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Royal Arcade

The medieval houses, cobbled streets and independent food scene make Norwich a perfect city break.

Friday night

Start your Norwich city break by checking in to the UK’s oldest hotel, Maid’s Head Hotel on Tombland, which dates back 800 years.

DID YOU KNOW: Tombland is an Anglo-Saxon word for
marketplace, so it’s a lot less macabre than it sounds.
Elm Hill is a beautiful introduction to your Norwich city break
Elm Hill is a beautiful introduction to your Norwich city break

Head out and up Elm Hill, a beautifully cobbled street which has been the setting for the film Stardust and upcoming Netflix hit Jingle Jangle.  Around the corner on Prince’s Street is independent Italian restaurant Trattoria Rustica.  Owned and run by Mario & Rafa from Sardinia, they serve authentic Italian dishes (in authentic portion sizes!).  Finish the evening with an after-dinner limoncello, which the family make themselves and serve in frozen glasses.

Saturday

Use the first full day of your Norwich city break to explore a bit further out of the city.  The 25 and 26 blue routes go from Castle Meadow towards the University of East Anglia (UEA). 

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is on the UEA’s campus.  The SCVA has always strived to be a centre for visual communication, with as much of the collection as possible in eye-level clear boxes which allow 360˚ views of the art.  You might also recognise it as the Avengers’ HQ in the Marvel films.

A day ticket for the bus is £4.80 per adult, or £4.50 each if you buy the ticket through First's app.

There’s a circular path around the university’s lake.  Its green verges, dotted with little brown bunnies and lounging students, slope up towards the quirky, stepped architecture of the Grade II listed Ziggurats.

On the way back to the city, get off the number 25 bus on Unthank Road for lunch at William & Florence, an Adnams pub that offers Bottomless Brunch until 2pm.  Prosecco and cocktails are free-flowing for an hour and half and are served alongside pastries and your brunch option, all for £30.

Norwich Catholic Cathedral's imposing stature
Norwich Catholic Cathedral’s imposing stature

On the walk back to the city you’ll go past Norwich’s Catholic Cathedral.  Its imposing gothic architecture is a complete contrast to the delicate tower and intricacies of the older Cathedral in the city.  The pedestrian bridge from the top of Earlham Road will take you to Upper St Giles, another street lined with two-storey buildings where freshly baked bread lures you into independently-run cafes. 

In the evening, take advantage of one of Norwich’s four theatres. 

Norwich’s theatres

The Theatre Royal is the largest, with touring ballets, musicals and plays.  The Maddermarket Theatre is small and offers quirky comedies including improvisation show The Intellectual Hooligans (along the lines of Whose Line Is It Anyway?). 

The Playhouse is the place to go for small audience stand up, whilst the Puppet Theatre must be the most notable.  It has puppet shows which are developed there and then toured across the world, as well as workshops for both adults and children.

The Coach and Horses on Bethel Street is a traditional pub offers pre-theatre menus for the Theatre Royal, including tapas-style dishes to share.  It also has a floor-to-ceiling map of Norwich showing every bomb that hit during World War II.

Sunday

Norwich is the perfect size for exploring on foot.

Wander Norwich Lanes, starting from Bedford Street and up through Pottergate.  It’s possible to spend hours browsing through all the independent shops in the Lanes and there’s an independent place for everyone’s tastes. 

Independent Norwich

The Book Hive has a children’s section destined to inspire young minds; Gallyons Country Attire and The Granary household goods have everything for the country soul; Thorns is so rammed with DIY and garden tools that you get lost in the maze of walls made out of stock; for crafters there’s Norfolk Yarn where the staff are keen to help with your project and offer workshops; style it out in fashion-forward clothes shops Dogfish, Catfish and Sevenwolves; Aurum jewellers has all the shiny things to make your eyes pop.

The kind of place I dreamt of existing in Norwich when I was growing up

Stephen Fry on the Book Hive

Illiberal bigots

Michael Gove on the Book Hive

Norwich Market has been awarded Best Large Outdoor Market for 2019.  Most stalls are closed on Sundays, but the colourful rooves have become an iconic picture of the city.

Food highlights include a hog roast roll with apple sauce from Henry’s Hog Roast, Asian food A Taste of Shanghai and eclectic smoothie blends from Fresh.

Wilkinson's Tea Merchants on Pottergate
Wilkinson’s Tea Merchants on Pottergate is part of Norwich Lanes, a group of 300 independent businesses in the city centre

For a treat afterwards, walk through the Royal Arcade to Macarons & More, owned by 2010 MasterChef contestant, Tim Kinnaird.  The window display is an impressionist display of colourful macarons.  My favourite treats are the salted caramel brownies.

He was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona

Sir John Betjamin on George Skipper, the Royal Arcade’s architect

Use the afternoon to have a tour around either Norwich Cathedral or Castle.  Both have incredible histories.  A couple imprisoned in the Castle became the first people to have a Christian wedding in Australia!

How to get here

Now a 90-minute direct train from London Liverpool Street. There are also direct routes from Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

By air, Norwich has an international airport that is regularly connected to Amsterdam Schiphol and Edinburgh.  Additionally, National Express coaches run to London Stansted Airport.

Megabus coaches run into the bus station in the centre of the city direct from Cambridge, London, Bristol, Coventry, and Birmingham.

Interested in other city breaks? Here’s 4 Alternative City Breaks to inspire you, or a guide to 48 hours in Madrid.

Pinterest Norwich City Break Pin

Beth Seager

Travel blogger

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