6 hidden gems in Norwich
Norwich is an historic city blessed with a modern streak. For the urban explorers amongst you there are plenty of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.
If you know your film and TV, think of it like Mary Poppin’s bag, or Dr Who’s TARDIS – there’s a lot more depth to Norwich than first meets the eye!
We’ve chosen a few of our favourite hidden gems, but this list could definitely have been a lot longer.
Nestled in an old chalk quarry behind the Roman Catholic Cathedral on Earlham Road, Plantation Garden is a haven of peace and tranquillity just 5 minutes from the city centre. The garden was first created over 100 years ago and today, for a small fee, you’re able to explore the 3-acre site complete with fountain, walkways, flower beds, and Italianate terrace. When you’re relaxing in the peace and quiet you can totally understand how it got its other name – the Secret Garden.
Discover more here.
Whether you’re cycling, walking, or running, there are few easier ways to stretch your legs and explore Norfolk’s famously beautiful (and relatively flat) countryside than travelling along The Marriot’s Way, a 26-mile route that follows the path of an old railway line from Norwich to the town of Aylsham.
The well-maintained path winds its way through woodland and fields, over peaceful rivers, and cuts through towns and villages, so even if you’re not up for the whole route, there are places to stop for a drink or an ice cream. You could even just get the bus back into the city again if you don’t fancy the return journey!
You can find the start of the Marriot’s Way near to the city centre here.
Pub and Paddle / Canoe Hire
One of the most awesome but unusual ways to explore Norwich is by canoe along the River Wensum, which winds its way through the city centre.
The river is one of the reasons that a settlement grew up here in the first place over a thousand years ago. In the centuries since, trade along its waters has helped Norwich grow into the bustling city it is today.
Back in the 1800s, Norwich was famous for having around 600 pubs, today there are considerably fewer (around 130) but those that remain are pretty great. One city centre company, Pub and Paddle has combined two of Norwich’s most famous things, meaning you can explore the river and some of the city’s best pubs at the same time! Discover more here.
If you’re not a fan of pubs, it’s still well-worth getting out on the river by hiring a canoe or paddleboard from one of several companies that operate in the city – you might even spot a seal or an otter if you’re lucky!
Strangers’ Hall is quite a, well, strange name, right? So why is this beautifully preserved timber-framed house called that?
Norwich has a long history of welcoming settlers from overseas, including a group of cloth weavers who were invited over from 1565 onwards to escape religious persecution in the low countries of Europe (modern-day Netherlands and Belgium).
Initially these ‘Strangers’, some of whom lodged at the hall, hence the name, numbered only around 30 families, but in time they would go on to make up around 1/3 of the population of the city!
Not only did these newcomers bring their weaving skills, but they also brought over their love of breeding canaries – if you’re a football fan you might have noticed a canary on the badge of Norwich City FC.
Strangers’ Hall is now a museum and a great place to spend a few hours, you can find it in Charing Cross. Opening times and information here.
Just a short walk away from the city centre you’ll find a street lost in time – Elm Hill. With its cobbled road and centuries-old buildings, you’ll feel very much like you’re on the set of a film, in fact Elm Hill has been featured in several movies! Today you’ll find a host of independent shops and cafes along its route and no exploration of Norwich is complete without ticking it off your sightseeing list.
You can find Elm Hill here.
The Norwich Lanes
Okay, we’ll be honest, The Lanes are one of the most famous areas of Norwich, so much so they won a national award not so long ago! However, with so much on offer it’s difficult to know exactly where to visit…
If vinyl records are your thing, head along to Soundclash in St Benedict’s Street or search the stalls in St Gregory’s Antiques and Collectables. For vintage clothing there’s Slayyy Vintage in St Giles Street, or hunt out a bargain in one of the many charity shops.
If you’re a fan of houseplants and terrariums be sure to check out Elm in Lower Goat Lane, or The Plant Den in Upper St Giles. When, after all that exploring, you’re in need of some refreshment, you’ll find independents such as Strangers Coffee Shop in Pottergate, Frank’s Bar in Bedford Street, and Chatime bubble tea shop in Dove Street.
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