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

Red tree drawing by David Nash
Exhibitions Until 5 June 2022, from £0.00

David Nash: Full Circle at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s brand new exhibition of David Nash’s works on paper is a celebraton of trees as seen through the eyes of the renowned artist, who has dedicated his artistic career to trees as a subject and wood as a medium.

Installation of Sheila Hicks: Off Grid at The Hepworth Wakefield, 2022. Art works L-R: Peace Barrier, 2018; Ripe Rip, 2019; Nowhere To Go, 2022. Photo: Tom Bird / Courtesy: The Hepworth Wakefield
Exhibitions Until 25 September 2022,

Sheila Hicks: Off Grid at The Hepworth Wakefield

The Hepworth Wakefield presents the work of Sheila Hicks, one of the world’s foremost artists working with textiles, fibre, colour and form.

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 11 June–23 October 2022, FREE

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

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

Exhibitions Until 4 September 2022, from £10.00

Emii Alrai: Future Collect Commission at The Hepworth Wakefield

Emii Alrai will present a new commission at The Hepworth Wakefield that imitates archaeological artefacts and intertwines Iraqi oral histories and mythologies from the Middle East.

Exhibitions 18 June–30 October 2022, FREE

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

Yorkshire Sculpture Park presents two complementary installations of drawings by Jaume Plensa, in which she brings together seemingly opposite elements.

Exhibitions Until 29 May 2022, FREE

Yukihiro Akama: Ki no ie at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Designer maker Yukihiro Akama presents a collection of 16 beautifully intricate miniature wooden houses, each one carved from a single piece of wood.

Music 17 May 2022 7:30 pm, from £11.00

A Day Will Come at Theatre Royal Wakefield

Theatre Royal Wakefield will hosts a musical project that showcases the diversity of folk music from each of the 27 EU countries.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Nostell Priory
Theatre 6 July 2022 7:00 pm, from £18.45

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Nostell Priory

Head to Nostell Priory for a summer evening of outdoor performance – enjoy a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s magical comedy by the Duke’s Theatre Company.

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.