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Visit Wakefield

Known in the Middle Ages as “The Merrie City”, Wakefield is still enjoying itself – despite a few setbacks in the 20th century. Like many of its neighbouring towns and villages, Wakefield became dependent on the coal mining industry for its infrastructure and employment, so when the final pit closures happened at the beginning of the 1980s, the jolly city was sent reeling. Now regenerated and with plenty of ambition for the future, Wakefield has reinvented itself as a pleasant historic town full of open spaces, imposing buildings and leisure facilities.

If you’re looking for a night out in Yorkshire, Wakefield’s where it’s at. Home to one of the most infamous pub crawls in the West Riding, and a hugely popular destination for local stag and hen parties, the Merrie City has found a brand new way to trade on its nickname. Visit Wakefield on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll find it heaving with revellers!

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Top Attractions in Wakefield

Nostell Priory and Parkland

National Trust favourite Nostell Priory welcomes visitors of the two and four legged kinds to its rolling parklands...

Nostell Priory and Parkland

National Coal Mining Museum for England

Descend 450ft into a working coal shaft to find out what life was really like in the toughest job...

National Coal Mining Museum for England

Wakefield Cathedral

Yorkshire’s tallest church welcomes visitors for a free visit from Mondays to Saturdays. Worship times are advertised...

Wakefield Cathedral

The Hepworth Wakefield

The Hepworth Wakefield has a mission: to bring world class modern art to Yorkshire. Named for the Wakefield...

The Hepworth Wakefield
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Elephant and Castle by Ben Sutherland

Symbolic of Wakefield’s new lease of life are the Hepworth Wakefield gallery, an member of the extended Tate family and a focal point for British modern art; and the Wakefield Waterfront area surrounding it.

The Waterfront

The Waterfront houses a ton of new cafes, boutique shops and fancy restaurants, and is responsible for the refurbishment and upkeep of the Navigation Warehouse, a splendid Grade II listed building. You’ll find locals and tourists alike enjoying the relaxed atmosphere at the weekends – a world away from the frantic pulse of the city centre’s streets and avenues, which positively boom with good times when the sun’s gone down.

Westgate Run

Adventurous visitors should consider the Westgate Run as a starting point for their evening’s festivities – though be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart! One of the heftiest pub crawls in the UK, the Run takes in as many as 12 pubs in just over 400 metres. Start at the end of the Westgate furthest away from the centre, and finish in the middle of town.

Pubs and Bars

It’s not all big-time boozing, mind – there are plenty more restrained pubs and bars in the city centre, including the Inns of Court and the Hop. The latter’s a real ale pub, the former has an alternative vibe. Most pubs and bars are in and around Westgate and the city centre. Hunt down side streets for late bars and clubs.

Shopping

Wakefield’s excellent transport links with the rest of the county make it an ideal location for shopping, and the city’s malls and shopping streets don’t disappoint. You’ll find plenty of national and international chain stores in its Trinity Walk shopping centre, and a pleasing quantity of independent shops scattered in and around the middle of the city.

Sporting Heritage

Wakefield has a strong sporting heritage, and its current teams (the Wildcats in rugby league; Sandal RUFC in the Union; Wakefield FC in the football league) still attract a good following. The city is also associated with the uncommon sport of archery, and has an excellent watersports lake at Pugney’s Country Park. The lake is used for unpowered sports only, including windsurfing.

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Clarence Park by Andres Buzzio

Wakefield’s most convenient airport is Manchester, which is used for all international flights. It is also possible to make European connections using Robin Hood Doncaster and Leeds Bradford.

By car

The city sits at the confluence of the M62 and the M1, and is also bounded by the M1. It is therefore easily accessible from York, Sheffield and Leeds, and conveniently located for Manchester.

By train

Rail wise, Wakefield is connected to London, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, York and Liverpool. Four major train operators run services through the busy Westgate station – there’s also a second station, Wakefield Kirkgate, which was built in the mid 19th century and heralded the arrival of rail in the area. The city is on the East Coast Main Line, and handles services run by Northern Rail, Arriva Cross Country Trains, East Coast and East Midland Trains.

By bus

Wakefield is on national bus routes.

There are two main providers of bus travel in Wakefield – Stagecoach and Arriva. Travellers can also get around the city centre using a free bus service – the Wakefield Free City Bus. The Free City Bus service is designed to connect the major shopping and leisure destinations in central Wakefield, including both train stations and the Ings Road and Westgate Retail parks.

On foot

Wakefield city centre is reasonably sized but easy to walk around. The cathedral can be accessed on foot from the Westgate train station. Plenty of Wakefield’s most popular pubs and bars are also accessible from the train station, including eh legendary Westgate Run – a serious pub crawl taking in the major drinking holes along the half kilometre stretch between the Redoubt pub and the middle of town.

Green Space

There are dozens of green spaces and public parks in Wakefield city centre, including the interconnected Thornes, Clarence and Holmfield parks. To the south of the city centre, where the River Calder runs, there’s a large country park (Pugney’s Country Park) featuring multiple large lakes to walk around.

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Sandal Castle by Footiechic

The most notable surviving structures in and around Wakefield date from the Middle Ages.

Sandal Castle

The ruins of Sandal castle’s motte and barbican can be seen on the rolling hills outside the city, and the cathedral, which was rebuilt several times during the centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution, is still a focal point.

Corn Trade

By the time Victoria took the throne, Wakefield was a thriving market town and an inland port, responsible for shipping corn and wool throughout England. At the height of its trading importance, the city shipped more corn than any other town in the north of the country. The canals connecting the town to Sowerby and Barnsley were instrumental in securing the fortunes of Wakefield – and as the railways came into play in the mid 19th century, with the construction of Kirkgate station, linking Wakefield to Manchester.

Architectural Landmarks

It was in the 19th century that many of Wakefield’s prominent architectural landmarks were constructed – though Georgian housing still survives in the city as well. The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, whose imposing sweep has now been converted into flats, was constructed in 1816; the existing House of Correction (dating from the 16th century) found a new lease of life as the remodelled Wakefield Prison (1847); and the Mechanic’s Institute was built in 1821.

Coal Mining

Wakefield’s modern history is a story of coal. The city first started mining in the 15th century: by the 19th century, dozens of mine shafts had been sunk and hundreds of families – men, women and children – were going underground for employment. The Manor colliery and the Park Hill colliery both survived until the 1980s.

Wakefield is now resurgent, after a difficult time in the post-pit closure years: surviving collieries have been repurposed as museums or leisure facilities, and the city – composed of the city itself and the five towns surrounding it – is looking to the future.

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