Norfolk is a county in the East of England and is part of East Anglia. It’s a county which is bordered by Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. The county of Norfolk is surrounded by 90 miles of coastline and its famous for the Broads National Park, countryside, forests and the historic city of Norwich.
The county of Norfolk can sometimes be overlooked or associated with posh old people, but I can honestly say the past few times I have visited Norfolk I have been pleasantly surprised and asked myself why I hadn’t visited sooner?! I am the worst person at always jetting off to exotic locations rather than exploring my own home – the UK. Coronavirus this year has made us all slow down and appreciate just what we have on our doorstep.
My husband and I decided we fancied a little break after lockdown and somewhere that wasn’t more than 3 hours drive away from our home. So we opted for 3 days in Norfolk, and left our home Friday morning and spent our first day in Norwich, our second day kayaking and sightseeing around the Norfolk Broads and our last day doing a mini coastal road trip (a typical English weather day on our last day and it poured with rain for most the day). If your looking for a long weekend away then head to Norfolk it really does have something to suit everyone.
Norwich is steeped in history from over the years and this still shows vividly through the cities unique and charming architecture and is the most complete medieval city in the UK. It’s been a city since 1094 and is the county town of Norfolk. Norwich used to be the largest city in England after London during the middle ages and right up until the industrial revolution. Norwich has two universities and has a hipster vibe to the place, I was really surprised at how cool and quirky Norwich actually was full of stunning buildings and cute shops and cafes. There’s plenty to see, do and eat in the city, even if you don’t spend a weekend in Norfolk, if your not too far away from Norwich it would also make an excellent day trip, just set off early so you can make a full day of exploring this pretty little city.
Sights & Activities
Cow Tower is one of the oldest artillery blockhouses in England, and was constructed in approximately 1398 and was to assist with the cities defence. The inside of this brick tower is closed to the public, however you can wander around the outside and there is an information plaque just by it. It’s close to the city centre and within walking distance of Norwich Cathedral, Pulls Ferry and situated next to the river which is lovely to walk along.
Elm Hill & Tombland
Elm Hill is a medieval street in the heart of the city located in Tombland, this cobbled street is the most famous street in Norwich and full of historic charm with merchant houses, thatched roofs, arts and crafts shops and cafes. There’s plenty to see and do and you can even do a self-guided walking trail (pick up a map from the tourist information centre or from specific shops in the cathedral quarter). The streets a great place to visit all year round and has a quintessentially traditional English feel to it, and lots of great spots to snap pretty photos.
There was a big fire back in 1507 which destroyed a huge majority of the street, but the street and it’s properties were rebuilt shortly after. The only surviving building from that fire was The Britons Arms which was originally a Tudor inn, but today is a family-run coffee shop and a must visit.
Tombland is in the very centre of Norwich and used to be the hub of activity before 1066 before the Normans arrived. There are lots of historic architectural gems to see in the area such as Erpingham Gate, Ethelbert Gate, Tombland Alley, Augustine Steward House and The Maids Head Hotel to name a few so pin these places on your map and seek them out.
Norwich Royal Arcade
Norwich Royal Arcade is a beautiful shopping arcade which was built towards the end of the Victorian era. The Royal Arcade is in the city centre and full of cafes, specialist shops, vintage boutiques and gift shops. If you enjoy shopping but prefer shopping from independent shops then this is the place to come!
Entrance Fee: £9.90 Per Adult
Norwich Castle is one of the cities famous landmarks and is perched on top of a hill overlooking the city. The castle was built over 900 years ago by the Normans as a royal palace. Today it stands as a museum and art gallery, there is a range of displays from various natural history, archaeology, fine art and much more. When we visited the museum was closed due to COVID-19 so we just had a walk around it to admire the building itself.
Norwich Cathedral is another one of the cities famous landmarks, the cathedral’s construction began in 1096 and was completed in 1145. The cathedral is run by the Church of England and is one of the most complete Norman cathedrals in all of England. The cathedral is a grand and stunning building with lots of intricate details both inside and outside. The cathedral is free to enter and explore and there are lots to learn about the cathedrals 900 years of history. There are some gardens, a cafe and lots to explore around the cathedral and visit the cathedral quarter of the city.
Pulls Ferry is set along the River Wensum and is a 15th century watergate, the channel running up to the gate is much older. A canal used to run under the arch of the building and was built by monks to help with transporting stone and building supplies to build the cathedral which would have been offloaded there. The building is privately owned and you can access the outside of the building and walk around it, there isn’t much else other than a sign with information on about Pulls Ferry. I would recommend stopping by here as the walk along the river is a really enjoyable and relaxing thing to do in the city, and you can see many of Norwich’s famous landmarks which are closeby.
Norwich Lanes are a must when in the city, these beautiful lanes, alleyways and courtyards are full of quirky appeal and lots of historical architecture. These narrow lanes are mainly pedestrianised and have lots of traders from boutique shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries, museums and even an independent cinema and community theatre. We loved exploring the lanes and seeing what specialist shops were selling, the whole area has a real buzz about it.
Norwich Market & Jarrold Department Store
Norwich Market is an attraction in itself and is one of the oldest and largest markets in England. The market is bright and colourful and situated in the heart of the city. It doesn’t just sell your typical wares you would find on a market, but a whole range of unique stalls selling vintage fashion, crystals, homewares, homemade goods and lots of food stalls and delicatessens as well as your more obvious market stalls selling fruit, veg and flowers etc. We loved wandering through the market and found lots of cool things to buy.
Just a stone’s throw away from the market is the independent 250 year old department store – Jarrolds. This family-run business is a great little place to have a browse and shop, they have several other shops dotted around Norfolk but the one in Norwich is their flagship store.
Food & Drink
Alchemista Coffee is a unique independent cafe in the city centre and serves up amazing food and drink, and specialises in quality coffee. Try out one of their speciality coffees or signature cocktails. We visited in the morning before we headed to the Norfolk broads and we got there just in time before there was a queue out the door, this cafe seems really popular with locals. I had the black toade coffee and it was delicious!
Erpingham House is an absolute must visit if your vegetarian or vegan they offer a full plant-based and plastic free menu. Not only do they have a really good sustainability ethos and menu but the restaurant, bar and cafe themselves are stunning, the decor is very insta-worthy and very feminine, I dragged my husband there for dinner. It’s set in a beautiful old building and spread across three floors. I opted for the hoisin jackfruit pancakes which were amazing! Erpingham House is the perfect place to come and has a luxe vibe to the place. The service was also really good, add this restaurant to your Norwich itinerary!
Little Shop Of Vegans
Little Shop Of Vegans is the cutest shop and full to the brim with vegan products that I didn’t even realise existed. It’s a great place to come to pick up kitchen staples but also a great place to pick up lots of vegan snacks too. They also have a plastic free section too selling lots of sustainable toiletries. We bought a few items to take home with us to try and some snacks for the weekend. My husband and I are both vegetarian but dabble in veganism and love finding places like this as it gives us lots of ideas to make some more simple vegan switches.
Thai Kitti is a family-run restaurant and is a great place to come in the centre of Norwich serving up Thai comfort food. We went there after our day out on the broads, they have a lot of choice on the menu with a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes as well as meat dishes.
The Tipsy Vegan
The Tipsy Vegan was our absolute favourite place we ate at all weekend in Norfolk! It’s set in an old pub in the lanes area of the city and serves up delicious vegan comfort food, tapas and cocktails. It’s an intimate restaurant and the staff were really friendly and helpful. We opted for the tapas for lunch and selected several dishes from the menu all of them were cooked to perfection, my absolute favourites were the bao buns and coconut crusted tofu bites which I still dream about to this day! This small restaurant is a great place to visit any time of day for either brunch, lunch or dinner or just a few cheeky cocktails, make sure this place is on your must visit list.
Suburban Bedouin Tent
If your looking for an affordable and eccentric place to stay then this Surbuban Bedouin Tent is the perfect place to stay for the weekend. As we visited Norfolk in the summer holidays and during the summer of COVID-19 where no one was really travelling anywhere outside of the UK. We found that a lot of places were fully booked or ridiculously overpriced, which for a UK break I just can’t justify. As I was searching for accommodation in and around Norwich I stumbled across this little Airbnb and it was an absolute gem. It was quiet and comfortable and at only £50 a night it was really affordable.
It’s set less than a 10 minutes drive out of the city centre of Norwich and our host Gary was really warm and friendly and couldn’t do enough for us, and even welcomed us with some traditional mint tea to get us settled in. The tents tucked away his back garden and feel really private and aren’t overlooked. Inside the tent is decorated beautifully and has a proper bed inside and is adorned with soft furnishings and lanterns. The bathrooms are in the house but you could access the bathroom from the back door which we had keys to, we also had access to the kitchen and there was parking available.
If you’re looking for an affordable stay in Norfolk and to be within driving distance of Norwich, Norfolk Broads and Norfolk’s coast, then this really is the perfect spot to stay and something a little bit different to your box standard hotel or bed and breakfast.
The Norfolk Broads is a huge national park full of waterways, lakes, rivers, marshes and countryside and has unique wildlife, flora and fauna. In between all the water are lots of lovely quaint towns and villages. The city of Norwich is in the national park, so it’s easy to reach the Broads from there. Spend a full day exploring the Broads as there is so much to see and do, especially if the weather is nice then there are lots of lovely walks to do around the area. The weather wasn’t great when we visited so we just opted to drive around and stop at various viewpoints and mills after a morning of kayaking on the Broads.
Sights & Activities
Hickling Broad is the largest out of all the broads and is a great location as it’s not too far from the Norfolk coast. Hickling is surrounded by pretty villages, pubs and a whole array of local wildlife that call this broad home. The best way to experience the Norfolk Broads is by getting out on the water either by hiring a boat or by doing some water sports such as paddleboarding, kayaking or canoeing. We decided to hire a double kayak from Norfolk Outdoor Adventure which was £35 for two hours and included all our equipment. We spent the morning kayaking around the broad and saw lots of birds and wildlife. It was such a great way to start our day around the broads.
Entrance Fee: £7 Per Adult
After kayaking we drove to Horsey Windpump as it’s not very far from Hickling Broad, this mill has been there since 1912 and is one of the more well known mills in the area and is owned by the national trust. Due to COVID, it was closed however you could still walk around the outside and the tea room next to it was still open. Normally there is an entrance fee to go inside the mill so you can get views of the surrounding area.
Stubbs Mill was another mill we drove to as it wasn’t too far from Horsey Windpump, this brick mill was constructed between the late 1700s and early 1800s. You can’t enter inside but you can walk around the outside. When we visited we were the only ones there it’s quite hidden away and down a country lane. There also looked like there were plenty of nature trails nearby you could walk on a nice day.
Thurne Dyke Mill
Thurne Dyke Mill was built beside the River Thurne in 1820, this was my favourite mill we visited as the surrounding area was stunning and there were lots of boats cruising down the river, there’s also a pub across from it so you can stop here for a drink too. The windmill is closed to the public like many of them are but you can still admire the building and the surrounding areas from outside.
We stopped at Wroxham Barns for some lunch there’s a restaurant, tearoom, local arts and crafts shops and shops selling local produce. It’s a great place for families too as there are play areas and animal farms for children. I would recommend coming for lunch and a wander around the independent shops, we spent about an hour or so there in between driving around the Broads.
North Norfolk Coast￼
The North Norfolk Coast is a long stretch of coast with millions of years worth of history surrounding it. There are award winning beaches, salt marshes, coastal trails, pretty villages, seaside towns and inland there is plenty of countryside and nature walks. North Norfolk is also home to a big part of the UK’s largest wetland – The Norfolk Broads. The north coast of Norfolk is a great area to explore either for a day trip or you could easily have a UK holiday in the area and spend days at different beaches. The weather wasn’t great the weekend we visited so on the last day of our weekend away in Norfolk we decided to just drive along the coast and stop at different beaches and towns to sightsee.
Sights & Activities
Mundesley & Overstrand
Mundesley is situated on the eastern corner of the North Norfolk Coast and not too far away from the beach town of Cromer. The beach at Mundesley is backed by colourful beach huts, cliffs and a promenade. The beach is a lovely long stretch of sand and is spotlessly clean, you can easily find a nice quiet spot to yourself by just walking along a little bit away from the promenade. Overlooking the beach is the UK smallest museum which is the Mundesley Maritime Museum which is now used as a coastguard watch. Aside from the large beach, there’s plenty of nature walks and coastal villages to see in the area.
Overstrand is joined to Mundesley beach a little further along and is slightly quieter and again has lovely long stretches of sandy beaches and a backdrop of green cliff edges. Even if you just want to spend the day at one spot I would recommend walking along the coast between Mundesley to Overstrand or you can drive between them within minutes.
Cromer is the next town along from Mundesley and Overstrand, it’s a traditional seaside town with a Victorian pier full of attractions. We had planned to spend the afternoon in Cromer but it didn’t just rain it poured so we decided to skip past Cromer and carried on to Blakeney where the weather was much drier. I would recommend either spending a full day in Cromer or allow a bit of time to spend a few hours in the area if you’re doing a coastal road trip like we were. Cromer’s streets are filled with little shops and cafes to explore and if you enjoy shellfish then try some Norfolk Crab which the area is known for.
Blakeney & Morston Quay
Blakeney is an area of natural beauty providing stunning panoramic views over its vast coastline, this pretty village has traditional Norfolk cottages and buildings with lots of gift shops, boutiques, cafes and pub restaurants. It’s especially popular with families who come to try their hand at crabbing. Many people base themselves in Blakeney for holidays due to its central location on the North Norfolk Coast. We stopped in Blakeney for the afternoon and spent some time wandering it’s pretty streets and grabbed a bag of chips for lunch.
Blakeney is also the place to come if you’re interested in taking a boat to see the seal colony out on Blakeney point. I would highly recommend pre-booking your tickets, especially during the summer months as there are only several small boat tours that operate this tour. You can also purchase tickets in Blakeney and then head over to Morston Quay where the boats depart.
We booked through Bishops Boat and it was £13 per adult and the tour is about an hour long. This was an absolute highlight of our trip as you don’t really expect to see such a vast amount of wildlife in one place in the UK. The seal colony and seabirds were great to see and we had so many seals swimming around the boat too, this is an absolute must have in Norfolk.
Stiffkey Salt Marshes
The Stiffkey Salt Marshes are an important area of natural beauty and one of the country’s richest areas in wildlife. The area is full of plants and wildlife and the reason it’s so biodiverse is due to the muddy creeks which become flooded by the tide every day. Protected by the national trust the vast expanse of pristine saltmarsh form part of the Blakeney National Nature Reserve. The salt marsh is an important conservation area for breeding birds. You could spend a full day walking and spotting wildlife in this area, however if you are limited on time you could just make a flying visit on your coastal road trip. We drove over to Stiffkey while waiting for our seal tour time slot over at Blakeney.
Transport & Getting Around
The city of Norwich is incredibly easy to get to and also to travel around. The city is accessible by train, coach and buses from other areas of the UK. Norwich also has its own international airport. We drove from our hometown of Milton Keynes which is about a two and half hour drive. We parked at St Andrew’s multi-storey car park which was cheap to park at for the day in comparison to other UK cities. Once parked we didn’t need the car for the rest of the day, Norwich is a small city and most places are easily accessible by foot and everything is within walking distance. If you did want to use public transport then there are plenty of buses and taxis around to get out of the city and around. I would recommend driving around the Norfolk Broads and the North Norfolk Coast as you can stop as and when you want in places and it’s the easiest way to get around.
- Morning: Grab a coffee and some breakfast at Alchemista Cafe, and spend the morning shopping and wandering around Norwich Market, Jarrolds, The Royal Arcade and The Lanes.
- Afternoon: Have lunch at The Tipsy Vegan and afterwards visit The Little Shop Of Vegans which is across the street. After lunch head to Norwich castle and either wander the outside of it or pay to enter the museum. Explore Elm Hill and the Tombland area before heading to Norwich Cathedral. Spend the late afternoon walking along the river and stop at Pulls Ferry and Cow Tower for a quick spot of sightseeing.
- Evening: Head for some pre-dinner drinks at one of Norwich’s many bars or pubs, then have dinner at Erpingham House.
- Kayak / visit Hickling Broad > Stubbs Mill > Horsey Windpump > Wroxham Barns > Thurne Dyke Mill
North Norfolk Coast
- Mundesley > Overstrand > Cromer > Blakeney > Stiffkey Salt Marshes
My top tips would be to get up early and make the most of each day so you have a full day exploring each area as there’s so much to see and do! There’s still plenty we would have liked to have done but just run out of time. We found the city of a Norwich and Norfolk County to be a very relaxed and slow paced, not like other places in the UK, we had a really relaxing weekend exploring Norfolk and it really was a perfect weekend away minus the weather.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx