thump's guide to freshers' week

The THUMP Freshers' Guide to Sheffield

The city built on seven hills has a long and storied history when it comes to nightlife.

by Stacey Sampson
22 September 2016, 11:40am

Image via.

Ever since the 1960s when Peter Stringfellow put on a weekly disco in a rented church hall, we've had a long history of stand-out night life. It's a legacy that has left us fiercely protective of our after-dark culture. Some might consider the 80s Rubik's-cube-esque Roxy as a bit of an eyesore but us Sheffielders? Nah, we campaigned to keep it open and now it's an O2 Academy hosting everyone from The Specials to Steve-O. Yes, that Steve-O. Steve-O from Jackass.

We've got over 40 accredited bars, pubs and clubs in the city centre and plethora of others scattered out across the seven hills. So, where to start? Are you a rocker who wants 50p vodka and sticky carpets? A serious raver who wants all night bouncing? Or just a good-timer after a bit of cheesy pop before your cheesy chips? Well the good news is, Sheff's got it all. In fact, there's so much good stuff it's going to break my heart a little bit choosing what to mention, so if you like the sound of the city and want to know more, check out this site which is packed with more secret gems or download the Best Bar None app (backed by both the Uni of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam) that helps you work out how to find every venue, how to get home and even how to get to the GUM clinic the morning after.

Who could ask for more?

A Club

There's no unanimous hands up on this one—it really depends on what kind of music you like and how fussed you are about cheap drinks. If you're into alternative stuff, CORP is and always has been the place to go. For your big weekly student nights with drinks offers and mainstream music, there's Plug. Sheffield Uni has its own venue, The Foundry which runs the legendary Tuesday Club (you guessed it, every Tuesday) which a lot of people rate for live acts and DJs. But, if you're looking for an all-round good night in the city centre try the Viper Rooms on Carver Street. It describes itself as 'a disgracefully grown up night out' and it won People's Choice at this year's Best Bar None awards. Plus with 241 cocktails every night you can guarantee a good vibe and an up for it crowd.

A Really Good Pub

"Don't do all the talking, let love speak up itself." That's what the big red neon sign says on the Riverside pub on Mowbray Street. Which is quite apt because I could talk for a good few hours about the merits of the many cracking pubs in Sheffield but thinking about where I'd love to kick back after a long's got to be there. Right on the banks of the Don, it's a pub with loads of heritage but a good modern focus. It's in the up and coming Industrial Quarter of the City where you're as likely to see a steel worker clocking off as a you are a graffiti artist—look out for a colossal pirate ship piece by Phlegm on the wall outside and you know you're in the right place. There's a vast selection of drinks, all the usual stuff plus craft beer, cocktails and speciality gins. Plus upstairs there's a little music and theatre venue which programs everything from stand-up comedy to DIY punk. It's an eclectic place filled with an eclectic mix of people. Oh and the macaroni cheese is rate nice.

A Decent Restaurant for Someone on a Budget

London Road is the place to be for cheap, independent restaurants from every corner of the globe. Turkish, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Greek, Polish, Japanese, Caribbean, Korean, Lebanese, Chinese, Thai. You name it, it's there. It's a ten minute walk out of the city centre but hey, you can always afford an Uber home with the money you've saved eating out of town. One of the best is Noodle Inn. A vast menu, all at a good price (the Sifu Big Bowl Soup is especially lush). You can bring your own wine and the portions are so big you can live off the leftovers for a week. Bonus.

A Great Gig Venue

It has to be the Leadmill. 35 years of hosting some of the most iconic bands from around the world and is still going strong. Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Killers and The Stone Roses have all graced the stage on their way to the top with many acts saying that playing the 'Mill is like a rite of passage. There are two standing only stages that hold just over a thousand people between them so it's big enough for an electric atmosphere but small enough that you're never far from the stage. It's been voted best live music venue about a million times and with regular weekly club nights and launch events going off there too, it's very much holding its bejewelled spot in the Sheffield music crown.

A Record Shop

Sheffield has a great selection of record shops but a personal fave is Bear Tree Records. A small, but perfectly formed little gaff, run devotedly by proprietor Joe who really knows what he's talking about and prides himself on catering for all tastes. It's got a fantastic selection of vinyl, which you can buy in store or by mail order covering literally every genre you could think of including some pretty niche stuff and rare finds. A lot of the Sheffield record sellers know each other so the good thing is, if one shop doesn't have something, they'll happily point you in the direction of somewhere that does. That said, I've rarely been to Bear Tree and been disappointed. It's currently in Orchard Square but watch this space because a recent crowd-funder to pay for a bigger shop (with more stock and a sofa for regulars) reached its £4000 target in under a week. That's a lotta love.

A Museum You Can Take the Person You Got off with on the First Night in Halls To

There's loads of brilliant art to see in Sheffield. The big ones are Weston Park, Millennium Galleries and Graves, but if you really want to impress think about taking them to see some of the cooler, underground stuff spread across town. A good shout right now is the S1 ArtSpace up at Park Hill (that's the big block of concrete you see as you enter the city). The iconic tower of 995 flats holds a special place in the heart of Sheffielders and having been derelict for years, is now being reclaimed for the good. Half of it has been done up by quirky architects Urban Splash and with cool businesses like Warp Films moving in and regular outdoor pop-up cinema and food events taking place, it's putting itself back on the map. Have a walk up there via the amphitheatre for an awesome view over the city (great place for a snog) then explore the eerie un-renovated flats and impress with your pop trivia. Such as: "Did you know they filmed some of This is England up here?" Finally head to S1 and boast that it hosts over 20 local artists, all for FREE. If you get there quick you can have a go on the Brutalist Playground, a large scale installation of...well, stuff to play on. Surely a date this filmic is the start of something beautiful?

A Truly Local Spot That You'll Feel Really Smug Knowing About

Ooh this is too hard. There are so many brilliant places in Sheffield it feels disloyal recommending one. So here are two.

Let's think lovely lazy weekends. A great way to spend one is hanging out in the Antiques Quarter down Abbeydale Road. There are tons of vintage shops—you know you NEED one of those macramé plant holders for your room right?—plus the beautiful, crumbling old gem that is the Abbeydale Picture House. One half has recently been restored to its grandiose 1920s cinematic glory, with velvet seats and a slick programme of screenings curated by a team of hotshot young film makers. Why not take in a flick and then head next door to Picture House Social where you can sample locally brewed ales and bespoke cocktails in the delicious darkness of their gangster bar, or sit on the terrace munching on a freshly stone-baked pizza before hitting the ping pong tables to work up a sweat. Then, start on the drinks again until the DJ arrives to take you through the night.

Second is the Peddler Night Markets. Hosted on the first weekend of each month at ultra cool warehouse 92 Burton Road. You can spend a chilled evening wandering around stalls of local clothing and art, dancing to live music or kicking back with a beer in the deckchairs around the fire pit. Outside you can smell the sparks of Sheffield steel being freshly forged and inside you can smell the sizzle of street food being freshly flipped. It's full of proper Sheffielders having a proper good time.

A Place to Drink Coffee in Between Lectures Because You Will Suddenly Decide That You Drink Coffee Now Even Though You'd Rather Have a Squash

If you're going to get a caffeine addiction, it might as well be good coffee. Don't bother going to Costa or Nero, it's all about the independent coffee scene in Sheffield and you can't go wrong with Tamper, bringing the best of New Zealand café culture to Yorkshire. Start with a latte and work your way up to some of their more discerning single origin tipples from the ever evolving 'Brew Bar'. They also make some of the best breakfasts in Sheffield (pricey but worth it) and stock to-die-for cakes and pastries from another local fave, Depot Bakery. Good news is there's one at each end of the city so you never have to be more than five minutes away from your next hit—Westfield Terrace (near Sheffield Uni) and Sellers Wheel (near Hallam.)

A Good Bookshop

Sheffield's not the best for book shops. 'Course we've got the usual big hitters in the town centre but I'm not going to sell you a trip to Waterstones. Everyone (and when I say everyone, I include Jarvis Cocker and Alex Turner) was up in arms recently when legendary independent book and record shop, Rare and Racy got labelled for demolition to make room for more crappy flats. If you get here before it's been bulldozed it's definitely worth a look. If not, head out of the city along Ecclesall Road (great for all manner of random shops, restaurants and bars) until you get to Endcliffe Park. Across from there you can find Rhyme & Reason and Books on the Park. Rhyme and Reason specialises in kids' books but they also stock a great selection of contemporary fiction. You can often find signed copies in here and they can order you ANYTHING within a day—yeah, I know Amazon can too, but who wants to give them their money? Books on the Park is a second-hand wonderland, great for cheap finds. There's always a box of £1 books outside and they stock unusual band posters and t-shirts too. Once you've made your purchase head into Endcliffe Park to laze on the grass and pretend you're an intellectual. Failing that, have a go on the swings then get yourself a Nobbly-Bobbly from the ice-cream van.

A Place to Laze About the Morning After the Night Before

Well, aforementioned Endcliffe Park is a good start but if you can't be bothered to move from the city centre then you're in luck. Sheffield is the greenest city in England so you're never more than a hop, skip and a jump from some grass or trees to photosynthesise the chemicals out of you. A standard place to chill in town is Devonshire Green (Devo Green to us locals). You can watch the skaters skate and then when you're ready, head to the Forum Bar which spills out onto the grass for a medicinal hair of the dog. For the more adventurous, we are of course only ten minutes from the Peak District so you could get your hiking gear on and head out onto the moors for a bracing walk to clear your senses, No, didn't think so. Devo Green it is then.

Well, if we haven't sold it to you enough by now, you deserve to go to Reading or Luton or somewhere and study Computer Science with Further Economics. Sheffield has got to be one of the most friendly, diverse, culturally vibrant cities in the UK, why else would we have the highest retention rate of students in the country who decide to stay here after their course? It's a city built on seven hills and good old fashioned values. New folks are always welcome, and when they get here we show them a bloody good time.

Stacey is on Twitter.

City Guide
Freshers Week
club culture