Norfolk is alive with heritage and culture – especially the county’s beautiful wetlands, the Broads, the vibrant seaside town of Great Yarmouth and the region’s capital city of Norwich. Read on for our guide to things to see and do in these brilliant destinations!
Best places to see Norfolk's history and heritage
The Broads are well known for their stunning scenery, but you may not know that they are also home to some beautiful historic churches. Norfolk has the highest concentration of medieval churches in the world – an incredible 659 – and you’ll find inside them many examples of rare medieval art and craftsmanship. St Helen’s in Ranworth is one of these churches, and is often referred to as ‘the Cathedral of the Broads’. Climb to the top of the church tower and, on a clear day, you can see five of the Broads. St Helen’s also features stained glass windows and a painted rood screen – one of the finest in the country. Next door you’ll find a Visitor’s Centre with a tearoom and a display of photographs of East Anglican churches.
The Broads area also boasts a large range of historic mills and windpumps. One of the closest windpumps to Hemsby Beach Holiday Park is Horsey Windpump, the youngest and largest located in the Broads. Step inside the windpump to learn about its history and climb the top for great views. There’s a tearoom next to the windpump, and you can take a walk around the area to see some of the rare species of wildlife that call Norfolk home – if you visit between November and January, you’ll be able to see the large Atlantic Grey seal colony at nearby Horsey Gap. You can also take a boat trip around Horsey Mere to find out a little more about the region and its wildlife.
The town of Great Yarmouth is rich with maritime history. Its Britannia Monument, or Norfolk Naval Pillar, is a commemorative column that was built as a memorial to one of Norfolk’s most famous sons – Admiral Horatio Nelson. The monument is a Grade I listed structure topped by a statue of Britannia, who looks inland, supposedly to Nelson’s birthplace in Burnham Thorpe, north Norfolk. Visitors can climb the steps inside to the top.
Great Yarmouth is also home to Time and Tide, a museum that depicts the fascinating maritime and fishing history of the town through a range of engaging displays and exhibits, including a replica Victorian ‘Row’ and fisherman’s house.
Just outside of Yarmouth, you can step further back in time by visiting Burgh Castle, a late-3rd-century Saxon fort built as part of the Roman network of coastal defences. The castle is one of the best-preserved Roman monuments in Britain, with three of its original stone walls remaining today. For those who like walking, the castle can be reached from Yarmouth via a 4-mile stroll along the long-distance Angles Way path – you’ll be able to enjoy lovely views along the southern shore of Breydon Water and spot local wildlife too!
The city of Norwich, Norfolk’s capital, boasts some fine examples of Norman architecture – most notably the city’s cathedral and its imposing castle.
Norwich Cathedral is the most complete Norman Cathedral in England, and its cloisters are the second largest in England. Talks and exhibitions are hosted within its 900-year-old walls throughout the year, and there is also a café. Admission to the cathedral is free; however, donations are welcome.
Perched atop the city’s skyline is Norwich Castle. Built in the 12th century, the castle was first designed to be a royal palace, and later became a prison. In the late 19th century it became a museum, and today houses a large number of permanent collections, including that of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum. The Castle Museum also holds temporary exhibitions covering a wide range of subjects each year.
There are several other museums in the city which are well worth exploring, including Strangers Hall and the Museum of Norwich.
For a slightly different look at Norwich’s culture and history, visit the historic Norwich Lanes. These winding narrow streets, alleyways, and courtyards are packed with history, and today the area is a thriving hotspot for independent shops, galleries and eateries. It’s largely pedestrianised, making it the perfect location for an afternoon of gentle wandering! Be sure to stop by Norwich Market – it’s one of the oldest and largest outdoor markets in the country, and has a fantastic array of stalls serving delicious street food and showcasing local businesses.