Every Friday on Lightly We Go I’ll be sharing my suggestions for cost-effective destinations and attractions. By ‘cost-effective’ I don’t necessarily mean dirt-cheap, but that you’ll get your money’s worth out of your visit. As part of these posts I’m introducing a series of ‘5 things to do in…’ featuring various towns and cities around the UK and potentially Europe, too. One of the aims of this series is to encourage readers to explore their local area and support nearby independent businesses – partly inspired by Alice’s lovely post about all the ‘staycation’ trips she’d like to take around the country. So, to start with, I’m sharing 5 things to get up to in Norwich, featuring my favourite Instagram shots of my ‘fine city.’
Eat… out at Paolo’s
Paolo’s is a gorgeous Italian restaurant on Giles Street, just a minute’s walk from the Forum. The building is beautiful and spacious, the service excellent and the food authentic and delicious. One of my favourite things about Paolo’s is how quiet it is – G and I went for a Valentine’s meal on Friday 13th February and there were only a few other guests being served despite the occasion. It makes for an intimate and individual experience, on top of the wonderful food.
There are a few options depending on the budget available to you. From the menu you can safely have two courses for £20 per person. However, there is a lovely set menu which provides a two course meal for just £9.95; this is available from Sunday to Monday between 12 and 3pm, and Sunday through to Friday between 5 and 7pm. You can find all the available menus including the wine list and a children’s menu on their website. I would recommend my favourite dish, but there are honestly too many to choose from!
Go… to Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Norwich Castle was built by the Normans in the 11th Century and was William the Conqueror’s only castle in East Anglia. It was then used as a gaol from 1220 until 1887, when it was bought by the city for use as a Museum which opened eight years later. Today, the museum houses significant artefacts from around the county and features permanent Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Egyptian and natural history exhibits, amongst others, as well as a fine art gallery.
To commemorate the First World War the Museum has put together a new exhibition focusing on wartime artefacts from around the county, telling the stories of some individuals who served. In May of this year, the Museum awarded a multi-million pound grant to redesign the Castle Keep which will see it restored to how it would have looked when it was first built under Norman reign.
The Museum is a must for children, but teenagers, students and adults are bound to see and learn new things. There are guided tours available for the battlements and the dungeons, and refreshments are available at the cafe (the cakes are lovely) – entrance to the cafe and shop only is free! The Museum is open all year (Monday – Saturday from 10am-4:30pm; Sunday from 1pm-4:30pm – extended to 5pm each day during peak season) including most Bank Holidays. There are discounted prices available for groups, children, families, students, over-65s and visitors with disabilities (the latter can bring one companion for free). Museum Pass holders, Friends of Norwich Museums and under-4s all go free. More information on admission can be found here.
Walk… around Tombland
The Normans arrived in Norwich in 1066 but prior to that the city was still a thriving hub of Anglo-Saxon activity and commerce, and Tombland was its very heart. The word comes from two Old English words with a meaning similar to ‘open space’ and the are was used as the city’s marketplace. Even after the Normans arrived and moved the market to the foot of their brand-new castle, Tombland was used for fairs and was even the site of a riot in 1272.
There’s all sorts to explore around Tombland, the most obvious choice being the Cathedral. At over 900 years old it boasts the second-largest cloisters and second-tallest spire in England. There’s also Elm Hill, a surprisingly famous cobbled lane dating back to the Tudor period which has been used as a filming location for various TV programmes and films – perhaps most notably the 2007 adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel Stardust. You’ll also find the Edith Cavell memorial, Ethelbert Gate and various Tudor houses, all the while treading in the footsteps of Robert Kett and his rebellion against enclosure of common land in 1549.
Find… a book in the Book Hive
As you make your way back from Tombland you might find yourself wandering through the beautiful Norwich Lanes area. Head to London Street and you’ll discover The Book Hive. I am in no way exaggerating when I describe this amazing independent bookshop as a book-lover’s heaven – I would spend all day there if I could. The beautiful, characterful building has three stories, piled to the brim with books of all genres, lengths, authors and ages.
The Book Hive opened in 2009 and less than two years later was named as The Daily Telegraph‘s Best Small Bookshop in Britain. It hosts readings and book launches and, according to its website, non-literary events including cookery classes and coffee tastings. More recently the shop launched its non-fiction publishing arm, Propolis.
You can also purchase one of the A Book Hive Year packages, which sends a book to your door once a month for an entire year, according to a specific theme – from typical themes like Classics to more unusual ones like Independent Spirit, which supports new fiction from independent publishers, and my personal favourite Very Flat, which features Norfolk-related books. There are also packages for teenagers and children of various ages. I can promise that whatever kind of book you’re looking for, you will find it at The Book Hive – and probably a pile more to go alongside!
Shop… at Jarrold’s
The Jarrold Group is a company that was originally founded in Woodbridge, Suffolk, in 1770, but today it is considered a Norwich brand and is one of the longest-established businesses in the county. The flagship department store is situated on London Street at the bottom of Gentleman’s Walk, and impossible to miss – especially at Christmastime. There are also a number of specialist shops around the city and further out in the county, and the Group operates a training division for management, business and IT skills.
In the main store you’ll find more than five floors housing over 50 departments. My favourites are the stationery (it’s a great place for a birthday card) and the haberdashery/craft department. The in-house cafe-restaurants and deli all serve well too if you’re in need of some refreshment during your browse.
Norwich is a truly wonderful city: small enough to get to know really well, but full of hidden gems and firm favourites. You can easily spend a weekend exploring and still have more to see. And if you can’t make it to check out these five things, try and fill in the eat, go, walk, find and shop gaps for your local town or city and send me your suggestions in the comments!