Yorkshire’s second city, SHEFFIELD remains linked with its steel industry, in particular the production of high-quality cutlery. As early as the fourteenth century the carefully fashioned, hard-wearing knives of hardworking Sheffield enjoyed national repute, while technological advances later turned the city into one of the country’s foremost centres of heavy and specialist engineering. Unsurprisingly, it was bombed heavily during World War II, and by the 1980s the steel industry’s subsequent downturn had tipped parts of Sheffield into dispiriting decline. The subsequent revival has been rapid, however, with the centre utterly transformed by flagship architectural projects. Steel, of course, still underpins much of what Sheffield is about: museum collections tend to focus on the region’s industrial heritage, complemented by the startling science-and-adventure exhibits at Magna, built in a disused steel works at Rotherham, the former coal and iron town a few miles northeast of the city.
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Sheffield’s city centre is very compact and easily explored on foot. Southeast of the Winter Garden/Peace Gardens hub, clubs and galleries exist alongside arts and media businesses in the Cultural Industries Quarter. North of the stations, near the River Don, Castlegate has a traditional indoor market (closed Sun) while spruced-up warehouses and cobbled towpaths line the neighbouring canal basin, Victoria Quays. South of here, down Fargate and across Peace Gardens, the pedestrianized Moor Quarter draws in shoppers, though it’s the Devonshire Quarter, east of the gardens and centred on Division Street, that is the trendiest shopping area. A little further out, to the northeast of the city centre and easily accessible by bus or tram, lies the huge Meadowhall Shopping Complex, built on the site of one of Sheffield’s most famous steelworks.