A holiday in North Norfolk has to include a trip into Norwich – the Fine City!
Norwich is an ancient city, and so much of its heritage is still there to be seen. The castle, cathedral and winding streets are stunning.
But so too are the up to the minute shops and facilities. If you’re staying in North Norfolk a trip to Norwich is a must.
Let’s do the history bit first. Norwich was here centuries ago, and certainly became a major city after the Norman invasion in 1066. The Normans built the magnificent cathedral, and castle. The city became an important centre for the cloth industry and by the 17th century was the place to be. It was second only to London.
By the time of the industrial revolution in the 19th century cloth making moved to the north, and the city’s importance was reduced, but since then it’s emerged as a nationally respected centre for finance, commerce and the arts.
One of the things visitors love about Norwich is that it has a very ‘self contained’ centre. All of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other. So, if you want to take a peek at the heritage then the castle and cathedral are essentials, as are the wealth of museums including Strangers Hall and The Museum of Norwich, which you’ll find in Bridewell Alley.
That’s in an area known as the Norwich Lanes. These winding streets contain all sorts of shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries; it’s where you’ll find lots of small independent retailers selling everything from food to clothes to books.
And all of that is close to the main shopping area where national brands abound.
You’ll also be close to the market. It’s been there ever since the Normans moved the original one to build their cathedral ( they’re forgiven – it was a long time ago!) and is one of the country’s largest, permanent provision markets. As well as fruit and veg the market has a wealth of stall holders selling cheeses, bread, vintage clothing – and just about anything else you can imagine. It’s a thriving, bustling place and in the heart of the city.
A few steps from the Market is The Forum. This stunning modern building was created to replace the previous library which was destroyed in a fire. It’s an amazing space, and as well as the library features places to have coffee, a meal, and see exhibitions which are often mounted in the vast ground floor area. It also houses a shop, where you’ll find really interesting souvenirs of your visit, and an information office to help you plan what to do in the city, and elsewhere in the county, for the rest of your holiday.
Food and drink have become increasingly important in Norwich over recent years and the city regularly features in national guides as somewhere to find a wide range of high quality dining, of all types. The city is rather proud of a certain Delia Smith – she’s now one of the most successful authors of cookery books – ever! (And she’s very much involved with the local football team – Norwich City. The fans are passionate – be warned!)
There are plenty of fast food places too if you want to eat and run. Or buy from one of the city’s brilliant delicatessens and have a picnic. Norwich has some wonderful parks.
Elm Hill is always a favourite with visitors. Sometimes called one of the prettiest streets in England it’s closely linked to the history of weaving in Norwich, and nowadays has all sorts of antique and collectables places, as well as art galleries and cafes.
You’ll find the Royal Arcade pretty impressive too – a stunning Art Nouveau creation by local Edwardian architect George Skipper.
He built the head office for Norwich Union, which is now known as Aviva; it’s just one one of the famous names, including Barclays, Start Rite and Colman’s to have been created in Norwich.
If you want to venture just outside the city centre, it will be well worth your time to visit the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. The building was the first major public project by legendary architect Norman Foster, and it contains a truly eclectic and massively important collection including works by Picasso, Moore, Degas and Bacon, as well as artefacts from Africa and the Americas. (If you think you’ve seen the building before it could be because you watched the movie Avengers Age of Ultron, starring Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johansson. The Sainsbury Centre appears as the base of operations for the Marvel Super Heroes!
All in all, Norwich is a super city. Steeped in history, and yet full of all the retail therapy and entertainment you’ll want; it’s easy to get to from North Norfolk – and the journey will give you a lovely glimpse of the county as well.