Beautiful Bradford: 15 great reasons to visit the UKs most-improved city
Bradford’s new status as the UK’s “most-improved” city will be a feather in the cap of a place that has never accepted its tag as “segregation city”. There has always been far more to the place – too much, in fact – so here’s our guide to the best things to see and do in Bradford:
Prashad Bradford takes curry incredibly seriously (it has won the award for UK’s curry capital six times) and Prashad, with its exclusively vegetarian menu, is still the pick for many Bradfordians. The restaurant’s Mayur Patel recently co-founded Bundobust, a chain of vegetarian Indian eateries that boasts an impeccable selection of beers.
Karachi Rick Stein’s favourite curry house comes a close second, and it still lives up to the decade-old Guardian review that said the food was so “blisteringly good that basic good manners demanded it be shovelled in with bare hands”.
Waterside Bistro If you don’t fancy curry, there is the this bistro in Shipley, which proudly boasts of its northern produce (“Cheese from Castleford, herbs from York and our fish from Hartlepool,” says co-owner Ian Johnson). It impressed the critic Giles Coren so much with its locally sourced fare that he asked: “Who needs London, Paris or Monte Carlo when you’ve got Bradford?”
The Bradford literature festival Forget the cosy confines of Edinburgh, Cheltenham or Hay; experience Bradford’s well-respected literature festival instead. It has been running since 2014 and previous attendees include Carol Ann Duffy, Jeanette Winterson, Gary Younge and the city’s own AA Dhand. Dates for 2020 have already been announced (26 June to 5 July) but there is something on throughout the year, including Words in the Winter, a mini programme of events taking place in early December.
National Science and Media museum The name might have changed (twice) and the V&A might have pinched large parts of its photography collection, but the Science and Media museum is still a world-class cultural institution in the heart of West Yorkshire. The spruced up Pictureville cinema mixes the latest blockbusters – often shown on its immersive Imax screen – with the best arthouse films. There is also inventive non-cinema programming, such as The Forgotten Showman – the forthcoming exhibition about Robert Paul, a largely forgotten British cinematography pioneer.
The Brick Box Located on Ivegate, Bradford’s oldest street, the Brick Box is a slightly anarchic, incredibly well-curated cultural curio that has become a permanent fixture in a neglected area of the city. It is run by Rosie Freeman and Eleanor Barrett, and passersby are encouraged to stick their heads in to see what is going on. That can range from clothes swaps, supper clubs and craft workshops to open mic nights, spoken word events and exhibitions.
Haworth The Brontë’s association with Haworth has made it world famous and the cobbled streets in the city often feature in the numerous cycling events that have visited Yorkshire since the Tour de France’s grand départ in 2014. Bradford was included in the route for the UCI World Championship’s this year, and Howarth regularly features in the Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain. The small market town doubles as a great place to watch the peloton fight for position and, as a great base to explore the Dales and Brontë Country. The Brontë Parsonage museum is an excellent place to start.
Saltaire A trip to Saltaire is always worthwhile. The model village that was christened a Unesco World Heritage site in 2001, hosts events such as the annual Saltaire festival, YardFest (where live music is played in people’s backyards) and Arts Trail (where residents open up their houses to exhibit artists). There’s also Roberts Park, a beautifully manicured green space that hosts cricket matches in the summer and is a great place to lounge by the River Aire.
Salts Mill Salts Mill is also essential – a refurbished former mill that also houses an enviable collection of art from Bradford’s favourite son, David Hockney. Lister Park also has a brilliant Hockney gallery, a Japanese garden and pedalos.
North Parade A regular nominee for high street of the year, North Parade is a Bradford success story. While most media coverage was focusing on the hole left in the city centre by the delayed Westfield project, North Parade quietly got on with becoming a thriving community of local and independent retailers and bars. The Record Cafe is a great place to have a drink and peruse a selection of records before or after going to see the Bantams play at Valley Parade, which is within walking distance.
Common Wealth theatre A site-specific theatre company that has won awards and has been championed by Kate Tempest, Common Wealth’s shows often start life in Bradford. Its last production, I Have Met the Enemy, was staged in the Holme Wood housing estate and explored the arms trade by focusing on the experiences of a Yemeni artist, a former British soldier and a Palestinian actor. Inventive, bracing and co-founded by Bradfordian Evie Manning, Common Wealth’s next project (Peaceophobia) takes place in September 2020, and will explore car culture in Bradford and Islamophobia.
The 1in12 Club An anarchist club on a cobbled street in Bradford’s city centre, the 1in12 is legendary and not for the faint hearted. A genuinely hallowed venue in punk circles, it’s run by its members and utterly unique. A hotbed for radical politics and music, there are few venues like it in Europe.
Fuse Art gallery From creating a beach in the city centre to bringing the likes of the avant-garde composer and percussionist Eli Keszler to Bradford, Fuse has become a Bradfordian institution.
South Square Centre Slightly further afield is the South Square Centre in Thornton, which is a mix of artists’ studios, a gallery and a community space. There’s a new bar opening soon and it also offers a well-stocked veggie cafe.
Kirkgate Centre The market town of Shipley has become an unlikely host for some of the world’s best experimental musicians thanks in part to sporadic club night Golden Cabinet. But that is only part of the Kirkgate Centre’s charm with events spanning from a donation-only “repair cafe” that fixes your broken stuff, to the family party Front Room Disco, and retro club night Groovers in the Heart.
This article was amended on 13 November 2019 because an earlier version described the plot of Common Wealth’s last production, I Have Met the Enemy, incorrectly.