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After years of restoration, Norwich Castle Keep will fully reopen its doors from basement to battlements in the summer of 2024. Turning the clock back 900 years, this multi-million-pound project will take you back to the heyday of Norman England and let you experience Norwich Castle like never before.
So, whether you’re local to the City of Stories, a regular visitor, or have never visited, this once-in-a-lifetime reopening is not one to miss. In fact, as one of the most complete medieval cities in the country, it’s worth taking a few days to explore the rest of Norwich! Need some help with your plans? We’ve got you covered. Read on for our recommendations!
First things first, you’ve got to plan how you’ll get here and back. And lucky for you, it couldn’t be easier. If you’re bringing the car, you can either park in the city for the day in a choice of multi-storey car parks like Chantry Place, Castle Quarter, The Forum, Rose Lane, St Andrews, and St Giles. Or, if you’re staying outside of the city, you can leave the car at one of the five Park & Ride stations and pay just £3 for a return ticket (with additional passengers paying just £1 extra!). Find the best Park & Ride station for you here.
If you’d prefer to leave the car at home, you could always get the train to Norwich from London, Essex, Cambridge, Suffolk, and more with Greater Anglia – the station is just a 15-minute walk from all of the action in the city centre, so you’ll be nice and close! (And in that time, you can set the scene with a listen of the ‘This is History: A Dynasty to Die For’ podcast! Which is all about the country’s medieval history).
For all of the ways you can get to Norwich, be sure to check out our ‘Travel’ page for our pointers.
After you’ve decided on how you’re getting here, you’ve got to decide on where to stay next! Since you’re on a history-steeped visit, it’s only right to stay somewhere equally as interesting, right? For that, there’s few better choices than The Maids Head Hotel – which claims to be the oldest in the country, dating back to the middle of the 1090s when Norman Bishops established a guest house.
With guests over the centuries including Catherine of Aragon, Queen Elizabeth I, and Admiral Lord Nelson, you’ll be joining an exclusive club of names with a stay here! Plus, it’s across the street from Norwich Cathedral right in the centre of Norwich, so you’re mere minutes from the sights.
Of course, you’re here to see Norwich Castle’s reopening, so that’s the best place to visit first! But what can you expect to see from this newly restored Norman palace? The short answer? Plenty. The long answer:
There’ll be reinstated floors, audio-visual projections, character panels, VR, multisensory elements (like dressing up as a Norman king or queen, or experiencing the noises and smells from medieval life), numerous interactives, the British Museum’s first medieval gallery outside of London with over 1000 artefacts, including over 50 from the British Museum, and, finally, a new entrance to the museum with a light-filled atrium! It’s definitely worth getting excited for.
Then, a visit to Norwich isn’t complete without a visit to the iconic Norwich Cathedral, so it makes for a fantastic place to start your sightseeing outside of Norwich Castle. Norwich Cathedral is 900 years old and is the one of the Finest Romanesque cathedrals in Europe.
It’s completely free to visit and walk around these historic grounds, with free guided tours also available every hour, for an hour. Here, you can discover one thousand carved roof bosses in the Cathedral and cloisters, more than any other Christian church.
The Cathedral Close is also the largest to survive in England, plus the Cathedral itself has the second-tallest spire in the country and the largest monastic cloisters in England. It’s a wonderful place to visit and reflect, and, more often than not, there’s an event on! Check out their calendar and plan your visit on the Cathedral website.
Once you’re finished at Norwich Cathedral, you won’t be far from seeing another City of Stories icon – Elm Hill. In fact, it’s so iconic, Hollywood have even used this Norwich street as a film set time and time again across the decades! So, it really is a sight to see.
Take a walk down Norwich’s most complete medieval street and take in the sights as you travel back in time down this cobbled lane. It’s the ideal place to stop for a break too, with The Britons Arms – a 13th century coffee house and restaurant – perfectly placed. Opt for coffee, cake, afternoon tea, or even dinner on select evenings!
If you’re a lover of history, a tour with Paul Dickson should be on your to-do list. We’re not sure anyone knows more about Norwich than Paul – his tours are fascinating. We’d recommend booking the ‘Shardlake’s Norwich’ tour, which was inspired by the book ‘Tombland’. This tour lasts for two hours, in which you’ll learn more about the locations featured in this famous novel and the story of Kett’s Rebellion, which took place in 1549.
Or book the ‘Great Market Tour’, which will teach you all you need to know about our 900-year-old Norwich Market. Find out more about the early days of the Market, when merchants would sell swords from the Rhinelands, furs from Russia, and walrus ivory from Scandinavia, as well as farm produce, pottery, and iron tools.
After your tour, be sure to stay for a delicious lunch and shop around – there’s some great stalls and it’s the largest permanent covered market in the UK, after all!
And there you have it! Just a few of our top recommendations for a medieval visit to the City of Stories. There is plenty more to the city, from the fantastic cafés and restaurants to the amazing independent business community, and who can forget the endless experiences for families and friends alike! For even more pointers on where to head during your time in Norwich – be sure to check out the rest of the VisitNorwich website.