George Barrow, a 19th century writer, described Norwich as ‘a fine city’ and a fine city it certainly is. Located on the River Wensum, in the county of Norfolk, Norwich is under two hours by train from London – making it a great day out or a perfect getaway for a few days.
We stayed in Norwich for three nights, which was enough time for us to explore this city, steeped in history and culture. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great on one of the days – it rained constantly – but luckily there is lots to do that is rain proof! When the sun did come out, it was fabulous – Norwich is a very pretty city.
Here’s the best things to do in Norwich
Whilst Norwich isn’t a huge city, there’s plenty to see and do if you’re planning a weekend away or a city break.
Walk along the riverside
Norwich lies along the River Wensum and you can do a lovely riverside walk, stopping along the way to pop in to one of the riverside pubs for a drink or a meal. It’s not always a straight walk, which is part of the fun! You’ll find some wonderful spots to take photos, particularly on one of the bridges – the oldest of which dates back to 1340.
Along the way, you’ll stumble upon Cow Tower. It’s believed to be the earliest purpose-built artillery houses in England. It was built in 1398 to 1399 and played a critical part in the city’s defence.
Stroll around the market
Norwich Market is an outdoor market that is open Monday to Saturday. It’s one of the largest – and oldest – outdoor markets in the UK. You’ll find stalls selling everything from flowers to jewellery, to shoes and luggage. There are also lots of food stalls if you fancy a bite to eat. Vintage fans should head to the back of the market where you’ll find all the vintage clothing stalls.
Visit Norwich Castle
It’s currently undergoing restoration so it was quite difficult to get a decent photo of Norwich Castle! I won’t lie, it’s certainly not the prettiest caste I’ve ever seen, but a castle nonetheless. Built by the Normans 900 years ago as a palace, it’s now a museum and art gallery. At one point it was also a prison! If you want to visit, take a look at their website for opening times and ticket prices.
Walk around The Lanes
The Lanes is a bustling area of Norwich where you’ll find independent shops and cafes, churches housing antiques for sale, medieval buildings dating back hundreds of years, cobbled streets and Jarrold’s Department store which has been serving customers since 1823!
A stroll around The Lanes is a bit like stepping back in time. You can almost picture what it was like hundreds of years ago. Stop for a coffee or a bite to eat at one of the independent cafes, such as Frank’s Bar, then have a wander around Jarrold’s Department Store, which is fabulous.
Immerse yourself in antiques
I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many antique shops as I have in Norwich – everywhere you look there’s an ‘antiques for sale’ sign. A lot of them are in old churches and dotted around the city.
If the weather isn’t great, this is the perfect activity! We visited Looses Emporium on Magdalen Street on a rainy day and spent a good amount of time wandering through all the rooms and admiring their huge collection of antiques, vintage and retro items. They are the largest centre for antiques and collectibles in East Anglia, with over 60 dealers. They also have a cafe inside if you fancy a cuppa. I bought a couple of old pharmacy bottles for £10.50.
Visit the historic Cathedral Quarter
Undoubtedly one of Norwich’s most iconic landmarks, Norwich Cathedral is a must-see. It’s stood for over 900 years and the spire – at 315 feet tall – stands out in Norwich’s skyline. It’s free to visit, however donations are greatly appreciated. You can take a free guided tour, which lasts around 45 minutes if you want to find out about it’s history – they normally start on the hour, outside the Cathedral shop.
The cloisters was my favourite part. It’s the passageways that connect all the different parts of the monastery and that the monks used years ago to get around. In the centre is a beautiful garden.
I love how you can sit down, either on a bench, or on the stone and just look out at the garden, look at the emblems along the walls or just spend time being quiet and reflecting.
Immerse yourself in medieval history
Tombland is the area right by Norwich Cathedral, which was the heart of the city before the Normans arrived in 1066. It gets its name from two Old English words meaning ‘open ground’ as it used to be the main market place of Norwich. Back in the 1200s there was a disagreement with the monks from the Cathedral and the townspeople over land rights and riots ensued.
One of the results of these riots was the building of Ethelred Gate, pictured below, which has a little chapel above it. It was built around 1320.
In around 1420, roughly 100 years later, the Erpingham Gate was built. Both gates act as a gateway to the Cathedral.
In this area is also where you’ll find one of the most complete medieval streets in the UK – Elm Hill. Apparently on this one street, they have more medieval buildings than London!
Eat delicious food
There are some fabulous restaurants in Norwich and I’d recommend booking in advance. We had dinner at Benedicts one night, of which Richard Bainbridge is the Chef Patron. Richard has worked at 3 Michelin star restaurants, won The Great British Menu in 2015 and returned as a judge in 2017. We had a wonderful meal and would absolutely return the next time we’re in Norwich.
We had lunch on our last day at Farmyard and, as the weather was so nice, we got to eat outside – which was a real treat. Everything is cooked fresh, from their open kitchen, and the concept is simple, hand-picked ingredients and good cooking! The food was excellent and the service was warm and attentive. Highly recommend!
We loved our visit to Norwich. It’s perfect for a weekend away or a longer staycation – especially if you visit more of Norfolk.