Located in Suffolk, Ipswich is a coastal town with an impressive waterfront, wide-open spaces and plenty of history. Ipswich is one of the oldest inhabited towns in England and is filled with more than 650 listed buildings making it the perfect place for a historical weekend away. The high street is dotted with stunning Victorian buildings, independent stores and quaint cafes. The city is also home to 12 medieval churches.
One of the best ways to take in the city’s history and beauty is from the water on a River Orwell cruise. If a cruise isn’t for you, there are plenty of walkways along its banks under the shade of the trees. Ipswich has an incredible collection of natural and open spaces, the most famous being Christchurch Park. There are also many museums in Ipswich to explore opening up the city’s history and its culture. Here are 20 things to do whilst visiting Ipswich.
- 20 Things To Do In Ipswich (UK)
- 1- Visit Christchurch Mansion
- 2- Wander Around Christchurch Park
- 3- Learn The Ipswich Story At Ipswich Museum
- 4- Step Into The Past At Ipswich Transport Museum
- 5- Wine And Dine On The Waterfront
- 6- Join A Bat Walk At Holywells Park
- 7- Go On A River Orwell Cruise
- 8- See The Animals At Jimmy’s Farm and Wildlife Zoo
- 9- Discover The Secrets Of Ancient House
- 10- See The View From The Willis Building
- 11- Visit St Mary-le-Tower
- 12- See A Show At New Wolsey Theatre
- 13- Watch A Match At Portman Road
- 14- Admire The Giles Statue
- 15- Sutton Hoo
- 16- Eat Local At Suffolk Food Hall
- 17- Wander Around Chantry Park
- 18- Explore Clifford Road Air Raid Shelter Museum
- 19- Visit St Peters by the Waterfront
- 20- Go Skiing At Suffolk Ski Centre
- 20 Things To Do In Ipswich (UK)
20 Things To Do In Ipswich (UK)
1- Visit Christchurch Mansion
Christchurch Mansion is one of the most treasured and important buildings in Suffolk.
The mansion dates back to the Tudor period and has more than 500 years of history.
Constructed on the grounds of the 12th-century Holy Trinity Priory, the mansion was formed after priories in the area were decommissioned.
Felix Cobbold, a member of a property syndicate, bought the mansion in 1894 and gifted it to the city.
Today, the mansion is preserved in its historical style both inside and out, with knowledgeable guides to show you around.
Christchurch Mansion is open Tuesday to Sunday and is free to enter.
Christchurch Mansion is at Soane Street, Ipswich, IP4 2BE.
2- Wander Around Christchurch Park
Following a visit to the historical Christchurch Mansion, head to Christchurch Park behind the mansion.
Christchurch Park was Ipswich’s first public park.
Opened in 1895, it covers 33 acres (13 ha) in the centre of the city.
In 2003, the park was reopened following an extensive restoration project to ensure the future of the park.
Within the park are children’s play areas, an outdoor gym, wooded areas and arboreta.
Entry to Christchurch Park is free, and the park is open every day from 7 am.
Christchurch Park is at 33 Bolton Lane, Ipswich, IP4 2BX.
3- Learn The Ipswich Story At Ipswich Museum
Ransom Engineering built Ipswich Museum in the 1800s and was officially opened in 1881.
The museum features a variety of different galleries and exhibitions.
The Ipswich Story reflects the cities heritage from its days as a wide grassland to its development as a medieval town.
The Victorian Natural History Gallery is filled with gorillas, lions and other wild animals collected during the Victorian era.
Other collections include natural sciences, Egyptology and world cultures.
On display is the death mask of Titos Flavious Demetrios, The Ogilvie Bird Collection and numerous archaeology collections.
Ipswich Museum is free to enter and is open from Tuesday to Sunday.
Ipswich Museum is at High Street, Ipswich, IP1 3QH.
4- Step Into The Past At Ipswich Transport Museum
Ipswich Transport Museum is filled with more than 100 historical vehicles and engineering objects housed in a former trolleybus depot.
The museum shows how transportation used to be throughout the history of the city, and how many important things were designed and made.
A dedicated team of volunteers runs the museum, which has a 50-year history and displays of buses, bicycles, police cars, fire engines and other types of transport from the local area.
Ipswich Transport Museum also houses the Ipswich Engineering Collection which features items from local companies such as Ransomes Sims and Cranes.
Ipswich Transport Museum is at Old Trolleybus Depot, Cobham Road, Ipswich, IP3 9DJ.
5- Wine And Dine On The Waterfront
Ipswich’s Waterfront has been the centre of the city’s business and trade systems since the times of the early Saxon settlers.
The Waterfront is one of the most popular areas of the city and is filled with bars, cafes and bistros.
A magical time is to visit at night when the waterfront is lit up. Head to the waterfront for dinner and drinks on an evening to watch the spectacular sunset.
Festivals held here include PhotoEast and the Ipswich Maritime Festival.
Waterfront is at Neptune Quay, Ipswich, IP4 1QJ.
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6- Join A Bat Walk At Holywells Park
Another of Ipswich’s beautiful parks is Holywells Park, which is close to the heart of the city and its waterfront.
The park’s history dates back to the stone age, with tools from this period being found.
The park is filled with a wealth of wildlife with at least 15 species of mammals living there and four species of bats.
The bats in the park have preferred flight paths crossing the ponds where they can feed on the small insects there.
The park organises regular bat walks in the evenings to encourage visitors to learn more about these incredible creatures.
Holywells Park is at Cliff Lane, Ipswich.
7- Go On A River Orwell Cruise
The River Orwell has numerous cruises on its waters that take in the wildlife and the history of the city and surrounding areas.
Boat tours run for sightseeing trips during the day, but also offer music nights, meals or buffets onboard, and can be hired for private functions.
There are a number of companies who run cruises along the River Orwell, all of which depart from Orwell Quay.
River Orwell Cruise is at Orwell Quay, Ipswich Waterfront, Ipswich, IP3 0BQ.
8- See The Animals At Jimmy’s Farm and Wildlife Zoo
Not far from the centre of Ipswich is Jimmy’s Farm and Wildlife Zoo.
Jimmy Doherty, a regular on British TV hosting shows focusing on farming, wildlife and the countryside, opened his farm and wildlife zoo on land that had previously been an abandoned dairy farm.
There are more than 80 species and breeds of animals within the park from traditional British farm animals to more exotic species including camels and capybara.
Head to the Tropical House which is filled with reptiles and tropical birds, before strolling through the park to meet the friendly raccoons and tapir.
Jimmy’s Farm and Wildlife Zoo is open Wednesday to Sunday.
Jimmy’s Farm and Wildlife Zoo is at Pannington Hall Lane, Ipswich, IP9 2AR.
9- Discover The Secrets Of Ancient House
Also known as Sparrowe’s House, Ancient House is a Grade 1 listed building in the Buttermarket area and the most famous landmark in Ipswich.
It is unclear when the house was actually built, and who by, however, the earliest reference to the house dates back to the 15th century.
Over the centuries, the house has been owned by numerous local merchants including George Copping who was a draper and fishmonger.
Copping purchased the house in 1567 and added the long gallery and panelling along the front of the house.
It is believed that during the 300-year period that the house was owned by the Sparrowe family, King Charles II hid from his enemies in their attic during the Battle of Worcester.
Ancient House is at 30 Butter Market, Ipswich, IP1 1BT.
10- See The View From The Willis Building
Norman Foster-designed Willis building, which was constructed between 1970 and 1975.
The building was designed as the country headquarters for an insurance company.
Despite this corporate task, the building is one of the most important architectural structures within the city.
Willis Building features a glass curtain wall which contrasts well against the older buildings surrounding it.
Despite its use as a headquarters, the roof of the building hosts a restaurant with views over the city, a garden and a swimming pool.
Willis Building is at 15 Friars Street, Ipswich, IP1 1TD.
11- Visit St Mary-le-Tower
Another of Ipswich’s heritage-listed buildings is St Mary-le-Tower, which holds Grade II listed status.
The tower is of particular historical significance as the very first town charter for the city was written in its churchyard in 1200.
The church’s history predates this, however, as an entry in the Domesday Book mentions St Mary-le-Tower, dating it to at least 1086.
Despite the church’s medieval history, much of the church that can be seen today dates from the late 1800s.
Richard Phipson rebuilt much of the church with funding from George Bacon, a local philanthropist.
Phipson’s addition of a stunning Victorian spire has become a key landmark in Ipswich.
St Mary-Le-Tower is at Tower Street, Ipswich, IP1 3BE.
12- See A Show At New Wolsey Theatre
New Wolsey Theatre is a cultural hub where throughout the year, numerous plays, musicals, ballets and more are put on by the theatre.
The theatre features a cosy auditorium with just 400 seats, meaning tickets sell out fast.
As well as performances, the theatre also hosts tours of the theatre, including rare behind the scenes views, as well as post-show talks with the cast, production team and directors of some performances.
New Wolsey Theatre is at Civic Drive, Ipswich, IP1 2AS.
13- Watch A Match At Portman Road
Portman Road has been the home stadium for Ipswich Town Football Club since 1884.
The stadium has a capacity of just over 30,000 and has four separate stands.
The Sir Alf Ramsey Stand and Sir Bobby Robson Stand are both named after influential people to the club and its history.
The Sir Bobby Robson Stand is home to the most vocal of Ipswich Town fans and is exclusively adults only.
While tickets can be purchased for football matches, a more close up view of the stadium is provided through the official club tour.
The tour takes visitors into areas of the grounds that are typically only accessible by players and those working at the club.
Areas accessible on the tours include the dressing rooms and tunnel area.
Portman Road is at Ipswich Town Football Club, Portman Road, Ipswich, IP1 2DA.
14- Admire The Giles Statue
The Giles Statue, known locally as The Grandma Statue, features a popular cartoon family created by Ipswich-based illustrator Carl Giles.
Giles was considered to be Britain’s best-loved cartoonist and had weekly cartoons published in the Daily Express and Sunday Express newspapers.
The statue features bronzes of the fictional Giles Family; Grandma, The Twins, Ralph and Lawrence, and Rush the dog.
The statue was unveiled in 1993, two years before Giles passed away, and depicts Grandma looking up at a window, which is where Giles used to work.
The Giles Statue is at Giles Circus, Queen Street, Ipswich, IP1 1SW.
15- Sutton Hoo
A short drive away from the city is the legendary Sutton Hoo.
The site, which is managed by the National Trust, is the site of two early medieval 6th and 7th-century cemeteries.
The estate includes the Royal Burial Ground and Viewing Tower which are open daily.
On weekends the High Hall exhibition, which features artefacts from the site and information about its history, Tranmer House, a gift shop, second-hand bookshop and cafe are open.
There is no charge to enter the estate, however, only National Trust members can park for free.
Sutton Hoo is at Tranmer House, Woodbridge, IP12 3DJ.
16- Eat Local At Suffolk Food Hall
Suffolk Food Hall is a great day out for the whole family but is also great to pop into to try local delicacies, get some recipe inspiration, or simply for a drink and bite to eat.
Suffolk Food Hall has an incredible number of stalls, stores, cafes, restaurants and more waiting to be explored.
Inside are butchers, bakers and deli counters, as well as greengrocers offering local produce.
The food hall overlooks the Orwell River and has outdoor seating and outdoor activities for children.
Suffolk Food Hall is open all week, with the Cook House Restaurant closing on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Call into the food hall after visiting Jimmy’s Farm and Wildlife Park on your way back to the city, as it is only a 10-minute drive away.
Suffolk Food Hall is at Ipswich, IP9 2AB.
17- Wander Around Chantry Park
Chantry Park is the largest park in the city, stretching for 124 acres (50 ha) of lush parkland and wildlife areas.
Within the park are children’s play areas, large open spaces, a bowling green and the Chantry Walled Garden.
The park has Grade II listed status and contains three more Grade II listed structures; Chantry Mansion, Hadleigh Road Gate Lodge, and Hadleigh Road gates.
Whilst exploring the park be sure to stop by the lily pond and wildlife meadows which make for a peaceful escape following a busy city break.
Chantry Park is at Hadleigh Road, Ipswich.
18- Explore Clifford Road Air Raid Shelter Museum
Clifford Road Air Raid Shelter was lost to history until its discovery in 1989.
The shelter was built during the first three months of WWII and was one of the sturdiest built in the area.
The air-raid shelter’s robust build was part of a campaign by a local politician.
Richard Stokes campaigned for public air-raid shelters to be built underneath Alexandra Park to allow them to be made to a higher and safer standard.
Following the war, all air-raid shelters were sealed and forgotten.
Thanks to Clifford Road Primary School’s efforts to create a small pond for the school in 1989, the entrance to the air-raid shelter was discovered and the shelter itself was in excellent condition.
The shelter now serves as a WWII museum and is open to the public for a small fee.
Clifford Road Air Raid Shelter Museum is at Clifford Road Primary School, Clifford Road, Ipswich, IP4 1PJ.
19- Visit St Peters by the Waterfront
St Peters by the Waterfront has stood for nine centuries.
The church served a large parish during its active years and was frequented by mariners docking in the ports.
Despite its centuries as a functioning church, extensive renovation work was needed which left the church in and out of the hands of numerous people and societies during the 1900s.
Today, thanks to the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust and architect firm Nicholas Jacobs, the church was restored and is now a centre for music and arts.
St Peters by the Waterfront is at St Peters Church, College Street, Ipswich, IP4 1BF.
20- Go Skiing At Suffolk Ski Centre
For something more sporty to do during your stay in Ipswich look no further than Suffolk Ski Centre.
The ski slope is 180m (590ft) in size and is an artificially dry slope.
Suffolk Ski centre offers a number of lessons, instruction and 1:1 coaching, as well as sessions open to those already trained to ski.
On Saturdays, the Ski Centre offers workshops to help build up all skiing levels, as well as a wide range of fun activities for children.
When off the slopes there is a bar and restaurant, mini-golf course, high ropes and a climbing wall.
Suffolk Ski Centre is at Suffolk Leisure Park, Bourne Hill, Wherstead, Ipswich, IP2 8NQ.