With the famous Norfolk Broads on the city’s doorstep and historic buildings adding iconic silhouettes to its skyline, the list of Norwich tourist attractions is nigh on endless. Nevertheless, we’ve whittled them down to a couple of dozen of our favourites, which will more than keep you occupied during your stay.
Attractions in Norwich
From the Middle Ages right the way through to the Industrial Revolution, Norwich was the second largest city in the country behind London. As you’d expect, over the years it accumulated its fair share of historic buildings, which now provide perfect photo opportunities and fascinating days out for anyone visiting Norwich. Take Norwich Cathedral for example. It’s arguably the pick of the bunch; one of the finest cathedrals in the UK, with its Romanesque architecture the rival of pretty much anywhere in Europe. Combined with Norwich Castle, which contributes so much to Norwich’s culture, they are two of the most iconic silhouettes in the city’s skyline.
Between The Lanes and the city market, you’ll also find Norwich Guildhall, a stunning chequered building constructed from alternating squares of flint and ashlar stone. It’s the largest and most elaborate provincial medieval city hall in England and is a testament to the wealth and prosperity Norwich enjoyed when it was constructed at the beginning of the 15th century. Norwich Guildhall served as the seat of the city government for over 500 years and houses courtrooms, a prison, a chapel and all manner of fascinating stories from the rich history it shares with the city. For example, you can pay a visit to its Victorian courtroom, which earned the nickname of ‘Sword Room’ because weapons were once stashed in the roof.
Our Norwich Nelson City Centre hotel provides a great base if you want to explore some of Norwich’s most famous attractions. A few hundred feet away, the Dragon Hall on King Street is a stunning medieval trading hall in incredible condition considering it’s nearly 600 years old and within a 10-minute walk, you can also visit the Cow Tower, a fascinating 14th-century artillery tower that stands watch over the River Wensum. It was one of the earliest purpose-built artillery blockhouses ever built and helped to protect the city from the threat of France, as well as English rebels. Along with the nearby Great Hospital, which has been caring for priests, scholars, the sick and the hungry ever since 1249, the Cow Tower is well worth visiting if you’re in Bishopsgate.
On the opposite side of town, the St. John The Baptist Cathedral sits at the eastern point of the Golden Triangle – the area once described as ‘Norwich’s Notting Hill’. It’s the second largest Roman Catholic cathedral in England, behind Westminster. From the outside, it’s an imposing example of Gothic Revival architecture. On the inside, you’ll find stunning stained-glass windows, as well as some of the most exquisite stonework in the city. The surrounding Plantation Garden is an incredibly restored Victorian town garden housed in a former chalk mine. Some of its stand-out features include the gothic fountain and the Italianate terrace.
If you’re staying at our Norwich City Centre (Duke Street) hotel, be sure to plan a trip to the nearby Elm Hill, which is just a few minutes’ walk away. Elm Hill is the most famous and most complete medieval street in Norwich. Wandering down its cobbles and its rows of merchants’ houses, cafés and thatched homes is like being in bygone times. If you are planning on exploring the picturesque Elm Hill, pick up a guided map from selected shops in the Cathedral Quarter, which will tell you all about many of the buildings’ histories.
Similarly, Timberhill is another of Norwich’s historic medieval streets. It actually predates Elm Hill, but proves marginally less popular with tourists, as it’s less complete and many of the buildings were damaged in the Norwich Blitz of 1942, some beyond repair. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating area to explore, and is home to one of our favourite pubs in Norwich, The Murderers, which is well worth visiting to hear the story behind its ghastly name.
When it comes to the great outdoors, naturally, the best place to visit is The Broads. The man-made national park with more miles of waterways than Venice or Amsterdam is one of Norfolk’s most famous attractions. It’s the Eden of East Anglia, with lakes, wetlands, reed beds, woodlands and some of the most picturesque villages and landscapes in the UK. We’d recommend staying at our Norwich East hotel in the Broadlands to give you the best base for exploring the wider area, including places like Whitlingham Country Park.
If you want to pay a visit to Norwich’s city parks, there are plenty for you to choose from. Earlham Park is part of the University of East Anglia campus and is just over the road from the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, which we highly recommend visiting. It’s a fine area of woodland and parkland with a boating lake and is one of the most popular options with the dog walkers of the area.
Wensum Park is north of the city centre on the east bank of the River Wensum – as the name would suggest. With its labyrinth and zodiac markings, it's a wonderful place to go for a walk, particularly when the sun’s out. And while you’re in the area, you can combine it with a visit to Waterloo Park, which has a good café housed in the pavilion that is run by the same people behind the popular café in the Norwich Guildhall.
Last on our list is one of the prettiest parks in Norfolk, Eaton Park. It’s 80 acres of stunning lawns and gardens with water features, an iconic bandstand, a model boating lake, lily ponds and pavilions. It was given a grand opening in 1928 by the Prince of Wales and is one of the most popular places for a leisurely stroll in the city.
The Norfolk Showground Arena is a flexible indoor event space right next to our Norwich West (Showground/A47) hotel. It’s home to The Royal Norfolk Show – the largest two-day agricultural show in the country – has an adjoining 18-hole championship golf course, and also hosts conferences, exhibitions and parties.
The most famous stadium in Norwich is Carrow Road. It’s been the home of Norwich City Football Club for more than 80 years and boasts some of the best eating you’ll find in any football stadium in the world, thanks to the fact that legendary chef Delia Smith is a joint majority shareholder in the club. Take a look at the stadium’s dedicated page if you’re planning on visiting – perhaps on an awayday while supporting your team – as we tell you where to find our nearest hotel, and some of the top pubs in the area, like The Fat Cat & Canary, where you can wet your whistle when the action’s over.