Sheffield has so many things to do, you can sometimes wonder where to start! Well the good news is that you are in the right place as we have all of the best attractions and events to keep you and your family entertained, not just now or this weekend but for months to come.
The guide is broken down into easy to use sections which provide useful information and links to pages with more details or direct to attractions and event websites for easy booking.
Lets not waste any more time, make sure you are sitting comfortably and lets find some fun to do in Sheffield with or without the kids!
Things to do in Sheffield
Sheffield is the fourth largest city in the UK with a population of just over half a million, that is a lot of people looking for things to do each day! With 150 woodland areas, 50 public parks, and the Peak District just a short drive or bus ride away, Sheffield is arguably the UK’s greenest city!
There is a large number of Sheffield people working in the creative industries – almost double that of the national average. The Cultural Quarter of the city centre is home to an array of media companies, film production agencies, creative consultancies and music studios. Sheffield has been well known for its successful musicians and unsigned-band scene for many years, and continues to nurture musical talent with its wide selection of live music venues and events.
Since the 90s, Sheffield has reinvented itself as a sporting city and was recently named the National City of Sport. Its world-class sporting and athletics facilities make it a popular choice for sports and leisure activities, and the city is also known for its annual hosting of the World Snooker Championships.
The city centre is separated into the Cultural Quarter, the Shopping Quarter, the Business Quarter and the Devonshire Quarter, making it easy for visitors to find their way around and enjoy all that the city has to offer. And an extensive travel network makes shopping at the nearby Meadowhall shopping centre a convenient pleasure!
Sheffield is home to the largest theatre complex outside of London, the largest all-season ski village in Europe, Olympic swimming and diving pools, the most commercially successful union bar in the country, the original Gatecrasher nightclub, and much more. The number of hotels in the city centre, including the Hilton and the Holiday Inn, testify to the popularity of weekend tourism in the city. And current regeneration of the city centre is preparing Sheffield for further increases in its number of visitors.
History of Sheffield
Sheffield Castle was built after the Norman Conquest in the ninth century. A small market town grew up around it (still the market area of the city, named Castle Market), and by the sixteenth century, Sheffield had become the UK centre of cutlery production. It was this steel production, and the locally developed innovations in the industry, that spurred Sheffield’s development into an industrial borough. In 1893, Sheffield was granted a city charter.
Owing to its role in the production of weapons and ammunition during World War II, Sheffield suffered an intense bombing campaign and nearly seven hundred people were killed in a month. This period is known locally as the Sheffield Blitz.
Modernisation of the city began in the 1950s and 60s, when new road systems were developed and slums demolished to make way for housing complexes, such as the Grade II listed Park Hill flats and, later, Hyde Park flats. Decline in the steel industry led to the closure of many factories and mills, and the collapse of the coal industry in the 80s resulted in mass unemployment across the city.
The economic situation in the city changed for the better in the 90s. Meadowhall shopping centre generated a wealth of new jobs in its three hundred stores, and with shop units available so cheaply, made market competition easier for new retail businesses. In 1991, Sheffield hosted the World Student Games and money poured in for the development of world-class sporting facilities and improvements to the transport system. Sheffield is now officially the National City of Sport.
Various other ambitious and innovation regeneration projects are currently under discussion, with the aim of encouraging further commercial investment and improving the city’s appearance.
Weston Park Museum
Weston Park Museum is located across the road from Sheffield Children’s Hospital, just a mile from the city centre, and showcases exhibits revealing Sheffield’s long and vibrant history. There are animated displays and creative opportunities for children, as well as exhibitions exploring Sheffield through the ages. The museum is open seven days a week and admission is free. There is a café on the premises. For more information, contact the museum on 0114 278 2600.
There are a number of historical buildings around the city. Bishops’ House in Meersbrook Park has many of its original fifteenth and sixteenth century features and some of its original furniture. Admission is free, but only available to non-educational party groups on Saturday and Sunday. The Old Queen’s Head, a pub by the bus station, is the oldest commercial building in Sheffield. Over five hundred years old, with timbered walls and an engraving of local legend ‘Spring Heeled Jack’ in one of the uprights, the pub is well worth a visit.
Norfolk Heritage Trail
The Norfolk Heritage Trail is a walk, just under three miles in length, linking Manor Lodge with the Cathedral and passing a number of historical buildings and sights with links to the Dukes of Norfolk. The trail is a popular one with visitors, and mostly downhill so an easy one to complete!
Sheffield city centre is home to two large art galleries, and there are a number of smaller galleries further out of the city centre. The city centre galleries are within a very short walk of one another, just a moment’s stroll from the Sheffield Theatres complex.
Graves Art Gallery
The Graves Art Gallery is on Surrey Street, based above the central library. The gallery opened in 1934, funded by local businessman John George Graves, who also donated his own extensive art collection for display. The gallery has recently been refurbished and its original 30s-style design restored. There is a café, open Monday to Saturday until 4pm.
The gallery has an impressive, permanent display of 19th and 20th century art from around Britain and Europe, exploring the development of Modern Art. The work of artists such as Picasso and Pierre Bonnard are presented, demonstrating the growth of important art movements during this period.
The Millenium Galleries has only been open since 2001, and comprises four separate art galleries. An elegant, modern building, made with glass and white concrete, marble floors and high ceilings, it is unlike many other traditional galleries and (along with the Winter Gardens and the Peace Gardens) forms an impressive part of the Heart of the City project.
There are two floors in the building, the lower floor with a large and stylish café, an escalator leads up to the second floor and a gift shop, direct access to the Winter Gardens, and the four galleries. The galleries are the Special Exhibition Gallery, where important temporary collections are exhibited; the Metalwork Gallery, where the permanent displays of Sheffield’s steel products are to be found; the Craft and Design Gallery, where contemporary and historical craft and design is exhibited; and the Ruskin Gallery, works collected by the eminent 19th century artist and writer John Ruskin.
The Millenium Galleries is the fifth home of the Ruskin Gallery, having been housed originally in a small cottage in the suburbs of Sheffield in 1875, then moved to a Ruskin Museum, temporarily taken to Reading University, then back to Sheffield, before being relocated finally to the Millenium Galleries in 2001. The Ruskin Collection includes paintings, drawings, manuscripts and books assembled by Ruskin
The gallery is open seven days a week, and can be contacted on 0114 278 2600.
Sheffield Theatres has the honour of being the largest theatre complex outside of London, and is comprised of three venues: the Crucible, the Lyceum and the Studio Theatre. The theatres are in the city centre, only five minutes walk from the bus and train stations, and a moment’s walk from the Winter Gardens and Millenium Galleries. The venues play host to a wide range of performances, including drama, dance, comedy and music.
The Crucible Theatre
The Crucible was opened in 1971 and functions as the main producing venue in the Sheffield Theatres complex. As well as hosting touring shows and performances by the Crucible Youth Theatre, the Crucible is also home to the annual World Snooker Championships. The auditorium seats just under one thousand people, and features a ‘thrust stage’ which allows the audience to watch the show from three sides and ensuring that no member of the audience is ever more than twenty-two metres from the stage!
The Crucible also has its own restaurant, bar and café, all open late and available to the non-theatre-going public.
The Lyceum was opened in 1897. Though it closed for just over twenty years, it reopened in 1991 and now functions as the main receiving venue for touring productions in the Sheffield Theatres complex. The auditorium seats almost eleven hundred people, and the building is listed for its impressive architectural design. Past shows have included opera, ballet, dance and musicals, but plans for the future include a focusing in on the productions of Sheffield Theatres. The theatre also has a bar.
The Studio Theatre
The Studio Theatre opened relatively recently, in 1971. Seating just four hundred people, the theatre is the smallest of the three, and though it tends to stage smaller productions, it still has a variety of touring companies as regular visitors and stages many popular, critically acclaimed shows.
For information about current shows, please visit the Sheffield Theatres website at http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/.
There are a number of other, independent theatres in and around the city, showcasing dance, drama and musicals. These include the Montgomery Theatre, a moment’s walk from the theatre complex, and the University Drama Studio on Sherwood Road.
Shopping in Sheffield
The opening of Meadowhall shopping centre, just three miles north east of Sheffield, has impacted on the city centre shopping experience. With units in the centre available for a relatively small rent, and prices in the city centre rising continuously, many Sheffield retailers have opted to relocate to the shopping centre.
These changes have been counterbalanced, however, by the development of larger branches of chain stores in the city centre, and the planned expansion of the outdoor market. The centre is undergoing significant redevelopment, with plans for modern and pedestrianised shopping streets and a new road system to accommodate a greater volume of traffic.
Meadowhall Shopping Centre
Meadowhall Shopping Centre was opened in 1990, and attracts somewhere in the region of 30 million shoppers every year. Meadowhall has grown in popularity since its opening, and is now one of the largest and busiest shopping centres in Europe.
Meadowhall is home to almost three hundred stores, including large chains such as H+M, Topshop and Topman and Marks & Spencer, and also a huge variety of small independent stores. There are well-priced and well-equipped crèche facilities, as well as events and activities for children during the school holidays. The Oasis food court provides a range of cuisines and bars, and contains the Warner Brothers eleven-screen cinema.
Ideally positioned between Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and Doncaster, the shopping centre has a reliable and frequent public transport system and – located just off the M1 at Junction 34 – is easily accessible by car. The Supertram journey from Sheffield city centre takes only ten minutes, and buses from the centre take only a quarter of an hour. The centre also has its own train station, used by nearly four hundred trains every day. There are cycle paths linking Sheffield city centre and Meadowhall, and cycle stands are provided for securing bikes outside the centre. 12,000 free parking spaces are also provided.
Sheffield City Centre
Sheffield City Centre offers an alternative to the permanently busy Meadowhall, with a range of chain stores and independent outlets. The city centre is currently being regenerated, and large pedestrianised areas are planned to further ease the shopping experience.
The Devonshire Quarter hosts a range of independent boutiques and bohemian stores. Division Street, running through the centre of the Devonshire Quarter, is the home of a number of designer clothes stores and alternative interior shops, as well as the Forum, a small shopping centre.
The Moor Shopping
Budget stores and supermarkets can be found on The Moor, the planned site for the new outdoor market complex. Fargate, a pedestrianised main street in the centre of town, is home to a number of high-street stores, such as Miss Selfridge, Virgin Megastore and WHSmith.
Kids Activities in Sheffield
Do you have kids that need some entertaining? Yeah, me too. Below are several options which will hopefully help you find kids activities near you which are fun for all ages and some of them free.
Cineworld is located within the grounds of Sheffield’s Valley Centertainment, host to numerous restuarants, Lazer Quest, Monkey Bizness and Paradise Island Golf. Cineworld has children-specific showings and has more screens than you can shake your popcorn at.
Highfield Adventure Playground
Highfield Adventure Playground is free, staffed and open for all. Outdoors there is adventurous equipment such as a fast zip wire and very tall tunnel slide and there is also a calmer toddler play area. Kids love the sand pit and the loose parts to play, create and build with.
Inside you will find that there are lots of craft activities, an upstairs play area for little ones, pool and table tennis for older ones and toilets. There’s always a friendly cuppa and juice, and you may even get a free biscuit!
The playground is fenced, on the Abbeydale Road side of Mount Pleasant Park, along the path from Sharrow Primary School on Crowther Place, S7 1DU. There is a bus stop opposite at Batt Street on the main Abbeydale Road route for 75, 76,97, 98 buses.
The whole playground can be booked for parties and private hire at reasonable rates with the playground managers at Sharrow Community Forum on 0114 250 8384.
Rivelin Valley Water Park
The Rivelin Valley Water Park was opened in July 2013 and features water jets, sprinklers, a bucket drop and water tables and there is also a paddling pool with ramped access and handrails. The water play area is accessible to people of all abilities. Special aqua wheelchairs are available for loan to disabled children.
The water park is in the grounds of Rivelin Valley Park.
Forge Dam is located in beautiful woodland in Fuelwood, it is passed by the Sheffield Round Walk and is also accessible through Endcliffe Park. The extensive woodland provides excellent walks and places to play with the kids and has a play park and cafe. The River Porter runs alongside.
We like to walk through Endcliffe Park, past the Shepherd Wheel and then to Forge Dam, this provides a good one hour round walk.
Abbeydale Miniature Railway
Only open at certain times throughout the year, this incredible ensemble displays the passion and skill that the Sheffield & District Society of Model & Experimental Engineers have for model railways. There is a very small cafe on-site, but plenty of space to set up a picnic.
A magical dreamland of miniature ride-on steam trains, these are events not to be missed
The trains at Abbeydale Miniature Railway are fully functional steam trains and so do produce a little soot. Don’t be alarmed if a few tiny soot flecks decorate the faces of your children – it’s all part of the fun!
Please be aware: live steam locomotives can emit sparks, ashes and oil which could result in injury or damage to clothing. If you prefer, you may ride behind an electric or diesel loco instead. The steam and diesel locos get very hot, so please do not touch them! Please read and understand the Rail Riding Rules at the Ticket Office before taking a ride.
If you are still unsure of things to do in Sheffield, why not take a look at more of Sheffield’s attractions and events in our other Sheffield tourism and travel information guides: