Colchester is a historic town located in Essex, England. It’s a popular study location for university students, being home to the University of Essex, one of the largest universities in the UK. It’s also home to University Centre Colchester, and both universities attract many students from all over the world.

If you’re looking to study in Colchester, or currently study there and want to find out more about the area, this guide helps you learn more about what it’s like to live in Colchester as a student.

What we’ll cover

Why Colchester is a great place for university students

Home to two universities, Colchester offers a vibrant student community, with 15,000 studying at The University of Essex’s Colchester campus alone. The city also has some very affordable housing options for students, and a great transport system, making it easy to get around and explore.

Accommodation options

Colchester has a wide range of accommodation options for students. There are housing options to suit different budgets, lifestyle preferences and locations. The most common types of student accommodation in Colchester include:

  1. University Halls of Residence: these are traditional dormitory-style accommodation options managed by the University of Essex or University Centre Colchester. They offer a variety of room types, including single and shared rooms, and include communal facilities such as kitchens, lounges, and laundry rooms. University Halls of Residence are a great option for students who are new to Colchester and want to be close to campus and other students. 
  2. Private Houses and Flats: Many students choose to live in shared houses or flats with other students. These accommodation options offer more privacy and independence than university halls. Some will also come with additional responsibilities such as paying bills and cleaning, but several private companies, such as Beyond the Box offer a small one off payment to cover all bills for the duration of your tenancy.
  3. Studio Apartments: For students who prefer more independence and privacy, studio apartments are a great option. They typically come with a private bathroom, kitchen and living area. They tend to be slightly more expensive than shared accommodation options, and are more suitable for students who plan to stay in Colchester for a longer period of time.

Ultimately, the type of student accommodation that is right for you will depend on your budget, lifestyle preferences, and the length of your stay in Colchester. It’s important to research different options and visit the properties before making a decision to ensure it meets your needs.

Food and Shopping

Best places to eat in Colchester

Colchester has a great selection of restaurants, cafes and pubs, offering a variety of cuisines for different budgets. Some of the top-rated restaurants on TripAdvisor include:

  • Rim Jhim Spice: a vibrant Indian restaurant offering a range of traditional and fusion dishes. The staff are warm and friendly, and the atmosphere is great!
  • Seafood at Dawn: if seafood is your thing, then Seafood at Dawn offers everything to satisfy your cravings. It’s rated highly by its customers and has a great variety.
  • Bambu Vietnamese: a fantastic range of delicious Vietnamese food, with a good selection of different dishes. Based in town, it’s also easy to get to. 
  • Turtle Bay: a great place to visit for food and drinks. Turtle Bay has a fantastic choice of Caribbean food, as well as cocktails.
  • Dr Chippy’s: one of the best places to enjoy traditional fish and chips in Colchester, Dr Chippy’s offers dine-in and takeaway options to suit both needs!

Food shopping options

Living as a student in Colchester means having convenience on your doorstep. There are several supermarkets based around town, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose. Several of these are located on the route from town to the University of Essex Colchester Campus, making it easy to grab something to eat on your travels.

Additionally, there are several local markets and street food vendors that offer fresh, locally-sourced produce at affordable prices.

Our Avon Way student accommodation block is just a quick walk down the road from Colchester Hythe Tesco Superstore, and just around the corner from One Stop for your convenience. 

Entertainment and nightlife

Popular music and club venues

Colchester is a lively town with a vibrant nightlife scene. There are plenty of places for students to go and enjoy socialising, dancing, and meeting fellow students. Some of the most popular nightlife venues include:

  • The Silk Road Lounge & Cocktail Bar: if you’re in the mood for a more upscale night out, then this is a great place to visit. The bar offers an extensive selection of drinks and cocktails, which you can enjoy in its chic atmosphere designed with plush seating and dimmed ambient lighting.  
  • Walkabout: the self-confessed ‘home of live sport’, Walkabout offers a great selection of hot foods, cold drinks from beers to cocktails, and of course huge HDTVs with any live sport on at that moment. Walkabout offers a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, alongside space to book parties and events.
  • Trotters Bar & Kitchen: A Colchester favourite, Trotters Bar & Kitchen provides enough food and drink that you never have to leave. They can offer a lovely spot of brunch in the morning, alongside pizza, burgers and other delicious foods throughout the day. It also offers fantastic drinks, from a relaxing cup of coffee to delicious beers and cocktails. The venue is available for booking parties and events, and also offers a takeout service.
  • Roberts Bar & Club: Roberts Bar & Club is one of the most exciting spaces in Colchester, providing 30 years worth of night time entertainment. Beers and cocktails are available from the bar, and their hand-selected DJs will keep you on your feet all night long. The club on the first floor has a huge dancefloor, where the latest dancefloor tracks will keep you and your friends going until the early hours.

Outdoor activities and sports

If you’re living in Colchester you’re never too far away from a great spot to have a fun day out or take part in some social sports. These locations are some of the best Colchester has to offer, and any one of them could be your next regular go to:

  • Colchester Sports Park: Colchester Sports Park was designed to give you the best range of sporting activities possible, with 76 acres worth of indoor and outdoor facilities to take advantage of. The Sports hall offers room for indoor activities like cricket, badminton, table tennis, football, netball and more. The Sports Park also boasts the longest cycle track in the East, alongside a gym, and outdoor pitches for rugby, football and archery.
  • Colchester Zoo: Colchester Zoo is a fantastic day out for visiting friends and family. They look after an incredible number of animals, from elephants to bears, chimpanzees to komodo dragons. For those interested in following an animal-based or environmental career path, the Colchester Zoo offers case studies and animal experiences where you can learn about their conservation efforts.
  • Copford Cricket Club: Interested in cricket? The Copford Cricket Club provides a space for friendly and division games, and becoming a member offers a host of social opportunities around the on-site clubhouse.
  • Colchester School of Gymnastics: The Colchester School of Gymnastics offers a place for people of all ages to learn gymnastics at their own pace. It’s a great way for students to keep fit while learning a new discipline.
  • Colchester Climbing Project: Go bouldering at the Colchester Climbing Project. This space is designed to offer routes from beginner to expert difficulties, and the on-site cafe will keep you energised enough to climb all night. Bouldering is also a fantastic social sport. It can keep you fit and while you create lifelong friendships.

Cultural and historical attractions

Colchester is often considered Britain’s ‘First City’, and as such it has a host of cultural and historical attractions that provide an enjoyable day out as well as an educational experience for any student historians. Here is our list of Colchester’s cultural and historical attractions:

  • Colchester Castle Museum: The Colchester Castle Museum is a great place to spend some time and learn some history. View the stonework of the largest Norman keep in Europe, and enjoy the collection of Celtic coins, Roman statues, civil war armour and medieval paintings on offer. The museum also offers fantastic views of Colchester from its rooftop, and its Roman Vaults house the foundations of the Temple of Claudius. An Escape Room is also available for those who like a challenge, and guided tours can be booked to provide further insight into the castle museum and grounds.
  • The Dutch Quarter: You can find the Dutch Quarter north of Colchester’s High Street. This unique piece of Colchester features a multitude of architectural styles predating the 16th century, and has housed a host of different peoples from different cultures throughout its history.
  • The Roman Circus: Fancy a walk around Britain’s only known Roman Chariot Track? The Roman Circus is open Tuesdays to Fridays, with guided tours available between 12pm and 2pm on those days. If you are a budding historian, consider volunteering at the Colchester Archaeological Trust, which could see you helping at The Roman Circus by maintaining the visitor centre and potentially aiding the archaeological staff in cleaning new discoveries.
  • Hollytrees Museum: Discover what 18th century family life was like at the Hollytrees Museum, a Georgian townhouse that plays host to some unique pieces of Colchester history. Stand outs of the Hollytrees Museum include the Bernard Mason Clock Gallery, The Collections, and of course the beautiful building and grounds themselves.
  • Colchester Town Hall: Opened in 1902, the Colchester Town Hall is still used for a variety of civic duties, including weddings, business meetings and more. The site’s history stems back over 800 years, when it was first used as a meeting point to discuss Colchester and its needs. The building itself features stunning architecture alongside opulent and finely decorated rooms.

Transport and getting around

Colchester is a city that is always looking towards the future, providing a range of public transport services to get its students from A to B while reducing the congestion created by some vehicles.

Travel by Bus

For students living in Colchester, bus services are readily available throughout the city, including directly from our own Avon Way House. Use Traveline or the TravelEssex app to discover the best bus routes for you.

Travel by Rail

Colchester has two main train stations, Colchester North and Colchester Town, each with regular train services running through it. We also have a train station located within a 10 minute walk, Colchester Hythe, which gives you direct travel to either of the main train stations. These trains can help you and any visitors quickly get in and out of Colchester, with links to London and Norwich, as well as the coast.

Travel by Foot

If you’re planning on living in Colchester city, rest assured that a lot of destinations are easily accessible by foot. In fact, to walk from our own Avon Way House to the University of Essex campus only takes around 15 minutes by foot!

Colchester Park and Ride

If you have visitors to the city, consider the option of Park and Ride. This service directs visitors towards parking outside of Colchester city, where a bus will take them the rest of the journey. This helps save on petrol as well as the stress of city driving.

Living in Colchester as a student

As you can see, there are plenty of fantastic reasons to live in Colchester as a student. From the great selection of food and drinks, the vibrant nightlife and the fun and educational activities, Colchester truly has everything a student needs to make the most of their University experience.

Take the plunge today and see what the exciting and beautiful city of Colchester can offer you.

Staying with Beyond The Box Student

Beyond The Box Student’s goal is to provide comfortable and enjoyable living for students at the University of Essex and Colchester City University. Our apartments at Avon Way House are designed to offer relaxed spaces for students to spend time studying and socialising, with quick and easy transport links to get to the campus or into central Colchester itself.

Get in touch with our on-site hospitality team, who can provide you with more information, or if you’re keen to get started in Colchester, view our available rooms today.