Norwich – Not ‘A Fine City’

There’s something about this slogan – it’s the city tag-line that greets you as you arrive.

It’s the word ‘fine’. There’s something about fine, it feels like it could be readily interchanged with ‘so so’ ‘adequate’ ‘don’t care’.

“How was your day?” “Fine.” (For fine, read “pretty bloody average but I’ll keep it to one syllable as we both know this is just a staple in the world of pleasantries and it’s not socially acceptable to give you the blow-by-blow account.)

Fine has connotations, it sets the expectation level. I love fine-dining and regularly over indulge in fine wines but when it comes to a city, I’m not sure it’s my adjective of choice.

Sara Hardman Travels

Norwich – A Fine City

Norwich is not a fine city. It’s a great city. It’s an inspiring, inclusive, culturally-rich, pretty and vibrant city. I’ve lived here a few times on my travels around the UK and chose to come back here after living in Australia. Anyone who leaves Bondi for Norfolk needs a rather strong catalyst.

This weekend, I’m stepping out of the front door and taking in Norwich city through the eyes of a tourist and I hope to show you why it’s far from fine.

Sara Hardman Travels

Lunchtime over the market and Norwich Castle on the hill.


Visit the Norwich 12 – the city’s most iconic buildings are joined together in an integrated family of heritage attractions showcasing urban and cultural development over the past 1000 years.

Norwich Castle, The Cathedral, Dragon Hall, The Forum, The Great Hospital and many more fascinating and stunning creations of architecture and decor, many of which are open to the public.

Millennium Plain - Tom Mackie

Millennium Plain and The Forum: Photo courtesy of Tom Mackie.


Riverside, close to  Norwich train station, is home to bars, restaurants, a cinema, bowling alley and more. Nice place to relax and enjoy a drink in the sunshine and a hive of activity after dark.

Take the riverside walk from the train station  and walk all the way along past Pulls Ferry, Norwich Cathedral, Cow Tower and St James’ Mill to arrive at Fishergate and Fye Bridge.

Sara Hardman Travels

The sun setting behind Fye Bridge, Norwich.

Tombland is another area that you cannot afford to miss, it’s stunning in any season and affords great photo opportunities. On a sunny day it’s hard to beat sitting outside La Tasca and watching the world go by.

Take a walk up Elm Hill to see Tudor houses, antique stores and little coffee shops nestled away. I took this picture early in the morning on Sunday and think it’s one of the prettiest streets I’ve ever photographed.

Sara Hardman Travels

Elm Hill at 8am on Sunday morning


Wind your way through the Norwich Lanes district to find pretty, narrow streets and alleyways. Uncover hidden boutiques, cafes, restaurants and traditional pubs. It’s also the place to watch a band in the Arts Centre, catch a show in the Maddermarket Theatre or pass a few hours in the Bridewell Museum.

My Norwich Top 5:

Beer Garden: The Belgian Monk (7, Pottergate) A sun-trap garden, great mussels and chips & a range of fruit beers.

Roast Dinner: Roccos (Prince of Wales Road) Amazing carvery with obscenely large plates and very generous chefs.

Take a Break: Biddy’s Tea Rooms (15 Lower Goat Lane) English tea & home-made cakes. Divine. Make a reservation if you can.

Dancing: Revolucion de Cuba (7-9 Queen Street) Free entry, well-priced food, cocktails in teapots and often a live band.

Tourist: Norwich Castle (Castle Hill) Loads to see, great views and fun in the dungeons. Adult entry £7 for the museum.

Sara Hardman Travels

All calm on the river at Fishergate

Next on the must-try list: Norwich Punting – only found out about this last week and can’t wait to try it!

So, that’s Norwich. Don’t take my word for it though. You may disagree and you know what? That’s fine.



12 thoughts on “Norwich – Not ‘A Fine City’

  1. A fine blog, Sara. Clearly you have great empathy with, and inspired taste for, all the best things about Norwich. However, I beg to be allowed to disagree with your disapproval of the epithet “fine”. As I recall, it is borrowed (pardon the pun) from the writing of one of the finest of all Norfolk authors, George Borrow. And it remains an entirely appropriate adjective for a city that is, as you rightly point out, beautiful, vibrant and inclusive – but never (unlike some) pretentious. Any city which called itself “great” would invite disdain and disapprobation. As one who has known Norwich through the changing scenes of seven decades, I could never wish that upon it. Anyway, it is a Norfolk trait to be slightly understated. So a fine city will do for me, just fine.

    1. Hi Tom
      Thank you, I really appreciate your comments and I like the way you describe the city as understated and not pretentious. In this light, I would agree, ‘fine’ could seem to have a certain subtle grace about it.
      Thank you and I hope you enjoy many more decades enjoying all that makes Norwich special.

  2. I love Norwich too. Though as to the history of “fine” I believe it was first used by William Cobbett (a journalist) in his book “Rural Rides in the Counties” which contains this sentence: ‘Norwich is a very fine city, and the castle, which stands in the middle of it, on a hill, is truly majestic.’ The book was published in 1830.
    While Borrow is often named as the author of this term because of his connection with the city, his book “Lavengro” was not published until 1851 – in this book he said “A fine old city, truly, is that, view it from whatever side you will; but it shows best from the east”.

    1. Thanks for the background. It’s certainly looking fine in the sunshine today. So many people sitting outside The Forum enjoying the view of the church and the market.
      Have a great weekend 🙂

  3. Wonderful seeing some of my old haunts..Miss and Love Norfolk. I was there last June, looking forward to coming back real soon..

    1. Thanks Deb, glad it’s sparked nice memories for you. It certainly looked beautiful in the sunshine this weekend. Lovely to see so many people sitting and eating outside.
      Hope you are able to enjoy it again soon 🙂

    1. Hi Lance
      Thanks for visiting this post. It really is a beautiful city in any season. If you want to be entertained, you’re spoilt for choice and if you just want to relax in a scenic spot, it has plenty of those too.

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