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

Exhibitions Until 19 March 2023, FREE

Lakwena Maciver: A green and pleasant land (HA-HA) at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Hide from the rain and immerse yourself in the bright and colourful paintings in ‘Lakwena Maciver: A green and pleasant land (HA-HA)’ at YSP.

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.

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 1 May 2023, from £1.00

Hannah Starkey: In Real Life at The Hepworth Wakefield

The Hepworth Wakefield presents a major survey of work by Hannah Starkey, tracing the development of two decades of her photographic practice.

Exhibitions Until 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’.

Exhibitions Until 3 September 2023, FREE

Lindsey Mendick at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

This spring, Yorkshire Sculpture Park welcomes Lindsey Mendick, a rising star of the contemporary art world, in an immersive solo exhibition.

Exhibitions Until 31 January 2024, £10, with concessions

Magic in this Country: Hepworth, Moore and the Land at the Hepworth Wakefield

Discover the organic inspiration behind the work of Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and others in the new show at the Hepworth Wakefield. 

Exhibitions Until 20 January 2024, from £0.00

The Art of the Potter: Ceramics and Sculpture from 1930 to Now

‘The Art of the Potter: Ceramics and Sculpture from 1930 to Now’ at the Hepworth Wakefield celebrates the gallery’s growing collection of ceramics and sculpture.

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