Many places we profile in this column are often saddled with archaic perceptions about what they’re really like, and what I love about these city guides is how often those misconceptions get debunked — thanks to the many contributors who observe all of the great changes that take place where they live.
Today’s city guide brings us across the pond to Sheffield, South Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, a place that may not be on the top of many travelers’ “must-visit” lists. Home to Kathryn Hall and Claire Thornley of Our Favourite Places, the duo describes their city as misunderstood, saying “plenty of people on the wrong side of the city’s boundaries still come out with ‘but isn’t it grim up north?’ – thinking, perhaps, of The Full Monty, or that time they visited the Steel City in the 1950s and its houses were still coated with soot.” Perceptions of Sheffield have been slow to catch up with the reality that it’s a great place to visit, and an even greater place to live.
Some visit Sheffield for its lush, rolling moors and curling valleys of the Peak District national park. Others come for its thriving culture, where theaters and festivals on everything from documentary films to poetry to music take center stage (pun intended). Then, there are some who pay a trip just for the beer, thanks to the second-to-none Kelham Island ale trail. Despite its reputation, Sheffield today is a creative, beautiful, and unconventional city that’s home to hundreds of artists, the largest listed building in Europe (brutalist Park Hill), tons of independent cafes, and a growing sense of self-esteem. “A lot happens within Sheffield’s seven hills,” Kathryn and Claire explain, “and through Our Favourite Places we try to help people discover some of it,” which is exactly why they’re joining us today — to share a city guide of their hometown. Enjoy! –Sabrina
Tamper I (AKA the Little Tamper) landed in Sheffield’s Westfield Terrace in 2011, introducing Sheffield to “Kiwi cafe culture,” with flat whites and long blacks unlike any the city had tasted before. Tamper II (the Big Tamper) soon followed at former silversmiths Sellers Wheel, adding New Zealand-inspired dining to its already winning menu. You can’t beat Tamper’s eggy brunches, and its Friday “after hours” food and cocktail menu makes for a great treat.
149 Arundel Street, S1 2NU
Burritos, churros and bottles of luminous Jarritos. The Street Food Chef cantina is a Mexican-inspired marvel, filling or topping tortillas with tasty meat/veg/bean combinations, spicy salsas and fresher-than-fresh salads.
90 Arundel Street, S1 4RE
Sheffield industrial heritage meets appetizing Americana in this silverworks-turned-coffee shop. Steam Yard’s coffee is second to none. It really wouldn’t be the same without one of the brilliant doughnuts – delivered fresh from Kelham Island’s Depot Bakery – at its side, though. Sit in the cobbled courtyard, start with the grilled cheese, and end with a Steve McQueen coffee and doughnut deal.
Aberdeen Court, 95-97 Division Street, S1 4GE
Bar, hotel, gig venue: The Harley is an all-around house of fun. Even its kitchen is playful, with the Twisted Burger Company in charge, serving up the best and most decadent burgers in town (for meat lovers and haters alike), with punning, music-inspired names like Rasher’s Delight.
334 Glossop Road, S10 2HW
Excellent ales, from the local to the international. Golden, freshly baked pies, served with chunky chips, mushy peas and a generous amount of gravy. Snug booths, beautifully made from ornate railway doors. An extensive whisky menu. There’s plenty to tempt in this popular Victorian ale house turned gastropub, and it’s the best place to warm up after a crawl through the local vintage and antiques shops.
452 Abbeydale Road, S7 1FR
Running just south of the city center, the London and Abbeydale Road “food mile” is packed with some of the best places for a meal out in Sheffield, from Turkish kebab shops to dim sum restaurants to sushi bars. For the best tofu in town – and excellent background music (Björk and Hot Chip were playing last time we visited) – head to this Vietnamese restaurant. Bonus: there’s a karaoke room upstairs.
216-218 London Road, S2 4LW
In the heart of the Antiques Quarter, Bragazzi’s Italian cafe and deli is the ideal place to fuel up for an afternoon’s rummage in the shops. The fine coffee aroma will lure you inside, and the homely armchairs, delicious paninis and charming decor will keep you hanging around.
224-226 Abbeydale Road, S7 1FL
Pizza, cocktails and ping-pong – all delivered speakeasy style. Beneath the 1920s Abbeydale Picture House, in what once was a billiards room and ballroom, Picture House Social’s warren of rooms encompasses a plush bar, an excellent Italian street food-style kitchen, a lively games room and an occasional mini cinema. Look out for gigs and vinyl nights, and prepare to while away whole days and nights down here.
383 Abbeydale Road, Nether Edge, S7 1FS
Restaurants, bars, shops. They come and go on Ecclesall Road, but few have stuck around quite as long as Ashoka. “Inspired by India – made in Sheffield” is the Ashoka mantra, and it’s served it well since 1967. Sheffield meets India throughout the menu, which features a puri flavored with renowned Sheffield sauce, Henderson’s Relish, alongside a fantastic array of curries – all of which can be washed down with a local ale.
307 Ecclesall Road, S11 8NX
The best fish and chips in Sheffield. Nowhere serves a fluffier chip or a more golden-battered fish. Two Steps is also one of the oldest chippies around, dating back to 1895. Expect a queue on Friday evening and, when it’s warm out, take your supper to the picnic benches at nearby Endcliffe Park.
249 Sharrow Vale Road, S11 8ZE
Established in 1969, Rare and Racy is a book – and record, and map, and print, and curiosity – shop like no other. One day you might leave with a haul of Neil Young fanzines, the next a weird folk compilation, and the day after a Robert Mapplethorpe portrait of Sigourney Weaver. Not much has changed in Rare and Racy’s warren of rooms over the years, and it shouldn’t need to. Except that in 2015, plans were approved to demolish the buildings that house the bookshop, along with its next door neighbors, the handmade clothing emporium Syd and Mallory and the Natural Bed Company. Make the most of it while you can.
164-166 Devonshire Street, S3 7SG
When Debbie Moon opened the doors to Moonko in 2013, it quickly became many a Sheffielder’s go-to gift shop. Debbie carefully brings together jewelry, prints, ceramics and housewares by some of the country’s best new designers, creating an ever-changing showcase of covetable goods. Moonko will sort you out for birthdays, Christmases, and those days when you just feel like treating yourself.
89 Division Street, S1 4GE
Bear Tree is small. Six-customers-and-it’s-crowded small. Its size is one of its strongest assets, though; what Bear Tree lacks in square footage, it makes up for in sheer adoration for vinyl. Owner Joe Blanchard worked at longstanding institution Record Collector before opening up this vinyl-only shop in 2015. Not only does Joe place the emphasis heavily on quality over quantity here, but he also adds a personal note to each record, making it easy to discover something new and hard to leave empty-handed.
Craft Workshop 5, Orchard Square, S1 2FB
A vintage gem a 30-minute walk from the city center, The Front Parlour is one of the highlights along Sharrow Vale’s succession of independent shops, small galleries and cozy cafes. A century-old enamel brooch, a sparkling Victorian bracelet, a 50s tweed suit: you’ll find all manner of antiquity here – all charmingly displayed with price tags handwritten by the equally charming (and fabulously turned-out) mother-daughter duo who run the shop.
300 Sharrow Vale Road, S11 8ZL
Just over a mile south of the city center, the triangle between Abbeydale Road, Broadfield Road and Queens Road is widely referred to by treasure-hunters as the Sheffield Antiques Quarter. Here, labyrinthine antiques centers house everything from old railway signage to period outfits, while charming little shops trade in vintage homeware (Honeysuckle at Home), Victoriana (Dronfield Antiques) and flowers (Swallows and Damsons). Look out for the quarterly flea market in Abbeydale’s iconic 1920s picture house.
Start at Sheffield Antiques Centre, 178-188 Broadfield Road, S8 0XL
Fantastic loose leaf teas, blended by a friendly mother-daughter duo and named, for the large part, after beloved places and pastimes of Sheffield and the nearby Peak District. They do a lovely slice of cake, too.
7b Nether Edge Road, S7 1RU
One for anyone with a sweet tooth. Cocoa is stacked with rows of every kind of sweet treat imaginable, from nostalgic treats to fancy truffles. They even make their own chocolate. Stick around for a hot chocolate in the super cute cafe upstairs.
462 Ecclesall Road, S11 8PX
At first glance, Made North looks like any tastefully-stocked design shop. But browse its shelves and cabinets and you’ll discover the purpose that sets it apart from the rest: a “platform for northern designer/makers.” Made North focuses on showcasing and selling innovative, high-quality design from the north of England. Some of its varied wares come straight out of Yorkshire Artspace, the studio complex that surrounds the gallery-shop. Other Sheffield-made delights include Ernest Wright & Son’s shiny scissors and Mamnick’s stainless steel tools for modern life, like the chippie fork/bottle opener.
A gorgeous palace of treats at the heart of Sheffield’s independent Devonshire Quarter. With its dim lights and glistening cabinets, this boutique has a curiosity shop feel to it – though rather than antiquities, here you’ll find fine jewelry, clothes, housewares and tooled leather bags by contemporary designers.
A bijou, Scandinavian-inspired hotel and restaurant, overlooking the serene waters and woodlands of Endcliffe Park. Rooms are delightfully themed around birds, with the Pigeon’s Loft at one end of the price range and the Dovecote at the other.
92 Brocco Bank, S11 8RS
Sheffield sits at the meeting point of five rivers, which feed into a canal network. Victoria Quays is now one of the city’s prettiest – if slightly underappreciated – canalside spots. Its pair of houseboats, Laila Mai and Millie Grace, may not be for everyone (there’s no wheelchair access, and the beds aren’t huge), but they make a nice change from conventional city center hotels.
Victoria Quays, S2 5SY
Anyone who lives in or visits Sheffield would be a fool not to make the most of its glorious back garden: the Peak District. Drive half an hour out of the city center, over moorland, and you’ll come to Eyam. Known as the plague village, Eyam is dotted with moving reminders of a 17th-century outbreak of bubonic plague that saw villagers go into voluntary quarantine. Today, it’s a quiet, quaint place, and this little shepherd’s hut is ideal for a weekend retreat for two.
Hillcrest, The Nook, Eyam, S32 5AB
Of Sheffield’s many parks and gardens, the Botanical Gardens have to be the most picturesque. To Victorians they were “lungs of the city,” space to breathe away from industrial chimneys. Today, they house a riddle trail, beautiful pavilions, and a friendly ursine statue in what once was a bear pit.
Clarkehouse Road, S10 2LN
Kelham Island is the best place to get a sense of the Steel City’s manufacturing heritage. One of Sheffield’s oldest industrial areas, it was once filled with factories. Smaller workshops still operate down its backstreets – but today, it’s history and beer that bring most visitors here. Start at the museum, where you’ll learn about the “little mesters” and “buffer lasses” who made world-famous Sheffield cutlery. Next, hit the cobbled lanes for an ale trail between the characterful pubs of the so-called Valley of Beer (get a map from Our Favourite Places), spotting industrial relics along the way.
Alma Street, S3 8RY
Tucked away on the top floor of the library, the Graves is all 1930s splendor and serenity. Exhibited artists span the past 500 years – J.M.W. Turner, Paul Cézanne, Bridget Riley, Patrick Caulfield, Sam Taylor-Wood. Graves’ more modern sibling, the Millennium Gallery is nearby, as is the Cultural Industries Quarter with its string of contemporary galleries and street art.
Surrey Street, S1 1XZ
Students have used this mini natural history museum for over a century, and it now opens to the public one Saturday a month. Fill yourself with awe at its cabinets of curiosities – home to primate skeletons, a dolphin cross-section, a pickled slender loris, and one or two entertaining scientific names.
University of Sheffield, Western Bank, S10 2TN
Theatreland clusters around Tudor Square, with the charming Library Theatre, the Victorian fairytale Lyceum and its 1970s sibling: the Crucible. Take a seat in the star-ceilinged auditorium for anything from a Shakespearean tragedy to stand-up to snooker. Look out for what’s on at its smaller Studio stage, too, for something less conventional.
55 Norfolk Street, S1 1DA
One of Europe’s biggest independent cinemas, the Showroom makes for a great evening out. Pick up a glass of wine or a scrumptious scoop of homemade ice cream, and get settled to enjoy the latest arthouse release or a cult classic.
Arts and culture festivals:
Sheffield’s lively with festivals in most seasons. Springtime brings filmmakers to town for Doc/Fest. Summer’s the time for music weekender Tramlines. In autumn, it’s Off the Shelf’s celebration of words, Sheffield Design Week, and Sensoria’s festival of music and film. Art Sheffield and Festival of the Mind come every other year. Look out for street food market Peddler, too – it has all the feels of a festival.
It’s a peculiar sight: a field full of alpacas, grazing on a hillside at the city’s limits. Meet, stroke and feed the funny, fluffy South American friends at Mayfield. The farm is on the 14-mile Sheffield Round Walk route – make a day of it by starting in Endcliffe Park and following the section of the route that leads through Whiteley Woods, past an old grinding workshop and dam, and ends with the alpacas.
Quicksaw Farm, Fulwood Lane, S10 4LH
This corner of the city has centuries of stories to tell: of a medieval deer park, a 19th-century cholera epidemic, a 1960s brutalist block of flats. The full route starts at Manor Lodge, 15th-century ruins that once held Mary Queen of Scots prisoner. Though the Lodge’s wildflower meadows are well worth a visit in summer, the first part of the trail is pretty residential; stick to the middle section just uphill from Sheffield station – Cholera Monument, Norfolk Heritage Park, Park Hill flats – for a quick stroll with the best view of the city and a nice bit of concrete.
Britain’s first national park rolls out to the west of Sheffield. Within half an hour from the city by car/train, you can gaze out from Stanage Edge (just like Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice), picnic next to Ladybower reservoir, clamber into a Castleton cave, take a dip in Hathersage’s outdoor pool, or set off on a walk up hills and down wooded valleys. The Peak District landscape is ever-changing, ever-spectacular – but the sight of its moorland in late summer, all purpled with heather, takes some beating.