Ask anyone in England what the name “Sheffield” brings to mind and the most likely answer is “stainless steel.” Boring, shiny, stainless steel; simply because it was developed there. However, having lived in Sheffield for nearly two years now, I can vouch that there is definitely more to it than that. Here are five reasons why you should go to Sheffield (and non of them involve metal!).
photo by Jason King
1. The Outdoors
One of the most striking aspects of Sheffield is how green it is. It may be a city, but with picturesque parks at every turn and the magnificent Peak District enveloping it, it certainly doesn’t feel like one.
My most common haunt is Weston Park, a well-kept jewel amidst the busy metropolis. Whether the sun is shining or the weather is “English” in its temperament, I love to spend time here. You’ll see a fair few joggers doing circuits round the park, but I like to exercise my mouth instead, sitting and eating ice cream from the ice cream van located just outside the park’s gates.
If one park isn’t enough and you need more parks to ponder in, Crookes Valley Park is situated just a couple of minutes walk away, and this one has a lake.
Another outdoor space to add to your list is The Peace Gardens, nestled in the heart of the city. Looking towards the Town Hall, the main features of the gardens are the magnificent fountains at its centre and the cascades surrounding the area. These are supposed to represent the five rivers of Sheffield, but I just think it’s a lovely place to pause between shops and have a quiet sit down.
If you’re really keen on the outdoors then you can make your way into the Peak District where you can go hiking, abseiling, rock climbing and kayaking, to name a few. The highest points of the Peak District offer breathtaking panoramas and provide a rather picturesque spot for a picnic. If pottering round towns and villages is more up your alley then there’s plenty of scope for that too. Sweet little places like Glossop, Castleton, and Bakewell (where you can try traditional Bakewell Pudding) are dotted around the area.
2. The Music Scene
I love the music scene in Sheffield. There’s always something going on and not just in the huge venues like Don Valley Stadium, but also in small clubs and pubs such as The Leadmill, Plug and The Harley. There’s so much diversity within the Sheffield music scene, making it innovative and perpetually exciting. It is home to many well-known musicians – from The Human League to The Arctic Monkeys and Pulp – as well as underground sensations such as The Crookes (named after a suburb in Sheffield) and Slow Club.
photo: Andrew Whitton
If you like something a little off-beat, then the Folk Train comes to town every fourth Tuesday of the month. You can ride from Sheffield to Edale and back again (with a couple of hours stop at The Rambler pub in between), listening to live folk music all the way. You can also hear, or even play, some live, improvised folk music at Fagan’s, a charming little pub close to the city centre – just bring along an instrument, your voice or your ears, and enjoy!
If you do plan on visiting Sheffield in the summer, make sure you come in July so you can attend the Tramlines Festival. Taking over the city centre for three days, the festival offers an electrifying line-up of local and national artists and what’s better, it’s absolutely free.
3. The Hidden Treasures
There are so many places in Sheffield that you will never find if you don’t wander a little off the beaten track. Of course, there are fantastic shops on High Street, busy bars and clubs on West and Carver Street, and an abundance of restaurants throughout the city centre, but my favourite places might not be so obvious to the first time visitor.
My first stop would be the ever-vibrant Castle Market. It was built on the site of the old Sheffield Castle (hence the name) and is always bustling with locals buying fresh produce for their dinner, browsing art in the tiny basement galleries, or even just getting their hair cut. You can just about buy anything here, and what’s more, it won’t break the bank. I love soaking up the effervescent atmosphere here and it’s the perfect place for people watching.
A little further afield is the Abbeydale Picture House. Originally opened in 1920 as a luxurious cinema and ballroom, it now houses Abbey Snooker and Bar Abbey. It’s well-worth going just to have a look at the building itself, which is still beautiful, despite not being in its initial pristine state. However, if you venture inside, you’ll surely find some event or another going on. For example, on the fourth Thursday of every month Bar Abbey is host to Abbcom, a comedy night for old and new talent alike, and on the first Monday of each month you are transported back to the roaring 20’s with music at Jazz at the Picture House.
One of my favourite places in Sheffield cannot be narrowed down to a single building. It is, in fact, a whole street – Division Street. It is situated in the city centre and if I had nothing else to do I could quite happily spend the whole day there. Veering off from busy West Street you are greeted by antique jewellery, record and book shops, as well as quaint little boutiques and restaurants. If you’re hungry for scrumptious burgers, pies and all things unhealthy, and you like a hipster vibe, then definitely give Bungalows and Bears a try.
Your trip along Division Street wouldn’t be complete without popping into The Forum. On warm days, having a drink and some food on the café bar’s sun-terrace is the ideal way to spend an afternoon and, rain or shine, the shops inside are irresistible. Quaint little Lottiebel’s Boutique stocks delightful vintage clothing and accessories, as well as many unique pieces of jewellery, while Syd + Mallory offers a whole range of handmade, one of a kind garments and accessories.
4. Henderson’s Relish
Having been manufactured in Sheffield for over 100 years, Henderson’s Relish is an iconic part of the city. Its recipe remains a closely guarded secret, making it completely unique (and delicious). Somehow it manages to go well with any meal and it’s suitable for vegans so there’s no reason not to give it a try. While no member of the public is allowed inside the building where the relish is produced, you can find bottles of it in most restaurants and shops throughout the city. If you want a real taste of Sheffield, this is it. The delectable sauce is almost exclusively available in South Yorkshire so you’ll have to visit Sheffield to give it a try.
5. The People
I’ve travelled to a lot of different places and have met countless lovely locals, but I can honestly say that I have never felt so welcome in a city as I do in Sheffield. If you want to visit a place where you’ll get service with a genuine smile, be able to have a 20-minute conversation with a stranger about how their mother-in-law wears the colour lilac too much (true story), and where people will bend over backwards to help you, then Sheffield is the destination for you. You’ll be made to feel so at home, perhaps you’ll forget to leave!
*post written by Victoria Beardwood