Places to Visit Colchester

Discover Britain's First City

When you stay at The Lion, Colchester is only around a 15 minute drive away or, if you prefer to explore on two wheels, a scenic hours bike ride away. Colchester has recently gained city status as claims to be Britain’s first city (having previously declared itself ‘Britain’s oldest recorded town’). Needless to say, there is no shortage of places to explore when you visit Colchester and makes it a ‘must visit’ for anyone with an interest in British history.

The History

Colchester is a well-documented Roman settlement and there is plenty of evidence of this occupation throughout the city. Historical tours of the city allow you to discover much of Colchester’s hidden history. Alternatively, a casual walk through Colchester (or Camulodunum ‘The Fortress of the War God Camulos’ as the Romans will have known it) and you can’t help to observe the city’s intriguing history.

Colchester Castle

When delving into Colchester’s rich history, the city’s castle is a fantastic place to start. The castle was built on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius with the castle in its current form dating back from the later part of the 11th century. Today the castle hosts a museum filled with local artefacts and those from across the world. With a plethora of exhibits including those from local Roman history and interactive iPad tours, there is something for all ages at Colchester Castle.

If you are planning a visit to Colchester Castle during your stay at the Lion then we would recommend going in the afternoon when the castle is typically quieter. If you are going as a family you will find some great discounts available on family tickets. The castle is situated in the heart of Colchester town centre so can be explored alongside further sightseeing, shopping and dining.

The Roman Wall

Colchester boasts one of the best examples of a Roman town wall anywhere in Britain with large parts of the wall still standing. Asides from being brilliantly preserved, Colchester’s Roman wall is the earliest, and one of the longest, examples that can found today. The wall surrounded the original Roman city of Camulodunum and, nearly two miles long, the wall once protected the city at around 6 meters high.

Two of the original six gates housed within the wall are still standing today including the Balkerne Gate which was originally the main entrance to the city. The remnants of the Balkerne gate can still be passed through and are situated next to the town’s main theatre and, rather conveniently, the aptly named Hole in the Wall pub.

Colchester Castle
Colchester Roman Wall

Eating & Drinking

Whether you seeking some rapid refreshment after exploring Colchester’s rich history, fancy a quick bite to eat or a full three-course meal there are a wealth of options available to you when you visit Colchester.

Colchester is home to a plethora of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants ensuring that whatever your tastes (or appetite) it is catered for when you visit Britain’s oldest city.

Whatever your culinary desires, Colchester is home to a wealth of independent restaurants alongside many of the country’s most popular chains. If you crave the familiarity of flavours you know and love then you’ll be delighted to see Pizza Express, Turtle Bay, Bill’s & Middletons as well as many more. We would strongly recommend you try some of the most amazing local independent restaurants including the incredible Bella Pais steakhouse (booking is essential), the highly rated Timbers or the quirky Court House.

Of course, you may just need a quick bite to refuel after time spent exploring this historical city. In that case there are plenty of small independent cafes alongside your favourite chains to cater to your needs. There are also plenty of places to grab some classic ‘pub grub’ including the aptly-named Camulodunum on the High Street operated by Greene King situated in nearby Bury St Edmunds.

Exploring Britain’s oldest city is thirsty work so who could resist taking a pitstop for a refreshing drink. Whether you’re craving a nice cold pint, a crisp white wine or a refreshing G&T, there’s a wide range of watering holes to choose from.

Dining in Colchester

The Arts

Colchester has a rich history in the arts and, if you are enjoying an extended stay at the Lion or in the Colchester area then there’s likely to be plenty going on for people of all ages to enjoy.

The town’s main theatre is the Mercury which how paid host to a wealth of famous names from stage and screen including comedians, theatrical shows, musicals and singers. There is always plenty going on at the Mercury so check before you go and maybe take in a show during your stay. Conveniently located in the town centre, there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby to help you make the most of your night at the theatre.

The Mercury Theatre is just one of many places to take in the Arts in Colchester. The Arts centre is a music and comedy venue popular with both a younger crowd and with the Arts scene. Showcasing new and upcoming talent as well as established local artists. Situated in a converted church, the Colchester Arts Centre offers a diverse range of shows and entertainment at an accessible price.

Firstsite is a relatively new venue in Colchester which showcases art and culture from around the world. Focussed on expanding local culture and making art more accessible, particularly to young people. As a venue, Firstsite offers an extensive range of shows, exhibitions and activities for virtually all tastes. Check what is on at Firstsite when you arrange your visit to see what is on.

Colchester Mercury Theatre

Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo is one of the top zoos in the UK. Widely regarded for its extensive conservation work, the zoo is home to over 155 species of animals. Extending over 60 acres of parkland and lakes we would recommend setting a whole day aside to get the most from your trip to Colchester Zoo.

When you visit Colchester Zoo you will find a wide variety of open-air and undercover exhibits allowing you to get the most from your visit whatever the weather. Find out more about the zoo and about their conservation and charity work by visiting the Colchester Zoo website where you can also find detail about opening times and tickets.

Colchester Zoo