Bradford often gets put on the backburner in favour of nearby Leeds and Manchester for tourists.
The stereotype is that Bradford is more dangerous and less exciting to visit. However, while I would recommend remaining alert in Bradford to prevent petty crime, it has plenty of draws. Once an industrial powerhouse, the city is filled with social history and 18th-century architecture. Plus, with Leeds Bradford Airport nearby, Bradford is a great base to explore the county and Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Art lovers should prioritise a visit to Salts Mill – a mill turned multi-storey art centre. While, just outside of Bradford, you can visit the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth. And, in Bradford City Centre, there is the National Science and Media Museum, which used to be one of my favourite days out as a child!
There are so many things to do in Bradford… but I’ll try to narrow it down to the ten top recommendations for your itinerary.
Stop by the National Science and Media Museum
I could rave about the National Science and Media Museum for days. But the first things you should know are that it’s free to enter and is right in the city centre – making visiting an accessible, cheap thing to do in Bradford.
The museum is split over six floors, with each floor having different themes. You can wander from an exhibition of vintage cameras to a green room TV experience, then come face to face with a life-size Star Wars character. On Floor 3, there is also Wonderlab – a space dedicated to science and engaging optical illusions. The outrageous diversity of exhibitions and displays makes it one of the most interesting things to do in Bradford!
Whether you are five or fifty years old, I’d recommend allowing a couple of hours to explore the National Science and Media Museum. On a rainy day, the museum is particularly useful on your Bradford itinerary.
Go bouncing at the Airobounce Trampoline Park
Fancy an active, purely fun thing to do in Bradford? I suggest casting your inner diva aside and channelling your inner child instead at the Airobounce Trampoline Park.
Whether you are avoiding the rain or just wanting a nice indoor activity, the layout at Airobounce Trampoline Park is perfect for half a day’s entertainment. You’ll find trampolines covering the whole floor area and parts of the walls – giving a LOT of space for tricks and bouncing.
I’d particularly recommend Airobounce for families as, while adults do attend, the park is most popular with children. However, there is no age limit for trampoliners! Plus, there are separate sections for different age groups – so don’t worry about being surrounded by 4-year-olds as a 30-year-old.
Wander around Salts Mill
Salts Mill is in Saltaire, less than fifteen minutes by train or car from Bradford City Centre.
If you love art in any form, I’d suggest visiting Salts Mill. The Art Centre is in a gorgeous converted mill, and the airy, warehouse-style showrooms are great to wander on a laidback afternoon.
Reading lovers can treat themselves to a book from the carefully selected stock of literature on display. Art enthusiasts can browse the 1853 Gallery to spot David Hockney’s numerous works amongst other stunning display pieces or scan the shops for pieces for sale. And, on a different floor, antique hunters can pass the time browsing for an exciting bargain – be it a chair, rug, or seemingly unimportant ornament.
Once you’ve finished, I’d recommend treating yourself to a three-course meal at the Salts Diner (or at least a coffee for those on a budget). The dining space is decorated with art by David Hockney and is a cool, creative place to grab refreshments while remaining artistically inspired.
Visit the Bronte Parsonage
Any literature enthusiast worth their salt is familiar with the Bronte sisters. And, fun fact, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were written in this very Parsonage!
While the sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte are the most famous of the family, their parents actually had six children. Elizabeth, Maria, and (the only son) Branwell also lived in the family home.
You’ll be able to catch a glimpse into the Bronte’s busy family life by visiting the Parsonage, which is filled with family belongings and kept in its original state. Of course, there are also original manuscripts and documents throughout the museum. The Bronte Parsonage pays ode to both the Bronte’s professional and personal lives.
Below is a table displaying the museum’s 2022 ticket prices:
|Child (under 5)||Child||Concession||Adult||Adult (65+)||Family (1 adult and 1 child)||Family (2 adults and 4 children)|
|Ticket price (£)||Free||4.50||7.50||11.00||9.00||13.00||26.00|
I’d recommend allowing a full day to visit the Bronte Parsonage, as there are so many things to do nearby, even though the museum only needs a couple of hours. After visiting the Bronte Parsonage, you can always stop by one of Haworth’s traditional pubs, go for a country hike, shop on Haworth Main Street, or hop on the Worth Valley Railway’s steam train to explore nearby Keighley.
For a complete guide to visiting Haworth you can check out my existing article here.
Try out ice skating at the Bradford Ice Arena
If you are desperately scanning for things to do in Bradford on a rainy day, the Bradford Ice Arena is worth visiting. The best thing about Bradford Ice Arena is that it is centrally located, making it an easy itinerary addition if the weather isn’t cooperating.
You can opt for a laugh and visit for a public ice skating session. You’ll be surrounded by skaters of all abilities and can even attend a public ice skating disco on Friday and Saturday nights! Of course, you can also book a private figure skating or ice hockey session if you wish.
I’ve included a table of the 2022 entry prices for the public ice skating session below:
|Children (under 5)||Student||General||Family|
|Children (under 5)||Student||General||Family|
If you wish to hire skates, Bradford Ice Arena charges £2.70 per person. And, if you want a locker (which we’d advise), the rental cost is 0.50p.
Watch a theatre performance at The Alhambra
The Alhambra is another childhood memory of mine and one of the most beautiful venues in Bradford.
Even if you don’t watch a show, stop by The Alhambra. The early 20th-century performance space is a picture of decadence – so don’t be fooled by the plainly decorated, unassuming domed exterior. I highly suggest channelling your inner diva to attend a theatre performance in your finest clothes.
The Alhambra seats 1,400 people across a mixture of seating. You can choose seats on the ground floor, balconies, or even splurge on a private box. The venue has hosted The Northern Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company, and West End shows! Most notable West End performances have included the Lion King, War Horse, and Billy Elliot. But you can keep up to date with upcoming performances on the Bradford Theatres’ official website.
Discover policing history at the Bradford Police Museum
Still concerned about Bradford’s often crime-ridden stereotype? The Bradford Police Museum should soothe your concerns.
The museum presents the history and heritage of policing in Bradford – from the early 19th century to the present day. You’ll learn about events like the Bradford Riots, spot Victorian vintage police truncheons and uniforms, and even take a guided tour around Victorian holding cells. With over 150 years of history to discover, the museum offers a valuable, immersive insight into the reality of the Bradford Borough Police Force.
My favourite thing about the Bradford Police Museum is that it isn’t replicable in other UK cities. The focus is so specialised that it feels a worthy attraction for even the shortest, most competitive itineraries. I’d definitely recommend a visit!
Take a day trip to the Yorkshire Dales National Park
Since the Yorkshire Dales National Park is less than an hour’s drive from Bradford, I’d suggest renting a car and spending at least a day in the countryside.
The Dales has some incredible walks, including the Three Peaks: Ingleborough, Whernside, and Pen-y-Ghent. You can also visit natural attractions like Malham Cove (which was used as a Harry Potter filming location) and Stump Cross Caverns. Or, stop by a Yorkshire town like Malham, Kettlewell, Grassington, or Hawes. I’ve written this guide to the best walks in the Yorkshire Dales, so check it out if you need guidance or inspiration.
In winter, it’s not unheard of to see the Northern Lights either. If you fancy trying your luck at spotting them, head to a Dark Sky Discovery Centre on a night where high activity is predicted. Best-case scenario, you see the lights, and worst-case scenario, you get a stunning view of the night sky with no light pollution.
Visit Lister Park
Lister Park is beautiful. If you get a sunny, dry day, head straight to Lister Park to make the most of the outdoor gardens and sunshine.
The Mughal Gardens are manicured Islamic gardens – free to explore at your leisure. The fountains, terraces, and ponds are definitely photo-worthy and an impressive outdoor space to unwind.
Lister Park also has a boating lake, so you can rent a pedal boat and spend some time on the water if you wish. For families, there is a children’s playground where you can let little ones loose to run off steam. Or, you can head inside the museum to visit the art gallery.
Lister Park is a half an hour walk from Bradford City Centre, although the 662 shuttle bus only takes fifteen minutes and is a good option to save your legs.
Learn about the Industrial Revolution at Bradford Industrial Museum
If you are into history or looking to delve deeper into Bradford’s story, I suggest visiting the Bradford Industrial Museum.
The museum has original machinery on display from various industries, including textiles and steam power machines. Vintage car fans will especially enjoy the exhibition of motor vehicles – sitting sparkling and polished in refurbished glory. It is a little eclectic, but this helps it give a better image of the 1870s lifestyle.
From a social history perspective, the Mill Manager’s House and Mill-Workers Terraces provide a visual insight into the class divide and living situations. You can also try your hand at weaving or attend a lesson in a Victorian Classroom to dive headfirst into the experience.
Bradford is a great city to visit in Yorkshire. It is close to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and has plenty of green space to enjoy British summers. Bradford also has a fascinating history, with lots to learn through its policing and industrial museums.
There are almost too many things to do in Bradford! I didn’t manage to include it, but Bradford’s clubbing scene is particularly good fun, so plan to have at least one night out. The city is also renowned for its varied cuisine – get adventurous and sample Thai, Pakistani, Lebanese, Mexican, African, or Chinese, amongst many more.
Have I missed something incredible? Feel free to drop any extra recommendations in the comments below.