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City life in Chelmsford

Marconi statue in Chelmsford

Chelmsford has its very own personality and huge appeal for a compact city just 35 minutes from London. It's known as the birthplace of radio, thanks to its connection with Guglielmo Marconi who opened the world's first wireless factory here in 1899. 

As a student here, it won’t take you long to get used to the friendly, laid-back atmosphere the city exudes. Small enough to never overwhelm but big enough to explore and discover your own highlights, Chelmsford is a city that quickly feels like home.

Chelmsford highlights

One of the best things about Chelmsford is its size. It’s compact, and easy to explore on foot or by bike.

With so much to see and do it can be hard to pick out the highlights, but we think you’ll like:

  • exploring the independent shops and restaurants on Baddow Road and Moulsham Street
  • partying at the annual Fling and Fake music festivals
  • taking in theatre shows, comedy, film and dance at the Civic and Cramphorn theatres
  • indulging your inner gourmet at the weekly food fair on the High Street
  • nosing around the 800-year-old retail market
  • relaxing in open spaces such as Central Park, Hylands Park and Oaklands Park.

Culture and entertainment

Looking for culture and entertainment in Chelmsford? You won't need to look far.

The city hosts an impressive range of events across the year. These include the Fling Festival, Fake Festival, Chelmsford Beer and Cider Festival (so good it happens twice a year), and Essex's very own Oktoberfest. Essex Book Festival also comes to town every year in March.

If theatre is your thing, the Civic and Cramphorn theatres both show a varied programme of theatre, comedy, music, dance and film. They offer student discounts too, so you can enjoy great entertainment for a fraction of the price. You can also enjoy your favourite plays at Hylands House outdoor theatre during the warmer months.

If you're a bit of a thespian yourself, you could think about treading the boards with one of Chelmsford's well-regarded amateur theatre groups, such as Chelmsford Theatre Workshop or Theatre at Baddow.

Film buffs will love the open-air Luna Cinema in summer, which features a fully stocked bar, gourmet food and fantastic movies. The Everyman cinema on Bond Street, with its comfy sofas and at-your-seat food, is another popular choice.

Visit Essex has information about local arts events.


If you’re eager to explore the city by night, you'll find larger clubs such as Bar & Beyond, CTZN and Popworld near the High Street. If you prefer bars to clubs, All Bar One, Banana Tree and Turtle Bay are great places to grab a few drinks with friends.

For music-lovers, Bassment or the Golden Fleece are ideal choices. ABar has a great selection of fizz, cocktails and live music.

Food and drink

Chelmsford is a dream come true for foodies.

You'll find a clutch of indie eateries here, many of them centred around Baddow Road. A Canteen offers delicious fresh food and is a great choice for veggies and vegans; Schwings is the home of tasty gourmet chicken wings; and Moto Pizza offers irresistible bottomless pizza.

There’re also great sandwich delis and market vendors scattered across the city, with Stewart’s Deli & Tearoom, Mrs Lek’s Thai and Pastasciutta being lunchtime favourites. For a quintessential afternoon tea, pop in to Small Talk Tearooms or Tea on the Green for great tea and cake.

All your favourite high-street names are here too, including Wagamama, Byron Burger, Five Guys, Las Iguanas, Turtle Bay, ASK Italian, Bill’s, Yo! Sushi and Nando’s.

If you like to head to the pub for a couple of drinks, you'll find The Wheatsheaf, The Ship, The Plough and The Railway Tavern close to campus. The Wheatsheaf is famous for its pool tables and The Railway Tavern has an extensive array of gins to sample. If you like craft beer, check out The Ale House under the station viaduct.

And finally, don't forget the Gourmet Food Fair on the high street every Friday and Saturday.


Everyone's talking about Bond Street, which is home to a number of big-name stores including John Lewis, Foyles and The White Company. There’s also the well-stocked high street and two shopping arcades, The Meadows and High Chelmer, where you’ll find everything you could possibly want or need.

Baddow Road is home to the majority of independent shops and boutiques. There's also Moulsham Street for quirky shops and cool pubs, and the odd hidden gem tucked away in the side streets so make sure you explore. Right in the centre near the High Chelmer shopping centre is the 800-year-old retail market which is an absolute treat. You can get just about anything at the market which is open Tuesday-Saturday and well worth a look.

Love Local

There are so many reasons to shop, eat, drink and visit locally – here are just a few reminders:

  • be spoilt for choice with unique products
  • enjoy a more personal shopping experience
  • find great deals from local retailers and venues
  • help local people get back on their feet
  • grow the local economy by spending money locally
  • save and create more jobs for your community
  • build a vibrant place to live and visit

Sport and fitness

Whether you just want to have fun and keep fit, or if you're more serious about competing, there's plenty of opportunity to get involved in sport in Chelmsford.

On campus there’s loads of social sport going on every day. You can join turn-up-and-play sessions in football, netball, table tennis, running and much more. There's also a great range of fitness equipment and classes in our gym, The Old Factory. Check out the special membership rates for ARU students.

About ten minutes from campus, Riverside Ice and Leisure Centre is the city's sporting hub with facilities that include swimming pools and an ice rink (where the Chelmsford Chieftains ice hockey team play). You can also take full advantage of Chelmsford’s Sport and Athletics Centre with its athletics facilities, sports hall ad fitness suite – it’s popular with elite athletes and non-professional folk, too.

Alternatively, if being on the water is more your thing Chelmsford has one of the oldest canoe clubs in the country. Established in 1946 it has around 400 members and the team runs introductory courses in the spring and summer for newcomers to give it a try.

It goes without saying that we're a cricket-loving city where Essex County Cricket Club plays its home games. The Essex First Team Squad includes famous names like England Captain Alastair Cook, Graham Napier and Monty Panesar.

On weekends, Chelmsford ParkRun sees hundreds of locals of all different abilities running every Saturday morning at Central Park. And if you really want to test yourself, there's always the Chelmsford Marathon...

Natural Essex

Over 70% of Essex is rural, scenic landscape, so it's really easy to escape to the country.

The areas surrounding Chelmsford feature pastel-washed villages, rich farmland and stunning country parks. Finchingfield, Tillingham, Dedham, Tiptree and Castle Hedingham are just a few of Essex’s famous beauty spots. There are relaxing coastal views too at Clacton, Frinton and Walton-on-the-Naze.

Chelmsford itself is home to Hylands Park, which boasts 574 acres of rolling greenery, and the inter-connecting Admirals Park, Tower Gardens and Central Park, which hug the banks of the River Chelmer.

Visit us in Chelmsford

Interested in discovering Chelmsford for yourself? Come along and explore. We’d love to welcome you to our campus.