Difference between revisions of "Norwich"
Revision as of 13:22, 7 December 2012
Norwich,  a two-cathedral city, is the capital city of the English county of Norfolk, within the larger region of East Anglia. It lies some 185 km (115 miles) north-north-east of London, with the A11 linking the two cities, and is a convenient base for exploring the Broads, the North Norfolk Coast, along with the whole county of Norfolk.
Norwich has a population of about 125,000. At over 800 years old, it was one of the main cities of medieval England, and retains a significant heritage of medieval buildings. In the 1960s, it became a university city with the foundation of the University of East Anglia (UEA), which has helped the flourishing of local culture.
The history and culture of Norwich and Norfolk was showcased in the Origins exhibition, which has unfortunately now closed.
Norwich is directly served by two major trunk roads. The A11 travels in only a south-westerly direction, through Thetford, then near to Cambridge, and then via a more southerly direction onto London via the M11. The other trunk road is the A47, and this is primarily orientated in an east-west direction. To the east, the A47 ends at the once significant maritime town, and now primarily holiday destination of Great Yarmouth. To the west, the A47 links the Norfolk market towns of East Dereham and Swaffham, and then onto Kings Lynn (where it links with the A10 and A17). The A47 continues westward, leaving Norfolk, onto Peterborough, where it links nearby with the A1 (also known as the 'Great North Road'), and terminates at the Roman city of Leicester, linking with a number of significant roads including the M1, M69, A6, A46 and A50.
Parking in the city includes a wide variety of surface and multi-storey car parks, along with on-street parking - all fee-based, some operated by the local authority (Norwich City Council), others operated by private companies.
There is also a very good 'Park and Ride' (P&R) service National Park and Ride Directory. There are six P&R car parks served by six colour-coded lines numbered 601-606. P&R buses run every 6-7 minutes throughout the day but stop around 7-8pm. Tickets are purchased from machines at the car park and are valid for a group of up to 5 people. The prices regularly change but there's generally a 25% discount for tickets purchased after 12pm. You'll be issued two tickets - one is to display inside the windscreen of your car and the other is to show the bus driver when boarding/alighting the bus. Note that the yellow line and car park is adjacent to the airport.
Despite the city's size, there is only one large railway station. Thorpe station is a terminus, and all services start/finish here. The two main routes run south to London (1hr50) via Ipswich (40min) and Colchester (1hr); and west/northwest towards Cambridge (1hr) and Peterborough (1hr45), with some services continuing to other major cities in the Midlands and North. Connections to Scotland and East Coast cities are available at Peterborough. There are also a handful of local services to destinations including Sheringham, Cromer, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
The railway station is approximately 10 minutes walk from the city centre, and has bus connections to the university and the airport. The station forecourt carpark has a taxi rank, and is usually full of black cabs which can be hailed without any advanced booking. For details on all UK national railway services, call National Rail Enquiries line, tel +44 845 748 4950 or +44 20 7278 5240.
Norwich's new flagship Surrey Street bus station is a major hub for local, regional and long-distance bus and coach services. There are regular National Express services to/from London - although the journey takes roughly twice as long as the train and can sometimes be almost as expensive. There are also regular coaches services to London's Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick airports. All surrounding towns are served by regular (but slow) regional buses - these are mostly useful for reaching towns/villages with no train connection. Tickets for National Express buses can be purchased from the ticket counter at the bus station or booked online. For information on all bus services, call Traveline on +44 871 200 2233.
Norwich is home to a major regional airport - Norwich International Airport (NWI) - with over 300 worldwide connections via Manchester, Edinburgh or Amsterdam. London Stansted is also within easy reach by road (65 miles), and regular coaches from Surrey Street bus station serve all four major London airports (Heathrow, Luton, Gatwick and Stanstead).
To/from the airport - a taxi will cost about £7 from the airport to the city centre. Park&Ride Yellow Line buses run every 7-8 minutes from the airport car park to Surrey Street bus station non-stop, however the one-way fare is £2.50 so if there's a group it's easier to buy a park & Ride ticket from the machines as this covers up to 5 passengers. Local bus 23 runs every 15 minutes from outside the airport to the city centre and costs about £1.70.
For more information, contact Norwich International Airport on +44 1603 411923 or Fax +44 1603 487523.
Norwich city centre is fairly compact and can be explored easily on foot. It is also a cycle-friendly city, with most major streets having separate bike lanes and also several cycle tracks along the two rivers. City buses are mostly operated by FirstGroup and are handy for reaching the train station and riverside entertainment district, the university and the airport. Fares change regularly but expect to pay around £2.30 for a single-trip adult ticket. Return tickets and day pass tickets are also available - buy tickets from the driver (change available) or from the ticket machines located at the bus stops. Metered taxis are fairly cheap (by British standards) and are of the purpose-built 'black cab' variety as in London, whilst telephone-booked minicabs are cheaper for longer trips.
If you want some peace and tranquility in the middle of the city, "the plantation " is a small nicely formed private garden. Walking downhill from the Roman Catholic Cathedral (not the Church Of England one) the gardens are on the left between the two parts of the Beeches Hotel. If there is no one there pop your £2 in the box and enjoy.
Norwich is home to Norwich City Football Club, who play in the top tier of English football ("Premier League"). Its ground, Carrow Road, is fairly close to the city centre and a 6-10 minute walk from the railway station. The ground seats 26,000, and if you visit Norwich and are keen on football, it's worth a visit - a friendly ground, with large amounts of family spectators.
Norwich punches above its weight in retail terms and is regarded as one of Britain's major regional shopping centres. The Castle Mall shopping mall has recently been joined by a major new city-centre development, the Chapelfield mall, on the site of a former chocolate factory. It has a big "Cigar entwined in a wire frame" sculpture on top to serve as a visible landmark.
Other than the shopping centres there is a big John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and local department store Jarrolds. This particular store is unusual in that it is still locally owned and gives 25% of its profits to the John Jarrold Trust - a charity that grant aids worthy causes. London Street is nearby and was England's first pedestrianised street. The market is the site of the principal shopping area and is occupied by well-known chain stores; additionally, a wide range of independent specialist stores is concentrated around the Upper Goat Lane/Pottergate/St. Benedict's area of the city centre. This area is known as the Norwich Lanes. One street not to miss is Elm Hill. It's a medieval cobbled street near Norwich Cathedral that backs onto the River Wensum and is renowned for its antiques and tea shops.
That leaves us with the market! Apparently the largest permanent outdoor market in Europe, and one of the finest city markets in the UK. It has recently been refurbished and is a riot of primary colours and retracting roofs. It was designed by the same architect as the Castle Mall, Michael Innes.
Just outside the city centre are a number of shops worth a look. Upper St Giles is home to a number of independent shops, restaurants and delicatessens. Over the bridge and down Earlham Road towards the University of East Anglia (UEA) is a fine independent organic and local food shop called the Green Grocers. You will find a good range of locally sourced food as well as catering for vegetarian and vegans. They have a Farmers' Market outside the shop every second sunday of the month.
Restaurants in Norwich are getting better.
There is a Malaysian buffet on Timber Hill called Malaysian Delights. The food is good but rather toned down for the average British palate. It has a reasonable range for lunch and a bigger range for dinner. The best thing though is that you can eat as much as you want for £5.50 for lunch and £9.99 for dinner.
There is a range of Chinese restaurants in the city. Mainly they seem to be run by one family under the banner of Lucky Star. They run two well-priced 'all-you-can-eat' buffets (Riverside and above a car park at the top of St Stephens Street). They are all much of a muchness but Riverside is the most popular and therefore busiest. There are some others (mainly of Prince of Wales Road).
Near the market, between Gentlemans Walk and Rampant Horse Street is a small Lebanese restaurant that does excellent lunchtime falafels or evening meals.
There seem to be loads of Thai restaurants in Norwich. Not sure why it has more than its fair share but since most of them are good we shouldn’t complain. The best are Sugar Hut, Silk Thai and Lam Thai. Sugar Hut is owned by a couple who have 3 restaurants in the city and this one is the original and best. Good menu and choice of wines, lovely staff and well prepared food. Quite busy on the weekend for dinner so book in advance. Thai Silk on the other had seems to always be quiet. Very well decorated with lovely fixtures and fittings. It has a good range of food and but is slightly more expensive than Sugar Hut. Lam Thai is located slightly out of the city centre on Upper St. Giles Street, and although not cheap, the quality of food is very good.
Indian restaurants in Norwich have, over the past decade or so, been engaged in a fierce price war which has seen menu prices stay low - sometimes, it has to be said, at the expense of quality.
A very good Indian restaurant called Oasis is on Queens Road. It is in a converted church so it has big high ceilings and lots of space. There are quiet little enclaves off to the side where they seem to put couples which is a nice idea as the main restaurant can be noisy with a band. If you want fun and a lively atmosphere then it is great. Well decorated with a very modern style so as different as you will get from the stereotypical Indian restaurant. Food is medium hot by English standards so if you are used to Asian or Indian food then you need to ask them to spice it up a bit (which they seem happy to do). The staff seem helpful and friendly if not the most traditional of service.
There are several other Indian restaurants on Magdalene Street, including Ali Tandoori, Spice Lounge just down the road on Wensum Street, a good place on St Benedict’s called Bengal Spice and just to the west of the inner ring road there is City Spice located on Dereham Road.
The standard Cafe Uno, Pizza Express etc are all present but are of a fairly chain restaurant standard so go if you want but there are some better choices. Zizzis in Tomblands is nicer than average with a traditional big wood burning oven so they do some nice flavoured pizzas and baked pastas. The best value for money is probably Figaro's. Pizzas around £6-£7 and generous toppings and some very good calzone.
There is one other place to mention as you should avoid it. Italia Nostra. It is just off Tombland and looks really authentic from the outside. That is about all it has going for it though. It is dark inside, the staff are fairly arrogant and forgetful and the food is disappointing.
Two worth trying are Pedro’s (Mexican)in Chapelfield gardens and Mambo Jambo’s. Pedro’s is more about the quantity than the qaulity, but it's still a good restaurant. Mambo Jambo’s on the other hand is great. Don’t go expecting great food but you get loads of it. It also has a cheap bar and is always full of groups of friends, work parties and birthday parties. This may be because for a reasonably price you get loads of drinks and huge portions of food.
The Belgian Monk on Pottergate in the city centre is fantastic for mussels and does very good food at reasonable prices. They also do a variety of different beers: cherry beer is definitely worth a try.
If you enjoy pub fare, there are two excellent locations on Ipswich Road in the South end of the city. Both Maid Marion's and the Marsh Harrier will fill you to the brim. For a quintessential dinner of fish and chips, the Marsh Harrier cannot be beat, with their "whale of a fish". Selection of beer was also excellent. Staff is courteous and service is excellent. The Golden Triangle area to the west of the city centre has more than it's fair share on pubs serving good quality food, probably in no small part to the large student population of the areas. The Unthank Arms and The Mad Moose serve good quality though not inexpensive food, whilst the likes of The Belle Vue and The Garden House sell decent pub fare.
For vegetarian restaurants try The Greenhouse, an environmentally friendly cafe and shop on Bethel Street,  or Pulse on Guildhall Hill. Also on Guildhall Hill is The Waffle House, , a daytime and late-opening classy, but low priced, waffle emporium, offering a variety of sweet and savoury Belgian waffles. Some are vegetarian, some not, but the produce used is almost all organic. There's great coffee there too, and the service is generally quick.
Norwich was once famous for having a church for every week in the year, and a pub for every day of the year. It had the highest number of pubs per square mile in the UK.
For real ale enthusiasts, Norwich is home to the multi award-winning Fat Cat , a real ale paradise serving over 25 ales, and the only pub in the UK to twice win the prestigious CAMRA National Pub of the Year. Other popular real ale pubs in the city centre include The Coach & Horses and the historic Adam & Eve. North of the city are the King's Head in Magdalen Street, the Shed (with Fat Cat Brewery), and the Duke of Wellington, all real ale pubs with an extensive selection of ales and some cider.
There is a major beer festival, organised by the local branch of CAMRA, held every year in St Andrews Hall. Beware that it gets extremely crowded though.
The local real ale of choice is Woodforde's Wherry. Woodfordes also brew Nelson's Revenge among others. Also popular in pubs around the area are the two popular Adnams ales, The Bitter and Broadside, brewed in the Suffolk coastal town of Southwold.
There are a couple of new chains hotels in town. On Duke Street, next to a new car park, is the Premier Inn, clean, cheap and central but very bland.
Out of the city there are some larger golf-type hotels. Dunston Hall (owned by the De Vere group) just south of the city, and Sprowston Manor (owned by the Marriott group) just north of the city. Both are OK and generally get 4 star ratings but they are hardly hotels you would choose to go on holiday to. They have lots of facilities (spas, gold pools etc) and are the best place to stay around Norwich if you don’t need to be in the city centre.
Although Norwich is generally a safe city to visit, caution should be taken when wondering the city centre at night, as with any place. Use common sense and avoid back streets, staying in groups is always a good idea. An area to avoid during the night would be Anglia Square, although there is not much to do there at night, and also Prince of Wales road on a weekend, due to the amount of people leaving and entering nightclubs.
Although Norwich is a comparatively small city by international standards, there is still plenty to do. The main attraction beyond Norwich are the Broads, a network of waterways famed for its scenic beauty. Visitors can either take a stroll along the network of footpaths along the Broads or rent a small cruiser or sailboat.
Norwich also hosts some fine parks and gardens. Many of these parks where built in the early 20th century, as a form of unemployment relief::