Norwich is a city steeped in history and culture, and one of the best ways to experience its unique character is by taking a stroll along the Norwich Riverside path. This scenic route starts by Norwich Rail Station and goes alongside the River Wensum, taking you past medieval landmarks and by historic bridges before going back through the city to your starting point.
Whether you’re a local or a visitor, the Norwich Riverside walk is the perfect way to see a bit of the city and soak up its natural beauty. In this guide, I will tell you about the highlights of the Norwich Riverside Walk so that you can do your own self-guided tour.
Sign up for our email list here so that we can keep you up to date with all the fun events happening around Norfolk.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Please see disclosure for more information.
Overview of the Norwich Riverside Walk
We think that the Norwich Riverside Walk is one of the best things to do in Norwich. It goes by some of the city’s most iconic attractions, including Pull’s Ferry and Cow Tower. Along the mostly concrete path that runs next to the winding River Wensum, you can enjoy fantastic views of Norwich Cathedral.
The walk begins at Norwich railway station, where you can easily find your way to the river. Follow the path along the River Wensum until you reach the St. Georges Street Bridge, where the current riverside path ends (with plans for future extensions). From there, you can choose to retrace your steps or venture into the medieval streets of Norwich for further exploration on your way back to the starting point.
This leisurely walk can be completed in approximately an hour, not accounting for any stops you may make for photos or sightseeing.
Highlights of the Walk
As the route takes you past several historic attractions in Norwich, I thought it would be helpful to provide some background information about them.
This historic building, originally known as Sandling’s Ferry after the ferryman, was later renamed Pull’s Ferry in honour of John Pull, who also operated a passenger ferry on the River Wensum until the 1930s. Although the watergate dates back to medieval times, the adjacent house was added in the 17th century and underwent some Georgian modifications.
While the house exudes a magical charm, living there may not be for everyone as it is among the most photographed buildings in Norwich, and visitors often sit on the grass by the river, compromising privacy. We should all remember to be respectful as it is someone’s home.
The watergate is currently the headquarters for the Girl Guides and is opened to the public during Heritage Open Days and on select weekends during the summer.
Cow Tower is an exceptional example of an early artillery blockhouse in England, designed to fortify a strategic location in Norwich’s defenses. The tower’s name derives from the surrounding meadow formerly known as Cowholme.
Built in the late 14th century, this English Heritage property stands nearly 50 feet tall to enable guards to survey the higher bank on the opposite side. Although you cannot go inside Cow Tower, there is an opening that offers a glimpse of the interior.
St. James Mill
St. James Mill has a rich history dating back to 1256 when it was first settled by the White Friars. In the early 19th century, the mill was constructed with the hope of revitalizing the struggling Norwich Textile industry. Despite efforts to save the industry, the mill ultimately failed to achieve this goal.
Today, the building serves as the corporate offices for Jarrold’s, a local department store. Over the years, it has also been utilized as a cracker and box department for the chocolate manufacturer, Caleys, and as a Government Instructional Factory where World War I veterans with disabilities were taught new skills.
Detailed Directions for the Norwich River Walk
As you exit the Norwich Train Station, head straight towards the intersection of Riverside Road and Prince of Wales Road. Make sure to cross both roads so that you’re standing diagonally across from the station. After that, you’ll need to cross the bridge over the River Wensum.
Once you’re on the other side, take a stroll through the patio of the Compleat Angler pub and make your way down the stairs. The stairs lead to a path along the river lined with elegant weeping willows (that were given a serious trim in 2023).
A little further on, you will walk behind Pull’s Ferry. Make sure to take a moment to walk around and view it from the front as well. Keep following the path, and you’ll eventually arrive at Bishop Bridge, which is the last surviving medieval bridge in Norwich.
Cross the street (stay on the same side of the river) and make your way behind the Red Lion pub. Continuing along the path, you’ll soon come across Cow Tower – a historical gem worth peeking inside. Don’t miss the delightful art installation made of birdhouses nestled among the trees nearby. Though it may be slightly concealed under a leafy canopy, the whimsical display is certainly worth a closer look.
As you venture on down the path, keep an eye out for a fence on your left adorned with a striking metal cut out of a swan. This unique marker indicates the site of the last remaining swan pit in Britain, now a Grade-II listed relic of a bygone era. Once used for the fattening and slaughter of swans for human consumption, this haunting piece of history serves as a powerful reminder of our past.
Keep walking along the path and you will eventually reach Jarrold’s Bridge, where you can take a moment to appreciate its remarkable design. If you’re looking for a unique perspective of the Norwich Cathedral, feel free to step onto the bridge and enjoy the view. However, be sure not to cross over to the other side of the river – simply continue walking along the same side to carry on with the walk.
As you stroll a bit further, you can spot some ruins on the opposite bank of the river. These ruins are part of the medieval city walls of Norwich. Certain sections of the wall are better preserved than others. If you’re interested in seeing the city wall and some of its towers, the best place to do so is near Carrow Road. To get there, take the stairs (located at what3words///gifts.teams.doctor), which lead up from King Street.
The next landmark on your walk will be St. James Mill, which will also be on the other side of the river. When you reach the Whitefriars Bridge, you’ll need to cross the street. Don’t forget to look both ways before you cross.
The next section of the walk is known as Quayside. Although it is currently full of colourful houses, it previously was a dock where goods were loaded and unloaded.
As you stroll along the road, you’ll come across an art installation that looks like a series of crates, which pays homage to the area’s history as a dockside. These crates display the names of significant individuals who played a role in the locality’s past. Also, be sure to look down Beckwiths Court, and you’ll be rewarded with a lovely view of the cathedral’s spire.
Keep following the river path until you reach the Fye Street Bridge. Here you will need to cross the street, checking both ways, before following the path behind the Ribs of Beef pub.
This will lead you through a charming little park and right into the campus of Norwich University for the Arts. You won’t want to miss the fascinating ruins that can be found within the courtyard. And just like that, you’ve come to the end of the most scenic part of the Norwich Riverside Walk.
Options to Complete the Walk
Once you arrive at Norwich University of the Arts, you’ll have three different options to complete your walk.
First, you could retrace your steps back to the train station, perhaps opting to walk on the opposite side of the river for a change of scenery. Another way is to cut through the city centre to get back to the train station.
Alternatively, you could take a little detour and continue walking along the river. Although this section may not be quite as scenic as what you’ve already explored, it’s still worth checking out if you have some extra time.
Walk Back Through the City
If you’re looking for the quickest way back, walking through Norwich is the way to go. But, fair warning, there are a few hills along the way.
Once you leave Norwich University of the Arts, take a left onto St. George’s Street and keep walking straight onto St. Andrew’s Hill. When you reach the Cosy Club, make a sharp left onto London Street, then take a right onto Bank Plain. At the end of Bank Plain, turn left and you’ll find yourself on Prince of Wales Road. Follow that road all the way and it will lead you directly to the Norwich Train Station.
Continuing Further Along the Riverside Walk
Just a heads up, there’s currently a break in the Riverside path beyond Norwich University of the Arts. If you want to keep going along the River Wensum, you’ll need to take a brief detour.
You might notice a sign pointing you to the right for the Norwich Riverside walk, but if you want to continue on, it’s actually best to turn left onto St. George’s Street. Following the sign will take you across the river and back in the direction you came from, which may not be what you had in mind. Instead, turn right onto St. Andrews Street from St. George’s, then take another right onto Duke Street. Once you cross the river, you’ll be able to pick up the Wensum path again.
It’s worth noting that there are plans in the works to connect the paths, but we’re not quite sure when that will be completed.
Accessible Route for the Norwich Riverwalk
Just a little tip to make the Norwich Riverside walk more accessible for those with mobility issues: When you start out, stay on the same side of the river as the train station for the first bit. This will help you avoid any stairs you might encounter at the Compleat Angler pub. Once you reach Bishop’s Bridge, go ahead and cross over the Wensum River.
Now, if you’re feeling up for it, you could certainly walk back through the city to get back to the train station. But if you’re looking for a smoother, more level route, I’d suggest retracing your steps and walking back along the river the way you came. The city centre has some pretty steep hills that can be a bit of a challenge if mobility is a concern.
Wildlife You May See
Believe it or not, even though the Norwich Riverside walk is right in the city centre, you’re still likely to spot some wildlife along the way!
Keep your eyes peeled for swans, geese, and seagulls hanging out by the river – they’re there most days. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of some robins or squirrels scampering about.
But the real icing on the cake? Spotting a seal! I can personally vouch for seeing one myself on one of my walks. So keep your camera handy, you never know what kind of animal encounter you might have.
Pubs along the Norwich Riverside Walk
One of the best things about the Norwich Riverside walk? You guessed it – the pubs!
There are a few traditional English pubs dotted along the route, so you can pop in for a pint whenever you feel like it. It’s totally up to you – just play it by ear and stop whenever you fancy a refreshing drink or a bite to eat. Whether you’re a fan of classic alehouses or trendy gastropubs, there’s sure to be a watering hole that catches your fancy.
The pubs along the way are:
- Compleat Angler
- Lollard’s Pit
- Red Lion
- Adam & Eve (slightly off the path)
- Ribs of Beef
Both Lollard’s Pit and Adam & Eve made our list of the most haunted places in Norwich.
These are just a few of the riverside pubs in Norwich.
Best Photo Spots
Ready to snap some stunning photos on your Riverside walk? We’ve got you covered! While the whole walk is pretty photogenic, there are definitely a few spots that are particularly picturesque. Here are some of our top suggestions for getting those Insta-worthy shots:
Norwich Cathedral: You will see many stunning views of this beautiful cathedral. My favourite spot to photograph it is from the far side of Jarrold Bridge or that sports field alongside the path up to Pulls Ferry.
Pull’s Ferry: If you’re looking to capture a great shot of Pull’s Ferry, there are a couple of options. You can snap a picture from the riverbanks by it, or for a different perspective, cross the River Wensum and take the photo from the other side. Just keep in mind that if there are boats moored on the far side of the river, it might be trickier to get the shot you want from that angle.
River Wensum: You can get scenic views of the Wensum from most of the bridges you pass, but my favourite might be from the Prince of Wales bridge looking in the direction of Pull’s Ferry. The weeping willows frame the river beautifully (before they were “trimmed”).
Quayside: This colourful 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 even have to cross the river to get the best shot of St. James Mill. Just head over towards Whitefriars Bridge and you’ll be in the perfect spot.
What to Bring on the Walk
Planning ahead is always a good idea when going on a walk. Here are a few things you might want to consider packing in a small bag before setting off on the Norwich Riverside walk:
- Camera (and any other photo equipment you might need). We use a Sony A6000, but you may want the latest version (see it here).
- Water (Use a refillable bottle like this one to be kind to the environment).
- Sunglasses and Sunscreen
Best Time to Do the Riverwalk
The Riverside Walk is open all year but it’s best to visit between May and September when the weather is usually at its finest. Of course, it’s always a good idea to check the forecast before you head out.
Another thing to remember is that portions of the path close at sundown, so make sure to plan accordingly and leave enough time to complete the walk before it gets dark. We don’t want you to miss out on the stunning views along the way!
Pub & Paddle
In addition to the Broads boats on the River Wensum, you might see a few canoes and kayaks. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent a boat and try your hand at paddling. There are several points along the Riverside Walk where you can rent a canoe or kayak. Get more information about canoeing on the River Wensum here.
Is the Norwich Riverside Walk Good for Kids?
Taking the Riverside Walk with kids is a great idea! It’s not too long and the path is mostly flat, making it a manageable adventure for little ones. Just make sure to keep them close to you, especially in parts where there’s no railing (we don’t want them accidentally falling in the river) and when crossing busy streets. Overall, it’s fun and safe for the whole family!
Other Things to See in Norwich
If you have more time to spend in Norwich, check out our other city guides:
Enjoy Your Norwich City Walk
Now you have all the info you need to do the Norwich River Walk. Once you have had a chance to do it yourself, I would love to hear what you thought.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means we will receive a small commission for some purchases made using links in our blog with no additional cost to you. Please be assured we would not promote any product unless we believe that our readers will also benefit. The commission does not influence the editorial content of this site.