The local area

Explore beyond the campus

Find a course
Two first taking a photo of Colchester town hall

Things to do in Colchester

Sure, we’re Britain’s oldest recorded town, but we’re definitely no old timer.

With everything from arts and culture to water sports, Colchester Zoo, vintage shopping to high tea in country estates, and the hottest gigs to ghost walks - the hardest bit will be fitting it all in.


Explore the local area

History and heritage

  • Colchester Castle and Park - As one of England’s most treasured heritage sites with historical roots dating back to a time when Colchester was the first Roman capital city of Britain, the town’s castle is well worth a visit. Step back in time and explore a rich cultural history of more than 2,500 years through a wide array of interactive displays and exhibits, or take a peaceful walk around the beautiful surrounding landscaped gardens.
  • Historical walks - Simply enjoying a leisurely walk around the centre of Colchester will show you that experiencing the town’s deep historical roots doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Whether you prefer to explore at your own pace, or book a guided tour, The town has plenty of historical hotspots to uncover, from its impressive Roman Walls, to Balkerne Gate and St. Botolph’s Priory ruins, the quaint Dutch quarter, and St John’s Abbey Gatehouse all just a stone’s throw away from one another – you’ll definitely be spoiled for choice. 
Colchester Castle Park)
Colchester Castle Park

Theatres, museums, and galleries

  • Colchester Arts Centre - is home to the weird and the wonderful – Burst into laughter with cutting edge comedies, dance the night away alongside the freshest DJs and musical talents, or wander around exploring the Farmer’s market. All of this and more is waiting for you under one converted church roof in this vibrant venue, central to Colchester. 
  • Mercury Theatre - The most active producing theatre in East Anglia, Mercury Theatre, is nestled right here in the heart of Colchester. With two auditoriums boasting combined seating for more than 580 people, this exciting venue hosts everything from Grease to Macbeth, and how can we forget to mention the good old Christmas Pantomime (He’s behind you!). In addition to regular performances, comedy nights, and dance shows, the theatre also gives you a generous student discount.
  • Firstsite - Be inspired through innovative art and immersive learning opportunities from a real variety of local and regional artists at Colchester’s visual arts gallery, Firstsite. You’ll be spoiled with choice from a wide range of exhibitions, events, workshops, films, and dance screenings to get involved in.

 

Soak up some Colchester culture)
Soak up some Colchester culture

Leisure and fun

  • Colchester Zoo – Take a walk on the wild side and discover 250 species of animal from all around the globe, across 60 acres of parkland, right on your doorstep in one the country’s top 2 zoos. Feed elephants and giraffes, walk through a 24m tunnel as sealions swim overhead, or become a keeper for the day. With so much to see and do, the zoo is one place you will want to come back to over and over.
  • Leisure World – With its iconic flume slides and a 25m fitness pool, Leisure World invites you to come and make a splash at its swimming pool centre.  Ride the outdoor rapids, and have fun in the crazy river, complete with jets, waves, and water cannons.
  • Aqua Springs day spa – Take a break from studying to unwind in the relaxing bubbles of a jacuzzi, the warmth of a steam room, and the relaxing scents of salt inhalation. And maybe you’ll even decide to pamper yourself with a massage, facial, or other beauty treatment? You’ve been studying hard, after all!
  • Roller World - If you love high speed thrill seeking and adrenaline rushes, then Roller World and Quasar is the place for you to let off some steam in your spare time – where else would you find an Olympic standard skating rink under the same roof as a game of laser tag and arcade games galore? 

Restaurants, bars, and nightlife

While Campus boasts its own lively selection of restaurants and bars to keep you entertained between study sessions, sometimes it’s nice to switch up the scenery and head off campus into the main town centre. 

  • Places to eat and drink - Colchester town is full to the brim with eateries and bars including popular chain restaurants alongside quirky independent cafes serving up delicious treats at all hours. There’s plenty of choice on the menu in town with food being served to suit all tastes, budgets, and dietary needs -  from cheap eats and takeaways, to afternoon teas, brunches, buffets, quick snacks, and delicious al a carte meals.  
  • Nightlife - You won’t be short in supply of evening entertainment in Colchester. The town has an abundance of live music venues, bars, night clubs, stages, and sociable hubs to visit whether you’re looking to laugh out loud at stand up comedy, rave with your favourite band, or dance the night away until the early hours of the morning.  
Enjoy a bite to eat in town)
Enjoy a bite to eat in town

Countryside, villages, and natural beauty spots

  • Constable’s Country - Our Colchester Campus is nestled on the edge of the 'Constable Country', home to the rural areas around Dedham and Flatford, that were made famous by artist, John Constable. Why not take in the views of this beauty spot in all its glory by hiring a rowing boat along the River Stour for the afternoon? Dedham has an official status of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and also offers stunning woodland vistas across 40 acres of vines and pastures at its Vale Vineyard, the perfect space for a relaxing walk or cycle ride.
  • Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve -  Essex Wildlife Trust’s first nature reserve and visitor centre sits within the banks of the River Colne, giving you spectacular views of wild species across a diverse collection of natural habitats and terrains, making it well worth the trip.
Colchester countryside)
Colchester countryside

Coastlines, beaches, and water sports

  • Beaches - With more than 350 miles of shore, Essex boasts the longest coastline in the country, and the Colchester Campus is ideally positioned for a day out, filled with adventure and fresh sea air. Head to Clacton-on-Sea or Walton-on-the-Naze for lively beaches and piers packed with activities; or follow the River Colne to the sleepy shore of Brightlingsea for a relaxing stroll.     
  • Mersea Island - Colchester is a gateway to the UK’s most easterly inhabited island, Mersea. The island has two distinct halves, covering roughly seven square miles. Head West for water sports, a shingle beach, and world-famous oysters and seafood; or head East for a peaceful walk among rural farmlands, a country park, and a local wine vineyard.
  • Wivenhoe - The Colchester Campus backs onto the quaint village of Wivenhoe; the ideal location for scenic walks along the quay, a spot of paddle boarding, a browse in the village bookshop, and a hearty pub lunch. 
Colchester coastline)
Colchester coastline

Shopping

Shopping in Colchester town centre

Colchester town centre offers a varied shopping experience, with wide selection of independent shops, nestled alongside department stores and big highstreet brands as well as offering regular market days and plenty of restaurants, bars, and street food vendors. And with good links to shopping centres in Ipswich, Chelmsford, Braintree, London, Lakeside and Bluewater, you’ll be able to shop until you drop while you’re here.

Nearby supermarkets and opening hours
Grab your student card and hit the High street)
Grab your student card and hit the High street
Two girls shopping in Colchester
Fun on and off campus

There's plenty to keep you busy on campus but there's so much to explore and do in the local area too. Colchester is a vibrant town and London is not far away.

Read our student blog
Food shop
“There are all sorts of food festivals and markets running throughout the year, from the Farmers’ Markets, where you’ll find great local produce, to the Oyster Festival and of course the Christmas Fair.” 
Matt