The fact that the ‘wich’ in its name means it was originally a salt-mining settlement, is just one of the curious facts about Norwich.

The history of Norwich is a long and fascinating one, which can be comprehensively traced all the way back to the 11th century when it was the capital of the most populated county in England.

As the impressive Norman-built Norwich Cathedral and the 12th century keep of Norwich Castle remind its residents and visitors every day, Norwich has a long and important role in the history of the British Isles. These days, it combines the grandeur of its historic buildings with a modern, vibrant atmosphere in its friendly city centre.

The Capital that Never Was

In the 11th century Norwich was every bit as big, bustling and important a city as London, thanks to its flourishing wool trade fed by the surrounding county. It was only the advent of the industrial revolution hundreds of years later in in the 1760s that firmly established London as the most populous city in the UK. Furthermore Norwich doesn’t just boast a first in terms of sheer numbers of people – it was also the first place in England to introduce a local newspaper in 1701 and postcodes in 1959.

A Surprising Arts Scene

Norwich is home to six theatres and one of only two dedicated puppet theatres in the UK. The Theatre Royal is a stunning and recently renovated art deco building that plays host to a huge range of theatre, comedy, musical and kids’ shows every year.

The city also has a rich literary heritage with Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich being the first book written and published by an English woman in 1395. Norwich also became an official city of refuge for persecuted writers in 2007 and was named the world’s sixth UNESCO City of Literature in 2012.

Famous Faces

In recent years, Alan Partridge has been one of Norwich’s most famous faces. Futhermore there are many more non-fictional famous sons and daughters of Norwich. Legendary theatre actor Sir John Mills was born in Norwich, attended Norwich High School for Boys and nearly took a very different career path when he tried out for Norwich City FC in the 1920s. Acclaimed His Dark Materials author, Philip Pullman, is also a Norwich native, and certainly two of its most famous national treasures are its two most avid football fans, Delia Smith and Stephen Fry.

To Market, to Market

Founded when the conquering Normans arrived in the 11th century. Norwich Market is one the oldest and certainly the largest open air market in the country. Located on Gentleman’s Walk, the 200 stalls of Norwich market are where the city has traded, gossiped and simply wandered around for many a century. These days the market is open six days a week from 8.30am-5.30pm, and offers a dazzling array of excellent local produce including meat, fish, cheese and breads, plus tasty treats to eat on the go. There are also stalls with everything from toys, to clothes, to crafts and jewellery to browse. During the festive season, Norwich celebrates in style with a variety of themed Christmas markets.

A Safe City

Norwich has the enviable title of being the one of the safest cities in the UK, with a history of having some of the lowest crime rates recorded. This wasn’t always the case though – Norwich also bears the questionable honour of being the only UK city to have been excommunicated by the Pope, who was angry with the city’s unruly residents after rioting in 1274. The good behaviour of the residents can’t just be accredited to an older population – the city has a high and healthy youth population, thanks in part to students who come to study at the University of East Anglia and don’t want to leave. This combination of youth and safety make it a fantastic place to visit.

Stories to tell

If a city has been around for centuries, it’s safe to assume that it has a few good stories to tell. Norwich, which is one of the oldest cities in England, has more than a few. Here are 5 historical facts about Norwich that may surprise you.

Norwich was a breeding ground for 14th century feminism. The first book in the English language, proven to be written by a woman, was penned in Norwich. The book, Sixteen Revelations Of Divine Love, was written between 1393 and 1395 by Julian of Norwich, an anchoress at the Church of St Julian.
As well as being the first female author, Julian was also the first feminist interpreter of Biblical texts.

Some of the street names are hilariously naughty

Would you want to live in St Gregory’s Back Alley? I’m going to go ahead and assume that the answer is no, although, despite its naughty name this Norwich street has a prim and proper history — it’s simply an alley that goes round the back of St. Gregory’s church.

Opie Street, on the other hand, is a whole different matter. Its name is historically recorded as ‘turpis vicus’, or ‘shame street’ because Latin always makes things sound posh. That doesn’t change the fact that it was commonly referred to as ‘Gropekuntelane’, thanks to its thriving trade of (you guessed it) sex work.

Centuries down the line, however, naming a street in honour of medieval hookers began to offend Victorian sensibilities. Gropecunt Lane was renamed Opie Street, allegedly in honour of 18th century poet and author Amelia Opie, whose name just so happens to rhyme with ‘gropey’. It’s a total coincidence, I swear.


Football fans may know that the Norwich City football team are nicknamed the Canaries. They play in bright yellow and green shirts, and their badge is a yellow canary on a green background. Why?

The association of Norwich with canaries goes back three centuries, to when immigrants from the Netherlands brought their pet birds to England. The adorable canaries took off (pardon the pun) in a big way; keeping them became the latest fashion and Norwich residents bred them to create different varieties.

This eventually resulted in a breed known as the Norwich Crested, which is bright yellow with a green crest. Norwich City F. C. adopted the characteristic colours for their football kit in honour of this niche part of the city’s history in 1907.

Norwich is a good place for piety… and also for pints

In Norwich, so the saying goes, there’s a church for every week of the year and a pub for every day. This is only a slight exaggeration — there are more medieval churches in Norwich than in any city north of the Alps and two cathedrals, one Catholic and one Protestant.

Naturally, the population of Norwich are super devout… nah, just kidding. Nowadays, Norwich is famous for being the least religious city in England and Wales, with 42.5% of residents identifying as non-religious. That’s nearly double the national average!

So how are the pubs faring? Norwich is in joint third place when it comes to the number of pubs per square mile, according to the Britain’s Pub Capitals study. Boasting 152 pubs, that works out at 10 per square mile, according to the analysis by Liberty Games, which supplies pool tables, and arcade machines to pubs across the country.

Norwich Castle’s origin story is basically a historical horror film

Anyone educated in England knows about William the Conqueror and the 1066 Norman invasion — probably in the context of a boring Year 7 history lesson. Fewer know that one of the first things William did after the whole conquering bit was go to Norwich in 1067 and build a massive castle.

The site he chose to build on was a large hill above the city, a good place for a fortification. Unfortunately, the hill was already occupied by about 100 Saxon houses. William, who after conquering England was fresh out of fucks to give, demolished the lot… only to discover that the site was also home to a Saxon cemetery.

Anyone who has ever seen a roppy B-movie about ghosts knows that this kind of behaviour is extremely unwise. But haunted house films weren’t around in 11th century England, and King Bill, whose grand total of fucks was still at 0, went ahead and built over the top of it.

Nearly a thousand years later, the castle is still one of the most memorable historic landmarks in Norwich… and still (presumably) haunted by the spirits of dispossessed Saxons. Happy visiting! Facts about Norwich are pretty crazy!

Best things to do in Norwich

Take a gentle stroll around Norwich, with over 1500 historic buildings within the city walls. The city has 33 medieval churches, more than any other city in northern Europe, and Elm Hill is a complete historical cobbled street with stunning examples of Tudor buildings and wealthy merchants’ houses.

Norwich Lanes, pedestrian streets that feature many local independent stores. Nearby is London Street, the first ‘foot street’ in the country when it opened in 1967. Yes, Norwich was the first city in the UK to ban traffic from a main shopping thoroughfare.

And don’t miss our Norman cathedral, one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe, boasting the second tallest spire in the country and the largest cloisters in England. It’s Refectory restaurant is a good place for a pitstop.

Beautifully positioned across Millennium Plain from St Peter Mancroft church in teh city centre, The Forum is one of the most popular public libraries in the UK and home to the Norfolk Heritage Centre, Children’s Library and Second Air Division Memorial Library.

There’s always a buzzy atmosphere in The Forum with exhibitions and activities taking place year-round and a busy restaurant.

Visit the Sainsbury Centre on the University of East Anglia campus, build by architect Norman Foster in 1973 to house the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. It was Foster’s first public building and is an attraction in itself, along with the works of Picasso, Degas, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon. The Centre also hosts regular exhibitions. Afterwards take a walk around the lake.


Alongside all the big High Street names, over 40 per cent of Norwich’s shops are independent, which means shoppers get the best of both worlds. Norwich is recognised as one of the top 10 places to shop in the UK.

Have chips on Norwich market. Okay, there’s more to it than just the chips (fried in beef fat – not for veggies!). Buy them, liberally douse with vinegar, sprinkle over salt, then go and take a walk. Yeh, cos that’s the real thing. Take in the vista… the Guildhall, St Peter Mancroft Church, the Forum, the Norman Castle.

Any direction will provide great sights… and always keep your head up. Our best shot is to head along Gentleman’s Walk, through the Royal Arcade, then left along London Street. Then head into Tombland and the Cathedral precinct. A drink at the Adam and Eve isn’t a bad idea either. But that’s just us. Find your own way. Oh, but once you’re finished with the chips, the shopping’s FANTASTIC!

Visit the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, in the lovely Lanes (shopaholics will love the independent shopping). A look back at the history of our Fine City, you’ll find a first edition of The Revelations of Divine Love, the first book published in English that was written by a woman, Julian of Norwich, and considered one of the great spiritual classics.


Go to a football game at Carrow Road to see the mighty Canaries and join in a rendition of the oldest known football song, On The Ball City, which goes:

Kick it off, throw it in, have a little scrimmage,
Keep it low, a splendid rush, bravo, win or die;
On the ball, City, never mind the danger,
Steady on, now’s your chance,
Hurrah! We’ve scored a goal.
City!, City!, City!

More places to see and visit

The River Wensum is the most protected chalk river in Europe and in Norwich it’s the highest navigable part of the Southern Broads.
Visit Norwich during the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in May, which is over 200 years old and the fourth largest international arts festival in the country. Check out the 1930s Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, home of music, cabaret, burlesque and theatre.

See a performance at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich, the first permanent recreation of an Elizabethan theatre. You thought the new Globe on the embankment in London got there first, didn’t you? Not at all – the Maddermarket was opened in 1921 and it’s a world class Shakespearean-style playhouse. And make sure you visit the Church of St John, Maddermarket too.

Enjoy family fun at Norwich Puppet Theatre, in the converted medieval church of St James in the heart of the city. It’s a nationally unique venue dedicated to puppetry and you’ll have a great time. Just remember though, there are strings attached to any visit…

Eat al fresco in Tombland, the old Saxon market place. The name derives from the `saxon word for an opennspace.

Appreciate the view of Norwich, our Fine City, from Mousehold Heath. This lovely park high above the city has great views looking down on the cathedral, castle and city centre. You could even imagine what it looked like in 1549 when Robert Kett camped his troops up here prior to attacking Norwich. It didn’t end well… unlike your visit to our Fine City

Places to eat

In East Anglia’s medieval city you’ll find daringly modern food, from insect-garnished salads to haute cuisine barbecue crisps and mammoth breakfast toasties! Peek into the heritage, half-timbered buildings of Norwich and you may be surprised to discover cutting edge culinary delights.

For that special occasion Benedicts … Former Morston Hall head chef Richard Bainbridge combines comfort food and haute cuisine at his simple yet smart neighbourhood bistro that celebrates Norfolk produce. There’s a healthy dose of nostalgia about dishes like ‘Nanny bush’s seasonal trifle’ – (a winning dish on BBC 2’s Great British Menu, 2015). For casual dining, Farmyard’s neon-pink sign and striking blue-green frontage stand out on St Benedict’s Street, Norwich’s restaurant row and boasts an open kitchen with a menu that highlights local produce.

Roger Hickman’s Restaurant is where Norwich comes to celebrate. Ask for a table on the spacious ground floor of the split-level dining room for a culinary tour de force.

Warwick Street Social for Casual dining and special occasions

A handsomely converted corner-site pub in Norwich’s upmarket ‘Golden Triangle’ neighbourhood for a well-made Aperol spritz in the buzzy ground-floor bar, then head upstairs for their mouth watering dishes.

Woolf & Social for a cheap eat.Try their ants. Deep-fried until crunchy, earthy and zesty, try them with a pokey sloe gin and burnt orange negroni. If insects (including flying termites in season) aren’t your bag, then go for casual dining and Kid friendly at The Assembly House set in a gorgeous Grade-I listed Georgian building overseen by local celebrity chef Richard Hughes. Just along from M&S in Norwich’s city centre, it serves a splendid afternoon tea. It was in fact a finalist for ‘best afternoon tea’ in the Norfolk food and drink awards 2017.

Shiki for cheap and casual dining. For some of the best Japanese food in the country, head to this contemporary Izayaka-style restaurant opposite the Cathedral. Here, you can watch the chefs preparing an array of sushi and sashimi.

How to get there

Getting to Norwich is easy with excellent road links, regular train services and an airport less than five miles from the city centre. For those travelling by sea there is a ferry port at Harwich, while there is also a second airport in the East Anglia region allowing travellers to reach us from destinations all over the world. And once you’ve arrived in our fine city – whether it’s by car, coach or train – you’ll need to know the best places to park or what buses to use.

Train: Greater Anglia trains leave London’s Liverpool Street Station every 30 minutes (journey time 1hr 50mins).
Eurostar has a fast, easy route to London from the continent, with high speed routes from Brussels, Lille and Paris, and connections from Ghent, Amsterdam, Bruges, Frankfurt and Rouen among others.

Direct trains run from Cambridge (1hr 20mins), with connections via Peterborough to the Midlands, the North of England and Scotland.

Norwich Station is a 10 minute walk from the city centre.

By Air: Norwich International Airport is just 4 miles from Norwich city centre. Domestic services provide a link to Norwich from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Guernsey, Jersey and Manchester whilst over 1000 worldwide destinations are reached by connecting services at Amsterdam with KLM.

Rail and sail from Holland: Stena Line’s Dutchflyer Rail & Sail service provides city-to-city travel by rail and ferry from Amsterdam/Rotterdam to Norwich, via Harwich International.

Park & Ride: One of the best ways of getting to the city centre is to Park and Ride. Norwich has six different routes (more than any other city in the UK), all of which provide excellent value for money and are a great environmentally friendly way to travel. Parking is free for users of the Park & Ride, and there are Group Saver bus tickets available and accompanied children under 16 travel free. There is no time limit on how long you can stay during your day of travel, but make sure you check the time of the last bus before you leave for the city. You won’t be queuing to find a space either with almost 5,000 car parking spaces available over the six sites.

Buses: Regular bus services run from all parts of the city throughout the daytime and evening. For advice and information on planning a journey visit or call 0871 200 22 33. Or why not check travel info from your mobile? Go to to find out when the next bus goes from your stop.

Car Parks: Norwich has many car parks in and around the city centre ranging from multi-storey such as St. Andrew’s Car Park and surface car parks. There is also ample parking available for the disabled while there is a free motorcycle park near Tombland for motorcyclists. For more detailed information on the car parks and their locations visit Norwich City Council website or download the Parking Planner.

To make visiting and exploring Norwich even simpler, a free online walking route planner for Norwich has been launched, to encourage the city’s residents and visitors to walk more. To find the best route from A to B, simply visit take a look at the route planner or take a look at the city’s walking plan and then you’re on your way! The Norwich Map, ideal for walkers, is available from the Tourist Information Centre at The Forum.

A secure cycle storage facility for bicycles and cyclist’s belongings especially suitable for touring cyclists is available at the Norwich City Council-run St Andrews car park, (entrance from Duke Street; Norwich city centre close to Sustrans Route 1), ask at the car park office and staff will be on hand to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Toilets are also available at this car park.

Whilst a little further out Norwich is still easily accesible from Ipswich Stone Lodge Self Catering Apartments, it is around one and half hours drive time but well worth a day visit there.