10 Reasons to Visit Bury St Edmunds in 2020

Discoveries, surprises and beauty in abundance awaits you in historic Bury St Edmunds.

Only 35 minutes from Cambridge, just under an hour from the Suffolk coast and just over 90 minutes from London, where else offers visitors so much in such a perfect location? 

Want to know why there’s no town like Bury St Edmunds for a break? We’ve whittled down the many reasons to these top ten:

1. For Fascinating History

With one of the most important medieval monasteries in Europe and a history linking Saint Edmund, the Magna Carta, Henry VI, Mary Tudor Queen of France, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, you’ll be amazed by Bury St Edmunds’ unique history. 

In 2020, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk will celebrate the founding of the Abbey of St Edmund by King Canute 1000 years ago. A year of celebrations is being coordinated by the Abbey 1000 Group, alongside the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership, with a programme of events including the weekend of St Edmund’s Day on 20 November 2020. 

During a visit take a stroll or guided walk around the ruins in the Abbey Gardens. Visit Suffolk’s only cathedral with its incredible millennial history. Stop by Moyse’s Hall Museum to learn about the local characters and stories of the past. And take time to discover St Mary’s Church, the Angel Hotel, the Athenaeum, the Suffolk Regiment Museum and the historical buildings dotted throughout town.  

At over 800 years old, a visit to  Bury St Edmunds Guildhall is a must when staying in the town. The earliest written reference to the Guildhall dates back to 1279, and after undergoing a 2 million restoration project, it now offers a "travel through time” experience with workshops and exhibitions that tell the untold story of Bury St. Edmunds like no other.

Out of town, West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village delves even further into the area’s history, recreating Anglo-Saxon life. On Saturday 18th January, the village will be celebrating 1600 years since the first English settlement. ‘Our Story: 420-2020 Anglo Saxons at West Stow’ will discuss what the latest archaeological techniques can tell us about life in West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village. There will be a guided tour, illustrated talk and object handling from Anglo-Saxon times. Find out more at

South-west of town, Ickworth House, Park and Gardens, owned by the National Trust, documents this spectacular estate’s tales and origins. Over the next year, Ickworth is set to secure its future thanks to a major new conservation project. Ickworth is embarking on a multi-million pound major conservation project which will undertake renovations to the roof. The iconic Rotunda, the original vision of the Earl Bishop in 1795, has stood proud in the Suffolk countryside for many years. However, like any house, it needs support and protection to make sure it will stand for generations to come.

In the wool town of Lavenham, pay a visit to Lavenham Guildhall National Trust and discover some wonderful stories, character connections and fascinating facts on your journey through the Guildhall's history. Lavenham Guildhall is properly known as the Guildhall of Corpus Christi and is one of the finest timber-framed buildings in England. The building dates from around 1530 built on the back of the boom of the cloth industry in the early 16th Century.

Suffolk's smallest town, Clare also has a fascinating past and is home to a 32.6-acre park which contains the remains of a 13th Century stone castle keep set upon its 70ft high motte overlooking the town, as well as its inner and outer baileys -it’s a beautiful spot for recreation and picnics with Roman, Saxon, Norman connections.

2. For Great British Countryside and Exceptional Parks 

You’ll find exceptional open spaces in and near Bury St Edmunds. The Abbey Gardens are a perennial favourite with locals and visitors, especially in spring and summer when you can expect to see up to 20,000 flowers in bloom in the pristine flowerbeds. 

Nowton Park, with its wild flower meadows, woodland and hornbeam maze is also well worth a visit, along with the wildlife haven of Lackford Lakes, the heath and woods of West Stow Country Park, and the grand neoclassical formal gardens and parkland of Ickworth House, Park and Gardens. 

Enjoy a day out at Brandon Country Park; follow the three nature trails, cycle along forest tracks, enjoy the eight mile Poachers Trail and visit the historic Walled Garden. Children will also love the play areas with climbing frame, assault course, swings and slides.

Beautiful in all seasons but especially spring, Fullers Mill is an enchanting waterside and woodland garden situated on the bank of the River Lark. Boasting an unusual collection of shrubs, perennials and lilies. After a relaxing stroll stop by The Bothy for a cup of tea and a slice of home made cake. 

And of course, Suffolk’s patchwork fields and gentle countryside provide a wealth of choices for excursions, whether you’re picnicking or seeking Sunday lunch in a welcoming country pub. 

3. For Family Fun

Bury St Edmunds is a great destination for all the family. As well as plenty of space to run around, the Abbey Gardens, Nowton Park, West Stow Country Park and Ickworth House and Gardens are all home to large well-equipped play areas.   

Year-round events and activities, including the Whitsun Fayre and Christmas Fayre, give children lots more to see and do. Entertainment is also readily available at the Abbeygate Cinema, Cineworld, the Theatre Royal and The Apex, and kids can burn off their energy at CurveMotion and Planet Laser.

Open on Sundays and with free entry, Bury St Edmunds Guildhall is the oldest surviving Civic Building in the UK! The RAF’s WWII Royal Observer Corps Operations Centre Headquarters room is fully interactive as is the Tudor Kitchen, external courtyards and open gardens, brought to life with live re-enactors and volunteers to guide you around the building on a journey through time.

Melford Hall, High Lodge in Thetford Forest and Family Fun Days at Palace House Newmarket offer further opportunities for fantastic days out. 

4. For Scenic Shopping

Bury St Edmunds is a shopper’s paradise. Home to major names as well as independent stores and boutiques, there’s something for everyone in a mix of attractive historic and contemporary buildings all within easy walking distance of one another. Fashion, gifts, homewares and essentials can all be found here and in the twice-weekly street markets. 

For independent boutiques and homewares, head to St John's Street or take a short walk to the £60 million Arc Shopping Centre on the site of the former cattle market where you will find a range of High Street brands including Debenhams, Next, Joules, Next, River Island and TopShop.

For more information on shopping, check out our 'Shopping Guide'.

5. For Unique Hotels

Want to stay in the same hotel room as Charles Dickens? Book Room 215 at The Angel Hotel, where Dickens stayed in 1859 and 1861. Angelina Jolie was also a guest at this Georgian coaching inn while filming Tomb Raider, and Pierce Brosnan spent his nights here while shooting parts of Tomorrow Never Dies at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath. 

Nearby, Ickworth Hotel is another inimitable choice. This stately home, now owned by the National Trust, was the residence of the Hervey family from 1702 to 1996.

Situated in the heart of the town, The Northgate is a stylish boutique hotel boasting 9 luxurious bedrooms and a Bury's top Cocktail Bar. For a weekend break with friends, why not also book the Chef's Table; where up to 12 guests can watch first-hand a busy kitchen team in action and have the opportunity to choose from a specially prepared tasting menu. 

Just 15 miles outside of Bury St Edmunds you will find the beautiful medieval village of Lavenham. Home to one of the UKs top spas, The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa is a AA 4 Red Star rated hotel with a two rosette Gallery restaurant. The hotel has 45 individually decorated en-suite bedrooms, plus two restaurants (Gallery & Brasserie), a garden, cosy lounges and the famous Airmen's Bar, full of WW2 signatures and memorabilia.  

Golfing fans will love staying at the All Saints Hotel - Located on the outskirts of the historic town, it boasts 41 recently refurbished rooms with en-suite bedrooms, many with panoramic views over our 18-hole Golf Course. During your stay you can enjoy complimentary use of the fully equipped gymnasium, indoor heated pool, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi. 

Located on the edge of Bury St Edmunds, the Dragonfly Hotel has undergone a massive refurbishment and now features newly designed rooms with a modern stylish décor and luxury king-size Hypnos beds made with a blend of natural and sustainable fillings and an intelligent pocket spring system - so after a day of walking, shopping and exploring, you can rest assured you're in for a good night's sleep!

Best Western Priory Hotel is great for a weekend exploring Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding Suffolk countryside; the hotel is home to the new Garden Restaurant and it's dog-friendly too!

With its antique shops, cafes, boutiques, restaurants and Tudor mansions, the village of Long Melford, 25 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, is the perfect place to spend a weekend; The Black Lion is a great place to eat, drink, sleep and relax. With roaring log fires, a restaurant and the warm and cosy drawing room, plus 10 bedrooms including a luxury suite and family room. 

6. For Spooky Experiences

If you love everything ghostly or ghoulish, Bury St Edmunds has plenty of treats. This medieval town is reportedly still haunted by monks, nuns, star-crossed lovers and a cursed cat. Find out more by joining guided ghostly walks which are run throughout autumn and winter – if you dare. 

Click here more information on Bury's spooky past!

7. For Top Entertainment

With the only regency playhouse left in Britain, a visit to Bury St Edmunds provides an exclusive opportunity to enjoy a pre-Victorian theatre at the Theatre Royal. And if you love live music, The Apex is known for its exceptional acoustics. It’s also a great place to watch dance and performing arts performances and enjoy a good laugh at the monthly Fat Cat Comedy Club. There's a stellar line up of stars visiting Bury in 2020 too!

For films, choose between the independent Abbeygate Cinema or the large Cineworld. In May, the Bury Festival brings even further choice to town, with an eclectic programme comprising films, music and theatre. 

Check out our 'Events Guide' for more information on what's on in 2020.

8. For Award-Winning Food & Drink

Bury St Edmunds is Suffolk's Foodie Town; with locally grown high quality produce available on their doorsteps, the restaurants and eateries in town and the surrounding area are proud of their varied and delicious menus. Whether you’re looking for fine dining, contemporary food, hearty fare or international cuisine, you’re spoilt for choice -  in fact there are more than 80 restaurants, eateries and bars within the town!

Using the highest quality local ingredients from suppliers in Suffolk, Ben's Restaurant serves a delicious evening a la carte menu with dishes including Ben's Home Reared Lamb Tikka Cutlet, Pan Roast Fillet of Hake and Ben's Pulled Pork, Mushroom and Truffle Shortcrust Pie.

Voted one of Britain's top 10 fine dining restaurants by TripAdvisor, Maison Bleue offers French fine dining, complimented by an extensive wine list or for something a little less formal, book a table at CASA and enjoy a feast of Tapas and Mezze dishes alongside Mediterranean inspired main courses and desserts. 

Coffee lover? Tea drinker? Cocktail sipper? You’ll find your perfect tipple in the cafés, tea rooms and bars around town. With the Greene King Brewery, Old Cannon microbrewery and more than its fair share of pubs, Bury St Edmunds is also the perfect place for beer drinkers. 

Click here for more food & drink inspiration.

9. For Suffolk Architecture

The medieval wool towns of Lavenham, Clare, Long Melford and Sudbury, with their half-timbered houses, are said to be among the prettiest villages in England. All three can be combined for a wonderful day trip from Bury St Edmunds. 

You may recognise one of Lavenham's most historic buildings for it's magical connections; for it is the home that Harry Potter's house in Godric's Hollow is based on! 

10. To relax and recharge 

If you need a break from the high-speed pace of modern life, a stay in Bury St Edmunds to explore the town and surrounding areas is the ideal antidote. A town best discovered at walking pace, you can step back in time in historic surroundings or take a big breath of fresh air in the parks and surrounding countryside before pampering yourself or enjoying a leisurely afternoon tea at the Angel Hotel. 

You can spend a weekend recharging your batteries with a spa break at Weavers House Spa at The Swan at Lavenham. A '5 bubble spa' featured in the Good Spa Guide, the spa boasts a sauna, steam room, relaxing garden room and outdoor vitality pool on a pretty terrace. Treatments use Temple Spa and Jennifer Young products; and you can add on extra treats like afternoon tea, lunch and Champagne.

The whole family can enjoy a relaxing couple of hours in the pool at Ickworth Hotel & Spa - if you want some 'me time' though, book one of the many treatments on offer or leave the kids at home and indulge with a pamper day or weekend with a loved one or friends.

For a relaxing getaway, Upthorpe Lodges are a collection of eco-friendly, adult only luxury lodges, each with their own hot tub plus Smart TV, large shower and a kingsize bed. Alternatively, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Suffolk countryside with a stay at The Windmill; this adults only boutique bolthole boasts sumptuously soft oversized handmade velvet sofas, piled high with plump cushions, fluffy blankets and cosy throws. In the small hours, head onto the external balcony to take-in the picturesque vistas and delight in the amazing and far reaching views.

For ways to relax and get away from it all in Bury St Edmunds and Beyond, check out our guide or to book a stay take a look at our 'Places to Stay'.