Wondering what the top things to do in Wakefield are? You need this guide to Wakefield, a hugely underrated city in West Yorkshire, England. Rich in industrial heritage Wakefield has undergone extensive regeneration after its coal mines and traditional manufacturing industries closed. It’s a vibrant city with shops, parks and a fantastic selection of independent eateries. Check out this guide to top things to do in Wakefield to start planning your visit today.
Rich in industrial heritage Wakefield has undergone extensive regeneration after its coal mines and traditional manufacturing industries closed. It's a vibrant city with shops, parks and a fantastic selection of independent eateries! Click To Tweet
The most prominent landmark in the City, this 14th-century, 247ft Cathedral has the tallest spire in Yorkshire. Step inside to discover stained glass, medieval carvings and historic features, including unusual octagonal font dating back to 1661. The cathedral is open to visitors from 9am to 4pm Monday to Saturday and also holds several services. Entrance to this beautiful cathedral is free but a donation is always appreciated. The cathedral was undergoing renovations when we visited, luckily 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.
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 and also houses collections from other international artists.
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.
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 10am to 5pm daily and has free entry. Donations to this magnificent gallery are most welcome though.
Where to eat in Wakefield
For a small city, Wakefield has a surprisingly diverse selection of independent eateries, bars and cuisines. 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. 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 sweet potato and spinach tortilla, vegetable jambalaya, chorizo lollypops and a piri piri burger. 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.
For Pacific style flavours, head to Robatary, a stylish eatery serving up Asian and Americas inspired tapas, small plates and completely banging roast dinners. Typical dishes include shredded duck and hoi sin, ramen, chicken katsu and fillet steak. They also have some sweet cocktail deals should you care to imbibe with dinner.
For budget eats, a trip to the infamous Wakefield Pie Shop is a must. This nondescript venue is located right above a taxi rank, fulfilling all your 3am pie needs on a night out. Whilst the exterior is a little bland, the pies themselves are frankly out of this world. 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 in a 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.
Have pizzas and pints at the upmarket ‘Supper club’. 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.
The nightlife in Wakefield is pretty vibrant. You’ll find a large range of drinking establishments, karaoke, live music and even close up magic on a night out in Wakey. Try snazzy bars such as Velvet Bar or Jocks Cavern, or traditional pubs such as The Black Horse or the Jolly Tap. 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 darling? Grab yourself a plate.”
There are also several entertainment options in Wakefield. During our visit, we managed to catch a smashing Neil Diamond tribute act as well as an impressive close-up magic show in Qubana bar by Matthew J Magic. We were utterly dazzled by the array of magic tricks this charismatic performer has up his sleeves. Nothing like having someone inexplicably predict all your card choices as you knock back a few chardonnays of an evening.
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.
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.
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.
Entry to the 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 the arty vibes.
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.
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.
Wakefield Scenic Walks
There are several outdoor spaces in Wakefield to go and enjoy a scenic walk. 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.
There are also several country parks outside of Wakefield that are fabulous places for a stroll or a picnic. Try Upton Country Park, located 30 minutes away from Wakefield. This country Park is the ideal place for long walks, it also has climbing frames for the kids and fishing ponds for fishing enthusiasts.
If you prefer, you can also walk around the city centre to try and spot historic 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.
When looking for somewhere to stay in Wakefield, why not book an Airbnb? Click this Airbnb link to get £25 in travel credit when you sign up! 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!