Walking through the backstreets of Norwich, you can feel how upbeat and quirky it is. There is always something going on or somewhere new to explore, with hidden gardens and old concealed gems such as galleries, cafes and historical monuments. It’s easy to fall in love with the ambience. This is influenced by the deeply rooted music scene with its relaxed hippie vibes.
Photo: Tour Norfolk
The best place to start is The Forum in the centre of town, designed by Sir Michael Hopkins and home to the 2nd Air Division Memorial Libraries, BBC East Regional Headquarters and the Giant Digital Gallery, which is in fact the largest in Europe. It was built in celebration of the millennium and cost around £65 million. It is also renowned for the outdoor amphitheatre which holds a variety of events ranging from cinema, opera, comedy and jazz, to art exhibitions and craft markets. It also holds children’s school holiday activities to keep all generations busy.
If you drift slowly down from the Forum you come to The Royal Arcade where, humbly dwells, a replica Victorian Colman’s Mustard shop and museum. It tells the story of the milling and making of mustard, which started over 200 years ago at Bawburgh Mill. Colman’s produces a world renowned assortment of mustards, but it is a little known fact that Norfolk was the city where Jeremiah Colman first created brown and white Mustard in 1814.
Towards the cobbled roads of Pottergate you will stumble across ‘an Aladdin’s Cave of oriental handicrafts, ethnic fashions, paraphernalia and assorted beautiful, fun and smelly things’. Head in the Clouds is hippie heaven, with some of the most beautiful jewellery and clothes; you can lose yourself in all the different smells and colours for hours. Risk it if you dare and then stop off at the Moorish Falafel bar round the corner for lunch.
One of the most beautiful places in Norwich is The Secret Gardens. Originally established in 1856 for Henry Trevor, in a derelict chalk quarry, the 3 acres was transformed into a Grade 2 English Heritage Garden, with a vast gothic fountain, woodland walks and Victorian style greenhouse. It’s open to the public every day from nine till six with an option to make a donation to the lush mysterious real life secret gardens. Though many know of its existence, few know of its location. (Here is a hint: it’s near the Roman Catholic Church on Earlham Road.)
Finally, The Old Skating Rink Gallery originating from the 1970’s, is a cultural treasure of Norwich, with its South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts collection of furniture, textiles and ritual objects from the 19th to mid-20th century. The gallery was established to safeguard the lively and vivacious culture of southern Asia. The building itself has developed culturally from a vaudeville theatre to a Country Eastern LTD selling oriental rugs, handmade crafts and more.
There is always something going on, be it at the forum for example, putting on exhibitions, or street artists performing along Gentleman’s walk. Being a close knit city, everything is within walking distance. Norwich is a wonderful, inspiring city with something for everyone.