Bradford is a city in West Yorkshire, nestled by the picturesque Pennine mountains. Like much of the north of England, Bradford was an important player during the country’s Industrial Revolution. Bradford specialised in textile production but also had an excellent location near mines and water.
Today, Bradford remains a magnificent city for culture, history, and a unique taste of Yorkshire life. Its beautiful location makes it perfect for exploring the countryside and getting to grips with nature. Here are some of Bradford’s highlights to help you get the most out of your trip to this vibrant and eclectic city.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Bradford:
1. Bradford Industrial Museum
The Bradford Industrial Museum is a great place to start off your trip to Bradford. This museum specialises in the local industrial history, exploring Bradford’s importance in the Industrial Revolution. Bradford was well-known for its textile industry, including its manufacture of wool. The museum has been set inside an original textile factory and features machinery used during the height of Bradford’s production. The museum houses galleries on transport, printing, and textile production to provide an in-depth look into how the manufacturing processes worked. Get a souvenir or two at the museum shop, to celebrate Bradford’s rich industrial history.
2. National Media Museum
The National Media Museum is a haven for pop culture lovers and anyone interested in the vast amounts of media we consume every day. The museum features galleries highlighting television, animation, photography, video games, film, radio and the Internet. It houses one of the most comprehensive collection of media items, with over 3,500,000 pieces. The museum is also home to the UK’s first IMAX theatre, which boasts a huge screen and immersive cinematic experience. Get hands-on with the many interactive exhibits available, or attend one of the ever-changing temporary exhibits for an insight into unique perspectives about the media and society. Inside the museum, you will find a café and bar, as well as two cinemas to catch some cult classics or the latest releases. The National Media Museum is an ideal place to spend a day learning more about British history and culture through media.
3. Lister Park
Lister Park is one of Bradford’s largest and most popular public parks. The scenery here is beautiful, making it a lovely location to relax on a sunny day. There are many flower gardens to explore and enjoy, especially in the spring and summer. There is also plenty to do, with a boating lake, tennis and basketball courts, and a children’s playground. One of the park’s highlights is the Mughal Water Garden. This is a unique garden featuring Islamic and Indian architecture, all focussed around water channels and pools to create a calming and picturesque environment. Spend a few hours getting lost in Lister Park’s gorgeous gardens and open green spaces, a delightful retreat from the bustle of the city centre.
4. Bronte Parsonage Museum
A must-visit for literature lovers, the Bronte Parsonage Museum is run by the Bronte Society in honour of the three famous Bronte Sisters: Charlotte, Emily and Anne. These sisters wrote literary classics such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. The museum is located in their former home in Haworth near Bradford and is popular amongst readers who wish to learn more about the sisters and the local area that inspired them. The museum features Charlotte Bronte’s original writing desk, as well as letters, diaries and mementos belonging to the family. In addition, the museum regularly holds events such as talks, readings, and film showings.
5. Bradford Alhambra
The Bradford Alhambra is one of the city’s largest theatres. Originally built in 1913, the theatre is now a listed building with gorgeous and iconic architecture that is recognisable from the Bradford skyline. The theatre has hosted large and touring shows from all genres, including musicals, drama, dance, and even shows exploring topics such as science. Stop by the theatre’s restaurant for a luxury dining experience, or grab brunch at the café for something lighter. This is a great venue featuring some of the best entertainment in Bradford.
6. Bolling Hall
Bolling Hall is one of Bradford’s oldest buildings, dating from the 14th century. It is believed to have originally been a defensive structure, but was eventually bought by the Bolling family and became a stately home. Today, Bolling Hall is a museum that showcases its eccentric mixture of architectural styles and explores the history of life in Bradford since medieval times. The museum features information on the English Civil War and also houses the Bolling Hall Library. The hall offers a truly immersive experience of historical Bradford life – and if you’re feeling brave, see if you can find the ghost that is rumoured to haunt the Hall!
7. Bradford Cathedral
Bradford Cathedral is the city’s oldest place of worship, and is one of Bradford’s hidden gems. Bigger than you expect, this ancient parish church has been a cathedral since 1919, with dignified extensions giving a sense of welcoming space. Both inside and outside, there is much of beauty. Although set in the city centre, the Cathedral is surrounded by landscaped gardens, creating a sought after oasis all year round. Used defensively during the English Civil War the Cathedral is now home to some of the earliest commissions in stained glass made by William Morris and Co. There are also designs by Ernest Sichel in bronze and in embroidery, and sculpture by John Flaxman.
8. Bradford City Park
Bradford City Park is a public space in the heart of the city that surrounds the historic Bradford City Hall. The park features manicured gardens as well as a large event space that is regularly used for community events, exhibitions, and market stalls. Stop by the mirror pool which holds the highest fountain in Britain, with water that can reach 30 metres high. There are play fountains for those who want to have some fun in the summer, and regular light shows when the sun goes down. For a spot of art, find Bradford 1 Gallery and the Impressions Gallery near the large public square. The park is ideal for photo opportunities and a chilled-out day in beautiful surroundings.
9. Cartwright Hall
In the centre of Bradford’s popular Lister Park is one of the city’s best art galleries, Cartwright Hall. Opened in 1904, the hall features baroque-style architecture that makes it stand out in its serene surroundings. The gallery showcases an eclectic body of work, including art from 20th century Britain, contemporary exhibits from around the world, and media-based artwork. You can find pieces by William Blake, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, and many more world-famous names in art. There is something for everyone here, and a great excursion to add to a day out in Lister Park.
10. Peace Museum
The Peace Museum is a unique museum in Britain. It is the only museum in the country that specialises in the history and significance of peace, peace activists and movements. The museum celebrates peace activism and ways in which people have worked to improve the world or their society. There are also pieces in the museum’s collection focussing on local history and heritage. Items showcased at the museum include leaflets, artwork and posters. There are permanent exhibitions on Bradford’s role in peace movements, as well as an exhibition on campaigning and activism. This museum is one-of-a-kind in Britain, and offers an interesting perspective on Bradford’s culture.
11. Peel Park
Peel Park is a large public park in Bradford, one of its many scenic green spaces. It is Bradford’s very first public park and an English Heritage site, founded in 1853. There are a number of historical landmarks dotted throughout the park, including some of the entrances and statues that date from the 19th century, as well as a listed lodge. There are also some drinking fountains that sport attractive Victorian architecture. As you make your way through the park, stop by the lake for a picturesque break, and to spot some local wildlife. Peel Park is a lovely and relaxing green space but also offers recreation for thrill-seekers: in the park, you can find a large skate park if you want to pull off some tricks.
12. St George’s Hall
For some contemporary culture in a historic setting, visit St George’s Hall in the heart of Bradford. This listed concert hall is the oldest still in use in Britain, and the third oldest in Europe. The hall has hosted internationally famous acts such as Iron Maiden, David Bowie, Kiss and even Charles Dickens. Today, you can still catch big name performances, or grab something to eat at the in-venue bistro. St George’s Hall is one of the most iconic places in Bradford to experience some evening entertainment.
13. The Broadway
There is no better place in Bradford to do some shopping than The Broadway. This is Bradford’s new leisure and retail complex, featuring big name brands and chain stores in one place. Conveniently located in Bradford town centre, The Broadway is open every day to suit all your retail therapy needs! Check out the food court for a place to recharge and recover during your spree.
14. East Riddlesden Hall
East Riddlesden Hall is a 17th century manor house that once belonged to a cloth merchant. The hall is situated in peaceful and picturesque surroundings whilst the interior has been carefully protected to ensure its historical accuracy. Scenes of 17th century life have been re-created with authenticity, including needlework from the period, original pieces of furniture, and original room design with ornate ceilings. Admire the stately architecture from the outside before exploring the exquisite gardens. The gardens are bordered by colourful flowers and showcase a slice of history with the Herb Garden, which was once used in local medicine. Use the gardens as a starting point for walks into the local woodland and countryside, or visit the Great Barn which is one of the largest in northern England. Take a break in the tea-house and café whilst children play in the Mud Pie Kitchen or explore the nearby hobbit hole. This is a beautiful and historic location, perfect for a family-friendly day out.
15. Salts Mill
Once a textile mill, Salts Mill is now an art gallery and entertainment complex. The building is a stunning icon of industrial Bradford and an impressive example of the evolution of trade in northern England. Visit the galleries for the UK’s only permanent exhibition on David Hockney’s art, as well as to learn about the history of the mill and the local area. Afterwards, spend some time shopping for art supplies, musical equipment, home décor, jewellery and more, all provided by local businesses. Finish your trip with a bite to eat at the Diner, or sip a coffee at the Espresso Bar. Salts Mill is a quirky way to experience a slice of Bradford’s arts and culture scene.
16. Cliffe Castle Museum
Cliffe Castle is an impressive neo-Gothic structure that now houses the Cliffe Castle Museum. The castle was originally built in the early 19th century and decorated to its current gothic style. The castle still houses glorious and imposing Victorian architecture and beautiful stained glass windows, which you can explore as part of the museum. The museum is dedicated to celebrating the beauty of the castle and exploring local history. There is a gallery on-site that showcases industrial tools and fossils from the nearby River Aire. The museum holds an expansive collection of items from natural history, archaeology, and local history, making it an ideal way to learn more about Bradford and its surrounding countryside.
17. Little Germany
Little Germany is a bustling area of Bradford, featuring plenty of history and eye-catching architecture amongst the diverse array of shops and cafes. Little Germany began in the mid-19th century, originally home to Jewish merchants from Germany. In order to aid their businesses, these merchants constructed towering warehouses, which still line the streets of the area. These warehouses feature original Victorian architecture with slight differences in style depending on the company they were originally built for. This makes a stroll through Little Germany a fascinating journey through history and time. It is also one of Bradford’s busiest commercial areas, with some of the best sandwich shops, bakeries and cafes on offer in the town. Cap off a visit to Little Germany with a trip to the Bradford Playhouse, a popular local theatre.
Saltaire is home to entertainment complex Salts Mill, and a World Heritage site. It was built in 1851 for a wool business, providing an entire living and working complex for employees. The original stone houses built for workers are still standing today, as well as the historic church. The original architecture and buildings have been well-preserved, so stop by Victoria Hall to imagine the official meetings that once occurred here, or stroll through Roberts Park where workers would have relaxed. A trip to Saltaire village is like travelling back in time to Victorian Bradford. It is a fascinating site loaded with history, beautiful architecture, and culture. There are also plenty of local businesses on-site to offer something to eat or drink in between your adventures. This is an unmissable experience.
Ilkley is one of the oldest areas surrounding Bradford. The moor here is believed to be one of the earliest settlements in the area, with carvings and archaeological finds dating from around 1800 BC. Across Ilkley, you will find ancient stones, the purposes of which are still unknown. Learn about the Roman history of the area in the Manor House, which documents the existence of a nearby Roman fort, as well as housing art and items of natural history. In Victorian England, Ilkley was a spa town, famed for its fresh air and local food. In 1859, Charles Darwin stayed in Ilkley to improve his health. For the literary-minded, attend one of Britain’s oldest literature festivals and best arts events, Ilkley Literature Festival. Ilkley is an excellent place to learn more about West Yorkshire history and the influence of Bradford on English culture. Its fantastic rural location also makes it an ideal place to start walking, hiking or biking into the Yorkshire countryside.
20. Curry Capital
Bradford is home to a thriving Asian community and over 200 Asian restaurants. It is considered to be Britain’s ‘Curry Capital’, with plenty of unique cuisines to taste in its numerous curry houses. For an informal and authentic café experience, try Karachi in Bradford’s West End. This is one of the city’s most famous Asian restaurants, and a great place to start. If you’re craving delicious food in a high-class dining setting, try Mumtaz – or for Bradford’s oldest Asian restaurant, go to Sweet Centre for one of the best curry experiences. Finally, for those with a sweet tooth, stop by Nirala for indulgent and tasty Asian sweets.
Haworth is a village near Bradford that makes for an excellent day trip. The village is filled with local history, most notably as the home of the Bronte sisters. The three writers spent their entire lives in Haworth and drew much of their inspiration from the surrounding moors. Visit local ruin Top Withens, which is believed to be the real life Wuthering Heights, and visit the Bronte Memorial Chapel to pay respects to these talented sisters. Haworth is also known for its steam railway, which still runs today for tourists. The village is particularly beautiful in the summer, and offers dramatic vistas during the colder months. Haworth is a must for fans of classic literature, local history, and gorgeous landscapes. This is a great location for photography or for setting off on hikes through the surrounding moorland.
Keighley is a local town in ‘Bronte Country’, the areas surrounding Bradford that the Bronte sisters grew up in and drew inspiration from. Keighley is a famous textile producing town, with a number of industrial factories. It is also home to the Keighley Worth Valley Railway, built in 1867 to connect the town to nearby populations. Local history is invested heavily in its railway heritage. Visit the Ingrow Loco Museum to learn more about the influence of the railway on local culture and industry. For transport enthusiasts, the Keighley Bus Museum is also of interest, showcasing a number of historical vehicles. The town is worth a visit for its pretty architecture and industrial importance, as well as its hearty local food and quaint businesses.
23. Bradford’s Ale Trail
Bradford is well-known for its culture of real ale. There are plenty of real ale houses in the city, offering a taste of the variety and diversity available in the world of real ale. The Bradford ‘Ale Trail’ celebrates Bradford’s real ale history. Start your ale journey at the Livery Rooms in Keighley, where you can peruse local history on the walls as you enjoy a glass of delicious real ale. In the centre of Bradford, try The Castle Hotel for a real ale pub experience in historic surroundings, as the building was erected in 1898. Finally, visit Fanny’s Ale House for a traditional alehouse feel, with authentic gas lamps and open fires to keep you warm throughout the year.
24. Manningham Library
Manningham Library was built in 1910 and still features original architecture. Recently renovated, the library houses excellent facilities and an extensive range of books and media. This makes it a delightful place to wind down and experience a taste of real community life. On sunny days, spend some time in the gardens. These offer bright and modern surroundings in which to enjoy a book or watch life go by. Manningham Library is a lovely place to stop and appreciate Bradford’s history and unique lifestyle.
25. Bradford Festival
An essential part of the Bradford experience is the Bradford Festival. The festival brings a party vibe to the city and celebrates the multiculturalism and diversity of modern-day Bradford.
This family-friendly event brings a vibrant, colourful and multicultural programme of the very best international, British and local theatre, art, music and dance right in the heart of Bradford.