Norwich’s hidden gems

The Royal Arcade is one of Norwich's most elegant shopping streets and, as Emma Harrowing discovers, there are a lot of hidden gems behind the bow-shaped shop fronts.

Since celebrity chef Jamie Oliver submitted an application to open up one of his Italian restaurants on the site of Waterstones in the Royal Arcade, fans of the restaurant chain have been excited about the prospect of having a Jamie Oliver restaurant in the city.

The application is still under review by Norwich City Council's planning committee, but the news turned all eyes on what is Norwich's original undercover mall.

The Royal Arcade with all its splendorous d�cor was designed by local architect George Skipper in 1899. The Victorian arcade was originally home to 24 shops, a pub and a club room.

Today the same grandeur of the original bow-fronted shop windows and unique peacock, floral and fruit tiles made by Doulton still remains; as does the ethic of encouraging independent retail. But how many times have you walked passed or used the arcade as a cut-through to Gentleman's Walk or the Back of the Inns? Local independent shops need you in order to survive. Arcadia Gifts, who had been in the arcade for 25 years, closed earlier this year after a dramatic rise in rent and rates forced the shop to sell its goods solely online.

There are many shops and cafes that line the 247 foot avenue, from fashion boutiques and jewellery shops, to art and toys, to cafes and sweet shops. In fact the Royal Arcade is a great place to shop if you want to buy local and get everything from under one roof.

Start the day with an energising smoothie from Slurp before you shop till you drop at clothes boutiques Purple and Tangerine, Gallyons Country Clothing (for next season's must-have quilted jacket) and Poppy Valentine, which is home to fashion designer Claire Read's vintage inspired creations; treat yourself to something sparkly at Abraxas, before heading to The Tannery to lust over one of the many leather handbags from designers such as Orla Kiely or Tusting.

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For lunch relax in Marmalade's with a cup of tea and a sandwich before treating the kids to a trip to Langleys toy shop.

Take in some of the city's history at the Colman Mustard Shop and Museum, then get some culture by browsing the art at Artique.

Get ready for a night out in the city by having your hair styled at Transformer and as you leave the arcade make sure you pop into Digby's to get some chocolate for the morning after.

Of course there are many more things to see, do and buy in the Royal Arcade. You could even just visit to marvel at the amazing d�cor and stained glass window and reminisce of the times before the arcade was built – the site used to be the yard of an inn with horse-drawn coaches bringing guests to Norwich.

Click on the link at the top right of this page to see a few of the many things that you can treat yourself or your family or friends to from the Royal Arcade.