Let's staycation in...King's Lynn
- Credit: Ian Burt
King’s Lynn is an absolute treat for history lovers.
Situated on the Great Ouse, it has a rich seafaring past befitting its location.
And its prosperity and status as an internationally important port is reflected in its wealth of handsome buildings.
Parts of the medieval Hanseatic port survive, including the Hanse House, the Custom House (where you’ll also find a statue of one of the town’s most famous sons, explorer Captain George Vancouver, who the Canadian city is named after) and grand merchants’ houses.
Other impressive architecture includes the Minster, the Town Hall with its distinctive chequerboard façade and the Guildhall of St George, believed to be the last surviving theatre where Shakespeare performed.
Where to stay in King’s Lynn
Described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as one of the finest houses in King’s Lynn, The Bank House, in King’s Staithe Square, is a suitably storied place to stay.
It was originally built for one of the town’s richest merchants in the early 18th century, where imported wine from the continent was stored in its enormous barrel roofed vaults.
Then in the 1780s Joseph Gurney set up a bank in the building - Gurney’s Bank later went on to became Barclays.
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Over the years it has also been offices for tax inspectors, lawyers and shipbrokers.
Today the Grade II listed building is a boutique hotel, owned by Michael Baldwin, who also owns The Wenns Chop and Ale House in Saturday Market Place.
There are 12 comfy, individually decorated rooms, many of which have river views.
The bank’s Counting House is now part of the brasserie, which showcases the best local, seasonal produce and is renowned for its afternoon teas (which are available to take away at weekends) and Sunday lunch.
What to do in King’s Lynn
“I love to explore the local heritage,” says Michael Baldwin.
His number one recommendation is True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum, which tells the fascinating story of the town’s old fishing community, the North End.
And don’t miss Lynn Museum. Here you can marvel at the bronze age timbers of Seahenge, which were revealed by the tides at Holme in 1998. And later this summer JMW Turner’s painting Walton Bridges of 1806, which was bought by Norfolk Museums Service in 2019, arrives at Lynn Museum on its tour of the region as part of an exhibition exploring the artist’s use of water.
King’s Lynn is a festival town. Each Valentine’s Day, Lynn Mart opens in Tuesday Market Place, the funfair marking the official start of the showmen’s year.
Its arts festival in July welcomes performers from across the globe and it also hosts fiction and poetry festivals and a folk festival.
Michael’s favourite events on the town‘s calendar include the Hanse Festival, which celebrates the town’s role as a member of the Hanseatic League, a network of towns which historically traded with each other and the Heritage Open Days, when there’s a chance to explore some of the town’s hidden historic gems for free.
And that’s not to mention Festival Too. One of the largest free music festivals in Europe, each July some of the biggest names in pop and rock head to the town to perform in Tuesday Market Place.
Previous guests have included The Darkness, KT Tunstall, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Gabrielle and Scouting For Girls.
It’s set to return in July after a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic, with the line-up due to be revealed soon.
Where to eat and drink in King’s Lynn
Soul Café and Restaurant
Owned by chef Olivier Vati and his partner Helen Payne, Soul Café and Restaurant in Tower Street brings a taste of the Caribbean to the town.
Olivier is originally from Guadeloupe and his menu fuses Caribbean favourites with British and Asian influences.
So, on the menu you might find curried goat and Caribbean style chicken alongside a vegan stir fry and butternut and lentil wellington.
Friday and Saturday nights are party nights – after dinner the tables are pushed back to create a dancefloor, and DJs take to the decks.
The Wenns Chop and Ale House
Flavoursome, hearty fare is the order of the day at The Wenns Chop and Ale House in Saturday Market Place.
What about red wine braised lamb shank, parsnip dauphinoise, kale and red wine sauce or turkey and smoked ham pie, buttered mash, greens and gravy?
Plus, there are self-contained apartments and a deluxe double suite (complete with a roll-top bath-tub) so you can make a stay of it.
Try and peruse The Rathskeller in South Quay’s menu without your stomach rumbling – we bet you can’t.
How does the signature Rathskeller burger sound? It comes loaded with its homemade burger sauce, Suffolk Gold cheese, lettuce, beef tomato and Binham Blue dressing, with triple cooked chips on the side. Yum.
To complement its main restaurant, the Cellar Bar, which holds music and comedy nights, has just launched a new menu of small and large plates – think buffalo chicken wings, homemade nachos, smoked beef brisket sandwich and vegan chilli hotdog with pickles and slaw.
For a meal with a view, head to Marriott’s Warehouse by the river on South Quay.
The grade II listed building is believed to have been built in the 16th century, when it was used to store corn, salt and wine.
It was restored in the late 1990s and is now a café during the day, with a full restaurant menu in the evenings, including a selection of tapas.
And their Sunday roasts with all the trimmings look very tempting indeed.
Things to do near King’s Lynn
King George V called the house and estate: “Dear Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere in the world.”
The place where the royal family traditionally spends Christmas – and hundreds of well-wishers gather to catch a glimpse of them as they attend church – has been a much-loved country retreat for generations of monarchs and their families.
The royal parkland is open daily for free with two waymarked trails through the woodland and parkland to explore, plus a children’s play area.
The gardens are open now and the house opens for the season on April 9.
With The Queen marking her platinum jubilee this summer, the estate is hosting a number of special events.
These include an exhibition in the Ballroom celebrating the family’s relationship with the estate, featuring images and objects relating to the Queen’s love of horses and her pets.
The family home of the Bedingfields for more than 500 years, moated Oxburgh Hall near Swaffham reopens on April 2 following completion of the last phase of a multi-million-pound repair project to secure its future.
It’s a fascinating place, with a turbulent history to discover and plenty of gardens and parkland to explore – you can even stay on the estate yourself, in Chapel Lodge, a cosy cottage which sleeps two.
Sunny Hunny is a seaside resort with buckets of charm.
It’s famed for its wide sandy beaches, red and white striped cliffs and spectacular sunsets over The Wash.
Paddleboarding and kayaking are popular here – and the Wash Monster (not as ferocious as it sounds) runs sea tours and seal spotting trips.
Attractions include the Sea Life Sanctuary and the Oasis leisure centre, plus evergreen favourites like crazy golf, amusement arcades, a funfair.
And a day at the beach wouldn’t be complete without fish and chips, steaming fresh from the fryer with a liberal dash of salt and vinegar.