With the stunning Norfolk Broads a short drive to the East and the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty just a little further on, many visitors to this beautiful part of the British Isles bypass the city of Norwich. But there are many reasons to make it part of your trip to the region.
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 awash 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 in the city.
Observe world art at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Located on the campus of the University of East Anglia, this renowned gallery and museum 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
Wander the riverside path around the city
Norwich city centre is hugged by a large bow of the River Wensum and the inner bank of it has a lovely riverwalk, along which you can encounter some of Norwich’s older buildings including Cow Tower, a bulky artillery tower from the late 1300s, and Bishop Bridge, a pedestrian crossing over the Wensum that is even older.
Additionally, you can combine this walk with a hop on, hop off bus tour, which stops at a couple of spots close to the riverside walk, including Riverside Road, just along from the Bishop Bridge crossing. More information about the stops and ticket purchases can be found here.
Combine history and culture at Norwich Castle
Comprising a museum and art gallery all located inside an 11th-century Norman Castle, this is one of Norwich’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
Watch a show at Norwich Theatre Royal
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.
Amble around the shops of Norwich Lanes
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 just the aesthetic appeal, this area of the city is best known for its shopping opportunities 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.
Perk up at Strangers Coffee House
Religion and politics may divide opinion, but coffee isn’t far behind. Thankfully, when it comes to finding top notch coffee in Norwich, everyone seems to be in agreement that Strangers Coffee House is as good as it gets. Nestled in the bustling Norwich Lanes district, this independent café prides itself on its artisanal coffee that uses locally-roasted speciality beans, along with delicious home-made cakes and pastries. The perfect stop-off after a day’s exploring the delights of this fascinating city.
Shop for something unusual at Stubenhocker
Norwich is a great city for simply pottering around at a leisurely pace, dipping into shops and cafes that take your fancy. If you’re a fan of vintage and are seeking inspiration for your home, there’s nowhere better to browse around than Stubenhocker, which can be found in the city centre. This charming boutique features a wide range of reupholstered mid-century furniture, lighting and other accessories that will add a unique touch to your abode. And if you end up buying something, there’s even an atmospheric pub next door where you can raise a pint to your new purchase.
16 Wensum St
Help students hone their craft at Debut Restaurant
This is a great idea for a restaurant and well worth a visit. Run by City College Norwich’s renowned Hotel School at its Ipswich Road campus, just a few minutes from the city centre, Debut serves up fabulous food prepared and presented by the culinary stars of tomorrow. Indeed, many of them are following in the footsteps of the likes of Tom Aikens, Richard Bainbridge and Richard Hughes who all trained here. The quality of both the food and the service is highly impressive given the age of the staff, but don’t be too harsh if there are any minor slip ups – these guys are still learning their trade after all! The menu is varied with a focus on locally sourced ingredients and the restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner, during term time only. There are also regular themed evenings and guest chef events.