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Things to do in Nottingham: caves, culture and cocktails

In times past, Nottingham was the home of Robin Hood, the lace industry and the Luddites. These days, it's a cultural and commercial hub, with a friendly vibe and lots for families to enjoy. Our Local editor points out the city's best bits.



Let's enjoy the sunshine! Where should we start?

To find your feet, go on a guided Robin Hood tour, find out about Nottingham's ghoulish history on a Ghost Walk or freak out at the gory goings on at Madame Parboiled's Interactive Dungeon Show. In summer, Nottingham Castle Museum hosts outdoor theatre productions and jousting tournaments.

If you've got little superheroes in tow, head to Wollaton Hall – aka Wayne Manor – which was home to Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. The undulating grounds are good for spotting the resident deer and feeding the ducks, and there are enough slopes to sledge down in winter. Wollaton Park also hosts the annual Splendour festival, which is great for families.

Visible across town but off the beaten track is Green's Windmill and Science Centre. You can see the flour being milled, climb the windmill steps and buy freshly-ground flour from the shop. Just down the road is the chance to step back into the 1820s at the museum birthplace of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. Note that this has to be pre-booked.

There's also the famous Sherwood Forest (a short drive out of the city). The nearby Sherwood Pines Forest Park offers bike hire and bushcraft activities, while the treetop trails at Go Ape are bound to be a hit with your little monkeys.



And what if it's raining?

There's plenty to do indoors, too. Until the early 19th century, thousands of people lived in Nottingham's sandstone caves - you can take a tour beneath the Castle Museum and in the City of Caves.

If subterranean fun isn't your thing, head over to the Galleries of Justice, in the former Shire Hall, for a theatrical interpretation of crime and punishment.

An exciting new addition is coming to Nottingham at the end of March in the form of the National Videogame Arcade – head here on the off-chance that your DCs are having screen withdrawal symptoms.

The Cornerhouse complex houses a selection of eateries as well as a multiplex cinema and the Lost City Adventure Golf course. If you're feeling active, get your skates on at the National Ice Centre.

Where can we soak up the culture?

Nottingham Contemporary is an architecturally striking addition to the city's cultural offering. All exhibitions are free and there are drop-in family workshops at weekends. Both the Contemporary and the New Art Exchange host activities throughout the school holidays

If you've got a spare afternoon, watch a matinee at the Theatre Royal, which often hosts big names and touring productions. Beanbag Music Club regularly entertains pre-schoolers next door at the Royal Concert Hall, while Nottingham Playhouse and Lakeside Arts Centre offer frequent and fabulous family theatre.

If the urge to shop suddenly hits you while you're in central Nottingham, head to the market square and surrounding high-street shops. Bridlesmith Gate and The Exchange Arcade are packed with high-end stores, while a wealth of independent clothes, craft and jewellery shops can be found in Hockley and the Lace Market. 


All that activity! We're feeling peckish... Where to?

For a low-key lunch with small children, try Delilah's or the cafe at Nottingham Contemporary. Older children will appreciate Annie's Burger Shack and its 30 burger varieties, including a Sunday dinner burger and peanut butter jam burger. 

For an evening meal, head to Edin's, or Kayal for some informal Keralan cuisine. If you're in the market for something more fancy, there's Harts, World Service and Mem Saab, as well as the two Michelin-starred Sat Bains. 


No kids, will party: where can we go for a grown-up night out?

A must-visit is Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, a pub built into the caves that dates from 1189. It's one of three in Nottingham that claims to be the oldest in England. 

For cocktails, try Coco Tang, Brass Monkey, Das Kino or Boilermaker - if you can talk your way into the city's 'secret' bar!

Nottingham also has a great music scene; big acts often grace the stages of the Capital FM Arena and Rock City.


It's been so great, we want to stay! Where's the best place to settle down?

Nottingham offers housing in almost every price bracket, from the snug Victorian terraces in Sneinton and Forest Fields to The Park Estate - an elegant, gated conservation area behind the castle. A little further out are Mapperley, Beeston, Wollaton and West Bridgford, which are all great family neighbourhoods with plenty of parks.


About the Nottingham Local editor

Charlotte says: "I moved to Nottingham in 2001 and have lived in three different neighbourhoods. My daughter arrived in 2012 and I've been discovering new aspects of Nottingham life ever since. I want the local site to be somewhere parents can find useful information, a friendly welcome and discover something new. You can follow your fellow Nottingham MNers on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up to our local newsletter."


Images: Nottingham City Council, Stuart Frew, Mugofstrongtea, Theatre Royal Concert Hall



Last updated: over 3 years ago