by ANTONY CLAY
IT may be only an hour or so to the north but the city of Bradford is often left off people’s list of places to visit.
However, for those in the know, it has many surprises thanks to its rich history, cultural diversity and focus on the arts.
It has so much to offer the day or weekend visitor, and an even longer jaunt could easily be filled with stuff to do.
It is true to say that in shopping terms Bradford has been somewhat eclipsed by the gaudy offerings of nearby Leeds. But while Leeds might have its Trinity Centre and Harvey Nichols, Bradford has its own distinctive offer.
Bradford city centre has come a long way in recent years. It did have an image problem, and indeed a financial one, when many of the shops closed and a huge building site hole lingered for nearly a decade. But now its thriving and sparkly Broadway Shopping Centre has been the fillip the city needed.
The centre has been a huge success, bringing big names to the city and encouraging more folk to stay there rather than travelling to Leeds to spend their dosh.
Indeed, the shopping centre gets a free national airing whenever Channel 5’s consumer show Shop Smart: Save Money is filmed there.
The city centre itself has many delights, ranging from the impressive Waterstone’s book shop in the old Wool Exchange to the attractive City Park next to the majestic City Hall. City Park has a large water feature and often hosts special attractions. At Christmas, for instance, the City Hall was the focus of a special festive lightshow which wowed audiences.
People may remember the old National Museum of Photography, Film and Television. Now it has had something of a rebrand and is known as the National Science and Media Museum.
The museum has a range of fascinating permanent exhibitions covering, you guessed it, the development of media and the visual arts, with many interactive elements such as a mindbending mirror maze. There are also visiting photography exhibitions.
You can easily spend a day at the museum…and it’s free.
If you fancy a film which might not turn up at your local multiplex, check out what is on at the Pictureville Cinema attached to the museum which specialises in art movies.
For more entertainment and art shows, try out the nearby Impressions Gallery at City Park or Cartwright Hall in Manningham which includes many old paintings and works by Bradford’s golden boy David Hockney.
The city’s famous Alhambra Theatre has one of the biggest stages in the country and is home to all the major travelling shows as well as the annual panto, and St George’s Hall has offered a venue for musicians and smaller shows for years. No doubt when it opens again after refurbishment that will continue.
The city’s array of large and small shops are, helpfully, in a fairly compact area which means that exploring can be a pleasure, though be aware of the steep Darley Street.
You don’t need to stay in the city centre though as the surroundings offer beautiful upland countryside such as at Ilkley Moor and charming smaller towns like Ilkley and Bronte homeplace Haworth which has a museum telling you all you ever needed to know about the literary sisters.
You can travel from Haworth to Keighley on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway which runs throughout the year and offers nostalgic trips in old carriages pulled by old engines. Smell the smoke, hear the steam hiss, hear the clanking and grinding of proper historic trains.
Saltaire is a well-known name and a must for anyone visiting the Bradford area. Situated next to Shipley, the old mill built by Sir Titus Salt in the nineteenth-century is a popular attraction.
You can also wander round the village and see the old cottages and church.
Salts Mill is the place to go if you want to see works by the aforementioned Mr Hockney. In fact, a large part of it is themed around him and you can buy mugs and other items bearing his drawings.
But there is also a bookshop, clothes outlet, jewellery emporium, bike shop and even an early music centre to have a look at, as well as other surprises.
You can park for free or get there easily by bus and train.
Salts Mill has the unusual ability to be as delightful to people wanting to shop as it is to lovers of history.
There are an even older buildings to explore at the National Trust’s East Riddlesden Hall in Keighley, a former agricultural property which has seen many changes over the years, or Bolling Hall, which was a Royalist base in the English Civil War.
Food lovers have no need to be concerned about taking a jaunt to Bradford. Obviously it’s a great place for a curry but the sheer variety of outlets will impress. You can get food from all over the world, whether it be European or Middle Eastern or Far Eastern or beyond, as well as the usual big chains.
While Leeds eateries might feel tempted to push up the prices, Bradford tends to offer great food at more reasonable rates.
Bradford has a well-respected university which attracts students from across the globe and the cultural and ethnic mix of the place is a positive boon. It’s quite friendly and pleasant to visit, with its pleasant parks, good road links and even an international airport.
Little Germany is an area of old mill buildings which are a testament, like Salts Mill, to the city’s textile-based past. At one time Bradford was one of the wealthiest and most industrial cities in the country and expanded rapidly.
You can wander around the steep streets of Little Germany and get a sense of those days gone by.
The city’s Industrial Museum will also offer an insight into the city’s manufacturing history, which included cars and motorbikes.
If you haven’t been to Bradford before, you will be pleasantly surprised by its beauty, culture and diversity. It has had an image problem in the past, but luckily it’s looking to the future now.
FACTFILE: (if need to edit this, include top three)
BRADFORD VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE: Britannia House, Broadway, Bradford BD1 1JF. Telephone 01274 433678, email email@example.com. Open: Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm (April to September), 10am-4pm (October-March).
HAWORTH VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE: 2-4 West Lane, Haworth BD22 8EF. Telephone 01535 642329, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Open: Monday-Sunday 10am-5pm (April to September), 10am-4pm (October to March).
ILKLEY VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE: Station Road, Ilkley LS29 8HA. Telephone 01943 436232, email email@example.com. Open: Monday-Saturday 9.30am-4.30pm (April to September), 10am-4pm (October to March).
SALTAIRE VISITOR INFORMATION POINT: Victoria Hall, Saltaire BD18 3JS. An unstaffed information point with information on local attractions and events.
THE NATIONAL SCIENCE AND MEDIA MUSEUM: Telephone 0844 856 3797, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Open daily 10am–6pm.
BRONTE PARSONAGE MUSUEM: Church Street, Haworth BD22 8DR. Telephone 01535 642323, email email@example.com. Open: every day 10am to last ticket sales 4.30pm.
SALT’S MILL: Victoria Road, Saltaire BD18 3LA. Telephone 01274 531163. Open: 10am-5.30pm Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm Saturday-Sunday (though individual shops on the site will vary from these times).
EAST RIDDLESDEN HALL: Bradford Road, Riddlesden, Keighley. Telephone 0344 800 1895, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Open: 10.30am-4.30pm but check specific days at https://tinyurl.com/y9y2plgn.
KEIGHLEY AND WORTH VALLEY RAILWAY: Telephone 01535 645214, email email@example.com. For timetables and parking infornmation, visit https://kwvr.co.uk.
ALHAMBRA THEATRE: Morley Street, Bradford BD7 1AJ. Telephone 01274 432000.