This post is a retort to the news that Bradford has been named as Britatin’s worst tourist city in a poll by Travelodge, whose ‘Bradford’ hotel is actually closer to New Pudsey.
Having lived in Bradford for over 7 years I wholeheartedly disagree that Bradford is ‘dangerous, ugly and boring’ as the survey suggests. It’s no less dangerous than any other major UK city and while Bradford has its fair share of 1960s monstrosities in architecture, there are some fine examples of stone-built Victorian buildings which have been faithfully restored and look rather splendid, all over the city.
As for boring, there are plenty of attractions for tourists to visit:
1. In Bradford city centre:
- National Media Museum – this is the UK’s most visited museum outside of London, and has a wide range of galleries focussing on film, photography, television, radio and new media such as the internet. Its latest addition is an arcade games gallery, where you can play a range of 1980s arcade machines. It’s also home to Yorkshire’s only Imax cinema. Best of all, it’s free to go in (bar the cinemas and some special exhibitions). It was influential in Bradford’s successful bid to become the world’s first UNESCO City of Film, which launches this weekend.
- Peace Museum – one of Bradford’s lesser-known gems, this has a fantastic collection of items and records. It’s open on Wednesday and Fridays, and for pre-booked groups.
- Bradford Sculpture Trail – around the turn of the millennium, a series of sculptures were commissioned across the city. This trial takes you around 27 different sculptures and statues, including those of JB Priestley, the famous Bradford-born author.
- Curry houses – Bradford has a huge range of curry houses across the city and any visit isn’t complete without visiting at least one. There’s the world famous Mumtaz, the student favourite Omar’s, Markaz on Centenary Square and many more. What’s more is that they’re all very affordable.
- Bradford Cathedral – being one of Britain’s newer cities (the Royal Charter was granted in 1897) the cathedral is quite small compared to the likes of York, Lancaster and Lincoln, however, it’s still an old building with parts dating from the 15th century. It holds regular events and sits in an area of Bradford known as ‘Little Germany’, full of well-preserved and renovated Victorian buildings.
- Alhambra Theatre – one of several venues in Bradford (there’s also St George’s Hall, Bradford Playhouse and the Theatre in the Mill), the interior of this theatre has been thoroughly restored and looks magnificent. It hosts many major shows throughout the year.
- The Wool Exchange – once the centre of Bradford’s wool trade, this fantastic piece of 19th century architecture has been restored and now hosts probably the nicest-looking branch of Waterstone’s in the country. There’s also a Starbucks on the mezzanine level.
- Bradford 1 Gallery and the Impressions Gallery – these two new art galleries are in Centenary Square and host a number of exhibitions.
2: In the suburbs
- Bradford Industrial Museum – located in late 19th century mill, this working museum has various examples of mill machinery, as well as a horse-drawn tram, worker’s houses and a transport exhibition. Entry is free and it’s open 7 days a week.
- Lister Park – open to the public since 1870, this large park includes a boating lake, café, adventure playground, gardens and is also home to the Cartwright Hall art gallery which has recently been host to an exhibition of work by David Hockney, who originally came from the Bradford area. It was named Britain’s Best Park in 2006.
- Peel Park – across the valley from Lister Park, this opened in 1850 and now plays host to the annual Bradford Mela which is one of the biggest festivals of British Asian culture in the UK.
- Undercliffe Cemetery – Bradford was at the heart of the UK wool industry and many of the great and good from Bradford’s past have been buried here with some very elaborate and decorative memorials.
- Bolling Hall – a mansion house which now houses exhibitions showing the life and times of Bradford families over the past few hundred years. Like many of Bradford’s other museums, entry is free.
3: Further afield:
- Saltaire – a UNESCO world heritage site, and home to Salt’s Mill, which houses a permanent exhibition of art by David Hockney and a range of specialist shops and restaurants.
- Keighley & Worth Valley Railway – a working steam railway that takes you through the pretty Worth Valley. Connects with the main line at Keighley station.
- Haworth – a hillside village with a great range of independent shops and fine public houses.
While I think this list is pretty exhaustive I’m sure there’s bits I’ve missed. But there’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do as a tourist in Bradford and it’s well worth spending a day or two to look around. There’s also the City Park which is under construction and will be open by next summer.
(See also and an article in our local newspaper)