With an exciting and varied cultural programme of events and exhibitions throughout the year, Norwich is a treasure-chest of unique venues and galleries to really immerse yourselves in all things cultural!
Image: Norwich Castle's Keep
Image: Maddermarket Theatre - photo by Mark Ivan Benfield
Norwich Playhouse’s programme always includes an array of genres along with plenty of stand-up to amuse and entertain; the building is a converted Malthouse which makes for a wonderfully historic venue plus its small size means that, whatever seat you’re in, you’re guaranteed a good view! Stop for a drink in the Playhouse bar before or after (or during the interval!); it’s a quirky space which is always filled with interesting characters.
Norwich’s Theatre Royal is a 1,300 seat art-deco theatre with an exciting year-round programme of drama, music, comedy and significant touring shows (bound to please visitors of every taste) and an in-house restaurant, Kemp’s, to enjoy a pre-show bite to eat in.
With a long history of Shakespearean performances, the Maddermarket Theatre now stages a varied selection of shows, from plays and open-mic nights to musicals and concerts as well as many other quirky events. The building was originally built as a Roman Catholic Chapel in the late 18th century but opened its doors to the public as a theatre in 1921 – and it’s widely believed to be haunted with the ghost of a monk (but don’t worry, it’s a friendly ghost!)
Image: a performance at Norwich Puppet Theatre
St Andrew’s & Blackfriars Hall is worth a visit even to just stand outside and marvel at! But step inside and you’ll experience the real glory of this building. It’s used as a venue for various shows, including choral and orchestral concerts by the Norwich Philharmonic Society. They have a full-size orchestra and a mixed chorus of around 120 voices for a truly spellbinding performance. St Andrew’s Hall also features concerts from Britten Sinfonia and various gigs (it has a history of attracting exciting acts, particularly in the 1970’s when various punk bands including The Undertones and The Stranglers played there – read our blog post about it here).
Finally, a performance at Norwich Puppet Theatre is an unmissable experience for every age – it’s a striking medieval church which has been converted into one of only three building-based puppet theatres in the country. They have plenty of workshops throughout the year and some fantastic performances (many with a strong dash of humour included!).
Image: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
We’re absolutely spoilt for choice here, with museums of every shape and size scattered around the city - whatever you’re interested in, step inside these wonderful spaces and learn as you wander around!
Standing proudly on the Castle mound which overlooks the city, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is an absolute must-visit, not only for its amazing history (the Castle was built as a Royal Palace over 900 years old and has plenty of information points and interactive displays inside about its heritage), but also for the amazing collections housed there. Browse archaeology, natural history and fine art collections as well as incredibly exciting touring exhibitions which visit the Castle several times a year (it hosted part of British Art Show 8 this year and a Jeff Koons exhibition the year before, amongst many others). It’s also well worth mentioning the fantastic Norwich Castle Study Centre Collections, where visitors can gain access to over a million exhibits in the Castle’s collection.
Image: The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell - photo by Fisheye Images
For local history look no further than The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell. Stuffed full of amazing objects and displays, the museum tells the story of Norwich through the ages and includes some fascinating (and rare) artefacts such as a copy of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love (check out our post about Julian of Norwich) and an entire Pharmacy – a collection donated by Chemist John Newstead to the museum!
Strangers’ Hall is a really fascinating 14th century building which was originally home to the wealthy mayors and merchants of Norwich. Marvel at the Tudor Great Hall and wander around the Georgian Dining Room and Lady Paine's 17th century bedroom – there’s so much more to see, all best discovered by stumbling across each room. The gorgeous knot garden is another must-see, especially on a sunny day!
Image: The Old Skating Rink Gallery
Head to The Old Skating Rink Gallery on Bethel Street to view The South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection which features an extensive range of furniture, art, textiles and much more, illustrating the arts and crafts of the region. It’s free entry and they often have special temporary exhibitions to see too.
A little further afield, but well worth the trip, is Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse. Just a 20 mile drive from central Norwich brings you to this historic building which used to be a workhouse. You may think it was all doom and gloom for those who resided there, but their fantastic new ‘Voices from the Workhouse’ gallery space tells quite a mix of stories, both good and bad, which emerged from the Gressenhall Workhouse over the years – a fascinating experience.
Image: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Situated on the University of East Anglia (UEA) campus sits the the fantastic Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts; the Norman Foster-designed building is one of the key gallery spaces in Norwich and houses some amazing permanent collections, including works by hugely influential artists such as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso plus world arts spanning 5,000 years (the permanent collections are free to enter), as well as some fantastic world-renowned exhibitions throughout the year. There are plenty of exciting events, talks and tours to get involved in too.
The aforementioned Norwich Castle houses amazing art collections in addition to its museum exhibits, whilst The Forum regularly includes art exhibitions in its varied programme of events. A glass-fronted community building in the centre of the city (built to mark the new millennium), The Forum’s Atrium space is perfect for exhibitions, open 7 days a week (apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day) and completely free to enter.
Image: exhibitions at The Forum
Norwich University of the Art (NUA)’s gallery space, East GalleryNUA, welcomes some fantastic national and international exhibitions and often exhibits work by talented NUA students. They incorporate cutting-edge technology into their exhibits and will be the first gallery in the world to exhibit Mutator VR, a new Virtual Reality installation which “blends organic imagery with state-of-the-art, real-time computer animation to create a highly immersive and original audience experience.”
To browse art for sale to add to your own collection, you’ll find plenty of choice; head to The Norwich Lanes or the Cathedral Quarter for an eclectic selection – and you’ll never be far from a café to enjoy a coffee break in!
Image: Norwich Cathedral Cloisters
You can’t spend a day (or longer) in Norwich without exploring the city’s two Cathedrals. Norwich Cathedral, in the city centre, is one of the finest complete Romanesque cathedrals in Europe. It also boasts the second-tallest spire and the largest monastic cloisters in England, and we can confirm it is absolutely magnificent and well worth a visit. The building hosts a jam-packed programme of events including exhibitions, lectures and concerts - orchestral, choral and jazz! The Cathedral gardens and Town Close which surrounds it are also wonderfully pretty and ideal to stroll through as you admire the historic buildings within it.
The city’s Roman Catholic Cathedral has plenty to shout about too! One of the finest examples of great Victorian Gothic Revival Architecture in the UK, the St John Baptist Cathedral is an example of one very big present: it was a (wonderfully lavish) marriage gift to the Catholics of Norwich from Henry Fitzalan Howard. Take in its magnificent stained-glass and stonework and, if you can, take a tower tour to enjoy breath-taking views over the city.
Image: St John Baptist Cathedral - photo by David Street
Finally, don’t leave Norwich without experiencing its very own ‘Secret Garden’! The Plantation Garden is a heritage garden spanning three acres which was cultivated over 100 years ago to create what is today a serene and peaceful green space right in the heart of the city. Take in the wooden walkways, bridge, Victorian Greenhouse and impressive Gothic fountain before stretching out on the grass to enjoy a picnic. Entry is just £2 per adult, paid straight into their honesty box!
Don’t forget to check out our film The Curator, featuring Norwich Castle's curator of contemporary art Harriet Loffler!
COMING TO VISIT?
Abellio Greater Anglia have Advance fares from £9 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Abellio also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.
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Flights into Norwich served from Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, Aberdeen, Jersey*, Guernsey* and Amsterdam.