11 Reasons To Visit Harlow, West Essex

1. harlow museum walled gardens

An unforgettable summer of fun is on the cards at the West Essex town of Harlow, with a whole host of venues and attractions on offer

Welcome to Harlow, a vibrant town nestled in the west of Essex. Originally designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, the ‘New Town’ of Harlow is a place of contrasts. The designated sculpture town houses artwork by some of the world’s best-known sculptors (Henry Moore, Auguste Rodin, and Barbara Hepworth to name a few) and is the birthplace of fibre optics, without which we wouldn’t have the internet as it is today.

The mixture of urban landscapes sitting side by side with open, green spaces, the River Stort and its towpaths, means you are never far from the countryside, perfect for taking long walks. Harlow also boasts a huge cycle track network linking all areas of town.

Whether it’s shopping, food, drink or exploring, there is something for everyone and lots of free things to do, promising a memorable experience for visitors of all ages.

. The Water Gardens At Harlow Town Park
The Water Gardens at Harlow Town Park

Harlow Town Park

Harlow’s ‘jewel in the crown’ is the town park – with over 160 acres it’s one of the largest urban parks in the country. The Grade II listed site is home to five unique gardens, a bandstand, adventure playground and inclusive play area, a paddling pool, outdoor gym, skate park and a café.

Pets’ Corner

Also situated within the park is the ever-popular Pets’ Corner, which has welcomed visitors since 1966. Pets’ Corner is home to a wide range of traditional farm animals as well as more exotic ones such as reindeer, llamas and alpacas, and an aquarium and reptile house. Pets’ Corner is free to enter and open seven days a week.

Paddling pools and splash parks

Harlow has four paddling pools and two splash parks, which are operational during the school summer holidays and are free to use. The perfect solution to keeping the kids cool and entertained during the hotter months.

. Eve By Auguste Rodin
Eve By Auguste Rodin

Parndon Wood Nature Reserve

Parndon Wood, which is free to enter, is an ancient area of woodland that includes a 1.5km nature trail, observation hides for viewing the wildlife and a conservation centre to learn more about the flora and fauna. There are plenty of free activities, plus evening music sessions.

Gibberd Garden

Another Grade II listed site, the Gibberd Garden is a fascinating place created by Sir Frederick Gibberd himself. Immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the garden full of sculptures, pools, streams and even a moated castle with drawbridge.

Harlow Museum and Walled Gardens

Step back in time and discover a historic and significant place with over 1,000 years of local history. The museum’s (which is also free to enter) gallery spaces highlight the history of the town from the Iron Age to the present day. The site is also home to three historical gardens set across two acres of lush green space, perfect for picnics.

. The Gibberd Garden
The Gibberd Garden

Harlow Sculpture Trail & Gibberd Gallery

Embark on a fascinating journey with over 100 sculptures dotted throughout Harlow. Enjoy at your leisure or follow a trail which will guide you through the town to take in all the amazing public art. And why not engage the whole family with an interactive experience at the Gibberd Gallery. 

Roman Temple site

Whilst in Harlow you can also pay a visit to one of the town’s unique features – a Roman Temple site. The area, which is now known as Templefields, has a long history – even before the Romans it was a settlement with a few farms and an Iron Age temple. When the Romans arrived, they re-dedicated worship to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and war.

Harlow Playhouse

Let your imagination soar at the Harlow Playhouse with two theatres and a studio for creative workshops and performing arts classes. Enjoy a full programme of shows and events year-round, from music concerts, dance shows, pantomime, there is something for all ages and tastes.


If it’s retail therapy you’re after, the Water Gardens offers a range of fashion and jewellery retailers as well as places to eat and drink when you need a break. Just round the corner is the Harvey Centre, a shopping centre featuring a wide range of retail and fast-food outlets as well as a six-screen cinema. Towards the north end of town there are a number of retail parks stocking bigger ticket items, as well as restaurants and another cinema.

Essex Outdoors

The Harlow facility is a specialist climbing and paddle-sport centre and is home to ‘The Lock’ – one of the largest indoor climbing walls in the Southeast. Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding are all on offer through miles of tranquil waterways.

Find out about Harlow’s upcoming events via the Harlow Council website. For places to eat, things to do and places to stay in Harlow, head to visitessex.com

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