My cultural favourites

Caroline Jarrold, chairman of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival board, gives us her cultural highlights of the county...

Norfolk is such a great place for cultural activities of all kinds. Wherever you are in the county there is usually an interesting place to visit or event to go to within easy striking distance all year round.

By culture, I mean a whole range of different experiences from circus to opera, grand houses to festivals or galleries to theatre, but it could almost equally be walking through the countryside, by the rivers, along the beach or through the city, towns and villages and just appreciating and being inspired by the many lovely places in the county.

Throughout the year, there are always many events, exhibitions, festivals and other activities to go and see.

To find out what is on when you are here, go to the what's on section. For planning further ahead check this website, and also Visit Norwich and Visit Great Yarmouth websites.

The Tourist Information Centre in Norwich which carries a wealth of information about what is on, is situated in The Forum, Norwich's Millennium building, designed by Hopkins Architects. The Forum also hosts regular art exhibitions and other events and the Fusion Digital Gallery which usually has interesting shows relating to the area.

To pick a top 10 is challenging as there is so much choice but the following are real highlights for me:

Norfolk & Norwich Festival: this annual multi-arts festival is mostly based in Norwich but there are events in other parts of the county as well. It takes place in May each year and offers a wide range of national and international artists. It is the fourth biggest festival in the UK and always has original productions which can only be seen in a few other places in the UK and sometimes only in Norwich. The Festival is also responsible for Norfolk Open Studios which takes place in late May/early June across the county, and features over 250 different artists.

Holkham Hall: as well as the amazing Palladian architecture of the grand house and its historic furniture and paintings, interesting events often take place there such as concerts both inside and outside in the marvellous park, special exhibitions and other activities.

Norwich Theatre Royal: is the most successful regional theatre in the country and presents a wide range of productions from popular musicals to top class opera and entertaining farces to wonderful productions of serious drama.

Blickling Hall: one of my favourite National Trust properties, a beautiful building, interiors, garden and park with a fascinating history. Not too tongue in cheek, you might say that it is Norwich's Versailles.

Norwich Castle Museum and Gallery: has many different and interesting collections. Particular favourites of mine are the paintings from the Norwich School of Artists and the temporary exhibitions. The Natural History dioramas are also especially unusual.

Great Yarmouth: is great for a day out. It has several smaller museums such as Time & Tide, the Elizabethan House and the Nelson Museum which all have striking collections and are well-worth visiting. The unique and historic Great Yarmouth Hippodrome circus also offers an enjoyable afternoon or evening out.

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts: located at the University of East Anglia, the permanent exhibitions in this iconic Norman Foster-designed building reveal the world-class collections of Robert and Lisa Sainsbury and others. From ancient African and South American sculptures to the beautiful Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau furniture and jewellery it is a really significant international gallery. There are often interesting temporary exhibitions as well and a great café, and although you have to find your way through the UEA campus, you can get the bus or usually find somewhere to park.

Norwich's smaller museums: the Bridewell, which tells the story of Norwich's social and industrial past, has recently been completely redesigned to make it even more appealing: Stranger’s Hall is a lovely former merchant’s house; the John Jarrold Printing Museum gives an insight into the heritage of printing.

Houghton Hall: is one of the most exquisite stately homes in the country. Built by Sir Robert Walpole, England's first Prime Minister, it represents the highest quality of design and collecting in its era. The gardens and park are also beautiful and include some stunning modern artworks including pieces by James Turrell and Richard Long.

Norwich Cathedral: with its slightly goldy-coloured stonework which gives its special warmth, the Cathedral and its Close are amongst the most beautiful in the country and provide an inspirational refuge. The Cathedral often has special events during the year as well as holding regular services featuring high quality music performed by the choir and organist. The Cathedral also has two significant modern additions also designed by Hopkins Architects, which blend well with the medieval structure and house the Refectory restaurant, the choir school and exhibition spaces.

Norwich Cathedral is also one of Visit Norfolk's 7 Wonders of Norfolk.

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