How to Spend a Christmas Weekend in Norwich

20 October 2023

How to Spend a Christmas Weekend in Norwich  

Whether you’re looking to get some all-important Christmas shopping done, see some gorgeous sights, or even a mix of both, a weekend in Norwich is the perfect choice this Christmas. This is a city full of independent spirit, with one-of-a-kind businesses as well as the famous names, like John Lewis, Frasers, Marks & Spencer, Primark, and many more. 

And at Christmas, we light up. See our famous and award-winning Norwich Lanes fitted with stars and sketches on windows, find beautiful festive displays, and historic landmarks, all while under the guise of sparkling Christmas lights overhead. Here’s our top recommendations on how to spend a festive weekend here in Norwich. 

Travelling here to the City of Stories is nice and straightforward too. If you’re staying outside the city, you can park up at one of our five Park & Ride stations and pay just £3 for a return ticket (with additional passengers paying just £1 extra!). Or don’t worry about driving home for Christmas and get the train to Norwich from London, Essex, Cambridge, and Suffolk with Greater Anglia. The station is just a 15-minute walk from the action of the city centre! 

Day One – Morning and Afternoon 

Every day of the festive season is started best with a warming coffee (or hot chocolate, if you’re feeling really seasonal), right? And for lovers of a good hot drink, we’d highly recommend giving St Giles Pantry on Upper St Giles a visit. This independent general store sells local artisan food and drink, and it looks absolutely gorgeous, so it’s the right place to start your day. Take some seasonal local produce home with you and wow guests over Christmas, you’ll be the favourite host! 

As soon as you’ve fuelled up for the day, why not look around the rest of Upper St Giles? It’s truly a hidden gem of Norwich, and has some fabulous shops to visit, especially around Christmas. Pop into Cupcake & Co for some delicious festive treats or see the wonderful three art galleries of Studio Art Gallery, Norwich Art Shop, and Verandah. 

From there, it only makes sense to see the rest of our award-winning Lanes. You could spend an entire day shopping in these independent stores – and trust us – you’ll want to. The absolute musts for us are Lower Goat Lane, Pottergate, Exchange Street, Bedford Street, and London Street, where you’ll find fantastic displays and Christmas gifts. All while supporting local business! 

After all that shopping, you’re bound to get peckish. Feel free to head wherever takes your eye – Norwich is a seriously good place for all kinds of food – but if you’re unsure on where to go, we’d advise a visit to Yalm! In this food hall above the Royal Arcade, you’ll find cuisine from North Africa, Japan, Italy, and many more. Keep your eyes peeled for seasonal festive dishes too!  

Then, it’s back to Christmas shopping, and the rest of the Royal Arcade and Back of the Inns are must-sees. Find shops like fashion brand Dune London in their recently opened store and treat yourself or a loved one to stylish new shoes, or take a look inside Gyre & Gimble’s shop, where you can buy their tasty homemade gin to take home.  

Once you’ve finished there, take a short walk across the road and find the iconic Norwich Market, where you can find community and festive spirit in abundance. There is plenty of great stalls here, from vintage clothes to delicious New York inspired sandwiches.  

And Jarrolds, Norwich’s flagship department store, is essential in your visit too! From furnishings to fashion, beauty products to a whole host of children’s toys, this is where you’ll get a big chunk of your Christmas shopping done. You can even stop to catch your breath in their stunning wine bar and/or (because it’s Christmas) pop across the road to Sir Toby’s Beers on Norwich Market for a warming Glühwein – this is a MUST on any Christmas visit! 

Day One – The evening 

After a long day of seeing the city and getting some shopping done, it’s time to relax with a few drinks and a good meal. For some delicious pre-dinner cocktails, head to Makers House on St Benedicts Street. Here, they make all of their own syrups and use only premium spirits, so you can rest assured you’re getting a very good drink. And if you don’t drink alcohol, they’ve got that covered too, with a range of mocktails, soft drinks, and even 0% lager.  

What better way to end the first day than with dinner? Finish your day on a high with Brix & Bones on London Street, just above Gonzo’s Two Room. This 32-seater restaurant serves some incredible dishes, using fire to take cooking back to its ancestral roots. Their menu is seasonal and full of bold flavours, so expect some seriously tempting options!  

Brix and Bones Norwich

Brix and Bones Norwich

Day Two – Morning and Afternoon 

Saturdays are made for shopping – so getting out there and seeing even more of what Norwich has to offer is an ample way to give yourself the afternoon for some sightseeing! The City of Stories has some terrific flagship shops to check out when on the hunt for Christmas, and you can bet they’ll be adorned from top to bottom in everything festive too. Head to Frasers, John Lewis, Primark, Marks & Spencer, and our very own Chantry Place & Castle Quarter for a good morning of shopping!  

Once the mooching around and shopping is all out of the way – it’s time to enjoy some lunch. And if you really want to get in the Christmas spirit, there’s no better way to do it than with The Assembly House’s popular Nutcracker Afternoon Tea (£29.50 per person). Filled with festive goodies across three-tiers, you can either enjoy this delightful treat in an igloo outside, or inside the beauty of this Georgian gem.  

Fancy seeing a bit of Norwich culture? Then we’d suggest talking a walk down Castle Meadow into Tombland, where you’ll pass the towering Norwich Castle and reach Norwich Cathedral. Feel free to explore the Cathedral, it’s just as fascinating as it is gorgeous, and has the second-tallest spire, and the largest monastic cloisters in the country! Or, meander through Norwich Market and browse the local independents wonderful stalls before heading back down St Giles St and Upper St Giles to find the Catholic Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic Revival Architecture in the country, with its beautiful stained glass and stonework.

Plus, during the festive season, both cathedrals have plenty on, like carols and processions (see more about those at Norwich Cathedral and the Catholic Cathedral), so there is plenty to admire!

It’s been another busy day in the City of Stories, so why not take a load off and cosy up to a good pint while enjoying some Christmas atmosphere? For that, you can head to The Ribs of Beef – a favourite local pub here in Norwich, beautifully set on the cusp of the River Wensum. There’s a huge range of drinks here, with up to nine real ales and craft beer on draught, including five regularly changing guest ales!  

Day Two – Evening 

If you’re looking to push the boat out for your second restaurant visit here in Norwich – we’ve got just the eatery for you – Benedicts. Found on St Benedicts Street, this is just one of the hubs of fine dining here in the City of Stories – and their accolades of three AA Rosettes and the 2023 Michelin Guide feature speak for themselves. It’s as much an unforgettable experience as it is a meal this Christmas.

And just down the road you’ll also find Farmyard, another delightful fine dining restaurant. But here, Farmyard pride themselves on being more of a relaxed bistro experience with fine dining quality – so no need for fancy dresses and suits here! Simply head in, order to your heart’s content, and enjoy the meal of a lifetime. 

Day Three 

It’s your final day in Norwich, and we’ll be sad to see you go. Hopefully your time here has proven to be a festively memorable one and will bring you back for years to come! But until then, you’ve still got one more day to enjoy here with us in a very Christmassy City of Stories. 

If you’ve still got some Christmas shopping to do, now would be the time to do your last rounds and see it all once more – the Lanes never gets old! Why not head back to Jarrolds and book in with their Retreat Beauty Rooms or Nail Bar? A good massage and pedicure is a great way to head home feeling revitalised! Christmas nails anyone? 

Or if you’re looking to finish off with less Christmas and even more culture, a trip to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is the perfect finale. This museum is one of the most unique in the world, and it’s right on our doorstep for an entire day out. Accessible by the 25, 26, and 25a bus lines, or a short 15-minute drive, the museum is the first in the country to offer a ‘pay if and what you can’ scheme, so admission is available at a budget that suits everyone. 

Across this art gallery and museum, you’ll find works from Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore, and many other celebrated artists. They’re also the first museum in the world to see art as living, with an entire exhibition dedicated to exploring what life is like when we see these works as sentient. And you must see the exhibitions themed around their question, ‘how do we adapt to a transforming world?’. It’s eye-opening.  

What’s on when you visit 

There is bucket loads going on in the City of Stories this Christmas. So much so, that, depending on when you visit, you can catch some incredible Christmas markets, theatre productions, events, experiences, and more. Check out our ‘What’s On’ page as well as our ‘Seven Things to do in Norwich at Christmas’ and ‘Christmas Markets in Norwich & Norfolk’ blogs to find out what’s on when you’re here!