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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
A 15-minute train ride will take you to the adorable market town of Beverley.
And in just an hour by train you can get from Hull to York, which IS a city many people visit in the UK.
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).
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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?