We take a trip around the West Yorkshire town to enjoy history, food and business, with a little help from our friends at Discover Halifax
It’s no surprise heritage is so big in a town built on history, and we are lucky in Halifax to have such a wealth of impressive heritage destinations, all contributing to the area’s distinctive character. Add to this superb food and drink options, and a business hub on the up, and it’s easy to see why this West Yorkshire town is so popular with tourists and locals alike.
Views of the past
Historic highlights in Halifax include the 900-year-old Minster; a striking community space hosting music recitals and daily services. Parts of the Minster date back to the 12th century, and by the 15th century the magnificent Piece Hall was the centre of the UK’s entire woollen trade. Displaying rare machines and artefacts like lathes and looms, the Industrial Museum is another must. The breath-taking Town Hall is Grade II listed and topped by a magnificent 180ft spire, with design and interiors by Charles Barry and statues by John Thomas. Don’t miss Dean Clough, once the world’s largest carpet factory and now a vast and impressive home to various eateries, galleries and businesses.
The Bankfield Museum is popular too: a wonderful Grade II listed historic house with a textiles gallery, regimental museum and gorgeous interior decor. Even the fabulous Borough Market is a Victorian treasure, and a stunning venue for a host of great stalls. Chocolatey favourites Rolo and Quality Street come from the town, and then there’s the Halifax Building Society too of course – the UK’s largest until not so long ago. Halifax also has the world’s tallest folly in Wainhouse Tower, which started life as a chimney.
If you’re a fan of Gentleman Jack, you’ll feel right at home in Halifax. Two attractions should be top of your list to visit, not just because they’re packed with history and gorgeous to look around, but also because they were significant in Anne Lister’s fascinating life. If you think you’ve seen Shibden Hall before, that’s because it played a starring role in Sally Wainwright’s hit series. Dating back to 1420, this stunning estate was the focus of the BBC drama, and visiting it gives you a uniquely close-up insight into the everyday lives of its characters. The gorgeous estate and restored gardens feature a boating lake, miniature railway, walking trails, play area and café. Meanwhile, Hope Hall is a fabulous Grade II listed Georgian building, and was once the home of Anne Lister’s arch-rival, the coal merchant, Christopher Rawson.
Plenty on its plate
From Jubilee, fashion and heritage events to a busy programme of arts and culture – it’s all happening in Halifax this summer. The main message from the team at Discover Halifax is a very simple one: come hungry! That’s because food is the glorious theme in Halifax for the next few months.
In recent years the town has gone from strength to strength when it comes to eating and drinking, with a veritable smorgasbord of exciting places to choose between. From waffles, street food and hip new burger joints to a raft of more refined bistros and restaurants serving some seriously sophisticated dishes – Halifax now boasts venues catering for every taste and budget, whatever the time of day.
From Korean and Thai street food to Greek and Italian restaurants, there’s a world of great eating crammed into Halifax. If you want fresh fish & chips or giant Yorkshire puddings they’ve got those too, as well as the big chains for things like pizza and burgers. Wonderful delis and coffee shops are dotted around town, or you can head to the nearby hills for quaint country pubs serving amazing local produce.
There’s great drinking here as well, whatever your tipple. Traditional pubs and sports bars rub shoulders with hipster micropubs and a popular LGBT show bar. You can mix it up with a cocktail at one of the town’s trendy new venues, or choose from dozens of different gins at various speciality bars. Relax: the town’s Purple Flag award means the nightlife here is friendly and safe (unlike some of those cocktails).
“Entrepreneurs and restauranteurs here have been busy behind the scenes, and Halifax now offers more variety and better quality than ever in terms of dining,” says Chloe McNeill of Discover Halifax. “Our Foodie Trail really makes the most of this, providing an exciting and fun new reason to visit. Whether you’re grabbing a snack, enjoying a family meal or selecting high-quality local produce at our thriving Borough Market, Halifax is now firmly on the foodie map of Yorkshire.”
If you don’t have time to eat in town, don’t worry – Halifax has a superb historic market as well as wonderful independent delis, food shops and chocolatiers to satisfy even the most discerning palate. Or perhaps you just need a quick rest and refreshment break as you nip between big-name retailers and all those independent stores, boutiques and galleries? No problem: there are coffee shops galore in this friendly town, not to mention cosy pubs, the amazing Gin Lane, and more bars than you can shake a cocktail stirrer at!
Hub of ideas
It’s great to see that Halifax is very much on the up. The town has weathered the pandemic better than many, and lots of its businesses, venues and cultural programmes are actually thriving right now. While some of this success is down to natural factors, a major part has also been played by the loyalty of local consumers and the creativity and resilience of business owners. Also, central has been the considerable effort of Discover Halifax; the public-private partnership tasked with promoting the town and supporting its businesses before and during the pandemic.
If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Halifax recently, you might have spotted an exciting new facility. Conveniently located in the Woolshops area, near M&S and other stores, Discover Halifax has opened an all-new information centre called the Discover Halifax Hub. The centre is open to the public every day of the week between 10am and 3pm, and it offers a wide range of visitor information aimed at locals and tourists alike.
Chloe McNeill explains: “The Hub has been popular since the moment we opened, and people love it that they can pop in for information about virtually anything to do with the town. Our staff are really knowledgeable and have plenty of printed and digital information at their fingertips, but they’ll also go the extra mile to find the answers to any questions if they don’t know them already. Basically, a visit to the Hub is the best way to make the most of any trip into Halifax, and because we know about special deals and discounts available in town, coming to see us can even save visitors money.”
In November’s ballot last year, businesses in Halifax voted for Discover Halifax to continue the hard work of smartening up the town, improving facilities, producing events and promoting Halifax far and wide. For readers like you, it’s great news. It means that Halifax will just get better and better, with more things for all the family to see and do here. It also means the environment and atmosphere in Halifax will continue to improve, with town becoming cleaner, safer and more inclusive than ever.
Our number one tip is that your first visit of the summer should be to individual venues’ websites, or discoverhalifax.co.uk for up-to-date listings. Many locations will have their own summer programmes to enjoy, and that could include our museums, shops, galleries, parks, libraries, arts and music venues, and even bars. In fact, there’s so much happening all over Halifax that we can’t list it all here. Also, even though the official event date has passed, there might still be community Jubilee events going on in July and August, so it’s worth looking out for those.
There’s Yorkshire Day to celebrate too of course, and that’s on 1 August. Discover Halifax will be bringing out the bunting as well as giving away free white roses – the iconic symbol of our glorious county. Pride is another summer favourite in Halifax, and this year’s event promises to be bigger than ever after a two-year pause for the pandemic. Unofficially billed as a party in the Piece Hall, the event on 3 September welcomes people of all ages and encourages a family-friendly atmosphere. Watch fabulous performances by various artists and entertainers, with the emphasis very much on inclusivity.
The theme of food is big in town this summer and Discover Halifax has organised a special Foodie Trail to encourage visitors to literally get stuck in and enjoy the rich variety of international cuisines on offer here. Participating eateries will be offering diners the chance to win £500 to spend anywhere in town. On top of this, The Piece Hall hosts a Summer Makers’ Market on 5-7 August, featuring local makers selling drinks, street food and various treats from pop-up outdoor stalls.
“With the joyful Jubilee as its starting point, this summer is set to be one to remember,” exclaims Discover Halifax’s Chloe McNeill. “Many of the town’s venues and businesses have new events planned throughout the coming months, and the atmosphere in town will be fun, festive and definitely one that all the family can really join in with and enjoy. Expect a few surprises too!” –
Whatever you do this summer, don’t forget to plan ahead and book in advance for ticketed events. Also, definitely try to call in at Discover Halifax’s special visitor information Hub in the Woolshops area of town. As well as free kids’ activities like face-painting on offer there, the friendly staff will tell you about money-saving discounts and give you plenty of information about what’s on. That includes a copy of its excellent Summer Magazine – your essential printed guide to all the fun and festivities.
Find out more at discoverhalifax.co.uk