We’re a county of stunning coast and countryside but at our heart is the lovely city of Norwich. And it’s a great place to visit at any time of the year. Relaxed, buzzy and eminently walkable, just follow our simple guide to discover our county metropolis…
Explore the aisles of Norwich market, the largest permanent covered market in Europe. And while you’re here eat fresh chips with lashings of vinegar and salt. Or have a Thai takeway, buy some Pickerings sausages, or pick up some vintage clothing. It’s all here.
Don’t miss bimbling along the Norwich Lanes, to the east of the Market Place. Norwich has High Street names, but in The Lanes you’ll find a plethora of independent stores, ideal to get some quirky presents to take home.
Walk along nearby London Street and you’ll be on the UK’s first pedestrianised road – all the way back from 1967.
Tour the magnificent Norman Cathedral, which has recently hosted Dippy the Dinosaur and a helter skelter! The cloisters are the largest in the country and the steeple the second highest after Salisbury. Can you find the Masons’ graffiti? Afterwards, have a snack and refreshments in the Refectory.
Take a look at the Erpingham Gate at the Cathedral and think about the link between Norfolkman Sir Thomas Erpingham who led the Welsh archers at Agincourt and a rude gesture. At that famous battle the French knights said they would cut off the two bow-pulling fingers of any archer they captured. At the end, the triumphant archers flaunted at the French their strong two digits. Geddit?
Have a pint in the higgledy-piggledy Adam and Eve pub, the oldest in Norwich and the most haunted. It’s just around the corner from the Cathedral, and where the masons would have end-of-day flagon of ale.
Enjoy the Riverside Walk along the Wensum, taking in Cow Tower and Pull’s Ferry, where Caen stone was unloaded from the 11th century to build the Cathedral.
Amble along cobbled Elm Hill and imagine you’re back in Tudor Norwich. There are some lovely quirky shops here.
Discover the Snapdragon, mummified cat, death masks and a Boudicca chariot in the Norwich Castle Museum and Gallery. As the Castle is a great example of motte and bailey, you’ll get fine views of the city from the top.
Learn about city history at the Museum of Norwich at The Bridewell. Discover what Norwich was like when it was England’s second city, larger and more prosperous than Bristol, York and Newcastle.
Find the Cucking Stool plaque on Fye Bridge. In the days before reality TV shows, there was little entertainment, so huge crowds joined the procession of a scold or a harlot to the ducking stool, a common 16th century punishment. The offending woman would be tied to the stool and dunked in the cold dirty water of the Wensum. The last woman to be put through the humiliation was a Margaret Grove, who was ducked three times in 1587.
Head into Strangers’ Hall and get a feel of medieval Norwich when Flemish weavers took our cloth trade to new heights.
Look out for the plaque to Matthew Parker on St Saviour’s Church in Magdalen Street – charged by Anne Boleyn of the Blickling family, on the eve of her beheading, to look after the infant Princess Elizabeth he became Archbishop of Canterbury and was so assiduous in looking after Queen Elizabeth I’s interests that he earned the nickname… Nosey Parker!
Enjoy the annual beer festival at St Andrew’s Hall, the most complete example of a friar’s church in the country. If the festival’s not on during your visit, don’t fret – Norwich has plenty of fabulous pubs. In fact, at the height of its wealth, the city had a pub for every day and a church for every Sunday. Or just enjoy an al fresco drink at a nearby cafe.
Head to Pottergate and find the home of Sarah Ann Glover, who invented the Tonic Solfa method of teaching singing. Would the hills have been so alive with music and Julie Andrews’ career so successful without Doh, Ray, Me, Fah, Soh, Lah, Te?
If you’re after afternoon refreshments, then you won’t get better than a Classic Afternoon Tea at The Assembly House. This Georgian gem in the heart of the city is also one of its finest looking buildings.
Norwich has its own secret garden – the Plantation Garden. Just behind St John’s Catholic Cathedral, this Grade II English Heritage listed garden features a 30ft Gothic fountain, an Italianate terrace, rustic bridge and woodland paths. Oh, and pop your head into the Catholic Cathedral too – it’s Neo Gothic splendour looks old, but it was only begun in 1882. Look closely and you can see the Victorian brickwork.
Find the plaque to Jonathan Davey on Davey Place near the market. In 1813 the businessman told the Common Council that he intended to put a ‘hole in the king’s head’. The council shouted: ‘Treason!’ Norwich was full of Jacobites and it had only been a few years since Revolutionary France had beheaded its king and queen. Within a week, No 11 Market Place, a coaching inn, was bought by Davey who demolished it and cut a passage from The Walk to the Castle Ditches. In creating the city’s first foot street, he was true to his word – he had indeed put a whole in The King’s Head!
Nearby is the lovely Victorian Royal Arcade, built in the Art Nouveau style by George Skipper and opened in 1899. According to Sir John Betjeman, Skipper ‘was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona’.
Check out the tower of St George Tombland Church and think about the June 1549 Kett’s Rebellion. First, note the broad shelf that steps out at the base. Then think of a rebellious brute who takes captured city defenders, trussed like chickens, to the top of the tower – and drops them head first from the parapet, ensuring that their skulls explode like melons on striking the shelf.
Round the corner in Tombland itself is leaning, crooked Augustine Steward House. Three times Mayor of Norwich, Steward risked his life during Kett’s Rebellion to open St Benedict’s Gate and allow the Earl of Warwick and his German mercenaries into the city to restore order. Here you’ll see why Norwich is the best-preserved medieval city in the country.
If you’re staying in Norwich, why not try The Maid’s Head in Tombland – it’s where Elizabeth I stayed on a visit to the city to discover the origins of her mother’s family, the famous Boleyns.
Scale the heights of Mousehold Heath to enjoy the city skyline view – best at sunset. How many landmarks can you find?