Wondering what the best things to do in Wakefield are? You need this guide to Wakefield, a lively city in West Yorkshire, England.
It’s a vibrant city with arts and culture, beautiful parks and a fantastic selection of independent eateries.
Wakefield is an under the radar destination in Yorkshire that often gets overlooked in favour of better-known cities in the area.
Things to do in Wakefield
Rich in industrial heritage Wakefield has undergone extensive regeneration after its coal mines and traditional manufacturing industries closed.
Wakefield’s is home to picturesque landscapes and iconic artists. sculptors Dame Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore were both born here and their artistic contributions still can be seen in and around the city today.
City break Wakefield
A city break in Wakefield will require a little travel planning and scheduling.
I would make a list of the Wakefield attractions you want to visit and the destinations you want to see in the city.
We talk more about travel planning on my weekly travel podcast – Travel Goals. Subscribe now and catch up on all episodes.
Check out my guide to top things to do in Wakefield to start planning your visit today.
The Hepworth Gallery
The Hepworth Gallery opened in 2011 on the south bank of the River Calder near the Wakefield Bridge.
The impressive and visually striking museum is centred around the works of local artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.
It also houses collections from other well-known international artists.
Hepworth’s Mother and Child
This award-winning gallery is wildly popular with visitors, despite the divisive nature of its design facade. Locals are said to be unhappy with its rather severe, brutalist design.
Love it or loathe it, once inside you will be bathed in natural light and treated to works such as Hepworth’s ‘Mother and Child’, Chadwick’s Winged Figures and Moore’s ‘Reclining Figure’.
It’s a marvellous place to spend a cultured afternoon and improve your art history knowledge.
“Darling, did you know that Hepworth’s work explored space and shape, often piercing right through the form?”
Always good to Google a few arty phrases to drop periodically whilst wandering about in an art gallery.
Hepworth Gallery Cafe
There’s also a lovely cafe on site that has MasterChef finalist Chris Hale at the helm.
Typical dishes include Autumnal salad, fig and goats cheese on sourdough and steak and ale pie.
The Hepworth gallery is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily and has free entry. Donations to this magnificent gallery are most welcome though.
Sandal Castle is a lovely place for a scenic walk in Wakefield. It’s a ruined 12th-century, medieval castle that is located in Sandal Magna, a suburb in Wakefield.
During the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Wakefield (1460) was fought nearby. The castle endured a siege during the seventeenth century Civil War and was demolished not long after.
The site is open to visitors all year round and also has free parking is you are coming by car.
It’s a great place for dog walking in Wakefield and you can see stunning views of the Calder Valley as you stroll around.
Why not bring a picnic to Sandal Castle and spend a few hours soaking up the views on a blanket?
If you don’t fancy making your own food there is the Castle Café on site serving fresh food. The café is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm and serves hot food, coffee and teas, cold drinks and ice-creams.
The most prominent landmark in the City, this 14th-century, 247ft Cathedral has the tallest spire in Yorkshire.
Step inside Wakefield Cathedral to discover stained glass, medieval carvings and historic features, including unusual octagonal font dating back to 1661.
The cathedral is open to visitors from 9 am to 4 pm Monday to Saturday and also holds several church services.
Entrance to Wakefield cathedral is free but a donation is always appreciated.
When we visited, friendly staff we on hand to answer questions and to dish out compliments on my ‘lovely jumper’.
It’s always nice when the church acknowledges you as a fashion icon.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Enjoy art in the open air at the unique Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Explore the beautiful open-air gallery set in the dreamy and historic 18th-Century Bretton Estate.
Wander around modern and contemporary art, including work by local artist Barbara Hepworth.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park is located just 7 miles from Wakefield and is 20 miles away from the south of Leeds.
Yorkshire sculpture park artists
The grounds of this sculpture park really are glorious. You could spend a whole day wandering by historic buildings, galleries, free-roaming sheep and a variety of impressive contemporary sculptures.
There are also several cafes, coffee shops and a restaurant on-site if you are feeling peckish.
Yorks YSP and a large part of the Park is open to visitors with dogs. The only areas that dogs are not permitted is inside the buildings or galleries
Hepworth Family of Man
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is also the only place in Europe where you can view Hepworth’s iconic ‘The Family of Man’ in its entirety.
You don’t necessarily have to be an avid art lover to appreciate these beguiling sculptures, they can have a quiet impact on even the most cynical of souls.
Best place for dog walking in Wakefield
Entry to Yorkshire Sculpture Park is free, though parking charges apply to support the running of the park.
Definitely take a whole day and spend some time strolling around this serene park whilst you soak up some ‘arty vibes’.
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is also a great place for dog walking in Wakefield as large parts of the sculpture park are open to visitors with dogs.
The only place you can’t take your dog in the sculpture park is inside the buildings.
Blacker Hall Farm Shop
You’ll be in Deli heaven at the Blacker Hall Farm shop. Here you’ll find local produce including meats, baked goods and deli items.
Browse the inviting cabinets, stocked full of delicious goodies and try samples of local specialities as you shop.
Farm shop Wakefield
You’ll also find a selection of gifts, wines, ales and ciders in the shop. Friendly staff are on hand as well to help with your foodie purchases.
There is also a cafe on site that creates dishes using produce from their own bakers, butchers and local farmers and producers.
Choose from breakfast, lunch and Afternoon and Cream Teas. It’s also a lovely dog-friendly place in Wakefield as you can sit with your dog on their outdoor seating and enjoy a lovely lunch.
Wakefield scenic walks
There are several outdoor spaces and walks in Wakefield to go and enjoy some pretty scenery.
You can follow the Wakefield Branch of the Aire and Calder Navigation Canal and enjoy a waterside stroll from Wakefield to Castleford.
Thornes Park is also a good place for a walk, it’s a large and pretty open space that is less than a mile from the city centre.
Upton Country Park
There are also several country parks outside of Wakefield that are fabulous places for a stroll or a picnic.
Try Upton Country Park, around twelve miles south east of Wakefield. Beautiful Upton Country Park has wetland areas with fishing ponds, woodland, scrub and grassland.
I’s afnatstic place for a countryside stroll with the family and has a range of facilities including an adventure playground, cafe and fishing lake.
Pugneys Country Park
Visit Pugneys Country Park just west of Wakefield city centre for lakeside walks and watersports.
The 300-acre park is a fabulous spot for a picnic, a sunbathe session or a scenic stroll. It’s also a fantastic dog friendly park in Wakefield.
If you are feeling adventurous, why not try sailing, windsurfing and canoeing on the lake? There are facilities for hire, tuition and you can even bring your own equipment.
Wakefield City Centre walks
If you prefer, you can also walk around Wakefield city centre to try and spot historic and modern architecture.
Look out for the Grade II listed Crown Court of 1810, Wakefield Town Hall and the well-preserved chantry chapel of St. Mary the Virgin on Wakefield Bridge. There’s also the super modern Hepworth Gallery that is worth exploring.
There is so much historic architecture in Wakefield to be discovered, you just need to take a stoll around.
Where to eat in Wakefield
Wakefield has a surprisingly diverse selection of independent restaurants, bars and cuisines with innovative menus and live music.
There are lots of brilliant restaurants in Wakefield as well as hip bars and more traditional pubs. Come for the culture and stay for the bar crawls and pies I say!
First off, carnivores should check out Smokehouse BBQ for gigantic American-style dishes. It’s one of the best places for ribs in Wakefield.
Feast upon hot wings, ribs, brisket and authentic BBQ eats. They do not skimp on portion sizes here, so make sure to bring your appetite and some elasticated trousers if possible.
They also have some pretty rad specials, if you can decipher the childlike scrawls on the chalkboard by hilarious restaurant manager Mikey.
If you are looking for Latin vibes then Qubana restaurant is the place to be. Order a selection of European and South American tapas, or maybe something from the grill?
Typical dishes include Iberico Pork Cheeks, Vegan Jambalaya, chorizo lollipops and Basque Belly Pork.
The venue has an ambient atmosphere, with modern decor featuring subtle touches of Cuba.
Definitely check out their highly Instagrammable terrace, a lovely spot for a cheeky gin or three. It’s one of the best places for cocktails in Wakefield for sure.
For Pacific style flavours, head to Robatary, a stylish eatery serving up Asian and Americas inspired tapas, small plates and completely banging roast dinners.
It’s is a fantastic place for Sunday Lunch in Wakefield and will properly fill you up.
Typical dishes include shredded duck and hoisin, ramen, chicken katsu and fillet steak. They also have some sweet cocktail deals should you care to imbibe with dinner.
For the daylight hours and more importantly, for hangover cures, budget breakfasts and sandwiches can be found at the slightly retro Baileys Cafe.
Have a monster fry up and a brew at this traditional, no-nonsense cafe. There was even a hidden layer of Spam under my egg. There’s nothing I love more at breakfast than the addition of ‘surprise spam’.
Our breakfasting companion ordered a ‘Yorkshire pudding wrap’ that was a treat to the eyes as much as to the taste buds.
I bloody love the north, where everything and anything can be served in a Yorkshire pudding.
Wakefield Pie Shop
For budget hangover eats, a trip to the infamous Wakefield Pie Shop is a must. This popular venue is located right above a taxi rank, fulfilling all your 3 am pie needs on a night out.
There’s a proper school dinners vibe here but don’t let that put you off, the pies themselves are frankly out of this world. I promise you, a massive pie only thing that’s gonna sort you out after a night on the lash.
It’s one of the best places for pies in Wakefield and is a firm favourite with the locals.
Have pizzas and pints at the upmarket Supper Club in Wakefield. Enjoy craft beers and cocktails at this trendy venue.
Whilst having a drink here, be sure to design your very own pizza and have it cooked freshly for you in their traditional pizza oven.
It’s definitely one of the best places for Pizza in Wakefield and is really worth a visit.
There’s a rather broad range of entertainment options in Wakefield. You’ll find live music, cabaret shows and retro tribute acts taking place in venues across the city.
One of my favourite place to see live music in Wakefield is Elliots Bar. A cosy venue with some of the friendliest staff going.
This uber hipster pub showcases local acts and has a great selection of speciality beers and lagers.
I personally love the contrast between soulful acoustic sets and Butlins style cabaret entertainment that you can find in venues around Wakefield. It feels like there is an act or music night for all tastes and crowds.
Keep an eye out for local photographer Andy Matheson who is often out and about capturing the most incredible nightlife shots in Wakefield.
Wakefield close up magic show
During one of our recent visits visit, we managed to catch a Neil Diamond tribute act which was utterly delightful
We also watched a close-up magic show in Qubana Bar by local magician and good friend Matthew J Magic.
We were utterly dazzled by the array of magic tricks this rather charming performer [read cheeky], had up his sleeves.
Nothing like having a magician pull a card from inside your shoe as you knock back a few large wines.
Best pubs in Wakefield
There’s a fantastic selection of pubs in the city that are home to great ales and live acts. Some of the best pubs in Wakefield include:
What really makes Wakefield a cracking place to go out is the friendliness of the locals, who will inevitably try and direct you to the nearest free buffet in the pub.
“Do you want a scotch egg sweetheart? Ere, grab yourself a plate.” I have no idea whose buffet I was eating but the sausage rolls were bloody lovely.
There is a great selection of places to stay in Wakefield. Choose from historic hotels, old mansion houses, luxury hotels and Airbnb properties..
You can find a hotel to suit your budget and length of time by using online price comparison sites such as Booking.com to find the best hotel deals in Wakefield
Some of the best hotels in Wakefield include:
Why you need to visit Wakefield
At first glance Wakefield might appear to be another generic English city. It has the usual pound shops, betting stores and high street brands you see everywhere in the UK.
Take the time to explore and you’ll discover the city is full of arts, heritage and culture. From an innovative sculpture park to a modern gallery and edgy live music, this is a city that has so much to offer.
Like any underrated city, the main asset here is the people. The warmth and hospitality I have been shown with each visit keep refreshing my faith in humanity a little more.
They also make a stonking pie here, which makes the trip here utterly worthwhile.
What do you think of my guide to things to do in Wakefield? Is there anything that should be added to the list? let me know in the comments below!
Planning your trip to Wakefield
Ready to book your trip to Wakefield? Use these awesome travel resources to get you started:
- Search for the best flight deals with Travel Supermarket
- Search for the best hotel deals on Booking.com
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- Get the best destination recommendations from TripAdvisor
Check out all the best travel resources on my bumper travel resources page!