Five good reasons why Sheffield is king of UK city breaks

Sheffield was this week named as the best place for an affordable UK city break. Grant Woodward pinpoints five reasons why the steel city outshone the rest. Do you agree?


Sheffield is home to more than 800 green spaces, but the city’s jewel in the crown is undoubtedly its Botanical Gardens, a Grade II listed attraction with stunning glass pavilions and 19 acres of greenery.

The gardens come complete with a Bear Pit which is the finest surviving example of its kind in the UK. Built in 1836 to house a black bear, the superb condition of the structure is due to the many years it was used as Yorkshire’s biggest compost pit.

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Across the city you can find Graves Park, the city’s biggest park, while Rivelin Valley Park, complete with water park, is a hit with young families.


Once the heartbeat of the Industrial Revolution, Kelham Island was created by the building of a mill race, fed from the River Don, to serve the water wheels powering the local workshops.
In later years it became known more for its kerb-crawling and substance abuse, seemingly doomed to become another post-industrial urban wasteland. Yet these days it is one of the trendiest areas of the city, boasting riverside apartments and Kelham Island Museum, which tells Sheffield’s industrial story.

It’s worth a visit just for its array of great pubs including the Kelham Island Tavern, twice Camra’s national pub of the year and which helped Sheffield clinch the title of ‘Britain’s best beer city’ in the New York Times.


If it’s quirky attractions you’re after, Sheffield comes up trumps with the Great Escape – the city’s answer to television classic The Crystal Maze, with liberal doses of Indiana Jones and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe thrown in for good measure.

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A welcome antidote to the world of video games, it is a real life escape game set in an otherwise non-descript office building in the heart of the city centre.

Teams of between two and five people – friends, family or work colleagues – must put their heads together in order to solve the clues and puzzles to enable them to escape.

It may sound straightforward enough, but there is a time limit of 45 minutes, meaning your common sense, logic and friendships are all put to the test as the clock ticks down.


Sheffield has seen some serious aesthetic improvements in recent years and chief among them is its impressive Winter Garden – the longest urban glasshouse in Europe and home to more than 2,500 plants. Facing Tudor Square, home to the Crucible and Lyceum theatres, it forms part of the £120m Heart of the City regeneration project that also created the Peace Gardens and the £15m Millennium Galleries, of which the cutlery and silverware gallery is a highlight.


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Meadowhall may be crammed with high street names, but Sheffield is also full of small, independent stores – and it’s these unique shops which really give the city its character. The likes of Collard Manson and MoonKo sell a range of goodies from handmade ceramic pots to bespoke jewellery and arty T-shirts.

Forge Bakehouse is one of several brilliant independent bakeries, while The Famous Sheffield Shop has been celebrating everything which is brilliant about the city for 30 years, selling modern and traditional cutlery, knives and metalwork, along with plenty of items by smaller independent producers from the city.

Once you have shopped until you drop, it is worth finding out why Sheffield won that coveted title of Britain’s best beer city, including a visit to The Bowery bar, co-owned by former Arctic Monkeys’ bassist Andy Nicholson.