Not many would place Norwich high on their list of cities to visit, but they are wrong. Norwich has a beautiful fusion of the modern and historic, but there is far more to Norfolk’s capital than that. In the past, Norwich was the largest city in England after London. The city prospered through the wool trade and once had a pub for every day of the year. It was even the first place in the United Kingdom to use postcodes. Today, Norwich is famous for its music and cultural scene, historical monuments, buzzing restaurants and lively streets. It is the most complete medieval city in the United Kingdom. It is also one of the few cities in the world recognised as the UNESCO City of Literature. Even though it may no longer be one of the most important cities in England, there are many things to do in Norwich.
Norwich, which lies at the heart of rural East Anglia, was an important city in England until the Industrial Revolution.
Top things to do in Norwich
Norwich is one of those cities which has plenty to offer to its visitors. A city of history, architecture and culture has many attractions. Let’s explore the best things to do in Norwich and uncover the history of one of the best places in England.
1. Norwich Cathedral
Every major city has a recognisable landmark, an attraction that makes it famous. In Norwich, it is a beautiful cream-coloured Anglican cathedral. You can find it in the historic centre. Norwich Cathedral is one of the top attractions in Norwich because it is one of the finest cathedrals in England. This iconic cathedral is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe. It towers over the city and is visible for miles.
A visit to the Anglican Cathedral is a must for anyone visiting Norfolk because Norwich Cathedral is the most complete Norman Cathedral in England.
The hundreds of years old cathedral, which dominated the city’s skyline, has seen plague, war and even fire. You probably do not know it, but Norwich Cathedral has the second largest cloisters in England, only exceeded by those in Salisbury. Also, Norwich Cathedral has the second tallest spire in England – also after Salisbury Cathedral. Highlights of a cathedral are a beautiful ceiling, the chapel of St Luke, the Monk’s Door, and, of course, the cloisters.
It is easy to understand why Norwich Cathedral is one of the top attractions in Norwich.
Exploring Norwich Cathedral is one of the best things to do in Norwich because it is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in England. Plus, it is free to enter – you can donate any amount you wish.
2. Cathedral Close
Cathedral Close has not changed much since medieval times.
Afterwards, take time to explore nearby Cathedral Close. It is an area near the cathedral where you can find many listed buildings and beautiful green spaces. Visiting Cathedral Close is one of the best things to do in Norwich because Cathedral Close is an excellent place to escape the hustle and bustle of the modern city. It is a historic area with buildings dating back from the foundations of the cathedral. Make sure that you will see Bishop’s Palace and St. John’s Chapel. Also, explore Cathedral Quarters, where you can find many shops and cafés.
Among the most visited places in Norwich is leafy Tombland. It is a historic area around Norwich Cathedral. This area used to be the marketplace before the Normans arrived in the city and built the castle. Today visiting Tombland is one of the popular things to do in Norwich. It is because it is one of the oldest parts of the city. Plus, Tombland is also very charming. Once here, do not miss two beautiful gates leading to the Anglican Cathedral. One of them is the Erpingham Gate with the statue of Madonna and Child. The other is the impressive Ethelbert Gate, with numerous statues of saints and priests.
4. Norwich Castle
Another historic place to visit is Norwich Castle, which is also one of the top attractions in Norwich. The construction of the castle began around the same time as Norwich Cathedral. It was William the Conqueror who ordered to build a castle. He wanted to have a fortified place in Norwich. Today this medieval keep overlooking central Norwich is one of the best-preserved examples of Anglo-Norman military architecture. The castle now remains a museum and art gallery.
Visiting Norwich Castle is one of the best things to do in Norwich if you love museums.
Take a tour of the castle and see a collection of medieval weapons, paintings and significant objects from the regions. Do not miss Happisburgh Hand Axe, the oldest hand axe ever found in North-West Europe. It is a precious tool that supports the evidence that people lived in the area 500,000 years ago.
5. Elm Hill
It is easy to see why exploring Elm Hill is one of the top things to do in Norwich. Elm Hill is not only very photogenic, but it is also the most famous street in the city. What makes Elm Hill unique is that Elm Hill is one of the best-preserved medieval streets in England. This beautiful cobbled street has a medieval architecture with Tudor buildings and cute little shops. Once here, do not miss the Britons Arms – it is the only building that survived the fire in the 16th century. The fire lasted for 4 days and destroyed hundreds of buildings in the city.
6. Pulls Ferry
Next, make time to stroll alongside the Wensum River, which runs through the centre of the city. Walking by the river is very tranquil and offers a slice of peace. Be sure to head to Pulls Ferry, which is one of the best attractions in Norwich. Many years ago, monks built a medieval canal with Pulls Ferry watergate. They used it for transferring the stone for Norwich Cathedral from northern France. Today visiting Pulls Ferry is one of the popular things to do in Norwich where you can enjoy a green and calm atmosphere.
7. Cow Tower
Also, stop at the Cow Tower, which you can find near the banks of the River Wensum. The Cow Tower is one of the English Heritage Sites, and therefore, it is one of the attractions in Norwich. It is a brick tower built as a strategic point in the city defence. It was used as an artillery tower.
8. Norwich Market
After a long day exploring attractions in Norwich, go to the market where you can browse the stalls. You may not know it, but Norwich Market is one of the oldest outdoor markets in England. The market has been in this location for more than 900 years. For this reason, visiting Norwich Market is one of the best things to do in Norwich. Pick yourself some local products in one of the colourful stalls in the heart of the city. The market runs every day except for Sundays. You can buy here anything from fresh produce selling cheese, vegetables, spices and also flowers.
9. St John the Baptist Cathedral in Norwich
Unlike other cities, Norwich is home not to one cathedral but to two. Yes, that is right, you can find here two Holy places. And while many tourists head to the famous Anglican Cathedral, only a few make it to St John the Baptist Cathedral. And they do not know what they are missing out on.
The St John the Baptist Cathedral is a part of Norwich 12 iconic buildings, which are heritage attractions in Norwich. The Roman Catholic cathedral with one tower is famous for its beautiful stained glass and also stonework. Paying a visit to St John the Baptist Cathedral is one of the unique things to do in Norwich because it is one of the most impressive architectural buildings in Norfolk. Make sure you add it to your list of attractions in Norwich.
10. Plantation Garden
There are many beautiful attractions in Norwich, and Plantation Garden is one of them. Plantation Garden is a secret garden, which is one of the best green spaces in the city. This beautifully restored Victorian garden is very peaceful. It offers an excellent escape from the busy city centre. It is also easy to find because it is beside the Roman Catholic Cathedral.
11. Paddle down the Wensum River
Once you have done sightseeing, why not mix things up with kayaking, canoeing or paddleboarding? All three are popular activities and are also a fun way to get active while enjoying a different perspective of the city. Kayaking or paddling down the River Wensum are popular things to do in Norwich if you want to be active outdoors in the sunshine. Plus, you will burn some calories at the same time.
12. Dragon Hall
To experience how a trading hall in a major textile production centre looked like centuries ago, head to a quirky Dragon Hall. This outstanding Grade 1 listed building is one of the Twelve iconic buildings in Norwich. Dragon Hall is famous for its spectacular Great Hall with timber crown-post roof decorated with dragons.
Exploring Dragon Hall is one of the unique things to do in Norwich because this beautiful trading hall is a rare example of a medieval merchant’s trading complex. It is one of the architectural gems in the city. Today it is home to the National Centre for Writing. You can find Dragon Hall on King Street. Back in the 15th century, this street was the main road through the city.
13. Broads National Park
The Broads ©About Britain
With the history visited, it is time to hit the natural world. Get yourself to the Broads National Park, which is an easy drive east of Norwich. The Broads is a Wildlife National Park. It is home to more than a quarter of the rarest animals and plants in Britain. In truth, this unique nature reserve has hundreds of kilometres of lakes and water channels. But this haven of tranquillity was not always so – the Broads looked different.
The beautiful waterways we can see today were, in fact, man-made. The Broads National Park is a result of medieval peat diggings which were flooded in the past. Today the park is ideal for sailing – you can even take a boat tour here.
Sailing at the Broads National Park is one of the top things to do in Norwich because the park has a unique landscape and wildlife. Take a cruise on the Norfolk Broads, and you will see rare wildlife and also many windmills. Some of the best windmills are the Berney Arms Mill and also Horsey Mill.
14. Royal Arcade
The Art Nouveau Royal Arcade is also one of the attractions in Norwich.
Of course, the city is also famous for its shopping opportunities. You can find here a mix of small boutiques and also large shopping centres. Once here, make sure you visit the Royal Arcade – it is a Victorian shopping arcade with little shops and stores. Some say that the Royal Arcade is one of the most beautiful covered shopping streets in the country. Hence, visit it and stop in some little shops.
15. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Those interested in art and museums should find time to visit Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. It is a museum and art gallery located on the University of East Anglia campus on the outskirts of the city.
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts has impressive collections of art from all over the globe. The displays include everything from Roman sculptures to modern art (e.g. Picasso or Henry Moore). You can also find here special exhibitions which change every few months. Plus, visiting Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is one of the free things to do in Norwich.
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