Sheffield is emerging as one of the most creative cities in the north of England, with lots of interesting businesses opening up to serve the creative community.
Despite being only about 90 minutes away from my home in Manchester, until quite recently, I had only visited the city of Sheffield once before. In recent years – and mainly because I became infatuated with the beautiful Instagram feed of Sheffield florists Swallows & Damsons (more on that later) – I became curious to know more about this city.
Home to the world’s most famous steel, Henderson’s relish (Sheffield’s version of Worcestershire sauce) and the Arctic Monkeys, this former industrial city is on the verge of big changes. The city’s brutalist architecture maintains it’s urban edge while many quarters have been gradually gentrified. Many new food destinations, craft ale bars and cool coffee shops have popped up and it’s development is rapid. What gives the cityscape it’s energy is it’s diversity. Beautiful Victorian villas overlooking charming parks contrast with edgier, alternative and characterful neighbourhoods – each area feeling like a separate town within one city.
Below are a selection of my favourite spots I’ve discovered as I have got to know this interesting and vibrant city…
Every day should begin with coffee and there are many great cafes worth a visit in and around Sheffield. My favourite – serving freshly ground offerings, New Zealand style – is Tamper. Located at Sellers Wheel, a fantastic former 19th Century Silversmiths, it is in the heart of the Cultural Industries Quarter. This area is an interesting place to start and get a sense of how this city would have looked during the industrial revolution – it’s full of renovated factory buildings and mills, none more impressive than Sellers Wheel. You’ll find other branches of Tamper at Westfield Terrace and Kommune (see below).
For an afternoon of mooching, head over to Kelham Island. This area is still undergoing lots of change and redevelopment, but it’s home to some interesting independents, such as The Blind Mole antiques and the Peddler night market, a popular venue for street food, craft beer and music, held on the first Friday and Saturday of each month. Cutlery Works at Kelham Island, is the largest food destination in the north of England, with a range of permanent and pop up eateries and bars, located over two floors in a former factory building. Just across the road, overlooking the river Don, is Church, located in a former steel works factory. Opened by Oli Sykes, front man for the band Bring Me Horizon and his wife, and appropriately named Temple of fun – in part due to its selection of retro arcade machines, play stations and pool table -the restaurant and bar are 100% vegan.
Recently opened in a former Co-op store In the heart of the city, you’ll find Kommune which houses a selection of food and drink destinations, The Viewing Room art gallery and La Biblioteka, an independent bookstore, which sells a selection of gifts and specialist art and design magazines (including 91!) Kommune is closed on Mondays, but open every other day of the week.
Vintage fans should head to Devonshire Street where you’ll find some of the city’s best vintage clothes shops, such as Vulgar and Mooch Vintage and just around the corner, Cow Vintage. Collard Manson is also located here – something of an institution in Sheffield. The owners have been trading in beautiful homewares, gifts and clothes since 2002. It is exquisitely and cleverly merchandised with a distinctive style; walking into the double height store almost feels like being transported to European destination – somewhere more akin to Amsterdam or Berlin – well worth a browse.
Further along onto Division Street, you’ll come upon Moonko, another independent store channeling a European aesthetic and vibe. Against a backdrop of white walls sit a selection of homewares, artwork, stationery and ceramics, all nestled amongst an array of indoor plants, creating what can only be described as an urban jungle. The owners and staff have in-depth knowledge of how to care for each species should you need any advice or guidance on looking after your purchases. Their products, mainly crafted by independent makers, have been carefully selected according to their eco-credentials.
Sheffield Botanical Gardens
If plants are your thing, then look no further than the Botanical Gardens just off Ecclesall Road in the centre of Sheffield. Over 150 years old and listed by English Heritage as a grade II site of special historic and architectural interest, the glasshouses are full of rare species of plants from tropical countries and are a horticulturist’s dream, not to mention being extremely photogenic. There is also a tea room and a calendar of events, including a 3-day music festival every July.
Also on Ecclesall Road is Cocoa Wonderland, a must-visit for chocoholics and the sweet-toothed. The café and shop transport you back to a fantasy land of nostalgia with shelves of sweets and treats from a bygone world in glass jars and indulgent hot chocolate and cream teas served from vintage china.
The Antiques Quarter
The Antiques Quarter is situated at Abbeydale Road and is dominated by an impressive former ballroom now known as The Abbeydale Picture House. This independently run venue is the location for live music events, cocktails, craft beer and street food plus the monthly Pedlars Corner Flea Market. This area is home to over 60 independent bars, restaurants, delis and bakers, florists and small businesses.
Swallows and Damsons
In the same area is the shop that led me to Sheffield in the first place: Florist, Swallows & Damsons. Initially drawn in by their popular Instagram feed, in real life, the shop owned by Anna Potter, is equally as inspiring. A mix of gorgeous flowers and plants, are complimented by a varied selection of pots and vessels for your blooms, and its wooden-panelled tongue and groove walls and vintage style display units make for some great Instagram shots for your own gallery. If you can’t make it to the shop itself, grab a slice of the floral action via Anna’s first book, The Flower Fix, which has just published, showcasing her beautiful space and floral arrangements.
Not far away is the Forge Bakehouse, where everything from the seasonally-changing bread, pastries and even the fillings for the patisseries are handmade on the premises. It’s so good that it’s almost impossible to get a shot of the bakery fully stocked, so get there early before they sell out. As well as baked goods to take away, food and drinks are served from breakfast until dinner within the lovely light-filled glass extension on the side of the bakery, with a further seating area upstairs.
If you are a bit of a foodie and fancy picking up some Italian groceries to take home with you while you’re here, head further up Abbeydale road to Bragazzis deli and café. Here you will find the finest Italian anti pasti, olives and bread, or sit inside and treat yourself to a range of paninis and salads and of course, great quality coffee.
Words & photography by @karen_barlow, unless otherwise credited.