Last Updated on October 2, 2020 by Anisa
I always say the best way to see a city is on foot. You have the freedom to explore at your own pace, but you may not be sure which way to wander.
That’s one of the reasons I love the Norwich Riverside Walk. It’s an easy to follow route along the Wensum River with scenic views of the city. During the time I have been living in Norwich in England, I have done this stroll countless times.
In this guide, I will tell you about the highlights of the Norwich River Walk so that you can do your own self-guided tour.
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Overview of the Norwich Riverside Walk
The Norwich Riverside Walk is a concrete path along the River Wensum. It goes by some of the city’s most iconic attractions – Pull’s Ferry and Cow Tower. Along the path, there are several spots where you have a fantastic view of Norwich Cathedral.
Start from the Norwich railway station and walk by the river until you get to the St. Georges Street Bridge. Then you can either turn around and walk back the way you came or cut through the medieval streets of Norwich. This walk can be done in an hour (not including time for photo breaks).
Highlights of the Walk
The route passes by a few historic Norwich attractions, so I wanted to give you some background behind them.
This medieval watergate is now a private house! Originally it was named Sandling’s Ferry after a ferryman, but it was changed later to Pull’s Ferry after the ferryman, John Pull. There was a passenger ferry on the River Wensum from Pull’s Ferry until the 1930s. While the watergate was built during medieval times, the adjoining house was added in the 17th century (and also has some Georgian additions).
The house looks magical but I’m not sure I would want to live there. It’s one of the most photographed buildings in the whole city, and there’s no privacy. People often sit on the grass outside by the river. If you do please be respectful and remember it’s someone’s home.
Cow Tower is one of the earliest purpose-built artillery blockhouses in England. The name comes from the surrounding meadow which used to be known as Cowholme. It was built in the late 14th century to command a strategic point in the city’s defense. The tower is nearly 50 feet tall so that the guards could see over the higher bank on the other side.
No one is allowed inside Cow Tower, but there is an opening to look inside.
St. James Mill
The site was settled by the White Friars in 1256. Then, in the early 19th century, St. James Mill was built to try and save the failing Norwich Textile industry. Unfortunately, it did not work and is now the corporate offices for the local department store, Jarrold’s. It has also been used for the cracker and box department for the chocolate manufacturer, Caleys, and also a Government Instructional Factory, where those maimed in World War I were taught new skills.
Detailed Directions for the Norwich River Walk
Walk straight out the exit from the Norwich Train Station and at the intersection of Riverside Road and Prince of Wales road, you need to cross both so that you are on the corner diagonally across from the station. Then cross the bridge over the River Wensum and walk through the patio of the Compleat Angler pub and down the stairs.
The stairs lead to a path along the river lined with weeping willows. Shortly after, you will walk behind Pull’s Ferry. Be sure to also walk around to see it from the front, then continue on and you will reach Bishop Bridge, the only remaining medieval bridge in Norwich.
Cross the street (stay on the same side of the river) and walk behind the Red Lion pub. A little bit further along the path, you will come to Cow Tower. Peek inside and also notice the art installation made of birdhouses in the tree next to it. It may be a bit hidden under the leaves.
Keep walking along the path and you will come to Jarrold’s Bridge. Admire its unique design and feel free to walk on the bridge to get a special view of the Norwich Cathedral. Don’t cross it though, continue walking on the same side of the river.
A little further on you may notice some ruins on the other side of the river. These are remains of the old city walls. Some parts of the old Norwich City Walls are in better condition than others. If you are interested in seeing more of the wall, there is a large section still intact not too far from Carrow Road off of King Street (look for stairs going up).
The next landmark will be the St. James Mill, which will also be on the other side of the river. Then you reach the Whitefriars Bridge where you need to cross the street. Be sure to look both ways.
The next section of the walk is known as Quayside (pronounced KEY-side). Now it’s full of colorful houses but it used to be a quay (dock area for goods). Along the road, there is an art installation resembling a series of crates that speaks to the history of this part of the river as a dockside. These crates bear the names of people important to the area’s past. If you look down Beckwiths Court, there is a nice view of the cathedral’s spire.
Continue along the river and you reach the Fye Street Bridge. Cross the street again (looking both ways) and follow the path behind the Ribs of Beef pub. You will walk through a small park and enter Norwich University for the Arts. The ruins inside the courtyard are interesting. This ends the most scenic section of the Norwich Riverside Walk.
Options to Complete the Walk
Once you reach the Norwich University of the Arts, there are three options to finish the walk. You can return to the train station the way you came (possibly walking on the other side of the river), cut through the city center to get back to the train station, or take a small detour and continue to walk further along the river (although it is not as scenic as the portion you have already passed through).
Walk Back Through the City
Walking back through Norwich is the shortest route, but be warned there will be a few hills. When you exit Norwich University of the Arts, turn left onto St. George’s Street. Keep going straight onto St. Andrew’s Hill. Just past the Cosy Club, make a sharp left onto London Street. Then turn right on Bank Plain. When Bank Plain ends take a left and that will turn into Prince of Wales Road which leads directly to the Norwich Train Station.
Continuing Further Along the Riverside Walk
It is possible to continue to walk along the River Wensum after a short detour. Although you will see a sign saying Norwich Riverside walk with an arrow pointing you to the right, if you want to continue the walk it’s best to turn left on St. George’s Street. If you follow the arrow, it takes you to the other side of the river to walk back in the direction you came from.
From St. Georges Street turn right on St. Andrews Street and then right again on Duke Street. Cross the river and then you can walk along the Wensum again.
Accessible Route for the Norwich Riverwalk
The Norwich Riverside walk can be accessible by making one minor adjustment. When you start the walk, you will need to stay on the same side of the river as the train station for the first section. This avoids the stairs in the Compleat Angler pub. At Bishop’s Bridge, cross over the Wensum River.
While you could walk back through the city, I would recommend those with mobility issues walk back along the river the same way they came. The city center has several hills that are steep.
Wildlife You May See
Even though the walk is in the city center, you can expect to see some wildlife. Most days there are swans, geese, and seagulls by the river. I have also seen robins and squirrels.
Pubs along the Norwich Riverside Walk
Another nice bonus to this walk is that there are some traditional English pubs along the way. You can play it by ear and stop whenever you feel like it. The pubs along the way are:
- Compleat Angler
- Red Lion
- Lollard’s Pit
- Adam & Eve
- Ribs of Beef
Best Photo Spots
The Riverside walk is definitely photogenic, but you need to know the right spots to take the photos.
- Norwich Cathedral: You will see many stunning views of this beautiful cathedral. My favorite spot to photograph it is from the far side of Jarrold Bridge or that sports field alongside the path up to Pulls Ferry.
- Cow Tower: You can get nice photos of Cow Tower as you approach it on the walk or if you turn around after you pass it; however if you cross to the other side of the river, you may be able to get the Cathedral’s spire in the photo as well.
- Pull’s Ferry: To take a photo of Pull’s Ferry, you can either stand at the banks of the river by it or cross the River Wensum and take the picture from the other side. If boats are moored on the far side of the river, it may be difficult to take the photo from that side.
- River Wensum: You can get scenic views of the Wensum from most of the bridges you pass, but my favorite might be from the Prince of Wales bridge looking in the direction of Pull’s Ferry. The weeping willows frame the river beautifully.
- Quayside: This colorful spot looks good from any angle. You can take a photo from either side of the river or from the Fye Street Bridge. The best spot probably depends on the time of day and the lighting.
- St. James Mill: You don’t have to cross the river to take the best photos of the St. James Mill, just stand close to Whitefriars Bridge.
What to Bring on the Walk
Since you are in Norwich, you can easily pick up anything you need, but it’s easier if you come prepared. Consider packing a small bag that includes:
- Camera (and any other photo equipment you might need). We use a Sony A6000.
- Water (Use a refillable bottle like this one to be kind to the environment).
- Sunglasses and Sunscreen
Best Time to Do the Riverwalk
The Riverwalk is open all year round, but ideally, you want to plan to do the walk when the weather is pleasant which is usually May through September. Be sure to check the weather forecast! Also note that portions of the path close at sundown, so you can’t do this walk after dark.
Pub & Paddle
In addition to the Broads boats on the River Wensum, you might see a few canoes and kayaks. There are a few spots along the Riverside Walk where you can pick up a boat. Get more information about canoeing on the River Wensum here.
Norwich Riverside Walk with Kids
This walk is appropriate for kids since it is not too long and is mostly flat. It’s best to keep young kids close because there are some parts along the river do not have a railing and you will have to cross a few busy streets.
Other Things to See in Norwich
Those who have not had time to explore Norwich should try to also visit some of the most popular attractions in the area. The most iconic spots in the city have been designated the Norwich 12. You can easily make a detour to see some of these places during your walk.
If you have extra time during your visit, here are some ideas for day trips from Norwich.
The Norwich Cathedral is a must visit in Norwich. It was completed in 1145. It’s one of the finest complete Romanesque buildings in Europe, with the highest Norman tower and largest monastic cloisters in England. The only cathedral in England with a taller steeple is the Salisbury Cathedral.
Admission is free so you will definitely want to go inside to admire the vivid stained glass, intricate ceiling, and more. The Cathedral is open daily from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm. They offer guided tours Monday to Saturday every hour between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm that last about an hour.
Not too far from the Cathedral, you will find Elm Hill, one of the prettiest streets in England. It is also the most complete medieval street in Norwich. Properties were rebuilt after a major fire destroyed almost everything in 1507. Now, the cobbled street is a photographer’s dream with some adorable specialty shops and small cafes.
It’s not the prettiest castle you will see in England but it worth a visit. Not only do you get to go inside the Norman castle keep, but you can take a tour that takes you to the roof for amazing views and you can find a wide variety of artifacts and art inside the museum.
The castle is open Monday to Saturday 10:00 am – 4:30 pm and Sundays 1:00 pm – 4.30 pm. You can get a discount on admission by purchasing tickets online in advance here.
Shoppers and foodies will love Norwich Market. The market has been in operation on the present site for over 900 years! It’s one of the largest and oldest open-air markets in England with a wide selection of goods, clothing, toys, food, and more. You can also find some of Norwich’s best street art here.
Note: Norwich Market is closed on Sundays.
How to Get to Norwich From London
The easiest way to get to Norwich from London is to take the train. Greater Anglia provides direct service from London Liverpool Street to Norwich. The ride takes about 2 hours. Click here to check the schedule and prices. Remember, to get the best deals on train tickets you need to book in advance, avoid rush hour travel, and choose specific train times.
You can also take the National Express bus from London Victoria to Norwich. It will be your cheapest option from London to Norwich. Get more information about the bus to Norwich from London here.
Of course, you can also drive from London to Norwich. It will take at least 2 hours, and could be more depending on the traffic. You can park in the multi-story garage near the Norwich Train Station or use the Park & Ride. There is no free parking in the Norwich city center.
Enjoy Your City Walk
Now you have all the info you need to do the Norwich River Walk. Have you done this walk or any other similar walks? Let me know what you think of the walk.
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Expert Tips for the Norwich Riverside Walk
- Try to plan the walk for a day when the weather is nice.
- Allow time to take breaks and enjoy the scenery or even a pub lunch.
- If it’s your first time to visit Norwich, make sure to also visit the Cathedral and walk down Elm Hill.
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