If you’re looking for a city that combines the vibrancy and diversity of a big city with the peace and calm of the country, Norwich may be ideal for you. With winding streets full of quaint character, a wealth of museums and historic buildings, easy access to the coast and countryside and convenient connections by road and rail, Norwich has charm and plenty to offer. A university city with multiple institutions of higher education, there’s a large student population; however, Norwich is popular with everyone from families to commuters to retirees.
Is Norwich a good place to live? Norwich is an excellent location. It offers a high quality of life, good employment opportunities, realistic house prices and plenty of amenities. For commuters there is easy access to London and other regions via road and rail.
Whether you’re considering a degree at the University of East Anglia, starting a new job in Norwich or considering the de facto capital of Norfolk as a place to retire, you probably have a number of questions about the city. What are the house prices like? What schools are available? Is employment generally good? What activities are on offer? Keep reading to find out all this and more.
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Is Norwich a good place to live?
Norwich is a small city, although denizens prefer to see it as “compact”. It’s the UK’s most complete medieval city, dominated by Norwich Castle and threaded with picturesque cobbled streets. Large sections of the original Roman walls around the city are still extant and there are a number of remarkably well-preserved historic buildings. Norwich takes a lot of pride in her heritage but is still a very modern and forward-looking city with plenty of amenities and a thriving economy.
Every city has both good and bad areas to live. Most of the city centre is highly desirable, although there are one or two less salubrious spots. The best neighbourhoods in the city are said to lie in the so-called “Golden Triangle”, an area enclosed by Earlham Road, Newmarket Road and an imaginary line drawn from Norwich City Centre to the University of East Anglia. Less desirable areas include Mile Cross and the area around Lakenham Estate.
All that said, Norwich is a very safe city on the whole. There are no really unpleasant areas such as you might find in a larger city. Crime rates are generally low and tend to involve petty offences and the occasional scuffle outside some of the rougher pubs. Economically, Norwich is thriving. As with many cities, homelessness has increased in recent years but the overall employment rate is improving and crime has fallen.
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Norwich offers 56 primary (elementary) schools and 13 secondary schools. School leavers wishing to continue their education can take 6th form courses at Norwich City College. The University of East Anglia (UEA) is the main provider of tertiary education. The other university in the city is Norwich University of the Arts (NUA), offering degree programmes in fine art and design.
Transportation around the city is generally good, with outlying areas served by a network of local bus services. Trains to London leave hourly from the central rail station and take under two hours; there are also inexpensive bus and coach options. A Park and Ride scheme operates in some areas, allowing shoppers easy access to the city centre.
The high student population ensures a fairly lively nightlife in the city. In particular, Prince of Wales road and the Riverside entertainment district are home to a number of restaurant chains and nightclubs. The city also has several cinemas and hosts regular cultural events.
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Is Norwich a good place to work?
The city has had its ups and downs over the last few years but employment rates are gradually improving. Wages on average are low (the average salary is only a little over £22,700) but this reflects a large number of entry-level and part-time jobs; skilled and qualified workers can earn reasonably well here, while enjoying a moderate cost of living. The principal sectors in Norwich are insurance and financial Services (with Aviva PLC offering the lion’s share of jobs), education, and IT services. Major employers in Norwich include Aviva, the two universities, the NHS and Norfolk County Council.
There are plenty of opportunities in Norwich for the right candidate but you do need to offer really good skills and qualifications in a relevant industry. Although employment has improved somewhat in recent years, the unemployment rate in Norwich is both rather higher than elsewhere in Norfolk and higher than the UK average overall. It’s not a good idea to set up home in the city unless you’ve already been given a job offer; it can take some time to secure a good position otherwise. Some people choose to work in London and commute from Norwich rather than trying to find employment in the city itself.
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Is Norwich a good place to buy a house?
Norwich is an excellent place to buy a house. House prices stand slightly higher than the national average, at around £250,000. One-bedroom houses cost around £128,000. A three-bedroomed property costs on average £246,000 while a five-bedroom house goes for something in the region of £460,000.
There’s considerable demand for rented accommodation, as you would expect from a city with a high number of students. The average monthly rent is around £1,000 but you can find some reasonably priced rental properties if you’re prepared to travel a little. £440 pcm is a realistic price for a one-bedroom house. A three-bedroom property goes for around £970 pcm and a five-bedroom family home rents for around £1,750 pcm. Those on more modest budgets often find house-shares an economical solution.
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As you can imagine, there’s a lot of variation in property prices between different areas. Norwich has no really bad neighbourhoods and you can sometimes find very nice properties even in the areas considered less desirable. If you’re prepared to rent or buy in a less central part of the city, such as Bowthorpe, you can find attractive deals without sacrificing quality. If you have your heart set on one of the handsome Victorian homes inside the Golden Triangle, you may have to resign yourself to a much higher house price.
Is Norwich a good place to retire?
Yes, Norwich is a fine place to retire. There are plenty of purpose-built retirement homes in and around the city, both in the bustling centre and the quieter outlying villages. Norwich has all the amenities you could want, as well as plenty of pleasant ways to spend your time. Healthcare is excellent and transport around the city is generally very good, although some areas are better served by the local bus networks than others. The retirement properties around Recorder Road are very desirable, being located close to the station and offering pleasant riverside walks along the Wensum. There are also plenty of properties in Hellesdon and Bowthorpe; these are seen as somewhat less desirable as they’re some distance from the city centre but do offer some charming and spacious bungalows if you’re happy to locate beyond the city proper.
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You can find a very comfortable one-bedroom retirement flat in the city centre for around £100,000. Larger retirement properties are quite scarce unless you’re willing to live outside the city centre in one of the outlying neighbourhoods. In that case, expect to pay around £250,000 for a three-bedroomed bungalow in a village such as Hellesdon. Five-bedroom retirement properties are highly unusual in Norwich, although of course you can find a standard five-bedroom home for £460,000 on average.
Is Norwich a good place to visit?
Norwich is the ideal destination if you want to explore English history. Accommodation ranges from modestly priced chains such as Travelodge to luxury four-star hotels and charming boutique guest houses. There’s a lot to do so perhaps consider a short break rather than a day trip.
The Castle Museum (located inside Norwich Castle itself) is a great place to explore, with different exhibitions every six months or so. Those interested in history should check out Stranger’s Hall, a genuine medieval townhouse showcasing a museum of local history. No visit to Norwich would be complete without a ramble along the cobbled streets of Elm Hill, where you can admire a picturesque collection of perfectly preserved historic stores and houses. Other famous landmarks include the Guildhall and Norwich Cathedral.
Shoppers will have the time of their lives; all your favourite chains are represented in the city centre but there are also unique independent stores to enjoy, such as the famous Head in the Clouds with its quirky collection of new-age and imported goodies. The city’s own department store, Jarrold, is located near the main square. This is also where you’ll find the covered market, a warren of stalls selling everything from gourmet tea and coffee to haircuts and electronics.
Other attractions include riverside walks along the Wensum, or a trip to the nearby Riverside entertainment district where you can find bars, restaurants and family fun such as the Gravity trampoline park.