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Top places to live in Essex Colchester

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. Part of our Top 200 Places to Live series.


Sitting pretty on the edge of Constable County, Colchester is within easy reach of Chelmsford and London, as well as the coast and a plethora of gorgeous villages. Brilliant location aside, this historic town has its own many charms, especially for families who want it all (and why not?). From outstanding education and great amenities, to cobbled streets adorned with period houses to a bustling town centre teeming with indie shops and big-name retailers alike.


Gosh, where to start? Set in the heart of Colchester’s cultural quarter and opposite the town’s historic Castle Park gates, you’ll find Sip & Tuck. This cool indie cafe bistro serves up artisan coffees, as well as craft beers, wine and cocktails for special Supper Club soirees. Homed in a handsome townhouse set back from the main shopping fayre is where you’ll find Muddy Award finalist Church Street Tavern. This gorgeous gastropub is both a friendly pub and serious dining room. When it comes to brunch, Small Talk Tearooms in The Lanes is famous for its selection of breakfasts, lunches and freshly baked cakes. Also on The Lanes is the American diner-style (complete with 60s rock’n’roll playing), Shakers Dairy Free, serving up delish vegan milkshakes, food and snacks. If you’re looking for somewhere stunning for a special occasion, head to Wivenhoe House – the Grade II-listed beauty is pure period luxury, coupled with a brasserie that serves strong British fare cleverly fused with modern design.


When it comes to shops, you’ll find big name high street stores, including Fenwick, Waterstones and Next, but if you’re looking for something a bit more indie, head to The Lanes, which give Brighton’s namesake a run for its money, as it’s bursting with indie boutiques. At Wildflower Style boutique you’ll find gorgeous clothes and accessories from Europe and the States. And if you’re looking for something beautiful for the home, spend an hour or so perusing Dear Grace‘s luxe interiors and must-have accessories. After that perfect prezzie? Then check out Bill & Bert’s gift shop, packed to the rafters with cool, quirky and unique finds, including handmade cards, candles and jewellery.


So much choice, but the highlight has to be Castle Park. This Victorian park has impressive historical sites, including the Roman Wall and the Castle itself, which is home to the Hollytrees Museum. But it’s the lush, undulating grounds, complete with bandstand, a fish pond, boating lake, and a brilliant play area that really make this a hotspot for locals and visitors alike. Another popular attraction is, of course, Colchester Zoo; spanning 60 acres of parkland, this Muddy Award Winner 2021 serves up some unique animal encounters for days out. For older folks, the tallest Tudor gatehouse in England, Layer Marney Tower hosts regular guided wildlife walks and open days in which to stroll the perfectly manicured grounds or soak up a slice of Essex history in the sun-dappled courtyard. For culture vultures, there’s Muddy Award winner, The Mercury theatre, plus Awards finalists, Colchester Art Centre and the space-age-looking Firstsite Gallery


The average price of a home in these parts is around £310,000 with flats selling for about £180,000 and terraced houses for £250,000. However, if you’re after a detached period beauty on one of the prestigious roads, the price tag is likely to be over the £1,000,000 mark.


6-bed detached house on the market for £1,125,000 with Bloomfield Grey


Colchester gets a sticky gold star for providing an impressive array of both state schools and private schools, with stand-out schools including Colchester Royal Grammar School, Colchester County High School for Girls, The Gilberd School, Oxford House School, Littlegarth School, St Mary’s School for Girls and nearby St Margaret’s Prep School, part of Muddy’s Best Schools Guide.


Love a literary connection? That nursery rhyme you sang to your littlies, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, was written by Jane Taylor, aged 23, in 1806 in her attic, which still exists in Stockwell Street, Colchester.


With transport links directly to both London and the rest of Essex, commuting is a doddle, with Colchester to Liverpool Street station taking a whisker under 50 minutes. Just remember to add on the season ticket, which will set you back about £5,550.

View the full Top 200 Best Places to Live 

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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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