7 Unique Things to do in Norwich, East Anglia

by Paul Joseph  |  Updated June 5, 2024

With the Norfolk Broads to the east and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty just further on, many visitors bypass the city of Norwich – but there are many reasons to stick around.

The medieval Norwich Castle (Photo: Hefin Owen via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Nestled on the River Wensum, Norwich is teeming with history, and was once the country’s second largest and most important city after London. Today it is dotted with fascinating buildings and landmarks that offer a reminder of this distinguished past. Along with its small-town ambience, it is part of what makes this such a delightful place to simply wander around and explore. But if you really want to immerse yourself in everything Norwich has to offer, we’ve picked out eight of the most unique things to see and do.

Visit a medieval castle

Comprising a museum and art gallery, the 11th-century Norwich Castle is one of the city’s most impressive sights and sits right in the heart of the city centre. This English heritage site holds a range of different exhibits, including artefacts from the Anglo Saxons, Vikings and Iceni, of whom Queen Boudica was queen. Art exhibits include fine art from local and regional painters, along with decorative arts such as textiles, ceramics and metalwork. It is also possible to tour the building, including accessing the dungeon and battlements, from where you can get great views over the city.

24 Castle Meadow / Mon-Sat 10am-4.30pm Sun 1pm-4.30pm

Explore an area of outstanding beauty

Lying around 30 miles north of central Norwich, the Norfolk Broads are among Britain’s most scenic places of interest. Designated an area of outstanding natural beauty, the national park attracts huge numbers of visitors throughout the year who come to explore the unique network of navigable rivers and lakes. For more active pursuits, an abundance of water-based activities are available including boating, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing, while numerous walking and cycling trails can be found on land.

You can book a paddleboarding tour of the Norfolk Broads at GetYourGuide

The Norfolk Broads at sunset (Photo: caroline legg via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Marvel at a magnificent cathedral

Nestled amid 44 acres of pristinely maintained grounds with direct riverside access, Norwich Cathedral combines picturesque scenery, a rich history and magnificent art. Considered one of the finest complete Romanesque cathedrals anywhere in Europe, the 12th-century church runs free daily tours for visitors who come to admire its vast spire, monastic cloisters and plethora of art inside. Eagle-eyed sightseers may also notice the medieval graffiti uncovered in 2013. Sitting under the shadow of the cathedral’s spire is a charming refectory where refreshments can be enjoyed.

65 The Close / Mon-Sun 7.30am-6.30pm

The nave at Norwich Cathedral (Photo: Matt Brown via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Take in some culture at a museum

It is a lesser-known fact that during the Middle Ages, Norwich was the second wealthiest city in England. How this came to be is the focus of the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, a former prison that now houses a diverse collection of artefacts that tell the story of the city’s fascinating industrial past. From the textile trade to shoe-making to chocolate and mustard production, the city’s evolution amid changing fortunes is told across two floors of gallery space. Audio diaries, and archive film in a recreated cinema add to the evocative atmosphere.

Wild Man, 5 Bridewell Alley / Tues-Sat 10am-4.30pm Closed Sun-Mon

Situated about 6 miles north of the city centre, the City of Norwich Aviation Museum features aircraft and memorabilia that chart the aviation history of the region. Indoor exhibits include sections dedicated to the history of the RAF in Norfolk and to that of the United States Army Air Force, units of which were based at Norfolk airfields during WWII. Outside, several vintage commercial and military aircraft are on display, including the Avro Vulcan and the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod, with both regularly open for guided tours.

Old Norwich Road, Horsham Street Faith / Tues-Sat 10am-5pm Sun 11am-4pm Closed Mon

An aircraft on display at the City of Norwich Aviation Museum (Photo: Geoff Henson via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED)

Amble around the shops

At one point or another, visitors to Norwich inevitably gravitate towards the Norwich Lanes, a series of pretty alleyways and open spaces overlooked by striking medieval architecture. But more than visual appeal, this area of the city is best known for its shopping, with everything from independent fashion boutiques, art galleries and quirky craft stores to prestigious luxury brands and High Street favourites on offer here. There’s also a wide choice of coffee houses, cafes, bars and restaurants in which to rest those weary legs.

Immerse yourself in art 

Located on the campus of the University of East Anglia, the renowned Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts boasts an exceptional collection of art from all over the globe, spanning over 5,000 years of human history. Housed in an iconic Norman Foster building, the visual drama begins even before you enter, but once inside there is so much more to hold the attention; the sheer diversity of art on display includes pieces sources from all over the world. A great day out for art and architecture enthusiasts alike.

University of East Anglia, Norfolk Road / Tues-Fri 9am-6pm Sat-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

A room of exhibits at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (Photo: Nigel Young Foster+Partners)

Catch some live theatre

Culture is in ample supply in Norwich and at the vanguard of the city’s creative and artistic output is the Norwich Theatre Royal, which offers evening entertainment and matinee performances too. Once a classic art-deco theatre, the fully modernised and refurbished venue plays host to a vast programme of touring productions each year, spanning numerous genres including opera, drama and comedy. Notable performances include internationally-renowned productions of Les Miserables and The Bodyguard, as well as concerts by stars of the world music scene.

Theatre Street