St Edmundsbury Cathedral Sunset Tom Soper


48 Hours in Historic Bury St Edmunds

With stunning countryside and beautiful parks, 1,000 years of history to discover, amazing retail outlets and fantastic restaurants, eateries and unique places to stay mean that you are sure to fall in love with this charming historical town.

If you do only have a weekend and are worried about all the things you might miss – don’t panic! We’ve put together a jam-packed 2-day itinerary of all the things you can manage to accomplish and visit on a short break which means you’ll catch the very best that the town has to offer and have a very active couple of days too.


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The Abbey Ruins pictured from the wildflower labyrinth with St Edmundsbury Cathedral behind. Photo: Rebecca Austin

Start the day exploring the stunning Abbey Gardens which are situated on the site of a former Benedictine Abbey.

Before you go through the Abbey gate into the internationally-renowned gardens, spent a moment taking in Angel Hill. You'll see the 'Pillar of Salt', a Grade II listed road sign thought to be the first internally illuminated road sign in the country. It was designed by Basil Oliver, architect to Bury St Edmunds Town Council in 1935, and had to be granted special permission because the height of the letters and numbers did not conform to regulations.

To your right you will see the imposing building of The Athenaeum; Purpose-built in the early 18th century as Assembly Rooms where the locals could gather to play cards, read books, attend parties and generally have a good time; not that different from its use today! It was re-named The Athenaeum in 1854 and is a Grade I listed building comprising a number or grand rooms including the ornate Georgian Ballroom with its chandeliered ceiling and a domed observatory on the roof, containing a telescope.

Next door is the ivy-clad Angel Hotel.

Sprawled across 14 acres and internationally renowned for both the colourful gardens and the abbey wall which runs from the 13th century Abbot’s Bridge to St Edmundsbury Cathedral. The Abbey of St Edmund ruins are extensive and it’s worth catching as much of the site as you can – particularly the complete 14th century Great Gate, the ruins and west front of the immense church and ‘Our Liberty’; a memorial to the Magna Carta which is nestled in the gardens.

Widely recognised as one of the most important documents in the world the Magna Carta owes its creation to a crucial role that Bury St Edmunds played.

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Bury St Edmunds Tour Guides offer 90-minute walking tours daily

Join the fascinating walking tour with Bury St Edmunds Tour Guides (these run daily at 11am from April - October and last 90 minutes) and discover secrets, stories and scandals from the towns history - revealed by your tour guide who will lead you around some of the ancient streets and also take in St Edmundsbury Cathedral which has been a site of worship and pilgrimage for over 1,000 years.

Make sure you stop by the churchyard and take your camera; here you will find a statue of a young St Edmund which has been lovingly sculpted by Dame Elisabeth Frink, perfect for a photo souvenir!

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Greene King Brewery Tour. Photo: Emily Fae

Now that you've walked up an appetite, visit one of the many eateries in Bury St Edmunds, known as Suffolk's Foodie Capital for lunch.

Bury St Edmunds is the historical home of Greene King.

The brewery has a fascinating history going all the way back to 1086, when monks would brew ale on the site of the Great Abbey using water from Bury’s chalk wells which are still used today.

The historic Westgate brewery since was established in 1799, using local malted barley, and water from the 1,000 year old chalk wells in all of their famous brews. You can find their beers in the traditional pubs that Greene King runs in and around East Anglia, as well as in many of their pubs, restaurants and hotels in cities, towns and villages located across the UK.

This afternoon you can take a Greene King Brewery Tour to see how the famous firm make real beer using traditional brewing methods and natural ingredients and the tour even visits the rooftop of the brew house which offers one of the best views over Bury St Edmunds! Before you leave you can choose a bottle of beer to take home to remember your day or stay for a free pint.

After you have finished the tour, head back to the centre of town to explore the 200 stores that line the picturesque medieval streets, and elegant Georgian squares. As well as favourite High Street brands, Bury St Edmunds has a host of independent and individual shops that you won't find anywhere else.

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Photo: Emily Fae

Enjoy a pre-dinner drink in The Nutshell, the UK's smallest purpose-built pub for a pint or two; serving some of the region's finest ales, in one of the most unique pubs you may ever a experience.

With a bar that measures just 15ft by 7ft, The Nutshell is in the Guinness Book of Records. Located in the heart of the town, The Nutshell has been proud to serve customers jostling for a place at the bar since it first started serving beer in 1867.

It is a bar full of historical items, photos and memorabilia. From a mummified cat and currency notes on the ceiling to historical photos, military items and a plane propeller on the walls there is much to view and talk about while you enjoy a drink. If you want to hear about The Nutshell's ghost stories then be sure to book a Ghostly and Macabre Walking Tour between October and March.

Then head to one of Bury St Edmunds award-winning restaurants for dinner.


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The majestic St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Photo: Mina Girgis

After a hearty breakfast at one of Bury St Edmunds fantastic eateries, head to St Edmundsbury Cathedral for a tour at 11am (except Sundays).

The death of Edmund, King of the East Angles, at the hands of the Danes in 869 led to the building of an abbey to house his remains. St James’s Church was built within the precincts of the Abbey, becoming a Cathedral in 1914. The Cathedral building has continued to develop over recent years with the addition of the Millennium Tower, completed in 2005, and its magnificent painted and gilded vault, added in 2010. In 2009 the Cathedral changed its dedication to become the Cathedral Church of St James and St Edmund.

Your Cathedral Tour will last around an hour and your guide will take you through the history of our building, from its link to the Abbey, to the Cathedral's modern-day additions.

You can also take a Tower Tour on Wednesdays (at 2pm) and Saturdays (at 10.30am) from March to October. Experience the Cathedral from on high! A Tower Tour is an 85 minute tour that includes a great history of the Millennium Project, which saw the building of the Tower and vault (completed in 2010).

If a tour is not your thing then visitors are welcome to look around the Cathedral on their own. Entry is free but donations gratefully received. A free introductory leaflet is available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, and Polish. Visitors are most welcome to attend any of the daily services.

Stop by the Cathedral Shop for souvenirs and a selection of gifts and homewares from Gisela Graham to Churchill china as well as cards for all occasions.

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St Mary's Church

After you've visited the majestic St Edmundsbury Cathedral, it's time to visit the Queen of France. Yes, in Bury St Edmunds.

Queen of France Mary Tudor, favourite sister of Henry VIII, is buried in St Mary's Church next to St Edmundsbury Cathedral. It is the civic church of the town and one of the largest parish churches in England. The present church is the second building to stand on the site, the first being built in the 12th century, and boasts the second longest aisle, and the largest West Window of any parish church in the country.

There are 198 carved and coloured bosses in the Chancel roof, subjects include the Lancastrian chained swan, animals and a variety of beasts, human and grotesque faces, leaves and flowers. The pew hassocks have been embroidered using several of these images.

If you spend a little time inside the church wandering and reading about the history of the building, you’ll come across Mary's understated tomb in the sanctuary directly to the north of the Lord's table. At the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539 the tomb and body of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk, were transferred to the sanctuary in St Mary’s. One of the windows in the south chapel depicts the main events from Mary’s life.

Also take time to visit The Royal Anglian Regimental Chapel. Built in 1457, at the cost of Jankyn Smyth, the chapel became the Suffolk Regimental Chapel in 1935. In September 2009 the chapel was rededicated to the Royal Anglian Regiment. if you would like to know more about the Suffolk Regiment visit the Suffolk Regiment Museum, just outside the town centre,

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Moyse's Hall Museum. Photo: Sue Warren

After stopping for a quick bite, spend your afternoon discovering Moyse’s Hall Museum. Steeped in history, the museum has looked out over Bury St Edmunds' market place for almost 900 years. The landmark 12th Century building’s rich and varied past has included serving as the town's Bridewell, workhouse, and police station, first opening as a museum in 1899.

Today, the museum offers a fascinating view into the past with collections that document the foundation of the early town – from the creation and dissolution of the abbey, to prison paraphernalia and artefacts providing intriguing insights into superstition and witchcraft.

There you go – two full-on days enjoying the very best that Bury St Edmunds has to offer! We guarantee that you’ll have loved every minute and as you head home will already be planning your next visit here.

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Want to Squeeze some more history into your stay?

If you want to extend your stay or pack more into your 48 hours then history buffs will also enjoy:

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds was designed and built in 1819 by William Wilkins. With many of its original features still intact, it is a superb example of a Regency playhouse and one of the most beautiful, intimate and historic theatres in the world.

You can enjoy a tour of the theatre and there's a fabulous programme of musicals, plays, children's theatre, concerts, comedians and much more.

Suffolk Regiment Museum

The Suffolk Regiment Museum was established for the 250th Anniversary of the Regiment in 1935. The first acquisitions were items which belonged to even older collections of badges, medals and uniform items which had been displayed in the Officers’ Mess since before The Great War. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the Museum was a working museum in which Suffolk Regiment recruits would go to learn the history of their Regiment. The displays tell the story of the regiment from its foundation in 1685 to amalgamation with the Royal Norfolk Regiment in 1959.

Bury St Edmunds Guildhall

Dating back to 1279, Bury St Edmunds Guildhall is the oldest continuously-used civic building in Britain and proudly boasts a World War Two Royal Observer Corps Control Centre – the only surviving room of its kind in the country.

The Guildhall presents the history of the unique principal rooms (The Court Room and Banqueting Hall), the RAF’s WWII Royal Observer Corps Operations Centre Headquarters room, the Tudor Kitchen, the external courtyards and open gardens, through displays and collections, with live re-enactors in the Ops Room (open on selected Sundays once a month). You can also book a private guided tour through their website.

Rougham Control Tower Aviation Museum

The award-winning Rougham Control Tower Aviation Museum is dedicated to preserving the memory of all who served with the 8th USAAF at RAF Bury St Edmunds during WW2, housed in the original control tower and other period buildings.

Uncover the history of the men and women who served here and how they fit into the story of The Mighty Eighth that will be told in a new 9-part Apple TV+ series Masters of The Air, starring Austin Butler in January 2024. Bury St Edmunds was home for thousands of American airmen and women during WWII and a visit to Rougham Control Tower Aviation Museum is like taking a trip back in time. Full of artefacts, maps, photo's, aircraft relics and memorabilia. Friendly guided tours and a welcoming Vintage Tea Room with home made cakes and refreshments.

Why not stay longer and book a stay in Bury St Edmunds & Beyond! Take a look at our 'Places to Stay' guide!

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