Hull – An underrated city

Hull, or Kingston upon Hull, which sounds a lot classier, suffers from a poor reputation, which in my view is totally unjustifiable. I began to become wary when asked where we were going away for the weekend. I had no shame about going to Hull, I was looking forward to it. But whenever me or my wife were asked and we said Hull we were left dealing with the same questions, laughs and puzzled expressions…’Hull? Why Hull?’ ‘What is there to do in Hull?’ ‘It’s a s*** hole’ These questions and comments generally came from people who have never been to Hull themselves. I’m baffled at how the city of Hull has gained such a bad reputation from people who firmly believe it’s a horrid town and nothing you can say makes them believe otherwise.

We didn’t let the negativity affect us and we spent two nights at the Hull city centre Premier Inn, which was wonderfully located across the river from the old town. The drive to Hull from Nottingham was enjoyable too. It was predominantly A roads that lead to the magnificent Humber bridge. There was a £1.50 toll, but well worth it for the wonderful views of the river Humber and it’s not everyday you get to pass over such a grand bridge. Unless you live in Hull, of course.

Once again, like in Stratford-upon-Avon we could not complain about the Premier Inn. It was cheap, clean, well looked after and had everything we needed, including free parking and a nice view of the river Humber. We spent the first day exploring the town and seeing what it had to offer. The well located Princes Quay shopping centre is in the process of being regenerated and once it has been completed it will be a really great shopping centre once again. More restaurants are going to join Pizza Express and Nandos on the water front, and then I’m sure it will be a vibrant place to eat. My guess is that they want this shopping centre completed by 2017, which is the year Hull is the city of culture. Hull still has a great shopping scene, with all the major stores either dotted around the city or at St Stephens shopping centre on the other side of town next to the train station/interchange. This shopping centre is more modern and will fulfill most shoppers needs, including a decent amount of eateries. We ate at China Express on our last day as we explored St Stephens. It is a pleasant Chinese buffet restaurant, with friendly and helpful staff and a decent array of food. Refillable drinks means you can go all out on food and drink.

Hull is awash with loads of museums, which are all free! Because they are free we thought they weren’t going to be very good, or would be rather small affairs. However, we were more than pleasantly surprised. We came across one of the best museums we have ever been to and especially for me that is a major statement, as I have been to a lot of museums around the world. This museum was the Streetlife Museum. We only managed to do part of it on our second day and had to go back the next day to see the rest, as there is so much to it. It is well thought out, with plenty to see and do. I really did feel like I was transported back to a different time. The ground floor has trams, buses and cars to look at and get in or on to. One car you can pay a pound for a short ride in. The car jiggles about while two televisions in front of you play a short clip of an English country road on a sunny day and a fan blows air at you to add to the realism of driving the car.

There’s also a room filled with old vintage games. There’s an old ice hockey game, shooting game, car racing and other games which are fun to play, including ‘What the Butler Saw’ a flipbook of Victorian photographs of naked women, which is always good for a laugh. The ground floor excitement continues with old replicated shops that you can go into and get a real feel for the past. There’s a chemist, bicycle shop, grocers and sweet shop. The detail is brilliant and there’s plenty more to do upstairs with the history of bicycles and old streets to walk through that show off carriages and other predominantly 19th century vehicles. We could have spent hours in this museum and probably did actually….

Next door is the Hull and East Riding Museum, which takes you through thousands of years of history in the East Riding of Yorkshire. My favourite parts were taking a selfie with a woolly mammoth, walking through an Iron Age village and being transported back to Roman Britain. There is also the Maritime Museum, which has fascinating and detailed history of everything marine and ship related in and around the Hull area. The art gallery across the road has several exhibitions going all the time and has interesting artwork on show. In the summer months there are a couple of ships which you can have a guided tour of, including the Spurn lightship that guided ships safely through the treacherous River Humber for almost 50 years.

Exploring all these incredibly well thought out museums is a one or two day job. We had 3 days in Hull and we tried to see and do as much as possible. I would have to say that is my only negative about Hull…there was just too much on offer for us! The history and shopping can keep you busy, but there’s also the distinctively built aquarium called The Deep, which we unfortunately didn’t have the time to visit. We did get to walk round the lovely marina and Queens Gardens. The latter which looked like it was left to its own devices for the winter, but in the summer I would have thought would be an incredibly popular spot for sunbathers, picnickers and people wanting to enjoy a bit of greenery in the middle of a city.

To walk through the old town to and from the hotel every day was a treat too. We had to cross the Scale Lane Footbridge which is currently the only bridge in the UK to allow pedestrians to stay on the bridge whilst it opens. The old buildings, cobbled streets and old pubs that if we were ale drinkers would have pleased us immensely, gave the old town a distinctively special feel and I think that with a couple of improvements and the regeneration of the Princes Quay shopping centre, by 2017 Hull will truly deserve the title of city of culture.

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