Basildon may have started life as post-war new town designed to house London's growing population, but it's now home to a growing social and cultural scene that is worth exploring in its own right. From buzzing modern shopping centres to busy street markets and packed music and arts calendars, there's loads going on. The town also boasts several pleasant parks, some impressive modern architecture and a stretch of countryside to the south, leading down to the Thames Estuary.
Head straight for Basildon's Eastgate Shopping Centre, less than five minutes' walk from the station, and discover a town centre under one roof. It's packed with high-street names – including H&M, Next, Topman, Topshop and Primark – alongside a host of restaurants and takeaways. If you've come to shop, look no further.
For a quiet drink or an evening out, the area around Market Square is the place to be. It's home to a cluster of bars and pubs, some of which become popular nightspots after the sun goes down. Try Festival Leisure Park too – it has a range of clubs, bars and restaurants under one roof, as well as a bowling alley and IMAX cinema.
Basildon is a town of two halves, and wherever you are, you're never more than a few minutes away from green space. No visit here would be complete without a quiet stroll through one of the local parks – the expansive Gloucester Park dominates the west of town, and there's also Northlands to the east. But if you've only time to visit one, we recommend making the trip south of town to Wat Tyler County Park, with its 120 acres of woodland, wetland and wildlife.