My mum went to the University of Sheffield, and I was raised to believe it was the greatest city in the world (despite the fact I’d never lived there). I think she was a little disappointed when I chose to pursue an education on the other side of the Peak District instead.
I decided to take a little trip there myself to see if it lived up to the hype, and to see if I could glean any top tips to share with my fellow Mancunian students.
When I left the train station, the first thing that I noticed was the hills. Mum had mentioned hills, but nothing could have prepared me for the monstrosity I saw before me. I had a large suitcase and a ukulele with me (I came to Sheffield on the way back to Manchester, I don’t just come musically prepared for all day trips), and so had booked bag storage for the day.
Unfortunately, there was no bag storage that was not half an hour up a hill – I was tempted to abandon my initial plans and stand outside the station to offer to look after bags for other similar passengers. I’m sure I’d have made a fortune.
After dumping my stuff in a high-altitude vape shop (why is bag storage always in vape shops?) I headed down to the Peace Gardens, where a market was being held that day. The gardens were smaller and more covered in concrete than I expected, but it’s still a well-kept area that is well worth a visit.
I then took a short walk to Moor Market for lunch. Whilst it definitely wasn’t the most aesthetically covered market in the world, it has a wide selection of farmers-market style stalls and a small food court at the back. It immediately went up in my estimation when a lovely cleaning lady chased me across the room with the purse I’d dropped.
Whilst in the food court, I bought a cheap plate of chips and gravy. They don’t really serve them in the South and I’d been missing them after a month at home, but the gravy wasn’t quite up to the generally high Northern standards.
The chips might have put me off the market all together, but I then left my purse and coat behind again after lunch, and was chased by the same lady. Two lessons learnt: I am not yet old enough to be left unaccompanied and Sheffielders are just as lovely as my Mum had said.
After lunch I headed back through the Peace Gardens to visit the Sheffield Indoor Garden, which is a large greenhouse filled with tropical plants. This was definitely the most ‘Instagramable’ place I came across, and it is also a good destination to visit to relax and sit quietly for a while.
Inside the Indoor Garden is the entrance to the Millenium Gallery, a museum and art gallery dedicated to Sheffield’s long history in art, craft and design. Entrance is free, although a small donation is recommended to ensure it can continue to run.
Exhibitions rotate within the gallery on a regular basis. As a landscape enthusiast, I particularly enjoyed the “Where We Live” exhibit, which focused on overlooked aspects of our lived experience, including many works inspired by inner-city architecture.
Although this has now finished, the exhibition “Not Without My Ghosts: The Artist As Medium” is still being shown, which displays art influenced by the practice of mediums and spiritualists. The Ruskin exhibition, showing the collection of Victorian author John Ruskin is also worth a visit and is on permanent display.
Further down the gallery corridor you can find the museum’s extensive collection of metalwork in the Sykes Gallery. I was genuinely not expecting to enjoy looking at cutlery and tableware quite as much as I did. The curators have done a brilliant job at forming displays which tell Sheffield’s expansive history in metal work, which I was previously ignorant of.
Also included are intricately crafted metal objects from around the world, alongside modern items, some of which are made by students at Sheffield Hallam University.
A short walk across a back street brought me to the Graves’ gallery, which you can find on the top floor of Sheffield’s Central Library. I was a little galleried out at this point, but still enjoyed the wide range of art on display, which includes works by Turner, Damien Hirst and Cezanne.
At this point I decided to call it a day, returned to the vape shop and dragged my suitcase back down the hill to the train station, with aching feet but a significantly more educated and cultured brain.
Is Sheffield the best city in the world? At the risk of disappointing my mother, I would probably say no. However, is it worth a visit? Definitely.
Planning your trip to Sheffield:
How to get there
Sheffield is about an hour’s direct train journey from Manchester, and a return ticket can cost less than £15 depending on when you travel. It costs even less if you have a 16-25 railcard, which is £30 and gives you a third off train tickets in the UK. It’s worth buying one if you’re planning on using the train regularly.
Where to stay
Recommendations vary depending on your standards and price range. There are the usual budget hotel chains available, and also the Jonas Hotel, which offers ex-student halls accommodation at a slightly lower price.
There is also a reasonably well-rated Russel Scott youth hostel if you’re looking for something a little cheaper.
What I missed
A day trip does mean you miss out on Sheffield’s well-respected nightlife scene, which includes some great night clubs, including the famous Leadmill, which is sadly under threat from closure. You can also find plenty of music gigs at places like Hope Works, Yellow Arch Studios, and Folk Train (folk music by rail? Yes please!)
I would have also loved to have had the time to visit the Botanical Gardens, the Kelham Island Museum and the Videogame museum – I’m not a gamer, but I love collections of niche facts collated by people just as nerdy as me.
Thankfully, Sheffield is not too far away, so is readily accessible for as many day trips as one wishes.
If you’re looking for some more travel inspiration this summer, check out the rest of our articles on student getaways here.