Top things to do on a Norwich city break

Said to be the most complete medieval metropolis in the UK – with cobbled streets and skew-whiff buildings – this UNESCO City of Literature is under two hours from London by train. Planning a trip to Norwich? Here are our top picks of things to do in this fine city. 


Must-visit attractions in Norwich

Norwich Castle

Exterior of Norwich Castle in Norfolk

Perched atop Castle Hill, this former royal palace is one of the finest surviving secular Norman buildings in Europe. Founded by William the Conqueror and developed as a palace by his sons, Norwich Castle has been operating as a museum since 1894. The Castle’s medieval Keep is currently undergoing extensive refurbishment in partnership with the British Museum and will reopen in 2023, however, visitors can still explore plenty of fantastic treasures including the Wider World Gallery, natural History Galleries and Egyptian collections.

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Don’t miss a visit to Norwich Cathedral, a magnificent Romanesque cathedral with the largest monastic cloisters in the country and secret Medieval graffiti. Once you’ve admired its incredible interiors, walk over to Norwich’s most complete Medieval street, Elm Hill, which actually featured in Netflix’s hit Christmas flick, Jingle Jangle. Its cobbled road is lined with olde-worlde merchants’ houses, which now contain independent shops and cute cafés. In fact, a wander around the entire Cathedral Quarter is a treat, as it’s full of pretty streets with Medieval architecture and ancient bridges that cross the River Wensum. Alternatively, dive into the history of Norwich’s pubs, markets and famous writers with Paul Dickson Tours – Paul knows the city like the back of his hand and is a great storyteller to boot.

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Things to do outdoors in Norwich

University of East Anglia

The University of East Anglia, famous for its creative writing courses (that honed the skills of authors like Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Emma Healey), is also recognisable by its Brutalist architecture and hundreds of resident rabbits. Pay a visit to the university campus to see its iconic Grade II-listed Ziggurats (terraced student accommodation that features on the cover to The Streets’ album Computers and Blues), and to take a peaceful walk around its lake, the whole time keeping an eye out for some pointy ears and cotton-ball tails. You can also explore the campus’ sculpture park, which features pieces from artists like Antony Gormley and Henry Moore.

If you’re visiting in the spring, don’t miss the annual UEA Live festival, which welcomes the world’s finest writers and thinkers to the City of Stories to speak to thousands of fellow book lovers.  

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Norwich is the only city in the country located in a national park – The Broads National Park – meaning there are tons of delightfully large outdoor spaces nearby. Take a riverside walk from Norwich City Football Club down to Norwich Cathedral, taking in ancient sights such as Bishop’s Bridge and Cow Tower. Or head up to Mousehold Heath, home to over 150 acres of heathland, that offers unbeatable views of the Norwich skyline, which is best seen at sunset. Elsewhere, hidden behind The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, is the Plantation Garden, a secret garden created by prosperous Victorian upholsterer, Henry Trevor. Built in a former chalk quarry, the garden offers a magical escape from the buzz of modern life, with its 'medieval' wall, Italianate terrace, Gothic fountain and maze of woodland walks.

Discover more of Norwich’s parks and gardens

Places to visit in Norwich

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Sainsbury Centre sculptures and buildings of the UEA

Tucked away on the far side of the UEA campus is the world-famous Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. This modern, cuboid structure (which starred as Marvel’s Avengers headquarters in not one but three movies – Avengers: Age of Ultron, Antman 2 and Spiderman: Homecoming) houses a vast collection of world art by the likes of Bacon and Picasso. As well as a range of abstract, constructivist and art nouveau wonders in one of the many permanent and temporary exhibitions, the art gallery also hosts tours and family activities and has a bright, airy café that looks out onto the campus through its huge floor-to-ceiling windows.

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For more contemporary art, head to the East Gallery at the Norwich University of the Arts for free exhibitions throughout the year. The Museum of Norwich, located in the historic Lanes, is packed full of exhibits and hands-on activities that showcase the stories of Norwich and its people over the centuries. The building itself, called a Bridewell, dates back to the 16th century and was once a house of correction. Also dating back to the 16th century, with its myriad of themed rooms and resembling a ‘living dolls house’, is Strangers’ Hall, a magnificent Tudor merchant’s house filled with exquisite period furnishings and artworks.

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Places to eat in Norwich

Grosvenor Fish Bar

Woman sitting inside Grosvenor Fish Bar, reflection of street in window

Serving much-loved chip shop fare for over 90 years, the popular Grosvenor Fish Bar is steeped in history. You won’t miss it either, as it’s usually got a huge queue snaking out of its doors. You can get your hands on classics like battered cod, fishcakes and beef dripping-cooked chips, or Grosvenor-exclusive options like ‘Six-quid Squid’, ‘Loony Toony’ (battered tuna), and a ‘Krusty Krab Po’Boy’ (soft-shell crab in a roll). There’s even a downstairs seating grotto if you don’t fancy taking your meal away.

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Crowned with 3AA Rosettes, Benedicts, which opened back in 2015, is a firm favourite with local foodies. Heading up the kitchen is Richard Bainbridge, who champions Norfolk produce and producers. Or how about munching your way through delectable afternoon teas at the luxurious Georgian Assembly House? During the summer months, you can even opt to take your tea on the House's lawn. For more sweet treats, be sure to check out Figbar, where you can sink your teeth into plates of picture-perfect puddings.

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Must-do activities in Norwich

Gyre & Gimble

Is a gin and tonic your go-to order? Then how about brewing up your very own bespoke bottle of gin at Gyre & Gimble’s Gin Academy? With the help of an expert distiller, you’ll be guided through all the steps on how to make the perfect gin – from choosing and weighing your botanicals to wax-sealing the bottle – to suit your taste. With a cocktail in hand, you’ll learn a new skill all while bottling up the ultimate souvenir to remember your trip to Norwich by. And the best part? Your recipe will be kept on file at the distillery so you can return to make more. We’ll cheers to that!

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Norwich has been a UNESCO City of Literature for over 10 years, meaning it’s the perfect place for budding authors to master their penmanship. The National Centre for Writing offers regular day courses for visiting poets and novelists, and also holds a four-day crime-writing festival each September, attracting huge names in crime writing from across the world to Noirwich. If you’re more into solving mysteries yourself, have a go at City Escape Games, where you can solve cryptic puzzles around Norwich using your phone. Or if you fancy getting competitive, head to Boom: Battle Bar to try your hand at Bavarian axe throwing, shuffleboard, beer pong and more.

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Shopping in Norwich

Norwich Market

People browsing stalls at Norwich Market

Browse the wonderful array of stalls in one of the oldest and largest open-air markets in the country. Found in the heart of the city, Norwich Market – best known for its colourfully striped canopy – is home to over 180 resident retailers selling everything from clothes and toys, to books and fresh meats. If you are also looking for boutiques and brand names, then check out the neighbouring Castle Quarter or Chantry Place.

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Head out of the market and down Norwich Lanes for a myriad of independent fashion boutiques, galleries and jewellery shops. For vintage gems, check out Magdalen Street, while The Royal Arcade, with its colourful tiles and stained-glass windows, has even more independent shops to explore. Jarrold, Norwich’s five-floor, award-winning department store, is also a shout for upmarket brands and local artisan goods. 

Find our more about shopping in Norwich

Theatre in Norwich

Norwich Theatre Royal

For a city so famous for literature, it’s no surprise that Norwich flourishes in theatre too. There are five permanent theatres, the head of the family being Norwich Theatre Royal. With an auditorium seating 1,300, this historic space (which opened in 1758) has a continuous programme of touring West End musicals, plays, comedy, dance, music and fabulous yearly panto – plenty of productions to keep audiences on their toes.

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Another theatre gem is Norwich Playhouse, an intimate space where every seat feels like you can touch the stage. Here find all your favourite comedians plus live music and more. The theatre also has a cosy bar with an outdoor seating area by the river. Keep an eye on Norwich Puppet Theatre – one of only four permanent puppet theatres in the country – for adult workshops and shows, while the annual Norfolk & Norwich Festival, which takes place each May, sees showstopping performances across the city, from parks and churches to derelict wasteland. Norwich Cathedral also has a programme of shows during the summer months, including their Shakespeare Festival in the cloisters. 

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Bars and pubs in Norwich

The Bowling House

Exterior of the Bowling House in Norwich

As its name suggests, this after-dark venue is known for its retro bowling alley - but in reality, it's so much more. Chow down on sharing platters with your mates and sample the concoction of cocktails on offer while singing your heart out in a private karaoke booth (your vocal chords will thank you in the morning!). Bowling House has been a regular haunt since it opened, and is often putting on lively special events, from bingo and comedy to live music and theatre. 

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Norwich once boasted a pub for every day of the year, and whilst this is not the case today, there are still great city pubs to drink at. The Ribs of Beef sits by one of Norwich’s medieval bridges, Fye Bridge, thought to be where a medieval ducking stool was regularly used for women accused of witchery. The pub has a small outdoor seating area, perfect for sipping a pint when the sun’s out. Another great place to hang out is Norwich’s smallest bar, Sir Toby’s Beers, while Franks Bar, in the heart of the Lanes is a sociable drinking hole ideal for drinks and sharing plates with friends.

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Places to stay in Norwich

Maid's Head Hotel

Exterior of the Maid's Head Hotel in Norwich

This award-winning hotel is said to be the oldest hotel in the UK, and has seen many exciting guests walk through its dos - from the likes of Catherine of Aragon and Queen Elizabeth I to Admiral Lord Nelson. Exuding charm, character and splendour, the Maid’s Head Hotel is known for its excellent customer service, top-notch food and cosy, contemporary bedrooms. It's even got two rare Bentleys you can hire, and its own riverboat that hosts tours and afternoon tea sailings on the River Wensum. Located in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, the hotel is only minutes away from an array of upmarket restaurants, boutique shops and the iconic Norwich Cathedral, making it a perfect base for exploring the city.

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On the edge of the Cathedral Quarter is Gothic House, a two-bedroomed quirky B&B serving up a very warm welcome, sustainable breakfasts and plenty of knick-knacks to catch the eye. St Giles House Hotel is another one for the list. One of the oldest hotels in Norwich, this spectacular building was once the location for secret government meetings during the Second World War. Today, the hotel has 24 unique rooms and suites, a stylish bar and indulgent spa. If you fancy a round of golf with your stay, Barnham Broom is your best bet. Set in acres of beautiful Norfolk countryside, this 46-bedroom hotel, just a short drive from the city centre, has two golf courses and a relaxing spa.

Find more places to stay in Norwich
23 Mar 2022(last updated)

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  • 1

    Norwich Castle

  • 2

    University of East Anglia

  • 3

    Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

  • 4

    Grosvenor Fish Bar

  • 5

    Gyre & Gimble

  • 6

    Norwich Market

  • 7

    Norwich Theatre Royal

  • 8

    The Bowling House

  • 9

    Maid's Head Hotel

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