Shopping and sightseeing in Carlisle

As the most northernly frontier of the Roman Empire, the Border City of Carlisle has stood guard over the threshold between England and Scotland for 2000 years.

Once ominously known as the ‘debatable lands’, it has been at the centre of many conflicts through the centuries, fought over by the Vikings, Scots, English and Border Reivers.

But as Cumbria’s only city, Carlisle is not only a history buff’s ‘must see’ destination, but also a shopper’s delight and a food lover’s joy.

A vibrant high street:

Carlisle city centre is both historic and vibrant. It bustles with the biggest choice of bars, cafes and restaurants in Cumbria, along with shops of every size on its spacious high street – blending a fine choice of independent retailers with some of the country’s best-known brands.

You can find more than 70 stores in the Lanes Shopping Centre, including a 600-space car park and easy access to the rest of this easy-to-navigate city centre.

Meanwhile, Carlisle’s Market Hall is one of England’s few remaining covered Victorian markets and home to several cafes, a great choice of authentic street food and a wide range of other market stalls.

There is plenty of choice in the city centre to keep you shopping till you drop, with an array of places to eat and drink – keeping you fully refreshed while you enjoy a large slice of retail therapy!

And if you’re a night owl, there’s also a thriving nightlife scene that will keep you going well into the small hours.

Events and festivals for all:

Shopping and sightseeing in Carlisle

In 2022 Carlisle’s events programme is back and stronger than ever.

The city’s pedestrianised Greenmarket continues to be a focal point for street entertainment, farmers’ markets, Christmas celebrations, and much more. This year’s programme starts with the Easter International Market (14-18 April) featuring food and goods from across the globe.

Then, back for its second year, is the Hawker Festival (9-12 June 2022), combining live music with a huge array of street food and drink over four days. It’s all about welcoming shoppers back into the city centre and giving people a safe outdoor space to reconnect with friends and family.

Bitts Park will be the location for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations on Sunday 5 June. It’s also the venue for some great musical talent throughout July, with a series of concerts from globally renowned artists such as Olly Murs, Paloma Faith and Tom Jones.

There’s plenty to look forward to in August too, from the Fake Festival in Bitts Park (a tribute-based music event on Saturday 13 August) to the Carlisle Summer International Market in the city centre (25-29 August).

A special City of Lights event (21-23 October) takes place later in the year, linking in with the Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival. This visual spectacular will see iconic locations like Carlisle Cathedral, Tullie House Gardens and Carlisle Castle lit up with awe-inspiring light displays.

The events year will be rounded off with the famous ‘Fireshow’ in Bitts Park on 5 November followed by the city’s Christmas Lights Switch (20 November).

2000 years of history:

Centuries of border warfare and invading armies, visiting Kings and Queens, and feuding Border have left a fascinating legacy for modern visitors to explore.

Shopping and sightseeing in Carlisle - Carlisle Cathedral

Some of the highlights in the city centre include:

  • Carlisle Cathedral marks its 900th anniversary in 2022, after being founded in 1122 by Henry I as an Augustinian Priory. This magnificent cathedral has been rebuilt several times and during the 1640s, much of the Norman nave was demolished to repair the city's walls and castle. Outstanding features to look out for include medieval painted wall panels, fine wood carvings and the Brougham Triptych altarpiece. Stained glass from the 14th century can be seen in the stunning east window.
  • Carlisle Castle has history embedded in its walls, chambers and passageways. With a commanding position at the northern end of town, the castle was founded in 1092 on the site of an ancient Roman fort originally built in AD 72. Besieged by the Scots seven times over three centuries, the final siege was one of the bloodiest episodes of the Wars of the Roses. Mary Queen of Scots was famously imprisoned here by Elizabeth I and the castle was besieged once more during the English Civil War. The last siege took place when first the castle fell to Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rebellion, before being retaken by the Duke of Cumberland’s army.
  • The medieval Guildhall is one of the four oldest buildings in the city. Listed as a Grade 1 Ancient Monument, it is now a museum of civic history. Treasures stored here include the medieval stocks and the oldest horseracing prizes in England, known as the ‘Carlisle Bells’.
  • Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery was established in 1893 as a museum, public library and school of art. Today Carlisle’s turbulent history is told in Tullie House’s displays and exhibits. This year the venue will also be tying in with Hadrian's Wall 1900th anniversary celebrations; it has long held Roman artefacts but a special exhibition now includes the Newstead face mask – a bronze parade mask from the late 1st Century AD.

For more ideas and inspiration about visiting Carlisle, visit:

The Welcome Back to High Streets project is supported by Discover Carlisle and Carlisle City Council.




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