Known as the birthplace of Robin Hood, Nottingham has a lot more to offer, from a thriving indie scene to great food. Credit: Shutterstock

Nottingham: A City Guide

Known as the birthplace of Robin Hood, it’s time to explore the city of rebels and regeneration

Situated in the middle of the United Kingdom, Nottingham is a city that has often been overlooked, what with booming Manchester and Leeds to the north and sprawling London and Birmingham to the south. But all of that has changed as now, Nottingham’s charms are here to put up a fight. Nottingham is home to one of the more notable indie scenes in the UK which, for a city whose population is around three percent the size of London, is quite impressive.

Although Nottingham is known around the world for its links to lovable rebel Robin Hood, there’s a lot more to the city than just Sherwood Forest. With millions of pounds of investment being poured in, a city center that’s built on top of caves and a bustling student population of roughly 60,000 people, it’s a place that’s proud of its history—while also knowing how to throw a good party.

Eat

As a rule of thumb, the best place to begin your food and drink journey is in Hockley or its adjacent neighborhood, the Lace Market. Here you’ll find a plethora of eateries to meet every meal requirement. Want tapas? Head to Iberico World Tapas, built into the caves below Nottingham’s haunted Galleries of Justice. Hungry for traditional Italian? Try Sexy Mamma Loves Spaghetti, with its small menu written on a rickety chalkboard, or its sister sites (Sexy Mamma Loves Cicchetti and Botti di Mamma), which all serve authentic and tasty Italian fare at reasonable prices.

Craving some pizza? Oscar and Rosie’s is a perennial crowd-pleaser, with a laid-back vibe and gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan options—plus, for the very hungry, you can also order “pizza by the metre.” Yes, it’s literally just that. Or, for Italian food with a musical twist, The Pelican Club is nestled within the Lace Market’s snaking alleyways, playing live jazz and serving the best Pornstar Martini this side of California’s San Fernando Valley.

For brunch, Cartwheel Cafe is a hidden gem, with an excellent menu for all appetites and dietary requirements. If you’re still recovering from the night before and need a slightly long lie-in, Pudding Pantry serves an all-day breakfast menu including its specialty pancakes, along with an excellent afternoon tea and cake selection—we recommend the brookie! 

Celebrating or maybe looking for something special? Consider Nottingham’s Michelin-star venues: Sat Bains, with two stars for its spin on Asian-inspired Continental cuisine, and the recently-awarded Alchemilla—think dishes covering the five senses and you get the picture. With both restaurants offering exceptional food and exemplary service, be sure to book well in advance. 

Play

It’s a ubiquitous phrase but, in Nottingham, there really is something for everyone: from a variety of spectator sports, (including Notts County, the oldest professional association football club in the world), to the iconic club and gig venue, Rock City, which has been running for more than 40 years. 

Nottingham has a buzzing city center with an array of indie spots. Shop for jewelry at k.fines, have a rummage through the many cool vintage shops or visit Sneinton Market: a community of various studios that makes for a thriving indie retail scene.

Nottingham Castle recently underwent a €35 million revamp and its attractions are great for all ages. Giving a glimpse into Nottingham’s rebel past (not just Robin Hood!) The castle holds a variety of attractions, cave tours and exhibitions, all set within well-kept grounds that give an incredible 360-view of the local area. Don’t forget to get a photo with the infamous Robin Hood statue that lives just outside the gates.


Wollaton Hall might not be a castle but you might recognise it as Wayne Manor from Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy! Located just a couple of miles outside the city center, the grounds include a sprawling deer park, a few different eateries, play parks, a giant lake—the perfect backdrop to escape the hubbub of the city center.

Up for a bit of hide and seek? Thanks to Nottingham’s caves and twisting turns, it’s home to many “hidden” bars. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Boilermaker was just a room with a few boilers in, but push through a secret door to discover a whole new set-up behind it. Hockley Arts Club is accessed through a tiny, dingy doorway that leads to several floors of retro-inspired interiors—and a great playlist. Meanwhile, make sure to check out Lost Property’s gin caves; down several staircases, you’ll find a subterranean drinking grotto that sits beneath the 200-year old building. Sure, it’s dark and a bit damp—it is a cave, after all—but immensely atmospheric.

For the best cocktails in Nottingham, look no further than Pelican Club’s sister bar, Tilt. An unassuming front door leads to a wood-clad bar where their friendly and knowledgeable mixologists make innovative creations such as

Stay

Hart’s Hotel

It’s fair to say that Hart’s Hotel appreciates the finer things in life, favoring the small touches that make a big difference. With Egyptian cotton sheets, duck-down duvets, l’Occitane toiletries, a private car park and stunning views, they pride themselves on customer service both in the hotel and in its on-site restaurant, too. With award-winning fare that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, it’s an oasis of calm that’s just a five minute walk from the city centre.

Mama’s Inn Boutique Guesthouse

Prefer being a little bit closer to the action? Mama’s Inn has rooms inspired by international cities that are packed with character. With the city centre literally metres away, Mama’s Inn offers a quirky place to rest after a day exploring, as well as making sure you’re well fueled for the day ahead with an excellent – and varied – breakfast. Offering parking, it’s also well-placed for exploring other parts of the city. Perfect for those who prefer their accommodation with a little more personality.