At the heart of South Yorkshire lies one of England’s most beautiful cities: Sheffield. Sheffield is steeped in industrial history and surrounded by some of the wildest countryside in England. Sheffield was a key steel producer during the Industrial Revolution although this industry declined in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, Sheffield is one of England’s core cities and its greenest, with 61% of the city made up of green space. Located in the Peak District, Sheffield mixes bustling urban life with easy access to nature and true English countryside. Here are some highlights to help you explore the best things to do in Sheffield.
1. Millennium Gallery
The Millennium Gallery is one of Sheffield’s most prominent art galleries. It is located in the city centre making it easy to access, and entrance is free to visitors. The gallery has a number of permanent collections as well as spaces for temporary exhibits so there is always new culture to experience. The gallery features collections from John Ruskin that were originally curated to inspire the local workers. You can also find an extensive metalwork collection at the Millennium Gallery which provides an insight into how the steel industry aided locals in everyday life.
2. Kelham Island Museum
Pay a visit to the Kelham Island Museum for a taste of the industrial history of Sheffield. The museum is located on a man-made island by the River Don, which runs through the city. In 1829, an iron foundry was built on this island and later converted into a power station. Today, the museum features exhibitions on Sheffield’s industrial history. It also holds regular demonstrations of the River Don Engine, a steam engine built in 1905 that was pivotal to the steel industry in the 20th century. The museum is also an ideal excursion for families, hosting a number of hands-on workshops for children and young people.
3. Endcliffe Park
Endcliffe Park is one of Sheffield’s many green spaces, made up of both woodland and parkland. It was opened in 1887 and you will find a historical pavilion besides the entrance. The park is home to a number of monuments and memorial structures, as well as a playground for children, outdoor gym and parkour training area – all of which are free to access. This makes it a great place to spend a sunny day, or to relax in after a long day exploring the city centre.
4. Sheffield City Hall
Sheffield City Hall is one of the city’s historical landmarks, sitting in a city square called Barker’s Pool. The building still features damage from a WWII bomb that exploded in the square. Today, the Hall is a venue for events and concerts and houses the largest organ in Sheffield. Over the years, it has hosted famous acts like The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Lou Reed, as well as local and community events. Winston Churchill even paid a visit in 1938. The City Hall is a staple of this city and an ideal location to find entertainment and culture.
Sheffield is well-known for its light-rail tram system, called the Supertram. This popular mode of public transport opened in Sheffield in 1995 and now carries over 11 million passengers every year. The tram system connects the city centre to other neighbourhoods in Sheffield, with easy-to-use stations and route maps. This makes the Sheffield Supertram a cheap and comfortable way to see the city and get around.
6. Weston Park
Weston Park is a large green space in the city, in a central location that makes it easy to access. The park features a huge variety of flower displays as well as late 19th century architecture. Recently restored, the park is a beautiful place to relax. Don’t forget to visit the Weston Park Museum whilst you’re at the park. This museum is Sheffield’s largest as well as a historic building, and a great place to stop off for some art and culture. The museum features exhibitions on Sheffield’s history and art, geography and the natural world. It’s also home to one of England’s oldest weather stations, built in 1882 and still operating today.
7. Winter Garden
Sheffield’s Winter Garden is the largest urban glasshouse in Europe, found in the centre of the city. It is also one of the biggest glasshouses to be built in recent British history and is currently home to over 2,000 plants from around the world. The building is eco-friendly and is built out of materials that will change colour over time. Entrance to the Winter Garden is free and there is a café onsite for refreshments. This is a magical place to explore and to take a break – a tropical haven in the centre of the city.
8. Tropical Butterfly House
The Tropical Butterfly House is a wildlife centre located just outside of the city. Featuring farm animals, meerkats, birds and – of course – butterflies, this is a lovely location for a day out amongst the animals. The centre provides a number of ‘animal encounter’ experiences every day which aim to educate about wildlife as well as provide you with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals. In the butterfly and reptile house, you can handle snakes and lizards – or if you prefer something fluffier, try feeding a baby goat or walking amongst the lemurs. There’s even a dinosaur trail for people who are feeling particularly brave!
9. Sheffield Botanical Gardens
The Sheffield Botanical Gardens are a beautiful place to spend a day, with over 5,000 species of plants housed here. The gardens have been open since 1836 and feature a number of historic buildings and pavilions. The plants are displayed using a horticultural technique that highlights each plant individually. This gives the best view and experience of the flowers, shrubs and trees planted here. There are guided tours on offer for those who would like to learn more about the history of the gardens and the plants on view. In addition, the Botanical Gardens double up as a stunning outdoors venue for musical, theatrical and cultural events, perfect for summer entertainment.
10. New Moor Market
The New Moor Market is situated in the Moor Quarter of the city, featuring pedestrianised streets and some of the best shopping opportunities in Sheffield. The market features 200 stalls and a number of small shops, encouraging local and small business in the city. This is the perfect place to get an idea of life in Sheffield. At the market, you can purchase fresh food including fish and seafood, meat, baked goods and deli products, all sourced locally and supporting the community. A number of stalls sell global cuisine, ideal for a lunchtime snack. The market also features stalls for homeware, fabric, jewellery, handmade crafts, clothing and more. As the market is a trading space for small businesses, the quality of everything is fantastic but the prices tend to be lower than in chain stores – making the New Moor Market the best place for a shopping spree in Sheffield!
11. Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House is a short drive from Sheffield’s city centre and a necessary excursion if you’re in the area. This stately home is a slice of manor-born English countryside, having housed Dukes for centuries. The house is set in picturesque surroundings, with views of the River Derwent and woodland slopes. Inside, the house holds a collection of art and artefacts, including historical paintings, furniture and books. This house has featured in a number of films and books, including Pride and Prejudice and The Duchess. You can even have a very English afternoon tea in the stables, as you take in the quaint and calm British landscape. An absolute must-see.
12. Meadowhall Shopping Centre
For a spot of retail therapy, visit Meadowhall Shopping Centre in the city. It is a large mall featuring all of the chain and designer stores your heart could desire. Meadowhall is Yorkshire’s largest shopping centre, with stores by Armani, House of Fraser and Apple, as well as a large food court to help you recuperate after a day of shopping. This is a popular shopping area and you’re sure to find whatever you need in this mall.
13. Ecclesall Woods
Ecclesall Woods covers a massive 350 acres and is now a Local Nature Reserve after years of providing timber and charcoal for local industry. Spend a few hours hiking through the woods and taking in the local wildlife and flowers. There are a number of landmarks within the woods, including two historic mills, with one dating back to the 1600s. There are also a number of pits that were once used to manufacture coal, with evidence of charcoal-burning sites throughout the woods. Finally, you can also look at an ancient carved stone, dated to the Bronze Age, making these woods a delightful place to experience nature and history in one place.
14. Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet
The Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet is a museum that explores the industrial history of Sheffield in a unique setting. The museum is located in an old steel-working site, complete with original buildings and equipment. This site has existed since the 13th century and is now listed as an ancient monument. On site, you will find a furnace, tilt forge and grinding hull, providing a glimpse of an ancient way of life. There is a learning centre and a number of workshops where you can learn more about crafting processes. The site is still home to modern craftspeople who work here to create their products. This is a fascinating and immersive way to experience industrial Sheffield.
15. Sheffield Manor Lodge
Sheffield Manor Lodge was built in 1516 as a country home for an Earl and his family. Today, you can visit the ruins on hiking trails and learn about the site’s history through exhibitions. Mary, Queen of Scots was once imprisoned here and there are rumours of her ghost haunting the building! You can join a guided tour of the ruins, explore the farm and experience life as a Tudor or as a WWII evacuee in the cottages that date from the 1940s. There is a lavender labyrinth for children to get lost in, as well as a café to grab a bite to eat after all of your adventures. This is the place to go for some Sheffield history and beautiful landscapes.
16. Peak District
About a third of Sheffield is located in the Peak District, one of the most expansive and beautiful places in England. The Peak District is home to a number of mountains and wild moorland, and attracts millions of people every year. It is an ideal spot for hiking, biking and photography, with many vibrant and dramatic landscapes. Sheffield is an ideal base to start exploring the Peaks from, with easy access to a number of walks and routes. Visit stately homes and historic houses, or explore caverns beneath the surface. There are even opportunities to go potholing or climbing, for the best and most unique views of the wild English countryside.
17. Devonshire Quarter
The Devonshire Quarter is adjacent to the city centre and home to plenty of independent shops and bars. This is a delightful shopping area where a variety of small businesses provide an opportunity to find quirky and unique items. Check out Rare and Racy – a bookshop that sells antique tomes as well as jazz and blues records. Other shops sell vintage or handmade clothing, cakes, designer goods from independent boutiques, and the best of Americana including burgers and cocktails. This area is trendy and hums with an urban vibe. Grab a cup of artisan coffee, pass by old metalwork buildings, and check out local art or musical acts at the Forum.
18. Sheffield Station
Sheffield rail station is the busiest in South Yorkshire and likely to be your entryway into the city. The station features original architecture from its construction in 1870 which is a delight to view. The station also houses a number of spots to grab a drink, most noticeably the Sheffield Tap. The pub was once the station’s old refreshment room and you can still find original tiles and gorgeous mahogany adorning the bar. The Sheffield Tap offers a vast range of real ales and beers from around the world, making it a great introduction to the local pub culture.
19. Bloc Projects
Bloc Projects is an artist-led space in the centre of Sheffield, making it the city’s hottest spot for contemporary art. Bloc Projects has a gallery and a courtyard both filled with art and interesting installations. The gallery actively promotes up-and-coming artists with a focus on experimentation and encouraging interaction between artists and audiences. Bloc Projects also has a shop where you can buy original artwork, so you can take a slice of culture home with you.
20. London Road
London Road was originally a farmer’s route and still boasts a number of family-run businesses today. With restaurants presenting delicious menus from around the world, London Road is one of the best places to eat in Sheffield. Branching off from the city centre, London Road starts with a number of excellent East Asian restaurants before merging into Mediterranean and Turkish cuisine, and ending with Indian and Mexican eateries. You could travel the world in a stroll down London Road! For a drink, try The Bell Jar, a nirvana for real ales and one of the oldest buildings in the neighbourhood. Other pubs host regular open mic nights so you can listen to local music in a historic building.
21. Eyam Hall
Eyam Hall is a historic manor house located just outside of Sheffield. The house was built in 1671 and is a well-preserved example of Jacobean architecture. The Hall and its garden are now open to the public so you can learn about the history about the building and life in the 17th century. Inside the Hall, you will find priceless art and collected treasures. The Hall is also the starting point for a number of walking and cycling routes to help you to explore the surrounding countryside. In addition, Eyam Hall hosts numerous craft workshops so you can learn a new skill or improve existing ones, such as embroidery and flower arrangement.
22. Antiques Quarter
Sheffield’s Antiques Quarter can be found off London Road and features a number of antiques stores – and antique buildings! Here you can find the Highfield Library, built in 1870 and featuring classical architecture. Further on, you will find independent stores, many of which trade antique goods and trinkets, including military mementos, clothes and retro houseware. Take a look in Heeley Bank Antiques Centre for an eclectic assortment of items in a beautiful building from 1900 and still featuring original tiles. The Antiques Quarter is also home to coffee shops and little cafes, including the popular Rude Shipyard. This café also houses a bookshop, promoting the work of local writers. Peruse a ‘zine, poetry or some second-hand fiction whilst you enjoy a home-cooked treat.
23. Sheffield Cathedral
Sheffield Cathedral is a listed building believed to have originally been constructed in the 12th century. It is built on the site of the Sheffield Cross which dates from the 9th century and is currently housed in the British Museum. The church has been rebuilt many times since its original construction and the current cathedral was finished in 1880. The cathedral is filled with history as its structure was built upon and remodelled over the centuries. You can find ancient stones and old damage throughout the church. The architecture is impressive and worth a view, with many of the recent additions providing an artful touch to the layout of the church.
24. Heeley City Farm
Heeley City Farm is a lovely place to spend the day with family or any animal lover. As a city farm, its location is convenient to access, making it an ideal place for a day out. The farm is home to many adorable farmyard animals which can be petted. In addition, Heeley City Farm promotes environmentally-conscious behaviours with a recycling centre on-site. The farm is open every day and admission is free, with a playground, café and garden centre.
25. Peveril Castle
The ruins of Peveril Castle are located near Sheffield and oversee gorgeous rolling countryside. The castle was built in 1176 as a defence fortress, and is considered to be one of Britain’s earliest Norman keeps. The castle stands amongst other ancient and medieval sites including the hill of Mam Tor and a Roman fort. The castle sits atop a hill where you will get some of the best views possible of the Peak District. Nearby, the village of Castleton offers a number of cosy pubs to relax in after a day of hiking. A wonderful way to explore the countryside and learn more about English history.