A weekend in Essex: 9 things you need to do

PUBLISHED: 10:41 06 February 2018 | UPDATED: 12:46 06 February 2018

Colchester Castle at sunset © veesaw, Shutterstock

Colchester Castle at sunset © veesaw, Shutterstock


If you’re planning a weekend trip to Essex this handy article will be perfect when you’re looking for things to do. Here’s our comprehensive list of 9 things to do in Essex

1. Colchester Zoo

If you are looking for a fun family day out then Colchester Zoo is the place to go. They have a myriad of exotic animals for you to see from leopards, elephants and penguins to the adorable meerkats and many more. With a mission statement that emphasises the conservation and protection of animals a day spent here promises to be as educational as it is magical.

The Zoo offers an amazing range of Zookeeper experience packs that are ideal for a birthday present or for any budding Zookeepers in the making. When you’re feeling peckish there’s a huge selection of food outlets to choose from all serving a variety of delicious food and drinks. We’d recommend buying your tickets online in advance as opposed to on the gate as you can often save up to 10%.

2. Audley End House

Decadent is the only way to describe this early 17th Century Jacobean palatial mansion. Renowned as one of the finest homes in England it has been changed and reshaped many times over by its different owners. Today, it is only about a third of its original size yet no less impressive to look at or explore.

A visit here can involve anything from guided tours, a leisurely stroll through the interior of the house or its stunning gardens. Or perhaps join in on one of the numerous events such as Christmas carols, historical talks or falconry demonstrations. The entrance fee is just over £16 for adults and £10 for children, alternatively a membership if you purchase an English Heritage Membership your entry is free.

3. Firstsite

For those in search of some art and culture, Firstsite Art Gallery in Colchester is home to some of the most innovative and immersive works the region has to offer. The spectacular golden building – envisioned by world famous architect Rafael Viñoly – is a marvel of modern architecture and incredibly impressive sight to behold.

Visitors can enjoy exhibitions from both local and internationally renowned artists, events, activities and even learning workshops. If walking around the gallery isn’t your cup of tea then Firstsite also shows a variety of films, live opera and ballet screenings. There is also a well stocked gift shop and café selling food and drinks.

4. RHS Garden Hyde Hall

This beautiful garden is filled with an abundance of enchanting flowers and plants making it a wonderful location for a vibrant and colourful meander.

If you have a penchant for exploring, then you’ll just love the seasonal themed events that hosted all year round from pumpkin patches to festive gift fairs and even summer BBQ’s.

5. Lakeside

No one can go to Essex and leave without visiting this spectacular shopping centre. With high street shops selling all the latest fashions and gadgets to designer brands providing high-end couture and goods, Lakeside is a shopper’s paradise. When hunger begins to strike you can take a break from the retail therapy and indulge in one of the many fantastic cafes or restaurants.

Not only is it a shopping centre but it also has a large ice-skating rink during the festive seasons. So strap on your skates, wrap up in your winter scarves and get yourself into the Christmas spirit with a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows.

6. Epping Forest

This area of ancient woodland straddles the border of north-east London and Essex and is the perfect destination if you’re looking to escape the hustle of city life and return to nature. As well as having breathtaking scenery, there are a vast amount of activities to choose from – you can go mountain biking, horse riding and fishing.

Or perhaps take advantage of the 20 miles of surface trails and around 6,000 acres of forest to explore with a romantic stroll. Epping Forest is an oasis of peace and somewhere to go and watch the changing seasons.

7. Clacton-on-Sea

This seaside town offers a traditional British holiday vibe and is the ideal location for a family weekend away or holiday. You can enjoy the sandy beach, play some games at the pleasure pier or catch a show at the Princes or Westcliff theatres. If the sun is shining then make the most of it with a game of golf, water-sports or a pleasure flight!

You’ll find plenty of places to stay from beachside houses, cosy little cottages or even book a caravan at Highfield Grange. A trip to Clacton-on-Sea is sure to be unforgettable for all the family.

8. Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle is the largest Norman Keep in Europe. William the Conqueror ordered the build of the castle, rumoured to be built between 1069 and 1076, but not completed until 1110.

The castle was once used as County Prison, and is rumoured to still be haunted by martyred Quaker prisoner James Parnell... Guided tours and events take place regularly and they have plenty to occupy children as with dress up games and learning workshops. Situated in the centre of Colchester and set in an idyllic park, make sure to take a leisurely stroll and experience more of this historically rich town.

9. Greensted Church

This beautiful church is located in the small village of Greensted-juxta-Ongar. It is the oldest wooden church in the world. It signifies nearly 1,300 years of English history and Christianity.

You can book a tour free of charge, although a donation is optional. Whether visiting for reflection and prayer or just to marvel at the architectural wonder of the church itself you can embrace the beauty around it and enjoy an insightful day out.

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