Plan Your Day Out In Chelmsford

Shoppers flock to Chelmsford for one of the best retail experiences in Essex. But there's more to this fledgling city than a plethora of places to splash the cash, including 800 years of history, great places to eat and top-class entertainment.

The pedestrianised High Street is lined with branches of national chains, including Debenhams, Marks and Spencer and Primark. In the two main shopping centres, High Chelmer and The Meadows, you'll find many more big-name brands, such as Superdry, River Island, The Body Shop, New Look, Miss Selfridge, Topshop, HMV and Fat Face.

Located next to the High Chelmer shopping centre, the city's covered market has over 50 stalls and kiosks. The wide variety of merchandise on offer includes fresh produce, herbs and spices, garden items and haberdashery. On Thursdays there's an antique, second-hand and bric-a-brac market.

This historic thoroughfare is home to a brilliant selection of independent stores, selling everything from haberdashery to art and antiques. As you window shop, be sure to look up at the handsome architecture, some of which dates to the medieval era.

It may not be as ancient as some of the country's most famous places of worship, but Chelmsford's compact cathedral is still an impressive piece of architecture. The older parts, such as the 15th century chancel, have been skilfully blended with newer development, fixtures and fittings. These include a colourful patchwork tapestry from the 1960s by Beryl Dean, the Bishop's Chair (a contemporary piece by John Skelton) and the magnificent West End organ, installed in 1994 and the first to be built from scratch for an English cathedral in more than 40 years.

From the Story of Chelmsford to interactive displays about local technology pioneers Marconi, Crompton and Hoffmans, there's fascination for all ages in this well-presented museum. It's located in Oaklands Park with displays shared between a former Victorian mansion and an impressive modern extension. On the same site is the Essex Regiment Museum, charting the history of the county regiment from its foundation in 1714.​

The city's art gallery is temporarily housed in the Chelmsford Museum in Oaklands Park. The collection includes works by 20th century painters from Chelmsford and mid-Essex, including the Great Bardfield Artists.

Appropriately situated in the heart of Chelmsford's very own West End, the Civic Theatre and Cramphorn Studio provide the settings for a rich variety of entertainment, including concerts, plays, ballet, pantomime, opera, dance, musicals, comedy, cinema and children's shows.

Catch the latest blockbusters at this eight-screen multiplex, which shows movies in both 2D and 3D and offers a luxury premier seat ticket option. You can also enjoy a pre-movie coffee at Costa or an ice cream at Ben & Jerry's.

Chill out with a stroll along the banks of this historic waterway which connects Chelmsford with the tidal estuary of the River Blackwater at Heybridge Basin. Watch the yachts, cruisers, barges and narrow boats glide along the Navigation against the backdrop of beautiful open countryside.

Chelmsford's award-winning green spaces cater for all kinds of outdoor activities, from picnics to a family kick-around or game of rounders. As its name suggests, Central Park is easily accessible from the city centre and offers riverside walks on the banks of the Can. Oaklands Park covers about 12 acres at the end of Moulsham Street in the city's historic quarter. Hylands Park is most famous as the location of the rocking V festival, but at other times it's a tranquil 574 acres of parkland, ancient woodland, grassland, ponds, lakes and formal gardens.

Throughout the summer, you can watch first-class cricket at the county ground in Chelmsford city centre, close to Central Park. Essex compete in three formats: the fast-paced T20, the One-Day Cup 50-over competition and the County Championship.

Chelmsford has dozens of cafés for a drink and a light bite. You'll find your favourite big-name brands in residence, including Costa and Starbucks, but independent places are also plentiful. In the city centre, there's Stewart's Deli and Tea Room, where the emphasis is on freshly cooked, free-range fare. Along historic Moulsham Street is the Lemon Tree, which offers a varied breakfast, lunch and tea menu, featuring locally sourced and home-made products. There's also the Little Café and Coffee Shop – famous for its traditional pie and mash with gravy or liquor, and the Secret Garden Tea Rooms at Writtle Road Nursery has a courtyard with covered seating, outdoor heaters, blankets and cushions.

If you're in the market for a burger or a burrito, there's a phenomenal choice of take-away options in Chelmsford city centre, including traditional fish and chip shops, delis, sandwich bars and fast food chains. There are also several excellent street food stalls, including Jerk Station, Pastasciutta, and Lek’s Thai in the market, serving up tasty and authentic treats.

As you'd expect from a town that's grown organically into a city, there's a fantastic choice of places to eat out, from gastropubs and bistros to gourmet restaurants and a wide range of ethnic options, including Chinese, Indian, Thai and Mexican. The city centre is chock-full of popular national chains (mostly around the Backnang Square and Gray's Yard areas), including Zizzi, Prezzo, Giraffe, Nando's and Middleton's. For a more independent choice, head for Moulsham Street, Tindal Square and Duke Street. El Chigre is a traditional tapas bar offering an authentic taste of Spain. Set in an alleyway in front of the cathedral, the Wine Cellar is a stylish bistro serving good food with an extensive wine menu. The Bay Horse, reputedly Chelmsford's oldest tavern, has been lovingly restored and renovated to create a top-class dining experience.

Chelmsford also boasts an alcohol-free restaurant and bar; Abstinence, in Duke’s Walk, near the station.

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