Nottingham is a hugely underrated city in the UK and is often overlooked in favour of other cities in the Midlands like Birmingham or Derby.
But Nottingham has a lot to offer and if you’re considering a UK city break, a weekend in Nottingham could be a great option, especially if you’re looking for somewhere central and well-connected in England.
So if you’re looking for ideas for weekend breaks in Nottingham, use this guide to find out how to spend a weekend in Nottingham and the best things to do in Nottingham, from a local!
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Where is Nottingham
Nottingham is the largest city in the East Midlands and lies 45 miles northeast of Birmingham.
Home to the River Trent, Nottingham sits in the Trent Valley and is surrounded by plenty of countryside both in Nottinghamshire and the neighbouring counties of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire.
How to get to Nottingham
Nottingham is most easily reached by car on the A52 via the M1 in the west or the A1 in the east.
Nottingham is home to a well-linked train station on the Midlands mainline, with direct trains to and from Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leicester, Norwich and London, plus many more. Making it an easy destination to reach for a city break or England staycation, even if you don’t have a car.
Best time of year to visit Nottingham for a weekend
Nottingham is a great city to visit all year round.
Of course like any destination in the UK, it can fall victim to the great British weather. But with plenty to do indoors and out, it’s a city that’s great to visit rain or shine.
In the summer you’re likely to find bigger events in the Old Market Square like the annual Beach and accompanying fair. You’ll also find festivals at Wollaton Hall in the summer which is a great option for days out from Nottingham.
If you visit in October, don’t miss the famous Goose Fair at the Recreation Ground.
And if you’re looking for things to do in Nottingham in winter, don’t miss the annual Christmas Market!
Things to do in Nottingham: a weekend guide
See what there is in Nottingham to do with this guide to help you plan 2 days in Nottingham.
This isn’t your standard Nottingham tourism guide, with recommendations from a local Nottingham resident of 25 years, this guide combines the best activities to do in Nottingham to make the most of your Nottingham weekend break.
Grab breakfast at Sobar
Start your day in the heart of the city at Cage Sobar on Friar Lane.
Cafe Sobar is a one-of-a-kind venue in Nottingham as the only alcohol-free bar, restaurant and venue. It not only provides an opportunity for people in recovery to gain employment, but also acts as a safe space for people and their families who are in recovery.
The beautiful vaulted ceiling, light and inviting interior, plus great food and drink, combined with the knowledge that you’re supporting an amazing initiative makes Sobar a great place to start your day for breakfast and your dose of coffee!
Visit Nottingham Castle
Reopening in 2021 after £30 million worth of renovation, this royal fortress has seen many rebuilds and reincarnations in its time. Although a fortress of some sort has stood on this site since 1068 at the order of William the Conqueror.
The castle is perched high above the city on the Castle Rock and is famed for its long-standing association with rebellion, from 14th century coups to Industrial rebellions and traitors escaping to the hidden tunnels under the castle.
There are so many things to do at Nottingham Castle, ticket prices include admission to the castle, grounds, exhibition spaces and art galleries and can be booked online here.
Please check the website for up to date prices and opening times.
Go on an underground Nottingham cave tour
While you’re visiting the castle, why not book an underground cave tour to learn about the famous Nottingham caves and hidden tunnel routes that run underneath the city.
The 25-minute Underground castle caves tour can be purchased in addition to the castle ticket and cost just £5 for adults and £4 for children. They can also be booked online in advance.
For something a little different, just head over to the historic pubs – Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem or Ye Olde Salutation Inn. Here you can go on a cellar tour in the caves below and learn about the myths, ghost stories and legends of the pubs, the caves and Nottingham history.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Speaking of Ye Olde Trip the Jerusalem pub, no trip to Nottingham would be complete without a trip to the oldest pub in the UK established in 1189.
The pub sits at the bottom of the Castle Rock and is built into the side of the rock so you can sit in cave seating which is caved into the soft rock as you enjoy a pint or two.
Don’t miss the stories of the cursed Galleon, the pregnancy chair or the cave stories or tours that the pub staff can tell you all about!
Visit the Old Market Square
Head back towards the Market Square and don’t forget to snap a picture or two of this huge pedestrian square, the largest surviving one of its type in the UK.
Don’t miss the dominating Council House, the stone lions and the large water feature. Also many of the buildings surrounding the square are historic Watson Fothergill buildings with beautiful features and gothic architecture.
At certain times of the year you’ll also find the square is home to large events. The summer beach and fair in the summer months, the Christmas Market, chalet bar and ice rink in December and other market and outdoor events throughout the year.
Picnic at the Arboretum
If the weather is good and you’re looking to enjoy some green space outside, walk or take the tram up Goldsmith St a couple of minutes until you reach the Arboretum.
The Arboretum is a stunning green space in the city, with over 80 trees, walking and heritage trails, a bird aviary and a cafe.
The Victorian gardens are the oldest in Nottingham and are perfect if you’re looking for cheap things to do in Nottingham where you can perhaps enjoy a picnic in the sunshine just a short walk from the city.
Catch some live music at Jam Cafe
If you’re planning what to do in Nottingham on a weekend and you’re a music fan, check out the numerous live music venues in the city.
While venues like Rock City or the Concert Hall might be your immediate go-to, don’t miss the local venues showcasing local Nottingham talent.
Jamcafe frequently has live music, open mic, stand up comedy and more live events in its super chilled cafe-bar venue.
In this area you’ll also find some of the best bars in Nottingham, with secret bars like Hockley Arts Club, Lost Property, Secret Garden, Boilermaker and Pepper Rocks.
Explore Hockley and the Lace Market
If you’re in the Jam Cafe area, Hockley and the Lace Market are two neighbouring areas of the city centre that are packed with amazing alternative venues. These include live music spots, vintage clothing stores, hidden bars, second hand stores, music shops, vegan cafes and more.
It’s the area of the city where there’s always something fun, new and exciting happening.
The Lace Market, once the home to the British Empire’s lace industry, is now home to Victorian red brick factories converted to theatres, exhibition spaces, great food venues and quirky restaurants.
The area is also home to the National Justice Museum which is well worth a visit for some insight into the 18th century legal processes in the region. This is a great Nottingham activity if you’re looking for things to do in Nottingham with kids.
Buy some locally made products at Sneinton Market
A great place to start your second morning is at Sneinton Market.
This area has really thrived in recent years and the Sneinton Market Avenues are now home to a variety of local businesses.
Here you’ll find great coffee shops, breweries, artisan chocolates, vintage stores, locally made gifts and live music events and street food when the market stalls roll out into the square area.
Head to Blend for your morning coffee and a quick bite or enjoy a full English at the Avenues Cafe.
Don’t miss Neon Raptor Brewing Co for some local craft beer to take home with you!
Visit Green’s Windmill
Right by Sneinton Market, you’ll find this completely unexpected sight and off the beaten track gem in Nottingham.
Green’s Windmill can be seen from many places on the city skyline so I wouldn’t say it’s a Nottingham hidden gem, but it’s certainly a non-touristy Nottingham attraction that deserves more attention!
Green’s Windmill is still a fully operating organic flour mill. It’s also home to a science museum which is another great attraction for kids, especially because it’s another free Nottingham attraction to visit.
There’s a science museum inside because the miller’s son, George Green, was the famous mathematician who in the 1800s discovered mathematical theorems and formulas which are still used by scientists today.
Explore Wollaton Park
No trip to Nottingham is complete without a trip to Wollaton Park which rose to even more fame after Wollaton Hall was used as Wayne Manor in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.
You could easily spend an entire day visiting the Hall and Deer Park in this huge 500 acre park right by the city. It’s one of the top places of interest near Nottingham and easily reachable from the city by car or bus.
The 500 acres is home to a herd of deer which you can spot and photograph (just keep your distance!) There are also countless walking trails, bird-watching spots, orienteering routes and a large lake to enjoy.
The Hall itself is stunning both inside and out. If you do choose to go inside, you can pay for a guided tour to learn more about its history and also visit the Natural History Museum inside.
To keep costs down, you can just pay the small parking fee and enjoy an afternoon stroll with a picnic and incredible views of deer and this gothic hall!
For those visiting in the summer, the park hosts an annual music festival called Splendour. In the winter there’s a small Christmas Market and also the Wollaton Hall Christmas Lights trail which is absolutely spectacular to see.
Catch a Nottingham Panthers ice hockey game
If you’re looking for Nottingham things to do which are a bit more action packed, you need to catch a Nottingham Panthers ice hockey game.
An ice hockey game atmosphere really is something unique and fun to experience and tickets can be very reasonably priced.
The Panthers play at the Motorpoint Arena and tickets and fixtures can be seen here.
Visit a local brewery
How about finishing your day with a local craft beer at one of the great Nottingham breweries or venues?
Neon Raptor in Sneinton Market is a great option, Navigation Brewery is another great option with plenty of local venues to choose from. Nottingham is also home to the well-known Castle Rock Brewery.
There are also plenty of unique bars, like Pitcher & Piano which is in a church, Hockley Arts Club and Secret Garden which are both secret bars. The Canalhouse is in a great location by the waterside with real ales and good pub food.
Black Iris Brewery is also another small Nottingham brewery a little out of the city but with great beers and a cool industrial location that is easily reached on the tram.
Summary: Things to do, Nottingham Weekend Guide
Hopefully this Nottingham guide has given you plenty of ideas for what to do on a weekend in Nottingham and inspired you to visit the city in the East Midlands.
Two days in Nottingham is a great length of time to get a feel for the city and everything it has to offer. Nottingham is also a great base to explore further afield to areas such as the Peak District or Vale of Belvoir. Or spend some time exploring many of the surrounding National Trust properties in the area.
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