9 Best Sights in Bury St. Edmunds, East Anglia

Angel Hill

A walk here is a journey through the history of Bury St. Edmunds. Along one side, the Abbey Gate, Norman Gate Tower, and St. Mary's Church make up a continuous display of medieval architecture. Elegant Georgian houses line Angel Hill on the side opposite St. Mary's Church; these include the Athenaeum, an 18th-century social and cultural meeting place that has a fine Adam-style ballroom.

Angel Hill, Bury St. Edmunds, England

Angel Hotel

This splendid, ivy-clad hotel was the location for Sam Weller's meeting with Job Trotter in Dickens's The Pickwick Papers. Dickens himself stayed here while he was giving readings at the nearby Athenaeum Hall. Now it's a great place to stop for lunch or afternoon tea.

Bury St. Edmunds Abbey

These scattered ruins are all that remain of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, which fell during Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. The Benedictine abbey's enormous scale is still evident in the surviving Norman Gate Tower on Angel Hill (incongruously, but quite appealingly, overlooked by a row of Georgian houses). Besides this, only the fortified Abbot's Bridge over the River Lark and a few ruins are left standing. There are explanatory plaques amid the ruins, which are now the site of the Abbey Botanical Gardens, with roses, elegant hedges, and rare trees, including a Chinese tree of heaven planted in the 1830s. There's also an aviary and a children's play area.

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Ickworth House

The creation of the eccentric Frederick Hervey, fourth earl of Bristol and bishop of Derry, this unusual 18th-century home was owned by the Hervey family until the 1960s. Inspired by his travels, Hervey wanted an Italianate palace and gardens. The two wings are arranged around a striking central rotunda. The east wing now contains a hotel, while the west has paintings by Hogarth, Titian, and Gainsborough. Behind the house, the rose gardens and vineyards spread out to join a vast, 1,800-acre wood. A stroll over the hills gives the best views of the house, which is 7 miles southwest of Bury St. Edmunds.

Moyse's Hall Museum

This 12th-century building, probably the oldest extant building in East Anglia, is a rare surviving example of a Norman house. The rooms hold exhibitions on Suffolk throughout the ages. One macabre display relates to the Red Barn Murder, a grisly local case that gained notoriety in a 19th-century play.

Cornhill, Bury St. Edmunds, IP33 1DX, England
Sight Details
Rate Includes: £6; £14 Heritage Ticket includes West Stow Anglo Saxon Village

St. Edmundsbury Cathedral

Although the main body of this cathedral dates from the 15th century, its brilliant ceiling and gleaming stained-glass windows are the result of 19th-century restoration by architect Sir Gilbert Scott. Be sure to look near the altar to see the memorial to an event in 1214 when the barons of England took an oath here to force King John to grant the Magna Carta. There was a war, he lost, and the rest, as they say, is history. The cathedral's original Abbey Gate was destroyed in a riot, and it was rebuilt in the 14th century with defense in mind—you can see the arrow slits. From Easter to September, guided tours are available Monday to Saturday at 11:30. There's also a small but popular café. A separate tower tour lasts 85 minutes and takes visitors up 202 steps, rewarding with epic views of the town's skyline.

Angel Hill, Bury St. Edmunds, IP33 1LS, England
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, suggested donation £3; tours £5; tower tour £10, No guided public tours Oct.–Apr.

St. Mary's Church

Built in the 15th century, St. Mary's has a blue-and-gold embossed "wagon" (barrel-shape) roof over the choir. Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's sister and queen of France, is buried here.

Theatre Royal

Built in 1819, the Theatre Royal is an outstanding example of Regency design. Guided tours can be booked at the box office.

West Stow Anglo Saxon Village

This family-friendly museum past the outskirts of Bury St. Edmunds has indoor galleries displaying finds from the Anglo-Saxon period (410–1066) and a reconstruction of a village from that period with thatched-roof houses. Costumed performers give demonstrations of traditional crafts. There's also a small farm that's home to rare breeds of pigs and chickens. It's best to call ahead in winter as the hours can vary.

Icklingham Rd., West Stow, IP28 6HG, England
Sight Details
Rate Includes: £7; £14 Heritage Ticket includes Moyse\'s Hall Museum