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Which Norwich sights should you show visitors this Christmas?

PUBLISHED: 10:00 08 December 2019

The stunning Marble Hall in Aviva's Surrey House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The stunning Marble Hall in Aviva's Surrey House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

Many years ago, I lived in central London for several years before visiting any of the obvious landmarks such as St Paul’s and the Tower of London.

The Forum. Pic: BRITTANY WOODMANThe Forum. Pic: BRITTANY WOODMAN

And then it was only because some relations from Australia wanted to see them.

I suspect that I am not the only one who needs to be prompted to visit local attractions. After all, they are always there, so we can always go and look tomorrow or next month or next year.

Sometimes, of course, the excuse is sheer ignorance.

I was once waiting to get on a bus at Castle Meadow that was going to UEA and an American visitor asked if it went to the Sainsbury Centre.

Elm Hill in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLYElm Hill in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The driver replied 'no' and pointed the way to the Sainsbury supermarket.

For several weeks afterwards, whenever I used that bus service, I asked if it went to the Sainsbury Centre and only one driver knew that it did, despite the main bus stop at UEA being very close to that centre.

So where should you take visitors if you want to show them the best of the city? Here are my personal choices, although I am sure that I have missed off many other worthwhile suggestions.

The Marble Hall in Aviva's headquarters in Surrey Street: this extravagant gem built from marble originally intended for Westminster Cathedral was completed in 1906 as the headquarters of the Norwich Union insurance company.

Norwich's Bridewell Museum. Photo: Bill SmithNorwich's Bridewell Museum. Photo: Bill Smith

If it is not too busy, do ask to see the amazing clock halfway up the staircase that was made for the 1851 Great Exhibition and, if you are lucky, you may also be shown the original Norwich Union boardroom complete with carved mahogany panelling.

Elm Hill: probably England's best-preserved medieval street. But beware, it may be rather busy as the Netflix film Jingle Jangle, which was filmed in Elm Hill earlier this year is being shown over the Christmas period. The thatched Briton's Arms - one of the few buildings that escaped a fire that destroyed much of Elm Hill in 1507 - is still providing food and refreshment.

The Anglican Cathedral and Cathedral Close: everyone knows these well but they are always worth another visit. The Refectory provides not just refreshments but an opportunity to see the work of Michael Hopkins, the architect who has contributed so much to modern Norwich. And there may be parts that you have not seen, such as the Grade 2 listed Abbeyfield House behind the cathedral and near to Edith Cavell's grave.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral: completed in 1910, this is well worth a visit, not least to see some of the best stained-glass windows in Europe.

The Sainsbury Centre. Picture: BRITTANY WOODMANThe Sainsbury Centre. Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Plantation Garden: in Earlham Road close to the Catholic cathedral: the garden may not be particularly colourful at this time of the year but it does provide an interesting and quiet retreat from the bustle of the city. And there are plenty of steps to exercise your muscles.

You may also want to watch:

The Forum: designed by Michael Hopkins and built to celebrate the Millennium, this is designed to complement the fifteenth century St Peter Mancroft church opposite.

Norwich Castle and Museum: offering fine views over the city, the museum is well worth visiting with exhibits covering a wide range, from Boudica and the Romans to a fine collection of paintings.

Paul Burall from the Norwich Society. Pic: Bob Hobbs.Paul Burall from the Norwich Society. Pic: Bob Hobbs.

The Bridewell Museum: featuring interactive exhibits that will fascinate younger visitors, this provides an excellent introduction to the history of the city.

The Strangers Museum: dating back to the fourteenth century, the museum tells the story of this wonderful building.

The Royal Arcade: Designed by local architect George Skipper in the Arts and Crafts style, this opened in 1899. Note in particular the tiles and window designs at the entrances.

Norwich Market is unique: it is the oldest and largest open market in Britain with stalls selling all kinds of goods from clothes to toys and including an extraordinary range of ethnic and traditional English food. It won the 2019 best large open market award.

The Lanes: Brighton Lanes are famous and a major tourist attraction. The Lanes in Norwich are also well worth a visit, with a range of eclectic shops and eating places together with interesting buildings.

The South Asia Collection in Bethel Street: housed in what was a Victorian skating rink, this displays everyday arts and crafts from the region.

Riverside: a walk almost anywhere along the river is a pleasure. Having strange tastes, I even like the old boats and rusting warehouse fronting the river near The Waterfront arts centre.

Ketts Heights: A walk around Ketts Heights is an excellent way to get some exercise while enjoying one of the best views over the city. And even the prison is worth a second look (although preferably from the outside).

The Great Hospital: this has been providing a home for pensioners since the thirteenth century. If you are lucky you will also be able to see the Eagle Ward which has been kept as it would have been when in use.

Doughty's: less well-known than the Great Hospital, Doughty's (adjacent to the St Crispin's flyover) has been providing almshouses for less well-off pensioners since 1687 (please remember that both Doughty's and the Great Hospital are home to people who need privacy).

King Street: a (mostly) attractive mix of old and new buildings, including the 17th-century Howard House, unfortunately still vacant despite having been fully restored a couple of years ago. Also worth looking at is the only remaining remnant of Morgans Brewery which can be seen on the left-hand side in Mountergate.

The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts on the UEA campus: not only does it have a wonderful collection of modern art together with special exhibitions, but the building itself is stunning and in a glorious setting.

Your visitors will never be bored looking round Norwich!

- Paul Burall is chairman of the Norwich Society.


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