Sheffield (pop. 512,000) was just a minor provincial town before the industrial revolution. It is now the 3rd largest city in England, although it is far from a major sightseeing destination. Sheffield was already renowed for its fine cutlery since the 14th century, and boomed after the industrialisation of steel manufacturing.
Benjamin Huntsman discovered the way of making crucible steel in 1740, and in 1856 Henry Bessemer developed a technique to mass-produce steel, which further increase Sheffield's dominance in the industry. Also worthy of note is that 'stainless steel' was invented in the city by Harry Brearley in 1912. Coal and limestone mining also developed around Sheffield in the 19th century.
The collapse of the steel industry during the Thatcher years (1980's) has left a high unemployment rate, epitomized in the 1997 film The Full Monty. The district of Hallam had managed to stay competitive and now boasts the country's highest income area outside London.
Sheffield is located at the edge of the Peak District National Park. Actually one third of the city stands within the national park's boundary, something no other English city enjoy. For this, it is generally recognized as England's greenest city, and contains about 150 woodlands and 50 public parks.
Apart from a few impressive Victorian edifices, Sheffield is not an architectural jewel, but has enough art galleries, museums, parks and nightlife to justify a visit.
Just west of the train station are the tropical Winter Gardens and the central square known as the Peace Gardens (previously "St Pauls Gardens"), surrounded by the Town Hall and other imposing buildings.
Of prime interest are the vast Millenium Galleries and Graves Art Gallery, just east of the Winter Gardens, and the Kelham Island Museum. If you don't mind travelling a few kilometres outside the city centre, the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and Shepherd Wheel are also interesting.
Located off junction 34 of the M1, the the Meadowhall is composed of some 270 shops and is one of Europe's largest shopping centre complexes.
How to get there
Sheffield is the southernmost city of Yorkshire, just off the M1 motorway (London-Leicester-Leeds).
There are trains between Sheffield and London St Pancras (2h30min, super advance single £41), Chesterfiled, (10min, £3.20), Derby (30min, £7.50), Manchester (50min to 1h15min, £11.60), Leeds (40min to 1h20min, £6.90) and York (50min to 1h20min, £12.70).
National Express has direct buses between Sheffield and London (4h to 4h30min, £14.50), Manchester (1h30min to 3h, £6.25), Leeds (50min to 1h20min, £4.50), Chesterfield (30min, £1.50), Derby (1h10min, £6), Leicester (2h, £7.75) and Birmingham (2h20min, £14.50), among others.