As a Brit, it’s so easy to believe the common conception of a place without really forming your own opinion. So when Kasha and I informed people we would be visiting Kingston Upon Hull, the raised eyebrows, quizzical looks and aghast reactions we received said it all; Hull, it would seem, is not the kind of place people go on a city break.
Despite this pessimism on our behalf, we both took off with an open mind to discover just why this city had such an unusually large negative amount of press. Having been voted UK City of Culture in 2017, and a vast regeneration programme already in place, we were excited to see what Hull had in store. Kasha’s excellent blog has already been widely hailed by BBC Radio Humberside and the Hull Daily Mail, but I decided to throw in my two cents and share why I think you should actually visit Hull.
First and foremost, I feel like the locals of this city have had an unfairly hard rap. Historically, the city endured devastating bombing during the Second World War – the heaviest bombed city in the whole country outside London with 95% of its houses damaged – and the demise of the fishing industry in the ‘70s caused a huge upset in the community. Regeneration after the war took a long time, with many sites still undeveloped as late as the ‘80s! Despite this, locals are fiercely proud of their independent city. Nowhere is better to experience this than on a walking tour, learning about the tales of ‘Ull from a local.
Our wonderful guide, Paul Schofield, cast aside all the ideas I thought I knew about the city. According to history, Hull’s fiery sovereign spirit can be traced back to the time when Sir John Hotham refused King Charles I entry to the city, sparking the start of the first Civil War. Enjoy a walk around the charming old town, listen to the stories and soak up the international feel; you’ll definitely be surprised.
Fantastic Local Grub
After a good walk, you’ll be happy to hear that your food options here aren’t limited. For those seeking hearty grub in the main city centre, I can’t help but recommend the restaurant, bar and exhibition space Kardomah94. Situated right next to the local theatre, this is a great spot to drop in for a good feed just before a show (or to soak up the booze before a few drinks). Where the eatery really shines is in its stone baked pizzas (above) topped with lashings of meat and cheese. I opted for ‘The Carnivore’ with Lincolnshire sausages, chicken and pepperoni; the generous portions here very nearly defeated me and that is saying something.
For evening dining, I have no qualms recommending the craft beer and bistro Old House which is currently running a pop-up with street food vendors Shoot the Bull. It was a pleasant surprise to see such a creative menu, with everything from deep-fried devilled whitebait to a blow-torched fillet of mackerel. Opting for decadence, I chose the Yorkshire Wagyu steak (sirloin or flat-iron) and dripping cooked ‘cracked’ fried; a beefy heaven. Meanwhile, Kasha opted for the 36 hour cooked pork belly for an indulgent treat.
There’s Tons of Free History to Explore
If the thing holding you back from visiting Hull is a perceived lack of culture, you clearly haven’t heard of the city’s sterling Museum Quarter. Located right in the heart of the city, the quarter is a hive of history and learning, with back-to-back museums only seconds away from each other and all completely free to enter.
Taking pride of place, the Wilberforce House celebrates the life of one of the city’s most noble and famous campaigners. William Wilberforce played a key role in the abolishment of slavery, making it his life’s work to end the abhorrent trade. Learn all about this fascinating man before taking a moment to reflect in the peaceful garden at the rear beside the Humber.
A stone’s throw away you’ll stumble into the Streetlife Museum of Transport, where you’ll get all nostalgic about the vehicular contraptions of the past. After you’ve done clowning around on the tram, you can head either to the Arctic Corsair, Hull’s last sidecrawler trawler, (booked guided tours only) or meander into the Hull and East Riding Museum. This Tardis like building hides a giant woolly mammoth, beautiful Roman mosaics and even a recreated Roman bath house as well as many other archaeological treasures.
A World-Class Aquarium
Yes, The Deep is the number one recommended things to do in Hull on TripAdvisor but it’s rated that highly for a REASON. This monster sized aquarium and conservation centre sits with its striking glass and steel architecture jutting out over the bank of the Humber, looking like it very much wants to go back in the water! There are over 3,000 different creatures housed within, so don’t be put off by the thought it might be touristy, or else you’ll never see the startling array of life inside its walls.
You’ll start small, with jellyfish, tropical frogs and chatty penguins before moving onto the bigger creatures like sharks and the UK’s only green sawfish that moves through the water like a phantom. Don’t miss out on the chance to ride the glass elevator that lifts you through the main tank, there is a queue but it’s totally worth it for a chance to be totally immersed in the marine world.
Move over Bermondsey Beer Mile, Hull has its own beer walk right in the heart of the Old Town. You can follow the Hull Ale Trail for a chance to see some of the city’s most historic drinking holes, or simply do as we did and duck in and out of the ones you like the look of. For history lovers, it’s definitely a good idea to check out the Plotting Parlour of Ye Old White Harte, the pub where John Hotham allegedly planned to refuse the King entry to Hull.
For relaxed drinking, our favourite pub was The Lion and Key; fantastic ales, craft beer and even a few fruity ciders too. The oldest licenced premises in the city, Ye Olde Black Boy, was built in 1729, though could date back as late as the 14th century. The cosy interior makes it great for the cooler months, just try and grab one of the tables, they go fast!
A Decent Place to Rest Your Head
We stayed at the Holiday Inn in an executive room with a fantastic view of the marina and a perfect location right in the heart of the city. Quiet rooms, big breakfast; sorted.
I loved visiting Hull; we didn’t even have to look hard to find an awesome selection of things to do, and I definitely want to go back. Cast aside your doubts and visit a great, historic city rich with culture, life and a wily independent heart. What are your favourite things about Hull? Comment below to share your story!
Disclaimer: Our stay was hosted by the lovely folk at Visit Hull and East Yorkshire, but as always, opinions expressed about this awesome city are entirely my own.
If you haven’t had your fill of fantastic city breaks in England, check my visit to the cathedral city of Lincoln.