Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester boasts a mix of contemporary culture and heritage attractions. Here are five gratis trip ideas for groups to choose from.

1. Firstsite Art Gallery

With an impressive architectural exterior, Firstsite is Colchester’s contemporary visual arts organisation. The venue is home to a varied programme of exhibitions, commissions, residencies and screenings.

Firstsite also offers a wide-ranging programme of creative events and activities, including intensive art and craft courses for adults, and special screenings, talks and debates in its state-of-the-art auditorium. 

Firstsite is completely free to enter, but groups should note that some events and activities are subject to a fee.

2. Hollytrees Museum

Situated in Castle Park, three centuries of toys, costume and decorative arts are on display in this 1718 Georgian town house.

The museum has a clock gallery, including examples by almost all the clockmakers who had businesses in Colchester.

 3. The Minories

The Minories Galleries is a professional contemporary art gallery run by Colchester School of Art.

A listed Georgian building, The Minories is of local importance within the historic town of Colchester. The Victor Batte-Lay Foundation, over the years assisted by the ‘Friends of The Minories’ support group, have ensured the building be used to the benefit of the local arts community.

As well as studios for the MA students, the site also houses a public gallery and café surrounded by a walled garden. The Minories is next door to firstsitein the centre of the town’s cultural quarter.

 4. Natural History Museum

Colchester’s Natural History Museum promises an interesting ‘hands-on’ perspective on the local natural environment for groups - from the Ice Age right up to the modern age. You can also explore the garden trail and stag beetle exhibition.

Visitors can see and touch a wide range of live animals every Wednesday during the summer months in Nature’s Theatre. The Discovery Zone boasts a wildlife hide, discovery trolley, trail and microscope to explore nature with.

 5. Castle Park and Gardens

Described as a town centre oasis of horticultural splendour, Castle Park includes a children’s play area, children’s boating lake, cricket ground, traditional cafe, riverside walks, the Hollytrees Museum and a cafe.

The park was opened in 1892 and is designated Grade II on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.

Events run throughout the year in Castle Park including the long-running Kings Coel’s Kittens Fireworks display and the Colchester Food and Drink Festival.

The park is also home to over 600 mature trees, and nature enthusiasts can download a tree trail from the Visit Colchester website.

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