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Highlands House Estate Chelmsford

Top places to live in Essex Chelmsford

Great schools, parks and, yes, shopping: Chelmsford remains one of the best places to live in Essex since gaining city status. Here's why. Part of our Top 200 Places to Live series.


Nestled in the heart of Essex, Chelmsford is the county’s only city and, as a result, it offers up a broad, bustling High Street with big-name shops, excellent transport links, hip bars and restaurants, plus a fringe of rolling countryside to boot. In short: it’s a superb all-rounder and one of the best places to live if you want everything on your doorstep (guilty).


With its exposed brickwork, candlelit tables and underground-hideway vibes, you can’t beat The Wine Cellar Bar & Bistro in Duke Street for an intimate dinner and cocktails. A Canteen on New London Road serves up the city’s strongest brunch game (and live jazz performances, come to that), while nearby The New London Restaurant & Lounge is a great independent for fine dining and celebratory afternoon teas. In the centre of town, you’ll also find the usual French fare at Côte Brasserie, burgers at Byron, and contemporary European dishes at Bill’s.


Thanks to the city’s relatively recent addition of Bond Street Chelmsford, you can hit the likes of John Lewis, The White Company, Whistles, L’Occitane, The North Face, Joules and Hotel Chocolat in quick succession. Handily, the central retail hub also houses an Everyman cinema, huge Foyles store and Tiptree tea room for when the shopping stops. But if it’s beautiful bags and stylish accessories you’re after, make a bee line for Muddy Awards Winner 2021, Olivia & Gray.


For outdoor picnic action, most locals head to Hylands Estate – a sprawling grade II*-listed public park complete with an elegant Neo-Classical villa and 574 acres of historic park and woodlands. After something less sedate? Riverside Leisure Centre boasts modern indoor and outdoor pools (with flume), plus an ice rink. The Chelmsford Cathedral and City Museum are also great shouts for a crowd-free affair.


Prices have risen steadily over the past ten years, but they’re still a far cry from the levy placed on most London postcodes. Old Moulsham is one of the city’s buzziest and most sought-after neighbourhoods, just a 10-minute walk from the hub of the High Street. Period homes here range from £300,000 for a two-bed terrace, to £800,000 for a four-bed semi-detached (ouch). Meanwhile, the average price for a detached property in the wider area currently stands at £574,408.


A handsome 6-bedroom New England-style family home within a prestigious and established development, on the market for £1,300,000 with Strutt & Parker


Where to start? Chelmsford is positively packed with some of the country’s top-performing schools, including the impressive New Hall School. And don’t overlook its grammar offerings: Chelmsford County High School for Girls and King Edward VI Grammar School for boys in Broomfield Road. Moulsham High School, Chancellor Park Primary and Perryfields Junior School are also well known for their positive Ofsted reports. Further afield in Uttlesford (a 20-minute spin away in the car), there’s also Felsted School – an independent co-ed that sits in 80 acres of rural rolling countryside and delivers outstanding facilities. St Margaret’s Nursery and Prep in nearby Gosfield is also an excellent private option set in lush, listed parkland.


Paper Mill Lock in Little Baddow and, more specifically, the Tea Rooms’ 50-minute river boat cruise, which meanders at a leisurely pace past the lock’s gaggle of decorative canal boats to reach scenic Baddow Mill pond. A canal-side cake afterwards is, of course, obligatory.


With a very reasonable 35-minute train journey direct into London Liverpool Street, it’s not hard to see why Chelmsford is a commuter hotspot. Living 40 miles out of the capital will cost you, though: annual season tickets with Greater Anglia start from £4,316.

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Cobbled streets, medieval architecture, and thriving independent shops: Thaxted is an under-the-radar Essex gem with great commuter links.


Surrounded by acres of green space, you’d never know this market town is just 17 miles from the capital.


Not just the oldest town in Britain but we reckon one of the best, thanks to good schools, theatres galore, award-winning park, plus its very own zoo, and all within easy reach of both the coast and the capital.


Perfectly placed between Brentwood and Chelmsford, with its own rail station, Ingatestone is the picture-perfect combo of commuter town with a vibrant village feel and oodles of gorgeous indies, including a couple of Muddy Award winners.

Highlands House Estate Chelmsford


Great schools, parks and, yes, shopping: Chelmsford remains one of the best places to live in Essex since gaining city status.

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Yes, immaculate swathes of blonde beach help, but there's a lot more to this upmarket seaside town than ice creams on the prom.


Combining a buzzy cafe culture with Old Town charm, Leigh-on-Sea is one of the county's hippest property hotspots.

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Saffron Walden

Cosy pubs, a medieval market town and more country walks than you can shake a wellie at.

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