Explore West Norfolk
King's Lynn is the capital of West Norfolk and has a rich and fascinating maritime heritage. The River Great Ouse flows into the town from the Wash and provides a reminder of the town's vibrant past as one of the major trading ports of England. A member of the powerful Hanseatic League during the late Middle Ages, the town's merchants grew rich importing fish from Scandinavia, timber from the Baltics and wine from France. Exports included wool, salt and corn. The town is a proud member of the modern day Hanse association of cities.
Reminders of this heyday can be seen along Lynn's cobbled streets, particularly at the waterfront, between the Purfleet and Millfleet inlets. On Purfleet Quay is the splendid 1683 Custom House, described by Pevsner as 'one of the most perfect buildings ever built', and now the tourist office. The classical pilasters, petite dormer windows, balustrade and cupola are heavily influenced by the Dutch style.
On the quayside, by the giant boat-chains, is a statue of Lynn native Captain George Vancouver, famous for mapping the west coast of America in the late 18th century. Nearby is the country's most intact Hanseatic-era warehouse, Hanse House, now including a tea room, and bar for food and refreshments. Just a few metres away is Marriott's Warehouse a beautiful 16th century brick and stone warehouse now converted into a restaurant and heritage centre featuring displays about the history and development of King's Lynn. There are now pontoons at the quayside for boats on The Wash.
At the heart of medieval old town beautiful Saturday Market Place, dominated by the magnificent King's Lynn Minster. Look out for the flood level markings by the west door. Equally impressive The Trinity Guildhall and Town Hall with its stunning flint chequerboard patterned front is also home, to Tales of the Old Gaol House which also displays the town's regalia including the superb 14th century King John Cup. Would you believe that King's Lynn has more Grade 1 listed buildings than York.
A short walk along the sweeping curve of Queen Street is King Street, the town's most elegant thoroughfare, eulogised by Sir John Betjeman as one of the best walks in England. Here you'll find St George’s Guildhall, dating from 1410 and one of the oldest surviving in the country. Historic warehouses behind now house the King's Lynn Arts Centre. A short walk down Ferry Lane leads to the foot ferry across to West Lynn. The short trip is rewarded by superb views back across to the historic waterfront of King's Lynn.
The Tuesday Market Place is full of handsome Georgian buildings, including the Neoclassical Corn Exchange, now a theatre. Just off Tuesday Market Place is magnificent St Nicholas' Chapel, England’s largest surviving Parochial Chapel. Nearby, True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum commemorates the life of the local fishing community with restored cottages, a smoke house and fully rigged and restored 1904 Lynn fishing smack.
In the town centre Lynn Museum invites visitors to discover the mysteries of Seahenge, a 4,000 year old timber circle which was preserved in peat, and revealed at a low tide at nearby Holme-next-the-Sea in 1998. Alongside all the history and heritage in King's Lynn, the town centre boasts an extensive pedestrianised shopping area with ample parking close by. With the combined opportunities for great shopping, a chance to explore the historic streets and buildings, explore the Waterfront and parklands or perhaps take in show, King’s Lynn town centre offers a great place to visit.
King's Lynn also offers a great base for exploring on foot. The Peter Scott Walk follows the sea bank along the Wash from King's Lynn to the conservationist's former home at East Bank Lighthouse, 10 miles away. If you don't fancy the walk back, you can get a bus just two miles away at Sutton Bridge. You can take the passenger ferry from King's Lynn to the west bank of the River Great Ouse to pick up the start of this walk.
Alternatively, The Fen Rivers Way is a long distance path running for nearly 80km (50 miles) between King's Lynn, Downham Market, Ely and Cambridge. The route follows the River Great Ouse and takes you through the distinctive Fens landscape on a path rich in history and wildlife.
Also starting from the historic port of King's Lynn, The Nar Valley Way is a 34 mile long walk, following the watershed of the River Nar towards beautiful Castle Acre, and continuing to the Museum of Rural Life at Gressenhall.
Discover King's Lynn's maritime history.
Visit West Norfolk.