Things to do in Hull

Polly Checkland Harding

Few places in the UK have undergone such a marked seachange in reputation as Hull – the port city in East Yorkshire, built where the River Humber meets the Humber estuary. Otherwise known as Kingston-upon-Hull, the ancient harbour was granted the royal charter (King’s Town) by King Charles I in 1299, and became a principal trading port for wool, wine, whaling and fishing on England’s east coast in the late 17th century. Sadly, post-industrial decline and World War II hit Hull hard; the second most bombed city in the country, huge swathes of the city centre were decimated. Famously derided even by one of its best-known residents, the poet Philip Larkin, it took Hull’s designation as the UK City of Culture 2017 to properly revitalise this proud Yorkshire city – its legacy a change in perception that has been gaining momentum ever since.

This boost to the local economy generated £300 million for Hull’s tourism industry across the year, both showcasing the city’s surviving historic gems and helping to facilitate proper regeneration. With organisations like Absolutely Cultured committed to placing arts at the heart of the city, the formerly derelict fruit merchants’ warehouses on the city’s marina have been converted into the Fruit Market cultural quarter, newly filled with independent shops, eateries and contemporary visual art space Humber Street Gallery. Today, visitors to Hull are rewarded with the nationally important collection at the Ferens Art Gallery, live music at the legendary New Adelphi Club, prestigious performances at the Hull Truck Theatre, artisanal food and independent shopping in a beautifully renovated Victorian arcade, and an astonishing aquarium that was busier in its first year than London Zoo. Additionally, the Freedom Festival – launched in 2007 to commemorate anti-slavery pioneer William Wilberforce – delivers an impressive line-up of theatre, dance, debate, exhibitions and community events to the city every year.

This, then, is a city formerly known for the pattie butty and putting statues of royals on toilet blocks that’s steadily being reimagined as a unique cultural destination. Explore our top places to visit, eat, drink and stay in Hull – and discover a place where an extraordinary maritime history meets modern hospitality.