In the heart of Norfolk lies the city of Norwich, a city steeped in history and full of cultural gems. Norwich blends old and new seamlessly, with a labyrinth of cobbled streets (featuring an abundance of quirky independent cafés) linking the Norman cathedral and medieval hilltop stronghold to more recent shopping complexes. Over my Easter break, I spent almost a week in Norwich visiting Laurence – and although I’ve visited several times before, there is always something new to see!
Adjacent to the multi-coloured striped rooftops of the market stalls is The Guildhall, part of the Norwich 12 collection of architectural gems spanning a millennium of urban development. The Guildhall is home to Caley’s Cocoa Café (one for the to-eat list next time!), a historic chocolatier known for creating Rolo, Munchies and Caramac, amongst other chocolatey goodies. At one point, their factory in Norwich (which was subsequently taken over by Nestle) produced two tons of Rolo an hour!
After peeking into The Guildhall’s ornate interior, we headed towards Lower Goat Lane – part of the eclectic Norwich Lanes quarter, known for its thriving independent boutiques and cafés. I could quite easily spend a few hours browsing the gift shops which line these medieval streets; Lisa Angel, filled with a variety of trinkets and quirky home décor items, remains my favourite. A little further down the street, Biddy’s Tea Room is a worthy refuelling venue. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, with a ‘down the rabbit hole’-esque theme to its vintage interior, Biddy’s is the place to go for sweet-toothed visitors!
At the end of Lower Goat Lane we reached a small green, bordered by a church bearing a sign saying ‘St Gregory’s Antiques & Collectables’. Since I hadn’t been in before, we decided to venture in. Inside, curios and memorabilia were piled high and the setting was stunning: from the wooden beams in the eaves to the magnificent stone arches and light seeping through the intricate stained glass windows, this is a treasure trove not to be missed!
Wandering amongst the cabinets of curiosities, filled with vintage cameras, chemist’s test tubes, retro jewellery and the like, it felt like an overload of the senses: with so many things to see, time slips by easily in this antique emporium. There was everything from upcycled vintage paraphernalia to period furniture, and from olde-worlde silverware to retro toys. As if one floor wasn’t enough, there was even a small crypt – located to the right of the sanctuary, but easily missed if you’re not aware of it. This miscellaneous collection of antiquities even contained an old French road sign, vaguely educational non?
Emerging from the church into bright sunshine, we crossed the small green and headed into F’sh at The Grosvenor, aka home to the best fish and chips I have ever tasted (deliciously flaky fish and authentic chip-shop chips). I opted for the cod goujon special (one cod goujon plus a portion of chips), and couldn’t quite believe it when the server said one of the goujons was ‘a little on the small side’ and gave me an extra! I’ve never experienced customer service quite like it! As it was a nice day, we decided to eat our lunch on the grass, basking in the intermittent spring sunshine.
We then crossed the River Wensum, which snakes its way round the north-eastern edge of the city, towards The Playhouse Bar. Its unassuming exterior hides a quirky bar, featuring an upside-down city on the ceiling, with a peaceful terrace to the rear. The laid-back atmosphere is a major selling point as far as I’m concerned, as is the wide variety of non-alcoholic drinks (though rest assured, there are plenty of real ales on tap for those interested in beverages of the alcoholic variety).
A couple of drinks later, we decided to make our way towards Mousehold Heath, a viewpoint to the north-east of the city centre. For a short walk with minimal height gain, we were rewarded with a great view of the skyline, dominated by the cathedral spire.
We then wandered back towards the city centre in the direction of Norwich Castle – an attraction which will, yet again, have to wait for a future visit since sunny days need to be spent outside. After a wander round a few shops, and the spectacular (and aptly named) Royal Arcade, we headed home for the day.
If you’re interested in reading more about Norfolk, see this post and stay tuned for an upcoming post on one of Norfolk’s beautiful seaside towns!