A disclaimer: I grew up in Norwich. Well, just outside of it anyway, which meant that to me, growing up, Norwich was a glistening metropolis, a city of unparalleled potential, a site of devotion. It was where I went to my first football match and had my first pizza, the place I bought both my first pint and my first pair of skinny jeans.
I decided to leave when I went to university, trying my hand at London, never really escaping the idea that I'd have been better off where I'd been, with the castle and the cathedral in my line of site at all times.
Norwich, isolated from the rest of the country, is a small city that thrives on a sense of genuine and unerring independence. It's an incredibly student friendly place—affordable, easily traversable, and happy to accommodate the needs of the young. It's a city full of incredible pubs and great value restaurants, museums and galleries, the kind of place where you and your mates can really make a difference. I can't think of anywhere better to discover who you are, and what you want from your new life.
With all that in mind, here's our guide to making the most of your new home over the following few weeks.
Ok, not to sound like a negative nancy but one thing Norwich sort of lacks is a really good club. You've basically got the bunch of alcopop-dens round Prince of Wales and that's it. Still, it gives you an excuse to throw massive house parties, no?
A Really Good Pub
I can guarantee you that within, ooh, two days of having moved to the city you'll never, ever want to hear someone telling you that back in the day Norwich boasted, "A Church for every week of the year and a pub for every day of the year." In fact you'll be so bored of hearing it you'll be forced to seek solace in one of the numerous incredible pubs that the city has to offer. The pub crawl of your dreams starts with the incredibly cosy King's Head on Magdalen Street, takes in the even cosier Ribs of Beef just up the road, detours into the Mischief for some of the cheapest treble and mixers you'll ever find, before heading into the city centre for a couple at the Tap House, the Plough, and the Belgian Monk, before winding back down to Tomb Hill for a final pint of the night. Well, after a Stella or six up at the Murderers. Honestly, bar a very few exceptions—largely clustered towards the Prince of Wales strip—any pub you end up stumbling into will be worth your while. Do, however, be prepared for the slightly nasal whine of the native Norfolkian to get louder and louder as the evening goes on. "WASSAT, BUH? YEW WATTER NOTHER PINT? ASSALRIGHT!"
A Record Shop
Now that both the city's HMVs stock more headphones than CDs, anyone looking to while away an hour or two with the kind of rack-flicking that gives you a really fucked back for the rest of the day should amble down to Pottergate where a very loose oblong of record shops weave down to St. Benedicts street. For my money Soundclash is the best of the bunch—and it stocks Vice! There are bargains to be had in the bins at Circular Sound too, but you'll have to deal with a dusty, musty environment to get to them. Still, I once went in the day after someone had donated their entire Roule collection so left a very happy boy indeed.
A Gig Venue
The big three in town are the UEA, the Waterfront, and the Norwich Arts Centre, and it's the latter that's my personal favourite. There's nothing wrong with the other two, but the NAC is just that tad less fuck-this-place-is-actually-sort-of-gross.
A Decent Restaurant for Someone on a Budget
A few years ago I would have told you to mosey on down to Mousehold and tuck into one of Zak's famous burgers, but everyone's a bit more health conscious these days and you'd probably rather have something that's at least semi-healthy than two juicy 100% beef patties slathered in melted American cheese and dangerously crispy bacon served with a kilos worth of done-to-perfection french fries. Right? Right. So if it's a (sort of) clean eat your after on a tight pre-loan day budget, you'd do well to dive into the Lanes and make a bee-line for Moorish, where you can get a falafel, hummus, and salad stuffed pita with a can of Coke and still have change from a fiver. Basically, just wait till you get picked up or dropped off by your parents and beg them to take you for a burger. Oh, and if you want a proper blow out on a budget, why not have a seat at the Riverbank all you can eat Chinese buffet place on Riverside where you can eat lemon chicken till you puke into the Yare for about £7 a head.
A Museum To Take Someone You Fancy To
The Castle Museum boasts a fantastic tea-pot gallery, a rideable chariot, and a stuffed polar bear. All of which makes up for the fact it smells slightly of shit.
A Truly Local Spot That You Feel Really Smug Knowing About
It might not be that obscure, but take a trip just outside the city boundaries and you'll find yourself at Whitlingham Broad where you can commandeer all manner of aquatic vehicles. Obviously, now you're a fresher you'll find the idea of enthusiasm utterly horrifying, so why not just come out here and sit by the broad with a can or two of cider on a spring afternoon? Bliss.
A Place to Drink Coffee in Between Lectures Because You Will Suddenly Decide That You Drink Coffee Now Even Though You'd Rather Have a Squash
Outside of your standard high street coffee houses which have suddenly started to crawl over Norwich like a particularly expensive-for-what-it-is rash, there's a batch of fantastic independent places to get your flat white fix while pretending to read The Odyssey for the benefit of the boy/girl behind the counter. A personal favourite is Strangers, in Pottergate, which serves up great coffee and sandwiches, and is conveniently located opposite the Grosvenor Fish Bar, which does the best cod and chips this side of Mary Jane's in Cromer.
A Good Bookshop
Right next door to both the best barbers in the city (Shears) and the most opulent bank branch (the absurdly attractive and high-ceilinged Natwest on London St) is The Book Hive, a brilliantly independent shop that takes up three floors of a charmingly rickety building in the Lanes. If you've decided that buying contemporary literature, poetry, or nonfiction is an essential part of your newly formed personal brand, then you could do a lot worse than to be seen thumbing through the latest batch of Faber New Poets pamphlets. If it's second hand finds you're after, you can't go wrong with a waltz round the charity shops that litter Anglia Square.
The Best Place to Laze About the Morning After the Night Before
Whether you've spent sliiiiiiightly too much time and money in the Edith Cavell or Mercy XS the night before, for my money the best place to spend the next day is Eton Park. Situated pretty much on the doorstep of the UEA, it's an incredibly convenient location from which you can stare into the abyss as you have a panic attack about what exactly it was you 'did' last night that's left you waking up with 72 missed calls. If it all gets a bit too much for you, there's a boating pond, a pitch and putt golf course, some nice gardens and a massive fucking crater in the middle of the playground which was caused by WW2 bombings. What more could you ask for?
They call Norwich a fine city. They're right.