Carrow Road, celebrity chefs and rebounding Canaries

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

Norwich is a historic county town whose flagship club Norwich City play within a short stroll of the train station. An easy and pleasant groundhop, Carrow Road is also a notch above as far as gastronomy is concerned – its destination restaurant and daily-opening diner were set up by celebrity chef Delia Smith, a co-majority shareholder in the club.

Known for her heartfelt half-time plea over the tannoy to fans to get behind the team during a vital relegation battle, Smith (responsible for the cake depicted on the sleeve for the Rolling Stones’ album Let It Bleed in 1969) shares majority club ownership with her husband, editor and publisher Michael Wynn-Jones.

The Canaries are most known for memorable performances in cup tournaments: the FA Cup run of 1959, the League Cup wins of 1962 and 1985, and, most notably, the UEFA Cup win over Bayern Munich in 1993.

Games between Norwich and local rivals Ipswich Town, the Old Farm Derby, are as fierce any cross-city clash. Their first competitive fixture came in November 1902, two months after Norwich had hosted a friendly with Harwich & Parkeston. The venue was Newmarket Road, today the site of a sports field belonging to Town Close House Preparatory School. Officially located today at 14 Ipswich Road, Newmarket Road south-west of town was the club’s ground until 1908.

Moving to a disused chalk pit off Rosary Road, City were based on the same side of the River Wensum as today’s Carrow Road until 1935. Nicknamed The Nest, this cramped space accommodated crowds of 10,000-plus once Norwich had gained League status after World War I. In 1935, more than 25,000 packed in for an FA Cup tie with Sheffield Wednesday, the same opponents when the attendance record was set for Newmarket Road.

In view of its dangerous limitations, Norwich flew The Nest soon afterwards. In 2012, a local student designed a sculpture of tall goalposts to represent the heights the club had reached since, and unveiled by a section of original wall where the ground once stood.

The battle to be regional kings of East Anglia has not always been a two-horse race – in 2007 it was won by Colchester United, who finished highest in the League. Norwich, too, have often flitted between divisions since first gaining top-flight status in 1972 – the Canaries soared back into the Premier League again in 2021.

Though Norwich have no rivals within the city itself, some of the local teams prominent in the club’s early days still play in the Anglian Combination League. This is the modern-day version of the Norfolk-Suffolk League, whose criterion for entry is to be within a 50-mile radius of Norwich. One such are league founder members and 2013 Division 1 champions CEYMS FC, an acronym for Church of England Young Men’s Society, whose key players revolted in 1902 to form Norwich City.

Founded a year later, Poringland later became Norwich United, Norfolk Senior Cup winners in 2018 who play at Plantation Park in Blofield, just east of Norwich. Before then, they played at nearby Heartsease Lane, previously occupied by the wonderfully named Gothic FC. It derives from the popular term for the factory that once stood on Carrow Road – or rather derived, for Gothic FC, four times winners of the same county trophy, are no more.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and tips

Norwich Airport is 5km (three miles) north of town, and serves mainly seasonal traffic. Park & Ride service 501 runs to Norwich bus station every 15mins (not Sun, £3.80/£2.70 after noon, journey time 15mins) by the city centre. A taxi (01603 424 044) to town should cost £12.

Stansted Airport is 134km (83 miles) away. A direct bus to Norwich (£28) leaves every 2-4hrs and takes 3hrs.

If travelling by train from London, the Greater Anglia service takes just under 2hrs from Liverpool Street. Norwich station is a short walk from town, and an even shorter walk to the stadium.

To use the local FirstBus service, either add a PlusBus supplement (£3.30) when buying your train ticket, or ask for a single (contactless) or a FirstDay pass (£3.80) on board. For a local cab firm, Norwich Taxis UK (01603 963 266) are based by the train station.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Many pubs in the city centre provide TV football and offer cheap drinking hours for the significant student clientele. The main drag is along Prince of Wales Road, which leads directly from the station to town, although since the closure of the Prince of Wales itself, the only real pub is at the station end. The Compleat Angler is also a popular pre-match meeting place, offering TV football, and ales such as Adnams and local Woodforde’s Wherry. Tables overlook the river

Turning up towards the cathedral, the multi-named street that snakes north over the river is lined with pubs. Best of them is The Mischief on Fye Bridge Street, dating back to 1599, slightly bohemian in feel and showing football action on a flat-screen TV at the end of the bar. Pool tables downstairs.

On the same stretch, The Glass House is a convivial Wetherspoon pub, as is The Bell Hotel – both show TV football. Close by, The Gardener’s Arms/The Murderers justifiably prides itself on its outstanding choice of ales, live TV sport and traditional feel. The alternative name is linked to a heinous crime a century ago – the pub itself dates back to 1530. 

The streets around here are dotted with historic hostelries: The Last Pub Standing takes its name from its longevity against the odds, all other taverns along King Street being closed down more than half a century ago. Fiercely independent, it offers TV sport, a beer garden and popular craft brews such as Camden and Goose Island. Taking over from Irish pub Delaney’s, the St Andrews Brew House has its own microbrews and pavement terrace in the shadow of the namesake church. 

Norwich also has its own 25-tap BrewDog on Queen Street, where you’ll also find The Rose, a lovely pub tucked in behind Carrow Hill, although tap takeovers and Six Nations are now more the focus than standard Premier League broadcasts.

The Belgian Monk on Pottersgate has been offering the liquid delights of the Benelux for over two decades, some sold as samplers in flights, others in 75cl bottles. More obscure brews – Knievel Has Landed by Evolution, Lonely Snake by Three Blind Mice – can be found at the Strangers Tavern at Charing Cross, with a large terrace for convivial sipping and a pull-down screen indoors for big football games.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the ground and around town

Visit Norwich has a hotel database.

Norwich is the only ground in England where a hotel provides rooms with a match view. Overlooking Carrow Road, the Holiday Inn Norwich City contains 25 rooms with the pitch in full sight, offered for a match-day supplement of £50-£80. Room 315 is perhaps the most luxurious. According to FA rules, a maximum of two adults and two children per room may take advantage of this unique feature. The hotel lays on a match-day carvery and its pleasant, expansive bar adjoining the lobby is also open to the public.

Near the ground, over the river from the train station, the Premier Inn Norwich Nelson City Centre features a popular bar with a long terrace overlooking the waterfront.

The Central, Riverside and Station Hotels also benefit from a prime location close to the station and Carrow Road. 

Nearer town on Vedast Street, the Travelodge Norwich Central offers affordable, convenient accommodation, as does the more boutiquey Belmonte on Prince of Wales Road. In the city centre, the landmark, upscale Maids Head Hotel is said to be the oldest in the UK, dating back 1,000 years. Previous guests include Queen Elizabeth I and Catherine of Aragon.