tour of an historic house

01787 460261

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

01245 402019

Spains Hall Estate


01371 811596

English Spirit Distillery

01787 237896

Beth Chatto Gardens

01206 822007

Tiptree Jam Museum & Tea Room

01621 815407

Redchurch Brewery

01279 626895

Grab some Retail Therapy

Find shopping centres, retail parks and other places to shop around Essex

Dedham Art & Craft Centre

01206 322666

Red Fox Brewery

01376 563123

Green Planet Pantry

01277 500121

Poplar Nurseries

01206 210374

Great Danes

Frinton on Sea

01255 852285

Blake House Craft Centre

01245 290264

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A day trip in Essex needn't cost a fortune! Enjoy a priceless day out in Essex with these suggestions of things to do for free

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Saffron Walden

07967 444321

Bateman's Tower


Hadleigh Country Park

01702 551072

Finchingfield Post Mill

0345 603 7624

Weald Country Park

01277 261343

Marsh Farm Country Park

South Woodham Ferrers

01245 222350

Thorndon Country Park

01277 211250

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Events this weekend in Essex, United Kingdom

Search for something you love or check out popular events in your area.

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Show Me Soul - Friday 21st June 2024

Friday at 7:00 PM

The Brentwood Centre

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Show Me Love - The Brentwood Centre 22/6/24

Saturday at 4:00 PM

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Summer Sophistication The Ultimate Day Party

Saturday at 3:00 PM

Blakes Golf Club

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Mindful Moments

Friday at 6:30 PM

Chelmsford Cathedral



Junction 26 - Diner

Ancient Woodlands & Loughton Camp-Epping Forest Guided Walk primary image

Ancient Woodlands & Loughton Camp-Epping Forest Guided Walk

Sunday at 10:30 AM

The Stubbles Car Park

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Piano Concert 22 June 2024

Saturday at 1:00 PM

Brentwood School Memorial Hall

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"Where Olive Trees Weep": Film Screening hosted by Chelmsford PSC

Saturday at 7:00 PM

Hamptons Sports and Leisure

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Big Cheese Comedy @ Hullbridge Sports

Friday at 6:00 PM

Hullbridge Sports Club

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Midsummer Experience

Saturday at 11:00 AM

Sparrows Campsite

Asha + The Troll Storytelling and Performance Workshop with Matipo Arts primary image

Asha + The Troll Storytelling and Performance Workshop with Matipo Arts

Sunday at 1:30 PM

Cressing Temple Barns

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Summer Raku Workshop (Session Two of Two)

Cuckoo Farm Studios

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Make Your Market, Rochford (Traders & Performers Booking)

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Flamingo, 48 High Street, Billericay, UK

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Tony T (Phats&small) Soul,House ,Garage

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Farand Bar & Kitchen

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Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Escape Room Experience 22 June

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Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome

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Singing Like Larks Nature Workshop with Andrew Millham (2)

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Harlow Chinese School Fundraising Cooking Class June event

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Epping Forest

Things to do around Essex

Trends in essex, 1 . bank holiday, 2 . rave party, 3 . craft fairs, 4 . psychic, 5 . stand up comedy, 6 . free kids, 7 . music concerts, 8 . country music, 9 . property networking, 10 . garage brunch, 11 . brentwood centre, 12 . sip and paint.

places to visit in essex this weekend

Places to visit in Essex

There’s more to Essex than reality TV. History buffs will love travelling through time as they start by exploring Roman Britain, and venture through motte-and-bailey Norman keeps, Tudor forts, and finally Victorian country estates and gardens. Essex has more than history though, it’s also got enough shopping centres and spa breaks to help you let go, relax, and enjoy a break from the ardours of modern life. If you’re still not convinced, why not ride one of England’s last running steam train services, marvel at the wonders of science at The Time Machine, or admire the tranquillity and perfection of Essex’s horticultural gardens.

places to visit in essex this weekend

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places to visit in essex this weekend

Gold winner: Piglets Boutique B&B

Escape the rat race at this upmarket bolthole with its own sauna and gin library – winner of the Bed & Breakfast and Guesthouse of the Year Award 2023.

places to visit in essex this weekend

All aboard heritage steam trains at the Epping Ongar Railway

Pay a visit to Epping Ongar Railway, and ride on running steam and diesel engines between period stations, through countryside and forest.

Location: Chipping Ongar, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Enjoy the ultimate shopping experience in Colchester

Discover easy and interesting shopping in Colchester; with its great mix of big name stores and specialist shops, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Location: Colchester, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Take a guided walking tour and discover the real Colchester

Britain’s oldest recorded town has a raft of different tours exploring different aspects of the town’s history, all hugely enjoyable too.

places to visit in essex this weekend

See breathtaking vistas at Beth Chatto's Plants & Gardens

Explore these breathtaking and inspirational gardens created by 10-time Chelsea Gold Medal Winner and Gardening Author, Beth Chatto OBE.

places to visit in essex this weekend

Unleash your inner explorer at Hatfield Forest

No other venue provides a better backdrop for young budding explorers than Hatfield Forest.

Location: Takeley, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Experience Victorian family life at Audley End House and Gardens

Experience a real life period drama as you explore life above and below stairs at this decadent mansion.

Location: Saffron Walden, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Visit the oldest recorded battlefield in Britain

Viking raiders used Northey Island as a base during the Battle of Maldon in AD991. Today it’s a lot more tranquil...

Location: Northey Island, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Be King or Queen of the Castle at Hylands Park

Whether it’s a short stroll or a long walk there are many routes to choose from at 574-acre Hylands Park.

Location: Chelmsford, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Discover a new visitor experience at Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle is the biggest Norman keep in Britain, in fact, it’s the biggest ever built by the Normans anywhere in Europe.

places to visit in essex this weekend

Visit the dramatic landscape that inspired John Constable

Follow in the footsteps of John Constable and explore Dedham Vale and Stour Valley an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Location: Dedham, Colchester

places to visit in essex this weekend

Sample a selection of wines at Dedham Vale Vineyard

Dedham Vale Vineyard is a great place to experience wine tasting whilst enjoying the pristine rolling English countryside.

Location: Boxted near Colchester, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Take a seaside break 50s style

Discover this iconic English seaside resort that people have been holidaying at since 1871 when the barrel organs on the pier first whirred into action.

Location: Clacton on Sea, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Audley End House

An atmospheric portrait of daily life in Victorian times.

places to visit in essex this weekend

Harwich Maritime Heritage Trail

Take a voyage of discovery around the old port of Harwich and discover a wealth of maritime history.

Location: Harwich, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Seal watching in Arthur Ransome’s ‘Secret Water’

Explore Walton’s ‘Secret Water’, the setting for Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’ book.

Location: Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Trot over to meet Redwings Horse Sanctuary's rescued residents

Come nose to nose with some of Redwings Horse Sanctuary's most delightful residents at Redwings Ada Cole Rescue Centre in Essex.

Location: Nazeing, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Treat your partner to an unforgettable date at Colchester Zoo

Treat your loved one to a Perfect Partner experience at Colchester Zoo to celebrate a landmark birthday, anniversary or even to propose marriage…

places to visit in essex this weekend

Have a close encounter with Daleks and medieval peasants in Essex

Choose to travel back in time to medieval England in 1066, the toys of your childhood or even WWII (though chances are you’ll want to do all three).

Location: Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex

places to visit in essex this weekend

Find a little piece of heaven on earth in Colchester

Green Island Gardens features stunning gardens professionally designed by Fiona Edmond and set within woodland destroyed by the 1987 hurricane.

places to visit in essex this weekend

Climb, jump and crawl at Wild Forest Gym

Check out the UK’s 1st Obstacle Training Centre and Natural Movement Gymnasium for adults and children aged 7+.

Location: Brentwood, Essex

Related Items

places to visit in essex this weekend

Visit grand stately homes, English seaside resorts, diverse British wildlife, and a vast network of waterways. There are attractions for all the family in Norfolk.

places to visit in essex this weekend

Visit Suffolk to see swanky coastal towns, landscapes straight from Constable and Gainsborough, and the home of the old Kings of East Anglia. Suffolk is quintessentially English.

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The 11 best things to do in Essex

From hidden underground bunkers to big-hitter attractions, there are plenty of more things to do in Essex than TOWIE

Forget any preconceptions you have about this English county: there are so many fun things to do in Essex. This varied area begins on the urban fringes of  London at one end and blends into rural Suffolk countryside at the other. Then there’s the 350 miles of coast, 35 islands, two international airports (Stansted and Southend ) and the oldest recorded town in Britain. From nature and nightclubs to seaside attractions and historical monuments, first-time visitors might be surprised by just how diverse this county is. The only way is—you guessed it—Essex.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere.

Find out more about   how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world .

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

Best things to do in Essex

1.  colchester zoo.

Colchester Zoo

Where is it? Colchester.  What is it? Home to actual dragons (of the komodo kind), this award-winning zoo is one of the biggest and best in the country. Its 60 acres of parkland are home to more than 260 different species, so there’s loads to pack into a day trip here. Why go? Hand feed elephants and giraffes, walk through underwater tunnels as sea lions swim overhead and, on sunny days, be transported to African plains in the Kingdom of the Wild, where you can feel like you’re on safari watching white rhino, ostrich and zebra.

2.  Tiptree Tea Room at the Jam Factory

Tiptree Tea Room at the Jam Factory

Where is it? Er, Tiptree. Obviously.  What is it? If the jam world had celebrities, Tiptree Jams would be an A-lister. You can find several Tiptree tea rooms across Essex, from Chelmsford and Billericay to Osea and Saffron Walden. But to learn about its origins, spend the day where it all began: in its namesake village. Why go? A day at the Tiptree factory will be jam-packed (pun intended). Find out about the history of the Wilkin & Son and Tiptree preserves in the Jam museum – the family made their first pot of jam in 1885 – then head to the tea room for afternoon tea to sample some of the sweet stuff. Don’t forget to stop off in the shop to pick up your favourite preserve for the cupboards at home.

3.  Mersea Island

Mersea Island

Where is it? In the Blackwater and Colne estuaries.  What is it? You’d better check the tide times before heading to Mersea Island, because at high tide The Strood – the only road connecting it to the mainland – is covered by water. This little estuary island offers the simple pleasures of a day by the seaside, complete with colourful beach huts, delicious seafood and a charming small-town vibe. Why go? If the seafood world is your oyster, Mersea is the pearl. Lovers of shellfish should visit The Company Shed to sample the world-famous oysters – this small, no-frills restaurant always has a queue outside. Continue a fishy theme with an afternoon crabbing from the small jetties and admiring the boats and peaceful estuary views from the beachfront.

4.  Mountfitchet Castle

Mountfitchet Castle

Where is it? Stanstead Mountfitchet. What is it? This Motte and Bailey castle went through Roman, Saxon and Viking hands, before 1066 when the Normans made it into a castle like you see today. After coming to ruin, Mountfitchet Castle and its Norman village have been artfully reconstructed. Why go? Essex boasts several impressive castles, and the big names like Colchester or Hedingham might be the first to spring to mind. Lesser-known Mountfitchet is a reconstruction (the original was also made of wood), but it’s also the only castle of its kind rebuilt on its original site. Step back in time to the Middle Age – and you can also feed the friendly animals wandering around the place.

5.  Secret Nuclear Bunker

Secret Nuclear Bunker

Where is it? Just outside the village of Kelevdon Hatch.  What is it? Visit Essex’s best-kept secret: an underground nuclear bunker. Strong enough to withstand a nuclear blast, this hidden bunker started life as an RAF air defence station, before becoming a regional government HQ. It was decommissioned after the Cold war and is now open to the public for self-guided tours.   Why go? A mast and simple-looking bungalow are the only things marking the entrance, but descend the 120m reinforced tunnel and you’ll find yourself in the heart of a nuclear shelter. Imagine life here by visiting the rooms built to recycle air and communicate with the outside, try on gas masks and even eat in the canteen. Afterwards, why not try an aptly-themed onsite escape room by Clue HQ?

6.  Dedham Vale

Dedham Vale

Where is it? North of Colchester.  What is it?  Dedham Vale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the  picturesque Stour Valley sit pretty in the middle of Constable Country. Dedham village is filled with quaint cottages, tearooms and churches, and surrounded by ancient woodlands, verdant meadows and accessible walks – it’s the perfect escape to the countryside. Why go? It’s little wonder the surroundings here have inspired artists and writers. Follow the easy two-mile walk through fields of cows from Dedham to Flatford Mill. Or if you prefer, hire boats and row the same route along the River Stour. Finish your trip with cake in one of the many tearooms in the area, or head to nearby Le Talbooth restaurant for a top-notch dinner.

7.  Firstsite


Where is it? Colchester.  What is it? This visual arts space opened in 2011 and showcases an ever-changing creative programme of exhibitions, films, performances and events. Its contemporary golden building designed by architect Rafael Viñoly is work of art in its own right. Why go? With plenty going on (and free entry), it’s always worth checking to see what’s on at this under-the-radar gallery. Past exhibitions have included some big names, like pop-art poster boy Andy Warhol. There are plenty of alternative film screenings and art classes too for both kids and adults.

8.  Southend pier

Southend pier

Where is it? Southend-on-Sea.  What is it? Extending out into the sea for more a mile, Southend pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world. For more than 100 years, it’s survived fires, storms, boat collisions and two world wars – not bad going for a seaside attraction. Why go? As much a British seaside icon as fish and chips and striped deckchairs, no day at the beach would be complete without a mooch down the pier. It’s quite a walk, so take the electric train that runs the length of the pier one way, and save your energy for mini golf…

9.  Sugar Hut

Sugar Hut

Where is it? Brentwood.  What is it? This restaurant, cocktail bar and night club shot to fame several years ago thanks regular appearances on the popular reality show ‘ The Only Way is Esse x’ . Why go? There’s a reason this venue attracts revellers from all over the UK (and beyond). With a classy dress code and plenty of hen/stag dos around, you’re guaranteed to have a good time dancing the night away here – and who knows, you might even see a few famous faces while you’re at it.

10.  Audley End House and Gardens

Audley End House and Gardens

Where is it? Just outside Saffron Walden. What is it? The opulent Jacobean mansion at the heart of the estate is one of the most impressive of its kind. An English Heritage site, you can wander the mansion’s great hall, state apartments and library, then spend time in the tranquil surrounding gardens. Why go? There’s lots to see at this historic property. Head down to the servants’ quarters, where costumed characters will help you imagine life here in its Victorian heyday. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the stable yard either, where you can meet the resident horses and catch a riding display.

11.  Harwich Redoubt

Harwich Redoubt

Where is it? Harwich.  What is it? This pleasingly circular fort was originally built to protect the Harwich harbour against Napoleonic forces (a destiny it luckily never had to fulfil). The ancient monument has since been restored to its former glory and is now open as a museum. Why go? The volunteers from the local historical society run the museum – and they are full of passion and knowledge for the place. See some of the original canons that manned the fort, as well as exhibitions of military and maritime collections. If you like your history lessons all guns blazing, reenactments of battles are sometimes held outdoors in the summer.

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9 great places to visit in essex for a fun day out [2024].

Essex, a county synonymous with the reality show that has made its accent famous, has surprisingly more to offer than people expect.

While many Essex residents live here because of its proximity to London, the county is worth a visit in its own right.

And with many commuter towns in the county, it’s easy to travel to all the unexpected treasures that Essex has to offer by train or bus.

So from vineyards, nature reserves and country parks to museums and theme parks, here are 9 great places to visit in Essex for a fun day out!

This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Rebecca Bowers.

1. The Sugar Hut


Address: 93 High St, Brentwood CM14 4RR

Where else to start when visiting Essex than with the infamous Sugar Hut ?

The nightclub was a regular feature on TOWIE for many years and is perhaps one of the most well-known buildings in the town of Brentwood.

Famous faces such as Gemma Collins, Mark Wright and Joey Essex have all partied here.

So if you want to follow in their footsteps, this is the place for you.

However, its strict dress code means there’s specific footwear you must wear when visiting.

No trainers, casual boots or plimsolls here, folks!

Don your highest heels, your most sparkly dress and longest lashes, and you’re ready to go.

If you want to visit The Sugar Hut but clubbing isn’t your cup of tea, they also have a restaurant that’s open seven days a week.

Lunch and dinner menus are both available, and you can even book in large parties.

As an added incentive, if you buy any two courses on a Friday or Saturday, you can bypass the nightclub queue. Win, win!

Unlike in some places in the UK, nightclubs in Essex rarely have free entry.

This is the case too for the Sugar Hut, except on Thursdays, and Fridays before 10:30 pm.

Drinks are on the more expensive side, but that’s the trade-off for partying at one of the most famous clubs in the UK.

2. Colchester


Address: Colchester CO1 1TJ

Many of us know that the Romans invaded Britain nearly 2000 years ago.

But did you know that Colchester is Britain’s oldest recorded town, as it was written about by Pliny the Elder in 77AD?

As well as being home to a castle, Colchester seats two of the five Roman theatres found in Britain, and was the capital of Britannia for a number of years, before it was attacked and seized by Boudica.

The town is full of Roman history and architecture, making this one of the best places to visit in Essex for history buffs.

Colchester Castle

One of Colchester’s biggest attractions is the castle , built by William the Conqueror’s son, Henry I, in the 11 th century.

Many parts of the castle fell into disrepair in the 17 th century, until it was bought by Colchester Council in 1922, restored and turned into a museum.

The museum has a large variety of exhibits and displays, as well as a fancy dress box where you can try on Roman togas and WWI helmets.

Prices are £10.95 for adults, but discounts are available for children, students and group tickets.

Colchester Zoo

If history isn’t your thing, don’t rule out Colchester quite yet.

A staple part of growing up in Essex was visiting Colchester Zoo , home to a huge variety of animals, including rare tigers, penguins, and komodo dragons.

You can get up close and personal with giraffes and elephants during their feeding time.

And a new interactive display allows you to walk with woolly mammoths.

You can book online or on the day, with prices varying by date of visit.

For the variety of attractions on offer, Colchester is easily one of the best places to visit in Essex.

3. Crouch Ridge Vineyard


Address: Fambridge Rd, Althorne, Chelmsford CM3 6BZ

Phone number: 01621 450450

When you think of vineyards, you probably conjure up images of the sun beating down over California or Italy.

What doesn’t come to mind is the Essex countryside!

However, nestled away in the middle of the county is a family-run vineyard, which began making wine in 2010.

With fifteen acres of south-facing slopes and relatively low levels of rainfall, Crough Ridge Vineyard grows grapes for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines.

From the Wine Cellar Shop, you can purchase any of the wines made here.

But if you’re anything like me, you’d rather try before you buy.

They offer a number of packages and experiences for visitors, with wine tasting starting from £25 per head, sparkling afternoon tea for two at £50, or if you want to go all out, private buggy tours for £200.

Helpfully the vineyard has on-site accommodation for those who don’t want to drive after their visit!

And at the Wine Barn, you can sit on the garden terrace overlooking the vineyard and have a bite to eat for brunch, lunch or tapas.

Seasonally they have special events at the vineyard.

So it’s a good idea to check their website before visiting to see if they are hosting something extra when you go.

Regardless of what you get up to, The Crouch Ridge Vineyard is one of the best places to visit in Essex if you want to feel like you’ve travelled somewhere far more exotic than the East of England.

4. Southend-on-Sea


Address: Western Esplanade, Southend-on-Sea, Essex SS1 1EE

One of Essex’s most popular tourist destinations is Southend-on-Sea.

Originally the holiday of choice for Londoners in the post-war era, Southend has retained its reputation for tourism.

On a sunny day, you can’t beat walking along the seafront eating a 99 flake.

And as a child, I was so excited to see the outline of France across the water. Imagine my disappointment to learn it was actually the Kent coast!

Adventure Island

Adventure Island is Essex’s answer to Disneyland, with a rollercoaster and outdoor arcade games for all to enjoy.

Billed as the UK’s number 1 free admission theme park, you need to buy tokens to go on the rides.

The size of the rides are more suited to children.

But if you’re along the seafront and fancy a go on a couple of them, you can buy tokens as and when you want.

Alternatively, for a full day out, you can buy a day pass for unlimited fun of water slides, dodgems and candy floss.

Southend Pier

Southend is also a record holder, as it’s home to the world’s longest pleasure pier , which has the unfortunate habit of burning down once a decade or so.

The pier played an active role in both the world wars, but is now a tourist attraction.

You can walk down the 2.1km long pier, or you can relax on the train which runs every fifteen minutes.

At the end of the pier, grab hot doughnuts or fish and chips while watching the rolling waves and soaring gulls.

Cliff’s Pavilion

To finish off your trip to Southend, why not pay a visit to Cliffs Pavilion , a medium-sized theatre with a wide variety of performers?

Musicals and shows often perform here before or after their West End runs.

And the venue has also played host to big artists such as The 1975, Paloma Faith and The Human League.

Tribute acts are a regular occurrence too!

Situated just a mile away from Southend Victoria train station, it’s easy to get home afterwards.

5. Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome


Address: Hackmans Lane, Flambird’s Chase, Chelmsford CM3 6RJ

Phone number: 01245 429134

This is one of the best places to visit in Essex for plane enthusiasts!

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome dates back to World War One and houses a large collection of Royal Flying Corps buildings and equipment within its walls.

It opened in 1916 as the base for the B Flight of No 37(HD) Squadron, whose pilots played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain.

The site closed in 1919 and stayed that way until local councils bought it in 2012 and renovated it into a museum.

During your visit, you can eat in the Airmen’s Mess just as the men stationed here would have done in the war.

Afterwards, you can also see where they would have slept and trained.

Exhibits such as the history of the Women’s Air Force, replica planes and interactive activities means there’s something for everyone.

The airfield also often puts on impressive flying displays where you can see the old planes in action. Perfect for any aviation fan!

If planes don’t pique your interest, the surrounding area is one of significant natural interest, with all five of the UK’s natural owl species residing here.

You can walk around the fields and lanes for miles, admiring the Essex countryside.

A trip to the aerodrome is an inexpensive day out with adult tickets costing £9, and reduced fares for seniors and children.

The airfield is currently open Friday-Sunday 10 am-3 pm.

I’d advise booking ahead to ensure you don’t miss out on this historical site.

6. Lee Valley White Water Adventure


Address: Station Road, Waltham Cross EN9 1AB

Phone number: 0300 003 0616

Although strictly just outside of Essex (by a mere five miles), Lee Valley is a must-visit attraction for any visitors to the county.

There are all the activities you’d expect, like kayaking, rafting, and paddleboarding.

However, there are also more unusual activities such as hydrospeeding and disc golf, too.

If you’ve ever wondered how you would fare on Total Wipeout, there’s even a water obstacle course to test your balance and speed.

Oh, and you can’t leave without paying a visit to the 2012 Olympic white water rafting course.

Prices vary by activity, with paddling starting at £5 per person, and water rafting costing £50 each.

You get your money’s worth from it though, with sessions lasting sixty minutes to two hours.

All equipment is provided, although some activities have strict clothing requirements so it’s best to check before you visit. Wet suits are available to hire if you want one!

There are sports for all abilities and adventure levels.

And those who aren’t strong swimmers shouldn’t worry, as the weaker swimmers can be given a different colour buoyancy aid.

This will give you priority if your raft overturns.

When you’re finished with your watery adventure, you can dry off at The Terrace Café with food and drink.

It’s the perfect spot to enjoy the (hopefully) warm weather.

7. Hadleigh Park


Address: Hadleigh Country Park, Chapel Lane, Hadleigh SS7 2PP

If you’d rather keep yourself on firm ground, but still think you can take on an Olympic sport, head over to Hadleigh Park , where the London Olympic Games mountain biking competitions took place.

The course has now been adapted so members of the public can take part.

With over 387 acres of land, there’s plenty of space for four different trails depending on your skill level.

Before you ride, you can take advantage of the Skills Area, designed to develop your technique and improve your confidence on the trail.

If you don’t have a bike or you don’t have the means to transport your bike there, no fear!

Mountain bike hire is available for £12 for an hour, rising to £24 for 4+ hours.

All cyclists must wear a helmet, but you can hire one of these too for a small fee.

Hadleigh Park is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Its mixture of grasslands and woods makes it home to rabbits, hares, stoats, grass snakes and adders, as well as a herd of Red Poll cattle.

There are views of the Thames estuary and the charming Hadleigh Castle from the trails.

If you’d rather explore the park at a more sedate pace, there are miles of trails suitable for walking.

And there’s even an option to go glamping in the park!

As one of the largest green spaces the county has to offer, this is one of most beautiful places to visit in Essex.


Address: Promenade Park, Park Drive, Maldon CM9 5JQ

One of my absolute favourite walks in Essex, especially with my dog, is along the Maldon Promenade and High Street.

On the Promenade you walk along the River Blackwater, often overtaking impressive barges and sailing ships.

At the end is a tall statue dedicated to Byrhtnoth who fought against the Viking invasion in the 10 th century.

From here you can admire the view across the river and salt marshes.

Promenade Park is full of booths to buy refreshments, including the famous Mrs Salisbury’s Tea Room selling afternoon tea, paninis, and hot drinks.

Or if you’d rather eat with views on the river, a barge has been converted into a café. Here you can sit above or below deck.

There’s plenty to keep everyone occupied in the park, with a petting zoo, kids’ sandpit and play area, Pirate Bay crazy golf, and cruises along the Blackwater.

The park is open daily from 7.30 am until dusk, and free to enter.

However, the car park is Pay and Display.

Maldon High Street

Past the park, you can walk up Maldon High Street, with a mix of big-name shops and independent stores.

As the ancient market town dates back to 1109AD, it has a vibrant yet historical feel to it.

This is why it was recently chosen as a filming location for the adaptation of Sarah Perry’s novel The Essex Serpent, starring Tom Hiddleston.

Maldon is the perfect place for a relaxed day out, especially if you’re visiting with children or dogs.

9. Hamford Water Nature Reserve


Address: The Quay TDC Parking, Harwich CO12 3HH

In the backwaters of the Hamford Water Nature Reserve are over 250 seals.

What started as a family of five in 1986 has grown massively over the years.

So much so that you can be taken out on a boat to see them.

In addition to seals, you’ll also get to see a variety of birds, including curlews, sandpipers, gannets and arctic skuas.

In fact, the nature reserve is an internationally important wetland for birds (RAMSAR).

As well as being home to many species of wildlife, this beautiful part of the coastline is said to have inspired Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons book.

The seal watching company that runs these tours guarantees that you’ll see the seals up close.

And if you don’t, you’ll get a free trip!

The boat tours depart from Half Penny Pier and run for 90-120 minutes.

Tickets are £24 each, or to privately hire the boat it’ll cost you £240.

They do apologise on their website that their boat, built in 1944, is not disability friendly, so it may not be accessible to all guests.

You’re advised to dress warmly and bring a spare set of clothes to leave in the car and change into when you’re finished, as you’re likely to get wet on board.

The boats sail in all weathers, other than extremely strong winds, but there’s a cabin for winter trips.

With four trips a day, there are plenty of chances to catch a good sighting of these amazing creatures.

So there you have it: 9 great places to visit in Essex for a fun day out.

I hope that this has given you a taste of what visiting Essex would be like.

There are some well-known attractions like Colchester, Southend and the TOWIE nightclub.

But seal watching, wine tasting and mountain biking are lesser-known tourist activities.

There are places here that will suit everyone, from family days out with children to fun nights out with friends.

But which of these places to visit in Essex are you most desperate to visit?

Please let me know in the comments below!

9 Great Places to Visit in Essex for a Fun Day Out. From vineyards, nature reserves and country parks to museums and theme parks, here are 9 great places to visit in Essex for a fun day out! Click through to read more...

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10 amazing things to do in Essex

By Laura Fowler

10 amazing things to do in Essex

1. Castaway on a storied private island

When the tide comes in on legend-steeped Osea Island, adrift in the Blackwater Estuary, the causeway to the mainland is cut off, and there’s nothing for it but to hole up for the night. In Jude Law ’s case that meant the start of folk-horror story The Third Da y; but those who plan a stay on Osea can take rather less creepy digs, from a 1920s manor to Vermont clapboard cottages – or take over the whole island with friends and family, to have run of its beaches and salt marshes in the daytime and copious party venues at night. In recent years the island’s food scene has really taken off, and now excellent local produce is dished up out of street food vans and restaurants in various converted WWI buildings. oseaisland.co.uk

The Broomway at Wakering Stairs

2. Walk Britain’s deadliest path

The most dangerous walk in the country is not up a mountain, or down a ravine. On a map, this footpath looks like a mistake, a dotted line somewhere out at sea. But The Broomway is a footpath, of sorts, walkable only at low tide and beset by deadly hazards – unexploded bombs, sinking sand, black mud, fast-rising tides and disorientating mists. Stretching from Wakering Stairs to Foulness Island, what begins as a causeway disappears into the silty, glassy water, so that once you are away from shore the way becomes invisible. To minimise chances of certain death, go with a trained guide who knows exactly where to tread, like Tom Bennett. tombennettoutdoors.co.uk

Company Shed

3. Eat prime oysters at their island home

Since Jay Rayner and Rick Stein raved about the Company Shed, the secret is out about this weatherboard shack on Mersea Island. But fame hasn’t gone to its head: it remains as ramshackle and good-value as ever, heaping tin-foil platters with seafood extravaganzas, and oysters grown in the family (come September – March for Colchester natives). Regulars know that it’s BYOB here: bring your own bread, as well as booze, and that they need to dress accordingly, for getting their hands dirty, in prawn grease and crab claws. Book on 01206 382700, and check tide times before you go; thecompanyshed.co

Grayson Perrys A House for Essex

4. Stay in a Grayson Perry artwork

Beside the River Stour sits a curious chapel that’s pure fairytale – as magical as Saint Basil’s Cathedral on a gingerbread-house scale. This is Essex boy Grayson Perry’s A House for Essex, commissioned by Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture organisation – a rich and colourful fantasy world whose artful interiors celebrate fictional “Essex Everywoman” Julie Cope, who is depicted in Perry’s tapestries and statues, tiled walls and floors. It’s also a two-bedroom house which you can stay in. From £1,075 for two nights for up to four people; living-architecture.co.uk

Grayson Perrys A House for Essex

Grayson Perry’s A House for Essex

Entrance to the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker Brentwood

5. Go underground in a Secret Nuclear Bunker

Despite road signs in Ongar directing you to the ‘Secret Nuclear Bunker’, it’s hardly a place you’d stumble across. At the end of a lane in the woods, there’s a dingy Fifties dormer bungalow that looks like the setting for a UK series of True Detective . Perhaps this was the idea, when the government chose it as the under-the-radar entrance to their Secret Nuclear Bunker, a Cold War-era underground shelter built to protect politicians and leaders and those entrusted to ensure the survival of humankind in the event of nuclear war. It’s a bit of a disappointment, until you step inside. There’s nobody about, so you listen to instructions on an old phone, then head down a chilly tunnel – and discover room after subterranean room of deliciously chilling secrecy: military mission plans, analogue communications systems still piled with pages of code; dormitories and medical rooms; weapon armories and shadowy unidentified equipment rooms – a darkly fascinating insight into the depths of what we don’t know. secretnuclearbunker.com

Everybody knows about Norfolks wildlife stars but the coast of Essex also has seals aplenty  theyve even been known to...

6. Take a sea safari in Swallows and Amazons waters

Everybody knows about Norfolk ’s wildlife stars, but the coast of Essex also has seals aplenty – they’ve even been known to swim up to bathers on the beaches around Southend in summer. For a guaranteed sighting, take a trip between April and October with Essex boatman Tony Haggis around the backwaters of the Hamford Water National Nature Reserve – the setting for Arthur Ransome’s ‘Secret Water’ in the Swallows and Amazons series, and home to a great number of owls and oyster-catchers, warblers and waders. Book with Tony Haggis on 07806 309460

Talliston House

7. Supper club in a house of dreams

On a council estate outside Stansted lies the most extraordinary hideaway. Talliston House is the imagination-made-real of fantasy novelist John Tode – a richly layered dreamworld of a house which he has spent the past 25 years creating out of what was an ex-council 1950s suburban semi, collecting finds from around the world and drafting in artisans – basket-weavers, stone-carvers, gold-leafers – to create each of its 13 spellbinding rooms, themed and decorated with obsessive attention to detail and authenticity: an abandoned Lombardy renaissance palazzo, an Alhambra bedchamber, a Cambodian spirit house. Come for tea, supper, or stay the night in a room of dreams. Book Bed & Breakfast at Talliston

Dedham Vale

8. Take an off-road trip through Constable country

Essex is not renowned for its beauty, yet the gentle landscapes of Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley inspired masterpieces by Constable and Gainsborough, while its coast greatly influenced Turner. The Painters’ Trail is a 69-mile cycle route, which weaves back and forth through the meadows and riverbanks of Constable’s beloved Essex and Suffolk, via points of particular artistic interest (download a map here ); stop off at Kitchen at Dedham , a glorious boathouse serving salads and seafood sharing boards. Or explore on four wheels in a LandyCamper – a 4x4 Land Rover Defender with a tent that pops up on the roof so you can pitch up in painterly landscapes. dedhamvalestourvalley.org

The Parterre garden Audley End House and Gardens

9. Dance under the stars on a Jacobean estate

Outside Saffron Walden, Audley End is a Jacobean mansion, and one of the grandest houses in Britain. During the summer it hosts concerts in the amphitheatre of its Capability Brown grounds as part of the Heritage Live programme , which has ranged from the London Philharmonic to the Hackney Colliery Band, Boy George to Boney M; and Luna Cinema sets up its outdoor film theatre here too. In colder months there are ghost walks and Christmas light trails , too. english-heritage.org.uk

The Raft at Chigborough

10. Drift off to sleep on a raft

There’s a backwoods vibe to The Raft at Chigborough, a hand-hewn wooden cabin afloat on a lake near Maldon. Out on the porch (ahem, terrace): recliner chairs, antler trophies, hammocks, a barbecue and a wood-fired hot tub ; and guests sleep beneath a patchwork quilt in a mezzanine attic bedroom. The Raft at Chigborough, from £235 a night; canopyandstars.co.uk

Scroll down to view more images of the most amazing things to do in Essex

Osea Island

Osea Island

Talliston House

Talliston House

Talliston House

The Raft at Chigborough

The Raft at Chigborough

Coast Magazine


Home » A weekend guide to exploring Essex

A weekend guide to exploring Essex

Coast Editor

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For some people, the county of Essex has become synonymous with the TOWIE TV show, and conjures up images of manicure bars, bling and perfect teeth. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, but there are other sides to this coastal county that have had less coverage over the past decade. In this trip, I leave the beaten track with an aim of discovering its history, culture and wildlife. Whether it’s a breeding seal colony, a vast flock of avocets, or native oysters that were in global demand back in the Roman times, there are still places in this busy, bustling county – which sits just east of London – where things haven’t changed quite as much as you might expect. Here, you can still recognise the landscape that Constable made so famous in his paintings, stroll around the house where the captain of the Mayflower resided or witness fishing methods that have barely changed for hundreds of years. 

FRIDAY PM 2pm A PLACE TO STAY If you are looking for a base from which to explore the Essex coast, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better location than The Pier Hotel in Harwich. Sitting right on the quayside in this historic coastal port, this friendly AA 4-star hotel has 14 bedrooms across two neighbouring buildings, a bar and a swish two AA Rosette restaurant with great views over the water.  Decorated in a contemporary style, with nautical touches reflecting the town’s heritage, it has all mod-cons you’d expect, with free Wi-Fi, a mini bar, complimentary soft drinks and snacks and parking. More unusually, there is a desk in most rooms, reflecting the fact that Harwich, with around 14 ferry crossings to Holland a week, is still a vibrant centre for business. Rooms start from £140 a night (01255 241212, milsomhotels.com/the-pier .) 

places to visit in essex this weekend

3pm MARITIME HERITAGE Anyone interested in British nautical history will be well aware of the significance of Harwich. As the only safe anchorage between the Thames and the Humber, it is thought to have been the port from which the Mayflower launched and was where its captain, Christopher Jones, lived. I head out to follow the Maritime Heritage Trail, which guides me around the town’s significant buildings, such as Jones’s recently refurbished house and the Low Lighthouse Maritime Museum, built in 1818. The name Harwich was derived from the Old English words for a military settlement, and it became a navy base in 1657. Heavily fortified, Harwich played an important military role for hundreds of years, from the Napoleonic Wars right up to WW II when it assembled fleets for the Dunkirk evacuation. Although there is no longer a naval presence here, the fortifications can still be visited ( mayflower400uk.org and historicharwich.co.uk .)

places to visit in essex this weekend

6pm SEAFOOD SUPPER After a day exploring the town, I was really looking forward to a meal back at my hotel. I’d booked my table to coincide with sunset, as the first-floor restaurant has a great view over the water. Although there are vegetarian and meat dishes on the menu, with all the local seafood in the area, I was sticking to fish. When in Essex, it’s great to start a meal with the local oysters, and here they came from Colchester and were served simply with shallot vinegar and lemon, just how I like them. I followed this with a generous Harwich Lobster, gently grilled with fries and a herb salad. To accompany my meal I was pleased to find The Pier serves Picpoul de Pinet by the glass, great with any kind of fish or seafood. The timing was perfect and, as my lobster arrived, the sky was streaked with pink and the sun a golden orange glow on the horizon. A perfect end to a fascinating day. Starters are priced from around £7 and mains from £15. Lobsters are between £32 to £42. There is also a great cider, leek and bacon mussel dish for £8.50 and a Harwich crab rarebit for £12. To book, call the hotel on 01255 241212. 

places to visit in essex this weekend

SATURDAY AM 7am THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER If you want to go out with the fishermen, you need to get up early. It was still dark when I rose, and cold, but I needed to be at Mersea Island by 8am for the tide. The oyster industry on Mersea Island has been running for hundreds of years, and Dale Belbin from Belbin Native Seafood had kindly offered to take me out on his boat and show me his beds. This fragile industry has faced many challenges, most recent being the complications that Brexit brought and the additional paperwork, which has made it much harder to get live oysters to Europe quickly. Dale runs his small business with his partner, Louise – they focus on sustainability and environmental awareness, with his oysters packed in cardboard boxes and his own state-of-the-art processing centre, just 20 minutes away. The sun comes up just as we head out into the Blackwater Estuary, and despite the cold wind, it’s beautiful to see the morning light flickering on the water. He shows me where both his Mersea Native Oysters and the West Mersea Wild Pacific Oysters that he supplies are kept safe in the estuary where they fatten up for up to three years before being ready to eat. The Mersea Native Oyster, Dale explains, is a historic variant apparently remarked on way back when the Romans first arrived in Kent, as being the finest oysters in the Roman world. If you’d like to try some for yourself, all you need to do is call Dale on 07984 553562 or visit belbinnativeseafoods.co.uk .

places to visit in essex this weekend

 SATURDAY PM 12.30pm GO WILD The Essex Wildlife Trust serves a vital role preserving the little that remains of our natural countryside and its native inhabitants. Travelling around Essex you might feel that new housing developments have taken over, however, there are tucked-away sanctuaries that need our support.  Just a few miles from its second biggest town, Colchester, Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve overlooks the Colne Estuary. It offers fantastic views across the water from its excellent birdwatching hides and the visitor centre, where you can also have a cup of coffee and homemade cakes. The 48.6-hectare reserve is popular with bird watchers, who can enjoy nightingales in the spring, marsh harriers and swallows in the summer and avocets and Brent geese in the winter. I was lucky enough to see plenty of avocets when I visited, and the numbers can rise to around 700, making a truly spectacular winter wildlife encounter. There’s a small play area to keep the little ones entertained, so it’s a great place for a remarkably affordable family day out, as well as a solitary walk, communing with nature, a world away from the bustle of Colchester. Recommended entry prices are just £3 for an adult, £1.50 for a child and £8 for a family. There are wheelchair-accessible toilets and hides. For more information, call 01206 729678, email [email protected] or visit essexwt.org.uk .

places to visit in essex this weekend

SUNDAY AM 10am SEALS AND WAVES After a hearty breakfast at The Pier, I stroll across to the Ha’Penny Pier opposite the hotel to catch up with the skipper from the seal-watching tours. I was hoping to head out to the Walton backwaters to see the resident population of seals in the Hamford Water National Nature Reserve on one of their two-hour boat trips, but the wind is up and the waves are too high, and it isn’t safe to go out this time. Next time I visit, I will definitely head out on a boat trip. An adult ticket costs £24 and a child over five is £19. To book, call 01728 666329 and for more information visit sealwatching.co.uk .

11am CONSTABLE COUNTRY As an alternative, I head a little inland to take a walk along the River Stour, in order to see some of the countryside that inspired the artist John Constable, where he spent his ‘careless childhood’. I was happy to find that the water meadows and green valleys hadn’t been overdeveloped and still bore a resemblance to his paintings.  Wherever you start on the route, make sure that you end up in pretty Dedham and book a table at The Sun Inn. The food is outstanding, and if you have spent the whole day walking, you can even spend the night. I enjoyed a delicious lunch of homemade bread with some full-bodied olive oil and a couple of local oysters to start, followed by delicately flavoured Felixstowe line-caught seabass, with Vin Jaune Sauce, Jerusalem artichoke and chard. The perfect way to finish my trip. Starters cost from £6.50 and mains from £14.50. To book, call 01206 323351 or go to thesuninndedham.com . 

places to visit in essex this weekend

To find out more about visiting, go to visitessex.com .

Ready for a coastal escape to Essex? Discover one of the best coastal drives by the Essex coas t or take a walk on one of the British Isles’ ancient pilgrimage routes in Essex. For more coastal weekend guides – pick up the latest copy of  coast magazine .

places to visit in essex this weekend

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This Weekend: June 21–23

From music festivals and street parties to scenic cruises, Connecticut Historic Gardens Day and more—there are so many fun ways to kick off the first official weekend of summer in Connecticut. 

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places to visit in essex this weekend

Need July 4 weekend plans? 8 things to do, including live music, roller skating

J uly 4 and the long weekend surrounding it are all about fireworks, festivals and parades to celebrate America's independence from Britain in 1776.

But what if you're looking for something to do that's a little different? Something a little less pomp and pageantry?

Well, NorthJersey.com readers, there are activities that fit the bill in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties, including board-game playing and Shakespeare.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Bergen County

The Williams Center, 15 Sylvan St. in Rutherford , has a Board Game Night every Thursday at 7 p.m. That will not change for July 4, according to Jordan Fried, the center's operations manager. The public can bring their board games and there will also be board games provided to play.

Essex County

The 4th of July Skate will be held at the Branch Brook Park Roller Skating Center, 7th Avenue in Newark , from 12 to 4 p.m. Admission is $16 for admission and skate rental (plus service fee), $10 for those with their own skates (plus service fee) and $5 for non-skating adult spectators (plus service fee). Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite . All guests, whether skating or not, must sign a waiver online.

Morris County

The Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown , will be opened on the Fourth of July. That will enable visitors to see the various exhibits on display such as Like Clockwork!: Guinness Collection Conservation at the Morris Museum and Set in Motion: Kinetic Worlds from the Studio of Richard Whitten . For more information, call (973) 971-3700 or email: [email protected].

If you are in the mood for some William Shakespeare on July 4 and happen to be in Morris County, the bad news is there won't be any staging of the Bard's work that day. The good news is the day before and the day after, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will be presenting "As You Like It," at its outdoor stage on the campus of Saint Elizabeth College in Madison . The showtimes on July 3 and July 5 are at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the theater's website and are $40 for regular price, $30 for customers under the age of 30, $15 for student (with ID) and free for those ages 17 and under.

Passaic County

The Wayne Ale House & Pizza, 611 Ratzer Road in Wayne , home of the 24-inch "Supersize Me" slice, will host Trivia Night Hosted by Joe Trivia on July 4 from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, call the venue at (973) 706-5505 or call Joe Trivia at (201) 390-7351.

Dominican rapper Yaisel LM will be giving a concert performance to celebrate Indpendence Day on July 3 at 9 p.m. at the Serie 92 Bar and Lounge, 21 West Broadway in Paterson . Yaisel LM performs in the Dembow music genre, an offshoot of dancehall and reggaeton music. The tickets are $50 and can purchased at the Boletos Express website.

Sussex County

The New Jersey-based country blues/rock band Whiskey Crossing will perform in concert on July 4 at Lola's Waterfront Tex-Mex Restaurant, 300 Lakeside Ave. in Andover . The performance, part of a tour of the state, will be at 6 p.m. For more information, visit the Whiskey Crossing website .

Celebrate America's birthday with taking in America's pastime. A July 4 minor league baseball battle between the New Jersey Jackals and the Sussex County Miners at Skylands Stadium, 94 Championship Place in Augusta , at 6:35 p.m. There will be a Hometown Heroes Parade before the game and post-game fireworks if you choose to take in both activities. Gates open at 4:35 p.m. Tickets range from $17 for general seating to $137.50 for seating in suites and can be purchased at the website Vivenu.

Ricardo Kaulessar covers race, immigration, and culture for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @ricardokaul

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Need July 4 weekend plans? 8 things to do, including live music, roller skating

The Supersize Me Slice at Wayne Ale House & Pizza.

Planning an England trip in 2024? Consider these 16 top places to visit

James March

Feb 26, 2024 • 10 min read

places to visit in essex this weekend

Gracious Bath is an excellent place to immerse yourself in England’s history and beauty © gowithstock / Shutterstock

The story of  England  stretches back more than 5000 years (and likely many more). Which means its impossible to escape the past here.

As you wander its historic urban centers, mysterious monoliths, misty landscapes and rugged  coastlines  and national parks , you’ll discover a country filled with unparalleled places to visit that are are the more compelling thanks to all those who have visited them before.

As you plan a trip to England this year, here’s our list of 16 historic, exciting and all-around fabulous highlights to consider.

The Coast Guard Cottages and Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, Eastbourne, Sussex, England, UK

1. The Seven Sisters 

While  Dover ’s iconic white cliffs grab the most attention, the colossal chalky walls of the Seven Sisters are a more spectacular affair, a four-mile roller-coaster of sheer white rock stretching along the Sussex shore and overlooking the waters of the English Channel. It forms an impressive southern border to the South Downs National Park , and is most dramatic at the towering headland of Beachy Head . Hikes through the grassy clifftop fields provide wide sea views, breathtaking in every sense.

Local tip:  Stop for a breather at the tiny seaside hamlet of Birling Gap, where the secluded beach is a sun trap popular with locals and walkers.

The great hall of Christ Church, University of Oxford, Oxford, England, United Kingdom

Oxford  lets visitors feel close to the brilliant minds and august institutions that have made this city famous across the globe. This rarefied world comes to life in the cobbled lanes and ancient quads where cycling students and eccentric academics roam. The beautiful college buildings and stunning architecture have changed little over the centuries, coexisting with a lively, modern, working city. As befits a city of students and professors, Oxford is one of the last bastions of the great British pub, with irresistible old watering holes dotted all over its central lanes and alleyways. 

A view of King’s College and King’s College Chapel seen from The Backs, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

3. Cambridge

In England’s other great historic university city, Cambridge , you can tour a  college , and spend time marveling at the intricate vaulting of King’s College Chapel . But no trip to Cambridge is complete without an attempt to take a punt (flat-bottomed boat) along the River Cam by the picturesque Backs , the leafy, green lawns behind the city's finest colleges – an experience that offers the best views of the exquisite architecture. Polish off the day with a pint at one of Cambridge’s many rustic pubs. 

People walk by an arcade in in Bath, Somerset, England, United Kingdom

In a nation packed with pretty cities, Bath  stands out as the belle of the ball. Founded by the Romans, who established the spa resort of Aquae Sulis to take advantage of the area’s hot springs , Bath hit its stride in the 18th century, when the rich industrialist Ralph Allen and architects John Wood the Elder and John Wood the Younger oversaw the city’s transformation into a model of Georgian architecture at its most refined . Bath is awash with golden stone townhouses, sweeping green crescents and Palladian mansions, along with appealing pubs and restaurants, and you’ll take great pleasure in plunging in. 

A hiker walking alongside Hadrian’s Wall near Crag Lough in Northumberland, England, UK

5. Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall is one of the country's most dramatic Roman ruins, a 2000-year-old procession of abandoned forts, garrisons, towers and milecastles marching across the wild and lonely landscape of northern England. While the Romans built the fortification to defend and control its territory, this edge-of-empire barrier also symbolized the boundary of civilized order in the ancient world: to the north of the Roman settlement lay the unruly land of the marauding Celts. Near Newcastle  you can visit Segedunum , the wall’s last stronghold, for an insight into life during Roman times.

Planning tip:  Hiking the full 84-mile distance coast to coast along the national trail takes around a week. If you have less time and your own car, you may want to select from a few of the wall's  highlights .

People walking the city walls in York, with a view towards the Gothic Minster

With its Roman and Viking heritage, ancient city walls and maze of cobbled streets, York is a living record of English history. A magnificent circuit of 13th-century walls encloses a medieval spider’s web of “snickelways” (narrow alleys), each one the focus of a ghost story or historical character. At the city’s heart lies the immense, awe-inspiring York Minster , the biggest medieval cathedral in all of northern Europe, and one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in the world. Admire feats of engineering of a more recent vintage at the National Railway Museum , the world’s largest collection of historic locomotives.

York’s long history and rich heritage are woven into virtually every brick and beam, and the modern, tourist-oriented city – with its myriad museums, restaurants, cafes and traditional pubs – is a carefully maintained showcase of that heritage.

Local tip: You’ll find some of the finest views of York from its old city walls, particularly the bucolic section behind the Minster. 

Aerial view of people riding across a viaduct in the Peak District National Park, England, United Kingdom

7. The Peak District

Curiously, you won’t find many peaks in the Peak District . You will find blissful miles of tumbling moorland, plunging valleys, eroded gritstone crags, lush farmland and ancient pocket-sized villages. This beautiful landscape attracts a veritable army of outdoor enthusiasts – cyclists, hikers, cavers and rock climbers – on summer weekends, while those seeking more relaxing enjoyment can admire the rural market and famous puddings of Bakewell, the Victorian pavilions of spa-town Buxton, and the architectural drama of Chatsworth House – the “Palace of the Peak.”

People enjoying the Brighton Pride Parade, Brighton, Sussex, England, United Kingdom

8. Brighton

Barely an hour’s train ride from the capital, the seaside city of Brighton has a quirky character that’s completely its own. Overlooking the English Channel on England’s pebbly south coast, this is a city that's long been known for its oddball, alternative character. The warren of streets known as the Lanes is a good place to soak up the vibe, with vegan cafes, espresso bars, chaotic pubs, record stores and bric-a-brac shops. (Browsers will be in heaven at local institution Snooper’s Paradise .) You'll also find the UK ’s biggest queer scene here, and the region’s best small clubs. The highlight for the sightseeing visitor is the Royal Pavilion , a 19th-century party palace built by the Prince Regent, who kicked off Brighton’s love of the outlandish.

Revellers gather for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom

9. Stonehenge

Mysterious and compelling, Stonehenge is England’s most famous ancient site . Even though people have been drawn to this myth-laden ring of boulders for more than 5000 years, we still don’t know quite why it was built. An ultramodern makeover at the ancient site has brought an impressive visitor center and the closure of an intrusive road (now restored to grassland). The result is a strong sense of historical context, with dignity and mystery returned to an archaeological gem.

Most visitors gaze at the approximately 25-ton stones from behind the perimeter fence, yet with enough planning, you can arrange an early-morning or evening tour and gain access to the inner ring itself. In the slanting sunlight, away from the crowds, it’s an ethereal place. This is an experience that stays with you.

Actors perform pieces of Shakespeare’s plays in his birth house in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, United Kingdom

10. Stratford-upon-Avon

The pretty town of Stratford-upon-Avon is where William Shakespeare was born and later shuffled off this mortal coil. Today, its tight knot of Tudor streets form a living map of Shakespeare’s life. Huge crowds of thespians and theater lovers come to take in a play at the famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre . Bard fans will love visiting the five historic houses owned by Shakespeare and his relatives and  the schoolroom where he was educated, before taking a respectful detour to the old stone church where he was laid to rest.

Buildings along the waterfront by the River Mersey, Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

11. Liverpool

It’s hard not to be infected by Liverpudlians’ love for their hometown. The love endured despite decades of decay and all manner of social ills – finding its expression in a renowned gallows humor and an obsession with football. With some of the most passionate crowds in the country, taking in a game at either Liverpool FC or Everton FC is a rite of passage here.

Outside of the stadium, the rejuvenated waterfront is once again the heart of Liverpool . The focal point is Albert Dock, an iconic docklands flanked by protected buildings, including a batch of top museums. The Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum ensure the good and bad sides of Liverpool’s history are explored in equal measure, while the Tate Liverpool and the Beatles Story museum celebrate popular culture and the city’s most famous musical sons (still).

A group of older walkers on the Cotswold Way near Broadway, England, UK

12. The Cotswolds

A tangle of impossibly quaint villages of rose-clad cottages and honey-colored stone, The Cotswolds  is a region that spreads over six English counties. It’s a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and its most wonderful quality is that no matter where you go or how lost you get, you’ll still end up in a spot with a charming village green, a pub with sloping floors and fine ales, and a view of the lush green hills. Crisscrossed by long-distance trails including the 102-mile Cotswold Way , these gentle yet dramatic hills are perfect for walking, cycling and horse-riding.

Local tip: It’s easy to leave the crowds behind and find your very own slice of medieval England here – and some of the best boutique hotels in the country.

People braving the rain as they attend the Whitby Goth Weekend in Whitby, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom

A little weird, occasionally weather-beaten and all-around wonderful, the classic northern seaside town of Whitby has haunted lanes, fossil-hunting and arguably England’s finest fish-and-chips. The huddle of 18th-century fisher’s cottages along the East Cliff are testament to its longtime role as a busy commercial and fishing port: it was here that 18th-century explorer Captain James Cook earned his sea legs. Atop the West Cliff, a sandy beach, amusement arcades and promenading holidaymakers show Whitby’s beach-resort side.

Keeping a watchful eye over the town and the River Esk that divides it is an atmospheric ruined abbey , the inspiration and setting for part of Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror story Dracula . But tales of witchery and ghostly legends have haunted Whitby ever since Anglo-Saxon St Hilda landed here to found a monastic community in 657 CE.

Planning tip: The town embraces its pseudo-sinister reputation, which culminates in two hugely successful Goth Weekends each year.

Grandparents cross a stream with their grandchildren, Lake District, England, United Kingdom

14. The Lake District

William Wordsworth and his Romantic friends were the first to champion the charms of the Lake District  – and it's not hard to see what stirred them. Already the UK’s most popular national park, the Lake District also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017, in recognition of its long history of hill-farming. But for most people it’s the chance to hike the humpbacked fells and drink in the gorgeous scenery that keeps them returning year after year.

The region is filled with outdoor pursuits, from lake cruises to mountain walks – excursions that help reveal why the region has such deep literary connections. In addition to Wordsworth, writers who found inspiration here include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Arthur Ransome and Beatrix Potter.

People visit the Mediterranean biome at the Eden Project, Cornwall, England, UK

15. The Eden Project

A cross between a lunar landing station and a James Bond villain’s lair, the gigantic hemispherical greenhouses of the Eden Project  have become a symbol of Cornwall ’s renaissance. Built in an abandoned clay pit near St Austell to mark the start of the new millennium, and now considered one of Britain’s modern architectural wonders, the Eden Project aims to explore issues of environment and conservation, and point the way to a cleaner, greener future for us all.

Exhibits cover everything from global warming to rubber production and chocolate-making. The glass-domed “biomes” recreate major world climate systems in microcosm, from the lush jungles of the Amazon rainforest (complete with treetop walkway winding through the canopy) to the olive trees, citrus groves and colorful flowers of the Mediterranean, South Africa and California. It’s incredibly impressive – not to mention educational, and inspiring, too.

A young couple enjoying each others company outdoors in London, England, United Kingdom

Shoulder-deep in history, London ’s rich seams of eye-opening antiquity appear at every turn. The city’s architecture pens a beguiling biography, and a multitude of buildings – the Tower of London , Westminster Abbey , Big Ben – are internationally recognizable landmarks. It’s also a tireless innovator of art and culture, a city of ideas and imagination. This legacy is enshrined at world-class institutions such as the British Museum , Natural History Museum  and the Science Museum , as well as such world-leading art galleries as the  Tate Modern , Tate Britain , the National Gallery  and the recently reopened National Portrait Gallery , all of which are free to visit. 

Local tip:  However you budget your time and money in London, make sure you take in a show. Big names perform on  the West End (London’s equivalent of Broadway), and on the South Bank at the National Theatre  and  the Old Vic . Smaller theaters from the Almeida to the Lyric Hammersmith are places to discover up-an-coming talent.

This article was first published Apr 13, 2021 and updated Feb 26, 2024.

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