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Why you should visit Colchester in Essex

Colchester Castle Credit: Rodger Tamblyn, Colchester City Council
Colchester Castle Credit: Rodger Tamblyn, Colchester City Council

The ancient city of Colchester is well known as the Roman capital of Britannia, yet it has a fascinating history that stretches far beyond that time. Indeed, it was an Iron Age settlement that was ruled by Cuneobelin ‘King of the Britons’ and it was established long before the Romans. Lots of artifacts from this time are on display in the Castle Museum. After the Roman Invasion in AD43 the city was established on the site of Camulodunum. It was burned to the ground by Boudica in 60 CE, but the Roman settlement rose up again.

Boudica was a Celtic queen who is famous for rising up against the Roman occupation. She was the joint ruler of the British Iceni tribe, with her husband, Prasutagus.

Prasutagus had made an agreement with them to remain as ruler of the Icenis, on the condition that on his death the Romans would inherit half of his realm.

However, after his death, the Romans turned on the Icenis, ransacking their lands and goods. They made the Icenis into slaves and had Boudica whipped and her daughters were raped.

She fought at the head of her army, and they destroyed the Roman capital of Colchester and defeated the Roman IX legion.

Boudica was eventually defeated at the Battle of Watling Street.

Wandering around Colchester, visitors can see the remains of buildings from this period including walls and gateways.

Eat and drink

Those in search of good food, will find plenty of top-class establishments in the city. Sip and Tuck on the high street serves an array of tasty brunch delights such as full English meat version and veggie and vegan. There’s also Eggs Benedict, Eggs Royale, Belgian waffles and continental breakfast platter, to whet your appetite.

Old Seige Bar and Brasserie on East Street is the perfect pit stop for a drink and a hearty pub lunch. With its attractive oak panels, fireplaces, and the beautiful stained-glass windows, you can while away a few hours in a cosy setting. Amazingly, the timber frame of the west side and south front of the building contains many bullet holes from fighting during the siege that took place during the reign of Charles I and was part of the war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians.

Finally, Victoria Yum in Red Lion Yard, is a dog friendly bakery which has some delicious things on the menu for your four-legged friends, like vanilla custard brioche and salted caramel brownies.

Great British Life: A view of the lake in Colchester Castle Park Credit: Colchester City Council A view of the lake in Colchester Castle Park Credit: Colchester City Council

Things to do

For some fresh air and pretty surroundings, head to the historic Castle Park. It is a popular place to visit throughout the year, with its walled gardens and lake. Explore the Upper Park and Lower Park with the Roman Wall that crosses through it east to west. It covers 11 hectares with something for everyone including a play park, crazy golf and boating lake plus the bandstand, gardens and museums.

Not to be missed is Colchester Castle itself, where you can embrace the incredible history of the city. The museum contains a wealth of information and there is plenty for visitors young and old including interactive exhibits.

Find out more about wildlife habitats, biodiversity and climate change Colchester’s Natural History Museum.

Keep the cultural flame burning with a trip to Firstsite, which moved to its current location in September 2011. It presents exhibitions from award-winning artists including Gillian Wearing, Grayson Perry, Andy Warhol, Lubaina Himid and Michael Landy.

Colchester Zoo is a home to more than 160 species set in 60 acres of parkland and lakes and a great place to visit for all the family.

Great British Life: Firstsite, a contemporary visual arts organisation Credit: Rodger Tamblyn, Colchester City Council Firstsite, a contemporary visual arts organisation Credit: Rodger Tamblyn, Colchester City Council

Places to stay

Enjoy a relaxing stay at St Nicholas Hotel – Surya Hotels. The tranquil hotel is renowned for its laid-back vibes. The former St Nicholas House and church has been completely refurbished, revealing itself as a stylish 44-bedroom hotel set in the heart of Colchester. After soaking up all that culture, fine food and entertainment, you are sure to have a great night’s sleep.

For a true slice of Colchester history book a stay at the Rose and Crown Hotel. Dating back to 1400AD the hotel has existed in Colchester for more than six centuries. Furthermore, it has survived 18th century fires, the aftershock of an earthquake, and two World Wars.

Guests can now revel in the lovely Tudor beams and luxuriate in this sympathetically restored hotel. There are a variety of rooms available including three rooms with four-poster beds, whilst some have beautiful vaulted ceilings, super-king beds and his-and-her sinks.

Where to shop?

Peruse the shops in Colchester including at Culver Square, Lion Walk Shopping Centre and on the high street.

Culver Square features shops such as flying tiger Copenhagen, Fraser Heart, H&M, HMV, Hotel Chocolat, Pandora, Smiggle, Wildflower Style Boutique. Lion Walk Shopping Centre has Muffin Break, Potato Hut, Danielle Styles, Lids, New Look, River Island, Primark, Victoria Jewellers.

On the high street there is Fenwick, White Stuff, Hobbs, Cheeky Pineapple and The Wedding Shop. Grab some chill time at the Beauty at the Bay in Bergholt Road, which has massages and other therapies available.

 



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