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Six reasons why Bradford deserves to be UK City of Culture

The West Yorkshire city has taken the City of Culture baton for 2025. Here’s what makes it a worthy winner

Sophie Dickinson
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Sophie Dickinson

Bradford? Really? For most people, this industrial city in West Yorkshire isn’t exactly synonymous with culture. But now Bradford has been awarded the title of UK City of Culture for 2025. And if you’re wondering why, there are a tonne of reasons why it’s the perfect pick, from its cinematic history to its community spirit to its youth and diversity: over a quarter of its population is under 18, and it has the largest Pakistani population of anywhere in England. Here are just a few of the reasons why we heart Bradford, and why it’s the perfect pick for City of Culture.

It’s seriously cinematic

Bradford is the first UNESCO City of Film, which is pretty impressive. It’s been on-screen since basically the dawn of cinema, and crews continue to use it as a location for TV and movies. In more recent times, it’s featured prominently in ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Peaky Blinders’, ‘Happy Valley’ and, er, around 600 other projects. The city isn’t just a set, though: it’s a hub for aspiring directors and producers, offering film literacy courses, resources and equipment for young people in the area. For the more casual visual arts fan, the National Science and Media Museum allows you to pretend to be a news broadcaster (always fun), and is home to the first ever IMAX screen in Europe, opened way back in 1983.

It has a remarkable history

During the industrial revolution, towns and cities in Lancashire and Yorkshire were crucial to the UK’s cotton and mining industries – and Bradford was no exception. Just outside the city is Saltaire, an Italian Renaissance-inspired village built by Sir Titus Salt for his workers in 1851. Equipped with a water supply, gas lighting and several bedrooms, the homes were of a much higher standard than the terraces that most workers lived in. The area remains a UNESCO World Heritage site that you can wander around; don’t miss a rattly trip on the 127-year-old Shipley Glen Tramway.

The art here is great

Saltaire might not be home to industry any more, but Salts Mill has been transformed thanks to one of Bradford’s most famous sons. David Hockney grew up in the city, and now the mill has a wide collection of his exuberant paintings. Come for the remarkable French landscapes, stay for the surprisingly intimate portraits. In Bradford itself is the Kala Sangam arts centre, which specialises in South Asian art and dance. Its reach is truly global, though – the current programme includes performances inspired by the Bolivian Day of Death and an exhibition exploring definitions of peace. Deep stuff. And of course the city is bound to introduce a whole programme of events once their year in the City of Culture spotlight comes. 

It’s got impressive literary roots

Kala Sangam is also home to events at the Bradford Literature Festival, which is attended by around 70,000 people every year. This year’s programme includes talks on Levelling Up policy in the north of England, which is bound to be fiery. If you’re looking for something more traditional, the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth – home to the literary sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne – is also part of Bradford’s jurisdiction. The tiny vicarage, tucked into the corner of a churchyard, is now a museum, stuffed full of incredible artefacts from the trio’s remarkable lives. Its literary heritage remains: modern authors like crime writer A A Dhand continue to set their novels in the West Yorkshire enclave.

The food is wonderful 

If food is your thing, there’s probably nowhere better in the UK to get a curry. It doesn’t really matter which curry house you pick – though head to The Kashmir for some old-fashioned Indian dining, or Karachi for something more no-frills – this is where it’s at: the rich daal makhani, crispy paani poori, traditional lamb haleem. Once you’ve had your fill, check out some other culinary spots in the city, like the romantic La Caverna Pizzeria or The Canteen, where students from the cookery school train.

And the surrounding countryside is stunning

A trip to Bradford isn’t complete if you haven’t headed out into the surrounding countryside. Traipse across Ilkley Moor for exceptional views across the rugged landscape, or hike from Haworth to Top Withens, the ruined farmhouse that is said to have inspired ‘Wuthering Heights’. Culture? Bradford’s got it in bucketloads.

Did you know? The world’s first multistorey skatepark just opened in the UK.

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