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Top 15 things to do in Ipswich, UK

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The oldest English town and located in the county of Suffolk, Ipswich and its waterfront setting has an array of activities to offer daytrippers and tourists, from the magnificent marina views (enjoyed best from the quayside restaurants) to its historic heart full of churches and beautifully preserved old buildings.

Just over an hour by train from London and surrounded by serene Suffolk countryside, here is our guide to the top things to do in Ipswich:

Things to do in Ipswich

1. Christchurch Park and Christchurch Mansion

Could this be one of the prettiest parks in England? Tudor House? Check. Long luscious lawns? Check? Acres of forests and ponds? Check!

You know you are in for a treat when you first arrive at Christchurch Park via the main entrance as you walk along the main drive up to Christchurch Mansion, a 15th Century Tudor manor (free admission). Step back in time as you explore the Victorian quarters, Georgian saloon and Tudor kitchen (very Downton Abbey) – there is also a collection of local art from renowned artists such as Constable and Gainsborough.

Christchurch Mansion. Copyright CK Travels

Christchurch Park itself is around 120 years old and was the first public park in Ipswich, comprising over 30 hectares of parkland, including two ponds, a couple of cafes and an art gallery. In addition, there are moving war memorials set up in memory of those who lost their lives in battle.

Christchurch Park. Copyright CK Travels

2. Ipswich Marina

Home to a swathe of swanky, luxury apartment buildings (with many more to be built from the looks of it), Ipswich has made good use of its historic harbour area, transforming the docks into a destination for waterside bars, restaurants and coffee shops.

Ipswich Marina. Copyright CK Travels

From independents like Grazing Sheep Coffee (very popular) to chain restaurants like Pizza Express, Ipswich Marina is a great place to eat and drink after exploring. The University of Suffolk building here also has an outdoor coffee shop that everyone can use (not just students) and has gorgeous views of the marina – so close to the multi-million pound yachts that you can almost touch them!

Ipswich Marina. Copyright CK Travels

Here, you can also find the former Ipswich Customs House, built in 1845 and now the home to the Ports Authority. Information about Ipswich and its maritime roots can be found on an interpretation panel in front of the Customs House.

Ipswich Customs House. Copyright CK Travels
Ipswich Customs House

3. Cornhill and Ipswich Town Hall / Corn Exchange

Recently celebrating its 150th anniversary, this is one of the most pretty parts of Ipswich Town Centre, particularly when the weekend market is held. Whilst the Town Hall itself inside is more for people utilising council services and not so much a place to visit (unless you want to pay your council tax!), it is very photogenic and an iconic building of Ipswich.

Cornhill and Ipswich Town Hall / Corn Exchange. Copyright CK Travels

A beautifully ornate building on the outside, the rear is home to the Ipswich Corn Exchange, a performing arts and cinema space with Limelight bar.

Cornhill and Ipswich Town Hall / Corn Exchange and fountain. Copyright CK Travels

Whilst here, also check out the impressive Cornhill building and fountains outside – a popular meeting and picnic spot, this is also the gateway to all the shops and malls.

4. Ipswich Town Centre

You’ll find most of the main shops in Ipswich town centre along two parallel streets – Tavern Street and Buttermarket. However, there are so many little side streets and alleyways to explore (often with ornate and beautifully decorated historic black and white timbered or stone buildings) that you should allow yourself at least a couple of hours to explore here, losing yourself in the backstreets and stumbling across new nooks.

Ipswich Town Centre. Copyright CK Travels

5. Arras Square

Arras Square in St Stephen’s Lane is a particularly nice area of the city centre to explore, with several bars and restaurants with a nice outlook to watch the world go by, or sit in the shade of St Stephen’s church. The lanes here have a couple of cafes with outdoor seating areas plus a few vintage stores.

Arras Square Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

6. New Wolsey Theatre and Regent Theatre

On rainy days or if you are a culture vulture or theatre lover, there are a couple of theatres to enjoy live performances at. The New Wolsey Theatre is in the Westgate area of the city and stages mainly locally based productions plus touring comedians.

New Wolsey Theatre. Copyright CK Travels

The Regent Theatre in St Helen’s Street plays host to the larger touring productions of plays, musicals and musical acts, plus puts on an annual Christmas pantomime.

7. Ipswich Market

Located around the Town Hall area in Princes Street, Ipswich Market is a small, traditional market (emphasis on small!) which consists of several stalls. We visited Ipswich Market on a Tuesday so the market might be bigger at the weekends.

There is a fishmongers, fruit and veg and hardware stall along with several craft stalls and a couple of street food joints – definitely not worth a special visit compared to other street markets.

Ipswich Market Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

8. Orwell River Cruise

Based at the far end of Ipswich Marina, this family-run business operates the Lady Orwell cruise boat that runs along the river with trips lasting either 1, 2.5 or 3.5 hours. Set sail and see the picturesque Suffolk scenery contrasted with the constant flow of ships in and out of Felixstowe Port – booking your Orwell River Cruise in advance is recommended.

9. Ipswich Bars and Pubs

As you’d imagine, Ipswich is home to lots of bars and restaurants, particularly the chains in and around the town centre like Wetherspoon and Revolution. However, if you are only in Ipswich for one day or night, we’d recommend you base your drinking around the Ipswich Marina area and try these three bars:

Isaacs on the Quay

Isaacs has the best views of any pub in Ipswich, with million pound vistas of the luxury yachts and apartments located in the marina. With loads of outdoor seating space plus an ample indoor area (plastic domes too), this is a perfect place to sup a pint, enjoy a bit to eat and watch thes sunset over the water.

Isaacs on the Quay pub Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

Briarbank Brewery and taproom

Beer always tastes best at the source – fact. Surprisingly, Ipswich doesn’t seem to have caught on the craft beer boom that much, so Briarbank Brewery is currently the only local brewery and taproom in the area. Handily, it backs onto the marina area and has a huge outdoor seating area. Briarbank’s microbrewery core lines include Imperial Black Horse Stout, a Grapefruit IPA and Perpendicular, a golden yellow ale.

Briarbank Brewery and taproom pub Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

The Lord Nelson Inn

Complete your mini pub crawl at the Lord Nelson Inn, just across the road from Briarbank Brewery (in fact, all three of these pubs are within a two minute walk of each other) . The Lord Nelson Inn is a classic British boozer, with hearty British fare and pub grub, low ceilings and a good selection of ales and beers on draft.

The Lord Nelson Inn pub Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

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10. St Mary-le-Tower

In the heart of Ipswich town centre and what feels like a world away from the busy shops and high street, St Mary-le-Tower is a grade II listed church that dates back to 1200 and has been the town’s civic church ever since. It is a beautiful building to behold and you can take a short stroll around the churchyard gardens too.

St Mary-le-Tower Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

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11. Ipswich FC Football Ground

If you are walking into Ipswich from the train station, likely one of the first big buildings you see as you approach the town centre is the local football ground / soccer stadium, home to Ipswich Town, currently in the UK Football League One, the third tier of the English football playing system.

Ipswich FC Football Ground. Copyright CK Travels

Here, you can get ‘..behind the blues’ and take a tour behind the scenes, exploring the player’s dressing rooms, the trophy cabinet and walk through the tunnels to the hallowed pitch.

Note that at the time of writing (November 2021), the tours were unavailable due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions so please check the Ipswich Town FC website in advance.

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12. Ipswich Museums and Archives

Near to Ipswich Marina, The Hold is Suffolk’s new archive centre (close to the university campus) and hosts collections as well as a cafe with a huge outdoor seating area overlooking the harbour plus an exhibition gallery.

The Hold, Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

Ipswich Museum is free admission (no booking required) and is a treasure trove of local history and artefacts (the Story of Ipswich) as well as a Victorian Natural History Gallery.

13. Cardinal Wolsey Statue

Unveiled in 2011, this bronze statue of Thomas Wolsey attracts many visitors. Wolsey was born in Ipswich in 1472 and was a very powerful figure, rising up the ranks in the time of King Henry VIII in Tudor England. Located in Silent Street in Ipswich (where Wolsey was believed to have grown up), the area immediately around the statue is like stepping back in time, with a row of vintage shops and timbered Tudor buildings dominating the background.

Cardinal Wolsey Statue Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

14. Pickwicks Coffee and Teahouse

Tucked away down Dial Lane in the shadow of St Lawrence church, Pickwicks is Ipswich’s oldest teahouse and offers a range of loose leaf teas, afternoon teas (plus coffee if this isn’t your …ahem…cup of tea …sorry). Cosy and quaint in a gorgeous art deco building, Pickwicks is a great example of a great British tea emporium.

Pickwicks Coffee and Teahouse Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

15. Ipswich Shopping Centres

Finally, you probably won’t have come to Ipswich to solely shop but if you want a bit of retail therapy with your day trip to Ipswich, you’ll find all the main chain stores here from Primark to Marks and Spencer. The two main shopping centres at the Sailmakers Shopping Centre and the ButterMarket Centre; you can also find food courts in both if you want a quick cheap eat.

Sailmakers Shopping Centre Ipswich. Copyright CK Travels

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