The Abbey Gardens
Photo: Tom Soper
Discover Bury St Edmunds’ incredible heritage, elegant architecture, open spaces and a wealth of entertainment with our pick of the town’s top attractions.
The beautiful Abbey Gardens in the heart of Bury St Edmunds are a place to unwind and relax. Take a stroll around the impressive formal flower beds and pristine lawns. Take in the herb garden, sensory garden, water garden and enjoy the 400 rose bushes in the pretty Appleby Rose Garden, which pays tribute to US servicemen and women in Suffolk.
The play area, aviary, river and open spaces are favourites with families, as is the popular ice cream kiosk.
The commanding 14thcentury Great Gate at the entrance to the Abbey Gardens conjures up Bury St Edmunds’ illustrious history. The ruins of the Abbey of St Edmund, once one of the richest and largest monasteries in Europe, can be found within the Abbey Gardens, giving visitors another tantalising glimpse of Bury's past.
St Edmundsbury Cathedral
Photo: Shawn Pearce
Known as the Parish Church of St James until the 20th century, building began in the late 11th century on the orders of Abbot Anselm, when he was unable to make the pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in Compostela, Spain. St Edmundsbury Cathedral – or The Cathedral Church of St James as it is formally entitled – received its cathedral status in 1914 with the creation of the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. It is the only Cathedral in Suffolk.
An ongoing work through the centuries, St Edmundsbury Cathedral was the only unfinished Anglican cathedral in England until 2010, when the final phases were completed through a millennium project. The Millennium Tower, a resplendent 150-foot Gothic structure, opened in 2005 and a stunning vaulted ceiling was signed off five years later. Book the Tower Tour for a closer look and to take in the impressive views from the roof.
Guided Walking Tours of Bury St Edmunds
Photo; c/o Bury St Edmunds Tour Guides
Uncover scandals, tales and the town’s incredible history with guided tours organised by the Bury St Edmunds Tour Guides.
Lasting 90 minutes, daily scheduled tours are offered from spring through to autumn, departing from the information point on Angel Hill. Led by cheerful local history lovers, the tours explore the Abbey Ruins and the town. Groups can also choose from a ‘Speciality Menu’, which includes their ‘Crime and Punishment’ tour, the ‘Inns and Alehouses’ tour and a fascinating ‘Changing Face of Bury’ tour.
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Photo: Emily Fae
Experience what it was like to go to the theatre in pre-Victorian times at Britain’s last surviving Regency playhouse, the Grade 1 listed Theatre Royal, the country’s third oldest theatre.
The varied programme of drama, dance, music and comedy provides entertainment throughout the year in a charming and intimate setting – and the annual pantomime always attracts a full house.
Built in 1819, the theatre runs under the auspices of the National Trust. There are tour and explore sessions from February to November.
Photo: Shawn Pearce
Brand new exciting acts come to this superb venue in the heart of the town with a diverse range of artists performing everything from classical music to pop, rock, jazz, blues, world, country and folk.
Praised for its architectural design and amazing acoustics, The Apex also plays host dance companies, comedians and speakers who regularly grace the stage, while dance and yoga classes take place in the studios. The café, meanwhile, provides a popular resting spot for shoppers in the surrounding arc shopping centre.
Moyse’s Hall Museum
Photo: Emily Fae
Used as a prison in the 17th century and later as a police station, Moyse's Hall Museum's collection contains displays and artefacts from the Bronze Age, Roman times and Middle Ages as well as changing exhibitions that bring to life Bury St Edmunds’ more recent history.
Dating back to 1180, Moyse’s Hall is testament to the town’s medieval wealth and importance. the building has been the site of a museum since 1899.
Greene King Brewery Tour
Photo: Emily Fae
Beer lovers will enjoy this fantastic ‘behind the scenes’ Greene King brewery tour followed by a tasting session in their popular Beer Café
Greene King has been brewing beer in Bury St Edmunds since 1799, when 19-year-old Benjamin Greene founded Greene’s Brewery. Greene King now runs over 3,000 pubs and bars across the country but the company still brews its beer using traditional methods. Tours run daily.
St Mary’s Church
Photo: Rebecca Austin
Discover the final resting place of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and sister of King Henry VIII after whom the Mary Rose was named, and the renowned magnificent hammer-beam Angel roof at St Mary's Church, a hidden treasure.
St Mary’s claims to be one of the largest parish churches in England, and has the second longest aisle and the largest west window. It contains a wealth of 15th century woodcarving and outstanding examples of stained glass including the Mary Tudor Window, presented by Queen Victoria in memory of Princess Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk.
Bury St Edmunds’ Market
Photo: Emily Fae
Shoppers will love the Bury St Edmunds Market which is as old as the Abbey, and remain one of the most successful traditional street markets in the UK.
On Saturdays and Wednesdays, there are around 80 stalls selling fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, freshly baked bread, flowers, clothes, jewellery, hardware, fabric, pet food and other speciality items. There’s also a great choice of street food, including Thai, Caribbean, hog roasts, and crêpes.
Photo: Emily Fae
A trip to Bury St Edmunds would not be complete without a drink in The Nutshell, one of Britain’s smallest pubs.
Measuring just 15ft by 7ft and with room for up to 20 people standing up (although it may be a squeeze), pints have been pulled in the Nutshell for 150 years. Despite its lack of space, there is still lots to see in this Victorian tavern: the walls are plastered with old photos, banknotes and memorabilia and a mummified black cat, found bricked up in the chimney, hangs suspended from the ceiling.
National Trust Ickworth
Just four miles outside of Bury St Edmunds, The National Trust's Ickworth House, park and gardens offers visitors unmissable neoclassical splendour. Allow a whole day to explore the 18th century Italian-style manor house and gardens or book one of the 27 unique hotel rooms in the East Wing to extend your stay.
Set in 1,800 acres of parkland, Ickworth House was built by Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, who also became the 1st Marquess of Bristol. Hervey commissioned the Italian architect Asprucci to design him a a classical villa, with a flamboyant rotunda at its centre. The wings were designed to house Hervey’s art collection, and today displays the many treasures collected by subsequent generations of the unconventional Hervey family, who lived here until the late 20th century.
Now owned by the National trust, the Marquis’s bed chamber is now one of the rooms in the East Wing offered to overnight visitors, alongside further rooms and apartments in a converted farmhouse on the estate.
Meals and snacks are available in the cafes, and a play area and games add to the fun for children, as do the walking and cycle trails and various events and activities.
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