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Is Nottingham Worth Visiting? 2024 Guide

If you are planning a trip around the UK and are considering including Nottingham, then I’ve got the answers for you.

I’ve spent plenty of time in Nottingham – it’s where I went to university. It’s an underrated city, and somewhere I will return to several more times.

However, my quick answer is this.

Yes, it is worth visiting, but only if you have already been to other parts of the UK. If you only have a limited amount of time in the UK, I would prioritise places such as London, the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District, Oxford, Bath and York. 

If you do have more time here or have previously visited other UK highlights, then Nottingham is a good option to consider. 

A blue map of the UK with the locations of London, Nottingham and Edinburgh shown.

Overview of Nottingham

Nottingham is the largest city in the East Midlands region of the UK, with a population of around 330,000. 

One of my favourite facts about the city is the origin of its name. Nottingham dates back to the Anglo-Saxon era, and was once called Snotingaham – the home of the people of the Saxon chief named Snot. 

Thankfully, the name has moved on and is no longer one of the many places in the UK with ludicrous names. I’ll skip the rude ones, but Upper Slaughter, Nasty and Donkey Town spring to mind!

Reasons To Visit Nottingham

Statue of Robin Hood with bow and arrow drawn in front of stone castle walls

Robin Hood

The legend of Robin Hood is based around Nottingham and the nearby Sherwood Forest. Robin Hood is one of the UK’s most famous legendary figures, alongside King Arthur. 

The city centre has plenty of references to Robin Hood. There is a statue outside the castle, the castle itself has a Robin Hood experience, and there are roads around the city with names like Maid Marian Way. 

Nightlife

Nottingham has a surprising number of nightlife options, given its relatively modest population size.

This is partly due to the number of students in the city. It is home to two universities, the University of Nottingham (where I studied), and Nottingham Trent University. Many clubs host student nights, especially mid-week. 

There are several well-known music venues, including Rock City (a favourite from my student days) and The Rescue Rooms

The city also has some great pubs and bars. Have a drink at the Pitcher and Piano – more for the building than the drinks themselves as it is inside a stunning deconsecrated church. Not to be confused with the Pit and Pendulum, a quirky bar with a spooky theme. 

For cocktails, head to The Alchemist with its variety of unusual concoctions. I would also recommend seeing what’s on at the Malt Cross – a Victorian-era music hall, now converted into a bar with live music and quizzes. 

Chatsworth

Close To Historic Sites

Nottingham is very close to some other amazing places to visit. It’s a great place to base yourself if you are spending a few days exploring the Peak District.

It’s also an easy drive from Nottingham to Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth – historic stately homes that are absolutely stunning. 

If you want to visit one of the UK’s best stately homes, Chatsworth is my recommendation. It’s pretty enough to have been featured in several films – for example, as Pemberley in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. 

Oldest Pub in England

Ok, this one isn’t certain. Several cities claim to be home to England’s oldest pub. Nottingham’s claim is Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, locally referred to as ‘the Trip’. This pub is on the same road as the castle and is said to be established in 1189. 

Nottingham is also the location of The Bell Inn, which also claims to be the oldest pub. Their claim dates back to 1437, and is based on the presumption that the Trip’s date is incorrect as it can’t be officially verified. 

Either way, the city has some old pubs! If you do visit, go and have a drink at the Trip. 

University of Nottingham’s boating lake

Outdoor Spaces

Nottingham has plenty of large green spaces to enjoy. The most well-known is Wollaton Hall and Park, west of the city centre. The park is home to a herd of deer and is also the location of Wollaton Hall.

The University of Nottingham is an unusually green campus, with woodland areas, a boating lake and open green spaces.

The land was gifted to the university by Sir Jesse Boot, the founder of what is now the UK’s most well-known chain of pharmacies – Boot’s. The campus sits on the south side of Wollaton Park.

Nottingham’s Arboretum is a short walk from the city and is the closest park to central Nottingham. It is a much smaller space than Wollaton, but still a nice one to wander around with a coffee. 

A clothing shop with a white frontage with the words White Rose in black.
White Rose clothing store

Unique Shopping

In addition to many of the typical UK high-street shops, Nottingham also has a thriving independent retail scene. The area around the Lace Market and Hockley is full of small independent shops. 

One of my favourite options is White Rose – a local chain of charity shops set up by two graduates of Nottingham Trent University.

The shops focus on handpicked, quality recycled fashion. They also give their profits to the Aegis Trust, which is dedicated to researching and preventing genocide. 

Nottingham also has my favourite bookshop – the deceptively large Waterstone’s. It has an entire section dedicated to beautiful books, and it’s hard not to spend lots of money in there!

Best Things To Do In Nottingham

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle

The name is slightly misleading, as the original Nottingham Castle was destroyed in 1649. What stands there now is a mansion that acts as a museum of the castle and local history. 

The exhibitions include a gallery dedicated to Nottingham’s role as a pioneer in lace making. Another focuses on the role the castle and local area played in rebellions throughout England’s history. 

Perched high on a sandstone outcrop, the castle also offers panoramic views of the city below. You’ll also find an exhibition on the legend’s of Robin Hood, including games that are ideal for children, such as a virtual archery competition. 

Wollaton Hall

Wollaton Hall

Wollaton Hall is an Elizabethan manor – well-preserved throughout the centuries. Built in the 1580s, this magnificent mansion is surrounded by stunning parkland and gardens, providing a perfect setting for a leisurely stroll.

The hall itself is an architectural highlight, with its grand facade and intricate details. Inside, visitors can explore the various rooms, including the impressive Great Hall and the beautifully decorated bedrooms. 

The hall also acts as a regional natural history museum. It is free to visit and is one of Nottingham’s most popular attractions. 

City of Caves

Nottingham is located on an area of sandstone, which created the United Kingdom’s largest network of caves under the city. 

Many of these are natural, but some were man-made and used as living quarters and markets for centuries. The caves also acted as air raid shelters during World War II. 

These days, the caves have become a tourist attraction – The City of Caves. This popular attraction lets visitors explore part of the cave network and learn about its role in the life of the city over hundreds of years. 

Nottingham's Old Market Square with a large open space n front of a large white stone building with columns and a golden dome.
Old Market Square and the Council House

Old Market Square

Old Market Square is Nottingham city’s central space. The council building is one of the city’s most well-known buildings. 

The square is the city’s biggest public space and is used for various events throughout the year, including being transformed into a beach every summer and also used for the annual Christmas market. 

It’s the hub of the city, surrounded by shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. 

National Justice Museum

The National Justice Museum, formerly called the Galleries of Justice, can be found in the city centre.

This museum allows guests to explore the history of crime and justice in England. Visitors can engage with interactive exhibits, learn about historic court cases, and even experience a mock trial. It’s a fascinating journey through the criminal justice system, making it a must-visit destination for visitors to the city.

A forest with a large oak tree in the centre of the image. Some of the tree's branches are propped up with wooden stakes.

Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest, near but not in Nottingham, is a fantastic destination for visitors looking to immerse themselves in nature and history.

As the legendary home of Robin Hood, the forest offers an opportunity to explore folklore and legends while enjoying picturesque surroundings.

The forest is also home to Major Oak – a tree that is at least 800 years old. 

Visitors can wander through ancient oak trees, discover hidden glades, and spot wildlife like deer and birds. For those interested in outdoor activities, Sherwood Forest provides numerous hiking and cycling trails, perfect for a day of adventure.

Additionally, the visitor centre provides educational insights into the forest’s ecology and conservation efforts. 

How Many Days Do You Need In Nottingham

You can see the main highlights of the city centre in 1-2 days. If you want to explore areas like the Peak District, then I would recommend 3-4 days.

Nottingham also makes a great place to stop on a longer journey, for example between London and York. 

Shops inside the Council House building

Where To Stay In Nottingham

For the best value for money, I would recommend one of the Premier Inn hotels. This chain isn’t on sites such as Booking.com so it isn’t widely known by tourists.

Book through their website for clean and comfortable rooms at a reasonable price. They aren’t fancy, but they are reliable.

If you are focused on the wider region rather than the city itself, the University of Nottingham’s main campus has The Orchard Hotel, close to Wollaton and with easy access to the M1. 

200° Coffee – usually very busy but I ran in as soon as it opened for a caffeine fix before driving to Scotland.

Where To Eat In Nottingham

Head to Iberico for tapas, Annie’s for burgers, Delilah’s for deli-style lunches, and 200° for coffee. 

Easy!

Best Time To Visit Nottingham

The best time to visit Nottingham is during the summer months, from June to August, when the weather is mild and conducive for outdoor exploration.

Avoiding the winter months is advisable due to the colder temperatures and higher chances of rain, which could limit outdoor adventures, although winter does have the advantage of the Christmas market.

A view of Nottingham from the castle

Final Thoughts – Is Nottingham Worth Visiting?

Although it’s not on most visitor’s priority lists, there is still enough in Nottingham to make a visit worthwhile. Have a look at my Nottingham weekend itinerary for more information.

I would suggest you head to some of the more famous UK destinations first, but consider Nottingham for a quick stopover or secondary destination once you have visited some other UK highlights. 

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