England’s steel city has turned from being a northern industrial hub to being a city of culture, countless green spaces, incredible museums and excellent restaurants, pubs and nightspots. It offers everything an eager explorer could want, but if you still need convincing, read on and discover the ten reasons that should put Sheffield right at the top of your list.
This South Yorkshire university town is one of the most thriving cities in the country, boasting great restaurants, pubs, museums, galleries, shops, parks and a whole lot more
1. The greenery
Sheffield may be known as the city of steel but it’s actually one of the UK’s greenest cities, as evidenced by its sixth place on The Guardian’s top ten green cities in the UK. Over 22 per cent of the city is green space, it’s the only city in the UK with part of a national park inside its boundary and it also claims to have the highest proportion of people to trees of any city in Europe (we haven’t counted, so we’ll just take their word for it). There are 13 city parks, 20 district parks and 50 local parks. The city’s Botanical Gardens, laid out in 1836, are a Grade II listed site and boast an incredible collection of exotic plants and some stunning buildings.
2. The Galleries
In the early 20th century, a huge drive took place to bolster Sheffield’s regeneration and the refurbishment of many of its principle buildings. Out of this £130 million Heart of the City project grew the Millennium Gallery which showcases the best of the city’s metalwork, alongside John Ruskin’s collection of art, designed to inspire the working class of the city and enrich their lives. Graves Gallery hosts works by world-renowned artists, as well as being home to the Turner Prize-winner Grayson Perry’s Comfort Blanket.
Sheffield has a wide range of museums, from the small and quirky to the grand and industrial. For all the talk of the city’s development as a green and cultural city, it hasn’t forgotten its roots and these are displayed proudly at the fascinating trio of Kelham Island Museum, Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and Shepherd Wheel Workshop. Kelham Island houses artefacts from the city’s industrial past on a man-made island, while Abbeydale showcases over 200 years of metalwork, and Shepherd Wheel offers a glimpse into the workings of a knife grinding workshop. There’s also the rather grand Weston Park Museum, which tells the stories of the people of Sheffield throughout history.
The food scene is as lively as any other element of Sheffield’s current contemporary golden era and its selection of restaurants accurately reflect the city’s multicultural influences. Excellent Indian and Turkish restaurants such as Kashmiri Aroma and Lokanta rub shoulders with American fare at Anchorage and Mexican at Street Food Chef. Pub food par excellence is the order of the day at The Wick At Both Ends and The York, while Rafters is perfect for something a bit smarter.
Whether you’re after craft ale, cocktails, fine wines or a warm welcome and a pint in an old-fashioned pub, you’ll find it all – and more besides – in Sheffield. Lose yourself in a world of rum-based wonders at Revolución de Cuba, sip fizz and hit the dancefloor at former church SOYO, sample some new gins at The Old House on Gin Thursday, or keep going til the wee hours at The Great Gatsby. The aforementioned The Wick At Both Ends is one of the best spots in Yorkshire for a relaxing pint and some great grub, while the Showroom cinema is also home to one of the best cinema bars in the country.
As we just mentioned, Showroom is the cinema in Sheffield, a superb independent that mixes blockbusters and more esoteric new releases with seasons of carefully curated world, cult and independent cinema. The Curzon is also a great destination for lovers of leftfield foreign films, documentaries and indies, while the major chains (Vue, Odeon and Cineworld) all have a presence in the city. While the Sheffield of today might be very different to the one depicted in The Full Monty, fans can still trace some of the locations, such as Shiregreen Working Men’s Club and Sheffield Boxing Centre (just don’t try stripping at either).
7. The theatres
Sheffield’s two main theatres are the Lyceum and the Crucible. Both were subject to extensive upgrades as part of Heart of the City and both showcase plays, musicals, stand-up comedy and more on their stages, both local productions and shows on tour around the country. Whether you’re looking for something bright and breezy, an evening with a famous comedian, a talk from a TV personality, a bit of magic or a hard-hitting drama, the varied listings for both will be sure to hit the mark. The Crucible is also well known to snooker fans as the long-time home of the World Championships.
Sheffield comes steeped in sporting history. As depicted in the Sean Bean film, When Saturday Comes, it’s a city in love with its football, even when its two teams – Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday – have found success hard to come by of late. Wednesday’s ground, Hillsborough, will forever be associated with the tragic loss of 96 lives during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final and a park dedicated to those who died is located near the stadium. The city also has strong ties with running, counting Sebastian Coe and Jessica Ennis-Hill among its brethren, and the local ice hockey team Sheffield Steelers were UK champions in 2017.
Sheffield’s contributions to music include Pulp, Arctic Monkeys, The Human League, Def Leppard, Moloko, Heaven 17 and many, many more (remember Babybird?). It’s unsurprising that the city has produced so many great acts when you consider the high standard of its venues, from The Leadmill – which regularly draws in great acts from the UK and beyond – to the smaller, more intimate confines of the upstairs room at The Grapes.
There are two big shopping centres just outside the city, Meadowhall and Crystal Peaks, both of which are filled to the brim with big names, while shopping in the city centre is located around Fargate and The Moor. Anyone looking for something a bit more unique and independent will find much to love in the Antiques Quarter, the Devonshire Quarter and Ecclesall Road.