City Guide: Hull, UK
It may have had a bad rep in the past, but – having been awarded City of Culture status for 2017 – there’s never been a better time to visit Hull.
By Tom Powell
Published: Tuesday 21st February 2017
Get your bearings by moseying around the Larkin Trail to explore the favourite haunts of Hull’s most famous export, Philip Larkin. You’ll take in the pubs, the pier and, bizarrely, the poet’s oft-frequented Marks & Spencer on Whitefriargate – the perfect way to see the new City of Culture in a swoop.
Next, spend an evening at the Hull Truck Theatre, whose award-winning company is probably the city’s best known cultural export after Larkin himself. The speciality is on-point contemporary theatre, but it’s also a must for niche cinema and kids’ stuff, too.
Similarly arty is Früit, a converted warehouse venue down by the riverside in the old fruit market (hence the name). They play host to regular music, comedy, cinema, monthly street food markets and Hull’s huge quarterly record fair.
For even more artiness, head to the recently renovated Ferens Art Gallery on the city’s fancy central square near Princes Quay and the city hall. The nine-gallery artspace spans European art from the 15th century to the present day, taking in the likes of Canaletto, Francis Bacon and David Hockney. Opposite, there’s the trident-railinged Hull Maritime Museum – perfect for a fix of the city’s fish-filled history.
Meanwhile, if you’re more theatre of dreams than studio theatre you can take advantage of the cheapest ticket price in top-flight football at the KCOM Stadium, which is about 20 minutes’ walk out of town to the west of the station. Some fixtures offer prices as low as £9 (and there’ll probably be some goals, too).
If there’s one thing we know about east Yorkshire, it’s that you’re never far from flock-filled fields and fresh fish, so when you go out fine dining you’re pretty much guaranteed to chow down on unique British fare.
Make your number one stop off 1884 Dock Street Kitchen, where you can start with goat’s cheese from the Dales or crab from the North Sea, then go on with Yorkshire-bred beef or Hartlepool monkfish served with fancy little piles of seasonal veg grown in the fields nearby.
For similar ideas and exquisitely executed pub grub, try out Shoot the Bull's pop-up kitchen at The Old House, where chef Chris Harrison has set-up shop, serving grub with a level of culinary expertise that he picked up while working at The Fat Duck. His speciality? Yorkshire-reared wagyu beef pies, burgers, steaks and stews. Yep, we’re sold.
Alternatively – for a final dish of farm-to-table cooking with some bonus spice, try the newly opened Tapasya @ Marina (hint: it’s located by the marina) for high-end Indian cuisine, East-meets-West afternoon teas and next-level chef’s table tuck.
On the other hand, if you’re the sort to spend an afternoon in one of the city’s many classic boozers (there are absolutely loads of ancient alehouses dotted throughout Hull’s bustling Old Town), you might just fancy a carb overload to redress the balance. Rest assured – you’re in the right place. Pretty much all the chippies will serve up the city speciality, the Hull Pattie (that’s fluffy mash deep-fried and often served with chips, by the way), but we’d particularly recommend Bob Carver’s in Trinity Wharf for classic, no-frills frying.
Vintage outfitters Poorboy will sort you out for shabby chic garms from flannel shirts and cord skirts to sheepskin overcoats that’ll have you looking like a hipster John Motson (perfect for that afternoon up at the KCOM). Also ideal for thrift drifters are Beasleys and Chinese Laundry, where you can sate your every urge for a retro splurge in a single amble across old town.
Crate diggers, meanwhile, will delight in Hull’s record scene – the stalwart is Funkywormhole, which takes charge of the city’s funk, soul and dance scene (they even serve coffee in-store to help you browse), but other shops like nearby Spin It and Disc Discovery on Spring Bank are packed to the gunwales with gems to put on your slab, if you’re prepared to delve through their extensive collections a little.
The city’s quaint yet bustling old town is full of incredible antique pubs. While The George Hotel is the oldest and The Minerva boasts the smallest pub room in the country, the punters love WM Hawkes, an unassuming two-room Dickensian watering hole opposite Shoot the Bull on Scale Lane. With ten real ales available and cricket ball-sized scotch eggs on sale at the bar for a couple of quid, we love it too.
If you don’t fancy the dimly lit charm of a classic Northern boozer, make your way to Head of Steam. About five minutes’ walk away by the church, this place specialises in beer and cocktails – hell it even does beer cocktails (we’re talking Chambord and Erdinger) – making it the perfect place for liquid lunches, nightcaps and big evening sessions. And with more than 40 different varieties of the hoppy stuff on the menu, you’re bound to love at least one of them.
If your old town pub hop fast turns into a bit of a crawl (and we don’t blame you, with pint prices close to a refreshing three quid), make your way to Furley & Co – an artisan coffee shop-cum-craft-beer-tap-room opposite Princes Quay. There, you’ll find an ever-rolling beer festival (involving 17 rotating guest kegs and six ciders) balanced with locally roasted joe and outrageous ice-cream-and-doughnut-topped milkshakes. Sweet.
As far as city-centre boltholes go, you’ve got all of the chain stays you could ever need, but the Mercure Hull Royal offers the best stay on a budget and it’s seconds from the station if you’re dropping in late on a Friday.
Alternatively, rest your head in one of the many homestays available throughout the city on Airbnb, where you can find a little boutique elegance slap bang in the centre of all the sights and sounds of the city.
Finally, if you’ve got wheels – take a half-hour’s drive and make a beeline over the Humber Bridge to the idyllic village of Great Limber, where you’ll find The New Inn – a Georgian coach house that comes complete with roll-top baths, country-house interiors and easy access to the secluded North Lincolnshire Wolds (officially an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) nearby.
Virgin trains offers tickets to Hull from £15 single. See virgintrains.co.uk for more information or to book tickets.