Planning a trip to the ‘Fine City’ of Norwich? You’re in for a treat. Far from being a backwater city, the real Norwich is cool, cultured and a little bit quirky.
Whether you’re looking to shop ‘til you drop, take in a show or make the most of the incredible food and drink scene – let a born-and-bred local show you the sights:
Best for shopaholics
As you’d expect from a city, there are plenty of shops to explore but Norwich really punches above its weight for a truly diverse retail experience.
Yes, there are high street brands in the city centre and the two shopping malls – Chapelfield and Castle Mall – but for an authentic shopping experience, head to the Norwich Lanes. Among the more conventional independent shops, you’ll find Head in the Clouds (Britain’s oldest head shop), Thorns – an Aladdin’s cave of a hardware store, and Tofurei which makes its own tofu.
Another unmissable shopping destination is Norwich Market. Once a bit run down, it has undergone incredible regeneration to become the Best Large Outdoor Market 2019. As well as a wide range of stalls selling everything and anything you could imagine, it’s also a great place to visit for both local produce and street food from around the globe. Essentially, if you’re looking for something and you can’t find it in the market, it probably doesn’t exist.
The final stop on your retail tour has to be Jarrolds, which isn’t just a department store – it’s a Norwich institution. This is the place to visit for high-end brands, makeup, gifts, homeware and loads more. Plus, there’s a lovely café right at the top where you can enjoy a cup of tea and a scone while you watch people on the street below.
Best for history lovers
If you’re a keen historian, there couldn’t be a better city to visit than Norwich. The city is really, really old; at the time of the Norman conquest it was one of the most important places in the whole country and many established areas of the city still remain from this period – for example, you can still see the original city walls as you drive into Norwich.
The best place to see Norwich’s fascinating history in evidence is around Tombland. It’s got nothing to do with being dead and buried – Tombland is Old English for open ground and it was here that lots of trading used to take place. The Maids Head Hotel is found here and is perhaps the oldest hotel in the whole of the country. Also in Tombland is the spectacular Norwich Cathedral which has the second-tallest spire in England and dates back to 1096.
Another destination for historians is Norwich Castle which stands atop a mound, benevolently presiding over the city centre. The square castle dates from 1067 and was originally built as a royal palace.
And you absolutely can’t miss Elm Hill, which is probably the most picturesque street in the whole of East Anglia, let alone Norwich. It is a great example of a complete medieval street, with timber-framed higgledy-piggledy houses in assorted colours, although it was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1507. It’s now home to galleries and shops which line its cobbled streets.
Best for booze hounds
There’s a saying that Norwich once had a church for every week of the year, and a pub for every day, so you could say the city’s priorities lie very much in the pub.
A great place to start is Adam & Eve, which is near the cathedral and is at least 750 years old. But for something more modern, head back up to the Norwich Lanes where you’ll find the Birdcage conveniently located opposite Grosvenor Fish Bar. Every Friday, you can enjoy fizz and chips in a glorious collaboration between the two much-loved establishments.
Best for culture vultures
Norwich is arty, creative and a little bit offbeat, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to some great cultural venues, whether you’re looking for live music, cinema, art or theatre.
As well as the more traditional Theatre Royal, Norwich-based luvvies can get their fix at five other theatres including the Maddermarket, which has a strong Shakespearean tradition, or the Playhouse which also hosts live music and comedy events.
If you’re an art fan, you shouldn’t miss the galleries in Elm Hill or head slightly out of the city to The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts which houses permanent abstract and art nouveau collections as well as temporary exhibitions.
Best for nature lovers
Far from being a congested urban jungle, Norwich has plenty of green spaces to enjoy if you fancy getting back to nature for a while.
The River Wensum runs right through the city and you can follow the waterside route out towards where the Wensum joins the Yare at Whitlingham. There are also some longer distance trails that start (or end) in Norwich, including Marriott’s Way, Wherryman’s Way and Boudicca Way.
Or head up to Mousehold Heath in the north of the city, where you can wander the 184 acres of heathland and woodland and spot local wildlife. Earlham and Eaton parks, either side of the University of East Anglia, are also great green spaces in the city and perfect for impromptu picnics.
Best for sports fans
On the ball, City! If you’re a football fan you might (or might not, depending on how the season’s going) want to get tickets to watch Norwich City at Carrow Road.
The club has been going since 1902 and has been based at Carrow Road, which is easily accessible from the city centre, since 1935. For the best atmosphere, try and get tickets for the East Anglian derby against Ipswich Town.
You’ll be in good company – not only is Delia Smith famously a fan (and shareholder), but Stephen Fry, Ed Balls and Simon Thomas all support the Canaries.
With medieval architecture, a rich cultural scene and more pubs than you can visit in a year, you can see that Norwich really deserves its title of ‘A Fine City’. So next time someone asks you (as they say in Norfolk): “you goin’ up city?’, the answer will surely be “yes!"