What to do and where to eat: A guide to a Norwich getaway

Flowers in the Norwich Lanes.

Flowers in the Norwich Lanes during a Norwich BID-organised Florists' Feast event. - Credit: Chris Harvey/Norwich BID

From medieval streets to new restaurants and theatres to historic parks, there's plenty to see and do in Norwich.

Whether you're a local looking to make the most of the city or visiting for a getaway from further afield, we've pulled together the ultimate guide to a trip to Norwich.

Wensum Park in Norwich. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Wensum Park in Norwich. Photo by Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Where is Norwich and how do I get there?

A positive and negative about Norwich - and wider Norfolk - depending on your viewpoint, is that it isn't always the easiest to get to. 

It's in Norfolk, about 30 minutes from the coast at Great Yarmouth, 45 from the north Norfolk coast and just a stone's throw from the Norfolk Broads.

People don't tend to pass through Norfolk, but there's still plenty of ways to get here.

Our train station is a 15-minute walk away from the city centre and has links across the country, including some trains which now reach London in 90 minutes.

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The city, as well as the University of East Anglia, is on Megabus and National Express coach routes. Our central bus station, on Surrey Street, is in the middle of the city centre.

Norwich is also, of course, also accessible via the A11 and A47, main routes into Norfolk.

For overseas travellers, there is also Norwich Airport, which is a 20-minute drive from the centre.

Where to park in Norwich

The city has plenty of car parks, including multi-storey options at its two main shopping centres - Chantry Place and Castle Quarter.

St Andrews Car Park, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

St Andrews Car Park, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

But there are others, including St Andrew's, St Crispins, St Giles, and Rose Lane.

There are also Park and Ride options - including the airport base, as well as Harford on Ipswich Road, Postwick on Yarmouth Road, Sprowston on Wroxham Road, Thickthorn on Norwich Road and Costessey on Long Lane. 

Many people arriving into Norwich from the south of the country use the one at Thickthorn, which is just off the A11.

What's the shopping like in Norwich?

Norwich boasts an excellent shopping scene and has in the past been ranked among the best cities in the country for its retail offering.

It has an array of national names, including in shopping centre Chantry Place.

Lower Goat Lane in Norwich Lanes. Picture: Denise Bradley

Lower Goat Lane in Norwich Lanes. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

But a bigger source of pride is its variety of independent shops, dotted across the city but concentrated in particular in the Lanes, which has won national awards in the past.

From Flicka to Lisa Angel, Dogfish, The Book Hive, Jarrold, Beaujangles, Norfolk Yarn and Thorns DIY, there's plenty to choose from.

And what about Norwich market?

As one of the oldest and biggest open-air markets in the country, Norwich Market is a source of pride for the city.

In the last decade it has had something of a revival, with a clutch of street food stalls, including the likes of Bun Box and Churros for the People, opening up next to established family-run businesses.

Shoppers around Norwich Market shopping local and staying safe in masks.
Picture by: Sonya Duncan

Shoppers around Norwich Market shopping local and staying safe in masks. Picture by: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Its longest-running stalls include the Mushy Pea Stall, which has been trading for more than 70 years.

You can enjoy a spot of shopping, before grabbing lunch and a sweet treat and enjoying it next to the war memorial nearby, which boasts a picturesque view across the market and over to the castle.

What is there to do in Norwich?

A lot. You could enjoy a day browsing its shops, dipping in and out of its restaurants and unwinding in its parks, including Eaton, Earlham and Waterloo parks. 

Plantation Gardens on Earlham Road, Norwich. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Plantation Gardens on Earlham Road, Norwich. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

There are also plenty of sights to see - Norwich boasts two stunning cathedrals, including Norwich Cathedral in the city centre and the Cathedral of St John the Baptist just outside.

Both have gardens to explore and somewhere to enjoy a drink and something to eat.

Norwich Castle and its museum are a must-see - the historic site stands proudly in the centre of Norwich and is home to exhibitions and displays.

Snowball fight during filming of Jingle Jangle in Elm Hill Credit: James Randle

Snowball fight during filming of Jingle Jangle in Elm Hill Credit: James Randle - Credit: Archant

Elm Hill is a historic, cobbled street lined with shops and places to eat, which has been featured in films and TV shows including Netflix's Jingle Jangle and Stardust.

You can also visit the Museum of Norwich and Plantation Gardens - stunning gardens in an abandoned chalk quarry which is often described as the city's secret garden. It's a 15-minute walk out of the city centre, but well worth it.

Strangers Hall, in Charing Cross, is a 14th century merchant's house that now houses a museum.

A sprinkle of snow and a hard frost transforming St James Hill, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams

A sprinkle of snow and a hard frost transforming St James Hill, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

And if you'd like to take in a view of the fine city, head to Mousehold Heath and St James Hill, which offer among the best panoramic skyline views.

Are there places to watch live music and comedy in Norwich?

Yes - plenty. The fine city boasts the Norwich Theatre Royal, the Playhouse, Norwich Arts Centre, Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich Puppet Theatre and the Sewell Barn Theatre for live shows, among others.

Norwich Playhouse, St George's Street, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

Norwich Playhouse, St George's Street, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

Norwich also has a rich history of live music - the Waterfront and the LCR at the University of East Anglia have previously hosted artists including Robbie Williams, Coldplay, The Stone Roses and Ed Sheeran.

What family attractions are near Norwich?

Just outside Norwich are several family attractions which could provide a day out - including Roarr Dinosaur Adventure, Hoveton Hall and Bewilderwood.

Roland Gurner pictured on his paddleboard on the River Wensum in Norwich. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Roland Gurner pictured on his paddleboard on the River Wensum in Norwich. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

It's just a 30-minute drive to the Broads - though you could enjoy kayaking or paddle-boarding on the city's River Wensum.

Where can I stay in Norwich?

The Maids Head Hotel, Tombland. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Maids Head Hotel, Tombland. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

There are a wide range of bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs to choose from, as well as plenty of hotels.

Some are just outside the city centre, including Sprowston Manor and Dunston Hall, while others are bang in the centre, including the historic Maids Head Hotel (said to be among the oldest in the country), the newly-reopened Revado Hotel near the train station and St Giles House Hotel.

What are some of the best restaurants and pubs in Norwich?

Where to begin?

Norwich has a rich history of pubs - its nickname is the city of ale and the oft-told fact that it once had a pub for every day of the year is not true (it had many more).

Picture of a pint at a pub. PIC: Brian Lawless PA.

Norwich has a wide variety of pubs. - Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

While some have closed over the years, there is still a vibrant and rich line-up in the city - including, but by far not limited to, names including The Ribs of Beef, Trafford Arms, Red Lion, Coach and Horses, the Black Horse and the Plough.

The Belgian Monk offers a huge variety of Belgian beers and delicious mussels, while the Vine Thai, also a Thai restaurant, is said to be the smallest in the city.

A meal at the Belgian Monk in Norwich. Photo: Sonya Duncan

A meal at the Belgian Monk in Norwich. Photo: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2009

It's the same for restaurants - over the last decade or so Norwich has built up a strong array of fine dining restaurants, as well as street food set-ups.

Just a handful of places you could visit include Brick Pizza, Rooftop Gardens, Benoli, Benedicts, Haggle, Roger Hickman's, Farmyard and many more.

Farmyard frozen food March 2021.Photo credit ©Simon Finlay Photography.

The team cooking at Farmyard in Norwich. - Credit: Simon Finlay Photography

If you're after inspiration, you can always visit our Things To Do section to see what's happening in the fine city.

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