Sheffield is the fourth largest city in England. It is located in South Yorkshire, in the North of England. To get to Sheffield is fairly easy. By car, it is just off the M1 motorway. The M1 is the big long squiggly snake on the map that goes right up the length of the country. From London, just take the road labelled 'To the North', and you can't go far wrong. It is also easy to get to by train, since it is right at the centre of Britain's 'Intercity' rail connections.
Sheffield is close to the Peak District national park, an area of outstanding natural beauty popular with walkers. Despite the city's industrial background and heritage, there are many small parks and hidden gardens surprisingly close to the city centre. Chatsworth House, the stately home of the Dukes of Devonshire, is also nearby.
Industry - Heavy Metal
Sheffield is most famous for its steel and is in fact the steel making capital of the world. Sheffield was established as a steel-producing town from the outset. Although the industry declined somewhat during the 1980s, steel production in Sheffield is now at its highest levels, due to the advent of new technologies. The city produces specialist steels for engineering and tool making, along with hardwearing cutlery, among other things. Chances are, you've seen something with the words 'Sheffield Steel' marked on it.
In addition to steel, Sheffield was famous during the Victorian era for the production of silverware, in particular knives. This came about as an offshoot of the steel industry, but still continues to this day. Sheffield is primarily an industrial city, and so is also involved in engineering, construction and manufacturing at a worldwide level.
Sheffield is one of the biggest student cities in the country. The two universities, The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University have about 40,000 students between them. It is unsurprising therefore that there is a fair amount to do in Sheffield if you are of a studenty persuasion. There are numerous nightclubs, bars and, err... nightclubs in the city centre. The fact that an unusually large percentage of the population is made up of students means that the city is quite vibrant and exciting, and there are always things going on to keep you occupied.
Places to eat in Sheffield
One of the first things a Researcher may notice on arrival in Sheffield (especially if they are hungry) is the apparent lack of fish and chip shops. Instead, Sheffield plays host to a wide range of places which sell kebabs. Nobody knows why this is. Mention, too, should be given here to the ubiquitous 'Yorkshire pud'.
Another (in)famous eatery in Sheffield is Miller's Restaurant, located on Sheffield Hallam University's Collegiate campus. Here you can purchase a semi-reasonable, if questionable, meal and enjoy the 'friendly, student-orientated atmosphere'. A more serious suggestion for somewhere to grab a snack is The Blue Moon Café, an excellent vegetarian-type place, which is located off Norfolk row, between the Crucible and Fargate.
A non-local person may be faced with some language difficulties when trying to buy food in the Sheffield area. For example, ordering a 'roll'1 will only get you blank looks. In Sheffield they call it a 'bread cake'.
Art, Culture and Sport
Sheffield is the site for the National Centre for Popular Music, a building easily visible on entering the city because of its unusual shape. Also within the 'Cultural Industries Quarter' there are lots of different cultural things to see and do2. Sheffield has three main art galleries - The Graves, the Mappin and the Ruskin galleries - and a host of smaller ones. There are also lots of theatres, with a range of styles to suit everyone, right through from local amateur dramatics groups to student productions to West End shows. The Sheffield Arena hosts many concerts (Steps, Stereophonics, you name it...), and other events.
Sheffield has its fair share of local talent. Astronaut Helen Sharman was born there, along with actor Sean Bean. Michael Palin, Peter Stringfellow, Marti Caine and David Blunkett are just a few others. Sporting Sheffielders include Prince Naseem Hamed and Sebastian Coe.
Music-wise, Sheffield has produced many top-name acts. The Human League, for example, who are probably most famous for their 1982 hit 'Don't You Want Me'. Jarvis Cocker and the other members of Pulp originally hail from the city too. Jarvis' finest hour (arguably) came while interrupting Michael Jackson's performance at the 1996 Brit Awards, although they have also had big hits with songs like 'Help the Aged', 'Common People' and 'Disco 2000'. Another band originally from Sheffield is Def Leppard, '80s, dodgily-coiffeured rock group.
Sheffield has lots to offer sports fans. Football is a controversial subject, since the city is the home of both Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday. Another team which might be of interest to football fans is Sheffield FC, the oldest club in the world, founded in 1857. Also worth mentioning is the Don Valley stadium, an international athletics stadium originally built as the venue for the World Student Games. It now acts as the British Olympic Association's training headquarters. Within Sheffield there is also Ponds Forge Leisure Centre (containing an Olympic-sized swimming pool), which has hosted both National and International events.
The Full Monty
The Full Monty is a British-made film set and filmed in Sheffield, which focuses on a group of out of work steelworkers who turn to stripping. However, Sheffield itself isn't quite as run-down as it may seem in the film, since parts were filmed on derelict wasteland and empty warehouses cleared for the purpose.
Shopping in Sheffield
Another area in which Sheffield excels is in the opportunities to divest yourself of your hard-earned cash. Within the city itself there is a pedestrianised area right in the centre with pretty much any shop you could possibly want. Meadowhall is the famous, large out-of-town shopping centre just on the outskirts of the city. There you can frequently encounter such glitterati as Cilla Black doing their shopping3. There are also smaller, specialist shops located just outside the town, such as the ones to be found on Ecclesall Road or Broomhill.
Transport in the City
Sheffield has a rather nifty Supertram system, which makes travel around the city centre much easier. The Supertram system covers 29km in total, and it has some of the biggest tramcars in the world. The system originally cost £240 million to build, as they had to do a lot of major engineering work to construct bridges for the trams to run on. It's also much more environmentally friendly than most other methods of transport, helping to ease pollution in the city centre.
As is the case with most cities, the very centre of Sheffield is not an area which is particularly accessible for car drivers. Parking can be a bit problematic. However, there is a Park 'n' Ride scheme in operation, so that you can leave your car in a car park outside the city, and then take the bus or tram to your destination for quite a reasonable price. For the uninitiated, Sheffield can also be a confusing place to drive, so keep an eye out for all those signposts!
The Down Side
Sheffield is not a particularly pretty place. Tourists would not find much within the city itself that is pleasing to the camera lens, however, the countryside nearby more than makes up for this. The weather is another problem. It does seem to rain a lot in this part of the world, and it gets quite chilly too. Also, in the surrounding countryside, mist can be a problem. It doesn't matter how beautiful the scenery is if you can't see your hand in front of your face because of the fog.
Another feature of Sheffield is the hills. Sheffield, like Rome, is built on seven hills. These hills were formed by the six rivers of Sheffield - the rivers Sheaf, Don, Porter, Rivelin, Meersbrook and Loxley. The main shopping streets in the city centre are fairly flat, but head out in any direction and you'll soon find yourself going uphill. The advantage to this is that it makes for some great views over the city. The disadvantage becomes evident when you are struggling up these hills with your shopping.