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Secret City: Nottingham

Old Market Square Nottingham Copyright VisitEngland Images

24 July 2014

Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor... but there’s much more to this city than its famous medieval hero who ran around with his bow and arrow.

Join us as we get behind the myths of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, and discover the real Nottingham – student style.

Nottingham: Key Facts

Location: East Midlands, England
Population: 303,900 (2011 Census)
Famous for: Lace making, bicycles, tobacco, cricket, the Nottingham Arena, parks, Nottingham Castle, Nottingham Goose Fair… and the story of Robin Hood, of course
Famous Nottingham people: DH Lawrence (writer), Paul Smith (designer), Lord Byron (poet)
Major Nottingham sports teams: Football clubs Notts County (the oldest current professional football club) and Nottingham Forest; Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club
Nottingham bands and musicians: Jake Bugg, Alvin Lee, Andy Fletcher (Depeche Mode), London Grammar, Saint Raymond, Dog is Dead, Indiana
Closest airports: Nottingham Airport, East Midlands Airport
Train to London takes: Approx. 1 hour 40 minutes
Train to Edinburgh takes: Approx. 4 hours 35 minutes (with changes)

Meet the insiders


Name: Priya Ramakrishna
From: Bangalore, India
Age: 24
Studying: PhD Biosciences at the University of Nottingham
Number one Nottingham moment: Nottingham Goose Fair – it’s been going for more than 700 years but it’s nothing to do with geese! There are rides, exhibitions and traditional Goose Fair food such as mushy peas and mint sauce, candy floss and brandy snaps.


Name: Andrea Garduno Jiminez 
From: Mexico City, Mexico
Studying: BEng Engineering at the University of Nottingham
Number one Nottingham moment: Guy Fawkes' Night in town – it’s a great, fun aspect of British culture, and there’s nice food, fireworks and a bonfire.



Name: Yohann Advikolanu
From: Mumbai, India
Age: 21
Studying: MSc Computer Games Systems at Nottingham Trent University
Number one Nottingham moment: Chanting ‘We love you Arsenal, we do!’ at 11:30pm with a random stranger in Market Square. Nothing will ever beat that feeling!

Where would you like to live in Nottingham?

Priya: I would like to live close to Nottingham Castle with a view of the canal and the boats. It's walking distance to the city and has lots of student-friendly housing.

Andrea: I think one of the best areas to live as a student in Nottingham is Wollaton. It is cheaper and quieter than other places and also very close to Wollaton Park. It's also just a 15-minute bus ride or 20-minute bike ride away from the city centre.

Yohann: In the city centre. It has everything for socialising, peace and quiet – and it’s easy to get to everywhere else from there.

Nottingham Castle VisitEngland
Centuries of history: Nottingham castle, lit up for one of the city's many festivals (Picture: VisitEngland)

How would you spend a sunny day in Nottingham?

Priya: Gather a few friends, pack a picnic and head straight to Wollaton Park – then spend the day basking in the sun amidst a vast green expanse of trees, with a view of Wayne Manor (home of Batman in the movie!) and deer walking in the park about you. It’s an amazing way to experience summer in Nottingham.

Yohann: Go for a stroll around Old Market Square. Nothing beats it!

How would you spend a rainy day in Nottingham?

Priya: I usually take my laptop or get together a bunch of friends and head to Lee Rosy’s Tea, a café in the city, and settle down with a pot of hot tea. It’s not too hard on the wallet and has a lovely ambience. The city is dotted with so many tea shops and cafés that you will undoubtedly find one near where you live.

Andrea: Go to Savoy Cinema in Lenton, an area outside town where lots of students live. They have lots of student discount offers. Or try the Broadway in town for more alternative or arty films and events – they also have student discounts.

Broadway Nottingham VisitEngland
Sit back and relax: The Broadway cinema in Nottingham (Picture: VisitEngland)

Where you go to find out what’s on in the city?

Priya: The local paper The Nottingham Post has a good entertainment section to keep you up-to-date with what’s happening in the city and what’s coming up. The university notice board is another good place to keep an eye out for interesting stuff.

Andrea: I would recommend liking the Facebook pages of your favourite places, for example your favourite pubs, theatres or concert halls.

Yohann: I keep a check on various Twitter feeds, especially my student union Twitter feed – it’s good for information about things that aren’t related to university as well!

Goose Fair Nottingham VisitBritain
Wild ride: Nottingham's centuries-old Goose Fair (Picture: VisitBritain)

Where’s the best place to get your culture fix?

Priya: Check out the Capital FM Arena for popular plays and big concerts and Rock City for more alternative nights.

Andrea: I like the Nottingham Contemporary gallery. It is constantly changing its exhibitions and entrance is free. The building itself is quite modern and the museum shop is good too!

Yohann: The Cornerhouse complex has a cinema with multiple screens and an IMAX – or if you’re into performing arts, the Royal Concert Hall, just opposite Cornerhouse, hosts many events.

Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery VisitEngland
Culture spot: Checking out the artwork at Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery (Picture: VisitEngland)

What’s the best way to travel around the city?

Andrea: By bike. This doesn't mean the buses aren't good, because they are clean, mostly punctual and decently priced (£1 for most journeys if you have your student card). I just think a bike is better because most of your trips won't be long, and this way you avoid waiting at bus stops – plus you get to enjoy the fresh air and exercise. If you are staying in Nottingham for a long time, I recommend getting your own bike. If you are only here for a year or less, and you’re studying at a university or college in Nottingham, you can rent one from the subsidised Ucycle programme.

Yohann: Walk. Once you’re in the city centre, everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – is a 15-minute walk away.

Bikes in Nottingham VisitEngland
Cycle around the home of some iconic bicycle manufacturers: the famous Raleigh Bicycle Company started on this street! (Picture: VisitEngland)

Where’s the best place for a ‘student price’ dinner?

Priya: Head to the Cornerhouse and take a walk around – you’ll soon spot something to your taste as there are loads of restaurants under one roof.

Yohann: I would pick YoYo Noodles since they give you a student discount as well. The chain restaurant Nando’s also gets a nod from me because… well, it’s awesome.

Andrea: Nottingham has great places to eat but I think some of the best restaurants in the area are in Beeston, a small town 20 minutes away by bus from Nottingham. There is a delicious and inexpensive Thai restaurant called Yod Siam where I strongly recommend trying the green curry. There is also a very good Greek restaurant called Yiannis where you can order a tasting plate of all the best dishes to share with your friends. Cafe Roya in Beeston is worth checking out too – a tasty vegetarian restaurant where the menu changes each month.

What’s your favourite pub or bar in Nottingham?

Priya: Pitcher & Piano is in a beautiful restored church, and has good food and wine. There is also Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem at the bottom of Castle Rock – it claims to be the oldest pub in England, established in the year 1189, and it’s a good place to go with friends.

Andrea: I think two of the most original pubs in Nottingham are the Canal House and the Malt Cross. The Canal House is slightly more expensive, but it has the canal going right through the middle of the pub and a terrace with a nice view. It offers real ales, a wide variety of international beers and lots of other drinks. The Malt Cross is in a pretty, old building decorated with lovely fairy lights, and has lots of delicious cakes and teas as well as the usual pub food and drinks.

Yohann: The Approach and The Walkabout in Friar Lane near Market Square – they’re literally opposite each other and I absolutely love both of them! They’re great places to watch football at the weekend

Pitchers and Piano Nottingham VisitBritain
Unique: The Pitcher and Piano inside Nottingham's old Unitarian Church building (Picture: VisitBritain)

Where’s the best place to go shopping?

Priya: There are two main shopping centres in the city – Victoria Shopping Centre and Broadmarsh Shopping Centre – which cover all of the essentials and also many of the high-end brands. Victoria Centre also has a market selling fresh vegetables, fruit and meat.

Andrea: The best place to go shopping would be the Old Market Square, where there are lots of high street shops. At Christmas, go to the Christmas market there too for local and international handicrafts and food. 

Shops in Nottingham
Retail therapy: Independent shops in the centre of Nottingham (Picture: VisitEngland)

Where would you recommend for playing or watching sport?

Priya: The Trent Bridge Cricket Ground hosts international matches – I’m a massive cricket fan so I often go there. There is also the National Watersports Centre for all watersports lovers!

Yohann: Nottingham has two football stadiums, very close to each other: Meadow Lane, which is the Notts County football stadium; and City Ground, the Nottingham Forest football stadium. They both host lots of games and have loads of fixtures to pick from.

Andrea: Nottingham city has lots of local sports clubs such as the running or football clubs. Even though they do require a high level of commitment it might be a good idea to join them if you are looking for an experience outside of university.

Trent Bridge VisitEngland
Hit for six! Take a trip to Trent Bridge Cricket Ground (Picture: VisitEngland)

What’s your number one Nottingham bargain?

Yohann: The student bus pass  buy it at the beginning of term and it’ll cost you just £199 for the whole year.

Priya: My Cornerhouse membership card – it gives me discounts for meals and films there.

Andrea: I think the best bargains are the fruit and vegetable shops that sell food that is slightly out of date but still in perfect condition to eat. There are quite a few of them so it is a case of finding the one nearest to you. I really like Nature's Garden on Middleton Boulevard.

Watersports Nottingham VisitEngland
Messing about: Watersports enthusiasts should check out Nottingham's Watersports Centre (Picture: VisitEngland)

The UK can be an eccentric place – what’s the strangest thing that you’ve seen, or that’s happened to you in Nottingham?

Priya: Seeing a beach materialise in the city centre when summer begins! There’s a party right in Old Market Square where sand is laid out as a ‘city beach’ with a market around it for food, drinks and trinkets. It’s fun as well as a bit eccentric!

Yohann: Ever seen people playing street football at 3 in the morning? I have!

Andrea: This might not seem very strange or funny to locals, but for an international student it is quite unexpected to be addressed as 'duck' or 'love' by complete strangers. I think it is very cute and part of the friendly and helpful attitude most locals have.

City Beach Nottingham
Beside the... city? Nottingham's 'beach' in Old Market Square (Picture: VisitEngland)

For more information about events and attractions in and around Nottingham, go to Experience Nottinghamshire or check out Visit Britain and Visit England.

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