Things to do in Sunderland

Alexander Iles

Sunderland is built around the winding River Wear and against the brisk but striking North Sea. Having begun as a settlement built around a monastery in the 7th century – St. Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth, the city grew to become one of the most important industrial cities in England. From ship building through to coal mining and glass production, Sunderland was vital for the industrial power of the country. This heritage can be seen in sites such as the Ryhope Engines Museum, which innovatively provided clean water to the whole city, and the railway heritage of the region. A good example of this is in the Bowes Railway – home to one of the earliest sections of rail in the world and designed by the world-famous George Stephenson – the inventor of the railway.

While Sunderland was greatly damaged due to bombing in the Second World War and rebuilding in the post-war period, it is possible to see what it looked like in buildings like the Sunderland Empire Theatre and through images of old Sunderland at the Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Garden. The museum is home to artwork painted by L. S. Lowry, who resided and enjoyed painting the city. When it comes to more recent art, modern art can be found at The National Glass Centre, which is also home to the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art. Both of these venues produce and display breakout art, which is locally and internationally renowned.

Any guide to Sunderland would be amiss not to mention the Stadium of Light – the home of their football team Sunderland Association Football Club, better known as the Black Cats. The stadium stands on land that used to be a coalmine and now has been transformed into not just a football venue, but also an arena for world class acts to come and perform at, from Bruce Springsteen to Beyonce.

The city is home to a vibrant start-up scene with Port Independent and its two additions: Bierhouse and CoffeeHaus (selling artisan beer and coffee respectively) being a good example of this. For beautiful local walks, the Durham heritage coast is very close by and Sunderland itself has a wonderful beach, Roker Beach, which provides fantastic seaside walks. It is also home to Roker Hotel, Let There Be Crumbs and Poetic Licence, all of which are worth a visit, be it for sweat treats orcocktails and gin, or a wonderful location to stay while visiting this revitalised city. Sunderland is a city where old industrial heritage sits side-by-side with modern art, and up and coming local culture is driving forward new business, so, all that is left to say is: Ha’way, lads and lasses, and give it a visit.