Two of our recommended walks in Sheffield encapsulate the key tenets of the city’s history: its industrial heritage – and the environmental approach and cultural legacy that were born from this. Rarely is Sheffield mentioned without a nod to the steel and cutlery works that so significantly forged its fortunes; these walks link the parks that were first established to combat the factory fumes, with the galleries that have become the city’s new currency. Explore the the vast Millennium Gallery, the Winter Gardens and the peaceful Graves Gallery, or wander between the artist-led S1 Artspace and prestigious Site Gallery, via South Street Park: these routes combine culture with greenery, experimental art with well-curated gardens.
In fact, this is a running theme in this guide, and in the city itself; Weston Park Museum‘s name gives a clue to its location (…in Weston Park), though not the further two green spaces that are worth wandering through beyond this. The lush vegetation at Sheffield Botanical Gardens can easily be paired with a visit to independent bookshop Rhyme and Reason and the waterside paths in Endcliffe Park. Abbeydale Picture House, around a half hour walk south from the city centre, is close to Meersbrook Park – here you can visit Bishops’ House, a rare architectural treasure that’s open to the public at weekends.
Not all of Sheffield’s best walks include green spaces, of course: some are unashamedly urban, a showcase of manmade achievements instead. 900 year-old manmade islands, in the case of Kelham Island, with its cobbled streets, museum and award-winning brewery, perfect for exploring on foot. Much more recent endeavours are in evidence throughout a route that links forward-facing venues APG Works, Bloc Projects and Theatre Deli, while more mainstream entertainment can be enjoyed by strolling between Curzon Sheffield‘s three small screens and sun-soaked rooftop terrace, and the outstanding theatre programme at the city’s Lyceum and Crucible theatres. The best way to understand any city is on foot – read on for more walks that uncover the best of Sheffield.
Here are our picks
Sheffield Botanical Gardens, Clarkehouse Road, Sheffield, Yorkshire, S10 2LN - Visit now
A byproduct of Sheffield’s industrial past, the city’s Botanical Gardens were first established as a way to counteract factory fumes that were fast becoming suffocating. They are an equally welcome oasis today; there are 19 acres to explore, first designed and laid out by Robert Marnock, the head gardener at Bretton Hall – now Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield. Journey on from the rose gardens and the tucked away bear pit here, and on to Rhyme and Reason, an independent bookshop and the official booksellers of Sheffield’s Off the Shelf literary festival, a ten minute walk away. Beyond this is Endcliffe Park, with its duck ponds, children’s playground and riverside walk – further still are community pub and live music venue The Greystones, if you’re in the mood for a pint and some tunes, or Rafters, a multi award-winning spot for some fine dining at the end of an enjoyable walk.
The Alfred Denny Museum, Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN - Visit now
Just west of Sheffield city centre is the Alfred Denny Museum, named for the first professor of biology at the University of Sheffield and home to an incredible collection of animal specimens from across the globe. Well worth a trip, the museum has been a site of undergraduate teaching for over 100 years, and only opened to the public in 2012; it’s usually open on the first Saturday of each month for guided tours. Only a short stroll away is the award-winning Weston Park Museum, the largest museum in Sheffield, housed in a Grade II* listed building – and a fantastic introduction to the city’s history. As its name suggests, the monumental, neo-classical museum building is in Weston Park, which is a lovely bit of green space to explore, leading on to Crookes Valley Park and the Ponderosa.
Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield, Alma Street, Sheffield, S8 3RY - Visit now
Industry is one of the defining strands of Sheffield’s history – particularly the local steel and the cutlery works. Kelham Island Museum pays homage to this fact, with excellent, interactive galleries and a street reconstruction documenting the city’s industrial heritage. Pair a visit with a few hours spent exploring Kelham Island itself; this unusual, over 900 year-old man made island is dotted with some great pubs and restaurants to wander between, including the largest independent food hall in the North (The Cutlery Works), and the award-winning Kelham Island Brewery, where the popular guided tours feature food, beer, and a good dose of brewing knowledge. Next, we recommend going via Upper Don Walk to the Gardeners Rest, a community pub that’s usually host to a regular roster of events.
Millennium Gallery, Arundel Gate, Sheffield, S1 2PP - Visit now
Opened in 2001, Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery was built to include over 1,800 square metres of exhibition space – making it alone a sizeable site to explore. This is the home of the city’s Ruskin and Metalwork collections, as well as major exhibitions; it’s also neighbour to Sheffield’s Winter Gardens, which is one of the largest temperate glasshouses built in the UK in the last decade. Here, you can peruse 2,500 plants from around the world, before going on to the Graves Gallery (closed for refurbishment until late spring 2021 – check ahead), just next door. Located above the Central Library, there are eight galleries to peruse here, featuring works from artists including Bridget Riley, Cézanne and JWM Turner. Also nearby are the award-winning Peace Gardens, and excellent pan-Asian restaurant Oisoi – the perfect spot for some food.
S1 Artspace in Sheffield, 1 Norwich Street, Park Hill, Sheffield, S2 5PN - Visit now
Artist-led organisation S1 Artspace can be found at the heart of the iconic Park Hill Estate – and is another good place to start for a second walk that combines art with the city’s parks. The year-round contemporary exhibition programme here is one of Sheffield’s best, the on site shop filled with artist’s prints, magazines and books. It’s also an easy route from here to Site Gallery, down the sloping paths through South Street Park: there are good views of the city along the way, and a gallery that specialises in new media, moving image and performance at the end. After exploring the gallery, you might be looking for a bite to eat: Mexican eatery Street Food Chef is a two minute walk away, coffee shop and purveyor of New Zealand-inspired light bites Tamper Sellers Wheel only three. Round out this mini itinerary with a film at Showroom Cinema.
APG Works Gallery, Sheffield, 16-20 Sidney St, Sheffield, S1 4RH - Visit now
For a walk that explores the cultural avant-garde in Sheffield, start at APG Works, close to Sheffield station. Here you’ll find two rooms of contemporary art, a screen print studios and framing workshop – and a collaborative organisation that has worked with some of the city’s best graphic artists since it was established in 2002. A five minute walk away is Bloc Projects; begun in the same year, this non-for-profit, artist-led project space hosts exhibitions, new commissions and residencies throughout the year, and is one of the best places to experience pioneering new art. Similarly inclusive and experimental is Theatre Deli, a base for a supportive network of theatre makers, writers and artists that’s another short walk away. Music lovers should note that two of Sheffield’s best music venues, The Leadmill and Plug, are also close by.
La Biblioteka, Kommune, Castle House, Sheffield, S3 8LN - Visit now
Periodicals shop, project space and studio La Biblioteka is also host to a roster of readings, discussions and launches (check the website for details). Worth visiting in its own right, the shop is also an obvious venue to include in a walk that takes in some of Sheffield’s best spots for some cultural entertainment. From here, it’s only a short walk to Curzon Sheffield, which not only screens a great selection of arthouse and independent releases, but is also home to a popular rooftop terrace and bar above the cinema’s Grade II listed building. Not far from the Curzon is the city’s theatre district, the largest theatre complex in the country outside London and with a wide-ranging, high-quality programme across Sheffield’s Crucible and Lyceum theatres. Put together your own itinerary ahead of time, book tickets to a show that suits, and experience some of the city’s top cultural output.
The Abbeydale Picture House, 387 Abbeydale Road , Sheffield, S7 1FS - Visit now
Most of the walks we’ve recommended so far have been concentrated in the city centre; for this final route, you’ll be heading south for the half an hour it takes to get to The Abbeydale Picture House. Still a cinema, theatre and music venue, this extraordinary, Grade II listed building dates back to the 1920s, and has been undergoing restoration since the early 1990s. It’s situated in Sheffield’s Antiques Quarter, which is well worth exploring, and close to the wide green delights of Meersbrook Park, with its stunning views over the city. Cross the park, and you’ll reach Bishops’ House – an architectural gem built during the reign of Queen Mary I, and a fascinating window to life in the 16th and 17th centuries. Open on weekends throughout the year, Bishops’ House is both a museum and one of the city’s best preserved timber buildings.