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After living in Norwich for a year as a US Fulbright Scholar and visiting over 15 other cities in England, I've concluded the following: Norwich is a must-visit for any traveler to England, or for any English resident who hasn't yet been. I'd go as far to say it's the best city in England, but you'll need to go to decide for yourself. 

The city boasts a wide range of historical buildings and cobblestone streets, countless 200+ year old churches, a 35 mile walking trail to the beach, 40+ great real ale pubs, an open market with over 80 shops and stalls, a Roman Catholic “Eco-Catherdral”, and miles upon miles of flat bike paths. 

Here is the full list of 10 things to see and do in and around Norwich

1. Explore The Norwich Cathedral

Built in 1096 with caen limestone shipped in from northwest France, the Norwich Cathedral is the largest building in East Anglia and has 2nd tallest cathedral spire in England. Don't miss the most populated cathedral close in Europe, or the back room of ancient flags of British/Norfolk legions. The interior is reminiscent of Westminster Abbey (without the famous tombs), and entrance is free.

2. And the other Norwich Cathedral (The Catholic One)

Construction started in 1882 after Catholicism was legalized once again in England. It's only of the only "Eco-Catholic Cathedral" in England, meaning it has a bio furnace and Priests encourage parishioners to carpool because it will reduce humans impact on climate change. Don't forget to check out the matchstick reproduction of the church to the left of the altar. Interested in some volunteer work and adventure during your visit? Sign up to help clean the church roof. 

3. Have a pint in at least 3 Local Pubs

Years ago, Norwich was known as a city with a pub for every day of the year, and a church for every week of the year. The number of pubs in the city has fallen dramatically in the past 30 years, but there are still some spectacular places to get real ale in the city. Here are a few of my favotires

The Coach and Horses - Thorpe Road

The Coach and Horses offers 7+ great Real Ales from the Chalk Hill Brewery (the brewery being on the premises of the pub), tasty food, and an exciting atmosphere to watch the footie and rugby. 

The Plough Public House

One of the best atmospheres of any pub I've visited, The Plough features real ale from the Grain Brewery and a world class back garden/patio for summer days.  

The Fat Cat

Two time winner of Britain's Pub of the Year Award, The Fat Cat has it all. A traditional English pub atmosphere, the widest selection of ciders, real ale, and lagers available in the city, and heaps of interesting clientele.

The Norwich Tap House

An up and coming craft beer pub in a beautiful part of the city, The Tap House (@NorwichTaphouse) is the only real place in Norwich to try American style craft beer. Pro tip: Get 1/3 pint tasters of 3 beers so you can try as many as possible. 

4. Take a local train and explore Norfolk!

Known as Nelson's County for the late Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, the quaint towns and natural beauty of Norfolk are well worth exploring. I even liked Great Yarmouth, though most people in Norwich are quick to disparage it. Must see places are Cromer and Great Yarmouth on the coast, Wroxham and Reedham along the broads, and Loddon for the true Norfolk feel. Each town is surrounded by walking paths leading into the countryside, which are well worth a stroll. See the Visit Norfolk for more information

5. See a Canaries game at Carrow Road  #NCFC #OTBC #Chirp

Not only were the Canaries the 18th best team in Premier League Football in 2013 (and will be in the Premier League again soon), but they also have the best mascot and the best color scheme. Who can't like a club whose description reads "Norwich are one of the gentler souls of English football, a family club who most outside Ipswich would struggle to dislike." Gentle souls of English football? A rare breed indeed. 

6. Stroll down Elm Hill

Almost demolished in the early 1900's because of its poor condition, Elm Hill is a collection of old 15th and 16th century buildings near the city centre. A plague of Dutch Elm disease wiped out all of the actual elms, but the street is still a must see for its cobblestone paths and funky shops.  

7. Rent a boat or walk and explore The Broads

Norwich is a 15 minute train ride away for The Broads, a collection of navigable waterways that stretch across Norfolk and Suffolk. The Broads are actually flooded Medeival peat excavations, a fact that adds to their serene beauty. To really explore the broads, you'll need a boat. Take a train to Hoveton and rent a boat from Fine Way Leisure (the company I used) or similar a business. It's extremely affordable if you go with a group, and it's one of the best things to do when visiting the city. 

Want to explore The Broads by foot? Walk along the Wherryman's Way, a gorgeous and serene 35 mile walking path stretching from Norwich to Great Yarmouth. A group of friends and I walked the entire footpath in one weekend, but you can also break the walk into smaller day hikes. 

8. Get to Know the Norwich Motto 

Norwich is simply that... fine in every way imaginable. Not the fine that means meh, alright, but the fine that means content, pleased, happy. It's not the type of city that is fantastic or extraordinary in any one attribute. That cathedral is the second tallest, the Broads aren't quite as cool as the Lake District, Elm Hill isn't quite the Shambles in York. But altogether all of these pieces make it one if the finest places to visit in England.   

9. Visit the Markets & City Centre

Snuggled into an expansive city centre, the Norwich Markets show off the best of Norwich and Norfolk. The markets are packed during the midday lunch rush and on the weekends with shoppers enjoying the local fare and friendly conversation.

My favorite stall in the markets is an herbs and spice stall owned and operated by Gareth Butcher. From trying to get me to send him a special spice/ingredient from Montana, to having a go at myself and other customers, to listing the origins and latin name of tiger nuts, Gareth entertained while he sold. And that's what the Norwich Markets and City Centre are all about: character. 

Surrounding the markets you have Jarrolds, City Hall and The Forum, all worth a visit.

10. Take a tour of University of East Anglia's Campus

The lesser known of the Universities in East Anglia, UEA is a fabulous University whose campus offers a stunning mix of brutalism and environmental beauty.  

Brutalism is a 1960’s architectural style where the goal was to design  university campuses that were the opposite of Cambridge or Oxford. How to do that? Cement. Lots and lots of cement. When I commented to a professor that the center of campus was an almost soulless clump of fifteen buildings made of various shapes of hard gray mass, I was told that’s exactly how it should be. Brutal. 

Outside of the grey center, the campus offers terraced residence halls, the Sainbury Art Centre, and lovely paths around a large meadow and broad. You can walk from the heart of the cement to this view in about three minutes. Spectacular. 

Still want more things to do?: Walk down to Magdalen Street and The Lanes, visit Mousehold Heath, and pop in to the Norwich Castle & Museum.

Put Norwich on your must-travel list, and enjoy your time visiting or living in Norwich!  

Kurt Berning

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