Hidden Gems of Sheffield
There’s a lot more to this place than what meets the eye. Newcomers to the city, seek out these places situated off the beaten track and ye shall be rewarded…
Alfred Denny Museum of Zoology
What: Even some lifelong locals haven’t heard of the Alfred Denny Museum. Reopened in 2012, this zoological marvel was renovated to hold large glass cabinets full of specimens gained from over 100 years of collecting. There’s even evidence of now-extinct animals. To properly epitomise the museum’s pedigree, it holds two letters written by Charles Darwin.
Why: Each free tour is run by a friendly student guide with an intimate knowledge of the museum. It’s an incredible step backwards in time, back when the best way to understand how the natural world worked was to take it apart and squeeze it into a jar with some alcohol. There’s an awful lot that visitors of all ages stand to learn and even be inspired by in just a single visit.
Where: The museum can be found in the Alfred Denny Building at the heart of the university campus, and the other side of the underpass from the University of Sheffield’s Students’ Union. Tours start at 10am, 11am and 12pm on the first Saturday of each month, so get your place booked at sheffield.ac.uk/alfred-denny-museum.
The Bear Pit
What: The Bear Pit is just a small feature of Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens, but an important piece of the city’s past. Much like the Alfred Denny Museum, it represents a time when collecting animals for our fascination was more morally ambiguous. Thankfully, times have changed and the pit has remained bearless since a child was tragically killed after falling in during the 1870s – though a rusted steel statue serves as a sobering reminder.
Why: The Gardens describe the Bear Pit as “the finest surviving example in the UK”. The reason? For decades, it was preserved by being Yorkshire’s biggest compost pit. Also, as mentioned before, the Botanical Gardens are bloody lovely anyway.
Where: A 15-minute walk from the University of Sheffield campus, past the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and along Clarkehouse Road. Getting the bus is recommended for Hallam students living in the city centre, but the gardens can also be accessed from Eccy Road, just up from collegiate campus. The gardens open early and the gates are locked at 7.45pm (4pm in winter).
What: A recent study of tree rings found that the timber-framed Bishop’s House was likely built in 1554. This hides a bigger revelation: that despite what the name suggests, it was built too late for bishops to ever have lived there. This well-preserved example offers a public museum for a slice of what life might have been like.
Why: The house is a time capsule once surrounded by fields, still standing in the middle of a vibrant city. It opens out onto the stunning views of Meersbrook Park, so it’s the perfect opportunity to indulge in some early Sheffield history, have a nice stroll, and get some superb panoramics for your Insta.
Where: This one’s a bit further out of town, but easily reachable by bus. The number 20 from the Moor bus stop will take you straight there in about 30 minutes. The house is open weekends from 10am till 4pm, so bring a picnic and set up shop for the afternoon in the park.
South Street Kitchen
What: Situated in Park Hill flats just above the train station, this independent coffee space with a focus on community and Middle Eastern food is the very definition of a hidden gem.
Why: Sheffield is spoilt for choice when it comes to great coffee shops, but the recently opened venue is well worth a trip out of the city centre. A softly lit interior that mixes chic design with bare concrete lends itself nicely to mulling ideas over or setting the world to rights. Knock back a Dark Woods coffee, craft beer or a wine, and for food sample the falafel and flatbreads.
Where: A short walk up behind the train station towards the Park Hill building takes you straight to the cafe. Open from Monday to Saturday, normal closing time is 5pm, but Fridays are later at 10pm. For full menus and maps, visit southstreetkitchen.org.