Ancient market town Bury St Edmunds is the jewel of West Suffolk with a spectacular cathedral, abbey ruins and gardens situated in the heart of the town. Bury is one of Suffolk’s most popular locations with visitors and has a bustling centre packed with heritage architecture. Great architects have been at work here like Robert Adam who designed the Smiths Row art gallery.
Compact and easily explored on foot, Bury St Edmunds features a central traffic free shopping quarter with award-winning markets, unique boutiques, specialist shops, the funky modern Arc shopping centre, world cuisine restaurants and stylish cafes with alfresco outdoor seating in summer.
Long a site of pilgrimage, the central St Edmundsbury Cathedral is a mix of architectural styles including the most recent Millennium Tower. Around the cathedral sits magnificent Abbey Gardens, a wonderful spot for relaxing with a picnic admiring the floral displays and ancient abbey ruins.
Ample choice of accommodation sits around the town centre, with many Bury St Edmunds B&Bs and boutique hotels architectural jewels in themselves. Choose from Grade listed Georgian B&Bs or historic inns with rooms serving up the town’s own famous Greene King ales. The Greene King brewery is centrally situated and open to the public for brewery tours. Luxury historic bed and breakfast guest houses and hotels from Victorian 5 star B&Bs to medieval or mock Tudor boutique hotels sit in and around Bury St Edmunds’ market town centre, all perfect for that extra special romantic break in Suffolk.
Transport links are excellent, making Bury a great place for car free day trips. Trains from central Bury St Edmunds station run direct to Stansted Airport, Ely, Cambridge, Norwich and Ipswich! The town also offers up a fantastic arts and cultural scene, with premier drama, comedy nights, dance and musical shows featuring year round at the Regency Theatre Royal. Make Suffolk cathedral town Bury St Edmunds your holiday base and find places to stay online now.
St Edmundsbury Cathedral
St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds has been a site of pilgrimage for over 1000 years. The cathedral is a spectacular mix of architecture spanning many periods. The Millennium Tower was completed in 2005 whilst original Abbey ruins from what was one of the mightiest Benedictine monasteries in England at one time include the complete 14th century Great Gate, the west front of the church and a Norman tower. Various ancient ruins off differing time periods are dotted about Abbey Gardens.
The cathedral’s history stretches far back to the founding of the Abbey after the death of Edmund, King of the East Angles who was killed by the Danes in 869. Edmund’s body was brought to what was then Bedericesworth (Bury St Edmunds). The Benedictine Abbey then evolved around Edmund’s shrine and was a major site of pilgrimage for St Edmund who was patron saint of England prior to St George.
The church of St James did not become St Edmundsbury Cathedral until 1914 and since this date the cathedral has seen many modern additions including a new Quire, North Transept and the stunning Millennium Tower. Much of the beautiful stained glass is Victorian. Find out more on one of the regular guided tours available inside. A cathedral shop selling a range of gifts and souvenirs, and The Refectory cafe restaurant serving delicious locally sourced food, drink and a good choice of vegetarian dishes are all onsite.
The cathedral overlooks the extensive Abbey Gardens bordered on the eastern side by the River Lark and entered via the great 14th century gatehouse. Visitors and locals alike naturally gravitate to these central gardens which feature extensive lawned areas dotted with ancient abbey ruins that you can get right up close to. Exquisite floral displays including a rose garden, play areas, crazy golf and a putting green, a wildlife feeding area and an aviary are all within Abbey Gardens, one of the most beautiful town centre green spaces in the country.
Greene King Brewery Tours
The Greene King Westgate Brewery has been brewing exceptional cask ales here in Bury St Edmunds since 1799. Visitors can discover the history of this famous Suffolk brewery at the visitor centre with museum, a shop selling the full range of world famous beers and an Art Deco Brew House.
Guided tours of the Brew House offer a fascinating insight into the brewing process and include taster session plus a trip up to the roof if the weather is favourable for great views of Bury St Edmunds. Greene King are producers of the acclaimed Abbot Ale and Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and more
The Theatre Royal is one of the town’s most famous architectural gems. First opened in 1819, Bury’s beautiful Theatre Royal is the only surviving Regency playhouse in Britain designed by the architect William Wilkins who also designed the National Gallery in London. In recent times the Theatre Royal has been fully restored to its original 1819 glory. Guided tours of this rare Regency survivor are available, or take in a show during your stay. The Theatre Royal offers a year round programme of entertainment including drama, music, dance and comedy nights.
Museums, Galleries & Architecture
The free entry Smiths Row art gallery is where to head for an exciting programme of contemporary and public art exhibitions. The gallery is spread across the first floor of the Georgian Grade I Listed building designed by Robert Adam at The Market Cross, Cornhill in the heart of the town centre. Adam’s design was originally a theatre and the building retains much of its original features including high ceilings, beautiful Georgian arched windows and exterior. A fantastic contemporary craft shop is also within.
Dating from around 1180, Moyse’s Hall Museum is housed within a Norman House, the oldest town house in East Anglia! Exhibits on the famous Victorian melodrama of the Murder in the Red Barn feature inside the museum alongside many unusual objects such as mummified cats and old shoes actually built into the walls of the property to warn off evil spirits.
Other popular museums include The Suffolk Regiment Museum and a wealth of historic buildings are all around you, including the imposing Norman Tower at the foot of Churchgate Street and medieval St Mary’s Church built between 1290 and 1490. The great 15th century porch of the Guildhall sits on Guildhall Street.
Bury St Edmunds Markets & Shopping
Markets have a rich and long history in the town dating back to before the Norman conquest. Award-winning markets today take place around the central Buttermarket and Cornhill areas on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with market stalls selling a range of Suffolk local produce. Find out more at Bury St Edmunds Tourist Information Centre on Angel Hill just opposite the Gatehouse entrance to Abbey Gardens.
The shopping experience in Bury St Edmunds is a great mix of independent specialist shops, unique boutiques and high street favourites. The centre is largely pedestrianised and alongside best markets and quirky independent shops the town now has the funky Arc shopping centre, an innovative open street-scape centre offering both retail and leisure outlets, with ample parking adjacent.
Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.