When you want a delicious slice of culture during your stay in Norwich, we’ve got it covered with a rundown of some of the best galleries and museums in the city, as well as a couple of the big hitters from its calendar of cultural events. There’s a castle with centuries of history, a supermarket mogul’s fine collection of art including some excellent Bacons, and a field full of aeroplanes.
Culture in Norwich
The square box on the hill – otherwise known as Norwich Castle – is one of the most important cultural centres in the city. It stands on the largest man-made mound in the country and has been an imposing feature of the Norwich skyline since the 12th century. It was originally built as a royal palace, boasting some of the most lavishly decorated interiors in the country before it was converted into the County Gaol in the 14th century. It still had time for one more transformation, when it was opened as a museum and gallery in 1895, which it remains to this day.
Pay a visit and you can delve into the history of the castle and the surrounding area, thanks to themed exhibitions covering the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Queen Boudica of the Iceni tribe, and Ancient Egypt. Meanwhile, the castle galleries contain works of art from the 1600s. On top of that, you can also take a tour of the castle, its fascinating dungeons and the battlements too. And, saving the best for last, Norwich Castle is less than a 10-minute walk from both our Norwich City Centre (Duke Street) hotel and our Norwich Nelson City Centre hotel, so it’s a convenient way to kill a couple of hours.
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is a wonderful home to more than 300 artworks and objects; an exemplary collection donated by Sir Robert Sainsbury – of supermarket fame – and his wife, Lady Lisa Sainsbury. Inside, you’ll find works from Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti and Jacob Epstein, one of the pioneers of modern sculpture. The building itself is a masterpiece of design from renowned architect Norman Foster and is surrounded by a lake and landscape sculpted by Lanning Roper.
One of our favourite places to eat in Norwich, Kofra, has a coffee shop at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. There’s also the onsite Modern Life Cafe, which is run by the University of East Anglia and offers a daily menu of fresh, seasonal food as well as stunning views of the sculpture lawn through the centre’s giant window.
Opposite the St. Clement the Martyr church, you’ll find the Anteros Arts Foundation, a wonderful charity promoting the arts in Norfolk, housed in a stunning Tudor mansion house on Fye Bridge Street. It’s the home of two gallery spaces, which change their exhibitions every fortnight. The foundation also offers fine art courses and books artists from wide ranges of genres to perform in the upstairs music room. All in all, Anteros is a great place to see the work of talented local artists. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in what’s coming out of Norwich University of the Arts, the East Gallery on St. Andrews Street consistently showcases the work of masters students studying curation.
Bridewell Strangers' Hall
We’ve already told you all about Norwich Castle. As well as housing some of the city’s finest galleries, it is also the home of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, and boasts some truly fascinating historic exhibitions, which make it one of our favourites too. Meanwhile, the nearby Museum of Norwich and Bridewell Strangers’ Hall don’t have quite the same wow factor but they do give a fascinating insight into the history of the city. You can find out all about the textile trade that provided the city with such prosperity and, of course, Colman’s Mustard. Plus, you can take a tour of the largest vaulted undercroft in the city, beneath the Bridewell.
Right next to our Norwich Airport hotel is the City of Norwich Aviation Museum, a volunteer-led organisation that’s absolutely fascinating. Where else can you sit in the cockpit of a Vulcan bomber and be shown what all the bells and whistles do from a retired Vulcan pilot? There’s a great collection of aircraft to see and explore, the people who work there are extremely friendly, and it offers great value for money too.
In May, the Norfolk and Norwich Festival comes to town. It first took place in 1824 and has roots that go back even further to 1772, making it one of the oldest city festivals in the country. It originated as a classical music festival to raise money for the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital. It continues in the same vein today. The list of composers who have performed at the festival includes Philip Glass and Michael Nyman. However, it’s also grown to include circus acts, pop music, dance and the visual arts. All in all, the festival boasts a line-up of over 100 performances spread across the city, including the Chapelfield Gardens and popular Norwich entertainment venues like the Norwich Theatre Royal and Norwich Playhouse.
There’s also Sundown Festival, which gets its name from the fact that it takes place towards the end of summer at the Norfolk Showground. It always books a line-up of famous names. Past performers include Craig David, Jaguar Skills and Pendulum. Our Norwich West hotel couldn’t be more conveniently located: less than a mile away, so you can avoid the gritty side of festival camping and retire to a king-size Hypnos mattress every night.