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Steep Hill is one of the best things to do in Lincoln and a bucket list activity whilst you’re in the city.
It’s a charming cobbled street that is filled with historic buildings, shops, restaurants, boutiques, and character.
As the name suggests, it’s seriously sharp incline and the fourth steepest street in all of England.
It will take you on a journey from The Strait and eventually to the historic Lincoln Cathedral Quarter.
It was built by the Romans of ‘Lindum’ and was later home to medieval merchants and communities. So, as well as shops, there’s lots of history to uncover too.
Here is the ultimate guide to Steep Hill Lincoln including the history, how to visit, and the best things to do here!
How steep is Steep Hill Lincoln?
Steep Hill Lincoln is the fourth steepest street in the entire country according to the Ordinance Survey. It has an average incline of 16.12° or a one-in-seven 14% gradient!
It was built by the Romans and originally had steps that would connect the lower settlement with the plateau above containing a legionary fortress.
Steep Hill joins an entire list of steepest streets in England. The steepest is Vale Street in Bristol with an average incline of 21.81°.
The fifth steepest, after Steep Hill, is Gold Hill in Shaftesbury with an average incline of 16.09°. This is the location of the famous Hovis TV advert.
Steep Hill history
In 1AD, Lincoln was known as ‘Lindum Colonia’ and was home to a thriving Roman Colony. At the heart of this was a legionary fortress home to some 40,000 soldiers.
They built Steep Hill to expand the settlement and excavations have revealed that this used to be a stairway.
The oldest surviving building we can see today is the Norman House, dating as far back as the 12th century.
Many of the Steep Hill houses are centuries old and timber framed. They date back to medieval times and were residences of wealthy merchants.
There was also a thriving Jewish community living here in the 13th century and there is evidence of a medieval synagogue in Jew’s Court.
Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction in Lincoln that is home to restaurants, independent boutiques, pubs, tea shops, and historic attractions.
Things to do on Steep Hill Lincoln
1. Walk up Steep Hill
A bucket list activity in Lincoln is to walk up from The Strait up Steep Hill to Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter.
But, this is often easier said than done. Once you start making your way up there will be no doubt as to how this historic street gained its moniker!
It’s so steep in parts that there are railings and a seating area for your safety. But, the walk will be well worth it.
You can stop at lots of bookshops, cafés, and historic buildings along the way to make it a little easier on the legs.
2. Take a break at the Mayor’s Chair
If you need a bit of a breather whilst traversing Steep Hill, a great place to do it is an area called the Mayor’s Chair.
For centuries, this has been a traditional place to rest whilst walking up this large hill. The name comes from the ornate 17th-century carved seat by the Lincoln Guildhall and was a gift from the Mayor of Lincoln at the time.
There is an interesting row of curved benches here where you can sit for a while and catch your breath!
3. Visit Jew’s House and Jew’s Court
On the journey from The Strait up to Steep Hill, you’ll notice a large historic building called Jew’s House which sits below Jew’s Court.
It has traditionally been associated with a thriving medieval Jewish community before the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290.
It’s one of only five surviving medieval Jewish Houses in all of England. Today, the Jew’s House is home to a fine-dining restaurant and independent beauty salon.
Jew’s Court above is thought to be the site of an ancient medieval synagogue and complex built in the 13th century.
You can pop inside to find a large selection of second-hand books, local history, and postcards.
4. Admire the amazing architecture
If you love history then Steep Hill will definitely wow you with its incredible mix of historic buildings.
There are so many to see it’s hard to fit them all into one list but here are some to look out for.
The oldest building on Steep Hill is The Norman House at number 47, near Christ’s Hospital Terrace, which dates back to 1170!
This makes it one of the oldest surviving domestic buildings in the UK and is now home to an artisan teashop.
Another interesting building is The Harlequin at number 20 which almost bulges over the pavement.
It’s a gorgeous timber-frame building that dates back to the 15th century. Originally built as a Hall House, it is now a bookshop.
One of my favourite buildings is the white timber-frame house you can see at the very top of Steep Hill.
It’s called Leigh-Pemberton House and was once the residence of a wealthy merchant in the 16th century.
Today, it acts as the award-winning Lincoln Tourist Information Centre and it’s worth popping inside if you need any recommendations.
5. Get lunch at Browns Pie Shop
Brown’s Pie Shop is more like an institution on Steep Hill and a restaurant you have to prioritise when visiting Lincoln.
The building dates back to the 17th century but it was transformed into a pie shop during the 1980s.
I visited Brown’s Pie Shop for an early dinner and I was so impressed by the food. I highly recommend the Beef and Lincolnshire Ale.
The pies are really delicious but there are all types of meals you can buy like Chicken Wellington and Roast Pork Belly.
Apparently, it is haunted by a young boy called Humphrey who has been featured in ‘Most Haunted’.
This place does get really busy at peak times and you’ll find queues out the door! I would try to avoid the rush hour if you can.
6. Go Steep Hill shopping!
You will be spoiled for choice with shops on Steep Hill. There are so many independent boutiques you’d need a whole day to explore them all.
There is a wide range that appeals to every kind of shopper. There are bookshops, sweet shops, souvenir stores, cheeseries, wine boutiques, vintage shopping, and more.
Shopping is one of the main things to do on Steep Hill so make sure to plan enough time and budget some spending money!
7. Have a drink at the Wig & Mitre
The Wig & Mitre is a historic pub that has lots of history, character, and atmosphere at the top of Steep Hill.
It’s located in a building dating back to the 14th century and today it’s a gastro pub that serves up wholesome meals throughout the day.
If you’re here on a Sunday they also have a great roast dinner service. But, booking is highly recommended.
8. Check out Castle Hill square
At the very top of Steep Hill, you’ll find Castle Hill which is seen as the heart of Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter.
It’s a cobbled five-way junction and a meeting of places between Steep Hill, Exchequergate, Bailgate, Lincoln Castle, and Drury Lane.
You’ll see lots of amazing buildings here like the timber-framed information centre, the Exchequer Gate that leads to Lincoln Cathedral, and the entrance to Lincoln Castle via the castle walls.
It was the famous location of the Battle of Lincoln Fair in 1217 when the French army lay siege to Lincoln Castle. They were eventually pushed back.
Castle Hill regularly holds events throughout the month like a Farmers Market, Artists Market, and Antiques Market.
At Christmas, this square holds the annual Lincoln Christmas Market. You’ll find lots of stalls selling gifts, mulled wine, cheese, and all sorts of comforting Christmas snacks!
9. Visit the Roman Ruins of Upper South Gate
Lincoln used to be called ‘Lindum’ or ‘Lindum Colonia’ which was a thriving Roman colony. There was a central legionary fortress, bathhouses, temples, and workshops.
Steep Hill used to be the Roman Upper South Gate and in Number 44 you can find the remains of the large archway that used to form the entrance.
Just inside the door, you’ll find part of the spina which was the wall between the two arches.
Opposite, you’ll find some Roman stones set into the brick of the building. This formed part of the western carriageway.
10. Harding House Art Gallery
Set in a delightful 16th-century half timber-frame building, Hardings House and Art Gallery can be found tucked away on Steep Hill.
Historically this was a merchant’s house but today it’s been transformed into an artist’s cooperative.
They have a wide range of works in their lower gallery and the upper gallery often hosts exhibitions.
Hardings House is open every day from 10 am – 5 pm Mondays – Saturdays and 11 am – 4 pm on Sundays.
11. Shop in The Strait
The shopping street that you will most likely pass through to begin your ascent up Steep Hill is The Strait.
It’s the gateway between the bustling high street and the historic quarter of the city and has a great variety of independent businesses and boutiques.
The most famous is the 12th-century Jew’s House (mentioned above) which is home to a fine-dining restaurant and salon. Jew’s Court has an amazing bookshop to check out.
The Strait arch will be there to welcome you and you can find lots of symbolism in the design including the famous Lincoln Imp, Roman amphorae, and the Star of David.
12. Bells Tea & Coffee Shop
One of the most famous cafés in Lincoln has to be Bells Tea & Coffee Shop which is a two-minute walk from Lincoln Cathedral.
They are a traditional English tearoom set in a Grade II listed timber frame building at the top of Steep Hill.
Bells Tea Shop serves up a delicious selection of teas, coffees, light snacks, and afternoon tea services throughout the day.
They also serve up ice cream and you can treat your furry friends to a Maggy Doggy ‘Ice Cream’.
Bells Tea Shop is open 7 days a week from 9.30 am. Booking for afternoon teas is recommended.
How to visit Steep Hill in Lincoln
Lincoln is often described as a ‘tale of two cities’ as you have the modern waterfront and shopping area below and the historic Cathedral Quarter at the very top on a plateau.
Steep Hill is the pathway that bridge that gap between the two! As you can probably tell from the name, it’s a very steep hill to proceed there on foot.
If you’re heading from the waterfront, make your way to the High Steet, through The Strait shopping area and then up Steep Hill towards Lincoln Cathedral.
There are railings to hold onto and benches at the Mayor’s Chair along the way to take a breather as you really don’t know how steep it is until you traverse it.
I wouldn’t recommend doing this drunk. But, it’s quite a laugh to see everyone stumbling around on nights out!
Steep Hill address is Lincoln, LN2 1LR. Click here for a Google Pin!
Steep Hill bus
Lincoln Council is aware that Steep Hill can be a difficult walk for many and so they have a dedicated bus service that will take you to the top of the city.
The ‘Walk & Ride’ service, or the Steep Hill shuttle, gets you straight up to Lincoln Cathedral Quarter without having to negotiate Steep Hill.
It runs on Mondays – Saturdays (except on Bank Holidays) and you can take it from Silver Street.
Steep Hill Lincoln parking
If you’d like to be at the top of Steep Hill, then I would recommend parking in the Castle Hill Pay and Display car park or Westgate East which is next to Lincoln Castle.
But, if you wanted to park close to the bottom of the hill near The Strait there is an NCP Steep Hill parking area.
Off-road parking is available in Lincoln Cathedral Quarter on Bailgate and Eastgate but these are timed from 8 am – 6 pm for a 1-hour maximum stay. However, these are free on Sundays.
Are you looking for more things to do in Lincoln?
There is plenty to do in the historic city of Lincoln if you were here for the day or the weekend around Steep Hill.
At the very heart of Lincoln is Lincoln Cathedral, home to the famous Lincoln Imp. I would highly recommend visiting their Chapter House which is a Da Vinci Code filming location.
After Lincoln Cathedral, you can pop over to Lincoln Castle. It has a huge history dating back to the Norman era and they have a copy of the Magna Carta on display that was made during the age of King John in 1215.
In more recent years the castle was a Victorian jail. So, you can wander into the old prison cells and learn all about that life was like inside during those times.
The highlight for me though was the Lincoln Castle Walls Walk! It’s a huge trail that circles the castle and you can see 360 panoramic views all over the city.
On the lower end of the city, you could take a stroll around the Brayford Waterfront. There are lots of shops, restaurants, and nightlife there!
A great way to see the city and learn some history would be to take one of the Lincoln Walking Tours that take place on Saturdays. I did this and found it extremely informative and a great way to be introduced to the city.
Where to stay near Steep Hill Lincoln
- The White Heart – This is where Tom Hanks stayed in Lincoln whilst filming the Da Vinci Code. It comes highly recommended and is next to Lincoln Cathedral. Click to book.
- The Castle – Set in Bailgate, this cosy hotel is built on a former Roman square. It’s 5 minutes walk from Lincoln Cathedral. Click here for dates and rates.