Our Expert Take on Things to Do in Norwich
If Norwich is good enough for Alan Partridge and Stephen Fry, it's good enough for us.
‘Let’s be ‘aving you' and ‘Ah-ha’ might not mean very much to non-Brits, but they’ve become iconic national catchphrases and are certainly worth looking up. The first quote is attributed to celebrity chef Delia Smith, who shouted it over the speaker system at half-time during a Norwich football (soccer) game. Nobody really knows what it means, but it sounds powerful, right? The second is from Alan Partridge, actor Steve Coogan’s fictional character who lives in Norwich. They love Alan so much in Norwich, you can even take an Alan Partridge themed tour of the city. The character is a bit of a grouch, but loves the tranquillity and bucolic side of the city, while absolutely hating the bright lights of London, which he sees as a monstrous rival.
Otherwise, there’s actor, comedian and Hugh Laurie collaborator Stephen Fry, who often publicly flaunts his Norwich origins and passion for his local football team – and why shouldn't he? Norwich is dear to locals and Brits, and since this is one of our new destinations, we've compiled a list of top things to do in Norwich.
Watch football with the Pride of Anglia
It’s been touched on above, but Norwich's local football team is what connects celebrity chef Delia Smith and actor Stephen Fry to the rest of the Norwich people. When it comes to things to do in Norwich, there's nothing quite like watching a game at Carrow Road Stadium (or simply Carrow Road, as locals call it) to get a glimpse into local culture. Watch the yellow-and-green Norwich City F.C. (also known as The Canaries) take on teams in the Premier League or Championship (second division). They’re known as a bit of a yo-yo team, meaning they tend to get relegated and bounce back up to the top league more often than not. With luck, you’ll be visiting during the fiery East Anglican Derby between Norwich and Ipswich. See for yourself which team will become the Pride of Anglia.
Stroll through the old town
So, apparently Norwich is the 'most complete' medieval city in Britain. We’re not exactly sure how you judge completeness, but it wouldn’t be a surprise. One of the best things to do in Norwich is simply wandering around its meandering cobbled alleys, which lead past a uniform layout of historic edifices. Among the highlights is the Norwich Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century. ‘It’s older than you, dad,’ comes the quip from your cheeky offspring. If you’re reading this, it is indeed older than you. Explore the medieval fortifications of the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery and learn about the Norman Conquest and William the Conqueror. The castle looks like a big old cube at the top of a hill, while the exhibits within contain everything from fine art and archaeology to death masks of convicted killers and a mummified cat. Wander up the trails of the city centre and reach Elm Hill for streets and plazas of old Tudor houses.
History buff? You could do worse than staying in a 15th century estate formerly owned by a confidante of Henry VII. If there's anything to say for Plum Guide's handpicked homes, it's that they're truly one of a kind.
On the off chance that it’s a little drizzly in England (no, never…), you might want to take advantage of Norwich’s excellent shopping options. Jarrold is the jewel of Norwich; the Harrods of the East; an independent department store that embodies the city’s entrepreneurial spirit. Over 40% of the city’s stores are independent, making for a unique shopping experience that enables you to feel good about yourself for helping the high street (even if you’ll pay a little extra for it).
Stop for a traditional English afternoon tea
Pop in at Biddy’s Tea Room or Harriet’s Café Tearooms, and tell both Biddy and Harriet that their rival is talking smack about them and undercutting their prices. Prove what people have been saying for centuries: that the English are willing to go to war over tea. Or, go for afternoon tea at the iconic Maids Head Hotel, said to be the oldest hotel in the United Kingdom. It’s also thought that Elizabeth I stayed here on a visit to Norwich. A lot of things are apparently 'thought' and 'said' in Norwich. Speaking of which, she was ‘reputed’ to have stayed here with Matthew Parker, a 16th-century Archbishop of Canterbury who was 'known to' poke his nose around in other people’s affairs. It’s ‘believed’ our term of ‘Nosy Parker’ comes from him. Now, that’s the kind of knowledge that’d impress listeners on Alan Partridge’s radio show.
Explore the markets
On a bright summer’s day, what’s better than delving through a city’s local market? This being England, the chips (fries) dipped in vinegar and fried in beef fat (eugh) take pride of place in the Norwich Market Place. Rumour has it the market and its 200 stalls are stacked with things that aren’t chips; that a market dating back around 1,000 years also sells fruit, vegetables, clothing and specialty goods. We at the Plum Guide will neither confirm nor deny such a vicious rumour, but would recommend you check it out for yourself.
What we can confirm is that the Guildhall is one of the architectural highlights overlooking the market and dating back itself to the 1400s. Architecture fans will also appreciate the design of the art-deco City Hall beside it. If architecture is your thing, how about staying in a Georgian country home?