I’ve lived in this city for approximately seven months. I use the verb ‘live’ loosely as I have had my name inscribed on a tenancy agreement since the 1st September of last year when I’ve actually spent about half of my time in Nottingham – a city an hour south of my bespoke “home”. This is a result of a jumble of reasons that I won’t ramble one with, but instead, I thought it was about time to share the various sights and eateries settled amongst the squash of buildings and pot-holed streets of Sheffield. I’ve grown to love it (except for the hills) in my own way and as a postgraduate student, it has been a good city with a great atmosphere.
The town centre was the first place I remember visiting in Sheffield. Actually, the first memory I have of the city was at a takeaway called Aslan’s on the corner of Division street after a rather colourful night at Corporation club back in September 2012. [Heck, where has the time gone?]
But to retain some idea of being a sophisticated student, let’s picture a bright and sunny town centre. Although there are not many shops filling the high streets, there are a couple of large spaces and sights worth the visit. The first is the Peace Gardens on the south side of the majestic Town Hall. It is a semi-circle in shape and has a fountain to one side which children run through in delight during the summer months. It’s a hot spot for the lunch time hour break or meal, especially with a (really good) Pastry shop and Costa Coffee only 100 yards away.
Once you’ve sunned yourself to happy satisfaction, the Winter Gardens are located a 50-metre walk away which is attached to the Sheffield Contemporary [Museum]. This includes a room dedicated to the history of the steel industry of Sheffield as it was the thriving “City of Steel” back in the day. It even showed how the stages of making cutlery and cutting it into the correct shapes which I found intriguing.
Now you’ve educated yourself a bit on Sheffield history and legacy, head up past the city hall onto Division street. There are a few eclectic shops but most importantly, set your sights on a cafe called Steamyard. I discovered this little tucked away gem when I first started in Sheffield as I wanted to check out cafés and which were good to study in. Steamyard [insta: @steamyard] offers both a great atmosphere and cracking food. They have bagels and sandwich options for lunch, as well as brownies, macaroons, doughnuts and now, are selling kronuts which are just gorgeous! It so happens that they have been chosen as one of the UK’s top 30 places to have brunch by the Telegraph. They also offer dairy-free and gluten-free options so there are no excuses not to make a visit! If you only feel like a quick caffeine quick, that’s also cool, as there’ll be more food stops along this adventure!
Once stuffed with delicious goodies, it’s time to walk off those calories by heading up the hill to the University situated at the top of West Street/Glossop Road. Although it’s a little scattered, the University of Sheffield Student Union is a large funky-looking building that is cavernous on the inside. The best time to visit is during term time as students are bustling in and out, giving the place life and energy. Once you’ve got a glimpse of life through a ‘uni of’ student’s eyes, head on up to Weston Park where there’s a museum, but also a nice loop route and a cute duck pond with a bridge. (I always think if you wear old victorian clothes and ignored the modern buildings behind, it’d be like you’re in a Jane Austen book).
If you’re as fit as a fiddle and enjoy the walk along the Sheffield streets, I’d recommend following the main road outside the Museum-side park gates up to Broomhill which is a little hub of shops. If you haven’t eaten lunch in Steamyard, now is the time to fill your grumbling tummies. There are a couple of pubs, including Nottingham House which is known for its yummy pies. But most importantly, there is a Vietnamese place which recently has opened up on the corner called Nam Song Coffee House [insta: @namsonguk]. Its exterior is bright orange (and this is one of the reasons I ventured in in the first place). The food is delicious and affordable (students I’m looking at you as there is also a 10% discount). When it first opened, it offered the Vietnamese sandwich: Bahn Mi, or the Vietnamese noodle soup: Pho. You get to pick the meat, the vegetables, the sauces… it’s basically a DIY/PYO job and hey presto! it’ll appear in front of you. The other major perk of the place is the Vietnamese filter coffee which can come with condensed milk. *drool*
Now we’ve packed ourselves with all the goodies, it’s time for even more wandering over to the Botanical Gardens! You’ll be glad to hear this part is a ten-minute downhill stroll. The best time of year to go is either spring or autumn as it’s colourful and the pictures are instagram-worthy in the bright sunshine. There is an indoor part full of plants from other parts of the world and on another side of the Gardens, surprisingly, a bear pit! It was used in the 1800s and has recently been restored with the addition of a 2.4m steel sculpture of a bear. It’s a lovely oasis which isn’t often found in bustling cities which gives a little variety to your day.
Now, this is where the rest of the day is yours, you can catch a bus back into the centre – there’s the 6, 271 or 52 outside the top end of the Botanical gardens that can take you back.
One place I haven’t mentioned yet is Kelham Island. It is most commonly known for the Kelham Island Museum, which “was opened in 1982 to house the objects, pictures and archive material representing Sheffield’s industrial story.” [source: website]. There is also a micro-brewery which you can book a tour to see how they make their beers and the industry in Sheffield. It’s probably best to visit that earlier in the day as it is a little out of the way and the Museum closed at 4pm.
If you’re stuck for evening activities, here are some suggestions:
- if you want to continue to be cultured: there are two theatres, the Lyceum and the Crucible, next to each other nearby the town centre and the station. Sometimes there is a very popular play on but others are usually less known but still really good to watch. There are often student discounts and are reasonably priced.
- if you are looking for a more energetic scene: another idea is to walk along West Street as it is the heart of Sheffield’s nightlife scene: the Wick at Both Ends is known for delicious cocktails, as are Bloo 88 and Cavendish for happy hour deals.
- for dinner: in the city centre there’s the Botanist (££) which is a restaurant decorated like an enchanted forest and has good cocktails, a Spanish place called Cubana (££) which offers good sized portions of tapas. As well as the usual chains such as All Bar One, Wagamamas, Zizzi’s, McDonalds… whatever you fancy 😀
I hope this guide has given you a glimpse of what a day in Sheffield is like, maybe it even tempts you to one day visit! The train station is an easy 10-minute walk from the city centre, or there is a tram that you can get on for £1.60 one way journey all the way up to the University if you so wish!
If you have any recommendations that I haven’t mentioned, or your own experiences, feel free to share them! I love hearing about new or different places to have an adventure at. It’s impossible to fit in everything in a day and there’s much more to see in Sheffield… or just to catch a trainx or a one hour bus from the station, or drive to the Peak District ❤