West Yorkshire is dominated by historical sites and museums. This stands to reason given the region’s eventful past. As well as bearing witness to the War of the Roses and the English Civil War, West Yorkshire was also heavily impacted by the Industrial Revolution.
So the visitor will find an assortment of ruined castles and heritage museums, some of which are internationally recognised. There are plenty of other things to do in West Yorkshire though, as we’ll explore here.
To help you plan a travel intinerary, we’ve compiled a list of major West Yorkshire attractions. We begin with one of the most complete Cistercian monasteries in Britain.
Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds
As mentioned, Kirkstall Abbey is one of the most well-preserved Cistercian monasteries in the UK, brilliantly showcasing the architectural skills of the medieval period.
Beyond its stunning ruins, Kirkstall Abbey is a hub of activity, hosting regular adult events and engaging school holiday activities.
As part of the Leeds Museums & Galleries collection, the abbey is a testament to the city’s commitment to preserving its cultural heritage.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply looking for a serene escape, Kirkstall Abbey promises a memorable experience.
With its sprawling green landscapes and the River Aire flowing nearby, it’s an ideal spot for picnics, leisurely walks, and photography.
Plan your visit and immerse yourself in the captivating tales of monks, majestic ceremonies, and the daily life of a bygone era.
Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds
The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds is a captivating gateway to the world of arms and armour. Situated in the heart of the city, this remarkable institution offers a deep dive into centuries of combat history.
From the intricate designs of ancient samurai armour to the majestic regalia that once adorned King Henry VIII, every exhibit tells a tale of bravery, craftsmanship, and evolution.
The museum bursts into life with its dynamic live shows and combat demonstrations, providing a firsthand experience of historical warfare techniques.
Special events, such as the “Pirates and Highwaymen” showcase, add layers of adventure and intrigue, ensuring that every visit is unique.
One of the most visited West Yorkshire attractions listed here.
Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth
Third on our list of things to do in West Yorkshire is this world-renowned literary visitor attractions. Indeed, the Brontë Parsonage Museum is a beacon of literary history.
Open from Wednesday to Sunday, it invites visitors to walk the corridors where the Brontë siblings once walked, penned their classics, and drew inspiration.
Managed by the Brontë Society, the museum preserves the tangible legacy of the Brontë family but also fosters a community of literary enthusiasts.
As a charitable entity, its mission extends beyond mere preservation to education and engagement. A visit to the Brontë Parsonage is a journey into a bygone era, where every room echoes with tales of passion, ambition, and genius.
For those who cherish literature, history, or simply the allure of the Brontës, this museum offers a soulful retreat into the world of timeless classics.
Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, Leeds
Leeds Industrial Museum, situated at Armley Mills, is a captivating portal into Leeds’ rich industrial heritage.
The museum offers a comprehensive exploration of the city’s industrial past, showcasing vast collections that bring to life the stories of the people and industries that shaped Leeds.
From textiles to printing, the museum covers a spectrum of sectors that played pivotal roles in the city’s development.
The Leeds Industrial Museum promises an enlightening journey. With its blend of historical artefacts and engaging displays, it stands as a testament to the city’s legacy of innovation and enterprise.
Harewood House, Harewood
Harewood House is a country house in Harewood, West Yorkshire, England. Designed by architects John Carr and Robert Adam, it was built between 1759 and 1771 for Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood.
The house is a Grade I listed building and is renowned for its stunning architecture, exquisite interiors, and significant art collections.
Set within a vast estate, Harewood House is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens and parkland, which were designed by the renowned landscape architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
Membership to Harewood provides great value, granting unlimited access to the house and its grounds across all seasons, allowing members to witness the estate’s transformation throughout the year.
If you’re looking for historic places to visit in West Yorkshire, this should be part of your travel plan.
Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, Halifax
Nestled in the heart of Halifax lies Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, an enchanting realm where youthful curiosity meets hands-on exploration.
Tailored specifically for youngsters up to 11 years, this vibrant institution transcends traditional museum boundaries. Instead of “Do Not Touch” signs, Eureka! champions tactile engagement, beckoning children to dive into exhibits, from unraveling the marvels of science and technology to navigating a miniaturised urban landscape.
Imaginations run wild as kids playfully step into roles—be it as a banker, a postmaster, or a town mayor. Every corner, from the lifelike town square to the dynamic workshops, is a testament to Eureka’s commitment to fostering interactive learning.
Shibden Hall, Halifax
Set amidst a lush 90-acre park, this Tudor timber-framed treasure in Halifax stands as a testament to bygone eras, from its medieval beginnings to its regency refinements.
Visitors are invited on a captivating journey through time. Each room resonates with tales of the folk who once dwelled here, most notably Anne Lister, the trailblazing 19th-century diarist.
For the TV enthusiasts, Shibden Hall shot to international fame as the primary location for the acclaimed series ‘Gentleman Jack,’ inspired by Lister’s life and writings.
But Shibden is more than its house. The grounds beckon with serene woodland walks, an enchanting boating lake, and meticulous gardens.
For families, the estate promises fun-filled afternoons, with its miniature railway and delightful play area.
Wakefield Cathedral, Wakefield
Wakefield Cathedral stands as a silent storyteller of bygone ages and spiritual devotion. Its majestic spire is one of the loftiest in England.
Step inside, and you’re transported to an era of reverence and artistic prowess. The cathedral’s stained-glass windows weave tales of faith, their vibrant hues dancing across centuries-old stone, creating a canvas of light and shadow.
The hallowed whispers of the past seem to resonate in every nook, speaking of pilgrims, penance, and prayer.
Musically, the cathedral boasts a choir whose voices rise in harmonious melodies, evoking ethereal emotions, especially during evensong.
Yet, Wakefield Cathedral is not trapped in time. It’s a dynamic space that embraces the contemporary, hosting an array of events from art exhibitions to community gatherings, making it a vibrant junction of the spiritual and societal.
Pontefract Castle, Pontefract
Perched in the heart of Pontefract in West Yorkshire, Pontefract Castle stands as a silent witness to England’s tumultuous past.
Constructed in the 11th century, its formidable structure boasts the quintessential “motte and bailey” design, emblematic of Norman architectural prowess.
As the centuries progressed, the castle became synonymous with pivotal historical turning points. During the Middle Ages, Pontefract Castle emerged as a nexus of political and military intrigue.
It was embroiled in the power struggles of the Wars of the Roses and later fortified itself as a key Royalist base during the English Civil War.
Yet, beneath the castle’s stone battlements lies a sombre narrative. It’s within these walls that King Richard II met a tragic end, believed to have been starved to death in a darkened cell.
In its current state, much of Pontefract Castle lies in ruins, a poignant reflection of its battle-scarred past.
Salts Mill, Saltaire
Situated in the UNESCO World Heritage village of Saltaire, West Yorkshire, Salts Mill stands as a remarkable testament to the region’s rich industrial legacy.
Commissioned by Sir Titus Salt in 1853, this vast textile mill transformed the landscape, weaving the threads of prosperity with social responsibility.
Sir Titus not only focused on the mill’s industrial prowess but also on the welfare of his workers, establishing Saltaire village to provide decent housing and amenities.
Architecturally, Salts Mill is a grand example of Italianate design, exuding an elegance rarely seen in industrial structures. Its iconic chimney and expansive floor spaces were once filled with the hum of looms, producing world-class textiles.
Today, while the clatter of machinery has faded, Salts Mill has been reborn as a vibrant cultural hub. Housing an impressive collection of art by David Hockney, a native of the region, it also offers retail spaces, restaurants, and galleries.
Sids Cafe, Holmfirth
Nestled in the picturesque town of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, Sid’s Café holds a special place in the hearts of British television enthusiasts.
This unassuming establishment shot to national fame as one of the principal filming locations for the beloved BBC sitcom, “Last of the Summer Wine“.
For over three decades, the café’s quaint interiors and emblematic façade served as the backdrop for the comedic escapades of Compo, Clegg, and Blamire, along with a rotating cast of memorable characters.
Today, beyond its role as a functional café, it operates as a pilgrimage site for “Last of the Summer Wine” aficionados.
Visitors can sip on tea, relish traditional treats, and immerse themselves in the world of their favourite characters, making Sid’s Café an enduring slice of British pop culture in the heart of Holmfirth.
Middleton Woods, Leeds
Middleton Woods, located in the southern reaches of Leeds, West Yorkshire, stands as one of the city’s oldest and most enchanting woodland areas.
A tapestry of native trees, primarily bluebells and oak, paints a mesmerising landscape, especially during spring when the bluebells burst into full bloom, creating a carpet of blue beneath the canopy.
Beyond its natural beauty, Middleton Woods boasts historical significance, with traces of ancient woodland and coal mining heritage still evident. Interwoven trails beckon walkers, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts alike, offering a serene respite from urban hustle.
Coupled with the adjacent Middleton Park, this green expanse showcases a harmonious blend of history, flora, and fauna, solidifying its reputation as a treasured oasis in Leeds.
Tropical World, Leeds
Situated in Roundhay, Leeds, Tropical World should be on any West Yorkshire sightseeing itinerary, offering an exotic escape, that transports visitors across continents and ecosystems.
Home to one of the UK’s largest collections of tropical plants and animals, this indoor menagerie replicates diverse habitats ranging from steamy rainforests to arid deserts.
Guests can marvel at the vibrant hues of fluttering butterflies, hear the chirping of rare birds, and even observe the leisurely movements of meerkats and terrapins.
The aquarium section, with its colourful array of marine life, is a particular favourite among many.
If you’re a nature enthusiast, a family seeking a fun day out in West Yorkshire, or simply looking to delve into the wonders of our planet, Tropical World in Leeds is a must-visit urban sanctuary.
National Coal Mining Museum, Overton
Located in Overton, near Wakefield, the National Coal Mining Museum for England offers a compelling insight into the country’s coal mining legacy.
Located at the historic Caphouse Colliery site, which boasts mining origins tracing back to the 1790s, the museum captures over two centuries of England’s industrial evolution.
Visitors can embark on a genuine underground adventure, descending 140 metres below the surface, led by ex-miner guides who share firsthand accounts of the life and toils of a coal miner.
Above ground, the museum’s extensive collection showcases mining artefacts, machinery, and personal testimonies, painting a vivid picture of the industry’s impact on communities, society and the nation at large.
A testament to the resilience and spirit of miners and their families, the National Coal Mining Museum stands as a vital repository of England’s industrial and social history.
Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds
The Thackray Medical Museum offers a unique journey into the world of medicine, charting its progress and challenges throughout the ages.
Housed in a Grade II listed building that was once a workhouse, the museum delves deep into medical innovations, patient experiences, and the societal impact of diseases and healthcare evolution.
With a rich collection of medical instruments, interactive exhibits, and immersive galleries, visitors can explore topics ranging from Victorian surgery to modern-day medical practices.
The museum doesn’t shy away from the gritty realities, often highlighting the interplay between medicine, ethics, and the broader societal framework.
A special mention goes to its recreation of Victorian Leeds streets, giving insights into public health challenges of that era.
Bradford Industrial Museum, Bradford
Situated in the heart of Bradford, the Bradford Industrial Museum provides a vivid portrayal of the city’s influential role during the Industrial Revolution.
Part of a former spinning mill, the museum is an ode to Bradford’s textile dominance, showcasing an array of machinery from wool processing to weaving.
The museum celebrates the broader industrial heritage, featuring exhibits on printing, motor vehicles, and engineering.
Visitors can delve into the working conditions of yesteryears, with reconstructed workshops and living quarters, capturing the essence of life during this transformative era.
Bolling Hall, Bradford
Tucked away in Bradford, Bolling Hal is one of the city’s oldest and most cherished architectural treasures. Dating back to the 14th century, this historic edifice has witnessed myriad events, from civil war skirmishes to grand banquets.
Today, it functions as a museum, offering visitors a chance to traverse the corridors of time. Each room meticulously recreates different eras, from the opulence of Georgian decor to the simplicity of the Stuart period.
Haunting ghost tales, whispered amongst locals, add a layer of mystique to the experience.
Boasting period furniture, artefacts, and paintings, Bolling Hall not only celebrates architectural grandeur but also offers a deep dive into Bradford’s rich tapestry of history, culture, and heritage.
Situated in Castleford, Diggerland offers a thrilling adventure quite unlike any other theme park. Here, visitors of all ages get the rare opportunity to operate real-life construction machinery, from towering JCB diggers to dumper trucks, all in a safe and controlled environment.
Children and adults alike can dig, drive, and ride these mechanical marvels, turning childhood sandbox fantasies into reality.
Alongside the hands-on experiences, Diggerland boasts a range of rides and attractions, including the Spindizzy and the Skyshuttle, ensuring adrenaline-pumping fun for the entire family.
Blending education with entertainment, Diggerland provides a unique insight into the world of construction, making it an unmissable destination for both budding builders and thrill-seekers.
Pugneys Country Park, Wakefield
Located in Wakefield, Pugneys Country Park is a serene 250-acre oasis, offering visitors a refreshing break from urban hustle.
Home to two lakes, the park is a haven for water enthusiasts, providing opportunities for sailing, windsurfing, and canoeing.
For those preferring dry land, well-maintained pathways meander through the park, perfect for walking, jogging, or cycling, while offering stunning views of Sandal Castle on the hilltop.
Birdwatchers are in for a treat with the dedicated bird hide overlooking the smaller conservation lake, teeming with diverse avian species.
With children’s playgrounds, picnic areas, and a waterside café, Pugneys is a delightful destination for families and nature lovers alike, showcasing Wakefield’s picturesque side.
Xscape Yorkshire, Castleford
Nestled in Castleford, Xscape Yorkshire stands as a, testament to modern entertainment, merging sports, leisure, and adventure under one colossal roof.
Boasting one of the UK’s premier indoor ski slopes, it offers snow enthusiasts the thrill of skiing and snowboarding regardless of the season.
But the allure doesn’t stop at winter sports; the complex is a brimming with activities, including rock climbing, trampoline parks, go-karting and a cinema.
Diverse dining options and retail outlets further enhance the experience, making Xscape Yorkshire an all-encompassing hub for recreation and relaxation.
Whether it’s the rush of descending a snowy slope or a leisurely movie night, Xscape promises an unparalleled day out in West Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, set in the heart of West Bretton, is a mesmerising blend of natural beauty and outstanding artistry.
Spread across 500 acres of lush parkland, it proudly showcases an ever-evolving collection of sculptures by renowned international artists, from Henry Moore to Ai Weiwei.
The park’s rolling hills, lakes, and woodlands provide a striking backdrop for these dynamic installations, enabling a unique interplay between the art and its environment.
Visitors are invited not only to appreciate the sculptures but to engage with the landscape, making each visit a multisensory experience.
Temple Newsam, Leeds
Situated in Leeds, Temple Newsam stands as a grand testament to Tudor-Jacobean architecture, brimming with centuries of rich history.
This stately home, once the birthplace of Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scots’ ill-fated husband, captivates visitors with its ornate interiors, housing an impressive collection of art and decorative objects.
Beyond its walls, the estate unfolds over 1,500 acres of meticulously manicured gardens, serene woodlands, and working farms.
The grounds are an ever-changing tapestry of seasonal flora, while the farm introduces visitors to a variety of rare breed animals. Merging history, art, and nature, Temple Newsam offers a multifaceted experience, making it a must-visit Leeds attraction for both history enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Piece Hall, Halifax
Stepping into Halifax’s Piece Hall is like journeying back to the Georgian era. This architectural attraction, built in 1779, originally served as a trading centre for handwoven textiles.
With its grand neoclassical design, Piece Hall showcases a vast courtyard surrounded by over 300 individual rooms, once used by cloth merchants.
Today, it stands not only as a testament to Halifax’s textile legacy but has been reimagined as a vibrant cultural and commercial hub.
Housing boutique shops, artisanal eateries, and galleries, it pulsates with contemporary energy while honouring its historic roots. Regular events, from music concerts to art exhibitions, imbue the space with life, making Piece Hall a blend of history, commerce, and cultural dynamism.
Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley
Perched majestically in Keighley, Cliffe Castle Museum transports visitors into the heart of a Victorian adventurer’s journey.
Previously the regal abode of the illustrious Butterfield family, this neo-Gothic structure now stands as a captivating repository of global discoveries.
Every chamber, from the intricate drawing rooms to the illuminated corridors with kaleidoscopic stained glass, resonates with tales of yesteryears. Yet, Cliffe Castle’s allure isn’t confined to its architecture.
Within its walls, treasures spanning continents await — from the mystique of ancient Egypt to the marvels of natural history.
The lovely grounds, punctuated with meticulously curated gardens and whispering fountains, amplify the museum’s charm, making Cliffe Castle a fusion of Keighley’s architectural prowess and nature’s artistry.
Roundhay Park, Leeds
One of Europe’s largest urban parks, Roundhay Park in Leeds encompasses over 700 acres of rolling parkland, serene lakes, and meticulously curated gardens.
Situated to the north-east of the city centre, this expansive green haven is divided into distinct zones that cater to diverse interests.
The park’s two lakes, Waterloo and Upper Lake, invite visitors for tranquil walks, with the latter offering boating opportunities.
The Tropical World attraction, a separate entity within the park, mesmerises with its exotic plants and animals, recreating various global habitats under one roof.
Additionally, the park boasts specialist gardens like the Alhambra and Monet Gardens, paying homage to their namesake’s styles.
With its recreational facilities, and historical significance dating back to the 19th century, Roundhay Park is a top West Yorkshire visitor attraction for families, fitness enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike.
Lotherton Hall, Aberford
Lotherton Hall, situated in the quaint village of Aberford, offers visitors a journey into Edwardian opulence and English history.
Originally the home of the Gascoigne family, this grand Edwardian country house stands surrounded by a sprawling estate that encapsulates the elegance of a bygone era.
Beyond the architectural allure of the hall itself, the grounds boast a range of attractions including a bird garden housing species from around the globe, beautiful formal gardens, and a deer park.
Inside the hall, meticulously curated rooms transport visitors back in time, displaying a rich collection of art, furniture, and personal artefacts.
A mere stone’s throw from Leeds, Lotherton Hall serves as a perfect fusion of history, art, and nature, inviting those keen to step back into a world of aristocratic elegance.
Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, Keighley
Stepping onto the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway is akin to rewinding the clocks and venturing into a bygone era.
Originating in Keighley, this heritage railway line winds through the heart of West Yorkshire’s Brontë Country, offering passengers breathtaking views of the unspoiled Worth Valley landscapes.
Authentic steam locomotives pull vintage carriages, providing an immersive experience reminiscent of the golden age of rail travel.
For film enthusiasts, the railway might evoke memories, as it was prominently featured in the classic film, “The Railway Children”.
A ride on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway offers a nostalgic journey, celebrating the romance and charm of traditional rail adventures.
RSPB Fairburn Ings, Castleford
RSPB Fairburn Ings, located near Castleford, is a true sanctuary for both wildlife and those passionate about the natural world.
This former coal mining site has been transformed into a vibrant wetland reserve, teeming with diverse habitats and wildlife.
Spanning over 700 acres, it boasts a mosaic of lakes, woodland and grassland, providing a refuge for countless bird species, including the iconic kingfisher and the elusive bittern.
With its well-laid paths and hides, visitors can immerse themselves in birdwatching or simply enjoy the serene landscapes. Seasonal highlights, like the winter migration of wildfowl or the summer bloom of wildflowers, ensure that each visit offers a unique experience.
Manor Heath Park and Jungle Experience, Halifax
Manor Heath Park is an expansive space in Halifax, teeming with vibrant flowers and tranquil ponds. It provides a serene backdrop for leisurely walks, picnics, and family outings, while the playground keeps children entertained.
But the real jewel of Manor Heath is the Jungle Experience. Housed within a beautiful glass structure, this tropical haven transports visitors to a world far removed from Yorkshire’s typical climate.
As you step inside, the warm, humid air envelops you, drawing you into a dense, lush environment. Vibrant tropical plants, from towering palms to delicate orchids, thrive here, creating a canopy of greenery.
The sound of cascading water from features within adds to the ambiance, making the experience genuinely immersive.
From the meticulous landscapes of a classic British park to the dense foliage of the tropics, Manor Heath promises a journey of discovery, right in the heart of Halifax – as such it’s a top West Yorkshire visitor attraction.
Saltaire Village, Shipley
Saltaire, positioned gracefully on the banks of the River Aire in West Yorkshire, is a testament to Victorian enterprise and social innovation.
Established in 1853 by Sir Titus Salt, this model village was ingeniously conceived to provide superior living and working conditions for the workers of his large textile mill.
Beyond just bricks and mortar, Saltaire embodies Salt’s progressive vision of uniting industrial advancement with workers’ welfare.
Each building, from the neat rows of stone terraced houses to the grandeur of Salts Mill, reflects a harmonious blend of function and aesthetic.
Recognising its unique historical and cultural significance, UNESCO designated Saltaire as a World Heritage Site in 2001.
An absolute must-visit for anybody searching for things to do in West Yorkshire.
Official West Yorkshire Tourism Site