Halifax, a city in West Yorkshire, is an under-the-radar destination for visitors to England. Located in the borough of Calderdale, between Manchester and Leeds, Halifax is a former historic market town, and many of its buildings date back hundreds of years. From the Halifax Minster to The Piece Hall, visitors can explore that history in addition to more modern attractions, like the popular Eureka! The National Children’s Museum. The city is a good destination on its own, but it also can be included as part of a larger exploration of West Yorkshire, which boasts destinations such as the Peak District. Here are 10 of the best things to do when visiting Halifax.
The Piece Hall, an impressive Grade I listed building, is one of the most iconic destinations in Halifax. A former 18th-century cloth hall used in the textile trade, The Piece Hall is a sprawling site and a great example of Georgian architecture. Today it welcomes visitors throughout the week, and holds regular events and performances during the annual calendar. Look for the yearly Christmas market, which takes place in the square, and their summer concert series, which include popular British musicians and bands. All areas of the hall are fully accessible to wheelchair users.
Standing at 275 feet, Wainhouse Tower is the tallest structure in the area of Calderdale. It was built between 1871 and 1875, and originally commissioned by John Edward Wainhouse as a chimney for the local dye works. (However, the tower was never used as a chimney, and is considered "folly" today.) Visitors can ascend 403 steps to the top for amazing views of the surrounding landscape. It's open most days, but check online ahead of your visit for any closures. It's a good attraction for older kids and teens, but be sure everyone in your party will be able to make the climb before heading up.
Shibden Hall, a Grade II listed historic house, sits in a beautiful public park near Halifax and is the perfect destination for those interested in history. It was once the home of 19th-century diarist Anne Lister—but the house itself dates back to 1420, so you can see all sorts of styles in its rooms. While you're there, explore Shibden Park and its massive grounds, including the picturesque Cunnery Wood. There is also a shop and café at the hall. Book your tickets in advance online; family tickets are available for those in a group.
Stroll Through People’s Park
Located in the heart of Halifax, People's Park was created back in 1857 and given to the town by Sir Francis Crossley. It extends for 12.5 acres, which gives visitors lots of opportunities to explore its beautiful green stretches, which feature gardens, sculptures, a playground, and bandstand. It's a nice spot for a quick stroll, or to spend an afternoon on a sunny day. Numerous events take place throughout the park during the year.
This Victorian covered market, which shares a name with the famous Borough Market in London, is open Monday through Saturday (with the exception of bank holidays). It features numerous permanent stalls, where vendors sell the likes of baked goods, fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, vintage clothes, vinyl and books, and furniture. On specific dates, you can join a guided tour of the market to learn more about its history and experience its "Street in The Sky," which is located above the market's roof.
Just north of Halifax you'll find the Ogden Water Country Park & Nature Reserve, a peaceful spot to enjoy the nature of West Yorkshire. It's ideal for those who want to take a hike through the open fields and wooded areas, or for families looking to picnic near a scenic pond. There is a Visitor's Centre with snacks and coffee, as well as duck food to entice the local wildlife. Note that fishing and cycling are not allowed. The park is best accessed by car, although there are hourly buses available from central Halifax for those who prefer not to drive.
One of Halifax's most notable attractions is Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, a vibrant attraction tailored to kids 11 and under. The museum features both temporary and permanent exhibits, as well as a family-friendly café in case you get hungry. They offer a calendar of ongoing events for visitors, so check the website for current happenings. Book your tickets in advance online as well; because the museum can be crowded with school groups during the week, plan for a weekend morning or summertime visit.
No trip to England is complete without an excursion to a historic country house hotel. Halifax boasts the Holdsworth House Hotel and Restaurant, a charming luxury property that's perfect for a weekend stay. If you have less time, consider booking lunch or dinner at the hotel's restaurant, which also serves a chic afternoon tea. The restaurant has three connected dining rooms filled with historic touches and beautiful wood paneling, so you'll feel like you've gone back in time. There is a children's menu for those with kids, and those cruising without the family will want to pay a visit to the Long Bar after their meal.
Manor Heath Park is beautiful in its own right, but the Jungle Experience promises an unexpected adventure and is where you'll want to spend your time. Comprised of converted glasshouses, the Experience showcases botanical gardens and habitats for a variety of plants, butterflies, and animals. It's amazing for kids of all ages—especially the Butterfly World sections—but adults will get a kick out of the Carnivorous Plants area as well. The Experience gets quite humid and warm in the glasshouses, so dress accordingly. It costs only 1 pound to enter.
The Halifax Minster, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, dates all the way back to the 12th century, though most of the impressive building was finished in 1438. The church holds regular services, but visitors can also come to learn about its history. To hear the Minster's famous bells, visit the church on Friday evenings from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. when the bell ringers practice, or attend the 10:30 a.m. Choral Eucharist on Sunday mornings. For those who prefer a more casual visit, the Minster is open to the public from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the year, with no tickets required. There are several guided tours available, which can be booked by email or phone.