Ipswich is the county town of Suffolk. The Ipswich Waterfront was once known as the largest and most important dock in the kingdom. Mostly recognised for its football club, it has had new developments such as the Waterfront entertainment district, the University Campus Suffolk and new shopping developments.
Ipswich was one of the most prosperous cities in the UK since Saxon times. During its heyday it was a major trading port, being on the estuary of the Orwell River on the East Coast. Ipswich fell into rapid decline after the opening of the new ports at Felixstowe and Harwich and stayed that way until the 1970s when much of London's financial services industry used Ipswich as a hub for their secondary offices with names such as Royal Bank of Scotland, Willis Group (aka Willis Faber & Dumas), Norwich Union and AXA opening shiny new skyscrapers in a new CBD development just north of the river. The new University Campus Suffolk brought on rapid development along the waterfront area with lots of trendy new bars, restaurants and apartments lining the east bank of the river.
Anyone expecting a typical, small provincial town will get a little culture shock when stepping out of the train station as 1960s tower blocks, Saxon half-timber cottages, Victorian townhouses and shiny new high-rise developments sit side-by-side. In 2019, it was home to 133,000 people.
Ipswich has good connections to both London Stansted (STN IATA) and Norwich International (NWI IATA) airports. From Stansted, there is an express bus service (X5) which runs between Ipswich Old Cattle Market Bus Station and Stansted Airport Coach Station every 2 hours, 24 hours a day; taking about 90 minutes. Expect to pay around £75 for a prebooked minicab and over £100 for a metered taxi.
Norwich Airport can be reached in 1-1½ hours. From the airport, take a local bus or a taxi to Norwich Railway Station and from there it's about 40 minutes by train to Ipswich. A taxi will be £50-60.
1 Ipswich station is on the West Bank of the Orwell River on the intersection between Princes St, Burrell Rd and Ranelagh Rd, about 1 mile from the town centre. Trains to Norwich (calling at Stowmarket and Diss) depart from Platform 3 at 8 and 44 minutes past the hour. The journey takes about 45 minutes. Express trains to London Liverpool St (calling at Manningtree and Colchester) depart from Platform 2 at 9 and 43 minutes past the hour. A third, slower train to London (calling most stations) departs from Platform 4 at 53 minutes past the hour. Express services take about 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach the capital, whereas the stopping train takes about ten minutes longer. There are also hourly services to Cambridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft, and bi-hourly services to Peterborough.
There is also a smaller station called 2 Derby Road (Ipswich), on Derby Rd in the eastern suburb of Rose Hill. It is unstaffed and has an hourly service between Ipswich and Felixstowe. It's not recommended to take a train from here at night as there are no staff and very little lighting or CCTV.
By bus and coach
Old Cattle Market bus station on Falcon Street serves all regional and long-distance bus services. Frequent regional buses run to Stowmarket, Sudbury, Woodbridge, Felixstowe, Colchester, Framlingham etc., while National Express services run to London (3 times per day), Liverpool (1 per day), and Stansted Airport (every 2 hours). Rural bus and minibus services run to surrounding villages, although some are very infrequent. There is no ticket office at the station, so tickets should be bought on board (change is usually available but drivers will be reluctant to change large bills), except for National Express services, which must be prebooked by phone or over the internet. Electronic signboards display the next 20 or so departures and which stand they will depart from. Schedules are displayed at each departure gate.
Ipswich is at the intersections of the A12 (London - Great Yarmouth) and A14 (Felixstowe - Birmingham) highways with several exits along both routes. Driving into the city can be slow as traffic congestion is heavy. Also, a very confusing one-way system runs around the edge of the city centre, feeding drivers into the rabbit-warren of small streets. Maps and sat-navs are a bit useless once you're past the inner ring-road so allow plenty of time. Parking is very limited and expensive (in an underground or multi-storey city centre car park expect to pay about £9 for 3 hours) although some parking areas close to the inner ring-road will charge around £2.50 for one day, although they are not as secure. Alternatively, Park & Ride bus services run from 3 parking sites on the edge of the city close to the A14, costing £2.80 per day including free bus travel to the city centre. Look out for the blue Park & Ride signs (displaying a letter 'P' alongside a bus) when approaching Ipswich on the highway.
Local urban bus services are provided by Ipswich Buses and First Eastern Counties and radiate from the Tower Ramparts Bus Station. The green and purple Ipswich buses cover most urban routes and link to surrounding suburbs and retail parks. Most services run every 10–20 minutes during the day time and every 30–60 minutes in the early morning and late evening - most services start around 5:30AM and finish around 11PM. There's a flat fare of £1.80 which is paid into the farebox next to the driver - if you don't have exact change you'll be issued with a voucher that can be used as part-payment on your next journey or can be refunded at the Ipswich Buses customer service office at Tower Ramparts bus station. Day passes, weekly and monthly tickets are available, as well as a rechargeable smart-card for regular travellers. First Eastern Counties services are less frequent except for #66 which runs every 15 minutes between Bourne Bridge and Martlesham and runs 24 hours a day. Fares on First buses are charged by distance and return tickets are available - change is also given but drivers are reluctant to change anything bigger than a £5 note. Tickets are not interchangeable between operators.
A useful service for tourists is the #38 which loops the town centre and is free of charge - useful for getting to know your way around. An open-top sightseeing bus runs a circuit of nearby tourist attractions during the summer months.
Driving around Ipswich is not recommended - traffic is often heavy, the rabbit-warren of one-way streets is confusing and parking can be expensive. However, a car is more useful if you're staying in the suburbs or plan on travelling to some more remote attractions away from the town.
Taxis in Ipswich are cheap by British standards. Metered taxis can be found at taxi-stands outside the train station, the Old Cattle Market bus station and on a side-street beside Debenhams just off Crown Street; hailing a taxi in the street is not recommended as most taxi drivers will wait in a taxi rank rather than cruise for passengers. Phone-booked minicabs are cheaper and will take you to more inaccessible locations, but can be hard to book late on Friday and Saturday nights. If you want to travel by taxi to a nearby town such as Felixstowe or Stowmarket, local minicabs in those towns will usually be cheaper than those in Ipswich.
Ipswich town centre is very compact and much of the town-centre is pedestrianised, so walking is often the fastest and most pleasant way of getting around. However, walking at night is not so fun: walking beyond the town centre usually involves passing some unpleasant areas and walking through the public underpasses that cross the 'inner ring' or along by the river can sometimes be unsafe. Take a taxi instead.
Ipswich Borough Council has gone to great lengths to make the town more cycle-friendly, and most major routes into the town centre have cycle or bus lanes, although they are often ignored by motorists, many of whom are not happy with sharing the road with cyclists, so it helps to have a good level of confidence in urban cycling. Alternatively, there are several signposted cycle routes taking in quiet residential streets, traffic free trails through the towns many parks and contraflow cycle lanes that allow cyclists to travel in both directions on a one way street. National Cycle Network routes 1 and 51 pass though Ipswich, and the borough council produces a free cycle map.
Ipswich sits in a beautiful area of East Anglia - "Constable Country". In fact, the setting of Constable's most famous painting, "The Haywain", is only a few miles down the A12 road (heading towards London) in nearby Flatford. Click here to see how the site looks today. There is a National Trust centre in Flatford that is worth a visit, if only for the good home-made cakes on sale.
Further out of Ipswich, Orford Castle (12 miles outside Woodbridge, on the B1084) is worth a visit in good weather. The castle is over 800 years old, in good condition for a building of that age. Orford is an attractive village, with good fish and chips available from pubs and restaurants at the far end of the village.
Other sights include:
- 1 Christchurch Mansion and Park, IP4 2BX, ☏ . 10AM-4PM. A 70-acre park with a mansion (dating from 1548) housing a museum. Free.
- 2 The Ancient House, 30 Buttermarket, Ipswich IP1 1BT. Now a branch of the Lakelands chain of stores, its pargetting is definitely worth the walk.
- 3 The Willis Building. For architecture enthusiasts, the first commercial construction by Norman, now Lord Foster, this building has won numerous awards and was in 1991 made into a Grade I listed building - the youngest building ever to receive such a status. The building is in commercial use and so is not open to the public.
- A walk by the docks can be of interest, especially as most of the old former grain store buildings on the dockside are being demolished and being replaced by new luxury apartments, high-rise offices and entertainment complexes.
- 4 The Ipswich Museum. It has merged with the Colchester Museum, opened in 1847. Although it is small compared to any of the London museums, entrance is free and there are some interesting exhibits. The museum is closed for refurbishment as of April 2023. free.
- 5 Ipswich Art School, 1 Upper High St, Ipswich, IP1 3NE (Next door to Ipswich Museum), ☏ , email@example.com. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM. The Art School Gallery shows exhibitions & provides a stage for local artists to show their work and to showcase the region's artistic talents. free.
- Ipswich has the third largest number of mediaeval churches in the United Kingdom, after the City of London and Norwich. Medieval churches include:
- 6 St Mary Le Tower (Mediaeval Church), Tower St, Ipswich, IP1 3BE.
- 7 St Peter's, College St, Ipswich, IP1 1XF, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. The oldest church in the town has been renovated and is used as an arts and music venue.
- 8 St Margaret's, Soane St, Ipswich IP4 2BT (S end of Christchurch Park).
- 9 St Mary Elms, 68 Black Horse Lane, Ipswich, IP1 2EF.
- 10 Ipswich Blackfriars (13th-16th Century Friary Church).
- Non Anglican churches of interest include:
- Ipswich has several art galleries, check out Eyestorm gallery and the Town Hall Galleries.
- 13 St Peter's by the Waterfront (Music and Arts Venue), College St, Ipswich, IP1 1XF, ☏ , email@example.com.
- Football: 1 Ipswich Town FC, Portman Rd IP1 2DA, ☏ . Ipswich Town were promoted in 2023 so they now play soccer in the Championship, England's second tier. Their home stadium Portman Road (capacity 30,000) is just west of city centre. Note the statue of Sir Alf Ramsay: as team manager 1955-1962 he led Ipswich Town's swift rise from the lower divisions to English champions, then he went on to take England to their only World Cup victory in 1966. Another statue commemorates Sir Bobby Robson, who both at Ipswich and with England came closest to emulating Ramsay.
- Ipswich is home to the main centre for Dance in the East of England at the Jerwood Dance House. Open since 2009, this gem is already captivating audiences with performances of the highest order.
- If architecture is your passion then look out for Ancient House, Wolseys Gate, The Willis Building (designed by Sir Norman Foster), St Lawrence Church, St Mary le-tower, Christchurch Mansion and the Unitarian Meeting House. There are timber framed building throughout the town centre as well.
- 2 Suffolk Leisure Park, Bourne Hill, IP2 8NQ, ☏ . On the edge of the town has a dri ski slope and golf driving ranges. This is soon to be overshadowed however by the huge SnOasis development on the edge of the town. When complete this will be the largest indoor real snow ski slope in the world, and will also feature and ice rink, a snowboarding half pipe and many winter olympic sport facilities. not to mention many hotels and restaurants.
- 3 Ipswich Market, Princes St, IP1 1PN. A growing attraction, this is mainly due to the food! From hog roasts and jacket potatoes to Caribbean and Tunisian cuisine you are never stuck for something to eat.
- Ipswich has many beautiful parks but the best has to be Christchurch Park. On the edge of the city centre this park features some beautiful gardens, tennis courts and Christchurch Mansion. It also has two large pond areas and plenty of room for sport.
- 4 S B Thalatta (Thames Barge), Ipswich Haven Marinav New Cut East, Ipswich IP3 0EA, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 5 Orwell River Cruises, Start & finish at Orwell Quay on the waterfront, ☏ (mobile), email@example.com.
- Speedway: Ipswich Witches race in the SGB Premiership, the top tier of motorcycle speedway in Britain. Their home track is Foxhall Stadium 3 miles east in Kesgrave; the racing season is Mar-Oct.
Stage and screen
Ipswich has two cinemas, Cineworld and Corn Exchange arts cinema.
- 6 Cineworld, Cardinal Park, 11 Grafton Way, IP1 1AX, ☏ .
- 7 Corn Exchange, Cornhill, IP1 1DH, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su closed.
- 8 The Regent Theatre, 3 St. Helen's Street, IP4 1HE. The Regent Theatre has featured appearances from, amongst others, The Beatles, Jethro Tull, Rufus Wainright, The Foo Fighters, Ricky Gervais, Deren Brown and Jimmy Carr.
- 9 Wolsey Theatre, Civic Dr, IP1 2AS, ☏ . This hosts productions year-round.
Ipswich was nothing special when it came to shopping - however several independent stores have opened, Urban Vintage is the best choice for men on Queen Street, and Blacksheep near the buttermarket, further along on St. Nicholas Street and St. Peters Street there are several choices for women in Aura, Marianna and Caramel. Other independent stores for men include Jonty's(Tacket Street) and the department store Coes on Norwich Road.
A long pedestrianized street (Northgate Street, Tavern Street, Carr Street) runs right across the town centre and is lined with big-name stores such as H and M, Gap, Debenhams, Boots, and Marks & Spencer. A few smaller pedestrian streets house some smaller retailers and is the best place to find small, independent retailers. There are 2 main indoor shopping malls (Buttermarket Centre and Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre) although neither are anything special, this is where you can find Topshop, Topman and TK Maxx.
The south-eastern part of Norwich Road is a good place to see Ipswich's vibrant ethnic community and the street is lined with shops and restaurants selling food, snacks and local products from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, India and elsewhere.
Many locals now prefer shopping in out-of-town retail parks and superstores. Copdock Interchange retail park close to the intersection between the A12 and A14 highways in the southwest of Ipswich is one of the largest with a 24-hour Tesco Extra superstore, Currys PC World (electronics and appliances), B&M (variety goods value retailer) and several fast-food chains including Burger King, Costa Coffee and Pizza Hut (take Bus 13 from Tower Ramparts and get off at the last stop - by car it's close to the A12/A14 Copdock Interchange and at the end of the A1214 London Road from Ipswich town centre - free parking). Anglia Retail Park in the northwest of Ipswich close to the A14 highway is also popular and has an Asda superstore, Bounce Ipswich (trampoline centre), Go-Outdoors (outdoor supplier) and the usual furniture and appliance stores, plus a McDonalds, Costa Coffee and a KFC (Bus 8 from Tower Ramparts - get off at the last stop - by car it's close to the Ipswich/Bury Road exit of the A14, at the top end of Norwich Road from the town centre).
The main supermarket serving the town centre is Sainsbury on Upper Brook Street. There is a larger Sainsbury on Hadleigh Road close to the train station. Most other supermarkets are out of town in large retail parks; the two largest are listed above. Convenience stores such as Martins, Co-op, Spar, Tesco Express and Premier can be found everywhere; most are open from 6AM-11PM, although many petrol station convenience stores are 24-hour.
St Nicholas Street in Ipswich has several restaurants. You can eat Turkish, Italian, French, Thai, Chinese, Indian and modern British cuisine.
Another good area to eat in is the waterfront with an abundance of local choices, lots of good British cuisine and also a French restaurant.
- 1 Fishface Upholstery, 11 The Walk.
- 2 Plough, 2 Dogs Head St.
- 3 Cock and Pye, 13 Upper Brook St.
- 4 Papa Panda, 70 Carr St.
- 5 Perfect Fried Chicken, St Matthews Houses, 46 St Matthew's St.
- 6 Papas Piri Piri Restaurant, 1 Bramford Rd.
- 7 Bicafé o Português, Hare & Hounds, 36 Norwich Rd.
- 8 The Eaterie @ the Salthouse Harbour Hotel, Neptune Quay. Modern British.
- 9 Bistro on the Quay, 3 Wherry Quay.
- 10 The Greyhound, 9 Henley Rd. Pub offering main dishes
- 11 Trongs, ☏ . Ipswich's best Chinese restaurant (though the proprietor is Vietnamese); the main problem is booking is required at least a week in advance if you wish to dine on a Friday or Saturday evening. £30-40.
- 12 Kwan Thai Restaurant, 14 St. Nicholas Street, ☏ . £20-30.
- 13 Zaika, 17-21 St Nicholas St, Ipswich, ☏ . Zaika is the best Indian restaurant in Ipswich. The menu has a lot of the standard curry house fare on it, but also a very good range of dishes unique to them. Everything is made on the premises from raw ingredients. It's a tad more expensive than most others, but well worth it. You'll need to book to get in. £20-30.
- 14 Moloko, 8 Lion St.. Opened in 2021, it is a tapas bar.
- 15 Mister Wing, 7 St. Helen's St. Chinese restaurant which offers good food right next to the Ipswich Regent Theatre. £20-30.
Outside of Ipswich
- 16 The White Hart, Helmingham Road, Otley (9 miles north of Ipswich), ☏ . An adorably anarchic village pub as they should be. Enjoy fine food next to the loyal followers or the knitting circle or local crabbers group.
- 17 Hintlesham Hall, Hintlesham (5 miles west of Ipswich), ☏ . Dress up for an impressive dinner served in a sixteenth century manor house. Choose from the most delectable dishes, including cream of Jerusalem artichoke & watercress soup, all using fresh local produce
- 18 Mariners Restaurant, 1900 Neptune Quay, IP4 1AX (a boat moored on the Quay), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su noon-2:30, Tu-Sa 6:30-9:30PM. Despite its name, a good French restaurant. Probably the best restaurant in town, though a bit expensive.
- 19 Waterfront Bistro Ipswich, 15, Regatta Quay, Key St.
- 20 Aqua Eight, 8 Lion St. This restaurant serves unrivalled Chinese and south east Asian food.
For daytime summer drinking the only place to be is Isaac's along the waterfront, a fantastic establishment with huge outdoor area and 4 separate bars to reduce queuing.
Churches, Zing Bar, Barcoda, The Swan, and Keo's are the pick of the town centre bars.
- 1 Arcade Street Tavern, ☏ , email@example.com. Set in a beautiful historic Georgian townhouse, in the centre of Ipswich. Over 100 craft beers (mostly bottled) available, as well as a large selection of gins and other spirits. Prices can seem steep compared to other public houses nearby, but the clientele and surroundings are superior to much in the area. Food is available on some evenings, and it can become crowded on either Friday or Saturday evenings.
- 2 Dove Street Inn (The Dove), 76 St. Helens St, IP4 2LA, ☏ . Noon-10:45PM. A large selection of well-kept ales and regular beer festivals. There is an adjoining B&B as well as a Gin palace.
- 3 The Greyhound (about 10 minutes walk from the town centre). It is a pub serving a good range of food and is TV-free.
- 4 Fat Cat, Spring Road (About 15 minutes walk from the centre, is worth a visit.). Formerly Suffolk Pub of the Year, it's TV-free, but more importantly has a range of around 20 beers on draught at any one time — a beer drinker's paradise. There is an excellent beer garden and the pub has an arrangement with local take-away restaurants who will deliver food + plates and collect these from the pub direct.
- 5 Liquid. Can be a haven for the barely-legal drinker, however most nights the Envy room is over 21s or over 25s.
- Fire and Ice. It is a favourite, playing old school and more recent dance music, as well as a popular indie/alternative night on Mondays with cheap cover fee and even cheaper drinks.
- 1 Swallow Belstead Brook Hotel, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Former hunting lodge turned hotel, this establishment still maintains the same cosiness and relaxing charm. Situated in 9 acres of gardens and offering heated pool, gym, therapeutic spa, and restaurant facilities.
- 2 Salthouse Harbour. Hotel on the Ipswich docks has been highly recommended as an upmarket alternative to the many Novotel/Holiday Inns available in the town.
- 3 Lattice Lodge, Woodbridge Road, ☏ , email@example.com. Urban eco bed and breakfast, using 100% renewable electricity, among myriad other green features. A great B & B, very comfortable accommodation, also features free wireless broadband.
- 4 Melverley Heights Guest House, 62 Tuddenham Road, ☏ . Victorian property offering bed and breakfast made from local produce.
Despite the sensationalized news reports about the Suffolk Murders and the nightclub shootings in Ipswich, crime is no more rampant here than in any other similar-sized town. Avoid getting into confrontations, particularly in bars, as things get a bit nasty. There are several no-go areas at night - most notably Chantry, Gainsborough and Greenwich, as well as the residential areas around Norwich Road, although the average tourist will find no need to go to these areas, and if you stick to the main arterial roads you'll be safe. Avoid using Derby Road train station at night as it's poorly lit, isolated and unstaffed. Be careful of parking your car in quiet residential streets at night, or leaving your car in a privately run 'budget car park' such as the one at the waterfront, as car break-ins and car-thefts are common. Use a town-centre car park operated by Ipswich Borough Council or NCP instead.
There's a strong rivalry between Ipswich Town FC and Norwich City FC - on match days avoid wearing football colours or saying things that may provoke a football-related confrontation. That said, the rivalry here is not as serious as it is between for example Birmingham City and Aston Villa in Birmingham; or Chelsea and Arsenal in London and football hooliganism is rare.
As of Sept 2022, Ipswich has 5G with EE and O2, and 4G with Three and Vodafone.
- Dedham — 20 minutes drive
- Woodbridge - less than ten miles out of Ipswich is this attractive market town (on the A12, heading out towards Lowestoft). Woodbridge was once a major port, in Tudor times, and the town is still popular today amongst sailors, with a high population of retired City types who have settled in this part of the world to "mess around on boats". You can also reach Woodbridge via train from Ipswich, although the service is far from frequent. Woodbridge has many antique shops, tea shops, and old pubs, and is mainly pedestrianised. Worth a visit, especially if you are, or are travelling with, someone elderly. On the outskirts is a mill (clearly signposted from the A12), the only survivor of the 10 or more which used to feed the soldiers barracked in the area during the Napoleonic wars. Places to eat: "Spice" on the main street "the Thoroughfare" or the Captains Table. To drink: the Kings Head on the town square.
- Sutton Hoo — just outside of Woodbridge. An Anglo Saxon burial ground of royal princes, buried alongside priceless treasures in ship graves. There is a National Trust exhibition centre]. In all honesty, although the site is doubtless of great historical interest, the exhibition itself is somewhat thinly stretched. (If you want to see any of the treasures found here, you'll have to go to the British Museum in London.) Worth going to if you are in the area, anyone travelling some distance to the site could be disappointed.
- Newbourne — off the A12
- Waldringfield — on the way to Woodbridge. Has an attractive view over the River Deben.
- Rendlesham Forest — site of the most notorious UFO incident in the UK, but also good for cycling round, with bikes available to hire in the Easter and summer school holiday periods.
- Levington — between Ipswich and Felixstowe, it sits on a river estuary, and features preserved wetlands which house many migratory birds. The pub there ("The Ship") does wonderful food: the liver and bacon and any of the seafood especially recommended. No bookings are taken. Their wine is pretty poor though. Have a quick walk before or after visiting the pub down to the river; the footpath just opposite the pub, which is the only place to park in the village.
|Routes through Ipswich|
|London ← Colchester ←||SW NE||→ Woodbridge → Lowestoft|
|Birmingham ← Bury St Edmunds ←||NW SE||→ Felixstowe|