It’s that time again. Now that bonfire night is over, it’s officially alright to wear glitter on your face, eat mince pies without explanation, and listen to East 17.
Chaps, Christmas is coming.
Like every year, Norwich has got lots going on for the festive period. It’s a city that wears the season very well indeed: in places it’s the Dickensian picture book backdrop we all think of when we imagine the perfect Christmas, which looks especially perfect in the snow. After nightfall the cobbles glitter in the reflection of twinkling lights, and the windows of pubs steam up as you walk through the city with armfuls of presents and probably a bottle of Mulled Wine you picked up from Tesco. It’s by far my favourite time of year here; I’ve never known a place feel more welcoming than Norwich does at Christmastime. You need to see it for yourself.
Below is our pick of festive events going on around Norwich, from now until the end of the year…
Assembly House Festive Afternoon Tea
The Assembly House afternoon tea is rapidly becoming famous over here. Pastry chef extraordinaire Mark Mitson and his marvellous team have transformed what was already an occasion into something completely magic. Following on from their special creations for Norwich Pride, and then Halloween, Christmas sees another twist on this classic theme, with cakes and pastries like you’ve never seen them before. You can read the full menu in their brochure, but alongside specially designed fun cakes, you’ll find dainty finger sandwiches of Roast Norfolk Turkey, stuffing and cranberry, cornets of salmon mousse, lots of teas and some very excellent scones. It’s a really really lovely thing (I booked my table yesterday!), but this event is always very popular so I do recommend you reserve a table quickish. Afternoon tea costs £19.95 for one, or £38 for two in the restaurant or £24 per person in a private room. Available from noon until 4.30pm daily from Saturday November 25th to Monday January 1st.
Plus, for something really special, on December the 10th, 17th & 24th you can enjoy all of this to the soundtrack of beautiful festive piano music. Tea will be served in their decadent Music Room at 2pm, and tickets for this event are £25 per person. For more information visit our website.
St Peter Mancroft Christmas Tree Festival
This is lovely. St Peter Mancroft Church is one of the oldest buildings in Norwich (and is Norwich’s largest medieval church), and is built on a Norman foundation (although most of what we see now dates back to the first half of the 15th century). Within this beautiful church, there will be a dazzling array of Christmas Trees on display, all decorated by local businesses, schools and charities. There will also be a model railway, and a memory tree too. The festival is free to enter, but donations are welcome with all proceeds going to The Norwich Integration Partnership and The Feed. Visit our website for more details.
Christmas Markets all over the place
One of our favourite Christmas happenings - Christmas Markets - abound in Norwich this year. For foodies, try the Festive Food Fair at Holkham Hall (16th - 17th of December, free entry) – a celebration of the best local and regional producers, in a stunning 18th century setting featuring chef demonstrations and musical entertainment! Back in the city, the third annual Vegan Christmas Market will be taking place at OPEN on Saturday 25th of November (free entry). You can stock up on all manner of vegan holiday gifts, cards, crafts, delicious treats, AND get your face painted!
If you like beer, know people who like beer, or would like to like beer, Woodforde’s Brewery are putting on a fantastic weekend-long festive fair - their Woodforde's Magical Christmas Market - which will include carols, beer tastings, free brewery tours and all sorts of Christmas gift inspiration (2nd and 3rd of December). This free event also gives you the opportunity to try some of the brewery’s special Christmas products (not all of which are beer…).
If you’re looking for some perfect stocking fillers, there’s a few fairs that’ll take your fancy. The Norwich Global Village Christmas Market (30th November - 2nd November, free entry) at the Forum is a celebration of some of the finest makers, traders and artists from around the world. Plus there will be fabulous selection of outside catering where you’ll find mulled wine, bratwurst and crepes to keep you sustained. Also at the Forum is the fantastic 'Festive Fair at the Forum' (24th November - 27th November, free entry). This is going to be a huge event, with something for everyone, catering and live music from Olivia Watson and Perry Cooke (of The Voice Kids fame no less!). I wrote about the Fair in my blog last week – have a read to find out more about this excellent Christmas event.
Finally, on Saturday (the 11th), The Narthex at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist (on Earlham Road) will be hosting the super fun Vintage & Creators Christmas Market. There’ll be a real bustle here, where you’ll find over 40 stalls selling all kinds of art, fashion, illustrations, ceramics, retro homeware and lots of other one-of-a-kind kind of gifts. Entry to this is free, but the first 30 get a free secret Santa goody bag, so get down in good time before the event starts at 11am!
Pantos & Shows
Norwich’s very special Theatre Royal will be putting on a spectacular performance of Sleeping Beauty for its pantomime this year, which looks set to be a riot (watch the trailer for it here!). Full of goodies, baddies, live music, slapstick and lots and lots of water, this will be a treat no matter what your age. The cast features British actor and favourite children’s TV presenter Derek Griffiths as Chortwood the Butler, and Eastenders’ Gillian Wright (who plays Jean Slater) as the Evil Aunt Vipera. Tickets £7-£24.50, and under 3s go FREE. Alternatively it’s not too late to enter our competition to win a free family ticket and overnight stay in the Maid’s Head Hotel!
Also in the city centre, The Garage will be putting on a special pantomime especially for little ones – My First Panto: Little Red Riding Hood will be performed in a relaxed setting so that young children can participate in theatre for the first time; babies can be fed and children play along with the action. Running time is 50 minutes, and tickets £11 adult / £7 child / under 1 year olds go free.
The Norwich Ice Rink
Image Credit: EDP/Nick Butcher
It’s back for its third year! An exciting and ever-popular part of Norwich’s festive programme, the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News Ice Rink will be coming back to Castle Mall Gardens to delight visitors and residents of Norwich alike. The ice rink is made of real ice, and will be in the shadow of Norwich Castle playing festive music and featuring atmospheric lighting to really get you feeling in the Christmas spirit. You'll also not be able to miss 50ft snowman bouncy castle, ‘Snowy Joey’...
The Ice Rink will open on Friday, December 15 and run until Sunday 7 January, closing only on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. If you fancy getting your skates on, booking is now open at www.icerinknorwich.co.uk
This year’s rink is sponsored by the Sleeping Beauty pantomime at the Norwich Theatre Royal.
In the next couple of weeks we’ll be running down some of the best (and weirdest) places you can see Santa around Norfolk this year, some excellent glittery musical events, and more shopping inspiration if you’re still feeling a bit stuck. Stay tuned!
Title Image: Norwich Ice Rink; Credit: EDP/Anthony Kelly
COMING TO VISIT?
Greater Anglia has Advance fares from £10 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.
To plan a trip to Norwich check out our website www.visitnorwich.co.uk