When we moved back to Lincoln, we were amazed at how much the city we knew growing up had changed. In just a couple of decades, it has transformed from an intriguing but quiet county town into a buzzing, expanding city with something new opening every week. It’s been so much fun rediscovering it! And now we want to take you on that journey too. So, here is a collection of our favourite things to do in Lincoln to get the most out of your time here.
If you’re a Lincoln local then many of the things we’ve picked out here will be familiar, but maybe you’ll find a secret or two you didn’t know about. And if you’re visiting for the first time, welcome to Lincoln! You’ll love our little city, and we hope this list can help you have an amazing trip.
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Things to do in Lincoln: history and sightseeing
1. Visit the spectacular Lincoln Cathedral
Words like ‘spectacular’ are often thrown about too easily, but in the case of Lincoln Cathedral it is not misused at all. Few buildings characterise a city in the way that our cathedral does.
Lincoln Cathedral has stood on the city’s hilltop for nearly a thousand years, and was the tallest building in the world for over two centuries. You can see it from miles away in any direction or from pretty much anywhere you happen to be standing in the city. In daylight it towers above everything around it, and at night it lights up majestically. It’s our city’s pride and joy.
Inside the cathedral you will find spellbinding architecture and an array of mementos from the events that have shaped Lincoln’s past. Our complete visitors’ guide to Lincoln Cathedral explains its turbulent back-story, the hidden quirks to look out for, and what to expect when you arrive. We recommend allowing at least a couple of hours to explore the cathedral in depth, but if you’re short of time then you can surf the highlights in half an hour or so.
2. See an original copy of Magna Carta
Has a single document ever had such a profound effect around the world as Magna Carta? This parchment, signed and sealed more than 800 years ago, laid the foundations for the rule of law and individual rights in Britain, and its influence has reverberated across the globe.
Only four original copies of Magna Carta survive today, and one of them is here in Lincoln. In fact, the copy has never left the city since the Bishop of Lincoln brought it back to the cathedral in 1215.
You can see this original copy of Magna Carta in the grounds of Lincoln Castle, where it is kept on permanent loan from the cathedral. In the vault where it is displayed in a glass case you can also sometimes see Lincoln’s copy of the Charter of the Forest (which is a 1225 re-issue of the original document from 1217). Entry is included in day tickets to the castle, which brings us neatly onto…
3. Discover Lincoln Castle and its fascinating story
The only building in the city that can rival the cathedral in historical significance is Lincoln Castle. It’s been around for longer, built by none other than William the Conqueror in 1068 – just a couple of years after his triumph at the Battle of Hastings.
The castle is located uphill just a short walk away from the cathedral, making it easy to visit them both on a single day out. It’s free to enter the castle walls, where you can wander and relax around its lush green lawns, but it’s also well worth investing in a day ticket to really get under the skin of the place.
After visiting Magna Carta, the next stop on the day ticket itinerary is a descent into the Victorian Prison. Open from 1848 to 1878, the prison utilised a ruthless ‘separation system’ intended to reform inmates through almost complete isolation. Much of the building remains in its original state, and you can explore the cells and discover stories of notorious prisoners.
Finally, our favourite part – the Medieval Wall Walk! This is where you get to climb up to the top of the high walls and walk all the way around the perimeter, exploring its towers and dungeons, and witnessing some of the best views of Lincoln from on high. You won’t find a better vantage point for the cathedral, and the panoramic view across Lincolnshire is awesome.
You can find out more in our complete guide to visiting Lincoln Castle.
4. Check out the Bishop’s Palace and its vineyard
Tucked away opposite the south wall of Lincoln Cathedral, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the Medieval Bishop’s Palace at first – but this is another site that is integral to the city’s history. Built in the 12th Century, the palace provided the headquarters of the Diocese of Lincoln, the largest institution of its kind in England during the period.
Bored of history at this point? There’s another good reason to stop by at the Bishop’s Palace. It happens to be the only English Heritage building that features a vineyard inside its grounds. The vineyard was gifted to the palace by Lincoln’s twin town Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in 1972, and then re-landscaped in 2012. Although the vineyard stopped producing wine in the late 1990s, a group of community volunteers is working to bring it back into operation.
The Medieval Bishop’s Palace is closed throughout 2022 for conservation work, but you can check its website for news about reopening.
5. See the city’s Roman ruins
Lincoln’s legacy dates back well before the days of William the Conqueror and Magna Carta. During the Roman era, the city was one of Britain’s largest settlements, and you can still see the relics of those times today. Roman ruins are speckled around the city, with several parts of the original walls still intact.
Newport Arch is the most resilient remainder of the Roman city walls. Once the north gate to the city, it still stands strong, and it is the only Roman archway to still be used for traffic in the UK. You’ll find it at the north end of Bailgate (stop by at the Duke William pub for lunch and a pint while you’re here).
There are many more Roman ruins to be found elsewhere around Lincoln, including the east gate (outside The Lincoln hotel) and lower west gate (inside the City Hall). Inside the shop at number 44 Steep Hill, you can combine a spot of fashion shopping with seeing the remnants of the upper south gate.
For in-depth insight into these sites and where to find them, check out our quick guide to Roman ruins in Lincoln.
6. Take a free walking tour with Brant and Matt
One of the best ways to see and learn about Lincoln’s Roman ruins – and much more besides – is to take the Lincoln free walking tour with local experts Brant and Matt.
The tour runs every Saturday at 10am from Castle Square. Look out for the yellow umbrellas at the meeting point! From here, you will be guided around the city’s famous highlights as well as some lesser-known features. Beginning with uphill attractions like the cathedral, it eventually culminates downhill at the Brayford Waterfront (more on that below).
Brant and Matt both hail from Lincolnshire, and met while studying architecture at the University of Lincoln. They decided to stick around, and are now sharing their knowledge passion for the city. The walk is complemented with some fantastic illustrations of ancient Lincoln, and plenty of stories about the characters who have shaped the city over the centuries.
As advertised, the tour is free, but tips are very welcome to show your appreciation.
7. Take the award-winning Ghost Walk
Do you believe in ghosts? Maybe you will after joining Karen Crow on a spooky evening tour that has captured the imagination of countless visitors to Lincoln. Among that number is Tom Hanks, who was wowed by the Ghost Walk when he took it while filming The Da Vinci Code in the city.
Taking no half measures, Karen dons a full black cape for the tour, which has been running since 1996. It costs just £6 (brilliant value for money) and there’s no need to book. You can just turn up on the night outside Lincoln Visitor Information Centre in Castle Square – it runs throughout the year from Wednesday to Saturday at 7pm.
8. Stop by at the Guildhall and Stonebow
Now for a place that’s impossible to miss on Lincoln’s High Street: the Guildhall and Stonebow. You will see the building’s main arch cut across your path at the very heart of the city. This is where Lincoln City Council has been meeting for centuries.
With its three archways, limestone parapets and gable-mounted clock face, the Guildhall and Stonebow is a striking landmark that doubles up as a useful navigation point for anybody new to Lincoln. But there is more to it than its majestic appearance. Not everybody knows that you can take free tours inside the building, which is why we’ve included it in our guide to hidden gems in Lincoln.
Inside the building a treasure trove of history awaits, including artefacts as rare as the sword of King Richard II. The City Council runs the free tours telling the building’s 2000 years of history: check out the Guildhall Facebook page for the latest times and information.
9. Hang out on the Brayford Waterfront
The Brayford Waterfront is England’s oldest inland harbour and Lincoln’s central water feature. Formed at the meeting point of the River Witham and the Fossdyke canal, it was the heart of the city’s settlement before the uphill area took over. But since the opening of the University of Lincoln on the waterside in the 1990s, the Brayford has sprung to life again.
The north side of the water is now lined with bars, restaurants, hotels and a cinema. At Electric Bar you can catch a rooftop brunch with harbour views from 11am, or at night grab a cocktail at The Barge floating cocktail bar on the water. Three times a day you can take a 50-minute cruise on the Brayford Belle, complete with a bar on board and commentary from a local guide.
But sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the most satisfying. We love the Brayford purely for the beautiful sunsets across the water. The newly built footbridge over the railway – or ‘the Ugly Bridge’ as some people like to call it – is pretty good for getting an elevated view of the sunset. After a long day it’s nice to just potter along the Wharf East before grabbing a drink, or if we’re ramping it up then a meal at the Horse & Groom at the opposite side of the harbour.
Things to do in Lincoln: activities
10. Check out Lincoln’s excellent street markets
Trading activity in Lincoln has always been rooted in street markets, and this traditional spirit is very much still alive. The central streets of the city are abuzz with an eclectic mix of markets all year round. Various stalls are open at Lincoln Central Market on Sincil Street from Mondays to Saturdays – primarily fresh meat, fruit and veggies, but also a few selling gifts, books, comics, shoe repairs and whatnot.
Themed markets are also hosted around the city on particular days of the month. On Castle Hill, the first Saturday of the month is a showcase of local craftwork at the Makers’ Market, while the third Saturday brings together the best local produce at Lincoln Farmers’ Market. An Antiques Market is often held on Sundays too.
These regular markets are occasionally complemented by other special events, such as street food markets that spring up on the High Street every few months. At the end of the year, this scene culminates with Lincoln’s legendary Christmas Market (more on that below).
11. Go shopping on Steep Hill
Lincoln’s High Street is strewn with all the usual suspect chain stores for your regular fix of city shopping. However, for the real feel of Lincoln and a truly independent shopping experience, a little uphill walking is required.
Head to the top end of the High Street and you will see an arch leading to a narrow cobbled road that climbs all the way up to the castle and cathedral; this ascent is where you will find the epicentre of Lincoln’s local independent shop scene. At the lower end is The Strait (signposted on the arch), and towards the top is Steep Hill (which is very true to its name!).
From bottom to top you will find speciality shops selling books, vintage clothes, fashionwear, art, wine, beer, cheese and all sorts of random knick-knacks. You can break up the climb with a stop at a café or tea room, or for a special treat indulge in a posh meal at the fine-dining restaurant in Jew’s House, a 12th-Century building.
For a full rundown of the outlets and eateries you will find along the way, check out our guide to Steep Hill Lincoln.
12. Discover art at The Collection and Usher Gallery
Lincoln has a long and proud history of creativity, and for art lovers there is plenty to explore around the city. These next three entries in our list highlight some of the best spots to do that, beginning with the Usher Gallery, the city’s foremost art space.
The Usher Gallery has been around since 1927 and is run today as part of The Collection, Lincolnshire’s county museum. Named after Lincoln-born jeweller James Ward Usher, it hosts original works by the likes of Turner and Lowry, as well as an array of local and contemporary pieces. Check out the Collection website to find out about the latest exhibits and what’s on at the museum.
Our guide to art galleries in Lincoln brings together more places you can discover art in the city.
13. See the revolving exhibits at the Sam Scorer Gallery
Run by a charitable volunteers collective, the Sam Scorer Gallery is one of our favourites among the many small and quirky art spaces in Lincoln. Tucked away at the top end of Drury Lane near the castle, you will recognise it by its distinctive giant red dot symbol that resembles the Japanese flag.
The gallery hosts a revolving door of two-week curated contemporary art exhibitions in its bright and airy dedicated space. It’s well worth a diversion from the regular city sights for something a little different.
14. Browse contemporary art inside historic Harding House
Perched near the tippy top of Steep Hill, Harding House Gallery is set inside a 16th-Century building and brings together an assortment of works by a collective of resident artists. Its lower gallery is a satisfying clutter of paintings, sculptures, glassworks, ceramics, photography, textiles, jewellery – pretty much any art medium you can imagine.
The gallery has an additional space upstairs where it hosts regular exhibitions throughout the year.
To explore more unique art in the city, see our feature story on street art in Lincoln.
15. Visit the Museum of Lincolnshire Life
For a peek into the local way of life and traditions, the Museum of Lincolnshire Life tells the story of how the last two-and-a-half centuries have shaped the county. Housed inside a Victorian barracks built in the 1850s, the museum displays thousands of artefacts including a WW1 tank (which was invented here in Lincoln!), and reconstructions of shops and houses from times past.
The museum is a great option for a day out with the kids, featuring a special children’s trail and ‘Historic Hunters’ playground. It requires a little walk out from the centre – rest your legs with an afternoon tea at Peony Tea Parlour across the road.
It’s free to enter the museum, or you can pay £3 per person for a guided staff tour. Times may be limited until restrictions are eased – check out the museum’s Facebook page for info (and also some cool visual insights into Lincolnshire history).
16. International Bomber Command Centre
Looking southwards from Lincoln’s hill, you can glimpse a huge spire-shaped monument piercing the sky from the top of Canwick Hill. This is the UK’s tallest war memorial, commemorating the thousands of people from dozens of nations who lost their lives supporting Bomber Command efforts during World War II. It also marks the site of the International Bomber Command Centre, opened in 2018 to tell the stories of people affected by bombing campaigns on either side of the conflict.
The exhibitions and memorial spaces at the centre explore the themes of recognition, remembrance and reconciliation, through visual displays, survivor testimonies and peace gardens. As with any exploration into war legacies it is a sombre experience, but an educational one too. And it’s a fitting inclusion in an itinerary for visiting Lincoln, a city with deep-seated military traditions.
The entrance to the centre can be tricky to find on foot, especially if you climb up to it across the South Common (which we recommend – there are glorious views of the city centre from here). It’s easiest to walk around to the entrance on Canwick Hill. You can pre-book a visiting slot online.
17. Take a picnic in Lincoln’s abundant green spaces
Lincoln may have expanded in recent years, but it has never lost its rural soul. The city and its surroundings are saturated with open natural spaces, from vast green parks to pretty little waterways. There’s nothing we enjoy more than packing up a picnic basket and heading out to one of our favourite local nature spots.
The vast West Common and South Common are sprawling, rugged spaces within near reach of the city. Both are typically quiet, and riddled with secluded picnic spots – we especially enjoy the South Common with its views over the city. See the parks section below for more ideas, and check out our guide to parks and green spaces in Lincoln for a summer picnic.
18. Try your hand at axe throwing
Billed as “Lincoln’s latest urban activity”, indoor axe throwing at Axed Lincoln is a fun way to let off steam. The premise of the game is similar to archery or darts, but instead of an arrow you have to launch an axe at a wooden target. Which, let’s face it, is a far more satisfying way of doing it. The resident “axe-perts” are on hand to give tips on technique and aim.
New to the city in 2019, this is a fun alternative option for anyone travelling to Lincoln in a group or looking for a sociable activity.
19. Solve your way out of a Lincoln-themed escape room
Escape rooms have burgeoned in popularity in recent years, and Lincoln is well and truly on board the bandwagon. There are several in the city to choose from, each offering a different experience. But wait… what exactly is an escape room, I hear you ask?
Did you ever see the game show The Crystal Maze on TV in the nineties? Where the contestants were trapped inside a room and had to solve puzzles within a couple of minutes in order to get out? Well, that’s essentially what an escape room is, although you’re typically in a group of a few people rather than on your own, and the game lasts for an hour or 90 minutes.
Tension Twisted Realities on Croft Street is our favourite pick of the escape rooms in Lincoln. They have put together six imaginative escape room games. Each has a local theme, such as saving Lincoln’s Magna Carta from destruction, or preventing a villain from releasing a recreated bubonic plague virus onto the city’s streets. They also offer two outdoor missions and an online escape room game.
20. Jump around at a indoor trampoline theme park
Whether you’re visiting Lincoln with kids or you’re just a big kid at heart, Jump Inc is guaranteed to inject some feisty fun into your day. This indoor theme park is stacked out with trampolines, inflatables, slides, tumble tracks, obstacle courses and many more novelty features to get your adrenaline bouncing off the walls.
It’s situated just off Tritton Road on the Sunningdale Trading Estate, a short drive or a 25-minute walk from the city centre. You could combine a trip to Jump Inc with a drink and a bite to eat (afterwards, of course) at the Nosey Parker pub across the road, part of the Flaming Grill chain.
Things to do in Lincoln: entertainment
21. See the Imps play at Sincil Bank
We might not have a premier league football club in the city, but Lincoln City FC have been punching above their weight in recent years. Playing non-league football as recently as 2017, successive promotions have seen the Imps climb to League One, and very nearly to the Championship. Strong cup runs in recent years have also pitted them against the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton.
A day out at Lincoln City FC might not be like watching Barcelona, but it’s a fun experience nonetheless. The club has been playing at the Sincil Bank stadium (currently called LNER Stadium) since 1895, and so the club is a cornerstone of community in the city. On match days you will see the lower High Street flooded with red and white shirts and scarves, and pubs full to bursting. Grab a craft beer at the Imp & Angel micropub nearby if you can squeeze inside!
For more information, check out the club’s useful guide for first-time visitors.
22. See a show at the New Theatre Royal
No sector has been hit harder by the Covid-19 pandemic than performing arts. It’s been heartbreaking to hear about theatres closing around the country, and the bite has been felt here in Lincoln too. One of our cherished venues, the Lincoln Drill Hall, was narrowly rescued from permanent closure.
Another classic Lincoln venue that has experienced difficult times is the New Theatre Royal. First opened in 1893, the theatre has been at the crux of the city’s entertainment scene for over 125 years. It was here that Patrick Stewart made his first ever performance as a professional actor.
Despite a tumult of challenges over the years, the theatre has survived, welcoming thousands of visitors every year for a varied programme of plays, musicals, operas and pantomime. And now, the theatre has overcome the pandemic too! A full programme of entertainment is back on the stage, and the Stage Door Bistro and Prosecco bar has reopened with a new menu.
Read our interview feature with artistic director, Natalie Hayes-Cowley, to learn the full story of the New Theatre Royal’s turnaround in recent years.
23. Catch some bands at the Engine Shed
Lincoln’s premier live music venue, the Engine Shed, is run by the University of Lincoln Students’ Union and located on campus close to the city centre. Like Lincoln Drill Hall, the venue takes its name from the building’s previous purpose; a locomotive storage facility. After a major renovation, the Engine Shed opened in its new gig-venue form in 2006.
The venue attracts high-profile bands to its stage, with the Beautiful South, Kings of Leon and Kasabian numbering among the many acts to have appeared over the years.
24. See live local theatre and music at The Blue Room
If smaller, intimate venues are more your thing, then you should check out The Blue Room in Lincoln. Run by the city’s own Stokes Tea & Coffee, this funky performance hall occupies an airy space above the Lawn Café in the Cathedral Quarter.
As you might expect from its name, the interior is, well, blue. With the vibe of a mini-theatre, it has blue curtains, a blue stage, blue window frames, blue ceiling… it’s like something that Eiffel 65 might sing about.
The Blue Room is a multipurpose performance space with a focus on amateur and up-and-coming artists, so you can expect to see emerging Lincoln talent on display. Live performances returned to this charismatic little venue in summer 2021, and a new programme is taking shape for 2022.
Outdoor theatre is a big part of the venue’s plans, with shows taking place on the ample green space in the Lawn complex. Read our interview with the Blue Room’s artistic director Stephen Gillard to find out more about this.
25. Enjoy contemporary entertainment at LPAC
Situated just behind the Engine Shed on the university campus, Lincoln Performing Arts Centre (LPAC) is a contemporary arts organisation that stages a variety of entertainment in its 446-seat auditorium. It is both a performance space for professional and amateur productions, and a breeding ground for new talent as the home of university’s performing arts course and various youth theatre programmes.
Take a look what’s coming up on the LPAC website.
26. Hit up a pub quiz night
When it comes to evening entertainment, sometimes you simply can’t beat a good old pub quiz. In normal times Lincoln has dozens to choose from. Some kept going strong during the pandemic, and others are beginning to find their feet again.
The Lion and Snake, located uphill near the castle and cathedral, hosts a popular themed quiz every Thursday. Past themes have included anything from Gavin and Stacey to Harry Potter – check their Facebook page to see what’s coming up. Meanwhile, a short walk from the Cathedral Quarter, the Adam & Eve Tavern hosts a quiz every Sunday night.
Have you come across another pub quiz in Lincoln? Please do let us know. As things get up and running again, we’re compiling a guide to all of the pub quizzes around the city.
Things to do in Lincoln: food and drink
27. Have afternoon tea at Stokes High Bridge Café
As you may have read in our rundown of fun facts about Lincoln, a quirky feature of the city is that it has the UK’s oldest bridge with buildings on it. High Bridge Café is the unmissable 14th-Century black-and-white building that stands on the medieval bridge at the very heart of the city.
Stokes Tea & Coffee has been a thriving local business for over a century, and remains a pinnacle of Lincoln’s hot drinks culture. High Bridge Café is its foremost venue, and is set in one of the city’s most iconic buildings.
In addition to an amazing range of teas and coffees (which you will also find served in various other venues around the city), there’s a traditional lunch menu with locally sourced food. But for the classic experience, it’s got to be the afternoon tea.
28. Bells Tea Shop
Bells Tea Shop is another little gem among Lincoln’s vast choice of tea rooms, in a quaint old black-and-white cottage at the crest of Steep Hill. It’s such a cosy little café that you can even hire out the entire venue for two hours for just £50.
This is a great spot to slow down for a sandwich and cuppa after exploring the sights of uphill Lincoln and the Cathedral Quarter. It’s a popular place so it’s a good idea to book in advance if you want to come in around lunchtime, especially if there’s a good weather forecast.
Find more options for your local tea experience in our rundown of 7 of the best tea rooms in Lincoln.
29. Have brunch at the Cosy Club
Sometimes you can’t beat a hearty brunch at the weekend, and thankfully we have several great options in Lincoln! We like to treat ourselves to an occasional brunch at the Cosy Club on the rare event we have a free Saturday morning.
The Cosy Club is one of various impressive developments in Lincoln’s restored Cornhill Quarter. As part of a £70 million refurbishment, the 1930s-style restaurant and bar opened in 2018, integrated into the historical Corn Exchange building.
You wouldn’t guess it from the modest entrance on the exterior, but once you’re inside, you emerge upstairs into a vast hall that takes you back into the city’s past. On the walls hang old marketplace adverts and portraits of personalities who shaped industrial Lincoln.
On the other hand, the breakfast menu is modern and sprinkled with imagination. Served from 9am to 11:45am, you can tuck into a classic breakfast, a full-scale butcher’s brunch, or a range of alternatives such as ham hock hash.
Looking for more brunch options in Lincoln? Check out brunch boards at The Botanist (also on the Cornhill Quarter), or try coffee and waffles at Madame Waffle.
30. Taste the incredible cheeses at the Cheese Society
If you are the slightest bit partial to cheese, then a visit to the Cheese Society is an absolute must while you’re in Lincoln, whether you sit in at the café or order a cheese selection to take back to your accommodation. The cheeses here are out of this world; some of the very best you will find in Lincolnshire, among very tough competition.
You will find local favourites like Lincolnshire poacher and Lincolnshire red alongside a swath of classics from around Britain and Continental Europe. Try the French Morbier au lait cru with a layer of wood ash inside – it’s an absolute beaut.
31. Have a drink in Lincoln’s oldest tavern
Midway up the hill on the outskirts of the city centre, Adam & Eve Tavern is believed to be the oldest pub in Lincoln, dating back over three centuries. Legend also has it that it is a haunted inn, with tales of ghostly experiences passing through the generations.
The pub’s ambience is far from spooky, however. Inside it is spacious and welcoming (and dog-friendly too), and outside it has a sheltered beer garden nestled under the shadow of the cathedral. There’s a solid menu of good old-fashioned pub grub with some of the cheapest prices you’ll find for sit-down dining in the city.
32. Eat a famous sausage roll from Curtis of Lincoln
Walking around Lincoln, you will probably notice several outlets of Curtis & Sons dotted throughout the city. This is one of the city’s oldest businesses, with nearly 200 years of trading behind it. Originally a pork butcher in the early 19th Century, it now produces an array of local delicacies, from Lincolnshire plum bread to meats, cakes and coffees.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to quick snacks at Curtis’, but if you try one thing then make it a sausage roll. They’ve gained famed status around here for good reason. And if want to take away a little treat and bring the taste of the city into your home, you can’t go wrong with a Curtis gift platter.
To find out more about the long and proud tradition of sausage-making in the county, check out our guide to Lincolnshire sausages. We even did a taste test of sausages from seven different butchers in Lincoln!
33. Have a home-made pie at Brown’s
If soul-warming local food at a family-run restaurant in the Cathedral Quarter sounds up your street, then look no further than Brown’s Pie Shop. This cheerful little restaurant on Steep Hill specialises in hearty home-made pies, with an imaginative range of meat, fish and vegetarian fillings. When it’s cold outside, there are few things more satisfying than a beef and Lincolnshire ale pie with root veggies at Brown’s!
You can dine inside or buy pies and pickles to take away from the shop, and there are also options for collection and home delivery.
34. Eat at one of Lincoln’s vegan restaurants
Given how much Lincoln’s food scene has diversified over the last couple of decades, it’s quite surprising that until very recently we only had one vegan restaurant. Cafe Shanti opened its doors in 2015 and has brought a flourish of personality with it. Think bright furnishings, rickety wooden chairs, colourful flags draped all around, and smiling service.
The food at Cafe Shanti is a British/Nepalese hybrid, with a modern selection of dishes from straight-up vegan burgers to spicy and creamy curries. There’s also a tasty range of home-made cakes (we love the salted caramel and chocolate cheesecake).
As a small restaurant with capacity for only 26 people in pre-Covid times, Cafe Shanti has had a difficult time of it, and is currently only open for takeaway and delivery. We had some of their vegan burgers and cakes delivered during the height of lockdown and it cheered us up no end! We’ve got everything crossed they’ll be able to open the restaurant’s doors again soon, but for now you can grab lunch to go, and take it to one of Lincoln’s green spaces for a tasty picnic.
In 2021, a second vegan eatery, Happy Culture Cafe, opened in Lincoln. The establishment also hosts a wellness hub and community space for local groups and grassroots organisations to meet.
35. Sip a proper real ale at the Strugglers Inn
Lincoln has a fantastic tradition for ‘proper’ real ale pubs, and the award-winning Stugglers Inn is one of the very best. Standing next to the grounds of Lincoln Castle, this characterful 19th-Century pub has won accolades including a national title for its cask ales and Lincolnshire Pub of the Year 2019.
Landlady Anna has described the pub’s vibe as a “non-stop cask ale festival”, which is a great way of putting it. There’s always something new on tap, and a cheery atmosphere in which to enjoy it.
The team at the Strugglers has been channelling its creativity to keep the ale flowing through the pandemic, with a new colourful outdoor seating area, and live music when the weather allows.
36. Meet the felines in Coffee Cats
The craze of cat cafés has swept across the world in the last few years. It’s easy to see why the concept has caught on so quickly – what’s not to love about sipping a cuppa while surrounded by adorable furry mogs? And in 2019, Lincoln finally got in on the fun with the opening of Coffee Cats.
This is no ordinary cat café either – every one of the furry friends at Coffee Cats has been taken in from a rescue shelter. So when you have a coffee (supplied by Stokes) and cake here, you’re supporting the welfare of animals that have been given a second chance after a tough lot in life. They’re also irresistibly cute!
It costs £6 to come in for an hour, which goes back into maintaining this environment for the café’s eight resident rescue cats. While sipping your cuppa and cake you can sit back, de-stress and enjoy the cats frolicking around the play spaces. You can book a slot online and read up on the latest Covid measures in place on the Coffee Cats website.
37. Have a drive-thru ice cream at Daisy Made Farm
When the sun is shining in Lincoln and you need an ice cream fix, take a short drive to Daisy Made Farm on the outskirts of the city. This is where you will find hands-down the best ice cream around, freshly made with milk from the farm’s cows. There are over 60 flavours to choose from.
Daisy Made Farm has an ice cream drive-thru, so you can make it a quick stop if you’ve got a packed schedule. But if you have kids, it’s a fun place to make a day of it, with a play area, ‘Crazy Daisy’ golf, and – of course – farm animals to meet. There’s a farm café too, where you can grab a hot drink and a light bite.
Things to do in Lincoln: parks, walks and views
38. Walk to The Pyewipe Inn for Sunday lunch
This short and easy walk along the Fossdyke Canal is one of our favourite things to do in Lincoln on a sunny Sunday. The trail begins in the city centre at the Brayford Waterfront, and follows the canal path north-west into the rural outskirts. Just half an hour or so into the countryside you will reach The Pyewipe Inn, a classic British riverside pub.
You can do the walk any day of the week, but we love to do it on a Sunday for the satisfying reward of a roast dinner with a pint of local ale. Nothing can beat sitting outside in the beer garden overlooking the canal for some roast beef and Yorkshire pud. It’s one of our favourite beer gardens in Lincoln.
39. Explore nature at Hartsholme Country Park
One of our favourite things about life in Lincoln is that a 15-minute walk in one direction takes us into the bustling city centre, while the same distance in the other direction brings us among the nature and wildlife of Hartsholme Country Park. This gorgeous open space is centred around the calming waters of a large reservoir, with a maze of nature trails exploring the park’s woodlands, greeneries and landscaped gardens.
For family days out there is a children’s play area, and with Daisy Made Farm on the same side of town the kids will love it. The park has a campsite (temporarily closed), so you could even make an outdoor weekend of it and pop into the city at your leisure.
If you’re up for some good light exercise, you can reach Hartsholme Country Park from Lincoln by walking along a section of the Catchwater Drain trail.
40. Take a day out at Whisby Nature Park
A little further out of the city, Whisby Nature Park offers another stunning natural landscape. Managed by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, the park features several kilometres of gentle pathways meandering around its cluster of lakes.
The park is also home to the free-to-enter Natural World Centre, with educational resources and a wildlife adventure area for kids, as well as a café with outdoor boardwalk seating overlooking the water.
If you’re an early riser, Whisby Nature Park is a lovely spot to head out for a morning run.
41. Greetwell Hollow Nature Reserve
One of the lesser-known natural spots around Lincoln, Greetwell Hollow Nature Reserve offers a more rugged outdoor space at the site of a limestone quarry and former ironstone mine. The remnants of the mining days can be seen around the reserve with a scattering of pits and hollows, and the mark of the tramways that were used to carry iron ore.
This is a quiet spot with an abundance of wildlife, especially birds, its wild vegetation making an ideal home for bullfinches, owls, herons, moorhens and snipes. Note that dogs are not allowed on the reserve.
42. Take a stroll around the Arboretum
As a new visitor to Lincoln you probably won’t have heard of the Arboretum, despite it being one of the closest green spaces to the city centre, just a ten-minute walk from the cathedral. This pristine 22-acre park and gardens has been around for 150 years, and was restored immaculately in 2003.
The Arboretum features cultivated flowery gardens and a vast open grassy space for hanging out on sunny days, as well as a hedge maze and bandstand. Located just above Monks Road on the east side of the city, it’s a perfect chill-out spot for an hour or two.
43. See the city view from South Common
For one of the best elevated views of Lincoln, head to the south of the city and take a walk up the South Common. This large space of grassy scrubland slopes up on hillside facing back towards the city, giving a cracking panorama of Lincoln and its surroundings.
You can see the South Common from uphill in the city, and from this opposite perspective it looks far away, but it’s actually only a 20-minute walk from the train station. Alternatively, for a slightly longer but more scenic route, you can reach it by walking down the River Witham.
Things to do in Lincoln: events
44. Visit one of Europes’ biggest Christmas markets
I may be a little biased here, but Lincoln Christmas Market has to be the best of the UK’s Christmas markets. Indeed, it was the first of the German-style Christmas markets to be held in the UK, after the concept was brought back from Lincoln’s twin town Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in the early 1980s. These days it has grown into a festive extravaganza that welcomes a quarter of a million people each year.
The market is held over the first weekend in December, when it takes over the entire uphill city area, sprawling through the castle grounds, cathedral yards and city streets. You will find over 200 stalls selling food, drink, art, craftwork, gifts, clothes and jewellery, with festive music filling the air and the city’s iconic buildings lit up all around. Take a ride on the big wheel for a bird’s eye view, and look out for the cart selling roast chestnuts.
After the 2020 market was sadly cancelled, we were delighted to see the flagship event return 2021. Check out our complete guide to the Lincoln Christmas Market for everything you need to know.
45. Come to the world’s largest steampunk festival
Lincoln’s Asylum Steampunk Festival is the largest and longest-running event of its kind in the world. For a single weekend in August, Lincoln becomes the centre of the steampunk universe, with some 100,000 people descending on the city in an array of dashing peculiar costumes.
With a twist of Edwardian and Victorian nostalgia, steampunk celebrates a “time that never was”. The Asylum festival centres around the castle, but includes mini-events at venues all over the city, celebrating art, literature, fashion, comedy and general creativity.
In 2021 the event moved down the road to Newark temporarily. However, it is returning to Lincoln in 2022 and will be held in the city for at least the next five years!
46. Join a celebration of agriculture at the Lincolnshire Show
Agriculture is Lincolnshire’s pride and joy, with the county’s fertile land producing over a fifth of the food grown in the UK. No wonder we have so many amazing local food outlets in the city. This proud tradition is celebrated each June at the Lincolnshire show, one of the UK’s oldest agricultural events. It takes place at the Lincolnshire Showground just outside the city.
First held over 150 years ago, the show is run by Lincolnshire Agricultural Society and brings together entertainment, exhibitions, and over 600 food stands.
47. Find all the sculptures on the Lincoln Imp Trail
Throughout the summer each year, Lincoln’s urban landscape is brought to life when dozens of specially designed imp sculptures are installed across the city.
The Lincoln Imp Trail has now run for three years, and celebrates the legend of the Lincoln imp – a mischievous grotesque on the inside walls of the cathedral. Local and national artists contribute to the hand-painted fleet of imps, each of which has its own name and personality.
Our guide to the Lincoln Imp Trail gives some background to the initiative and the causes it supports. We’re sure it will be back for 2022, so watch this space for updates and announcements.
48. Experience the creative Lost Village Festival
Bank Holiday weekend in August sees one of biggest and most creative annual music events in the vicinity of Lincoln: the Lost Village Festival. Hosted in a secluded Lincolnshire woodland area between Lincoln and Newark, the four-day festival brings top music and comedy acts to the wilderness.
In previous years, the festival has featured acts including Bombay Bicycle Club, Friendly Fires, Everything Everything and Craig Charles.
With stage names like the Junkyard, the Airbase, the Burial Ground and the Forgotten Cabin, the festival has cultivated a quirky lost-in-the-woods identity and developed a characterful setting to match.
The 2022 festival takes place on 25–28 August. Keep an eye on the Lost Village website for lineup announcements.
Things to do in Lincoln: iconic places to stay
49. Go self-catered in the iconic Pemberton House
There is no shortage of places to stay in Lincoln, but to truly immerse yourself in a piece of the city’s history you can stop overnight at Pemberton House. Built in 1543, this old Tudor merchant’s house stands out strikingly in Castle Square and is one of Lincoln’s most photographed buildings.
Pemberton House features five self-catered apartments with double bedrooms, and shared kitchen, lounge and shower rooms. Nestled right between the castle and cathedral, you couldn’t wish for a more central or symbolic location.
You can book your stay here.
50. Stay in a converted 19th century church
We wrap up our collection of things to do in Lincoln with one of the city’s most imaginative guest houses. The Old Palace Lodge is set in a restored 19th-century church on a hillside perch close to the Cathedral Quarter.
Originally serving as the Church of St Michael on the Mount, the building was repurposed as an art gallery and study before eventually falling into abandonment and deterioration. Just a decade ago, it was brought back to life by being converted into a charming boutique-style guest house.
The location is incredible, offering some peace and quiet away from the busy roads while still being a short walk away from the city’s attractions. There is also a lovely view down onto south Lincoln and beyond from its gardens.
Have you been to Lincoln recently? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.
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