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Why Norwich Is Ideal To Explore At This Time Of Year

One of the most well-preserved medieval cities in Europe, Norwich and its quaint streets make for a truly great city to explore. And never more so than over the Christmas to New Year’s Eve week.

When the presents are unwrapped and many a meal has been served, the week between Christmas and the new year can – dare we say it – drag. But, with minimal planning and a train journey of just under two hours from London, Norwich is an ideal city to beat any festive blues.

With quaint streets dressed up for the season, historic, homely hotels to stay in, and an award-winning market that’s stood in the same spot for over 900 years, the long and fascinating history of this city can be felt on every corner.

Add to that a thriving independent food, drink and shopping scene and Norwich proves a wonderful city break at this time of year. Here’s where to stay, what to eat and what to do within the city’s cobbled streets.


The Assembly House

Luxury and grandeur await at The Assembly House hotel, located in the city centre. This beautiful 18th-century building is steeped in history and plays host to legendary afternoon teas, stunning weddings and many Christmas parties. The rooms are grand with four-poster beds, stunning Georgian decor; some with secret gardens, and all with top of the range luxury fixtures and fittings. Currently on offer until March 2024 you can stay in one of the stunning rooms, enjoy a boozy afternoon tea for two and be treated to a locally-sourced English breakfast the following morning. To amp up the Christmas spirit this year, The Assembly House is also offering a festive ‘Nutcracker’ afternoon tea and has decked out their igloo pods (available to book for outdoor, well technically indoor, dining) with wonderful decorations.


St Giles House Hotel

Situated amongst the bustling shopping area of The Lanes, St Giles House is a gorgeous four-star hotel comprising 24 unique rooms and suites. The building is Grade II listed and dates back to 1892, making it one of the oldest in the city. Rooms are light, spacious and wonderfully decorated, with the Georgian Suite boasting original decor. Also on offer is a drink at its stylish bar or a relax and pamper in its comfortable spa. Additionally, St Giles House will be open on Christmas Day this year, serving a delicious festive menu with all the traditional dishes, as well as vegetarian options for those seeking to take a break from cooking this year.


The Georgian Townhouse

A short stroll away from the city centre is another stunning Georgian building consisting of a mixture of comfy and cosy rooms, alongside separate apartments situated just across the road from the main hotel. Expansive in size and expensive in feel, these deluxe rooms at The Georgian Townhouse comprise of a separate lounge area leading to a rooftop balcony, walk-in shower, bath and an equipped kitchenette.



The Italian presence is strong in Norwich, but there’s nothing quite like the fresh pasta made by hand everyday from Benoli. Tucked away at the bottom of Timber Hill, one of the oldest streets in the city, it promises a carefully-curated seasonal menu with fresh ingredients, some straight from Italy itself. The restaurant is stylish, with simple decor and a breezy blue colour adorning its walls and, once full, offers a wonderfully-friendly atmosphere. The fantastic selection of pasta dishes will leave you wanting to go back again and again to try them all.



Situated on one of the best independent streets in Norwich, St Benedicts Street, is the Turkish restaurant, Haggle. The bespoke menu offers mezzes and mains designed to celebrate and show off brilliant flavours, all cooked in its open kitchen and traditional stone oven. Take a seat on the ground floor, adorned with colourful tiles, tapestry-style walls and ornamental lighting, or venture upstairs to the garden room for a truly immersive experience. After dinner, head downstairs to the speakeasy style bar for some truly delicious, Turkish-inspired cocktails; don’t miss the Constantinople, mixed with vodka, fresh lime, cointreau and vişne juice, or the Ottomelon, with rum, lime and watermelon.


Bread Source

Bread Source is an independent, artisan bakery that focuses on simple but beautifully-made cakes, breads and pastries – each with a passion that can be tasted in every bite. There are four in the city centre alone; on Magdalen Street, Bridewell Alley, Upper St Giles and the Norwich Market, and many more scattered throughout the outskirts of the city and neighbouring towns. It’s a ‘true loaf story’ and one that you’d be sorry to miss – the raspberry and pistachio swirl will change your life.


Rooftop Gardens

You’d never know that this unassuming office block houses a superb and vibrant bar atop its roof. And you’d question why said office block, parallel to many of the city’s nightclubs, would be the ideal spot. But all becomes apparent when you step out of the lift doors and into the playful restaurant and spot the view looking back at you – the stunning Norwich Cathedral spire. The menu boasts a selection of refined British classics with locally-sourced ingredients that are presented with a contemporary twist, and there’s a sumptuous cocktail selection that is hard to beat. Enjoy the fantastic view with the choice of being inside or outside – yes, even in winter. The outdoor area comes with heaters and a cover to shield you from rain.


Explore Norwich Market

Photo credit ©Simon Finlay Photography

Photo credit ©Simon Finlay Photography

Standing proudly on Gentleman’s Walk for 900 years is the award-winning Norwich market. For centuries it has served locals with traditional stalls like fruit and veg, butchers, bakers and a fishmongers. Over time it transformed into the quirky ‘beach hut style’ covered market you see today and, in recent years, has become more trendy than ever with a wonderful selection of street food stalls. Must-eats include Ron’s Fish and Chips, the homemade dumplings at Fresh, and a south-Indian dosa from Indian Feast. You’ll also find many vintage clothes stores to browse, too many sweet treats to try and, for a special festive tipple, head to Sir Toby’s Beers for a warming glühwein, alongside some of their craft beers. You can also take any food purchased in the market across to the adjacent The Garnet pub, so long as you sample some of their tasty drinks too; it’s a wonderfully historic four-storey pub serving locals since the 19th century, and a must visit.


The Wallow For Wine Tasting

This is wine tasting with a twist. Housed in a three-storey building are over 50 wines available to taste through the simplicity of self-service. Within a relaxed and informal ambiance, peruse a diverse array of wines from different countries and regions, and taste them at the touch of a button. Once inside, purchase a card (similar to that of an Oyster Card), load it with an amount of your choosing then head over to the many wine fridges to select the one you’d like to try. If you get peckish, there’s also a delicious selection of charcuterie boards available, with recommended wine pairings on the menu.


Hidden Street Tours

Photo Credit: Visit Norwich

Photo Credit: Visit Norwich

Journey down two flights of stairs, deep underneath the city, to explore layers of architecture dating back to the 15th century. It is here that you will learn all about the secret tunnels that snake below the city centre, and many of the shops on the main high street above still have a door leading to them. Norwich has a rich, historic past, and there’s no better way to learn all about it than to stand in the tunnels themselves. There’s even underground prison cells for something extra spooky.



Photo Credit: Visit Norwich

Photo Credit: Visit Norwich

There’s nothing quite like The Lanes when you are shopping in Norwich. These are a series of intertwining, often cobbled, streets consisting of Upper St Giles, St Benedicts, Lower Goat Lane and Pottergate – to name a few. On each you’ll find gift shops, boutique clothing and long-standing record shops. Lisa Angel welcomes you on Lower Goat Lane with a carefully-curated selection of jewellery and homeware; for music of all genres head to Soundclash Records on St Benedicts Street; and stop at Atwin on Bridewell Alley for chic clothing. There is also the famous Jarrolds department store, which has stood, taking centre stage on the corner of Exchange Street since 1823. It’s home to many floors of designer clothing and shoes, pop-up jewellery stalls, various make-up counters and a deli with the best local food you can get.

Lead Image: The view from Mousehold Heath. Credit: Visit Norwich
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