From stunning old buildings lining cobbled streets to quirky modern art centres, if you’re looking for places to visit in Norwich then you will find a wide array of attractions to suit any interest.
Norwich is known for being one of the most complete medieval cities in the United Kingdom, but there’s more to discover here than just old buildings!
In this post, we’ll be sharing our top picks for places to visit in Norwich, including the most famous sights and more offbeat destinations.
We hope you enjoy learning about this pretty cathedral city and be sure to let us know in the comments which Norwich must-sees we should add to our list!
1. Norwich Cathedral
One of the most famous (and beautiful) Norwich attractions is Norwich Cathedral, the full name of which is the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.
The majority of the cathedral as it stands today was constructed during the Norman period, after an Anglo-Saxon settlement and two churches were demolished to make room. Even today, Norwich Cathedral contains the second-largest cloisters in England (after Salisbury’s epic cathedral) and the second-tallest cathedral spire in England (also after Salisbury)!
It’s free to visit the cathedral (even if you’re not attending a service) and you can also join a free tour to learn more about its history. If you plan to explore independently, keep an eye out for the famous carved and painted bosses (protruding knots) on the ceiling of the cloisters. They are incredibly ornate and often claimed to be one of the world’s greatest medieval sculptural treasures.
2. The Cathedral of St John the Baptist
Norwich is actually home to two stunning cathedrals, and while the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity serves the Anglican population, the Cathedral of St John the Baptist is Roman Catholic.
Additionally, while the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity provides an example of Norman architecture, the Cathedral of St John the Baptist was built much later in a Gothic revival style. As well as being completely stunning (both inside and out) this cathedral also contains a visitor centre (called the Narthex) with a gallery, shop, licensed bar, community garden and a garden café.
It’s also possible to join a tower tour and climb 280 steps up a spiral staircase to be rewarded with 360-degree views over Norwich. It’s free to visit the cathedral but the tower tours cost 5 GBP for adults and 3.50 GBP for children.
3. Norwich Market
Norwich is home to one of the largest outdoor markets in the country and it’s been operating at the same site for more than 900 years!
Since Norwich was such a large and prosperous city, the market was a major hub for trade during the 13th and 14th centuries. After the plague years it again became a fashionable shopping area, especially during the Georgian Era when Norwich began to draw visitors who wanted to shop. The lane on the eastern side of the market is still known as Gentleman’s Walk due to this side being particularly fashionable and up-market.
Today the Norwich Market continues to operate Monday to Saturday, with around 189 stalls selling everything from groceries to balloons. While many locals do their regular shopping here, it’s also one of the major Norwich tourist attractions.
If we have one tip to offer for this Norwich must-visit, it’s to come hungry. We walked through here directly after a huge lavish breakfast and had zero room for any of the food offerings, which is definitely the main draw at this market.
4. Elm Hill
Elm Hill is one of the city’s most famous historic cobbled lanes and one of the best places to visit in Norwich if you want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Many of the buildings in Elm Hill date back to Tudor times when they were merchant’s houses, rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1507. Today the street is a major landmark in Norwich, with many wonderful shops, galleries, tea houses and The Britons Arms restaurant (formerly an inn), the only building to survive the 1507 fire.
Elm Hill is a photographer’s dream, as well as a haven for anyone who wants to browse among the charming Dormouse Bookshop, find treasures at Mr P. Milnes Antiques and Curios or see adorable bears at The Bear Shop.
Just around the corner from Elm Hill is another beautiful street to wander down and enjoy pretty views, this time of the River Wensum from Quayside.
While there aren’t as many shops or restaurants along Quayside, the beautiful and often colourful homes are very much in demand with residents. At either end of Quayside is a pretty bridge to get the best photos of the area, with the cathedral’s spire towering behind the riverside properties.
Directly next to the Fye Bridge (pictured below) is one of the nicest spots, with towering willow trees on one side and on the other a pub called The Ribs of Beef which features a lovely little balcony over the river to sit and enjoy your meal or a pint of craft ale.
6. Norwich Lanes
With over 300 independent retailers, restaurants, cafes and pubs, the area known as ‘Norwich Lanes’ is by far one of the most exciting places to visit in Norwich.
Think of it as an eclectic maze of independent shops and businesses, with a little something for every taste, whether you’re looking for baked goods and sweets, or used books and vintage antiques.
So varied and enticing are the Norwich Lanes that they even nabbed the title of Great British High Street of the Year in 2014.
Curious what there is to explore? Here’s a map.
PS: While here, keep an eye out for the fun pavement markers sprinkled around which note historic businesses in the area.
7. Monastery Court
If you’re looking for a somewhat hidden gem, walk through the courtyard of the Norwich University of the Arts Media Labs building here, where you’ll find remnants of a 19th century monastery, most of which has now been repurposed for university use.
According to heritage records from the City Council, this monastery “was established by a rebel Anglican clergyman who took the name of Father Ignatius and provoked riots in the city”, attempting to restore monasticism to England before fleeing in 1866.
There’s not much to do here besides admire the peaceful and beautiful surroundings, but it’s a lovely way to cut into the city centre if you’re in the area.
8. Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell & the Lucky Nubbin
The Museum of Norwich is an excellent destination if you want to learn all about Norwich’s history from the height of its power and prosperity during the medieval period until today.
This museum is located inside the Bridewell, which was originally a house of correction/prison for poor people to be put to work so they weren’t out on the streets begging. The museum is spread out over two floors around the inner courtyard of this historic building with exhibitions about the history of the building and Norwich itself.
PS: Another quirky place to visit in Norwich that you can discover at this spot is the lucky nipple-shaped nubbin on the flint-knapped wall here, between the Museum of Norwich and St Andrew’s.
A recently resurfaced urban legend posits that if you rub said nubbin (which resembles a nipple, as do many along this wall!), you’re in for good luck. So… might as well?
PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4.30pm, last admission at 4pm. It costs 7 GBP for adults and 6 GBP for children between 4 and 18.
9. Norwich Castle
Not only is Norwich home to two separate stunning cathedrals, but there’s also a medieval castle to explore!
The construction of Norwich Castle was ordered by William the Conqueror after the Norman conquest. It was used as a prison for many years before being converted into a museum in the 1800s. Along with the original medieval castle, battlements and dungeons, a number of special galleries display art and historical exhibitions.
Visitors interested in Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Roman, and Viking history will find plenty of interest in the varied galleries, while art buffs can enjoy many different paintings. There’s even an Egyptian collection and a Natural History gallery with a beautiful butterfly collection.
PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The main part of Norwich Castle is currently undergoing a major redevelopment and is due to reopen in 2024, however, there are still plenty of galleries to explore on the site until then. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am until 4.30pm and from 1pm until 4.30pm on Sundays. Adult tickets cost 7 GBP and tickets for children between 4 and 18 are 6 GBP.
10. The Royal Arcade
Whether you are interested in Victorian and Art Nouveau architecture or just want to shop until you drop, head to Norwich’s Royal Arcade.
The entrance of this covered shopping arcade is more impressive on the Norwich Castle side than the Gentleman’s Walk side, but the interiors are simply gorgeous. Designed by local architect George Skipper and opened in 1899, the arcade is very light and airy, owing to the glass-panelled ceiling.
While there are many excellent retailers selling beautiful jewellery, toys, clothing, food and more, make sure you spare some moments to admire the architecture that has made the arcade one of the city’s most iconic attractions for more than a hundred years. The stained glass mosaic window over the entrance on the castle side is particularly pretty.
11. Cow Tower
One of the most unusual places to visit in Norwich is Cow Tower, which is actually an old artillery tower rather than a tower for cows!
Cow Tower was constructed around 1398/1399 as part of Norwich’s defences, making it one of the earliest purpose-built artillery blockhouses in England. It stood apart from the city walls and was used to fire cannons at enemies approaching from the northeast.
While the tower is mostly ruined today, it’s still an impressive sight standing next to the river inside a lovely park area. If you walk along the Riverside Walk between Jarrold Bridge and Bishop Bridge you can see the tower as well as pretty views of the riverbanks. Next to Bishop Bridge is another excellent riverside pub, The Red Lion Bishopgate.
12. City of Norwich Aviation Museum
Anyone who’s a fan of flying machines will want to put the local Aviation Museum on their list of things to see in Norwich.
This museum displays a number of historic aircraft both inside and outside, along with interesting exhibits on Norwich’s aviation history. Aside from the exhibits and aircraft on display, it’s also possible to join guided tours inside some of the notable planes, such as an Avro Vulcan bomber and a Hawker Siddeley Nimrod.
As well as the museum there’s a café and gift shop on the premises, the gift shop, in particular, is a treasure trove for those who like aeroplanes, with plenty of models, books and memorabilia.
PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The City of Norwich Aviation Museum costs 9 GBP for adults, 5 GBP for children and 25 GBP for a family pass for two adults and three children. It’s usually open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am until 4pm, on Saturdays from 10am until 5pm and on Sundays from 11am until 3pm, but further opening hours are also added during school holidays so check their website for more info.
13. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is the best of Norwich destinations for lovers of ancient, modern and ethnographic art.
Located on the campus of the University of East Anglia, this museum contains collections of art from around the world, much of which was donated by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury in 1973.
As well as the fascinating art displays inside (including work by Francis Bacon) there’s also a 350-acre outdoor Sculpture Park which is great fun to explore on a nice day. There are two cafés on-site for a nice meal with spectacular views of the park.
Fun fact: The Sainsbury Centre has also been used as a filming location for the Avengers Compound in multiple Marvel films!
PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts operates on a ‘Pay If and What You Can’ basis. It’s open Tuesday – Friday from 9am until 6pm (exhibition entry from 10am until 4.30pm) and on weekends from 10am until 5pm (last exhibition entry at 4pm).
14. Cosy Club
If you’re looking for a grand place to grab breakfast or brunch in Norwich, one really beautiful space we can recommend is the Cosy Club, located at the top of London Street.
Housed in a former National Provincial Bank building from the early 20th century, this magnificent building has recently been converted into a restaurant that serves a tasty menu of tasty British classics, which you can enjoy under the magnificence of a huge domed ceiling that floods the space with natural light.
Need a recommendation? We had the Shakshuka with chorizo and feta, which was delicious.
BONUS: The Norfolk Broads
If you’re looking for natural places to go (near) Norwich then don’t look any further than the Broads, a sprawling national park that’s known for its idyllic waterways.
While the Broads National Park covers parts of both Norfolk and Suffolk it’s usually just called the Norfolk Broads. The area has been a popular boating holiday destination since the 19th century so it makes for a lovely spot to visit if you are looking to do some sailing and wildlife spotting.
The Broads is the largest protected wetlands in Britain, making it possible for visitors to see very cute and sometimes rare wildlife such as water voles, otters, hawks, geese, deer or even the elusive harbour porpoise. Check out the official website to plan your own holiday experience in the Broads!
Did we miss any of your favourite places to visit in Norwich?
Let us know in the comments so we can add more recommendations to the list!