Having lived in Nottingham for nine months during my study abroad in 2013/2014, I’ve got a lot of love for my adopted city. 2 years later on my second trip back, Nottingham still feels like home! Even though there were some really difficult times (living in a flat with 11 other people isn’t easy…), my year in Nottingham is still one of the highlights of my life and of my time in Europe. Part of this is due to the fact that I had money in my bank account + UK multi-entry visa + so much free time, but also because I genuinely grew to love my city. For anyone looking to visit Nottingham, look no further!
In my own opinion, Nottingham is in one of the perfect locations: it’s far enough away from London to be less expensive, but has easy access to London (and London’s global connections) if you want to visit. Located in the East Midlands, it has connections to almost everywhere. Getting into Nottingham is easy by flying—arriving at the East Midlands Airport, there is a Skylink bus that connects the airport with Nottingham city center, and it runs 24/7.
The newly renovated train station is at the south end of the city center. For arrivals via bus, Broadmarsh Bus Station (at the end of the smaller shopping center) is the bigger of the two bus stations, and the main terminal for National Express coaches. There are several services to/from major London airports, such as Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted. Victoria Bus Station (at the end of the larger shopping center) is a smaller bus station with local services, most of which are northern-bound. For transportation in the city, Nottingham has a tram network along with one of the best city bus systems in England.
Nottingham has a lot to offer in terms of attractions, relative to its size. You can’t miss Old Market Square, the heart of the city center. Make sure to have a pint at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, a pub dating back to 1189—the oldest in Europe. It is literally carved into the cave walls, so head upstairs and check out the cave ceilings. Nottingham Castle is next door to Ye Olde Trip and worth the admission fee just for the great views of the city from the hill, and is also home to a collection of art. There is a statue of Nottingham’s most famous resident, Robin Hood, outside the castle!
If you’re into caves, check out the City of Caves, located in the Broadmarsh shopping center. The tour will take you underground to see how Nottingham was built on an extensive system of limestone caves (and see the different roles the caves played in the city’s history). In the city center, also check out the Galleries of Justice, a look into the prison/justice system with a guided tour. If you’re looking for art, head over to Contemporary Arts, an art museum of (you guessed it!) contemporary art.
Nottingham has a lot to do outside the compact city center as well. Wollaton Hall, made famous as Batman’s house in the movies, is an impressive building with interesting displays, including some on natural history. Wollaton Park is a great place to pass the time—and maybe even see some deer! If green space is what you’re looking for, spend some time at the University Park campus (the main campus for the University of Nottingham), either strolling by the lake, or in the Downs in the middle of campus.
Lee Rosy’s is a very quaint teashop, perfect for studying or a snack, and is one of Nottingham’s most well-known teashops. The Coffee House is tucked away in the Hurt’s Yard alley and is another nice coffee shop.
With the addition of a Taco Bell last December (which I visited on opening day), Nottingham will forever be one of my favorite cities in England!
And finally, Nottingham is a city that’s hopping every night of the week, with no lack of places to go and things to do. For theater, both the Nottingham Playhouse and the Theater Royal put on great productions. The Broadway Cinema is a bit pricey, but they have a nice selection of movies (and foreign films as well).
Wondering where to drink? Check out my full post on my Top 10 bars in Notts! If you’re looking for pubs: obviously don’t miss Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem! Both the Bell Inn and Ye Olde Salutation Inn are old, historic pubs; in the Canning Circus area, the Sir John Borlase Warren and the Organ Grinder are worth stopping for a pint.
If you’re looking for bars: my all-time favorite bar is Blue Bell, home of the £1 jagbombs and tequila shots (student rates)—I hear prices have gone up to 3 for £5, and I refuse to accept it. Blue Bell is a little messy, but the drinks are so cheap you could stay there all night. The Boilermaker in the Hockley area is a speakeasy that’s known mainly through word of mouth—look for a long line of people in an empty store in Hockley (they’re waiting to get into the bathroom to push the sink, opening up a door into the bar). The drinks are expensive, but the speakeasy aspect and relaxed atmosphere are worth it. Tilt has crazy expensive cocktails, but is a good time. Pitcher and Piano is a bar inside a church, so it’s definitely worth a go (despite also having expensive drinks). Simply put, there are more than enough bars out there to keep you busy any night of the week!
If you’re looking for clubs: the place I miss the most in all of Notts has to be my all-time favorite club, Ocean. Probably the most popular student club in the city, University of Nottingham students (UoN) have their night on Fridays—get ready for when they play the Baywatch theme song. My favorite nights out in Notts were always at Ocean! Coco Tang is another one of my favorite clubs, even if it’s a little hard to find, and even if they failed to have free shisha one of the nights I went there. Rock City is a popular club/music venue—on Wednesdays, it turns into Crisis for UoN students. If you’re looking for the gay/lesbian nightlife, look no further than NG1, Nottingham’s biggest gay bar and club.
If you’re looking to explore the surrounding area, there are a few day-trips you can take outside of Nottingham. Newstead Abbey is a nice day-trip from Notts—the Pronto bus drops you off directly at the gates of the abbey. Sherwood Forest, home to Robin Hood and his merry men, is also a popular tourist destination. The easy loop to see the Major Oak (supposedly Robin Hood’s hideout) is usually busy with lots of other people. If you want to go farther, you’re definitely close enough to explore the Peak District. If you’re up for a one-hour bus ride and a two-mile walk, you can reach Hardwick Hall with public transportation. Nottingham is also easily connected by bus to Mansfield, Chesterfield, Southwell, and Derby.
Have you ever visited Nottingham? Or have you ever lived abroad and then visited your city again? Share in the comments below!