Ipswich town centre is Suffolk’s jewel capital in the south of the region close to Harwich ferry services and the Essex border. Stansted Airport is an easy 50 mile drive away. The town is rich in heritage architecture and features a beautiful historic waterfront around Neptune Marina. Here beautiful old maritime buildings like the Custom House mingle with chic waterfront cafes, hotels and boat cruises. Innovative dance venue – Dance East also sits down on the waterfront. A wide choice of attractions sit around Ipswich including Constable Country just to the south in the Manningtree area, and you are also within an easy drive of the Suffolk Heritage Coast and Colchester just across the Essex border.
History & Things to do
Ipswich contains around 600 listed buildings in the town centre and a superb collection of paintings by Suffolk born artists Gainsborough and Constable are displayed at Christchurch Mansion, a Tudor Manor House on the northern edge of the town. Henry VIII’s Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was born here and the Ancient Monument Wolsey’s Gate is situated near the waterfront. This is all that remains of Wolsey’s planned college in the town which he hoped would rank with the seats of learning at Oxford and Cambridge.
In more recent times famous cartoonist Carl Giles lived and worked in Ipswich. A statue of his memorable ‘Grandma’ character is in town centre at the junction of Queen Street and Princes Street. The mix of modern and ancient architecture in Ipswich is impressive. The 15th century Grade I Listed Ancient House is today a flagship Lakeland store and other architectural gems include the 15th century Pykenham’s Gatehouse and the Unitarian Meeting House. Modern marvels like the Willis Building feature a pioneering energy efficient design.
Ipswich Museum & Art School
Discover some of Suffolk’s great treasures in Ipswich museums and galleries including Anglo-Saxon finds and artefacts from the Iron Age, Roman and Saxon periods. Ipswich Museum digs deep into the town’s past and contains galleries on Natural History, Suffolk Geology and Wildlife. The Ipswich Art School sits just next door and offers a year round programme of changing exhibitions and events. The focus in exhibitions here is on 20th century and contemporary art of national importance.
Christchurch Mansion & Park
The Tudor Christchurch Mansion is free to enter and surrounded by the stunning 65 acre Christchurch Park. The Wolsey Art Gallery inside has paintings by John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. Find it on the northern edge of the town centre just a short walk up from Buttermarket and Cornhill. Essential visiting on the Constable Trail, the gallery’s paintings include some of the artist’s depictions of Dedham Vale and the Stour, an area closest to his heart and where he ‘saw’ paintings before even putting brush to paper. Works by other Suffolk painters, including some who influenced Constable, are also on display.
The mansion is a beautiful historic house and visitors can tour the various period rooms spanning the Tudor, Georgian and Victorian periods. A gift shop well stocked with books, guides, posters and postcards relating to Constable and Gainsborough is within. Christchurch Park around the manor house is the location for many outdoor summer festivals and events.
The spectacular waterfront and Neptune Marina on the River Orwell has a continental feel, and is a short scenic 10 minute stroll from the town centre. With its mix of historic waterfront buildings like the old Custom House dating from 1845 mingle with riverside inns, converted wharf houses now hotels, restaurants and stylish cafes both with alfresco dining in warm weather. Sailing and river boat trips on the Orwell are widely available. Around 400 years ago Bartholmew Gosnold from Otley Hall left Ipswich with settlers to found Jamestown in Virginia America. They represented the very first permanent English-speaking colony in the New World. Other fascinating facts include Admiral Lord Nelson’s period as High Steward of Ipswich, a role he still held when he died at Trafalgar.
Ipswich Theatre & Arts
Ipswich is a premier arts and cultural centre in the East of England. The town contains an impressive selection of theatres including the Regent Theatre, the largest theatre in East Anglia, offering great live comedy shows, classical concerts and more. The New Wolsey Theatre is where to see classic drama plays, great children’s theatre and modern twists on classics. A Cineworld Cinema is at Cardinal Park near the riverside with adjacent parking and a selection restaurants and bars. You will also find the cutting edge DanceEast centre, one of the UK’s leading dance organisations flanking the marina waterfront, offering an eclectic series of performances through the year.
Suffolk’s capital is easily accessed by road, rail and air. London Stansted Airport is just 50 miles away to the west. By road, follow the fast A120 off the M11 towards Colchester, and take the A12 exit to Ipswich. The railway station has fast links to London Stratford and Liverpool Street and various destinations in the wider Suffolk and Norfolk regions.
Where to stay
Town centre accommodation in Ipswich is a great mix of the old and new. Stay in a character old inn with rooms or opt for a brand new waterfront hotel close to business and shopping quarters. Ipswich also offers a great selection of guest houses and Bed & Breakfast accommodation, as well as beautiful Georgian boutique hotels. Browse accommodation choice below for a contemporary apartment in the heart of the town centre with WiFi and short breaks available – ideal for business or leisure stays.