This vibrant city is the place to go for culture, live theatre and, of course, some great British seaside attractions that keep people coming back for more

The earliest recorded use of ‘South End’ as a place name is in 1481, where it is given as ‘Sowthende’. There are also mentions in minister’s accounts 1535-36 during the reign of Henry VIII, where there are mentions of several properties in ‘Sothende’ or ‘Southende’, according to Whether you want to enjoy art exhibitions and events at IronWorks or a show at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend always has something going on.

It is home to art community hub Metal, which was founded in 2002 by Jude Kelly CBE. The headquarters are at Chalkwell House within the grounds of Chalkwell Park. They work in partnership with Southend City Council to host the NetPark Wellbeing project and regularly work with local and national arts organisations, community groups and grass-roots collectives.

Great British Life: LuminoCity sees the city light up in the winter months Credit: Southend CouncilLuminoCity sees the city light up in the winter months Credit: Southend Council

Southend is the location for many art events such as Southend City Jam, which features more than 200 local, national and international artists, who transform the city centre and seafront with their amazing art, as well as Southend LuminoCity, which sees the city literally light up in the winter months.

The amusement arcades are a hit with families and there are shrieks of laughter from children enjoying the splash fountains. Even in the winter hardy sea swimmers can be seen in the waters braving the cold.

Southend boasts the longest pier in the world and the refurbished pier train was officially opened by none other than King Charles III and Queen Camilla.

Great British Life: The refurbished pier train was officially opened by King Charles III and Queen Camilla Credit: Southend CouncilThe refurbished pier train was officially opened by King Charles III and Queen Camilla Credit: Southend Council

Food and Drink

Southend has lots of choice when it comes to eating out, from seaside eateries such as Ocean Beach and Oliver’s on the Beach, to tasty dessert parlours like Scoop 37.

Alongside newly launched restaurants, there are some historic dining establishments that have stood the test of time. One such place is Tomassi’s on the high street. Antony and Giovanna Tomassi and the family continue the legacy of their popular Italian restaurant, which has served happy customers for more than 100 years.

Serving up quality fish and chips and other tasty dishes, Sands By the Sea is another Southend stalwart. It is a great setting for some delicious seafood overlooking the picturesque estuary.

Independent cafés include The Remedy Tea Shop on the high street, Café 709 in Southchurch Road and Venecci Licensed Coffee Lounge on Eastern Esplanade.

It is also worth heading to The Arches, where you will find a line of cafés and restaurants situated at Palmeira Avenue which were once fishermen storage units.

Finally, for a fun night out head to The Royal Hotel, which hosts various events throughout the year including comedy and tribute acts.

Great British Life: Chalkwell Park is the perfect place for a relaxing stroll Credit: Southend Council Chalkwell Park is the perfect place for a relaxing stroll Credit: Southend Council

Things to do

At its heart Southend is a tourist seaside town, but the city has many guises, which makes exploring even more fun.

Whether you choose to explore the lovely Southend parks including Southchurch Park, Chalkwell Park and Priory Park, or head to the seaside for a stroll, you can’t fail to admire the beauty of the place.

The esplanade throngs with visitors, especially in the summer months, who flock there to enjoy the arcades and for thrill seeking at Adventure Island.

Another fantastic day out is a visit to Southend Pier which, incredibly, is the longest pier in the world! Why not enjoy a short but thoroughly enjoyable pier train to the end and, if you’re feeling energetic, can stretch your legs on the 20 minute or so walk back. The pier was visited by the popular El Galeon replica Spanish war ship this summer and thousands of visitors flocked to see it up close docked at the end of the pier.

Great British Life: Adventure Island is popular with families all year round Credit: Southend CouncilAdventure Island is popular with families all year round Credit: Southend Council

Places to stay

If you want to make a mini break out of your stay to the city there are some nice places to spend the night.

Seven Hotel is a luxurious residence with metallic details and sea green tones which echo the estuary scenery. Located at 7 Clifton Terrace, all rooms are fitted with 42” flat screen TV and rooms are serviced daily. What’s more, the reception and room service team is available 24 hours a day.

For a pleasant and central location at the heart of the city, the Travelodge is a good bet and offers great value for money.

Holiday Inn Southend is located a short walk from London Southend Airport train station and has a restaurant with panoramic views of planes taking off and landing at the airport.

Park Inn by Radisson Palace offers comfortable rooms with scenic views for people visiting the city.

A little further afield but worth the trek is The Roslin Beach hotel with its stunning luxury interiors and beautiful views over Thorpe Bay.

Camelia Hotel has suites featuring private lounges and sea views. Located at 178 Eastern Esplanade, the hotel’s restaurant offers a wide range of evening menu options and a comprehensive wine list.


Southend is blessed with two big shopping centres, a long high street and areas where you can pick up quirky one-off items.

The high street boasts a range of popular shops including H&M, Marks and Spencer, Bonmarché, Primark, Yours Clothing, The Perfume Shop, The Works, JD Sports, Savers Health & Beauty, River Island, MARCI, WHSmith, Sports Direct and Clarks amongst others.

The Royals Shopping Centre is another popular choice for those in need of a little retail therapy, boasting a Boots, Tesco, TK Maxx, Baggage World, Pandora and more.

Finally, The Victoria Shopping Centre offers visitors to the city a range of stores including Cookies and Cones, H. Samuel, Mossy Shoes, Next, Peacocks, Poundland, Teddy Station as well as many others.

On Southchurch Road and Thorpe Bay Broadway there are plenty of independent retailers, while for unique independents and a laid back-atmosphere head to Leigh Broadway or Hamlet Court Road.