This month, we’re bringing you two editions of our ‘In the spotlight’ series. We start way up north, in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield. Programme Officer Robyn Parker has written this one, and she’s quite the expert on the city after she spent seven years there while she studied at undergrad, postgrad, and doctorate level. Here’s her thoughts on the ‘the happiest city in the UK’. 

‘Set on seven hills – the ‘Rome of the north’ – Sheffield used to be an industrial city, made famous because of stainless steel cutlery. Since then, and most notably in the past couple of decades, the city has been completely revived and it’s now a hidden gem of the north.

Despite its size, Sheffield is a really homely city and never feels overwhelming or too busy. The city centre is lovely to wander around with grand Victorian buildings next to modern fountains, the Peace Garden, and the glasshouse Winter Garden.

It’s always been a bit alternative in fashion and music (Def Leppard and Artic Monkeys are both from Sheffield) and because of this, coupled with lots of vintage and great charity shops – check out Division Street and Ecclesall Road – it’s got a unique feel to it.

Sheffield has started to gain proper recognition for its beer and was labelled recently as the ‘beer capital of the UK’. From craft beer to real ale, you can’t really go wrong. Personally I’d recommend the Sheffield Tap – straight off the train into a beautifully restored Edwardian station pub – and, if you can make it up the hill, The Blake Hotel, which rewards you with a stunning view and nice beer garden but there are loads of other great pubs to try. 

If you can tear yourself away from the city and the parks in the nearby areas, it’s a short bus ride (or even a long walk if you fancy it) into the Peak District – the first of the UK’s national parks and the site of stately home Chatsworth house. It’s always worth a visit and a walk for the impressive vistas which change throughout the seasons although I’d advise another layer of clothing as it’s always colder in the Peaks than the city.

Lastly, there’s some truth to the stereotype that it’s friendlier up north, as in 2013 Sheffield was officially the happiest city in the UK!’