This reasons to visit Lavenham guest post was written by Federica Carr. Italian by birth and based in Britain, Federica has run the well-established pastabites.co.uk food and travel blog for over a decade and her work has also appeared in Lonely Planet Italia, Food & Wine Italia, Olive, Chiswick Magazine, Hi Europe to name just a few.
10 reasons to visit Lavenham England
Lavenham is a quaint and historic village on the Suffolk / Norfolk border in the east of England. What’s so special about it? You only need a quick glance at any of its lodgings to realize that there is indeed something truly special about the place. It is one of the best-preserved examples of Tudor architecture in the UK and features over 300 listed properties. We love it and have put together our top 10 reasons to visit Lavenham.
The Medieval Guildhalls
Two imposing and impressive buildings overlooking the central Market Square, these two guildhalls stand testimony to Lavenham’s rich past as a cloth-producing town. The mustard-colored, timber-framed Little Hall is privately owned and usually open in the summer months, often home to local arts & crafts events.
The Guildhall is the larger of the two, now run as a museum & tea room by the National Trust, and it is one of the most spectacular timber-framed buildings of medieval England dating back to around 1530.
Today is a stunning backdrop to village life with its grey and white structure and exquisite carved wood details to discover. On a sunny day, grab a coffee and a flapjack and sit in the peaceful garden at the back, taking in the sights and discovering herbs and plants used to die the cloth in the medieval period.
Sleeping in history
You don’t have to marvel at these gorgeous examples of historical architecture solely from the outside. In fact, many of Lavenham’s houses are available as holiday lets and are suited to all budgets and all history fans; from medieval dwellings to 20th-century workers’ cottages there is something for everyone. Our pick of the crop is the bijou Market Keepers Cottage right in the center of the bustling Market Square. A picture-perfect, comfortable and dog-friendly property, we keep coming back year after year.
Timbers Antiques & Collectibles is located on the High Street; its small entrance is misleading as once you enter, there are room after room of antiques ranging from medals to toys, from china to glassware, from books to jewelry. The shop seems never-ending and has a lovely little courtyard at the very back. If you’re into antiques, plan to spend quite some time browsing the packed display cabinets and shelves.
The Tea Rooms
It doesn’t get much more British than afternoon tea in the countryside. Lavenham has a great choice of tearooms, from the more modern options like the Swan Hotel lounge to the more traditional like Sweetmeats on Water Street. Our favorite is Lavenham Blue Tea Rooms by the Market Square. They do incredible scones and cakes, have a tiny little garden to enjoy sandwiches and salads for lunch, and are dog friendly and very welcoming.
The Sculpture Park
At the antipodes of the historic feel the village has, this private mansion and studio is home to local artist Kate Denton and it is a pleasure to visit (by appointment only). Walk through the manicured grounds with the pond and flower beds, discover many sculptures depicting wildlife and visit the studio itself in case you feel like buying a work of art directly from the artist.
The Ice Cream Shop
Really? In England? Yes! The Parlour is a popular local spot that serves freshly made ice cream, Monmouth coffee, and chocolate (particularly artisan and local brands such as Tosier). A selection of cookbooks and pottery are available for sale, making a stop at the Parlour really worth it. The outside bench allows for people watching while savoring a gelato.
Lavenham is the perfect place to enjoy walking. The village itself is stunning, with surprises at every corner provided by the colorful and beautifully restored, often wonky and quirky cottages. On a sunny day, go out early in the morning, when it’s quiet and clear and there is not a sound in the sleepy village. Watch the Market Square come alive as people start going about their daily life, the village shop opens up and the traditional bakery (look for the Hovis sign) tempts you in with wonderful aromas of freshly baked breads and pastries. If you have a dog, there are plenty of longer walks too: our favorite is to stroll around and in the XV century St Peter & St Paul’s church which sits majestically at the entrance of the village (and is also dog friendly!) or, on the opposite side of town, walking alongside the river and all the way to Preston to the Six Bells, an absolute gem of a pub with truly fantastic food.
For a relatively small place, Lavenham has plenty of options to dine in style. One of our favorites is the Angel, a pub with rooms on the Market Square which has a large beer garden and a daily menu that includes pizza nights and burger nights. Right across is the French House, another historic building which is a hotel and a fine-dining French restaurant with elegant settings. Recently renovated, the Greyhound on the High Street has a delicious tapas-inspired menu while Number 10 is a gorgeous medieval building with a bistro restaurant. Enjoy a relaxing lunch in the back garden with a choice of salads and mains and a good wine list.
For fans of the famous wizard, Lavenham is a must-visit. The aforementioned Guildhall was the set of one of the Harry Potter movies for about three weeks as the house of the wizard’s mother. It seems it ended up showing on screen for only a few seconds. However, De Vere house on Water Street features much more prominently as Harry’s birthplace. The building is now a bed & breakfast which means you can even sleep in Harry’s house! Even though the cast never spent any time in Lavenham and were mostly CGI’d over.
The VE Day weekend
Every year in May, usually over one of the bank holidays, Lavenham steps back in time – not the Middle Ages but the 1940s, commemorating VE day with plenty of events. People dress up in vintage outfits and there’s a parade of historic vehicles, (military and civilian) in the Market Square. The nearby airfield is also host to many commemorations as it was the USAAF personnel station during World War II (there is a bar dedicated to them with plenty of memorabilia at the Swan Hotel too). Local shops and hospitality venues organize many events such as tea dances. The pandemic put the celebrations on hold but lookout for new dates for 2022 and beyond!