48 hours in Norwich

A church for every week of the year and a pub for every day... this Norfolk city has a rich medieval history, one of the finest cathedrals in England, its own distinctive artistic movement ÿ and plenty of watering holes to try
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The Independent Travel
Why go now?

This year, to commemorate the Queen's Jubilee, the annual Lord Mayor's celebrations promise to be better than ever. From 10 to 14 July, there will be street theatre, free concerts and fun fairs. It all culminates on Saturday night, with a carnival procession and a spectacular firework display over the castle. For further information call 01603 212136, or visit www.norwich.gov.uk.

Why go now?

This year, to commemorate the Queen's Jubilee, the annual Lord Mayor's celebrations promise to be better than ever. From 10 to 14 July, there will be street theatre, free concerts and fun fairs. It all culminates on Saturday night, with a carnival procession and a spectacular firework display over the castle. For further information call 01603 212136, or visit www.norwich.gov.uk.

Beam down

Anglia Railways (08700 409090: www.angliarailways.co.uk) operates a fast service from London Liverpool St that takes an hour and 40 minutes. If you book a week ahead you can get an Apex fare for £20. From the Midlands or further north you will have to travel with Central Trains (08700 006060; www.centraltrains.co.uk) via Peterborough. Return fares from Birmingham start from £33. Norwich Station is on the edge of the city centre, and you can walk there in 10-15 minutes.

Get your bearings

Norwich grew out of several Saxon settlements, and was one of the most important towns in England when the Normans invaded in 1066. Today, their legacy can be seen in some of the city's most impressive structures. The castle stands on a mound at its heart, with the cathedral to the north-east. There is no high street as such, but there is a pedestrianised area between Rampant Horse Street and St Andrew's Street. The Tourist Information Centre is in The Forum, Millenium Plain (01603 666071; www.norwich.gov.uk).

Check in

A quiet hotel within easy reach of the city centre is The Beeches, 2-6 Earlham Road (01603 621167; www.beeches.co.uk). You can stay in one of its three Victorian houses and take advantage of the free entry into the glorious Plantation Garden next door. Doubles start at £82 for B&B or £108 for half-board. Set in cosy, 15th-century merchants' houses full of antiques, By Appointment , 25-29 St George's Street (01603 630730), is a luxurious alternative in the city centre. Doubles start at £95. There are plenty of cheap-and-cheerful B&Bs on Earlham Road; the Earlham Guest House, 127 Earlham Road (01603 454169), has doubles from £44.

Take a hike

A path follows the River Wensum from St Crispin's Road to Carrow Bridge. To walk its length takes about an hour. A better option is to do a section starting from St George's St and then spend time wandering round the beautiful Cathedral Close. At the back of the cathedral you pass the Cow Tower – a 14th-century artillery tower – and Bishop Bridge, before arriving at Pull's Ferry, a 15th-century water gate, which stands over the entrance to a canal. Here, turn right and walk up to the Lower Close, and from there turn right down Hook Walk. You will come out on to Bishopgate, where a left turn will take you back to the close via the back gate.

Lunch on the run

For a quick snack, go to the Banger Stop on Davey Place. This Norwich institution sells the best hot dogs – made with delicious pork sausages – with the usual accompaniments. If you want to rest weary limbs try Take 5 , next to Cinema City, St Andrew's St (01603 763099), which offers salads, sandwiches and baked potatoes as well as more substantial meals and plenty of vegetarian options; if it's a nice day ask for a seat in the courtyard. For something slightly different try the Waffle House , 39 St Giles St (01603 612790) which specialises in – you've guessed it – waffles.

Take a ride

Jump on a train to Wroxham & Hoveton and then hire a boat or a bike and spend an afternoon exploring the broads or the lanes and villages around them. Leaving every hour, the trains take about 15 minutes and cost £2.30 return. You can hire boats at Fineway Launch Hire, Wroxham (01603 782309), by the day (from £47) or the afternoon (from £29). Broadland Cycle Hire, Hoveton (01603 783096, www.broadlandcyclehire.co.uk), has all kinds of bikes available for hire, starting at £9 per day or £7 for a half day.

Window shopping

Around London Street and Gentleman's Walk you won't find anything beyond the usual chains. But on some of the smaller streets there are some gems to be found. Upper St Giles St has a charming toyshop and an antique bathroom shop, while Elm Hill is the place to go for art, crafts and other antiques. St Andrew's Hall, St Andrew's Street (01603 628477), holds a craft fair in its crypt every Saturday, accompanied by flea markets and book, record and other specialist sales most Saturdays.

An aperitif

In Norwich they say there's a church for every week of the year and a pub for every day. However, avoid the ones around Tombland as many have been taken over by chains. At the Adam and Eve , Bishopgate (01603 667423), you can sup a pint of Suffolk-brewed Adnams. The oldest pub in Norwich, it was built in 1249 to serve workmen building the cathedral. If you're coming from the Earlham Road area there are several good pubs around Unthank Road; the York Tavern, 1 Leicester St (01603 620918), has a nice walled garden. If pubs aren't your thing then try the Last Wine Bar and Restaurant, 70-76 St George's St (01603 626626).

Dinner with the locals

Adlard's , 79-79a Upper St Giles Street (01603 633522), has a Michelin star for its excellent modern-French cuisine. By Appointment, 25-29 St George's St (01603 630730), is worth visiting for the experience as much as for the excellent food. You enter through the kitchen, and are then led to one of the sumptuously decorated dining rooms, where the menu is presented on gilded blackboards and announced, elaborately, by the proprietor. More reasonably priced is Pinocchio's, 11 St Benedict's St (01603 613318), a great Italian restaurant that offers much more than pizza and pasta. You can get good tapas at Bar Tapas, Exchange St (01603 764077).

Sunday morning: go to church

Norwich Cathedral boasts Britain's largest cloisters and its second-highest spire (with a weathercock the size of a small donkey). It ranks alongside Canterbury, Durham and Salisbury as one of the finest in the country and was commissioned in 1096 by Herbert de Losinga, the first Bishop of Norwich. It's built of stone from Caen in Normandy and over the years has suffered several disasters – the spire falling down (1362), fires (1463 and 1509), bombing (1942) – but each time it has been carefully restored. One of the cathedral's best features is a set of more than 1,000 roof bosses in the nave, transepts and cloisters, which tell the entire Bible story and depict characters and images from medieval life and mythology. Entry is free, though guided tours cost £3. Evensong or Evening Prayer is held daily at 5.15pm during the week and 3.30pm at the weekend. For more information call 01603 218321.

A walk in the park

With its green open spaces and peaceful broad – the local name for a lake – the University of East Anglia campusis the perfect place for a stroll. To get there catch a bus from Castle Meadow (numbers 25, 26, 27) or Earlham Road (numbers 26, 27). Alternatively, head for Mousehold Heath where you can get lost in the woods 10 minutes' walk from the city centre; to get there go up Kett's Hill, and turn left into Britannia Road.

Write a postcard

If you're up at Mousehold, you can get a wonderful view of the city from outside the old prison , just off Britannia Road. Sit down on one of the benches up there, and see how many church spires and towers you can count. Otherwise, Chapelfield Gardens is a good bet on a sunny day.

Out to brunch

Much of the city centre's eateries are closed on a Sunday morning, and the only places you'll find open are the chains, such as Caffé Uno and Ha! Ha! You'll find most of them around Tombland. If you don't mind stretching your legs a little, then wander up to Zuckerman's, 103 Unthank Road (01603 442142), where you can get delicious croissants and pastries. For something more substantial try one of the pubs in the area – the Unthank Arms, 149 Newmarket St (01603 631557) is a perennial favourite.

Icing on the cake

Although the cathedral dominates Norwich, the city also has a magnificent collection of medieval churches. With 32 within the boundaries of the city walls alone, it claims to have more than London, York and Bristol put together. Although few remain in active service it is still possible to visit most of them. The most impressive is St Peter Mancroft, which overlooks the marketplace and was founded for the Norman colony. Re-built in 1430 it has superb flushwork and a fantastic hammerbeam roof. Also worth a look is the 13th-century marble font and ornate tester inside St George Tombland and the memorial brasses at St John Maddermarket.

Cultural afternoon

Norwich has a rich cultural heritage and is one of nine cities in the UK bidding to be the European Capital of Culture 2008. In the early 19th century a group of local artists developed a distinctive style of painting that became known as the Norwich School. Influenced by the Dutch landscape artists, their pictures are more realistic than classic British landscapes. The Castle Museum, Castle Meadow (01603 493625, www.norfolk.gov.uk/tourism/museums), houses a superb collection by many of the Norwich School's artists. Entrance is £2.90 for the gallery and to £4.70 for the whole museum.