Things to do in Wakefield: Wakefield Cathedral
Wakefield Cathedral

Things to do in Wakefield

Polly Checkland Harding

It was the opening of The Hepworth in 2011 that announced Wakefield city centre’s status as a standalone cultural destination. Prior to the arrival of the £35m art museum, which went on to win the Art Fund Museum of the Year award in 2017, it was the attractions satellite to Wakefield that were the draw, with the city centre often overlooked by visitors. Today, Wakefield remains a great jumping off point for the ancient ruins of Pontefract Castle and the extraordinary grand house and parklands at Nostell Priory, but the city centre is also recognised as a serious contender in its own right: here, you’ll find The Art House, a large artist studio complex and National Portfolio Organisation, Theatre Royal Wakefield, which has the smallest surviving auditorium designed by legendary architect Frank Matcham, and Wakefield Cathedral, a Grade I listed building whose origins date back to the Doomsday Book of 1086.

Wakefield, the birthplace of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, is now a part of the prestigious Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, which includes The Hepworth, Leeds Art Gallery, the Henry Moore Institute and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, an incredible cultural attraction with a new £3.6m visitor centre. Together these venues also host the Yorkshire Sculpture International, an annual festival taking place across Wakefield and Leeds. Wakefield’s hidden gems are also increasingly on the radar, with visitors discovering the fascinating history of Chantry Chapel St Mary the Virgin and the unique collection at the Mental Health Museum. There’s more still to uncover, such as the unassuming childhood home of overlooked Victorian author George Gissing, who said: ‘There is no such thing as bad weather; every sky has its beauty.’

So does every city. Here, the medieval layout of Wakefield survives recognisably, along with the buildings that were built using a fortune founded on textiles. The ancient fabric of this mercantile town now has cultural institutions and festivals to merit it – discover these and more in our must-see guide to Wakefield.

Discover our top picks

Jadé Fadojutimi at The Hepworth Wakefield
Exhibitions Until 19 March 2023, from £10

Jadé Fadojutimi: Can we see the colour green because we have a name for it? at The Hepworth Wakefield

This September, The Hepworth Wakefield is giving audiences the opportunity to experience the wonderfully colourful world of Jadé Fadojutimi.

Exhibitions Until 30 October 2022, FREE

Jaume Plensa: In small places, close to home at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The much-loved sculptor Jaume Plensa’s drawings are on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Weston Gallery and 18th century chapel, revealing his preoccupation with the human condition, and community.

Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds
Exhibitions Until 5 June 2023,

Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Stop and spend an hour or two with this special creation, nestled within a stand of birch trees beside Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Upper Lake.

Damien Hirst at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Exhibitions Until 31 May 2023, FREE

Damien Hirst at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Experience YBA artist Damien Hirst’s towering and provocative outdoor sculptures at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Exhibitions Until 23 October 2022, FREE

Janine Burrows: Table to Tide: A Yorkshire Conversation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Table to Tide: A Yorkshire Conversation is Janine Burrows’ very intimate exhibition created especially for Yorkshire Sculpture park.

Exhibitions 1 January 2023 10:00 am, from £0.00

When Dreams Confront Reality: The Sherwin Collection at The Hepworth Wakefield

One of the most most important privately-owned collection of British Surrealism has found a permanent home at The Hepworth Wakefield.

Photograph entitled 'A Tangled Mind' by artist Louisa Hammond, depicts a man wrapped in string and what looks like balloons
Exhibitions Until 9 December 2022, FREE

Recollections May Vary at the Mental Health Museum, Wakefield

Inspired by the museum collection of objects and documents related to mental health, ‘Recollections May Vary’ gathers the work of 12 artists, resulting in a powerful display of very personal responses.

Exhibitions 1 October 2022–30 September 2023, FREE

Daniel Arsham: Relics in the Landscape at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Daniel Arsham’s large-scale sculptures are making an appearance at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in his outdoor show ‘Relics in the Landscape’.

West Yorkshire District Guides

Hebden Bridge

Things to do in Hebden Bridge

A selection of curated spots showcasing the best local attractions, shops and tourism on offer in beautiful Hebden Bridge.

Food and drink delivery in Huddersfield

Things to do in Huddersfield

Surrounded by the Yorkshire countryside, Huddersfield is steeped in history and more than holds its own when it comes to arts and culture.

The Piece Hall - Things to do in Halifax

Things to do in Halifax

A destination for foodies, music-lovers and culture-seekers, Halifax is also home to some of the best-preserved Georgian and Victorian buildings in the North.