things to do in nottingham
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17 Best Things to Do in Nottingham for a Fun-filled Day Out in 2023: Explore Nottinghamshire

Nottingham, a city located in the heart of England, is a destination with a rich history and plenty of cultural significance.

The city is famous for its connection to the legendary outlaw Robin Hood and his nemesis the Sheriff of Nottingham, as well as Nottingham Castle, but there is so much more to discover beyond that. 

From the city’s historic sites to its modern-day attractions, Nottingham is a destination that offers something for everyone. In this article, we will explore the best things to do in Nottingham, from cultural landmarks to hidden gems and exciting outdoor activities.

So if you’re planning a trip to this vibrant city, buckle up and get ready to discover all that Nottingham has to offer!

Nottingham tourist information

How to get there

Air: The main airport is East Midlands Airport (EMA), located approximately 15 miles away. Click here for airport transfers to Nottingham.

Getting around Nottingham

Getting around Nottingham is easy with a number of public transport options such as buses and trams that run regularly from numerous stops. There are also new and updated networks of cycle routes in the city.

Cycling: There are new and updated networks of cycle routes in the center of Nottingham, Derby, and more places.

Bus: Buses are easy to use and run regularly from numerous stops. An adult trip on a bus costs around £2 (cards are accepted).

Train: The main train station in Nottingham is Nottingham Station, which has great transport links to the rest of the UK. You can get a train from London to Nottingham in just over 1.5 hours!

Car: Nottingham has an extensive road network and is easy to navigate. You can hire a rental car here.

Tram: there is an excellent tram network in Nottingham called Nottingham Express Transit (NET). The tram system operates throughout the city and provides easy access to key destinations.

Best time to visit Nottingham

The best time to visit Nottingham is from early May to late September, with July and August being the warmest months. Rain falls throughout the year, with the wettest month being November, and the driest month being July.

Nottingham Attractions Map

17 Best Things to Do in Nottingham for a Fun-filled Day Out in 2023

A complete guide to the best things to do in city of Robin Hood, famous places in Nottingham, and hidden gems in Nottingham off the beaten path.

1. Visit Nottingham Castle

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Nottingham Castle is a must-see for any history buff or castle enthusiast visiting the city. Built in the 11th century on a high rock, this magnificent structure has played a significant role in English history, including being the site of many important battles and even the residence of the infamous King Richard III.

In addition to its fascinating history, Nottingham Castle also offers visitors an array of activities and attractions. Take a walk through the castle’s beautiful gardens, which offer stunning views of the city below. Or, explore the castle’s galleries, which showcase a variety of artwork and historical artifacts, including a display of medieval weaponry.

For a unique experience, be sure to visit the underground caves beneath the castle, which were once used as a brewery and now serve as a museum of the city’s history. The most popular of all the historical sites to visit in Nottingham, there is truly something for everyone at Nottingham Castle.

Location: (Google Maps) Nottingham Castle, Off Friar Lane, Nottingham, NG1 6EL
Opening Times: Monday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm (last entry 4pm)
Admission: Adults: £13.50, Concessions: £12.50, Children (under 16): £9.50, Children (under 5): Free, Family Ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children): £39.50

2. Watch a performance at Nottingham Playhouse

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Nottingham Playhouse is a renowned theatre located in the heart of the city, known for its high-quality productions, innovative performances, and strong community outreach programs. Founded in 1948, the theatre has since established itself as a leading cultural institution in the region, showcasing a diverse range of theatrical works from classic plays to contemporary pieces.

The main theatre space has a seating capacity of 750 and features state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment, making it an ideal venue for large-scale productions. In addition, Nottingham Playhouse has a smaller studio theatre that can accommodate up to 110 audience members, offering a more intimate setting for experimental and innovative works.

Aside from its main stage productions, Nottingham Playhouse also runs a variety of community outreach programs aimed at engaging local audiences and developing new talent. The theatre offers workshops and classes for all ages, including drama, dance, and technical theatre, providing opportunities for aspiring artists to learn from experienced professionals.

Location: (Google Maps) Nottingham Playhouse, Wellington Circus, Nottingham NG1 5AF
Opening times: Mon-Sat 9:30am – 6pm (closed Sundays)
Admission: ticket prices vary depending on the performance.

3. Explore the City of Caves

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The City of Caves is one of the. more unique Nottingham attractions that you shouldn’t miss. Located in Broadmarsh, the City of Caves is a fascinating underground network of caves that dates back to the Dark Ages.

The caves were once used as a tannery, a slum, and even as air raid shelters during World War II. Nowadays, the caves serve as an educational museum, taking visitors on a journey through Nottingham’s history.

Visitors can expect to see preserved artifacts from medieval times and learn about the ways in which the caves were used over the years. The tour guides are knowledgeable and passionate, bringing the history of the caves to life with engaging storytelling.

The experience of walking through the dimly lit underground passages is truly unforgettable, and it’s easy to imagine what life might have been like for the people who lived there in the past, it’s without a doubt one of the most unique experiences to have in Nottingham.

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Location: (Google Maps) City of Caves, Drury Walk, Broadmarsh, Nottingham NG1 7LS
Opening times: The caves are open daily from 10am to 4pm
Admission: £8.95 for adults, £7.95 for seniors and students, £6.95 for children.

4. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (oldest pub in England)

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Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is one of the oldest pubs in England, established in the 12th century. The pub is nestled beneath the cliffs of Nottingham Castle, and its unique atmosphere and historical significance make it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Nottingham.

Aside from its impressive age, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is also known for its fascinating history, which is on full display throughout the pub. One of the most interesting features is the so-called “Cursed Galleon”, a model ship that hangs above the bar and is said to bring bad luck to anyone who moves it. Another popular spot is the pub’s beer garden, which is tucked away in a cozy courtyard and provides a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Location: (Google Maps) Brewhouse Yard, Nottingham NG1 6AD, United Kingdom
Opening times: Monday – Sunday: 11am – 11pm
Admission: Free to enter, food and drinks available for purchase.

5. Walk through Wollaton Hall and Park

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Wollaton Hall and Park is a magnificent Elizabethan mansion that stands in a beautifully landscaped park of the same name.

The hall, which was built in the 1580s, is an outstanding example of English Renaissance architecture and is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of its kind in the country. The park, which covers more than 500 acres, is home to herds of red and fallow deer and offers visitors the chance to explore a variety of landscapes, from tranquil lakes and woodland to formal gardens and rolling hills.

A visit to Wollaton Hall and Park is a must-do for anyone visiting Nottingham and makes for one of the best romantic activities for couples in Nottingham. The hall itself is an architectural masterpiece and the park is a delightful place to explore. Whether you are interested in history, architecture, or simply want to take a stroll in the great outdoors, Wollaton Hall and Park is a fantastic destination that is sure to delight visitors of all ages.

Location: (Google Maps) Wollaton Hall and Park, Nottingham NG8 2AE, UK
Opening times: Daily, 9am – 5pm (last entry at 4pm)
Admission: Free admission to the park, but there is a charge for entry to the hall (adults £8.80, children £5.50, concessions £7.70)

6. Go on a Robin Hood tour

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If you’re a fan of the legendary Robin Hood, then you can’t miss the Robin Hood Town Tour. This guided tour takes you on a journey through the streets of Nottingham, exploring the city’s connection to the outlaw hero, Robin Hood. The knowledgeable guides will regale you with tales of Robin Hood’s exploits, and take you to key locations linked to the character, such as the Galleries of Justice and the City of Caves.

You’ll also get to see Nottingham Castle from a different perspective, learning about its role in Robin Hood’s legend. The tour lasts around 2 hours and is suitable for all ages, making it a great activity for families and easily one of the most fun things to do in Nottingham city centre.

Admission: £12 for adults and £10 for children, with discounts available for seniors and students.
Tours are available daily, with multiple departure times throughout the day. It’s recommended to book in advance to secure your spot on this popular tour.

7. Nottingham Industrial Museum

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If you’re looking for things to do in Nottingham this weekend, look no further than the Nottingham Industrial Museum, which offers a fascinating insight into the city’s industrial heritage. The museum is located in the Wollaton Park area, within the stables of the Wollaton Hall estate, and is housed in the Grade II listed 17th-century stable block.

The museum’s extensive collection includes steam engines, textiles, transport, mining and telecommunications equipment, and much more. Visitors can take a step back in time and experience what life was like during the Industrial Revolution, as well as learn about the impact it had on Nottingham and the surrounding areas.

The Industrial Museum offers a variety of exhibits, including interactive displays and hands-on activities, as well as regular events such as steam engine demonstrations and vintage vehicle rallies. One of the most popular exhibits is the collection of steam engines, which includes a working beam engine from a Nottingham lace factory and a rare 1850s steam fire engine.

There is also a collection of vintage cars and motorcycles, including a 1920s Rolls Royce and a 1960s Triumph motorcycle. The textiles exhibit features working looms and spinning wheels, and visitors can even try their hand at weaving. 

Location: (Google Maps) Wollaton Park, Nottingham NG8 2AE
Opening times: Daily, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 11am to 5:30pm
Admission: Adults £5, Concessions £4, Children (5-16) £2, Under 5s free.

8. Go on a food tour of the city

For those who love to explore a city through its food, the Nottingham Food Tour is an absolute must. This guided tour takes visitors through the city’s culinary hotspots, introducing them to local foodie favorites and hidden gems that they might not have found on their own.

Led by passionate and knowledgeable guides, the tour covers everything from traditional English classics to international cuisines, showcasing the city’s diverse and vibrant food scene.

Visitors on the Nottingham Food Tour can expect to visit a variety of locations, including historic pubs, trendy cafes, independent food stores, and bustling markets.

Along the way, they’ll be treated to a range of delicious tastings, from artisanal cheeses to freshly baked bread, locally brewed beers to exotic spices. As well as learning about the history and culture of Nottingham’s food scene, visitors will also get the chance to meet local producers and chefs, and hear their stories and inspirations.

The Nottingham Food Tour runs for around three hours and covers approximately 1.5 miles of walking. Comfortable footwear and weather-appropriate clothing are recommended. The tour costs around £40 per person, and advance booking is essential.

Whether you’re a foodie at heart or just looking for a fun and flavorful way to explore the city, food and drink tours in Nottingham like this one is sure to satisfy your cravings.

Location: (Google Maps) Wollaton Park, Nottingham NG8 2AE
Opening times: Daily, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 11am to 5:30pm
Admission: Adults £5, Concessions £4, Children (5-16) £2, Under 5s free.

9. Visit the National Justice Museum

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One of the best museums to explore in Nottingham is The National Justice Museum: a unique and fascinating attraction that offers visitors a glimpse into the history of crime and punishment. Housed in a former Victorian courtroom, prison, and police station, the museum is a registered charity and a Grade II* listed building.

The museum provides an interactive and immersive experience that allows visitors to explore the evolution of the justice system throughout the centuries. The building itself dates back to the 14th century, with the gaol having been established at least as far back as 1449.

Exhibits include a variety of artifacts, displays, and interactive activities, ranging from the use of torture and punishment in medieval times to the modern justice system.

The National Justice Museum’s aim is to inspire a greater understanding and awareness of the justice system, its history, and its impact on society, making it a must-visit attraction for those interested in the fascinating and complex history of crime and punishment.

Location: (Google Maps) Shire Hall, High Pavement, Nottingham, NG1 1HN
Opening times: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm
Admission: Adult £10, Child (under 18) £7, Concession £9.50, Family (2 adults, up to 3 children) £30

Nottingham trips & excursions

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10. See a show at the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall

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The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham is a vibrant and thriving performing arts venue in the heart of Nottingham.

This iconic venue has a rich history dating back to 1865 and has been a central part of the cultural scene in Nottingham ever since. The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham are two separate venues housed within the same building, providing a diverse range of performances to suit all tastes.

During World War I and World War II, the theatre supported the war effort by staging productions that boosted morale and raised funds for the war effort.

The venue is well-known for its annual pantomime production, which has been a tradition in Nottingham since 1865. The pantomime is a beloved institution in the city and is eagerly anticipated every year.

The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham is the perfect venue for lovers of classical music and other performing arts. It is home to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and hosts a range of concerts and performances throughout the year. The venue is also renowned for its exceptional acoustics, making it a popular choice for recording live albums and concerts.

So if you’re ever wondering whats on Nottingham, watching a show at this prestigious venue will be worth your while.

Location: (Google Maps) The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham NG1 5ND
Opening times: Monday to Saturday, 11am to 1pm
If you have a booking enquiry outside these opening times, you can contact them via email
Admission: varies depending on the show or event.

11. Visit the Nottingham Contemporary Art Museum

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The Nottingham Contemporary Art Museum is a premier cultural institution and one of the largest contemporary art centers in the UK.

The museum, which was designed by Caruso St. John Architects, boasts an impressive concrete facade that features a lace imprint, a nod to the city’s heritage. 

The building itself has received acclaim from architectural critics for its design, earning a RIBA award. Inside, visitors will find four galleries, an auditorium, an education space, and a study center.

Also on site is a café-bar and a shop, providing a unique shopping and dining experience to visitors.

Exhibitions at the Nottingham Contemporary feature contemporary artists and artwork from around the world, providing an engaging and thought-provoking experience for visitors.

Location: (Google Maps) Nottingham Contemporary, Weekday Cross, Nottingham NG1 2GB
Opening times: The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm
Admission: Free

12. Stroll around Newstead Abbey

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Newstead Abbey is a stunning country house located in Nottinghamshire, England. The house was originally founded as a priory of Augustine Canons in 1170 and was later granted to Sir John Byron of Colwick by Henry VIII of England in 1540. Since then, the house has undergone many additions and renovations, making it one of the most impressive buildings in the area.

The Abbey has a rich Gothic history that inspired the renowned poet, Lord Byron. In fact, Byron lived at Newstead Abbey starting in 1808, and wrote often about his home, producing a number of literary works about it. One of his works included a collection of poems inspired by the Abbey’s rich history and romantic ambiance.

The Abbey also had a library that Byron made use of, as he spent much of his time reading. It was here that he wrote his famous satire “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” in response to the adverse criticism generated by his early poetry.

Today, Newstead Abbey remains a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world. Its stunning architecture and rich history continue to inspire visitors and make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the area’s heritage.

Location: (Google Maps) Newstead Abbey, Newstead Abbey Park, Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire NG15 8NA
Opening times: daily from 10am to 5pm.
Admission: £12 for adults, £10 for seniors and students, £7 for children

13. Take a walk in Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve

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Sherwood Forest is a well-known woodland and former royal hunting ground, famous for its association with the legendary outlaw, Robin Hood. 

This forest once extended into Derbyshire and occupied almost all of western Nottinghamshire. Sherwood Forest has been an important part of English folklore for centuries and has been the setting for many stories and legends surrounding the figure of Robin Hood. The forest was first recorded in 958 AD and was called Sciryuda, which means “woodland belonging to the shire”.

Despite the popular legends, it is not clear whether Robin Hood was a real historical figure or a purely fictional character.

Today, Sherwood Forest is a popular destination for tourists, who come to explore the forest and its many hiking trails, as well as learn more about the legends and history associated with this enchanting woodland.

Location: (Google Maps) Sherwood Forest, Nottingham
Opening times: The forest is open daily from 9am to 5pm
Admission: Free

14. Wander around Nottingham Arboretum

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One of the most beautiful places in Nottingham is the Arboretum, a public park with an abundance of natural beauty that has been celebrated by poets and nature enthusiasts alike.

The first designated public park in Nottingham, it was chosen under the authority of the Inclosure Act 1845 and opened to the public on 11 May 1852. Its design was overseen by the botanist and horticultural publisher, Samuel Curtis.

One such poet who celebrated The Arboretum in their writing is John Lucas, who shared the first verse of his poem “The Arboretum”, which describes the park’s natural beauty and unique features. It is a place where there are no pagodas, but where the bandstand hints at a crimson, spike of gold, and the sound of braying brass can be heard by those with inventive ears. As the poet observes, “Under the leafstrewn sky,” The Arboretum provides a tranquil and peaceful refuge for those seeking respite from the bustling city.

Today, The Arboretum is a Grade II* listed park with a range of amenities, including disabled parking arrangements and convenient public transport links. The Arboretum is among the best family-friendly activities in Nottingham.

Location: (Google Maps) Nottingham Arboretum, Waverley Street, Nottingham NG7 4HF
Opening times: Open daily from 8 am to dusk
Admission: Free

15. Explore The Lace Market

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Nottingham is well-known for its connection to the lace-making industry, and the Lace Market is the historic heart of this industry. According to historical records, this district dates back to the fifth century and is believed to be the oldest part of the city of Nottingham.

The area is now a protected heritage site and is considered one of the most important examples of an intact historic commercial district in England.

During the British Empire, the Lace Market was the center of the world’s lace industry, with salesrooms and warehouses for storing, displaying, and selling lace. The area is filled with stunning examples of Victorian architecture and is home to a variety of independent boutiques, cafes, and bars. The Lace Market also boasts many historical landmarks, such as the Adams Building, which was once a hub for lace trading and is now a Grade II listed building, and St. Mary’s Church, a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture.

Recently, the Global Lace Market project, funded by Arts Council England and Nottingham City Council, has been working to create new visitor attractions in the city. These include a new Lace Gallery at the Industrial Museum at Wollaton Hall, an interactive exhibition at Newstead Abbey, and workshop events at Nottingham Castle.

This project aims to help lift the veil on Nottingham’s history as a global lace market hub and to create a lasting legacy for this important aspect of the city’s heritage.

Location: (Google Maps) The Lace Market, Nottingham
Opening times: The district is open daily
Admission: Free

16. The Lace Market Theatre

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While you’re in the Lace Market, be sure to visit the Lace Market Theatre – a small, independent amateur theatre that has been around for decades, and has become an integral part of Nottingham’s cultural scene.

Renowned for its vibrant performances, The Lace Market Theatre is an important cultural institution in Nottingham, providing a space for amateur actors and theatre enthusiasts to come together and enjoy the magic of live performance.

It’s rich history and ongoing development make it an exciting place to visit, whether you’re a theatre lover or just looking to experience something new.

Location: (Google Maps) The Lace Market Theatre, Halifax Place, Nottingham NG1 1QN
Opening times: Fridays 7:30pm – 10pm, Saturdays 12:30pm – 2pm
Admission: Free
Check website for performance times and prices.

17. Green’s Windmill and Science Centre

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One of the best free things to do in Nottingham with kids is take a visit to the popular Green’s Windmill and Science Centre. The windmill is a restored 19th century tower mill that was once the home of George Green, a self-taught mathematical genius and physicist. The windmill is fully functional and is open to visitors, who can climb to the top and see how the sails turn grain into flour.

Apart from the windmill, the Science Centre at Green’s Windmill is a fascinating place to visit for those interested in science and technology. The centre provides interactive exhibits and experiments related to light, electricity, and magnetism, all of which are based on Green’s own research and discoveries.

Location: (Google Maps) Green’s Windmill and Science Centre, Windmill Ln, Nottingham NG2 4QB
Opening times: Wed – Sun, 10am – 4pm.
Admission: Free

Other Things to See and Do in Nottingham

Trent Bridge Cricket Ground

Trent Bridge Cricket Ground is a cricket ground located in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, England, just across the River Trent from the city of Nottingham. It is mostly used for Test, One-Day International and county cricket, and is also the headquarters of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club.

Motorpoint Arena Nottingham

Motorpoint Arena Nottingham is a multi-use indoor arena located in the Lace Market district of Nottingham, England. It is joined with the National Ice Centre and was opened by Olympic gold medalist Jayne Torvill on 1 April 2000. The arena is the biggest live entertainment venue in the East Midlands and hosts a variety of events such as concerts, comedy shows, sporting events, and more.

Nottingham Christmas Market

From Nov 14th to Dec 31st 2023, The Nottingham Christmas Market will be held in Old Market Square and Trinity Square, and will feature a Winter Wonderland with an ice-skating rink, ice bar, and 60 stalls selling Christmas-themed items.

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Related post: 20 Best Family-Friendly Things to Do in Derby

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Nottingham FAQs:

Is Nottingham worth visiting?

Nottingham is certainly worth visiting as it has a relaxed and homey vibe. It has several tourist attractions such as the city of caves, Nottingham Castle, and Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub.

How do I spend a day in Nottingham?

Nottingham is easy to explore in a day. Visit museums, galleries, pubs, and restaurants. Start at the Lace Market, go to the Old Market Square for shopping, and explore quiet alleys. A two-day stay allows more time to visit the city’s hidden gems and attractions.

What are two things Nottingham is famous for?

Nottingham is famous for its lace and hosiery manufacturing industry, which was the center of the British Empire during the Industrial Revolution. It is also known for having the largest public tennis center in the UK and is home to Sherwood Forest, a great outdoor getaway.

What is Nottingham famous for food?

Nottingham is known for its food specialties such as Stilton cheese, Bramley apples, and pork pies. Additionally, the city boasts a range of restaurants serving modern British cuisine, such as the restaurant led by MasterChef Pro winner Laurence Henry at The Island Quarter development. Shropshire Blue Cheese, believed to originate from Nottinghamshire, is also a notable food product from the area.

Why do people go to Nottingham?

People go to Nottingham for various reasons such as being a perfect student city, with two major universities attracting over 60,000 students in total, as well as being a city of culture, nightlife, sport, and stories. Nottingham has an interesting history, with the town being under the direct rule of the Snotingas, an Anglo-Saxon tribe. The city has also demonstrated a positive reaction to refugees settling in the city, making it a welcoming place.

Is Nottingham a friendly city?

Yes, Nottingham is considered a friendly city. In a survey, 98% of people in Nottingham said they felt friendly, making it the friendliest city in the UK. It was also voted as the 10th friendliest city in the UK.

Is Nottingham very cold?

According to weather statistics, Nottingham can be quite cold, especially in March, with an average temperature of 6.5°C (44°F) and a minimum of 2.9°C (37.3°F). In fact, Nottingham has been listed as one of the coldest cities in England according to Met Office statistics between 1981 and 2010.

Is Nottingham good for shopping?

Yes, Nottingham is known for being one of the top ten shopping destinations in the UK. There is a large variety of shops available, including designer shops such as House of Fraser, John Lewis, and Next.

What is special about Nottingham city?

Nottingham is famous for being a city of culture, nightlife, and sport, with a thriving local tennis community and the largest public tennis center in Great Britain. The city is also known for its historical significance, as it was once under the rule of an Anglo-Saxon tribe, and it is a popular student city, home to two major universities with over 60,000 students in total.

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Conclusion: Nottingham Things to Do

Wrapping up on what to do in Nottingham, the city is a diverse one that truly has it all. With its rich history and cultural significance, Nottingham is home to a plethora of must-see sights and hidden gems.

Whether you’re interested in exploring Nottingham’s historic landmarks, experiencing its vibrant arts and culture scene, or enjoying its stunning natural beauty, this city has something to offer every kind of traveler.

So, if you’re visiting for a weekend or a longer stay, be sure to check out some of the best things to do in Nottingham and discover all that this amazing city has to offer. You won’t be disappointed!

Further reading: UK posts