Taking a holiday doesn’t have to be all sightseeing and stuffing yourself full of food (though we admit they are usually two of our top priorities)… why not make it about learning something new as well, be it a new skill, a new language or building on an existing ability? And Norwich has plenty of options for every interest and budget!
FAMILY HISTORY & LONG LOST RELATIVES?
Image: Who Do You Think They Are exhibition at The Forum
Head over to the Norfolk Heritage Centre, located on the second floor of the Millennium Library (in The Forum) and use their fantastic resources to find out more about the area’s history, and - if you’re from the area - possibly your own family history too! They have over half a million printed volumes, newspapers, photographs and maps to look through as well as free online resources. Plus you can access their Norfolk Record office archives – all ideal for researching local family or house history, or just finding out more about the local area and its history. There are some fascinating photographs showing how Norwich and Norfolk have changed over the years!
The Forum also has a great exhibition on at the moment, called ‘Who Do You Think They Are’ (until 1 April), which has some great tips to encourage and guide people in finding out more about their family history, particularly by identifying long-lost family members from photographs, as well as Andrew Tatham’s ‘A Group Photograph’, which is the result of 21 years of research and creation based on a WW1 photograph. The exhibition is completely free to enter, too! Find out more here.
To find out more about Norwich and the local area in general, make sure you visit one of the city’s fantastic museums: The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, and Strangers’ Hall.
LANGUAGE AT LOUIS’
Louis’ Deli is not only a great café that serves lovely lunches, snacks and sweet treats (with, as the name suggests, a great deli where you can pick up food to cook at home), but they also run fantastic language classes throughout the week (Monday – Friday, 3pm, with a different language each day). The sessions are completely free and open to all ages and language levels. You don’t need to book, just turn up – they just ask that you buy a drink. Find out more here.
PHOTOGRAPHY AT FAIRHAVEN
Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden is a great place to visit anyway, with 130 acres of amazing water gardens, woodland and even a private section of the Broads to take a boat trip on! However, in the spirit of learning, we’d recommend you book in for one of their brilliant photography workshops. Running at various times throughout the year, there are two coming up soon: their Wild Bird Photography Workshop on 8 April & a Beginner's Photography Workshop on 20 May.
In the Wild Bird Photography Workshop you’ll learn how to set up a feeding station to attract birds, so you can capture that elusive shot, and get practical direction on bird photography. The Beginner’s Photography Workshop will focus more on basic skills and how best to use your SLR or DSLR camera, particularly outside – and the garden is a great place to put those skills to the test!
Both led by professional photographer Peter Mallet, these are great half-day courses and would make a fantastic present. The Wild Bird Photography Workshop costs £45 per person and the Beginner's Photography Workshop is £35 per person; both must be booked in advance.
Image: Elm Hill, Norwich
Find out more about Norwich’s history in a walking tour with an experienced guide, starting from outside The Forum. It’s a great way to learn more whilst you explore the city on foot. Enjoy a general overview of the city’s history in their popular City of Centuries tour – an ideal introduction to Norwich – or choose a more specific subject matter, including: Protestants, Martyrs & Rebels; Passages through the Past; Victorian Tour – Epidemics & Industries; Wharves & Waterside: Guided Walking Tour of Nelson’s Norwich; and Words & Wanderings - Literature Tour. There are plenty of others to choose from, too, including a Strolls & Stories tour which takes place in the evening, if you’re not available in the daytime! Tours generally cost £5 (under 11 years old free) and you can buy tickets online.
Tours are also available at both of the city’s Cathedrals; Norwich Cathedral runs free tours Monday – Saturday on the hour between 11am and 3pm – no need to book, just turn up - whilst the Cathedral of St John the Baptist have guides on hand at the weekends to welcome you, and can give you a tour of the Cathedral too. They also offer free drop-in Tower Tours on summer weekends, which include a climb to the highest point of the Cathedral with some spectacular views out over Norwich!
ARTS, CRAFTS & JUST FOR FUN
Image: The Intellectual Hooligans
If you fancy flexing your creative side, Norfolk Yarn run some great workshops throughout the year, with various skills and crafts being taught each week. They’re also a great hub of craft goods and materials, with extensive ranges available and staff that offer genuine, honest advice – definitely the place to go for craft enthusiasts! Visit their website to find out more about upcoming workshops.
Castle Art Club is an informal and friendly art workshop for beginner and improving artists. The sessions are inspired by Norwich Castle’s architecture and collections, and cost £6.50 per adult and £6 concessions. The next two sessions take place on 22 March and 19 April, but make sure you book – they get very popular!
For an activity with potential to really take you out of your comfort zone, the Intellectual hooligans at Maddermarket Theatre (15 April) is ideal. They’re an improv comedy troupe whose show consists of ‘“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” style games which use audience suggestions to inform the subject matter, and if you go along to their show early they’ll be running an improv comedy workshop (free for ticket holders) before the show! Put your comedy skills to the test and have some fun whilst you’re at it! Tickets £6, buy online.
COMING TO VISIT?
Greater Anglia have Advance fares from £9 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Greater Anglia also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.
East Midlands Trains runs services from Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.
Flights into Norwich served from Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, Aberdeen, Jersey*, Guernsey* and Amsterdam.