Playing tourist in Sheffield
May 18, 2009 5:13 PM   Subscribe

What can I do/what should I see when I am in Sheffield, England? Also, where I can stay that's cheap yet decent?

I will be spending a few days in Sheffield in the middle of June for a conference at the University of Sheffield. Much of my time will be occupied, but I would like to get out a bit and see the city. Information about Sheffield in travel books and on-line is pretty limited, unfortunately, so I thought I'd canvas here for suggestions of what to do.

My main interest is in seeing historic sites. It would be great to see anything from the Middle Ages, though I get the feeling I'm out of luck in Sheffield on that front. But, really, I'd like to see anything from the Victorian period or earlier that's worth a look. I'm from North America, so I'm easy to impress with regards to age and architecture. Beyond that, art galleries would be good, with art from any period. If there is a nice park or other walkable space, please let me know. I don't have an interest in live music venues or any other nightspots, though I suppose you can post about that stuff here in case this thread is searched later.

Also, I'm looking for a cheap yet decent place to stay within the area of the train station, city centre, or university. Let's say anywhere 50 pounds per night or less, or slightly more if the place is especially good.
posted by hiteleven to Travel & Transportation around Sheffield, England (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Well, to get this thread rolling, there's Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:27 PM on May 18, 2009

Which is a few kilometres outside Sheffield actually. A related museum is in Sheffield proper.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:29 PM on May 18, 2009

Like a number of English cities, Sheffield doesn't really do the tourist thing. There are some things worth seeing though, especially if you're just wanting a break from the conference.

Check Museums Sheffield if you want to know what's going to be on while you're here, and the location of the city's galleries. The biggest and best is definitely Weston Park Museum, which is both free (as are most exhibitions in most public galleries) and right next to the University of Sheffield.

A fifteen minute walk from the university are the Sheffield Botanical Gardens, which I'm told by my father are worth a visit (I've been myself, but can't really vouch for it other than, 'oooh, pretty'). They lead onto Ecclesall Road which is a nice part of town, and also home to Sheffield General Cemetary which is a cool overgrown Victorian cemetary. It's not huge, but it's neat to explore for an hour.

Just walking round the city in the general area of Endcliffe, Ecclesall Road, Nether Edge, Sharrow Vale, can be quite interesting, especially considering the buildings and streets are typically over a hundred years old. If you're willing to travel our to Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet (as already mentioned) then Beauchief Abbey is nearby, but there's not much left of it.

There are quite a few normal cheap hotels to stay at in the city centre. I can't honestly think of anywhere special which springs to mind, though somebody else might know more. Though if you are staying in the city centre near the train station, and want some hardcore medieval action, then really do consider skipping out to York one afternoon. It is only an hour's journey by train, and because you're here at the height of summer the evenings last forever. York never disappoints for history, and I've been there a couple of dozen times and still enjoy it.

Hope this gives you some ideas, and oh, talk to the natives when you're here, as we're actually quite friendly in comparison to most places (I'm looking at you Manchester and Leeds).
posted by Sova at 6:14 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of parks in Sheffield... If you have a bit of free time between things at the university, or just fancy a stroll, then Weston Park is just next door - next to Firth Hall (the oldest university building) - it's just been done up a bit, and should be looking quite nice. There's a museum in Weston Park too - it's aimed at children really, but is quite fun and has a section on Sheffield history.
Next to Weston Park is Crookes Valley Park, which has a boating lake which I am told was originally built in 1785 to improve water supply, and was used in the post-WW2 Festival of Britain for boating and generally a bit of a party. Mostly it's just quite a nice park to relax in!
At the university as well, you should see whether the Paternoster lift is running in the Arts Tower! There aren’t too many around these days, and is oddly entertaining to go round.

You might enjoy a look around the Cathedral – the city council website says it’s the only medieval building in the city centre, and it is Grade 1 listed. It’s also right in the heart of the city, and not far from the university or train station. In the centre is also the victorian Town Hall which you can have a tour of (details in that link). Nearby are the Millennium Galleries, which has special exhibitions as well as the metalwork gallery which tells Sheffield’s metalworking history – what the city is most famous for. This includes lots and lots of examples from very very old to modern day.

Just for interest, you might like to pop in to Rare and Racy – a second hand book shop on Division Street, en route from the university to the centre. It has a great collection of interesting books and music, and also lots of prints and paintings, many of local interest. It’s my favourite bookshop!
posted by pocketfluff at 6:20 PM on May 18, 2009

If it was me I'd hop on a rural bus out to the Peak District, which borders on Sheffield.
posted by Flashman at 8:12 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

As far as accommodation I would recommend the Hillsborough Hotel. Its a mile or so further out from the city but on the same tramline as the University (the Langsett stop shown here). An unlimited day ticket on the tram is £3, and I'd recommend getting one anyway, the tram is a good way of getting about the city. Whatever you do don't be tempted by the price and central location of the Grosvenor House Hotel. In the city centre there are a couple of standard budget hotels like Ibis or Premier Inn. I'd agree with most of the recommendations above but second Sova, if you really want medieval history York is ideal.
posted by Cuppatea at 2:07 AM on May 19, 2009

There's a fantastic watermill dating from the 1500's called the Shepherd Wheel.

Also, in the city centre there's the Georgian Paradise Square and the cobbled streets behind the cathedral, this area feels magical to me of a summer evening.

One of my favourite buildings is the Abbeydale Picture House -on London Road beautiful old Victorian theatre. It's currently undergoing restoration and well worth a nosy round.

Seconding Weston Park and the Botanical gardens. Also the Peaks - the countryside around sheffield is stunning.

If you want more info, check out the Local Studies library - it's based in the Central Library close to the rail station, and their knowledge is amazing.

I miss South Yorkshire.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:57 AM on May 19, 2009

Seconding the Peak District. I particularly loved Castleton, and I seem to remember Bakewell was worth a visit as well. Lots of outdoors fun to be had if you're into hiking, and in this time of the year the weather should not actually be too miserable. York is definitely worth the detour as well. Within Sheffield itself, I personally love people-watching at Castle Market, but then again I'm weird like that. :)

Hotel-wise, the Ibis near Ponds Forge is pretty central and close to the Stagecoach Tram, which in turn means easy to the University. There are plenty of Bed and Breakfast all over the place if you want something a bit more authentic, but most of the budget hotel chains in the area offer pretty decent no-frills accommodation.

If you do drop by the Old Queens Head on a Friday evening and find a bunch of translators there drowning their sorrows in pints of cheap ale, tell them Fran says hi.

I miss Sheffield too...
posted by doctorpiorno at 3:45 AM on May 19, 2009

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