England // East Anglia //

The Market Place

From Blackfriars Hall, it’s a short walk through to the city’s Market Place, site of one of the country’s largest open-air markets (closed Sun), with stalls selling everything from bargain-basement clothes to local mussels and whelks. Four very different but equally distinctive buildings oversee the market’s stripy awnings, the oldest of them being the fifteenth-century Guildhall, a capacious flint and stone structure begun in 1407. Opposite, commanding the heights of the marketplace, are the austere City Hall, a lumbering brick pile with a landmark clocktower that was built in the 1930s in a Scandinavian style, and The Forum, a large and flashy, glassy structure completed in 2001. The latter is home to the city’s main library and the tourist office. On the south side of Market Place is the finest of the four buildings, St Peter Mancroft, whose long and graceful nave leads to a mighty stone tower, an intricately carved affair surmounted by a spiky little spire.

Back outside and just below the church is Gentlemen’s Walk, the town’s main promenade, which runs along the bottom of the marketplace and abuts the Royal Arcade, an Art Nouveau extravagance from 1899. The arcade has been beautifully restored to reveal the swirling tiling, ironwork and stained glass.