best things to do in nottingham England

18 Best Things To Do & See In Nottingham, England

If I had to sum up Nottingham in 3 words, it would have to be universities, literature and legends.

A university town full of fun-loving and party-going students, with not just one university but two of them.

A city recently named the ‘City of Literature’ thanks to its pedigree of literature genius living here throughout the years (think Lord Byron and D. H. Lawrence).

And then, of course, the home of the legendary Robin Hood, his band of merry men and the royal Sherwood Forest.

Nottingham is a city located in the East Midlands region of England – a magical place with a rich history dating back to the Anglo-Saxon era and an important centre of industry during the Industrial Revolution.

Today, Nottingham is known for its lively student population, its vibrant nightlife, and its unique architectural heritage, right in the heart of the county of Nottinghamshire.

The city is also home to a wealth of museums and galleries, as well as a thriving theatre and music scene, making it a perfect city for a weekend break.

There are so many interesting and fun places to visit in Nottingham so I would recommend 2 days minimum to get everything worth visiting into your Nottinghamham travel itinerary.

Whether you’re looking for excitement, history or culture, Nottingham certainly isn’t one to disappoint. So let’s get into my best things to do in Nottingham, England.

 

18 Best Things To Do In Nottingham, Nottinghamshire

 

1. Nottingham Old Market Square

 

nottingham old square best places to visit in nottingham england

 

Nottingham’s Old Market Square is the city’s beating heart and a great place to start your exploration of Nottingham. The square dates back to the 12th century and was once the site of a thriving market.

Today, the square is home to a number of cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as a beautiful Victorian fountain and the iconic Neoclassical Council House with its commanding dome roof which can be seen from most open spaces within the city.

Go and check out the impressive Sky Mirror in front of the Nottingham Playhouse theatre whilst you are here. It forms part of an impressive water feature in this iconic region of town and has become somewhat of a focal point here.

You also have the Guildhall just south of the old market square and Speakers Corner tucked just north on King Street.

The square is a great place to people watch and soak up the unique atmosphere, and for me, it’s one of the best things to do in Nottingham Town Centre. So, grab a speciality tea or coffee from one of the many bars or restaurants and take a moment to enjoy it all.

How To Get Here: Old Market Square, Nottingham, NG12DA

 

 

2. The Lace Market

 

lave market best places to visit in nottingham

 

The Lace Market is another historic area of Nottingham which was once the world’s centre for the production of lace.

The beautiful Georgian and Victorian buildings in this area have been converted into trendy bars, restaurants, cafes, boutiques and shops, and you can find all of this just behind the Old Market Square.

This is definitely the place to come for some retail therapy or to enjoy a meal or drink in one of the many unique bars and restaurants.

The red brick warehouses are also home to a number of art galleries, museums and music venues, so there is definitely something for everyone to enjoy whilst walking through this famous Nottingham lace market.

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Nottingham, then you could give one of the chilling yet thrilling escape rooms a go whilst you’re here. Walk west for a couple of minutes from the lace market and you will arrive at Escapologic.

How To Get Here: The Lace Market, Nottingham

 

 

3. The National Justice Museum

 

the national justice museum interesting things to do in nottingham nottinghamshire

 

The National Justice Museum sits on the southern edge of the Lace Market and has recently been refurbished and rebranded, and another fun and interesting thing to do in Nottingham town centre.

The former courthouse dates back as long as the 14th century and has seen some of the most famous (and infamous) cases throughout its history.

The museum tells the story of crime and punishment in Nottinghamshire through a number of interactive exhibits, and you can walk through the old underground jail and gallows in the basement

It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in learning more about the dark side of Nottingham’s past. It’s a thoroughly fascinating visit and well deserving of its place on this “best things to do in Nottingham” list.

How To Get Here: National Justice Museum, High Pavement, Nottingham NG1 1HN

Entrance Cost:

  • Adult plus donation – £13.25
  • Over 60’s / students plus donation – £12.05
  • Children (5-17) plus donation – £9.65
  • Under 5s – Free
  • Book your tickets and timeslot online from the official website

 

 

4. Nottingham Castle

 

nottingham castle fun things to do in nottingham city centre

 

Next on the list, and again, just a short 500m walk from the National Justice Museum brings us to the stronghold of Nottingham Castle.

Looking down across the city from its high sandstone crag, Nottingham Castle was once regarded as highly as Windsor Castle and the Tower of London.

The original castle was torn down during the English Civil War in the middle of the 17th century but Henry Cavendish, the snd Duke of Newcastle, had the new Baroque Ducal Mansion built on the same spot, and this is the same building that houses the Nottingham Castle Museum today.

Inside the castle you’ll find exhibits on the history of Nottingham, as well as an art gallery with a number of rotating exhibitions.

The castle grounds are home to the beautifully landscaped Robin Hood Gardens and the remains of ancient sandstone caves which were used as cellars and storerooms for the castle.

The castle is definitely one of the best things to see in Nottingham and should not be missed on your visit to this historic city.

How To Get Here: Castle Road, Nottingham NG1 6EL

Entrance Cost:

  • Adults £13
  • Child (5-17) £9.50
  • Purchase tickets online here

 

 

5. The City Of Caves

 

the city of caves fun things to do in nottingham city centre

 

The City of Caves is another of Nottingham’s hidden gems which can be found beneath the streets of the Lace Market.

The caves are a series of man-made sandstone mines which were used over the centuries for a variety of purposes, including as cellars, storerooms, air raid shelters and even as homes for Nottingham’s poor and homeless.

The city’s first known inhabitants, the Celts, emerged from these caves at least 1,000 years ago. These caves are sone of the oldest remaining in the city, with ceramic finds dating some of them to 1270–1300.

The caves were inhabited from at least the 17th century up until 1845 when the St. Mary’s Inclosure Act banned the renting of cellars and caves.

Today, the City of Caves is open to the public as a heritage attraction and you can take a guided tour to learn more about their fascinating history.

How To Get Here: Garner’s Hill, Nottingham NG1 1HF

Entrance Cost:

  • Adults – £8.75
  • Kids (5-17) – £7.65
  • Under 5s go free
  • You can book your tickets online here or from the ticket office at the entrance

 

 

6. Wollaton Hall (Natural History Museum)

 

wollaton hall natural history museum in nottingham england

 

Wollaton Hall is a beautiful Elizabethan country house which was built between 1580 and 1588 by Sir Francis Willughby, a local coal mine owner.

The hall is set in 500 acres of parkland which is home to deer, red squirrels, ducks and other fantastic wildlife.

Wollaton Hall is now the home of the Natural History Museum, and inside the hall, you’ll find a number of collections on natural history, geology and archaeology.

There is also a stunning art gallery as well, with famous works by Rembrandt, Turner and Gainsborough.

It’s free to get in but they do offer guided tours for a fee which I would strongly recommend to really get the most out of your visit here.

If you’re feeling peckish or thirsty, there are a couple of cafes inside to keep you going.

The hall is open to the public from Wednesday to Sunday and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for free things to do in Nottingham.

How To Get Here: Wollaton Hall, Nottingham NG8 2AE

 

 

7. Nottingham Industrial Museum

 

nottingham industrial museum fun things to do in nottingham for kids

 

The Nottingham Industrial Museum is just opposite Wollaton Hall in the former 17th-century stables block and it’s a great place to learn about the city’s industrial heritage.

The museum houses a number of interactive exhibits on local industries such as coal mining, textiles, pottery and brewing.

There are also a number of historic vehicles on display, including a steam engine, a fire engine and a Spitfire plane.

The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday and it’s free to get in.

How To Get Here: Wollaton Hall, The Courtyard, Nottingham NG8 2AE

 

 

8. Theatre Royal & Concert Hall

 

theatre royal and concert hall best thing to do in nottingham for couples

 

Nottingham is home to a number of excellent live music and theatre venues, but the Theatre Royal & Concert Hall is definitely one of the best.

The Grade I listed building dates back to 1865 and has undergone a number of refurbishments over the years, most recently in 2009.

The main auditorium has a capacity of over 1400 and hosts a variety of live music, dance and theatre performances throughout the year.

The Theatre Royal & Concert Hall is one of Nottingham’s most iconic buildings and is definitely worth a visit. I think it’s also a great place to go on a date, so if your looking for fun things to do in Nottingham for couples, then I’d recommend booking something fun at the theatre.

If you’re visiting with kids during the Christmas period then check out the super popular Christmas Pantomime.

Check what events are on from the official website.

How To Get Here: Theatre Square, Nottingham NG1 5ND

 

 

9. Highfields Park

 

highfields park best free things to do in nottingham

 

Highfields Park is one of Nottingham’s most popular parks and is a great place to relax and take in the fresh air.

The park covers an area of over 100 acres and is home to a number of attractions, including a boating lake, miniature railway, tennis courts and a children’s play area.

In the summer months, you can also hire a pedalo or canoe and explore the lake.

Highfields Park is a great place to come for a picnic or to just spend some time outdoors, and it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Nottingham to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

How To Get Here: University Blvd, Lenton, Nottingham NG7 2RD

 

 

10. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

 

ye old trip to jerusalem pub fun things to do in nottingham for adults

 

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is a pub in Nottingham, England that claims to be the oldest inn in the world. The building itself was built in 1189 AD, and there has been an inn on the site since 1198 AD.

The pub got its name from the Crusades when many people went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Some of these pilgrims may have stopped at the inn for a pint or two before continuing on their journey.

Today, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is a popular tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. The pub is brimming with character, with a history and atmosphere that is truly unique.

If you’re ever in Nottingham, be sure to stop by Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem for a pint and some incredible stories about the past.

It’s a fantastic way to kill an hour with your other half or your mates, and a great thing to do in Nottingham for adults.

How To Get Here: Brewhouse Yard, 1, Nottingham NG1 6AD

 

 

11. Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery

 

nottingham contempory art museum fun things to do in nottingham for adults

 

Nottingham Contemporary is a modern and contemporary art gallery in Nottingham, England. The gallery first opened its doors to the public in 2009, and since then it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nottingham.

The gallery houses up to 5 temporary exhibitions throughout the year, as well as a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art.

There is also a cafe, bookshop, and educational facilities on site. On the weekends, the Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery puts on workshops for families and put together film screenings and discussion groups, and even lessons teaching some new skills like printmaking.

Nottingham Contemporary is the perfect place to come if you’re looking to learn more about modern and contemporary art, or if you just want to see some incredible artwork and fascinating exhibits.

This one is another free thing to do in Nottingham but it’s closed on Mondays. Full information on the exhibits can be found on their official website.

How To Get Here: Weekday Cross, Nottingham NG1 2GB

 

 

12. Green’s Mill and Science Centre

 

greens mill and science centre best free things to do in nottingham England

 

Green’s Mill and Science Centre is a working 19th-century windmill, which was once used to grind wheat into flour.

The mill was built in 1807 and continued to operate until 1934.

Today, the mill has been restored and is open to the public as a museum. The science centre offers interactive exhibits about the history of the mill and how it used to work, as well as the science of wind and water power.

The centre also houses a discovery zone where kids can enjoy learning all about light, magnetism and electricity.

Green’s Mill and Science Centre is the perfect place to learn about the history of Nottingham, as well as the science behind one of its most iconic landmarks.

It’s one of the top free things to do in Nottingham with kids, where learning and fun are combined into a thrilling few hours at this science museum.

How To Get Here: Windmill Ln, Sneinton, Nottingham NG2 4QB

 

 

13. D. H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum

 

d h lawrence birthplace museum fun places to visit in nottingham England

 

The D. H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum is a museum dedicated to the life and work of the famous writer, D. H. Lawrence.

Lawrence was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire in 1885, and the museum is located in the house where he was born and grew up.

The museum tells the story of Lawrence’s life, from his humble beginnings in a coal mining town to his success as a writer.

The museum also houses a collection of Lawrence’s personal belongings, including letters, books, and photographs.

It’s a great place to visit in Nottingham to pass an hour, so if you’re a fan of D. H. Lawrence or simply want to learn more about the man and his work, then be sure to visit this quirky little museum.

Note: The museum is only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays from 10am until 4pm, and you can buy tickets at the door

How To Get Here: 8a Victoria St, Eastwood, Nottingham NG16 3AW

Entrance Cost:

  • Adults £5
  • Concessions £4.25
  • Children FREE
  • You can book tickets online from the official website, but this isn’t necessary

 

 

14. St Mary’s Church

 

st marys church free things to do in nottingham

 

St Mary’s Church is a beautiful Gothic church located in the heart of Nottingham. The church dates back to the 13th century and is one of the oldest buildings in Nottingham.

Inside the church, you can admire the stunning architecture, including the carved stone pillars and stained glass windows that were made by some of the most talented glassmakers of the time.

St Mary’s Church is a must-see for anyone interested in architecture or history, and it’s also a great place to enjoy some peace and quiet in the heart of the city.

How To Get Here: St Marys Church, Nottingham NG1 1HN

 

 

Best Things To Do Near Nottingham, England

 

15. Sherwood Forest

 

sherwood forest best thing to do near nottingham

 

Sherwood Forest is best known as the legendary home of Robin Hood. However, there is much more to this ancient forest than just a folktale.

Covering more than 450 acres, Sherwood Forest is the largest remaining area of ancient forest in England. It is an important site for wildlife, with several rare and threatened species living within its boundaries.

The forest also has a rich history, dating back to at least the 11th century. Today, it is a popular destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike.

Visitors can enjoy walking along the many miles of well-marked trails, picnicking in the shade of the trees, or simply taking in the peace and quiet of this natural oasis.

Visitors also love the Major Oak – a massive oak tree that is over 1000 years old, the Sherwood Forest Arts and Crafts Centre, and not forgetting a visit toThynghowe – the famous meeting point where people would come to resolve disputes.

Whether you are looking for adventure or simply a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Sherwood Forest has something to offer everyone and it’s one of my favourite free things to do in Nottingham, so add it to your list.

 

 

16. Papplewick Pumping Station

 

pappelwick pumping station one of the best places to visit in nottingham

 

Papplewick Pumping Station is a Victorian water pumping station that was built in the 19th century and is around a 30-minute drive north of Nottingham.

The station is now a museum, and it is a super popular fun thing to do near Nottingham with its superb example of engineering and craftsmanship from the 19th century.

Visitors can learn all about how the station used to work, as well as see the massive steam engines that were used to power the pumps.

There are also guided tours available, which is a great way to learn even more about this fascinating piece of history.

Papplewick Pumping Station is one of the top things to see in Nottingham, and it’s especially popular with families and kids who love learning about how things work.

How To Get Here: Rigg Ln, Ravenshead, Nottingham NG15 9AJ

 

 

17. The Great Central Railway

 

the great central railway fund things to do near nottingham england

 

Another exciting thing to do that’s just a 15-minute drive from Nottingham is a visit to the Great Central Railway. It’s a fantastic heritage railway that offers a glimpse into the past to see how things used to be like.

The railway runs for around 10 miles between Nottingham and Loughborough, and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon if you’re looking for something different to do.

On the Great Central Railway, you can take a ride on a steam train, visit the heritage railway museum, or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll along the tracks.

The Great Central Railway is a great option if you’re looking for something fun and educational to do with your family, or if you’re just a fan of trains!

There is also a cafe here if you fancy some quick refreshments before moving on.

How To Get Here: Heritage Railway, Mere Way, Ruddington, Nottingham NG11 6JS

 

 

18. Newstead Abbey

 

newstead abbey best things to do near nottingham England

 

Newstead Abbey is a beautiful historic house and former Augustinian priory that is located in Nottinghamshire, England, just a 35-minute drive from Nottingham city centre making it another fun thing to do near Nottingham.

The Abbey was founded in 1189 by King Henry II, and it remained an active monastery until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.

Today, the Abbey is open to the public as a museum and country park, and it is one of the top tourist attractions close to Nottingham.

The Abbey grounds are home to a variety of animals, including red deer, peacocks, and ducks.

You can also wander around the lakes and walk along the flowing streams and baby waterfalls.

There are also several gardens to explore, including the Kitchen Garden, the Fragrance Garden, and the Rose Garden.

Inside the Abbey, visitors can explore the ruins of the monastic buildings, the magnificent Great Hall, and the ornate cloisters.

Newstead Abbey is a must-see for anyone interested in English history or architecture, and it’s a great place to spend half a day if you’re looking for something different to do while in Nottingham.

How To Get Here: Newstead Abbey, NG15 8NA

 

> Read My “18 Best Things To Do In Great Yarmouth Norfolk” Travel Guide

 

FAQ

Why is Nottingham so famous?

Nottingham is a historic city in the East Midlands of England with a rich heritage dating back to the Anglo-Saxon era. The city is perhaps most famous for its association with the legend of Robin Hood, as well as being the site of one of the UK’s major universities. Nottingham also has a thriving arts and culture scene and is home to a number of popular tourist attractions.

How do I get to Nottingham?

Nottingham is located in the East Midlands of England, about 100 miles north of London. The city can be reached by train, bus, or car. There are also several airports located nearby, including East Midlands Airport and Birmingham Airport.

How do I get from London to Nottingham?

There are several ways to get from London to Nottingham. The easiest and most popular option is to take the train, which takes around two hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus which takes around 3 hours 20 minutes or you can make the 3-hour drive yourself.

What is there to do in Nottingham?

Nottingham has a lot to offer visitors, from historic sites and museums to outdoor activities and lively nightlife. Some of the city’s most popular attractions include Sherwood Forest, Nottingham Castle, Wollaton Hall, and the City of Caves.

Is Nottingham a safe city?

Nottingham is generally a safe city, but like any other urban area, it does have its share of crime. However, the crime rate in Nottingham is relatively low compared to other UK cities and visitors should not encounter any problems if they take basic precautions.

 

Fancy a UK Road Trip? Read my 2 new posts…

 

Best Things To Do In Nottingham, Nottinghamshire

  • Nottingham Old Market Square
  • The lace Market
  • The National Justice Museum
  • Nottingham Castle
  • The City Of Caves
  • Wollaton Hall (Natural History Museum)
  • Nottingham Industrial Museum
  • Theatre Royal & Concert Hall
  • Highfields Park
  • Ye Old Trip To Jerusalem
  • Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery
  • Green’s Mill and Science Centre
  • D. H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum
  • St Mary’s Church
  • Sherwood Forest
  • Papplewick Pumping Station
  • The Great Central Railway
  • Newstead Abbey

 

Free Things To Do In Nottingham, England

  • Nottingham Old Market Square
  • The lace Market
  • Wollaton Hall (Natural History Museum)
  • Nottingham Industrial Museum
  • Highfields Park
  • Ye Old Trip To Jerusalem
  • Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery
  • Green’s Mill and Science Centre
  • St Mary’s Church
  • Sherwood Forest
  • Newstead Abbey

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