What did I know about Norwich before our visit? Colmans Mustard. A football team nicknamed the Canaries. Alan Partridge and Delia Smith. With a morning to spare on the way back home from our stay at Choo Choo Moo we decided to pop in to the city. And we discovered that there are a lot of things to like about Norwich.
Thank you Where Charlie Wanders for her recommendations via Twitter before we visited! Once again, travel bloggers are the best for local sights and suggestions for food and drink.
I don’t know what I expected from Norwich, but I certainly didn’t expect it to have such an impressive cathedral. Built in 1096 and completed in 1145, Norwich cathedral has the second largest cloister in England after Salisbury. It’s 315ft spire can be seen from all over the city and dominates the skyline. Being a Sunday morning it wasn’t open to gawping tourists, but we were able to walk around the beautiful Cathedral Close, dotted with listed buildings and tranquil green spaces.
Buried at the cathedral is WWI nurse and war hero Edith Cavell. A distant relative of mine apparently. Also making Norwich Cathedral their home during the summer months are a pair of peregrine falcons. They even have their own webcam here.
If a cathedral isn’t enough, Norwich also has a Norman castle, built as a royal palace for William the Conqueror. Today, it’s a museum and gallery, home to collections of fine art, natural history and architecture.
Home to over 300 independent retailers, cafes and bars, the Norwich Lanes are a series of alleyways and courtyards tucked right behind the more familiar high street names. It’s here you can find Jarrold’s, Norwich’s independent department store which has graced the city since 1823. It’s easy to while away the hours here, popping from one shop to another. With plenty of pubs, bars and restaurants I can imagine this is a great place for a night out.
Also perfect for window shopping is the Royal Arcade, packed full of little independent stores and hidden treasure. And for a burst of colour whilst you shop, make sure you head for the rainbow stalls of Norwich Market. Dating back over 900 years, it’s one of the oldest open-air markets in England. Sadly the market is closed on a Sunday, so we didn’t get the opportunity to browse or sample the fresh food vendors.
This picturesque street is one of Norwich’s most recommended sights. The most complete medieval street in the city, apparently it’s haunted by the ghost of an angry clergyman who will condemn you into hell. The cobbled streets are lined with speciality shops housed in soft pastel buildings.
If you’re getting a bit peckish on your whistlestop tour of Norwich I can thoroughly recommend Olives at Norwich on Elm Hill for all things breakfast.
For more historic areas, Tombland is the site of an old Anglo-Saxon marketplace. It’s name is less macabre than it seems, with Tombland meaning “empty space” in Old English. It was the heart of the city until the Normans arrived, built their castle and moved the market square. The area lays claim to one of the oldest hotels in England, the Maid’s Head Hotel.
I always love a city with a river flowing through it. And Norwich has the Wensum. There’s a path alongside, and you can take a leisurely stroll from Norwich Railway Station to Fye Bridge before cutting back into the city via Elm Hill. Sights along the way include a medieval watergate which has been converted into a private residence, a 50 foot tall artillery blockhouse and the remains of the old city walls. From Bishop Bridge we watched boats cutting a swathe through the water. You also get pretty spectacular views of the cathedral from the riverside.
We only had a couple of hours in Norwich, but it’s definitely one to return to for a more leisurely visit. It’s a small city, which means it is extremely walkable – although all those cobbles can play hell with the ankles.
We parked at St Andrews Car Park on Duke Street. Details and parking fees are here.