A respected travel guide has provoked head-scratching and debate by naming Hull one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2016 – along with Nashville, Mexico City and Vancouver.
Rough Guides said “things were looking up” for the city, named last year as the least romantic in the UK.
It said: “It’s the UK City of Culture in 2017, so this is Hull’s practice run. It’ll be brimming with new hotels and restaurants, and even more of that distinctive home-grown creativity the city has always had.”
It also highlighted its “atmospheric” pubs, eight “excellent” museums and “picturesque” Old Town.
Top of the list was Reykjavik for its arts scene, “cool” nightlife and “slew of natural wonders that lie right on its doorstep”, followed by “gritty” Mexico City, and vibrant Seoul. Hull featured among other lesser known cities to have won cultural accolades, including Wroclaw, Poland, which was rebuilt after flooding in the 1990s and is this year’s European Capital of Culture.
The recommendation was met with incredulity in some quarters in Hull with one wag responding that “rough” was the operative word, and another asking: “Is this a joke? Was the author drunk?”
Certainly visitors will not see the city looking at its best for many months to come. Swathes of the city centre, including main shopping streets, have been dug up as part of a £19m upgrade.
The city’s excellent Ferens Art Gallery has closed for a £4.5m refurbishment and a stylish new bridge over the busy A63 Castle Street to the Marina will not be finished until early 2017.
Hull-based travel agent Andrew Earle thought it would appeal to the Rough Guides demographic – someone seeking value, looking for something different and aged under 30 – but admitted he too had been surprised by the top 10 ranking.
He sad: “City breaks are massive now. The restaurant scene is quite good now in Hull, there’s the Fish Trail and museums, quaint little back streets and it’s not an expensive place to stay compared to its more illustrious neighbours of Leeds and York.
“If I was a travel agent in Germany and Holland I would definitely think the ease of getting into Hull and East Yorkshire (via the ferries) would make it quite an attractive destination.”
Council leader Steve Brady said it was great to make the list, but warned Hull had “to do a lot more to earn the top accolade”.
And he suggested visitors should beat a path to the city later in the summer when some of the transformation work will be complete. He said: “It does show they have come and had a good look at what’s happening and presumably they have looked at the plans for the city centre and obviously they have been impressed by it.
“After all that ‘crap town’ and the rest of it does show progress.
“Hull is low cost and all the museums are free – unlike York where you have to pay an arm and leg.
“We have a lot more to do to earn the accolade, it would be dangerous to believe the hype.
“I will really believe it when the vast majority in the city do – we are our own biggest critics.”
Historian Ron Fairfax, a former city councillor, said jokes putting down Hull were so ingrained they were difficult to remove.
He said: “The point about Hull is not to believe the myths.
“It is not just a fish and chip shop at the end of a railway line, it’s a city with a wealth of history and heritage.”