I moved to Nottingham for University in 2002 and I’m still here 14 years later! (eek! that makes me feel old!) I love it because it is small but busy, friendly and brilliantly located to get to other parts of the UK. But mostly, I love the creativity that goes on on in this city: a thriving art and craft scene, an annual fashion week and lots of creative businesses and companies. So this is my own personal guide to places to visit here in Nottingham, with heavy emphasis on the cultural and creative side of the city, but is by no means an exhaustive list. There may be a bias towards places with good cafes too.
Nottingham is a big shopping destination, with 2 indoor shopping centres as well as loads of independent shops. The City is compact so you can cram a lot of shopping into a trip. It has a good selection of high street names, all the main ones you would expect as well as some more interesting brands, but this is about the creative side to the city, and Nottingham doesn’t disappoint.
If like me, you love rummaging through vintage items and collectibles, then Hopkinsons near the train station is heaven. They even have a tea bar, which is a good thing because there are four floors to investigate! A wander around the independent shops in the Hockley area is always a good idea, they range from vintage shops, cafes and indie businesses to the smallest cinema in the world and the only Rough Trade records in the UK outside of London!
Nottingham caters for your craft shopping needs too- The Bead Shop has been running for 16 years, selling all manner of jewellery making supplies, including Swarovski crystal beads and run a variety of workshops. For the more yarn based crafts, Knit Nottingham is not only a treasure trove of wool and yarn, but what owner Eleanor doesn’t know about knitting and crochet, isn’t worth knowing! Handmade Nottingham is little treasure trove of local artists and designers goodies, with everything from jewellery to prints and homeware.
I might live in the city, but I am a country girl at heart, and to get my fix of open spaces I hop on a bus to Wollaton Park. It’s a great place to get some fresh air in the parkland (you totally forget how near you are to the city centre), visit the house with its natural history collection and of course have a cup of tea in the café. The hall was even used as Wayne Manor in the Batman film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’!
If you are an art lover the Nottingham Contemporary is a must see. One of the largest arts centres in the UK, it features a varied program of exhibitions, events and talks. Oh, and it had a great cafe bar.
When you mention Nottingham, most people think Robin Hood. Head to the Castle (which is actually a mansion building on the site of the original castle- one for the fact fans) which has gardens, art galleries, amazing views over the city and yes, a Robin Hood exhibition. Plans are afoot to completely revamp the attraction to focus more on Robin Hood and the unique history of Nottingham, which is long overdue is you ask me! You also have to get you photo taken with the bronze of Robin Hood that stands just outside the Castle entrance. It’s the law.
Nottingham has a fascinating system of caves, carved out from the soft sandstone rock that the city is built on. There are tours running from the Castle and the City of Caves attraction. One of the most unusual attractions in The Galleries of Justice– a museum dedicated to crime and punishment! Led by costumed guides, you are taken through a courtroom to various types of law court, prison and jail from throughout the years. I know, it probably doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but the way they present everything in a very intriguing and interactive way that it really is! You can see for yourself as I went with my friend Hannah last year and she filmed our visit for her Youtube channel the Corner of Craft, take a look!
When meeting friends, the large Market Square is the place, particularly next to the ‘Left Lion’; one of the two stone sculptures that sit outside the council hall. Don’t know why the right lion doesn’t get as much love. Its just the way it is. A series of event take place in the square so you might just happen upon a food market, sports activites, theare or even an ice rink!
Food and Drink
Nottingham has a lot of places to eat. Whatever type of food you fancy, Nottingham probably has it. Georges is a modern take on the traditional fish and chip restaurant, perfect for a break from shopping. If proper American style burgers are your thing, then you have to go the Annies! Originally from New York, Annie hands down makes the best burgers ever!
For a daytime treat, Nottingham also has some lovely cafes. For something a bit unusual, Kitty Café allows you to eat your lunch or afternoon tea in the company of their rescue cats. Make sure you book a slot in advance! If you are a tea fanatic like me, then Lee Rosy’s is a must. They have over 100 types of loose leaf tea on offer as well as some yummy sandwiches and cakes. The atmosphere is very relaxed and they have lots of events like film screenings in the evenings too.
I’m sure I once read that there are enough pubs and bars in Nottingham to visit a different venue every day of the year. But my favourites include The Malt Cross; a unique venue that is a café by day, bar by night and also houses arts and crafts workshops in their refurbished gallery space. It is a former music hall with a roof shaped like a boat and a really lovely feel. And no pub crawl in Nottingham is complete without a visit to Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem. Built into the sandstone caves at the foot of Nottingham Castle, this is one of the oldest pubs in Britain. Traditional pub food, a good range of drinks, wonky walls and a very unique atmosphere. I love going in the summer evenings when you can sit outside, looking up at the Castle.
As I originally moved to Nottingham to study Art, its only right that I mention the two universities. Trent Uni where I studied has a huge range of practical art and design courses run from the city centre campus. I would highly recommend going to the Degree Show held in May/June each year. Not only do you you get to see all the fab work from textiles to fashion, theatre design and fine art, but you get to nosy about inside all the wonderful buildings. The older Nottingham University focuses more on the art history, music and archaeology, but it is also home to Lakeside Arts Centre on the lovely University Park campus, with two galleries as well as a museum and theatre space.
If you like to combine you crafting and social activities, there is a range of activities to choose from there are lots of places running craft workshops. Debbie Bryan in the historic Lace Market area of the city, hosts fabulous workshops by specialist craft makers alongside the wonderful vintage tea room and craft shop. The previously mentioned Malt Cross and The Bead Shop also host a great variety of classes and workshops throughout the year.
For something a bit less formal, choose from one of the many graft groups that meet in the city. Knit in Notts are a friendly knitting group that meet 6pm on Tuesday at Broadway Arts Cinema as well as organising regular pub knits. The Bead Shop hosts a weekly bead group on a Monday night 5-7pm where you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and the company and knowledge of other beaders. I also run the the Nottingham City W.I. Craft group is open to all and meets on the 4th Wednesday of the month 6-8pm at The Crafty Crow pub, just bring yourself and whatever crafty project you have on the go!
There is so much more I could talk about, I feel like there are so many other brilliant places I could talk about, but I’m going to leave it there for now. Have I missed your favourite place or activity in Nottingham? Or are you are planning a visit and need more recommendations? Then feel free to comment below or message me! You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter to see more of the crafty things I get up to in and around Nottingham.