Nottingham, the home of Robin Hood, Nottingham Castle and a pub that claims to be the oldest in the country. Since the city centre isn’t too large, you can walk to most museums, parks, historic buildings and a great range of restaurants and bars with a few sights easy to reach with public transport. From major cities like London or Manchester, you can get to Nottingham in under two hours by train, making it a perfect city break destination in the UK.
So, if you’re wondering whether Nottingham is worth the trip, let me show you what you can do in this city when visiting for a weekend.
Old Market Square
Let’s start our weekend in Nottingham in the heart of the city: Old Market Square. After Trafalgar Square in London, this is the largest public space in the UK. If you’re in a shopping mood, this is the perfect place to go, as most of the main shopping streets stretch out from this square. You can also find Nottingham Tourism Centre here if you’re after any specific information. And make sure to stop by a city icon, the Left Lion, one of the two stone lions outside the Council House.
200 Degrees Coffee
Most big brands can be found in all major cities in the UK, but what truly makes a city special is its independent shops. And 200 Degrees Coffee is one of them. With its first coffee shop and roastery having been founded in Nottingham, it’s a business the city is especially proud of. 200 Degrees Coffee now have 15 cafes all across the UK – the perfect place for a quick caffeine boost to get ready for a weekend of exploring.
Nottingham Castle & Robin Hood Statue
And, of course, Nottingham is the city of Robin Hood. There are references to him and his Merry Men all throughout the city, but the most famous are the statues just outside the walls of Nottingham Castle. Since they’re outside walls, you can visit them without having to pay for the castle entry. Speaking of Nottingham Castle, it’s another highlight that deserves a spot on our itinerary. The original castle was destroyed in 1651, but a new palace was put in place for the Duke of Newcastle. In the building that stands today, you can find a cafe, museum and art gallery. Access to the gallery and museum are included with the main entry ticket. In addition to a collection of beautiful paintings, you can also find
Anglo-Saxon brooches, medieval ceramics and stoneware from the 17th century.
From the Castle, there is also a 25-minute tour through the castle caves to see the foundations of the medieval castle for an extra fee.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Pub
Dating back to 1189, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem claims to be the oldest pub in the country. Whether it’s true or not, it’s certainly worthy of a visit. Located at the back of Castle Rock, upon which Nottingham Castle stands, the pub is quite an impressive building. Inside, you’re transported back in time, with rooms carved out of Castle Rock. The “museum room” even holds a full knight’s armour and a collection of swords.
Whether you’re ready for a classic pub meal or simply want to enjoy a quick drink, this is the place to be. On sunny days, you can use the picnic tables outside he pub too.
Wander Through the City of Caves
Nottingham has the largest network of caves in the UK – more than 800 of them!
The City of Caves shows you a glimpse of parts of them in their 45-minute tour. The audio tour takes you through several rooms and tunnels that were carved below the city centuries ago. From a medieval tannery to WWII air raid shelters, these caves tell the story of Nottingham and it’s quite impressive to walk through them yourself. In these caves, you can even find the concrete beams upon which one of Nottingham’s largest shopping centres now stands – you can truly see the layers of history.
Visit Nottingham Contemporary
Described by The Guardian as “the most inspiring gallery in the UK”, Nottingham Contemporary is a modern art gallery located in the Lace Market district of the city. The exhibitions change every three months and works are from artists all over the world. And best of all, you can enter the gallery for free.
(Window)Shop in Hockley
As mentioned before, it’s the independent businesses that give a city its character. Hockley is the area in Nottingham where you can really enjoy this. Vintage clothing, old record shops, second-hand books, tattoo parlours and restaurants ticking off most of the world’s best cuisines – Hockley has it all.
It’s also a great place to grab a drink in the evening, and my recommendation would go out to Lost Property, a secret cocktail bar in Hockley. Partly located in the caves of Nottingham, this bar really had the quirkiest decor in the city.
After spending a day in Nottingham city centre, you’ve had more than enough time to see some of the cities highlights and get an impression of what a great city Nottingham is. But since we’re planning to spend a weekend here, you can take a little trip out of the city to Wollaton Hall on your next day. Alternatively, Sherwood Forest (where Robin Hood supposedly lived) or Derby are other nearby places that you could include in your weekend trip.
Wollaton Hall and Deer Park
Wollaton Hall and Park is just short (bus) drive out of the city. This striking Grade I-listed building was finished in 1588, and has been featured in several films, including the Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Nowadays, you can find the National History Museum inside. While Wollaton Hall itself is worth a visit on its own, the 500-acre deer park surrounding it makes it for a perfect afternoon out of the city.
Nele van Hout is a Dutch travel blogger and freelance writer. She moved to the UK in 2014 and has been living in Manchester ever since. She shares travel tips and itineraries on the best UK and European city breaks on her website
This article is taken from the Jun-Jul-Aug issue of the FOCUS magazine