Colchester is a patchwork of English history and breaks here are spent exploring and piecing together this intricate and intriguing jigsaw. From Roman and medieval, through Tudor, Stuart, Georgian and Victorian, Britain's oldest town on record has plenty to offer history buffs.
This attractive town also draws the visitor with an eye for all things modern, and there's a vibrant social scene in Colchester that is brimming with events. There are family-friendly activities, such as the zoo, and, at just a few miles from the waterfront at Hythe Quay and only 30 minutes from the seaside resort of Clacton-on-Sea, getting out and about to see the rest of Essex is a pleasure.
Add all of this to a buzzing restaurant and bar scene in the town, plus great shopping, and visitors can be assured of a break with all the right ingredients.
Hotels in Colchester range from budget rooms in B&Bs, to luxury hotels housed in fine historic buildings and good-value modern purpose-built hotels, usually found on the town outskirts. Best Western has hotels in the town as well as Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and Ramada along with the budget brands of Premier Inn and Travelodge.
Stay in the High Street, in Colchester hotels that summon all the charm of their beautiful Tudor and Georgian exteriors and tuck into food dished up by great in-house restaurants, many of which are popular with locals.
It's a fairly small town, so staying anywhere in central Colchester will give you stress-free access to the main attractions. Hotels around Castle Park and Gardens, which sits just north of the town centre, are ideal, as this attractive estate is home to many of Colchester's festivals and concerts, and, of course, the famed Colchester Castle.
For more of a village feel during your break, consider a hotel in Constable Country, in the lovely village of Dedham, which is less than 10 miles to the north of Colchester.
Top five attractions
This is a firm family favourite with hundreds of species to see across 60 acres. Book online before you go to save money on admission.
Re-opening in 2014, the castle is built on ancient Roman ruins and is a striking, and near complete, structure of great historical importance to the area.
Castle Park and Gardens
An oasis alongside the bustling town centre, this Victorian park is home to Colchester's rich heritage, as well as pleasant parkland and family play areas.
A home for contemporary visual arts, this unique and unashamedly conspicuous building is in an area between the castle museum and St Botolph's Priory Ruin.
Layer Marney Tower
Just a short journey out of Colchester, the tower is the tallest Tudor gatehouse in England and was once visited by Henry VIII. The views from the top of the tower are worth the 80ft climb.
Colchester Comedy Festival; April: The inaugural comedy festival was held in 2013 and attracted laughs from Jimmy Carr and many others during 12 days of shows at a variety of venues.
Medieval Festival and Oyster Fayre; June: Celebrate all things medieval in Castle Park and save room for the county's beloved oysters.
Colchester Food and Drink Festival; June: Join the crowds in Castle Park to fill your belly with the finest produce from Colchester and Essex.