Situated in the northern county of West Yorkshire, Bradford is one of Britain’s most historically important cities, awash with legacies of the Industrial Revolution, including the Bradford Industrial Museum, housed in a charming 19th-century mill. The city has also kept up with modern life, with the National Science and Media Museum, an Imax cinema and a contemporary art gallery dedicated to local artist David Hockney popular with locals and visitors alike.
Suffice to say, despite its relatively compact size, you could spend days in Bradford and not touch the sides of its array of historical sites and attractions. But if you’re keen to dip a little under the surface and explore the nooks and crannies that tend to play second fiddle to the city’s better known places of interest, we hope our selection of unique things to see and do will help inspire you.
1. The Peace Museum
Like so many cities across Britain, Bradford did not escape unscathed from German bombings during World War II. Happily however, this legacy of conflict has helped create a city spirit that is honoured at the fascinating Peace Museum. Housed in one of Bradford’s numerous grand Victorian buildings, the museum is spread across three small galleries and has been curated to highlight the history of extremism, conflict, violence and inequality that has blighted the world – and those who have fought so hard to “give peace a chance”, as the famous song goes. It feature a collection of some 7,000 items, including key exhibits relating to Nobel peace prize winners, women and men opposed to nuclear weapons, and local Bradford peacemakers. There are also regular exhibitions, as well as educational activities for children such as workshops, trails and guided tours.
LOCATION Piece Hall Yard HOURS Wed-Fri 10am-4pm Closed Sat-Tues
2. Bradford Literature Festival
With over 300 events packed into some of Bradford’s most cherished venues across 10 days, Bradford Literature Festival celebrates the written and spoken word in all its wonderful forms. Every year the organisers invite world-renowned authors, poets, musicians and artists to visit the city and share their expertise and passions with audiences. There are also free family fun days which welcome parents and their kids to take part, along with spectacular performances and crafty, interactive workshops, ensuring there’s something for all ages and tastes.
LOCATION Venues across Bradford DATES 28 June-8 July 2018
3. Sunbridge Wells
Nestled in the heart of Bradford’s historic trading quarter, Sunbridge Wells is a truly unique shopping and leisure development that offers a contemporary retail and entertainment experience but with a firm nod to the past. But perhaps its most quirky feature is its subterranean setting, with a vast number of Victorian style units running the length of several underground tunnels. Among the vendors are shops (both independent and seasoned names), restaurants and bars and there’s also an attention-grabbing courtyard complete with open plan glass and a steel staircase leading up to street level.
LOCATION Aldermanbury, Millergate HOURS Sun-Thurs 10am-11pm Fri-Sat 1am-2am
4. Undercliffe Cemetery
Bradford may be an unlikely setting for the kind of ostentatious tombstones of the type you’ll find in Highgate Cemetery in north London (the resting place of Karl Marx) and La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires (where Eva Perón is buried). Nonetheless, this 25-acre site, located high above the city and dating back to 1854, is sprinkled with numerous grand nineteenth-century monuments, finely decorated obelisks, extravagant mausoleums and huge columns, commemorating the lives of the city’s illustrious alumni. The site is Grade II listed and part of a designated Conservation Area, adding beauty to its historical importance.
LOCATION 127 Undercliffe Lane HOURS Mon-Sun 7.30am-9pm
5. The Underground
A couple of years ago the tunes emanating from Bradford’s city centre had fallen a little quiet, and so a group of music lovers decided to do something about it by opening a brand new venue aimed at reinvigorating the city’s once-vibrant music scene. Situated a stone’s throw from the bustling North Parade district, The Underground has rapidly become one of Bradford’s most popular nightspots, hosting diverse line-up of musical acts across a variety of genres. In keeping with its name, the venue has been adorned with a quirky ‘London Underground’ theme and a range of merchandise including band equipment, T-shirts and music-related art can also be purchased on-site.
LOCATION 9 Duke Street HOURS Thurs 8pm-12pm; Fri-Sat 6pm-4am; Closed Sun-Weds
6. Prashad Restaurant
Dedicated foodies visiting Bradford will find that the city’s best cuisine is invariably of the ethnic variety, and in the Indian category this restaurant is up there with the very best. Stylish, colourful and intimate, Prashad has been serving exquisite vegetarian meals in Bradford for the past 25 years, with an ever-evolving menu ensuring it always offers something new. The restaurant prides itself on offering locally sourced produce fused with traditional Gujarati cooking techniques and the hordes of diners who return time and again are testament to its success. Minal, the head chef, has concocted a mouth-watering tasting menu that promises to take you on a culinary journey like no other, with beautifully presented courses and tantalising flavours. But it is also the warm and welcoming atmosphere that sets this restaurant apart.
LOCATION 137 Whitehall Road East HOURS Tues-Fri 5pm-11pm; Sat 12pm-11pm; Sun 12pm-10pm Closed Mon
7. Railway Children Tour
For family activities in or around Bradford, this heritage steam railway is sure to captivate your kids. A few miles west of the city centre, the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway runs through the picturesque Yorkshire countryside where the classic 1970 movie The Railway Children was filmed. The five-mile route will take you back in time to a golden age of travel as you hear the toot of the whistle and see the distinctive puffs of smoke as you set off on your journey. Regular events are also held on the railway throughout the year, including afternoon tea on the White Rose Pullman Dining Train and a popular Beer and Music Festival.
8. The Record Café
No need to sit at home playing some of your old vinyl with a beer in one hand and some snacks in the other, when you can do the very same in the warm and welcoming environs of The Record Café, an independent record shop that serves real ale, craft beer and charcuterie to a steady stream of patrons. On the mezzanine level you’ll find the latest vinyl releases, while on the ground floor there’s a bar and charcuterie counter where you can sample local real ales, craft beers from further afield, continental ham platters and pork pies. Come evening time the venue plays host to a regular programme of vinyl DJs and live performances.
LOCATION 45-47 North Parade HOURS Fri-Sat 11am-12am; Sun 12pm-11pm; Mon-Thurs 11am-11pm
9. Bronte Parsonage Museum
One of the world’s most famous literary families – and the authors of some of the most cherished English books ever written – called Bradford home for much of their lives. Nestled near the pretty village of Haworth, a few miles west of Bradford, the former residence of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte has been transformed into a beautifully preserved museum that retains much of the atmosphere and many of the original features from the 40-year period when its illustrious latter-day occupants lived here, including furniture, clothes and other personal possessions.
LOCATION Church Street, Haworth HOURS Sun 10am-4.30pm Closed Mon-Sat
10. Little Germany
One of the most notable remnants of Bradford’s role in the Industrial Revolution is Little Germany, a small district characterised by narrow streets, tall buildings and what were some of the finest textile warehouses in the UK. The area was given its name by the prominence of German shipping houses who set up their businesses here due to the country’s strong market in yarns and other textile goods. But far from Little Germany wallowing in its distant past, it remains one of Bradford’s busiest commercial areas, housing over 110 businesses and organisations, including the Bradford Chamber of Commerce. Plans are also afoot to further develop the area by converting the interiors of some of its historic buildings into housing, hotels and offices, while preserving the distinctive architecture.
11. Bradford (Mela) Festival
Mela Festivals are some of the most colourful and vibrant events to take place anywhere in the UK and Bradford’s contribution to this long-standing annual tradition is up there with the very best. Part of the wide-scaled Bradford Festival, this fun-packed celebration of Asian arts and culture takes place in Bradford City Park and attracts over 100,000 visitors for three days of delicious ethnic food and drink, high quality music performances, creative street theatre, fun workshops, market stalls, a bio dome, funfair rides and plenty more.
LOCATION Bradford City Park DATES 13-15 July 2018
12. City Vaults
It would seem an oversight to visit Bradford and not sample one of its quintessential English pubs. If you’re of the same mind, then you won’t find anywhere more classically charming as the City Vaults. Located in the city centre opposite the Wool Exchange, the pub was converted from a bank and features art-deco glass and wrought ironwork throughout, including an eye-catching iron spiral staircase leading to the upper drinking area. The pub’s walls are also dotted with numerous intriguing pictures and framed newspaper clippings. There’s a quiz night on Wednesdays and live music on most weekends.
LOCATION 33 Hustlergate HOURS Mon-Sun 10am-9pm