Hidden secrets? Insider tips? Quirky restaurants? You’ve come to the right place. Welcome to A Local’s Guide to Lincoln. Read on for everything you need to know to make the best of this historic town.
Part of the Green Travel Guide series, the Local’s Guide to Lincoln will cover everything you need to know to experience the best of the city. Our first-hand recommendations will ensure you’re seeing the best sites, eating at the best restaurants and immersing yourself in this medieval marvel of a town.
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Tucked away in a corner of the Midlands, the medieval town of Lincoln flies under the radar when compared to its neighbouring cities. A little more convenient, most people head to neighbouring Nottingham, Doncaster or Peterborough for a day out in the city.
However, quaint and quirky Lincoln really does have it all. This small cathedral city is steeped in history and it shows, from the Norman-built castle to the gothic cathedral that stood proudly as the tallest building in the world for 238 years. Combined with fascinating architecture, mouth-watering restaurants, cute cafés and eccentric independent boutiques, Lincoln has something for everyone.
This Local’s Guide to Lincoln complies three years worth of savvy student knowledge. Keep reading for cute cafés, mouthwatering restaurants, and budget-friendly fun.
Best things to do in Lincoln
Walk up Steep Hill
A walk up Steep Hill is the best way to take in the city. The street is named well, coming in at the fourth steepest street in Britain, but don’t let that put you off! This quaint, cobbled street is lined with independent shops, vintage boutiques, tea rooms and restaurants that you can pop into if you need a break. The walking route will take you past some of Lincoln’s most beautiful architecture and history and ends at the castle and cathedral on the hill.
Situated directly opposite the cathedral, Lincoln Castle is a beautiful blend of history and architecture. The castle was originally built by the Normans in over an existing Roman fort c.1066, however new buildings were being added as late as 1823. It is one of the best preserved castles in England and the courthouse is still used by the Crown Court to this day.
Lincoln Cathedral can be seen from most points in and around the city, standing proudly atop of what must be the only hill in flat Lincolnshire County. This early-gothic cathedral is one of the largest and most beautiful in the UK, declared by Victorian writer, John Ruskin, as ‘the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles’. History buffs will also be pleased to note that the cathedral holds one of only four original copies of the Magna Carta.
My favourite time to visit the cathedral in the afternoon. Enjoy the serene atmosphere as the late sun shines through the stained glass, casting circles of colour across the limestone floors.
You can find up-to-date admission costs and opening times here. Be sure to check their website for a guide to Lincoln Cathedral’s must-see spots.
Medieval Bishops Palace & Summer House
Standing almost in the shadow of Lincoln Cathedral, the medieval bishops’ palace was once among the most important buildings in the country. The well-kept grounds, winding paths and beautiful gardens with sweeping views over the ancient city and the countryside beyond, make this an ideal place to escape for some quiet or contemplation.
Explore the English Heritage-owned site as part of a day out in Lincoln. Grab an audio guide and immerse yourself in the history of the chapel and entrance tower, ‘modernised’ in the 1430s.
Vintage and Pre-loved Shopping
Lincoln’s quirky character makes it an excellent city for the sustainable traveller looking for vintage and pre-loved fashion. The walk along the high street and up Steep Hill is dotted with charity shops, vintage stores and pre-loved boutiques, making this the ideal city for stumbling across new ethically sourced outfits. Keep an eye-out for pop-up vintage fairs, which usually take place on the Lincoln University campus.
Lincoln Christmas Markets
Lincoln’s Christmas Markets are some of the finest in the country. Taking place on the first weekend of December each year, these four-day festivities spread from the cathedral, to the castle and beyond. The Christmas Markets span the whole town, bringing together international traders and local artists alike. Most of the action, however, takes place in the Cathedral Quarter.
They are definitely worth a visit – avoid the crowds by experiencing the markets on Thursday or Friday instead of the weekend. I was lucky enough to experience the markets in the snow and they were beautiful.
A Local's Guide to Lincoln Christmas Markets
The market can be divided into two main parts; traditional and modern.
The traditional market can be found in and around the cathedral, with the modern market spanning the rest of the city. The traditional side is my favourite as it’s calmer and ‘quintessentially Lincoln’. But the modern market may appeal to those looking for a more mainstream experience. To enjoy the best of both, follow my guide below.
Start with a walk up Steep Hill, enjoying the windows of the independent boutiques which are given a fully festive makeover. Follow the music and crowds to Castle Square, where you will be greeted by the first scattering of stalls.
From here, I recommend firstly heading right towards the Cathedral. To really get into the festive spirit, stay for one of Lincoln Cathedral Choir’s hauntingly beautiful performances, held beneath the ribbed vaulted ceiling. The Cathedral is free to enter during the Christmas Markets (roof and tower tours are available throughout at a cost of £4 per person). Sample some of the cathedral’s finest mulled wine and partake in the fundraising stalls, where all contributions go towards the cathedral upkeep.
Next, head to the left of the cathedral and follow the signs for Bishops Palace Summer House. Now in December, these English Heritage-owned ruins are transformed into a Medieval Christmas Market. Enjoy hearty food and drink, live shows, demonstrations, and entertainments with a wide variety of artisans and traders selling their unique and handcrafted wares. Entry is £1 but I promise you, it’s worth it. It’s much less crowded so you can have a drink or some food without being jostled. It also gives a beautiful view over the city below.
Modern and Mainstream Market
When you’re feeling up to it, leave the Medieval Market and walk back across Castle Square. Aim for the buzzing festive vibe of Lincoln Castle. The rest of the markets are much more like you’d imagine a Christmas Market to be. Vendors from around the world gather together, selling everything from jams to jumpers. There’s a fun-fair too, and the views from the Big Wheel are phenomenal.
Follow the flow as the market loops around the walls of the castle and through the town, eventually re-joining Castle Square. Then head back down Steep Hill and grab a bite to eat. You’ll have earned it!
Eating Out in Lincoln
Lincoln has a wonderfully diverse range of delicious restaurants and cosy cafés. The Brayford Pool and bottom end of the High Street are where you’ll find most big name restaurants, but skip the Prezzo and the Pizza Hut in favour of this handpicked selection of independents.
I can personally vouch for every single restaurant and café on this list being wonderful, from the food to the service. All of them are vegetarian, vegan and wallet friendly making these a mindful choice for the ethical traveller on a budget.
Check out the guide to Lincoln’s best restaurants and cafés below.
Café Shanti (High Street)
There’s no restaurant that makes me miss Lincoln more than Café Shanti. Lincoln’s cosy, nepalese-inspired café provides delicious plant-based food, including their famous ‘Shanti Burger’. It’s only small, so make sure to book in advance to secure a table, particularly on weekends. You won’t miss the meat on this menu!
Madame Waffle (High Street)
Don’t mistake Madame Waffle for just another coffee shop! Although their coffee is awesome, it’s the waffles you’ll want to try. With unlimited combinations of sweet and savoury fillings and toppings, there’s something for everyone. Why not have a savoury waffle followed by a sweet one for dessert?
Pimento Vegetarian Café (Steep Hill)
The original vegetarian café in Lincoln, Pimento is bursting with character from the minute you walk in from the steep cobbled street. Chow down on wholesome and hearty paninis or baked potatoes in the only restaurant in Lincoln built on top of a Roman wall. Pimento has a strictly vegetarian/vegan menu so is a great place for those conscious of the impact of their diet on the planet.
Wig and Mitre (Cathedral Quarter)
A cozy pub/restaurant with a buzzing atmosphere, head to Wig and Mitre for traditional pub food sourced from local ingredients. These guys have plenty of delicious vegetarian options – make sure to try the twice-baked cheese soufflé! Their seasonal menu is especially good if you are around for the Christmas Markets.
The Cheese Society (The Strait)
This shop-turned-café serves up a cheese-centric menu for those with a pure & simple love of cheese and good food. From Welsh Rarebit to Tartiflete, everything is locally sourced and made to order. The Cheese Society is definitely worth checking out, but not the most vegan friendly in Lincoln.
The Angel (High Street)
The Angel Coffee House is located in a reclaimed church vestry. Tucked beneath the alcoves, you’ll find seasonal food, homemade cakes and vegan gelato. At the end of the day, they often give away cake for free, so it’s worth sticking around.
Bunty's (Steep Hill)
Bunty’s traditional tea-room bakes the best cakes in Lincoln, perfect to pair with a pot of their loose-leaf tea. Situated half-way up Steep Hill, this quaint little tea room is a great rest-stop for those who are struggling with the incline.
Rising Café (Brayford Pool)
A great menu for a great cause, Rising Café is a not-for-profit business employing formerly homeless and vulnerable people. This quirky café squeezed between two churches has a vintage atmosphere, a diner inspired menu and the best vegan banana milkshake, making it my favourite café in Lincoln. Order the banana milkshake. Make it vegan. I promise you won’t regret it.
Coffee Aroma (High Street)
Ranked by The Sunday Times in the top 25 cafés in England, Coffee Aroma is a Lincoln classic. Settle into one of their cosy nooks spread over three floors and order some artisan coffee, loose-leaf tea and grilled sandwiches. If you’re staying out late, Coffee Aroma is a host for independent musicians, stand up comedy and literature clubs with coffee inspired cocktails and other alcoholic drinks on the menu.
How to get to Lincoln
We always recommend sustainable ways to travel and travelling by train is the easiest way to reach Lincoln. There are direct services running from Nottingham, Doncaster or Peterborough, which are easily reached from major UK cities.
Just off the A1, Lincoln is also accessible by car, though parking in the city can be difficult and the one-way system makes for a hellish search. There is a Park & Ride service if you don’t mind travelling that last bit by bus.
Lincolnshire County is very rural and we wouldn’t recommend taking a bus to Lincoln. Long distance bus transport is not readily available and the local buses are few and far between.
Getting around Lincoln
Lincoln isn’t huge and the best way to get around is to walk. The main areas (High Street, Steep Hill, Castle Square) are completely pedestrianised which makes walking around Lincoln centre a pleasant experience.
Hire Bike Lincoln is a simple bike renting scheme offering both pedal and electric bikes to make getting around the city quick and easy. Bike stations are available across the city and the cost is £3 per hour, or £12 per day.
For those who don’t want to tackle Steep Hill, the Walk & Ride Steep Hill Shuttle ferries passengers between the Cathedral, High Street and Brayford Waterfront, stopping at locations of interest along the route.
Know before you go
The best time to visit Lincoln is during the Spring (April-May) and the Summer (June-September). The temperature is usually nice with highs of 21-25°C, although this is the UK. Don’t leave without a jacket or umbrella as the weather is very changeable and it will rain no matter what the season. The coldest months are December-February with temperatures from 5-9°C and frequent wet weather. However, Lincoln is beautiful at Christmas, especially if you manage to catch the markets!
The UK uses the British pound (GBP). Credit and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere. If you plan to take a bus in the city, make sure you have the correct change. There are ATMs scattered around the city if you need to withdraw cash.
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