It’s safe to say, most people’s preconceptions of Hull aren’t brilliant. In the past it has been named Britain’s worst city and the least romantic place in the UK. But Kingston upon Hull, to use its proper name, has come into its own in recent years.
Designated the UK City of Culture for 2017, Hull is finally showcasing to the world what a vibrant and intriguing place it really is. With exhibitions and celebrations all over the city this year, culminating in the September Freedom Festival, there's plenty to interest every visitor. But even without all these special events, it remains a brilliant weekend away.
Here are just a few reasons to love this misunderstood city.
1. Its historical charm will surprise you
You might expect to see industrial factories and high-rise concrete blocks throughout Hull, but while much of the city was flattened by bombing during the blitz, some of its oldest streets remain.
Head to the Old Town, where cobbled roads are lined with charming old houses and visit the 700-year-old Holy Trinity Church for some typically British Gothic architecture.
The Victorian indoor marketplace and shopping arcade also evokes a past age; there are a handful of vendors still inside selling fresh fish and coffee, and the shops range from electronics to a quirky old joke store.
Shopping arcade by Lottie Gross
2. It’s full of cosy drinking holes
There’s nothing better than, after a long day of exploring, settling into a comfortable corner with a good old pint of English ale. Fortunately, there is plenty of opportunity for this in Hull.
Try the Lion & Key whose walls and ceiling are colourfully covered in beer mats, the Minerva, which is steeped in maritime history, and Ye Olde Black Boy, whose facade was painted pink for the Freedom Festival to signify that “colour doesn’t matter”, for local ales and snug seating.
The seventeenth century George Hotel has a lovely, wood-panelled bar, and just outside you can find what’s purported to be the smallest window in the world.
Need something to soak up that hangover? Look out for patties on any pub, restaurant or take-away menu. These deliciously deep-fried discs of mashed potato seasoned with sage are the perfect cure to the morning after your historic pub crawl. Try a pattie butty – yes, that’s two slices of bread with a pattie in the middle – if you need a carb overload. For something a little more upmarket, but equally comforting, try 1884 Dock Street Kitchen’s Sunday roasts.
3. There are brilliant museums – and they’re free
From street life and art to geology and archaeology, Hull’s free museums cover it all. There’s something for all ages, whether it’s climbing atop old trams and trains, or delving into the city’s maritime history.
Head to The Hull and East Riding Museum to travel through time: you’ll walk through a reconstructed iron age village, explore Roman bathhouses and see ancient Viking artefacts.
One of the city’s more poignant exhibitions is Wilberforce House, once the home of William Wilberforce who helped abolish slavery in the nineteenth-century British Empire. His pretty Georgian house in Hull’s Old Town High Street is now a museum about slavery, with films and interactive displays, as well as the work of Wilberforce himself.
If you’re looking for something a bit more hands on, hop aboard the Arctic Corsair (located behind the Streetlife Museum) for a guided tour of the city’s last remaining sidewinder fishing trawler – one of the most important vessels in the city’s deep sea fishing fleet.
The Streetlife Museum by Lottie Gross
4. It’s played home to some of Britain’s greatest figures
Poet Philip Larkin is one of Hull’s most famous exports, but there’s a whole host of big names that have grown up or settled in Hull. William Wilberforce – the man who helped abolish slavery in the UK – lived in Hull and his old home, a creaky, red-brick house, is now a museum dedicated to the fight against slavery.
There’s an entire book, titled The Famous Side of Hull, published by locals listing all the celebrities from the area, and even a hall of fame in Spin It Records inside the market building.
Wilberforce House by Lottie Gross
5. The city knows how to throw a party
The Freedom Festival is the highlight of the Hull calendar – a long weekend of performance arts, installations, street food and some seriously impressive fireworks.
The festival name hails from the link between William Wilberforce and Hull, but – according to the festival website – it’s as much about freedom of the people as it is about “exploring local, national and international representations of freedom, independence of spirit and creative expression.”
The Deep and the Humber by Lottie Gross
6. It’s going to be City of Culture 2017
We’ve long championed Hull as a travel destination – but in 2017 the city will be given a real change to shine as the UK’s Capital of Culture.
There’ll be something to see or do every day of 2017, and millions of pounds of investment flowing into the city.
7. It’s not that unromantic after all
We challenge anyone to stand in the tip of The Deep, watch the sun turn the sky a fiery orange as it sets over the Humber, and not feel even just a little wooed.
Top image © Gerry Burrows/Shutterstock