When it starts to look like summer, even if only for an hour of the day, the natural British inclination is to head for the nearest beer garden. Having gotten frustrated about the lack of up-to-date lists of great pub beer gardens in Norwich, I’ve decided to make my own – a selfless act, I’m sure you’ll agree, to aid you all in getting drunk in the sunshine.
With a few prime spots in the city centre, and the best walking-distance pint patios to boot, here are some of the best beer gardens in Norwich, according to me. (I’ll keep updating this list, so if a venue closes or a new one opens, watch this space!)
In no particular order…
58 St Benedict’s Street
The Plough has one of the best-loved beer gardens in the city, and it’s not hard to see why. With plenty of outside seating in a plant-laden, shady paved area, and a vast grassy zone(out of shot) that allows plenty of space for sunbathing, this is a rare find in the city centre.
The Plough is owned by Grain Brewery and it’s a decent, semi-upmarket pub which offers some cracking cocktails as well as the usual favourites. As soon as the sun comes out it can get pretty busy though, so you might want to have a plan B in mind if you’re searching for a bank holiday watering hole. Look out for pop-up BBQs and other one-off events throughout the summertime.
The Black Horse
50 Earlham Road
It’s massive, it’s well-kept, it’s walking distance from the city centre but still leafy and secluded… yes, it’s the Black Horse garden. And what a great beer garden it is too.
From central points like the Forum or Chapelfield gardens, you can get here in five to ten minutes on foot – depending on how fast you walk, which may be determined by how keen for a drink you are.
The Black Horse do epic grub (think gastropub rather than pub grub) with options for all dietary requirements, and they’re well worth putting in your face. But we’re here to talk about the beer garden. Round the back of the pub – away from the road – the Black Horse beer garden is super spacious, surrounded by greenery but at enough of a distance that there’s plenty of sunshine to lurk in.
There have been BBQs and live football match broadcasts here at various points, but for the most part it’s just a great pick if you want a sunny drink in a central location without having to battle for a table.
33 Newmarket Road
The only pub I know of to launch an actual dog menu – not a menu of food made from dogs, but literally a section of the menu specifically for dogs to eat – the Eagle on Newmarket Road also has a mahoosive beer garden. I think you could host a small festival in that garden, that is how big it is.
The Eagle is in NR2, which if you’re not from round here, means it’s on the posh side of town. It’s another not-far-from-the-city-centre beer garden, about five minutes’ walk from St Stephen’s Street (or 10 if you’re drunk already) and it’s just an all-round pleasant place to sunbathe with a bucket-sized G&T. If you’ve made yourself some wee mini humans, you might be extra pleased to hear that there’s a climbing frame they can frolic on while you’re guzzling bevs in the sun.
The Fat Cat Brewery Tap
98-100 Lawson Road
These guys keep being given accolades like Norwich & Norfolk CAMRA pub of the year – all the darn time. Aside from offering a zillion different pints of moreish boozy goodness, and putting on regular live music nights, the Fat Cat Brewery Tap also has plenty of sun-soaked outside space for catching rays.
This is a longer-but-leisurely walk from the city centre – but if you’re on the north side of the city or just fancy getting away from the heaving bustle of the centre of town, it’s a fine place to come for a drink. At weekends, and in the evening on weekdays, you can also get some solid pub snacks to go with your pint – courtesy of Motherchip, who do loaded fries for vegans, veggies and any lingering meat-eaters too.
288 Heigham Street
Some of you reading this might know the venue better as Gibraltar Gardens, a previous incarnation which used to host Norwich Rocks events in the summertime. Now taken over by the brains behind Britannia Cafe and Park Britannia, Britannia Gardens takes the social enterprise chain to a new level.
While the other Britannia venues – run in connection with the local prison, to help rehabilitate offenders back into work – are in the tea and coffee / cafe vein, Britannia Gardens is much more a pub than anything else. Family-friendly and one of a few riverside venues in Norwich, there’s a spacious, green garden here that’s around a 20-minute walk from the heart of the city.
The menu here caters well to vegans and veggies as well as everybody else, so it’s a top pick for pub lunches when the sun is out.
36 Yarmouth Road
There are a few cracking beer gardens on the Yarmouth Road in Norwich, making the most of the River Yare’s banks and offering ample opportunity to spread out away from the city centre. You could walk here, but it’ll take about 40 minutes and if it’s hot enough to warrant searching for a beer garden, you’ll probably do better to cycle, drive, or take the number 14 bus from Castle Meadow (which only takes about 10 minutes to get you there).
Built in 1650, The Rivergarden is a welcoming venue with a reputation for friendly service and laid-back vibes. Look out for live music events in the summer, including DJs in the garden on some weekend afternoons .
The Rushcutter’s Arms
46 Yarmouth Road
With a strip of pubs on Yarmouth Road to choose from it feels hard to mention any without mentioning the others, but alongside The Rivergarden I feel The Rushcutter’s Arms is worth a shout out.
Boasting another roomy riverside garden, with tonnes of seating and a share in the Yare’s scenic views, this one’s a winner if you fancy watching swans and small boats bob past as you enter that warm, fuzzy zone of having had slightly too much cider, and slightly too much sun.
The Garden House
1 Pembroke Road
This pub is a bit of a Norwich institution, at least if you’ve ever lived in or near the Golden Triangle. Rescued from premature demise only a few months prior to the writing of this post, The Garden House has lived to pour pints another day and thankfully their beer garden remains just as great as ever.
Much more central than the pubs on the Yare, the Garden House beer garden is a 15-minute stroll from town but does get as busy as city centre venues when the weekend rolls around. Historically there have often been summer BBQs and other events, so here’s hoping the new management bring that back for summer 2019.
The Georgian Townhouse
30-34 Unthank Road
Arguably not the most characterful venue on this list, but this one offers good service and quality food and drink, so it’s worth a mention all the same. The Georgian Townhouse is a stone’s throw from Chapelfield Gardens and the shopping centre itself, and has managed to hold on to a sizeable beer garden just a couple of minutes from the city.
There’s tonnes of outside space, but as a fairly central family-friendly venue it can get a bit hectic with small humans running around – great if you’ve got one of your own, but distracting if you’re channeling Maleficent-style feelings toward small humans like I do. On the bright side, there’s tonnes of good booze to choose from if you need to drown out the sound of children squealing.
And now for two venues that don’t have the best beer gardens in Norwich, but still deserve a mention…
The Lamb Inn
I wasn’t going to include the Lamb, but someone just gave it an award for Being Quite Good (or something like that) and it is right in the middle of the city centre, and has a big beer garden. So keep it in mind.
The reason I don’t think it deserves to be here as much as all the places I’ve listed above, is that it has all the personality of a Wetherspoons, it’s almost always uncomfortably busy and the garden is all paved and walled in on all sides. It’s sort of a suntrap, but it’s also sort of like you’re stuck in an outdoor room with a lot of people you’d never normally choose to be stuck in a room with.
That said, if you’re in the middle of Norwich, can’t be bothered to walk anywhere and want to drink outside, it’s fine. But that’s the only compliment I’m giving it.
The Playhouse Bar
42 – 58 St Georges Street
I’m also adding the Playhouse out of a sense of duty, because I know hipster kids and art students all pretty much live in the Playhouse and it’s a really popular spot – though I would like to note that as one of the busiest beer gardens in town, it can be a total nightmare to get a table here.
The Playhouse beer garden sits along the edge of the River Wensum, but it isn’t a grassy knoll – just a big, paved outside space where you can squeeze between the smokers for an outdoor drink when everywhere else is full.
Why would I include this on my best beer gardens in Norwich list if I don’t think it’s all that special? Because most of the time if you ask someone from Norwich where to go for a drink on a sunny day, they’ll automatically suggest the Playhouse. Norwich people are odd. But it’s clearly popular for a reason, so don’t let the fact it ain’t my favourite put you off.
If there’s anywhere missing that you think deserves to make this list, please do let me know!