Things You Probably Don’t Know About Hull, England

Hull, England
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There are a handful of things that I particularly love when I travel: cities with lots of cool history, places with beautiful landscapes, and going to destinations that haven't been written about to death by other bloggers.

This last point is what made me say yes to a trip to a fairly unconventional destination: Kingston upon Hull.

Normally just known as “Hull,” this English town in East Yorkshire isn't likely to be found on many UK travel itineraries. It's a maritime-turned-university city that struggled for a long time to get back on its feet after being heavily bombed during WWII (and when I say heavily, I mean it – Hull was the second-most war damaged city in the UK after London).

And the collapse of the local shipping and fishing industries in the '70s further challenged people trying to make a living in Hull. Just a couple years ago, Hull was voted one of the worst places to live in the UK.

But things are swiftly turning around for this almost-coastal city: in 2017, Hull has the distinction of being the UK City of Culture.

And the city is going all-out in celebration.

I spent four days in Hull earlier this month, hanging out with a local blogger and getting to know all the reasons why Hull ISN'T one of the worst places in the UK. In fact, Hull surprised me with just how cool it really is.

I wasn't sure what I was expecting of Hull, but after a day of walking around its Old Town streets and wandering around its marina, I found myself exclaiming, “This isn't what I was expecting at all!

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by my entire visit to Hull. I ate great food, visited some cool museums, took some nice photos, and got a taste of the history that I love discovering when I travel.

After my time spent in Hull, I decided that I want to share with you some things that you probably don't know about the city – and therefore reasons why it's worth visiting!

6 Reasons to visit Hull

1. It has history

I mentioned the WWII history that Hull suffered through, but the city's history goes back much further than that. Originally founded by monks as a port in the 12th century, Hull was an important thoroughfare for centuries, first in the wool trade and later in the fishing/whaling industry.

It's also cited as possibly being the spot where the English Civil Wars first kicked off. In 1642, King Charles I was denied entry into Hull through the old Beverley Gate, which is often seen as the trigger for the start of the war.

The remains of the infamous gate were excavated in the 1980s, and you can see them today in Hull's Old Town.

2. It has free museums

Free museums are typical throughout the UK, but in Hull ALL the museums are free. And there are some pretty good ones, too, like the Ferens Art Gallery, the Hull and East Riding Museum (full of history), and the Wilberforce House, where you can learn about William Wilberforce and his contribution to ending the slave trade in the UK.

My favorite Hull museum was the Streetlife Museum, which is part transport and part history museum. Inside you'll find Victorian-style street scenes, as well as old trolleys, buses, cars, and even bicycles.

Streetlife Museum in Hull

Inside the Streetlife Museum

3. You'll find art everywhere

Hull has always had lots of art and culture, local guide Paul Schofield told me. But, with the city being the Capital of Culture this year, now it's absolutely bursting with it. There are small gallery exhibits as well as large art installations all over town.

When I was there, they had just removed a large wind turbine blade from Queen Victoria Square and were installing a work called the “Weeping Window” on the outside of the Maritime Museum, which consists of hundreds of ceramic poppies cascading down the side of the building.

4. It has good pubs and food

Yes, I'll say it: England DOES have some great food! (Don't pay attention to all those stereotypes about British dining…) And I found Hull to be absolutely bursting with great pubs, cafes, and restaurants.

Lion & Key pub in Hull, England

The Lion & Key pub

Some of my favorite eats and drinks included:

  • Tea at Liquid Jade
  • Fish and chips at the Lion & Key (I LOVE the inside of this pub!)
  • Burgers and huge milkshakes at Furley & Co.
  • The best chips (fries) at Head of Steam
Liquid Jade cafe in Hull, England

Inside Liquid Jade

What I think I liked best about eating in Hull was that there aren't a ton of huge chains. It's easy to find a cool independent cafe or restaurant here.

Freak Shake from Furley & Co. in Hull

A “Freak Shake” from Furley & Co.

5. It's incredibly affordable

The UK is not necessarily known for being a budget-friendly destination. But I found Hull to be extremely affordable – and not just because the US dollar is so strong right now. Meals were usually under £10, and I got a movie ticket on a weekday evening for just £4!

We also went for afternoon tea at the Royal Hotel, which only cost £13.95 per person. While local Hull blogger Courtney said this was actually pretty pricey for Hull, you certainly won't find ANY high tea for even close to that price in places like London.

Afternoon tea at the Royal Hotel Hull

Afternoon Tea at the Royal Hotel

6. It's close to lots of other cool places

Lastly, even though you might not visit Hull exclusively like I did, it's actually close to a lot of other cool places to visit in this part of the UK.

A 10-minute drive will get you to the Humber Bridge, which is a massive 1.4-mile-long suspension bridge spanning the Humber estuary.

Humber Bridge

The Humber Bridge

A 15-minute train ride will take you to the adorable market town of Beverley.

Market town of Beverley

Beverley, England

And in just an hour by train you can get from Hull to York, which IS a city many people visit in the UK.

The top of York Minster

The view from York Minster

RELATED: A First-Timers Guide to York

Where to stay in Hull

(Note: There are affiliate links in this section.)

I stayed at the Royal Hotel in Hull, which is right in the city center and actually connected to Hull's main train stations (this is SUPER handy, since arriving by train is the easiest way to get to Hull from other parts of England).

Royal Hotel in Hull, England

In the Royal Hotel's lobby

The hotel is old and retains a lot of its Victorian charm. The rooms aren't really anything special (though I found the bed really comfy), but the lobby is gorgeous and the breakfast buffet is tasty. The hotel also gets a thumbs up from me for the free cocktails and desserts that they hand out on Tuesday evenings!

Read reviews of the Royal Hotel | Book a room here!

Or, you can check out the best hotels in Hull here.

My must-dos in Hull

So what are the things that I consider to be must-dos in Hull? Here's my list:

Take a walking tour with Paul Schofield. This guy knows his stuff, and more importantly really loves Hull. He does history tours, pub walks, and more.

The White Hart in Hull

Ye Olde White Harte, the oldest pub in Hull

Visit a couple free museums. The Streetlife Museum is my favorite!

Check out funky Humber Street. Here old fruit warehouses have been transformed into cafes and small galleries. Grab a brownie at Cocoa Chocolatier & Bakery – you won't regret it.

Eat ALL THE FOOD. Speaking of food, check out as many of Hull's cool independent restaurants, cafes, and pubs as you can! (My favorites are all listed earlier in this post.)

Head of Steam in Hull, England

Head of Steam

Go to The Deep. This aquarium is the symbol of Hull, and is a great place to visit on a rainy day. The Deep has everything from sharks to penguins, and is dedicated to education and conservation as a nonprofit. If you visit on the weekend, you can even have dinner next to the largest tank.

The Deep in Hull

The Deep

See the Humber Bridge. Make the drive (or call a taxi) to see the Humber Bridge. When it was built in 1981, the bridge was the longest of its kind anywhere in the world.

Take a half-day trip to Beverley. Lastly, I highly recommend taking a half-day trip to Beverley from Hull. There's a big market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but it's fun to shop and cafe-hop and visit churches any day of the week.

Want to follow in my footsteps in Hull? See my itinerary for this trip on HipTraveler.

So what do you think? Would you visit Hull?

 

Things to do in Kingston upon Hull

 

Note: This post was brought to you as a result of the #WelcomeToEngland campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Visit Britain. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

 

71 Comments

  • Kiara Gallop says:

    I remember Hull being my first choice when deciding which university I wanted to study English Literature at (as the course was reportedly one of the best in the country), and everybody saying to me “why do you want to go there?”

    Unfortunately I narrowly missed the grades I needed to get into Hull and I went to Chester instead, but wow, it looks like the city’s come on in leaps and bounds since then! 🙂
    Kiara Gallop recently posted..Travelling Italy with My Cabin Zero Backpack – Gallop Around The Globe

    • Amanda says:

      I of course don’t know what Hull was like 5 or 10 years ago, but today it’s certainly a bustling place. I love that Hull has completely embraced its City of Culture designation this year – they’re doing so much work to improve everything!

  • The inside of that pub looks so cool! I love places like that. Have to say Hull isn’t on my radar at all, but maybe I’ll consider it as a side trip from somewhere like York! (which I have never been to!!! Massive oversight on my part!)
    Clazz – An Orcadian Abroad recently posted..Five Cities, Six Buses, Two Trains, One Week: My UK Adventure

  • Richard says:

    How about number 7: the best accent in the U.K. A phone call is a ‘fern curl’ and a coke is a ‘kirk’! I went to Hull uni in the 90s and loved it – the slogan was ‘it’s never dull in Hull’.

  • Wow I’d love to sit in some of those cafés! So pretty 🙂
    Kara @ Creative Heart Travel recently posted..My Biggest Travel Dreams

  • Abbie says:

    This is gorgeous! I really love cities that have rich history and this definitely seems like one of them!

    • Amanda says:

      It’s definitely an interesting city! And while the local blogger I was with kind of brushed off the architecture, this American was still pretty impressed! We don’t really have all those old stone and brick buildings where I’m from.

  • Cheryl says:

    Apparently they also have Britain’s best fish and chip shop:
    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/its-best-takeaway-britain-selling-10123154.amp

    • Amanda says:

      Oooo good to know for next time!

    • Pete Jordan says:

      East Hull Chippy is better! Holderness Road, ten minutes bus or bike ride from the centre, by East Park, on the way out east toward the North Sea coast and Hornsea and Bridlington (both worth a visit; especially for long beach walks beneath huge skies at low tide).

  • It definitely looks interesting enough:)
    Tanja (the Red phone box travels) recently posted..30 random facts about me

  • William Shatner says:

    Don’t be fooled by the pretty photo’s, they were all taken within a 100m square box. The rest of the city is dire! You will cruise all the highlights in literally 10minutes

  • Dominique says:

    Great tips! I’m take aback by how much I like the idea of Hull now when I didn’t even consider ever visiting it before!
    Dominique recently posted..Thalassery Fort

  • Elisa says:

    I like the interior of the featured pub! 🙂 It truly adds to the place.

  • Caroline Smith says:

    I have lived in Hull all my life and for years it’s been difficult for residents listening to outsiders who didn’t really know our wonderful city tell the rest of the world that Hull is boring, dull, uncultured and one of the worst places to live in the UK.
    Finally, being awarded UK City Of Culture 2017 has opened people’s eyes to what the majority of Hull residents already knew, we are brimming with culture and history, we are some of the friendliest and welcoming people you’re ever likely to meet and we have embraced our new cultural position.
    Thank you so much for a wonderful, unbiased opinion of my beautiful home town, hopefully it will encourage others to pay us a visit and discover what they too have been missing.

    • Amanda says:

      I’m so happy to be able to introduce people to Hull! It definitely seems like the City of Culture designation has been a huge boost to the city.

  • Kerry Davies says:

    Thanks for writing such a good review of Hull. I’ve lived in Hull for the past 17 years & it really is a city on the up. The 2017 City of Culture year has really brought Hull to life & it is busy with lots of arts and culture events. There has always been lots to see & do in Hull, but now the people of Hull are all joining in the fun. All visitors are welcome to see Hull & join in the excitement. Hopefully the creative buzz will keep going strong after 2017. Hull welcomes everyone!

  • Scot Bateman says:

    Thank you for your write-up on ‘ull. I was born in Hull 44 years ago, and although I moved away with my parents when I was 11, I I came back 17 years ago and I wouldn’t swap it for anywhere else (and I’ve travelled everywhere) 😁

    • Amanda says:

      It’s great that you’re able to appreciate the place you came from – a lot of people aren’t able to look at their hometowns that way!

  • Anne says:

    You’ve just reminded me I need to go back to Hull. I was there a couple of years ago for a weekend (a random choice of place, but my friend and I wanted to go somewhere we’d never been and didn’t know much about). I had zero expectations and ended up being really pleasantly surprised. Purely by chance we were there the weekend it was announced that Hull had got City of Culture. I thought then it would be nice to go back during the year it happens, but had kind of forgotten about it! I also need to go back to have dinner in the aquarium as it looks like a really cool thing to do, but was fully booked out when I was there.
    Anne recently posted..In Search of Lava

  • Hull’s full title is the City of Kingston-upon-Hull. It is a shortened version of the historical King’s Town upon the River Hull. Hull has been a city of culture for more years than I care to remember so 2017 is merely a formal recognition of its cultural heritage. University alumni include a very distinguished cast across the arts and sciences including Jacob Bronowski, Roger McGough, Philip Larkin, Douglas Dunn, Tom Paulin, Sarah Greene, Rosie Millard, Anthony Minghella, Anthony Giddens. Hull is famous as the home of Hull Truck Theatre and prolific playwright John Godber, bands such as The Beautiful South, Everything But The Girl, The Housemartins and Fine Young Cannibals Lead Singer and actor Roland Gift, and actor Sir Tom Courtenay, singer David Whitfield and comedy doyenne Maureen Lipman to name but a very few

  • Manda says:

    I love Hull. I moved to the South bank of the Humber just across the Humber Bridge from Hull from Hertfordshire some years ago and I love the area. As a mature student I went to Hull University. Hull is unpretentious, interesting and has loads to offer in less square footage than many of our larger cities that take an age to cross. Come to Hull, it’s a small city, has beautiful parks, a lovely Marina, good food and friendly people.

  • Laurie says:

    Great place. Moved there from London with my job and spent whole of 80’s there. Friendly people and cost of living very good.

  • Stevie says:

    Born in ‘Ull’ (Hull) in 1961, moved in 1987 to Kent due 2 work commitments, got fed up of people in conversation saying “oh it’s north isn’t it!” came back in 2002 & it’s changed like me a lot, if your open too talk 2 people u will make more friends in a couple of hours then u’d wish 2 meet in a couple of years in any city i can care 2 mention…glad u enjoyed stay & please visit again,LUVULLX.

  • Terry McLaren Shepherd says:

    Adding to your recommendations about restaurants in Hull, may I add ‘The Aegean’ on Anlaby Road as an experience not to be missed. As a Hull ex-pat living in Salisbury I visit my home City infrequently. On my last visit in 2016 a lot of areas were sites of redevelopment to celebrate this year. Another of my favourite restaurants ‘Mr Chu’s’ was closed for this very reason. I Googled ‘Places to eat in Hull’ and found The Aegean, made a booking and duly attended. What a revelation, at just after 7pm the place was almost full. The food was absolutely fantastic, the service incredible and the total ambience something to be experienced. I am visiting Hull again later this year and intend to refresh my memory.

  • john hussey says:

    Well how nice to hear nice comments,i am an ex fisherman from Hull not many people know this but over years over 6000 men were lost at sea from this city either by getting washed overboard or trawlers going down in bad weather up in the arctic,and they are never forgot as we have memorials and a service for them every year and thats why most Hull people are different and friendly to people in other cities i think it was like living with one big family but time is passing on.Hull has had a struggle over the years through no fault of its own but now, wow what a difference things are really moving and a lot more to come,we are Hull we are proud.

    • Amanda says:

      I love visiting cities where the locals really are proud of where they come from! And I did see one of the maritime memorials while I was there – I think it’s really great that those memorials are still around to remind people of the past.

  • Caroline says:

    What a fun article to read! Here’s a vote in favor of continuing to profile places other travel bloggers haven’t written about — I got into reading travel blogs in the first place because I wanted to learn about new places, so when I find a post like this about somewhere I’ve never heard of, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot! So fun to travel along with you via your writing and photos. At this point I don’t want to hear another word about Southeast Asia — so bored of hearing about Thailand — but I’m now curious to learn more about Hull!

    • Amanda says:

      I try my best to write about a mixture of places people know about and places people have never heard of – so glad you enjoyed this post!

  • Jennifer says:

    That milkshake is insane!

    For the longest time I only visited London. The two years ago I had an opportunity to visit Norfolk and recently, Bristol. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by how good the food is in England. The bad British food stereotype couldn’t be more misleading.

    I also didn’t realize how many free museums and things there are to do in England. It was the same in Bristol with several very good free museums.

    And I can’t believe how inexpensive Hull is! That afternoon tea has to be the best value afternoon tea in England.
    Jennifer recently posted..The Perfect 3-Day Weekend in Bristol

    • Amanda says:

      Hull was SO affordable! I’m not used to that in England! Haha. And yeah, I’m making a point of visiting more places in the UK – there are so many cool cities!

  • john hussey says:

    Can i say thanks for showing my previous comment,i would like to add that Kingston upon Hull like any other city does have its not so good areas and looks a bit run down in places and we do have crime but not on the scale of say Manchester or London to name a couple,Hull is a medium sized city and different because we are at the end of the line you are in it or out of it the nearest city is York 30 miles or Leeds 60 miles,and unlike York or Leeds we dont take into account our out lying villages which are some beautifull places if we did Hull would rank a lot higher but Hull ends at its border line.The one thing that gets most peoples back up is that when you drive into hull you see the old Lord line building and a small area of what was once the fish docks now just left as an eye sore but unless the company that own this land do something about it their isnt much we can do they are just land grabbing.Having said all that and been honest about problems i hope people come and visit their is a lot going on this summer and many more improvements to Hull are in the pipeline enjoy.

  • Helen says:

    Looks fab Amanda, glad you had a good time!

    I haven’t been to hull in quite a long time, but looks like it’s time to go! I think Hull is going through a similar resurgence to the one Liverpool did when we were capital of culture in 2008! It did really great things for the city!

    Come see me soon too! 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      I’d say this year is definitely the time to go to Hull! And yes, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it follows in the footsteps of Liverpool – the two cities actually have a lot in common!

  • Walton-Wiberg says:

    Thanks so much for this wonderful article about my home town. I moved away to Sheffield for university 25 years ago, but still regard Hull as my home. Both my parents were born there; my grandfather was a trawlerman and my great grandfather a fruit merchant. It’s great to see it getting the attention and credit it deserves.

    • Amanda says:

      The history of Hull as a maritime/fruit trading port is really fascinating! I like how they’re converting all the old fruit warehouses on Humber Street.

  • Interesting read – delighted that you enjoyed it.

    I hated living there in the 90’s – such a violent, horrid, depressing and miserable city. I escaped as soon as I could.

    But now, every time I go back to visit my family, I appreciate it more and more. It really has improved remarkably. I’m actually proud of the city, and one could say that I love Hull for the first time in my life. I’m even hoping to take some of my London friends there.
    James Winfield recently posted..Project Completed: Election Odds

  • Sharman Wiles says:

    I am originally a Hull girl so would also recommend all the Parks in Hull but especially East for zoo and pleasant cafe location and Pearson for Victorian Glasshouse and surrounding avenues area which is worth a walk to savour quirky independent retailers and cafes. Famous also for Venn of Venn diagram, the wildness of Spurn Point (not sure how much is left). Then there’s a train ride to Bridlington and Sewerby (Briglington in local speke). But don’t take my word for it go see, the people are “straight talking”, you will meet with northern humour, grit and warmth once you get your ear in. X

  • Cool post Amanda. One of my best friends went to the University of Hull, and was always awfully embarrassed about it.

    Would I visit Hull? Probably not! It’s considered rather dull however, if I happened to be in York, and had about a week, and it was raining or something, I might venture in as a day trip, but I wouldn’t go there specifically lol!
    Victoria @The British Berliner recently posted..Article 50 & Brexit in the UK. Everything you need to know!

  • john hussey says:

    Victoria @The British Berliner,you sound a happy person (not)with people who have an opinion of Hull like yours we dont want you here,it sounds as though you have never been just like most people who like to have a dig at us and know nothing,but yet we have an american girl on here who loved it just like the thousands of others who have come to visit to see how this city is changing,enjoy your day.

  • Marie says:

    Such a wonderful city with spectacular architecture, rich history, and cool restaurants!
    I have never been there but will love to next time I visit England.
    Marie recently posted..5 Best Places For Summer Vacation Around Europe

  • Michelle says:

    Wow, what gorgeous photographs you took.

    And Hull has certainly changed a lot since I was there years ago. I don’t remember it being anywhere near this ‘cool’ 🙂

    I’m British and it’s now definitely on my list to visit the next time I get back to the UK (I now live in Austria 😉 )

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