Norwich is a historic city in Norfolk. Situated on the River Wensum in East Anglia, Norwich is about 100 miles northeast of London. Between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution, Norwich was the second largest city in the UK after London, and has a fascinating history and culture. It holds the status of most complete medieval city in the country, and is full of cobbled streets, ancient buildings, half-timbered houses and medieval lanes. As well as discovering this historic city, it’s the perfect place to spend time outdoors, as Norwich is surrounded by beautiful countryside. With plenty of things to see and do, Norwich is a great place for a short getaway.
Norwich and its shoe industry
Norwich has been home to several major manufacturing industries. One of the most prominent industries dating as far back as the 10th century was the manufacture of shoes, and some of the UK’s largest shoe manufacturers were set up here, including Start-rite, Ballys, Edwards & Holmes, Florida Group and Bowhill & Elliot. At its peak in the mid 19th century, the industry employed 12,000 workers in over 30 factories across the city. The shoe industry started to dwindle by the late 20th century, and many factories closed down. Florida was the last of the shoe factories in the city, moving all its productions abroad.
Things To Do in Norwich
Norwich Cathedral is an iconic building, with a 96 metre spire looking over the city. At 131 metres long and 54 metres wide, there is so much to explore within the cathedral. Daily tours are run, and allow you to walk around the building and learn more about its history from the volunteer guides. The cathedral contains over 1,000 colourful roof bosses, more than any other church in the world. Walk down the sweeping vaulted walkways and take a look at The Cloisters, one of the most complete features from the Middle Ages. Keep an eye out for the peregrine falcons that have made their home in the cathedral’s spire.
The Broads National Park
Norwich is within the Broads National Park, an area of navigable lakes and rivers. With more than 125 miles of lock free waterways, the best way to experience the Broads is by boat. You can hire a day boat or take a skippered boat trip, or have a go at canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. It’s also easy to explore by walking and cycling, and the Broads are filled with footpaths and quiet country roads. If you love wildlife watching, then the Broads is the perfect place to come. There are many nature reserves, wildlife parks and birdwatching spots in the area, and it’s also a great place for angling.
The Plantation Garden
Within walking distance of the city centre, you’ll find a beautifully restored Victorian garden set in a former chalk mine. Alongside colourful flower beds, manicured lawns and unique plants, you’ll also find charming features like the gothic fountain, an Italianate terrace and a rustic bridge. The garden’s history dates back to 1856, when a Norwich shopkeeper decided to convert a disused quarry into a magnificent garden, influenced by country house gardens which were so prominent in the 19th century. It fell into disrepair after WWII, but has since been brought back to life by the Plantation Garden Preservation Trust.
Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell
Once the 14th century home of a rich merchant, the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell tells the story of the city from medieval times to modern day. Discover more about Norwich’s rich industrial heritage, from heavy engineering and aircraft manufacturing, to making mustard, chocolate and textiles. Learn about what life was like in post-war Norwich or see the last surviving mid 19th century loom. The exhibitions have plenty of artefacts on display, and kids are able to dress up and play with the interactive screens. Underneath the Bridewell is the largest vaulted undercroft in the city, and was once used to hold prisoners when the building was a prison. The undercroft is open for guided tours.
Founded between 1066 and 1075, Norwich Castle was constructed for William the Conqueror. For most of its past, it has served as a jail until the late 1800s, where it became the Norwich Museum. You can take a guided tour of the castle, and climb up to the battlements for a 360 view over the city. You can also join a costumed knight and see the fighting gallery, a space between the inner and outer walls of the castle keep. There are plenty of exhibitions to keep you entertained, showcasing fine art and ancient artefacts dating as far back as the Iron Age.
Shopping in Norwich
The centre of Norwich is compact, meaning you don’t have to travel far to find the best shops. The shopping malls including intu Chapelfield and Castle Quarter, as well as small retail parks at Riverside and Cathedral Park are all within walking distance from the city centre. If you’re looking for something a little different, why not visit one of the many independent shops dotted round the Norwich Lanes, Cathedral Quarter and Magdalen Street.
Places To Stay in Norwich
The George Hotel
Despite being only a 12 minute walk from the city centre, The George Hotel has all the charm of a quiet country hotel. It combines the appeal of a Victorian house with a modern boutique hotel. If you fancy a night in, The George Hotel has an award winning restaurant and a lounge bar and bistro.
Maids Head Hotel
Known to be one of the oldest hotels in the country, the Maids Head Hotel is set in a 13th century building. Located in the Cathedral Quarter, the hotel has all the main sights and attractions right at its doorstep. The 2 AA Rosette restaurant, the WinePress, offers dishes using seasonal produce from local producers.
Park Farm Hotel
Just five miles from the city centre, Park Farm Hotel is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Set in over 200 acres of landscaped gardens, Park Farm is a blissful retreat and includes a bar, restaurant, pool, sauna, gym and beauty salon.