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St Edmund and St Edmundsbury Cathedral (c) Martin Pettitt

Ten Things To Love About Bury St Edmunds

The market town of Bury St Edmunds is one of those places that ticks all the right boxes for visitors. It's a beautiful place, with impressive architecture, an interesting history, a lively programme of cultural events and a fine selection of independent shops, restaurants and cafes.
 

And flowers. Flowers are everywhere and Bury St Edmunds is famous for its 'Bury in Bloom' displays, from the pristine Abbey Gardens, to the hanging baskets and pots dotted throughout the town. We invite you to explore this vibrant town and below are ten very good reasons why we think you should...

Bury St Edmunds Abbey (c) Wikimedia CommonsBury St Edmunds Abbey (c) Wikimedia Commons

1 Guided Walks

Take a guided walk to get your bearings if you haven't been before, and hear a potted history before delving a little deeper independently, if you want to find out more. Regular guided walks take place May to September, but there are fortnightly Ghost Walks from Halloween onwards and occasional Winter Warmer Walks too.

Find out more by contacting the Tourist Information Centre on 01284 764667.

2 St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Originating in the 11th century, and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries, St Edmundsbury Cathedral was finally finished this millennium with the addition of a tower, new cloisters and chapels. Its elegant proportions, beautiful ceilings and light and airy interior, make this a tranquil place to sit for a while in quiet contemplation.

Make sure you look up at the gorgeous vaulted ceiling under the tower, which was finished in 2010 and pay a visit to the Discovery Centre to learn about the building's history. Entrance to the cathedral is free and donations are welcome.

3 Abbey Gardens

A visit to Bury St Edmunds would not be complete without a stroll through the Abbey Gardens. Developed on the site of St Edmund's Abbey, one of the largest and most important Benedictine abbeys in medieval England, the six acre gardens are a mix of formal floral displays, intimate garden 'rooms', an aviary, crazy golf, tennis courts, bowling green and children's play area.
 
The abbey ruins are still there, offering an amazing backdrop to this popular and carefully thought out communal space.
 
Bury St Edmunds is famous for being bedecked in blooms during the spring and summer, when there are over 500 hanging baskets and pots throughout the town. This led to a gold medal for 'Best Large Town' in this year's Anglia in Bloom competition as well as two further gold medals for the Abbey Gardens and Nowton Park on the outskirts of town.
St Edmundsbury Cathedral ©Martin PettittSt Edmundsbury Cathedral ©Martin Pettitt

4 Performing Arts

Bury St Edmunds has two major venues for performing arts. The oldest is The Theatre Royal, a Grade I listed playhouse owned by the National Trust.
 
Originally opened in 1819, it's the only surviving example of a Regency theatre in the country and its heritage is of national significance.
 
Theatre director Sir Peter Hall CBE says: “The Georgian theatre was one of the vital periods of our artistic history; and these buildings, with their intimacy and their sense of human proportion are masterpieces. Bury’s Theatre Royal is perhaps even more precious than we think".
 
Guided tours are available or you can explore behind the scenes at a more leisurely pace on your own.

The Apex, in the centre of The Arc shopping area is a modern concert hall, which opened its doors in 2010. This award-wining venue is fast gaining a reputation for its superb acoustics and offers a vibrant mix of classical music, jazz, rock, folk - and just about any other musical genre you can think of - as well as comedy and dance.

 

Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, SuffolkTheatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds ©Rod Edwards

5 Shopping

Bury St Edmunds is a vibrant town with a wide range of independent shops mixed with household names. There's a twice-weekly market (Wednesday and Saturday) and an annual Christmas Fayre, which takes over the town for a long weekend (coming up on 24th-27th November 2016).

Make sure you explore down the side streets, where you will find all sorts of gems tucked away: designer shoes, boutique florists, galleries, shops selling handcrafted goodies, haberdasheries and more. The Arc, just off the centre of town is a new shopping centre with some of the larger chains, designer shops and coffee houses.

 

©The Handmade Shop and Gallery, Bury St Edmunds, SuffolkHandmade items ©The Handmade Shop and Gallery, St John's Street, Bury St Edmunds

6 Moyses Hall Museum

This interesting local history museum is in a lovely medieval building, which dates back to 1180, in the very centre of Bury St Edmunds. It has been a museum since 1899, but before that, the building was used as the local prison and police station. Moyses Hall Museum houses an eclectic collection of items and is host to regular events such as exhibitions, workshops and history talks.  

7 Abbeygate Cinema

The Abbeygate Cinema is a small and charming cinema near the centre of Bury St Edmunds, which offers visitors a slightly different cinema experience. The seating is squishy and spacious, the screening rooms are intimate and the films are a mix of arthouse, independent and mainstream.
 

There is a friendly on-site cafe which specialises in blending flavours from around the world. Vancouver street tacos, sandwiches made with authentic Cuban bread, a variety of differently spiced rice bowls and Vietnamese Banh-Mi are on the menu, as well as homemade cakes, traditional high tea and Sunday brunch.

The Abbegate Cinema also shows performances from the Royal Opera House, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and Metropolitan Opera.

8 The Angel Hotel

Charles Dickens used to stay at The Angel Hotel when he was in town and chose the same room on each occasion. Ask for room 215 and you can sleep in the same four poster bed that Dickens did when he stayed over 150 years ago. The hotel evidently made such an impression on him, that he made mention of it in The Pickwick Papers (1837).
 
Dickens describes the arrival of the main character Samual Pickwick in Bury St Edmunds: “The coach rattled through the well-paved streets of a handsome little town, of thriving and cleanly appearance, and stopped before a large inn situated in a wide open street, nearly facing the old abbey.” 

Today The Angel is a chic boutique hotel, with a stylish interior and a two AA rosette restaurant serving modern British cuisine. Make sure you pop downstairs to the 12th century vault called the Wingspan Bar for cocktails. This quirky bar is built into one of the tunnels that run beneath Bury St Edmunds.

 

The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds (c) Karen RoeThe Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds (c) Karen Roe

9 Festivals

 
Who doesn't love a good festival; a chance to celebrate the very best of the best? Taking place in the spring and summer of next year, we have highlighted three dates for your diary:

 

In May each year, the Bury Art Festival takes place with music, films, theatre and exhibitions in venues across town, as well as in some more unexpected spaces and in the Abbey Gardens. Sign up to receive news of next year's programme, when it becomes available.

A food and drink festival takes place in August with cookery demonstrations, the odd celebrity chef or two, a farmers' market, food stalls, workshops, a fairground and lots of food and drink stalls. The 2017 festival will take place 27th - 28th August.

There's also an annual beer festival, organised by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) which takes place in The Apex. Next year's fest is on 19th - 22nd April 2017.

10 Ickworth House

A few miles outside of town is the Georgian Italianate palace, Ickworth House and park. This lovely old building with its distinctive rotunda has had a lively past, with more than its fair share of scandal and intriguing residents.
 
Today it's owned by the National Trust and the east wing is a luxury hotel. There are many events coming up including Living History events, Torchlight Tours and Christmas workshops.
Ickworth House The National TrustIckworth House, Bury St Edmunds © The National Trust

KNOW SOMETHING WE DON'T?

We have only just scratched the surface with our list and we know there are many more reasons to visit this lovely market town. Let us know which are you favourites via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.