Be a flaneur for the day and take a gentle stroll around Norwich, with over 1500 historic buildings within the city walls.
The city has 33 medieval churches (one of them hosting the Norwich Puppet Theatre, but remember there are strings attached to any visit there), more than any other city in northern Europe, and Elm Hill is a complete historical cobbled street with stunning examples of Tudor buildings and wealthy merchants’ houses.
It’s said there used to be a pub for every day and a church for every Sunday. With that number of pubs, there’d be a lot of repenting.
Don’t miss our Norman cathedral, one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe. Well, you can’t miss it – it boasts the second tallest spire in the country, as well as the largest cloisters in England.
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! Look out for statues of world war one nurse Edith Cavell and Horatio Nelson, and take a tour of the magnificent cathedral and cloisters, the only two-storey cloisters in the country. The cathedral was actually built as an act of penance… yes, really!
Take a tour of the Norman Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, and find out what a Snapdragon is. With over 1 million exhibits, the Castle is our version of The Smithsonian, an eclectic mix of fine art, archaeology (look out for the mummified cat), natural history (including tigers and a giant polar bear) and much more (death masks of convicted killers anyone?). The ‘British Masters’ gallery showcases the work of the two leading figures of the Norwich School, John Crome and John Sell Cotman, displaying their greatest masterpieces side by side. The façade of the castle was actually reconstructed by the Victorians but sssh, don’t tell anyone! They’ll never guess!
The Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist is built on the highest point in the city and the views from its tower are probably the best. On a clear day you can see Happisburgh lighthouse on the coast!
Behind the Cathedral are the Plantation Gardens, Norwich’s very own Secret Garden, built in a former quarry.
Have tea or stay at The Maids Head Hotel, reputed to be the oldest hotel in the UK. It’s also where Elizabeth I (her mother Anne Boleyn grew up at Blickling) is said to have stayed when she was in the city, possibly with her great friend Matthew Parker, the original Nosey Parker. Yes, Nosey Parker was a Norfolk guy!
A great place for Afternoon Teas is the Regency Assembly House – it’s got a real Bridgerton vibe.
Take a look around the family-run Jarrold, Norwich’s wonderful independent department store, the Harrods of the East, with an award-winning book department that has over 40,000 titles. (It was Jarrold who published 30 million bestseller Black Beauty by Anna Sewell).
Alongside all the big High Street names and the largest city centre Marks & Spencer outside London, over 40 per cent of Norwich’s shops are independent, mostly in The Lanes, which means shoppers get the best of both worlds. The city is a shopper’s paradise, recognised as one of the top 10 places to shop in the UK.
Have chips on Norwich market, which is open 6 days a week and is Europe’s largest covered market. We love the rainbow-coloured roofs. Okay, there’s more to it than just the chips (fried in beef fat – not for veggies!). Buy them, liberally douse with vinegar, sprinkle over salt, then go and take a walk. On a diet? Don’t worry, there are loads of other fabulous food outlets.
Take in the vista… the 15th century Guildhall, hangar-like, glass-fronted Forum (home to the city’s library), St Peter Mancroft Church (the largest church in Norwich which provoked John Wesley, founder of the Methodists, to say, ‘I scarcely ever remember to have seen a more beautiful parish church’), the Norman Castle and City Hall (built in the 1930s and based on the city hall in Stockholm, Sweden). Any direction will provide great sights… and always keep your head up.
Head along Gentleman’s Walk, through the Royal Arcade, then left along London Street, the first pedestrianised street in the UK, into Tombland and the Cathedral precinct.
A drink at the Adam and Eve isn’t a bad idea either and while you’re down that way see Pull’s Ferry, a 17th century flint house on the river Wensum, which is named after the last ferryman to work this stretch of the river. This is where stone from Caen in Normandy to build the cathedral was unloaded.
Have a pint of beer made by one of our microbreweries – we have more than any other county in the country and there’s a few in the city. You’ll find gin distilleries too!
Visit the Bridewell Museum of Norwich, in the lovely Lanes. A look back at the history of our Fine City, you’ll find a first edition of The Revelations of Divine Love, the first book published in English that was written by a woman, Julian of Norwich, and considered one of the great spiritual classics, as well as artefacts from the Colman’s Mustard factory.
See a performance at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich, the first permanent recreation of an Elizabethan theatre. You thought the new Globe on the embankment in London got there first, didn’t you? Not at all – the Maddermarket was opened in 1921 and it’s a world class Shakespearean-style playhouse.
Eat al fresco in Tombland. No, the old Saxon market place isn’t named after burials and coffins, the name derives from the Saxon word for an open space.
Discover if you have Norfolk ancestry at the Norfolk Heritage Centre in Norwich. We once had strong trading links with Yorkshire, became American pioneers, sent many to distant parts of the Empire, had émigrés go to Canada and packed a few off to Australia as well (uhm… perhaps you may not want to delve into that, like the Aussie woman who said she didn’t want to go to England because that’s where all the criminals came from).
Visit Norwich during the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in May, which is over 200 years old and one of the largest international arts festival in the country. Check out the 1930s Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, home of music, cabaret, burlesque and theatre.
Go to a football game at Carrow Road to see the mighty Canaries, Norwich City Football Club, and join in a rendition of the oldest known football song, On The Ball City, which goes:
Kick it off, throw it in, have a little scrimmage,
Keep it low, a splendid rush, bravo, win or die;
On the ball, City, never mind the danger,
Steady on, now’s your chance,
Hurrah! We’ve scored a goal.
City! City! City!
In October 1938 King George VI became the first British monarch to watch a football league match when he visited Carrow Road (they used to play at The Nest – yes, really!). Why are they called the Canaries? Because an early club chairman, a keen breeder of the birds, changed their strip to yellow and green. To get the Norfolk dialect off pat, just recite this line, ‘Um guha roide moy boike dahna Carra Ruhd’…
Outside the city visit the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts on the University of East Anglia campus, build by architect Norman Foster in 1973 to house the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. It was Foster’s first public building and is an attraction in itself, along with the works of Picasso, Degas, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon. It is also stars in Marvel films as the superheroes’ upstate New York HQ. The Centre also hosts regular exhibitions. Afterwards take a walk around the Broad where you enjoy the free outdoors Sculpture Trail.
Appreciate the view of Norwich, our Fine City, from Mousehold Heath. This lovely park high above the city has great views looking down on the cathedral, castle and city centre (wonderful at sunset). You could even imagine what it looked like in 1549 when Robert Kett camped his troops up here prior to attacking Norwich. It didn’t end well… but your visit to our Fine City will!