Note: This article was financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the UK Government.
Follow in the footsteps of our famous outlaw Robin Hood and discover Nottingham, a city steeped in history and legend. This is a city of a thousand hidden gems, from intriguing caves to curious alleyways, secret bars to boutique arcades. Wander around its ancient streets, gaze up at stunning Watson Fothergill architectural treasures and explore award-winning parks and green spaces. Experience a vibrant music and arts scene and dine alfresco on cuisines from around the world – all in the heart of England.
Robin Hood: live the legend
You simply can’t visit Nottingham without discovering the legend of Robin Hood. But put down the history book – you can meet the man himself on a whirlwind tour to learn about how simple ballads over 700 years old grew into one of the greatest stories ever told. The multi-award-winning, theatrical Robin Hood Town Tour – by tour guide extraordinaire Ezekial Bone – leads you to key sites associated with the legend, from the looming architecture of the Lace Market to the steps of the Old County Gaol to the tranquillity of St Mary’s Church.
The tour ends at Robin’s favourite haunt, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – the oldest inn in England, built into the side of the ancient Castle Rock. You’ll be in need of refreshment after all that adventuring, so raise a glass with Robin as you sample some of the finest ales in the kingdom.
Discover horrible histories in the National Justice Museum
If you think museums are bor-ing, then think again: a visit to the award-winning National Justice Museum is an absolute must. Forget dull and dusty display cabinets, because this is a place that truly brings history to life with extraordinary immersive experiences. Delve into Nottingham’s fascinating history of law and justice, crime and punishment as you explore the maze-like Shire Hall and County Gaol, where costumed characters stalk its walls and lurk in cells to tell their stories. Take part in fun, interactive games and activities, watch live courtroom performances and explore their immense collections for a day out you’ll never forget.
Descend into the City of Caves
A relatively compact city, Nottingham is actually much bigger than most visitors realise. That’s because the city is built on soft sandstone rock, and its industrious inhabitants have been digging into it since the dark ages, carving out everything from cave dwellings to prison cells to breweries. Our ancestors built an extraordinary subterranean underworld with over 500 caves, and you can still explore it today.
Your journey through the City of Caves will take you around the winding passageways of Nottingham’s largest network of sandstone caves, where you’ll investigate its social history and their fascinating uses through the ages, from dwellings, cellars, WW2 air raid shelters and even the only underground medieval tannery in the country.
Be inspired by international art at Nottingham Contemporary
Culture vultures and art amateurs alike will delight in the exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary, one of Britain’s largest galleries of contemporary art in the UK and described as “the most inspiring gallery in the UK” by the Guardian. The gallery is free to enter and hosts regular changing exhibitions of international art, so get ready to experience new perspectives and broaden your horizons.
It’s based in an iconic building, designed by the award-winning architects Caruso St John, and its concrete façade is imprinted with a lace design in a tribute to the city’s industrial lacemaking heritage. Just next door is the Pitcher and Piano, housed in a striking Grade II listed church – the perfect place to enjoy a post-exhibition cocktail beneath the breathtaking stained-glass window.
Dine alfresco in the heart of Hockley
Dubbed ‘the Soho of Nottingham’, vibrant Hockley exudes bohemian charm and buzzes day and night with an eclectic mix of quirky businesses, from vintage clothing emporiums to mysterious bars, second-hand bookshops to bijoux boutiques. Follow its colourful rainbow road and check out the cool street art on every corner.
Hockley’s lively atmosphere makes it the ideal place for a bit of alfresco dining, and award-winning tapas restaurant Bar Iberico’s streetside terrace is just the spot to sit and watch the world go by. You’ll be transported straight to sunny Spain as you sample rustic tapas dishes from chorizo to calamari to crispy cauliflower – not forgetting a glass of Sangria, of course!
Lose yourself in the Lace Market
With over a thousand years of history beneath its streets, the Lace Market is the oldest area of the city. Once the city’s industrial centre, the Lace Market is named after the intricate lace it produced, which was renowned throughout the world and put Nottingham on the fashion map long before designer Paul Smith opened his first boutique in 1970. Today, its grand redbrick warehouses and factories are home to creative businesses, upmarket bars and independent restaurants. A perfect respite from the city, you might just want to get lost in its cinematic streets – you’re sure to stumble upon a hidden gem or two.
Where to stay
The Lace Market Hotel is located in an elegant Georgian building overlooking St Mary’s Church, where Robin Hood was said to have been captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham. It’s filled with luxurious furnishings and aspirational design, and is a lovely place for a family holiday or romantic escape.
Alternatively, Hart’s Hotel is an ideal retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. Located high on the old ramparts of Nottingham Castle, this boutique hotel boasts a private garden with stunning views over Nottinghamshire. It’s also a fabulous spot for an alfresco Sunday Lunch.
Nottingham is conveniently situated in the heart of central England. There are excellent air, rail and road links, and its compact nature means it’s very easy to explore on foot. It also has an extensive, award-winning tram and bus network for quick and convenient travel in and around the city.
Back for more?
You won’t be able to resist booking a return visit to Nottingham, and there’s no better excuse than the reopening of Nottingham Castle in early 2021 following its £30 million regeneration. Step into the epic retelling of the story of Robin Hood, Rebellion and Creativity through virtual reality, interactive activities, costumed characters and much, much more. The view from the Terrace Café is also the perfect opportunity to take a break with a coffee and a cake whilst looking out onto the rest of the city.
For more info, please go to the Visit Nottinghamshire website.
Disclaimer: This article was sponsored by Visit Nottinghamshire on behalf of the European Regional Development Fund and Government of the United Kingdom