A GUIDE TO THE VERY BEST OF NORWICH
Located in East Anglia in the county of Norfolk, lies the UK’s most complete medieval city dating back over 1000 years featuring over 1,500 historic buildings within it’s walls and 33 medieval churches (more than any other in Northern Europe, I believe), ladies and gents, introducing your guide to the very best of Norwich!
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Norwich is small enough to wander by foot and makes the perfect weekend getaway with plenty of culture, arts, antique shopping, a wonderful foodie scene, riverside walks and ivy fronted Georgian houses in it’s stunning Cathedral Quarter. Hidden gems galore to be discovered just walking the winding cobble-stone streets of the likes of Elm Hill, or taking in the views of the city, or scanning the independents shops and Victorian arcades, be sure to have this handy guide to the best of Norwich as an aide-mémoire.
Norwich: The City of Stories
The City of Stories is the exciting new brand for Norwich and is a tribute to it’s literary firsts: England’s first UNESCO City of Literature; the first woman to write a book in English; the University of East Anglia (UEA) which pioneered the first Creative Writing MA; and the only National Centre for Writing in the country.
Length of Stay in Norwich
Norwich is the perfect place to explore leisurely and at your own pace as a city break for two nights or as a long weekend
How to Get to Norwich
- By Car: Norwich is only 110 miles north of London, 66 miles from Cambridge, 121 miles from Nottingham, 159 miles from Birmingham and 170 miles from Oxford. It’s easily accessible by road from major ports and airports. The main routes into Norwich are the A47, A11, A140 and A146. Car parks in Norwich are well priced with cheaper rates for groups at the Park & Ride (6 sites) and parking in the city centre from £6 for over 6 hours.
- By Rail: Advance fares can be great value with a journey time of just 90 minutes from London on some services on Greater Anglia, Ride through beautiful market towns like Ipswich and Colchester.
- By Bus: National Express coaches operate services all over the UK and to and from the continent (Eurolines) from Norwich. Low-cost intercity travel to Norwich is offered by megabus.com from a number of places in the UK including Cambridge, Birmingham, and Coventry. From London prices start at just £5 each way with a journey time less than 2.5 hours.
- By Air: Norwich Airport is located off the A140, north of the city. It’s easily reached by taxi, or the airport Park and Ride service. Until the end of October Flybe operate into Norwich Airport from Exeter in the south west of England. Flights from Guernsey also fly seasonally with Aurigny between May and September. Loganair fly from Jersey between May and September.
Be-lavie Tip: Explore Norwich by foot so as you don’t miss any of the hidden spots. Buy in advance to save money. Book online for the best deals. Travel passes valid for your whole holiday can be purchased online before you travel. National Express and Megabus stop at the University of East Anglia
Best Time to Visit
Norwich is a great place to visit all year around with different festivals and activities taking place throughout the year. For a less crowded time, I would opt for shoulder seasons and avoid the school holidays. I visited in late June when the city was in full bloom with lots of al fresco dining and the longer days meant that there was more time to explore in daylight. The autumn and winter make for a lovely landscape too with Christmas being a very pretty time, with the medieval streets being adorned in lights and seasonal decoration. If you love your food and drink, look out for foodie festivals.
Visit Norwich during the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in May, which is over 200 years old and the fourth largest international arts festival in the country. Check out the 1930s Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, home of music, cabaret, burlesque and theatre.
Where to Stay
The Assembly House
This elegant and historic, Grade 1 listed mansion with a wing of 11 beautifully presented bedrooms makes for a great luxury base in Norwich with a perfect location. The Georgian dining room is said to be one of the best in Norwich serving a great afternoon tea.
- Address: The Assembly House. Theatre Street, Norwich NR2 1RQ.
- Tel. 01603 626402
- Website: The Assembly Rooms
The Old Rectory
Located on the eastern side of Norwich with leafy surroundings and perfect for those who don’t want to stay in the city centre but would like to be within easy access to it. The elegant Georgian rectory, built in the 1750 in mature gardens of oaks, copper and Scots pine features wisteria and a Virginia creeper-clad façade. The house, with a great food menu as well as an outdoor pool and beautifully decorated relaxing rooms.
- Address: The Old Rectory. N Walsham Rd, Crostwick, Norwich NR12 7BG.
- Tel. 01603 738513
- Website The Old Rectory
The Georgian Townhouse
An informal, sassy hotel with a lively bar and restaurant, a little away from the city centre but within walking distance of sights and shops. The vibe is young, retro and upbeat with hip rooms and relaxed, friendly staff.
- Address: 30-34 Unthank Rd, Norwich NR2 2RB.
- Tel: 01603 615655
- Website: The Georgian Townhouse
A relaxed but beutiful b&b in a superb location within the city’s oldest and most atmospheric quarter, near the cathedral, theatre and market square. Four guest rooms plus a spacious apartment. There is no restaurant on site but you’re well located to access most of the city’s dining options.
- Address: 3 Princes St, Norwich NR3 1AZ.
- Tel: 01603 622699
- Website: 3 Princes
38 St Giles
A welcoming and characterful b&b tucked down a quiet side alley, located right in the heart of Norwich city centre. A friendly homely B & B with 8 lovely bedrooms and a delicious looking brekkie.
- Address: 38 St Giles St, Norwich NR2 1LL.
- Tel: 01603 662944
- Website: 38 St Giles
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What to See & Do
Due to Norwich’s isolated location in East Anglia, it was by passed by the Industrial Revolution meaning much of the city’s city centre has preserved it’s Tudor aesthetic including a plethora of churches. There is so much to do in the city for culture vultures, the arts, museums, history buffs, photographers, foodies. So no matter what your interests, you’ll be sure to find something in Norwich that takes your fancy…
Tombland was the centre of activity in Norwich before the Norman’s arrived in England in 1066. In this area was the palace of the Earl of East Anglia, and St Michael’s church, the largest in Norwich.The name ‘Tombland’ comes from two Old English words meaning ‘open ground’, or empty space. This open ground was used as the main market place for Norwich. This is definitely the area you want to spend a fair amount of time in.
Tombland Area Postcode: NR3 1LB
Norwich Cathedral was completed in 1145 and stands tall at 131 metres and 54 metres wide and built with limestone shipped from the Norman city of Caen. The cathedral is a fine example of Romanesque architecture especially the famous tower from the transept, although the spire dates back to the 15th century as the original was hit by lightning.
Visiting Norwich cathedral is a must for your itinerary – it is filled with awe-inspiring and thrilling details. There are 61 carved misericords on the choir stalls dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries with a stunning 14th century retable in St Luke’s Chapel. The Cathedral can boast the second largest cloisters in England, where the vaults are adorned with a thousand bosses.
Address: 65 The Close, Norwich NR1 4DH NR1 4DH Tel. 01603 218300. Website: Norwich Cathedral
The cube-like structure at Norwich Castle was ordered to be built by William the Conqueror at the beginning of the 12th century in order to fortify the city. A fine example of Norman architecture, it has kept its Norman Romanesque blind arches. One of the reasons the castle is in pretty good shape is because for around 900 (1220-1887) it was used as a gaol, sat on a mound which is now referred to as Castle Meadow. In 1894, the Norwich museum related here and today is a great place to visit to view around a million exhibits. You can see models of the building and city from different periods with the use of multi media exhibits, take tours up to the battlements where you can get fab views of the city as well as visit the dungeons.
Address: 24 Castle Meadow, Norwich NR1 3JU. Tel: 01603 493625. Website: Norwich Castle
Norwich Cathedral Herb Garden
The Cathedral Herb Garden is one of the very best in the UK having received a Green Flag Award by environmental charity, Keep Britain Tidy.
Originally used by monks for cultivating plants for both medicinal and kitchen use, the Herb Garden was recreated in 2005 using herbs that match those used by Benedictine monks. Lovingly maintained by a group of 10 volunteers, the Herb Garden is now a great peaceful space to relax in and is a fab resource for school and group educational visits.
Address: Tombland, Norwich NR3 1RF. Tel: 01603 218300
Sir Thomas Erpingham
Admire the magnificent Sir Thomas Erpingham statue at the Norwich cathedral west gate. Firstly because it was Erpingham who lead the archers at Agincourt in 1415. Secondly because the archers’ success gave us a naughty two-fingered salute
Address: 10 Tombland, Norwich NR3 1HF. Tel. 01603 218300
The Ethelbert Gate
Ensure you walk through this gate to access the Cathedral quarter which also serves as an access point to the historic city centre.
Address: Queen St, Norwich NR1 4DR Tel. 01603 218300
The walking route in Norwich city centre starts just outside of the main station and takes you past vast green open spaces such as crocket fields with incredible views of Norwich cathedral. The walk is lined with heritage pieces such as the Cow Tower, and later Tombland, the site of Norwich’s Anglo-Saxon market, the St Ethelbert’s Gate. A walk by the river Wensum really gives you a sense of the medieval history in Norwich. Keep an eye out for Pull’s Ferry, where the Caen stone was bought into Norwich to build the Cathedral. You will see many colourful waterside buildings as well as the riverside development restaurants, pubs and a cinema.
If you’re walking along the Wensum River, you’ll notice this picturesque 15th century Watergate where the medieval canal built by monks once passed right under Pull’s Ferry Tudor arch. This is how building materials including the Caen stone from Normandy was transported into the city. The arch is named after the 19th century ferryman, John Pull with the house attached to the gate dates back to 1647.
Address: Queen St, Norwich NR1 4DR Tel. 01603 218300
The Cow Tower was intended to house guns and a garrison of gunners to defend the approach to the city across the River Wensum. Its height of over 15 metres (49 feet) was necessary to overlook the high ground on the opposite bank. The tower was built as an addition to the defences already encircling medieval Norwich. The ground floor may have been a communal dining room when the tower was garrisoned, with sleeping quarters on the upper two levels.
It is said that the tower’s name is derived from the surrounding meadow, previously known as Cowholme. It has been preserved by the English Heritage
Address: Cotman Fields, Norwich NR1 4AA. Tel 01603 213434 Website: The Cow Tower
The prettiest street in Norwich is lined with cantilevered houses which had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1507 which destroyed around 700 buildings. These Tudor houses that have been rebuilt feature galleries, cafes and many antique shops that sell classy arts and crafts. The only building that was left here after the fire was the Briton Arms that was formerly an Inn and is now a coffee house which has been run by the same family since the 1950s. Elm Hill is a great photo stop with little courtyards off the main street like Wrights Court, which is home to the Tea House and Wrights Court Coffee Shop.
Postcode: NR3 1HQ
Under the Art Deco City Hall, Norwich Market is amongst one of UK’s oldest outdoor markets. It’s located on Gentleman’s Walk and is open Monday-Saturday. The market has been trading on this spot since the 1th century and comprises of around 200 stalls which range from florists, household items, handicrafts, bakeries, fabrics, street food and many more. There are some fab food stalls of course with, fresh produce stalls such as cheese, organic vegetables, herbs, spices, fish and Norfolk meat. The popular food stalls consist of traditional pies, fish and chips, churros, Indian cuisine, hog roast, paninis, falafel, noodles and satay.
Address: 1 Market Place. Norwich NR2 1ND Tel. 01603 213537. Website: Norwich Market
Norwich has some wonderful independent shops in The Lanes. Wander through the old cobbled-stoned streets and support the local small businesses, anything from antiques, arts and crafts, artisan food to clothing. Head to London Street, the first ‘foot street’ in the country when it opened in 1967. Norwich was the first city in the UK to ban traffic from a main shopping thoroughfare.
Postcode: NR1 1PH
Back in the 14th century, this Grade 1 listed building and museum was home to mayors and wealthy merchants. Today Stranger’s Hall is a half-timbered museum recording domestic life in phases of Norwich’s history.
It’s filled with a myriad of passageways, and has a Medieval vaulted undercroft, bedchambers from the 17th century, an 18th-century Georgian dining room and a little formal garden designed with lavender and topiaries.
It also features a Great Hall, where residents would entertain guests and the 17th-century Walnut Room, clad with rich imported walnut panels and two case clocks from the 1600s and 1700s.
Address: 4 Charing Cross, Norwich NR2 4AL. Tel. 01603 493625. Website: Stranger’s Hall
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
A project by Norman Foster and Wendy Cheeseman, in 1978, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is a high-tech museum and art gallery on the campus of the University of East Anglia campus. It’s where much of the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury collection is housed after being donated to the university in 1973. There are also ethnographic objects from Asia, Oceania, Africa and North and South America, along with Greek and Roman antiquities and art from Medieval Europe
Address: University of East Anglie. Norfolk Rd, Norwich NR4 7TJ. Tel. 01603 593199. Website: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art
Plantation Garden is within walking distance from Norwich city centre and is a pretty Victorian garden set in the hollow space of a disued chalk quarry. The three acres space covers, flowebeds, lawns, an Italian terrace, woodland paths and a traditional Medieval wall.
It’s the ideal place to visit if you love gardening and also features a neo-Gothic fountain and faux ruins with gargoyles and a traceried Gothic window.
Entry charge is £2
Address: 4 Earlham Rd, Norwich NR2 3DB. Tel. 07504 545810. Website: Plantation Gardens
Museum of Norwich atThe Bridewell
At a 14th-century merchant’s house located in The Lanes, this museum tells the story of business and industry in Norwich over hundreds of years. You’ll learn of the Medieval wool trade, which created a boom in the 13th century, and see some other Norwich signatures like shoes, chocolate and mustard.
The galleries are all full of authentic artefacts and children can participate, dressing up and playing with interactive screen experiences.
There are exhibitions charting Norwich in the World Wars, Norwich’s largest vaulted undercroft below street level and a working 19th-century Jacquard loom, the last of the thousands that used to whirr day and night in the city.
Jarrold, Norwich’s Oldest Department Store
Mooch around family-run Jarrods, Norwich’s most famous and oldest department store which has an award winning book department with over 40,000 titles!
Fun Fact: It was Jarrold that published 30 million bestseller Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Address: 1, 11 London St, Norwich NR2 1JF. Tel. 01603 660661. Website: Jarrold
The Maid’s Head Hotel
The Maid’s Head Hotel is said to be the oldest hotel in the UK and where Elizabeth I is said to have stayed when visiting Norwich. Stay in one of the suites or enjoy the great British constitution of Afternoon Tea in this Tudor fronted hotel.
Address: 20 Tombland, Norwich NR3 1LB. Tel. 01603 209955. Website: The Maid’s Head Hotel
See a performance at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich, the first permanent recreation of an Elizabethan theatre. The Maddermarket was opened in 1921 and it’s a world class Shakespearean-style playhouse. Even more famous than The Globe!
Address: Saint John’s Alley, Norwich NR2 1DR. Tel. 01603 620917. Website: Maddermarket Theatre
For great city views of Norwich as well as the back view of the Cathedral and castle take a short walk uphill to Mousehold Heath. This lovely park high above the city has great views.
Postcode: NR1 4NN
The Royal Arcade
Finished in the 1800s, The Royal Arcade is a Victorian style shopping centre packed full of independent shops and is most definitely worth visiting especially if it’s raining as it’s covered and has the most gorgeous architecture. Open seven days a week, you’ll really want to make a few purchases here me thinks!
Address: Norwich, NR2 1NQ. Website: The Royal Arcade
Did you Know?
- Throughout Medieval times and the early modern age Norwich was the second largest city in England following London.
- Norwich is the only English city to be set in a National Park, The Norfolk Broads.
- Norwich is recognised as one of the top 10 places to shop in the UK.
- The River Wensum is the most protected chalk river in Europe and in Norwich it’s the highest navigable part of the Southern Broads.
- Queen Elizabeth I friend Matthew Parker was from Norfolk and said to be the original Nosey Parker!!
Dining & Drinking Options
Norwich has a huge variety of places to drink and dine in and you most dedibitley will be spoilt for choice. From the street food at the market to gastro pubs, casual spots as well as many fine dining establishments. They take their food and drink very seriously in Norwich. Legend has it that Norwich possesses 365 pubs – one for each day of the year – along with 52 churches – so you can repent in a different one every Sunday. If that’s true it equates to one for every 584 residents
Here are some picks for where to eat & drink in Norwich
- Frank’s Bar: Hip all-day hangout for relaxed Mediterranean-accented dining and drinking to cool soundtrack. Very boho. Grab a seat outside in warmer weather.
- The Ivy: Relaxed choice with a fanciful arty vibe offering a great weekend brunch with boozy options for that weekend feel.
Coffee & Sweet Treats
- Cupcake & Co:: Cupcake & Co offer celebration cakes, cupcakes, brownie stacks and wedding cakes which taste fantastic and are visually stunning.
- Bread Source: independent, artisan bakery specialising in simple, honest produce. The ideal spot for coffee and delicious.
- Tofurei: Vegan café who claim to be soya alchemists, transforming the humble bean into wondrous things. Located in The Lanes with indoor and outdoor seating options.
- Logan’s Sandwich Bar: This is a family-run cafe serving both brunch & lunch with a great selection of freshly made sandwiches, jackets, salads, soups, and more
- The Maids Head Hotel, Tombland: Traditional afternoon tea in Norwich’s historic hotel
- The Assembly House: A finalist in the Best Afternoon Tea, this is as exquisite as tea, cake and savouries can get enjoyed in the stunning surroundings of a Georgian Townhouse.
- The Wildebeest:: Fine dining with striking rustic-chic decor and an elegant terrace, plus an inventive British menu. 2 x AA Rosettes. Located a little out of Norwich in the village of Stoke Holy Cross
- Benedicts: A compact brasserie, with stripped flooring and painted walls, serving locally sourced fresh food with a string of awards including 3 x AA rosettes and a Michelin Star. Recommended for a special occasion!
- The English Whiskey Company: St Georges Distillery, home of The English Whisky Company, is the first distillery in England in over 100 years, and part of Norfolk’s heritage.
- Gyre & Gimble Bar: A stylish independent bar that’s relatively new to the Norwich scene. Enjoy amazing locally-produced spirits, stylish décor, and a creative drinks…
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