Plan Your Day Out in Southend-On-Sea
Most people still come to Southend-on-Sea to be beside the seaside, but the Blue Flag beaches are just the beginning of the town's attractions. You can also enjoy family fun and entertainment, great shopping, lovely green spaces and interesting local history.
From Debenhams and Dorothy Perkins to ice cream parlours and sweet shops, there's something for everyone in Southend-on-Sea's vibrant main town, which mixes big brand names with a good selection of interesting independent establishments. Most of the major stores are on the pedestrianised High Street or in the Victoria Shopping Centre, which also has cafés and offers free WiFi. Closer to the seafront is the Royals Shopping Centre, which features a range of outlets, including branches of Boots and Debenhams, a Toni and Guy hair salon and a Costa Coffee.
Southend-on-Sea's general market takes place every Thursday on the High Street outside NatWest bank. Goods on offer range from fresh fruit and vegetables to ladies' fashions and children's clothes. For high-quality meat and produce there are traditional farmers' markets on every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month and visiting French, Italian and German markets on selected dates throughout the year.
Central Museum and Planetarium
Superb collections chart life in the town across the ages and the adjacent Planetarium shows you the glory of the cosmos. The building was commissioned by Scottish-born American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who also funded the construction of New York's Carnegie Hall concert venue.
No visitor to Southend should miss taking a ride on this historic funicular railway, opened in 1912. It takes you from Western Esplanade up to Clifton Terrace with spectacular views of the Pier and estuary.
Prittlewell Priory Museum
Explore the fascinating story of this Grade I listed building, from tales of the mysterious Cluniac monks who lived there in the 12th century to the history of the Victorian Scratton family. The excellent visitor centre was completed in 2013 with the aid of lottery money.
Southend Pier Museum
This great little museum brings to life the absorbing history of the longest pleasure pier in the world. It's a burst of nostalgia for older people who spent their childhood summer holidays in Southend, as well as an enlightening experience for the younger generation.
Southchurch Hall Museum
Just a short walk from the seafront and set in lovely gardens, this elegant Tudor mansion shows you a slice of life in the reign of King Henry VIII. The stunning Great Hall is exactly as it was in the 14th century.
Beecroft Art Gallery
This excellent gallery has a permanent collection of over 2,000 works, ranging from the 17th century to the present day, as well as featuring visiting exhibitions throughout the year. The collection includes paintings by Constable, Rossetti and Lear.
Cliffs Pavilion and Palace Theatre
These two popular theatre and concert halls offer a varied programme of events, including drama, musicals, dance, touring West End shows, ballet, live music and comedy.
Focal Point Gallery
South Essex's premier exhibition space for contemporary visual art is also home to a programme of events, including performances, film screenings, talks and educational programmes.
Metal was founded in London in 2002 by Jude Kelly OBE, Southend’s Metal venue is a versatile residency space for contemporary artists in all forms, including painting, sculpture, ceramics and photography.
This is a classic eight-screen multiplex showing all the latest blockbusters and family movies, with special screenings for kids, mothers and babies and over 55s.
Located on the Pier, this purpose-built exhibition and performance space is used for concerts, fairs, arts shows and more. It also houses an artists' studio and café.
Parks and Gardens
For a change of scene, head for one of Southend-on-Sea's delightful parks and gardens where you can relax, play some outdoor games or enjoy a picnic. Priory Park is one of the largest, with a lovely walled garden and a children's play area - in summer you may also find a band playing on the bandstand. Chalkwell Park is a delightful green space with gorgeous ornamental beds, colourful floral displays and a fragrant rose garden.
Located either side of the pier, the UK's No 1 free admission fun park has an array of amazing rides that roll, spin, twist, drop, loop and splash, such as the super-scary Rage rollercoaster with its 75-foot drop and 360-degree barrel roll. There's excitement for all ages, including special Red Band rides for younger children.
Beaches and Seafront
With seven miles of sands there's plenty of places to chill out by the sea, from the lively City and Jubilee Beaches in the resort centre to the quiet seclusion of Bell Wharf Beach at nearby 'Old Leigh'. For a break from swimming and sunbathing, take a walk along the prom to enjoy an ice cream or cold drink from one of the colourful refreshment kiosks.
Sea Life Adventure Aquarium
Get close to some of the world's most amazing sea creatures at the South East's top aquatic attraction. 40 unique displays feature all kinds of global marine life, from sharks to seahorses. There's also the Three Shells café for drinks and snacks.
Southend-on-Sea's amazing pier is well over a mile long, but you don't have to walk to the end to enjoy the stunning views over the Thames Estuary. There's a narrow gauge railway to carry you in comfort from the shore to the pier head. The Royal Pavilion features events, concerts and exhibitions.
Southend Marine Activities Centre
If you fancy learning to sail, windsurf or jetski, this is where all the action is. The centre offers a wide range of watersports courses for both novices and improvers, including kayaking and powerboating.
Cafés, Tea Rooms and Coffee Houses
For morning coffee, a light lunch or afternoon tea, there are plenty of excellent places in the town centre, including branches of national chains such as Costa and Starbucks, rubbing shoulders with welcoming family-run establishments. Alternatively, head for the famous Arches cafés on the Western Esplanade between Southend and Westcliff, where you can enjoy your refreshments with a sea view. The Salt Café in the Royal Pavilion on the pier is another scenic place for a drink and a snack. A short walk from Southend Victoria station is MadHatters Tea Room, serving fine loose-leaf teas, coffees, hot chocolates, freshly-baked traditional cakes and good homemade food.
Restaurants and Pubs
Whatever your taste, whatever your budget, there's an eatery in Southend-on-Sea for you. There are traditional seaside options serving time-honoured British favourites like fish and chips, pies and mixed grills. You can enjoy a wide range of continental fare, from pizza and pasta to authentic Indian curries. Plus, there's plenty of choice for foodies, with bistros and high-end restaurants on the seafront and in the town centre, including Tomassi's, a family-run Italian restaurant that's been operating in the town since 1934. Some establishments have open-air terraces for al fresco eating and Sands on the Western Esplanade offers fine dining with stunning views over the estuary. Several popular pub chains are also present, including J D Wetherspoons, Slug and Lettuce, and O'Neill's.
Food to Go
If you prefer to 'grab and go', Southend-on-Sea also has plenty of fast food outlets serving everything from burgers and fried chicken to sandwiches and wraps. The refreshment kiosks on and around the promenade and pier offer all the usual seaside treats, including sticks of rock, doughnuts and hot dogs.
Bike & Go
Explore Southend-on-Sea at your own pace on two wheels. With our brilliant Bike & Go scheme you can hire a bike to pick up from Southend Victoria station at a fixed daily charge of just £3.80.
Find out what's on in Southend-On-Sea by visiting the official website here.
Where To Stay
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