On the main routes into Nottingham, drivers will see signs showing the spaces available at the various multi-storey car parks in the city centre. The most obvious are those at the indoor shopping centres, Victoria and Broadmarsh. Many shoppers become used to the convenience of these, and by doing so, they are ‘conditioned’ to the shops and eateries that greet them as they emerge from their favourite but featureless car park. This ‘conditioning’ means that they will probably visit the same retailers and eat at the same café or restaurant. This also extends to bus users, who invariably, will get off at the same stop, closest to The Old Market Square in the heart of Nottingham.
I suppose we all like some routine in our lives. This familiarity makes us feel that we are getting the best out of our time visiting the city centre. I think we are missing out!
As a simple alternative, I advocate that much can be gained by starting the visit on foot and from an earlier point.
This example applies to accessing Nottingham from the east, although any visitor should consider it. Start at Sneinton Market and take a direct route to The Old Market Square via Victoria Leisure Centre, Gedling Street, Hockley, Goosegate, Carlton Street and through the Creative Quarter.
Those of you who can visualise Sneinton Market will know that this area is in need of redevelopment. It may not be the prettiest place in Nottingham but it will be redeveloped in the near future and probably change forever. See it while you can. Originally home to our fruit and vegetable wholesalers, it was once talked about as becoming Nottingham’s answer to London’s Covent Garden. This never materialised, but despite the area’s economic decline, it is commercially active, helped in part by student accommodation. The most impressive building is the Victoria Leisure Centre. Earmarked for closure 15 years ago, but (after local opposition) now fully modernised. It faces onto the improved market place with water features and seating. A short distance away are a couple of contemporary art galleries, One Thoresby Street and The Surface Gallery. Both are probably an acquired taste for most of us, but worth considering. If you plan to visit it is advisable to check their websites for opening times.
A suitable point to start is the car park at Sneinton Market Square which is possibly the cheapest around, free for one hour and only £5 for 24 hours.
From there, walk along Bath Street towards the clock tower of the Victoria Leisure Centre. The Bath Inn is now successfully operating as part pub and part chip shop. Depending on your timing, this is worth a visit. They do excellent fish chips and peas, at £3.30 all day, served on a plate in a clean and functional café area.
Walking in front of the leisure centre
go past the GB Café and Murat Store. GB café is a traditional market café with no frills. Murat is an independent general store and off licence. It is well stocked, so much so that I managed to find a full bottle of black Sambuca that is rarely available at supermarkets.
Cross Parliament Street with the Ice Arena to your left you will notice the old Arkwright Mill that is now The Mandarin Restaurant. Some of you will remember it as a once popular bar called The Mill.
Continue straight onto Hockley and up the hill. With plenty of interesting shops and places to eat there is no need to divert left or right.
Should you choose to, the Lace Market area to the left has some fantastic buildings. To the right there are more bars, eateries and shops. The Broadway Cinema also provides a great alternative to those American cinema complexes that dominate most cities these days.
Hartleys, another independent café that provides good quality food. For a more Mediterranean menu, there is Edins and the Jam Café. Both these have a great ambience, helped by the fact that they are also a night time music venues.
As you reach the top of the hill, you can bear left or right. Bearing right takes you down Pelham Street with more independent shops and cafes. The latest addition is Cobden Chambers which is through an entry on the right. A courtyard of independent shops and a place to relax too.
By now you have the rear of the Council House in your sights and The Old Market Square. You can now access your usual places from here. The walk from Sneinton Market Square is ten minutes, provided you do not allow yourself to be distracted. Why not give yourself an hour and enjoy the area, using the money you saved on parking.