Norwich, Norfolk

Discover why Norwich was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.

Stroud, Gloucestershire

If we have learnt anything about a post-pandemic life/work balance, it is that to nourish is to flourish, and Norwich is the ideal liberal, progressive place to do just that.

Here among a patchwork of glorious ancient buildings, from the imposing cathedral to medieval cobbled alleys and the Norman castle, to the high-tech glass and steel Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (which doubled as the Avengers HQ in the Marvel films) and the 100-home Goldsmith Street development (the first social housing scheme to win the Stirling prize for architecture), residents can feed their minds and their bodies. And do the same for their kids: Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form is the stand-out school, ranking seventh nationally in The Sunday Times Parent Power guide.

Norwich may be hard to get to, but it’s even harder to leave. The city has been welcoming incomers since Protestant refugees from the Low Countries were invited to settle here in the 16th century — the “strangers” brought their weaving skills, Dutch-style architecture, and the canaries that are the football team’s mascot. And Norwich still prides itself on the culture of welcome it promotes towards refugees and asylum seekers.

Dr Steph Makins, who was born in Norwich and moved back here in 2006 to raise her family, is constantly awed by the beauty of her home city. “It’s incredible what you’ll notice if you look up while walking around — if you’re not looking up, you’re missing so much,” says Makins, who runs the Enjoy Norwich website. “It’s such a fantastic place, with thriving culture and lots to do. You’re also only half an hour from a fantastic coast and even closer to the countryside, with the Broads on the doorstep.”

There’s plenty of greenery in the city itself – don’t miss the tree-lined avenues and listed buildings of Eaton Park, while a sunset stroll on Mousehold Heath looking down over the city’s rooftops feeds the soul. Locals look after their bodies at myriad sports clubs (the running community is particularly active, while Norfolk Paddle Boards offers classes on the river) and there’s plenty to nourish the mind as well.

Norwich has two universities, several theatres and many art galleries and museums, plus an arts cinema in a grade I listed medieval merchant’s house. In February the uplifting Love Light Norwich festival illuminated the city; the arts bonanza Norfolk & Norwich Festival celebrates its 250th anniversary next month; the National Centre for Writing hosts regular events (this is a Unesco City of Literature, after all); and the Norwich Film Festival takes place in November (patrons include the actors Olivia Colman and Brian Cox). 

High Street

The daily market was named best large outdoor market in Britain in 2019 and Jarrold is a local institution that defies the depressing downward trajectory of many British department stores. Independent shops are championed: check out St Giles Pantry, which sells produce from a 40-mile radius of Norwich; Norfolk Retro, a mid-century furniture dealer; and whimsical bookshop The Book Hive.

Pop-ups abound and there’s a tasty foodie scene. Locals love the Italian restaurant Benoli and hip bistro the Farmyard (set menus start at £21 for two courses), while Tofurei is a vegan café and the only food producer to make tofu from UK soya beans, grown a few miles down the road.

New traffic measures in the centre have led to some streets being permanently pedestrianised — improving air quality and enabling more eateries to serve outside, which lends a European alfresco feel.

Connections

The fastest train to Ipswich takes 32 minutes, while you can be tucking into Cromer crabs in just over 40 minutes. Services to Cambridge take from 1 hour 17 minutes (it takes a similar time to drive), London Liverpool Street from 1 hour 30 minutes and Stansted airport in less than 2 hours.

Getting out by car has become easier since the A11 became a dual carriageway, but you still need to allow at least two and a half hours to drive to London. Norwich airport has flights to Aberdeen and Edinburgh, holiday destinations such as the Balearics, and even to Lapland.

Broadband

Heigham Grove and Lakenham areas of Norwich already have Openreach full-fibre available and some other areas should see it arrive in the next year or two. Otherwise lots of Virgin Media cable with Gigabit-speed options or the usual superfast services over a telephone line.

Schools

Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form goes from strength to strength, it now ranks seventh nationally in The Sunday Times Parent Power guide. Also featured is City of Norwich School (ages 11-18) and independents such as Norwich School (from age 4; fees £5,990 a term from age 11) and Norwich High School for Girls GDST (from age 3; fees £5,098 a term from age 11).

There are several state primary schools rated good and outstanding by Ofsted although these are very oversubscribed and have increasingly strict catchment areas. City College Norwich offers a range of courses and is particularly strong on technology, which is taught from its cool new Digi-Tech Factory. 

Best Address

The Golden Triangle has a boho vibe and lovely Victorian terraced houses — the largest four-bedroom properties cost from £700,000 — but most have no off-street parking. As such, many people look to areas south of the centre such as Eaton, which is near the park and the Sainsbury Centre; budget £575,000-plus for a four-bedroom house and half that for a two-bedroom flat. 

Property prices

Average house price: £304,000 
Growth since 2020: 13% 
Source: Halifax using Land Registry data

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Prices are correct as of April 2022.

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