All the Best Things To Do in King’s Lynn Norfolk

Nestled in a corner of Norfolk is the historic port and market town of King’s Lynn. With a rich Hanseatic past, streets and squares lined with period architecture and bustling market places and quays, King’s Lynn is a Norfolk town well worth visiting.

King’s Lynn also makes a great Norfolk holiday base. Not only can you explore the town itself and learn about its history as one of the most important ports in England, Lynn is also surrounded by the stunning West Norfolk countryside and is just a stones throw from huge sandy beaches and some of Norfolk’s top attractions.

Our planner, sharing all the best things to do in King’s Lynn and the local area, will help you get started…

Scroll down for the interactive map of things to do in King’s Lynn (and nearby!).

things to do in Kings Lynn Norfolk

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Discover the History & Architecture of King’s Lynn

Take a Walk Through King’s Lynn History

colourful timbered medieval houses in Kings Lynn

Originally it was known as ‘Lin’, (and is now called Lynn by locals), the town has changed significantly through the ages. The medieval town was founded when Bishop Herbert de Losinga, who was the first Bishop of Norwich, built St. Margaret’s Church in 1095, and established a market. Now Kings Lynn Minster, it is sited on Saturday Market Place, home of that original market.

The town became prosperous and in 1204, the Bishop John de Grey of Norwich, named it Bishop’s Lynn. Trade flourished along the waterways, due to the town’s proximity to the North Sea, and Bishop’s Lynn became a member of the medieval Hanseatic League and soon grew to be the most important port in England.

In 1537 Bishop’s Lynn became King’s Lynn, when Henry VIII’s charter dispossessed the Norwich bishops and transferred full political power to the town’s merchants.

The English Civil War was a turbulent time for King’s Lynn, with bloodless coups, blockades, sieges and fortifications. The town went from being Parliamentarian to Royalist, and back again, in the summer of 1643. By the end of the year, King’s Lynn was the strongest fortress town in East Anglia.

King’s Lynn is no longer the powerful port it was during medieval times. It suffered from the demise of the Hanseatic League and discovery of the Americas, which benefited ports on England’s west coast.

Considered one of the most perfect medieval towns in England, much of the town’s history is on display in the historic buildings and port area, all you have to do is walk, observe and admire!

A walking tour of the town is one of the best free things to do in Kings Lynn. Pick up self-guided trail leaflets from the Tourist Information Centre in the Town Hall, or download here. Choose from the maritime trail, Hanseatic trail, Pilgrimage trail and King’s Lynn town guides, or do them all!

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Notable King’s Lynn Buildings

Old Custom House

Fine old merchants’ houses stretch down to the river between cobbled lanes to the elegant Custom House, which overlooks the harbour and historic waterfront. The 17th century Custom House, nominated by Nikolaus Pevsner as the most perfect building in the UK, was commissioned by Sir John Turner, a local wine merchant, and built to be a merchant’s exchange.

King’s Lynn Minster

Designated as a Minster in 2011, not much of the original Norman church remains. Centuries of rebuilding and renovation have swept away original features, and the spire collapsed in a storm in 1741. However, a fine building remains, with architectural features from the 14th and 15th centuries, and both Georgian and Victorian periods.

Greyfriars Tower

Close to the modern town centre, this historic bell tower is the only above ground remains of the medieval Franciscan friary which was closed in 1538 by Henry VIII. The brick tower stands 28m tall and leans at a noticeable angle of 1.5 degrees, due to its marshy foundations, leading locals to call it the Leaning Tower of King’s Lynn.

Pilot Street

30 and 32 Pilot Street (pictured above) are rare examples of 15th century timber framed parallel hall houses. Now private dwellings, a wander down Pilot Street on your way to the water front gives you a feel for how this town once looked.

Red Mount Chapel

The late 15th century Red Mount Chapel was a wayside chapel for pilgrims heading to the famous Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. This restored Grade I listed building has been used as a place for interdenominational worship and an astronomical observatory. The chapel is situated in the Grade II listed landscape of The Walks, an historic urban park located in the heart of King’s Lynn and the only surviving 18th century town walk in Norfolk.

St George’s Guildhall

The historic Grade I listed Guildhall of St George is the largest surviving medieval guildhall in England. Created for the Guild of St George in the early 15th century, the guildhall is built of brick dressed with ashlar and the interior is an excellent example of the architectural decoration and style of the day. Today it is used as a public venue for music, the arts, and lectures.

St Nicholas Chapel

The chapel of St Nicholas is the largest in all of the United Kingdom and was actually built as a chapel of ease for St Margaret’s church (now Kings Lynn Minster) at the far end of the King’s Lynn shopping district.

Most the building is 15th century, though the tower is slightly earlier. The beautifully detailed slender spire is Victorian, and a replacement for the spire which blew down during a storm in 1741 – the same storm which robbed the Minster of its’ spire – not a good year for the churches of King’s Lynn!

Clifton House

The most significant merchant building in King’s Lynn, the distinctive Clifton House is Grade I listed and located in the heart of the town. With rich historic interiors dating from the 13th to the 18th centuries, including two tiled floors from the 13th century, a 14th century vaulted undercroft, and the five storey Elizabethan tower.

Now a privately owned family home, you can visit on a few days a year when they offer tours, otherwise you’ll have to admire from the outside!

Marriott’s Warehouse

A grade II listed building which dates from the 1580’s, Marriott’s Warehouse was an important trade warehouse and one of several granaries on the South Quay in the late 19th century.

Between 1550 and 1700, most of the warehouses along the Great Ouse bank were rebuilt in brick, but Marriott’s Warehouse has a lower storey in stone. Ships would dock inside to unload cargo, knowing its stone lower storey would protect them against the tides as it stood out in the Wash, long before the quayside was built up around it.

Today, the ground floor is a restaurant and upstairs you’ll find a display about the building of King’s Lynn over the last 900 years, including a fascinating miniature model of the town.

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Explore King’s Lynn Museums

Seahenge at the Lynn Museum

Museum display of Bronze Age wooden circle

In 1998 an Early Bronze Age timber circle was discovered on the beach at Holme. An extraordinary find, the arrangement of 55 timber posts surrounding a huge stump that had been buried with its roots upwards, was called Seahenge, as it resembled the famous Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

When Seahenge was created around 2050BC, the area around Holme was a salt marsh. Over thousands of years, the marshes were covered in peat beds as the sea encroached, and the peat preserved the timbers, keeping them whole.

The timbers were carefully removed from the sea, cleaned, and vacuum freeze-dried to protect them. The original upturned tree stump and many of the upright timber posts are now on display in a special exhibit in the Lynn Museum.

The Lynn Museum is not just about Seahenge though, it also tells the story of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk through diverse artefacts, artwork from prominent local artists, and interactive features.

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True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum

Traditionally home to a tight-knit fishing community, the North End of King’s Lynn was lined with tiny cottages and cobbled yards. The last pair of 18th century fishing cottages were restored and preserved, and are now home to a fantastic small museum which tells the story of fishing in King’s Lynn and the hard life of the fisherfolk of the North End community.

The cottages were built around 1790, on the site of earlier buildings and have served as a bakery, home to fisher families, and a grocer’s shop. Lit by oil lamps and heated by coal, there was no running water, no electricity and no toilet. In the 1980’s, a local trust was formed to save the buildings and turn them into a museum and heritage resource centre.

The preserved cottages of Trues Yard Fisherfolk Museum have been carefully refurbished to show what life was like for the fishermen and their families. One small cottage is restored to the 1850s when a family of 11 lived there!

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Stories of Lynn Museum

One of the best things to do in King’s Lynn for families is to find out about the history of the town at the interactive Stories of Lynn Museum. An app, along with a timeline of objects brings the local story to life, including its powerful past and more modern day history.

Discover the stories of local merchants, explorers and seafarers who have shaped King’s Lynn, over more than 800 years of history. On your visit, you can tour the old gaol house, try on Mayor’s robes and see the fabulous King John Cup (even though it had nothing to do with King John!).

Music & The Arts in King’s Lynn

The Corn Exchange

Situated on Tuesday Market Place, the Grade II listed 1854 facade of the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange belies a modern interior with a fantastic to the rafters theatre and two cinemas. Hosting live music, theatre, panto and top box office films, this is a great option for a rainy day in Norfolk – it does happen occasionally!

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GroundWork Gallery is all about art and the environment and exhibits works by contemporary artists who care about how we see the world. Discover how artists are finding new approaches to address climate change with traditional wall art, sculpture and handicrafts, and enjoy events designed to help you learn about the environment and what you can do to make a difference.

King’s Lynn Arts Centre

The King’s Lynn Arts Centre consists of the medieval Guildhall Theatre alongside four unique art galleries, presenting an ever-changing programme of over 20 exhibitions a year, showcasing the very best in local, regional, national and international art.

Contemporary Outdoor Art Installations

As you walk around King’s Lynn, see if you can spot these modern sculptures and installations, which help tell the story of King’s Lynn.

The Globe

This large hollow bronze globe is set into the pavement close to the Vancouver Shopping Centre, and shows land masses in raised relief with the British Isles at the top, as is Vancouver Island. Originally sited in The Square on New Conduit Street, close to the statue of George Vancouver (a British Royal Navy officer, known for his 1791-95 expedition which explored and charted North America’s northwestern Pacific Coast regions), it was moved to its present location in November 2005 to mark the completion of the Vancouver Shopping Centre.

Half Fathom Column

This abstract take on a bronze column by Andrew Schumann can be found in the South Quay area. The ripples represent the surface movements on the River Great Ouse which flows through King’s Lynn to the Wash, and a solar-powered flashing light on top mimics warning buoys afloat in the sea, whilst the height of the column represents the distance between high and low tides.

Archilenses

Beside the River Great Ouse on the corner of Purfleet South Quay and King’s Staithe, you will find Archilenses by Thibault Zambeaux, a glass panel with inlaid magnifying lenses which distort and change the view of the river and marketplace.

Lynn Lumiere

Lynn Lumière transforms the facades of six landmark buildings in King’s Lynn (St Nicholas Chapel, 1–3 Tuesday Market Place, the Custom House, King’s Lynn Minster, 18 New Conduit Street and Greyfriars Tower), as a series of spectacular light shows invites you to see the town centre in a different perspective. You can get the Lynn Illuminations trail map here.

Banksy

There was a Banksy in King’s Lynn, which the elusive artist has confirmed was his work during his 2021 Norfolk ‘Great British Spraycation’. The work included an ice cream cone and tongue placed on the statue of the Victorian fairground manufacturer and town mayor Frederick Savage in Lynn’s London Road, but it was removed by West Norfolk Council staff in the mistaken belief that the artwork was vandalism and before Banksy had claimed the piece.

Banksy confirmed he visited Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Gorleston, where he left several artworks as part of his Norfolk trip!

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Food & Drink in King’s Lynn

Whatahoot Gin Distillery

WhataHoot Distillery is a fantastic destination, especially if it’s raining! The historic building on King Street not only houses the gin distillery, it is also home to a pantry style shop, gin school and spirit lounge. Their tours, cocktail masterclasses and create-your-own gin experiences make fun gifts for gin enthusiasts.

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Afternoon Tea

Located in a beautiful square in historic King’s Lynn, the Bank House Hotel is a stylish establishment with a warm and welcoming feel.

Their classic afternoon tea offers beautiful warm scones and traditional home-made cakes. For a special occasion, or just because you can, choose the champagne afternoon tea and enjoy a glass of bubbly!

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King’s Lynn Farmers Market

King’s Lynn Farmers Market takes place on the second Saturday each month between March and December, on Saturday Market Place. The market runs from 9am to 2pm and is held in the Minster when the weather is poor.

You’ll find organic local and seasonal produce, including fruit and veg, as well as home-made chutneys, bread, cakes, specialist cheeses, local honey and homemade pies.

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Fish & Chips

There are lots of fish and chip shops in King’s Lynn, some have restaurants where you can eat in. For my money, the very best is The Catch Chip Shop Restaurant & Takeaway on Norfolk Street. Their fish is fresh, batter light and crispy and the chips are just as they should be.

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Things to Do Near King’s Lynn

Castle Acre

John Fielding from Norwich, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A 25 minute drive from King’s Lynn are the Norman ruins of Castle Acre Castle and Castle Acre Priory, one of the largest and best preserved monastic sites in England, which dates back to 1090.

Castle Acre is a tranquil rural village in Norfolk which is home to an extraordinary wealth of history. The village is a complete Norman planned settlement, the work of a baronial family, the Warennes, during the 11th and 12th centuries. Alongside the village, the settlement includes a castle, parish church and Priory.

I loved going to the Castle Acre Castle as a kid, and taking my children, as there are so many grassy areas to run around and have fun. We used to roly-poly down the ancient grass covered earthworks which surround the site of the ruined castle before heading into the pretty village through the historic Bailey Gate for an ice-cream, or cream tea (if we were very lucky!).

The (mostly) ruined Priory is across the small village and you can see the beautiful west end church gable, prior’s lodging and remains of many of the buildings round the cloister. The beautiful recreated herb garden grows some of the herbs the monks would have used for medicinal, culinary and decorative purposes.

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Royal Sandringham

Andrew Bone from Weymouth, England, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Sandringham, a 20,000 acre estate in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is where Queen Elizabeth II retreats for Christmas, and is reportedly her favourite home. Near by, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Wills and Kate, also have their home, Anmer Hall.

You can visit the house, gardens, parkland and St Mary Magdalene Church in a day, with many of the ground floor rooms of Sandringham House remaining as they were in Edwardian times. The gardens are beautiful and the parkland and woods which surround the house are a great spot for dog walking, family activities and picnics.

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Norwich

Historic buildings, a thriving food scene and cultural hub make Norwich a wonderful day out. The only city in Norfolk, and gateway to the Norfolk Broads, Norwich is the most complete medieval city in the United Kingdom today.

Home to cobbled streets, ancient buildings, a vibrant culinary scene, twisting medieval lanes, and the winding River Wensum that flows through the city centre, Norwich is a feast of history and architecture just waiting to be explored.

The Royal Station Wolferton

The King’s Lynn to Hunstanton line was opened on 3rd October 1862 and was single track running for fifteen miles from King’s Lynn to a new station at Hunstanton. In February of the same year the Sandringham Estate was purchased by Queen Victoria for use as a private residence for the then young Prince of Wales the future King Edward VII.

Wolferton Station would see many Royal Specials during its working life before closing in 1969. It is now preserved in private hands and the Queen gets the train to King’s Lynn!

Oxburgh Hall

Run by the National Trust, Oxburgh Hall is a 15th century moated manor house built by Sir Edmund Bedingfield, whose ancestors still live there today. The house consists of four domestic buildings around a courtyard, built from honeyed stone, and contained within a wide moat.

During the English Civil War, the family lived through turbulent times. Supporting the Royalist cause led to Sir Henry Bedingfield being imprisoned in the Tower of London, one son being wounded, and another forced to flee abroad. Parliamentarian troops ransacked the Hall and destroyed the gardens.

Today, Oxburgh Hall highlights include the King’s Room, where Henry VII stayed in 1487, and needlework hangings created by Mary, Queen of Scots while she was held in custody by the Earl of Shrewsbury.

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Castle Rising

Castle Rising Castle is one of the most famous 12th century castles in England. The imposing stone keep was built in 1140AD and is amongst the finest surviving examples of its kind in Great Britain. The massive surrounding earthworks, not only ensure that Rising is a castle of national importance, but give lots of opportunity for kids to run off steam and play at sword fighting!

I love to visit Castle Rising, especially with children. It’s one of the few castles where you can get up close to the atmospheric and unspoilt interiors, full of hidden corners, steps worn smooth over centuries, and arrow slits with incredible views.

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Bircham Windmill

Standing in the heart of Norfolk’s rolling fields, Bircham Windmill has been restored and now looks as it did over 100 years ago. At that time, Norfolk was home to over 300 mills which ground corn for bread making and animal feed.

Today, very few are left, and Bircham Mill is considered one of the best still remaining. You can climb the five floors up to the fan stage and, on windy days, you can see the sails and the milling machinery turning.

Bircham Mill still make their own bread in the bakery adjoining the mill, which has its original, coal-fired oven. You can also try your hand at bread baking, a great activity for families with older children.

Outdoor Adventures Around Kings Lynn

Fen Rivers Way

The Fen Rivers Way is a long distance trail running for 50 miles between Cambridge, Ely, Downham Market and King’s Lynn, which traces the course of the rivers that drain slowly across the Fens into the Wash. The route takes you through the distinctive Norfolk Fens landscape and traditional market towns on a path rich in history and wildlife.

Taking in the internationally significant environment of the Ouse Washes Nature Reserve, the journey follows the River Great Ouse under huge skies and through the dramatic landscapes and past the massive floodbanks that protect the low lying Fens.

This is the landscape of my upbringing – as a teenager I yearned for mountains and some relief from the relentless flatness of the Fens – as an adult, the endless skies and long views to the horizon mesmerise me.

If you don’t want to walk the whole route, pick it up at Downham Market for a good day’s walking. At King’s Lynn, the Fen Rivers Way connects with the Wash Coast Path along the remote coast marshes into Lincolnshire, or the Nar Valley Way which leads into the heart of Norfolk.

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Head for the Beach

Vast expanse of beach and mud flats with a pink sky and sea in the distance

Snettisham Beach

There is no King’s Lynn beach, but Snettisham Beach is the closest beach to King’s Lynn and one of Norfolk’s three west facing beachs, perfect for watching the sunset. The shingle beach is vast, making it a great place for long walks, beach games and wildlife watching.

The beach backs on to the Snettisham Coastal Park, a wild area full of heathland, marshland and reed beds that stretch all the way to Heacham, a great route for a peaceful and easy walk. The Coastal Park is adjacent to the RSPB Snettisham Reserve which hosts the incredible ‘whirling wader spectacle’, when tens of thousands of wading birds take flight when the conditions are right.  

Snettisham beach is not really a bucket and spade destination, because when the tide goes out, it leaves mudflats rather than sand, which make for very messy sandcastles!

Heacham Beach

Heacham, the next beach up the coast is actually two beaches, Heacham North Beach and Heacham South Beach. There are bands of sand but both Heacham beaches are predominantly shingle.

The south beach, known locally as ‘Stubborn Sands’ is quite rugged and good for long walks with a dog, sea fishing and romantic sunset strolls.

The north beach tends to be busier, with easy access to the promenade and holiday cottages beyond. The prom is stepped down the the beach, making a perfect place to perch with an ice-cream and admire the sea view, without getting your feet in the shingle.

Hunstanton Beach

If you want a proper sandy stretch, head to Hunstanton South Beach, the next one up from Heacham. Hunstanton is known locally as sunny Hunny, and is a perfect seaside resort for families looking for a great sand-castle building beach with lots of amusements, traditional beach activities and the indoor water park at the Alive Oasis Leisure Centre.

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North Norfolk Coast

Spend a day out on this glorious stretch of coastline, which is home to some of Norfolk’s best beaches and traditional seaside towns.

Head for Happisburgh for history and fossils, Cromer for the pier, Cromer crab and cream teas, and Wells for crabbing in the harbour and the majesty of Holkham Hall and the vast expanse of Holkham Beach.

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Local Farm Centres

Snettisham Park

Snettisham Park and Park Farm is a working Norfolk farm growing wheat for animal feed, barley, sugar beet and grass, which is grazed by a 400 flock of sheep, a herd of red deer, and horses and ponies from their own stables.

The 329 acre working farm is open to the public, and is a brilliant day out with kids. See lambs being born, take a 45 minute deer safari, bottle feed baby animals, collect freshly laid eggs and ride ponies, and take a walk on one of their three wonderful trails – sounds like heaven!

Church Farm Rare Breeds Centre

Church Farm Stow Bardolph is a great place for a day out with the kids. Meet rare breeds, cute baby animals, race around on pedal tractors, enjoy adventure play in the fantastic indoor treehouse, ride on a donkey and even play with piglets, who will roll over obligingly for a belly scratch!

For grown-ups, there’s also outdoor theatre in the summer, beautiful woodland walks and a tea room where you should absolutely try one of their delicious home-made cakes.

Gooderstone Water Gardens & Nature Trails

Goodserstone Water Gardens and Nature Trail is a unique attraction for all garden lovers. Six acres of lush gardens surrounded by waterways and ponds create a tranquil spot to while away a summer’s afternoon.

As you wander the trails and cross bridges, keep your eyes out for birds like Kingfishers, and admire the colourful cottage garden and marginal planting which surrounds you.

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Norfolk Coast Path

Just a few miles north along the coast from King’s Lynn, the stunning Norfolk Coast Path runs from Hunstanton in West Norfolk to Sea Palling on the north east Norfolk coast, with most of the hiking trail passing through the dramatic landscape of the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and past many internationally recognised wildlife reserves.

Connect with the diverse Norfolk countryside when you hike the coastal path, through sand dunes, around salt marshes, along golden beaches and over the odd cliff or two, taking in views of the Wash and the Lincolnshire Coastline at Hunstanton. Watch sea birds on the wing, seals bobbing in the North sea and and meet locals in pretty villages and seaside resorts along the way. There’s also a few good pubs on route if you’re planning a day’s hiking!

Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

A new attraction for Norfolk, Watatunga is situated in 170 acres of unused Norfolk wetland, and is dedicated to the conservation of threatened ungulates (large mammals with hooves) and birds. Deer and antelope species mix with rare pheasants, ducks and the majestic great bustard, reintroduced in Great Britain after extinction in 1832.

Watatunga aims to inspire and showcasing the beauty of their animals whilst telling the story of their struggle to survive. Take a guided buggy tour to learn about this approach to conservation and see the incredible wildlife in the beautiful surroundings of Norfolk.

Norfolk Lavender

A highlight on the eastern edge of the Norfolk coast, Norfolk Lavender has been a holiday-maker’s favourite since 1932. With over 100 acres of lavender and over 100 lavender varieties, wandering the fragrant fields is a real treat, especially when the plants are in bloom in summer.

With a tearooms where you can enjoy lavender infused goodies, animal gardens and a play park for kids, and tours of the lavender fields, this makes a great stop on any Norfolk holiday. You can also buy lavender plants and their own range of lavender products in the gift shop – time to stock up on all those delicious smellies!

Map of King’s Lynn Attractions

How to use this map – Use your fingers (or computer mouse) to zoom in and out. Click or touch the icons to get more info about a place, and click the arrow in the box top left to open the index. To add to your own Google Maps account, click the star next to the title of the map.

Have I missed any King’s Lynn highlights that you’d like to see included? Scroll down to leave a comment…

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