The town has the largest parish church in Essex, St. Mary and the Virgin, which mainly dates from the 15th century. It is 183 feet long and has a spire, built in 1832, which is 193 feet high.
Saffron Walden also features the ruins of the 12th century Walden Castle. Nearby is the Maze, a series of circular excavations cut into the turf of the common. It is the largest turf maze in England, the main part being about 100 feet in diameter. The earliest record of it was in 1699, and it has been extensively restored several times, most recently in 1979. Another tourist attraction is Audley End, a manor house built by the Earl of Suffolk in the 17th century.
Its name comes from a combination of the old pre-Norman conquest manor of Waldana and the saffron crocuses which were commercially grown in the area until the 18th century. The plant was used for medicine, dye and as a spice.