Yesterday the news broke that my hometown, formerly top of crappiest places to live in the UK, was now in the top ten of world cities to visit in 2016, according to Rough Guides.
Puzzled? Yes. Proud? Undoubtedly. This is a city in which you can actually buy t-shirts branded with the phrase, “Come to Hull, it’s not shit anymore”, and what’s more – they speak the truth.
Yes, there was a time in which Hull was crap. I’m not sure it was so crap it deserved to be listed as one of the worst places to live, but for sure, as a university student in 2007 I was keen to see the back of the place each time my train pulled out of the station. Now, I have friends that visit from elsewhere in the world and I actually enjoy showing them around, albeit selectively.
There’s no doubting the fact that Hull has improved. No, not improved. Transformed. Completely. We’ve gone from a city not even deserving of a Starbucks to one hosting regular cultural events, world-famous festivals and theatre linked with the biggest industry names in London. And we’ve barely started. Next year sees our City of Culture status kick off, with 365 days of tourist-inviting programmes planned, incorporating everything from dance, drama and spoken word to the most unusual of artforms. But does that mean we’re really one of the best cities to visit in the world?
At first I was dubious. I heard the news, read the article and considered the other big names. There’s no mention of Sydney, New York, Tokyo or any other places which frequently top tourist travel lists. What we have is a list of cities deserving of new attention. And that’s what travel is about. Go to any backpacking hostel in the world and you’ll find people in search of the true taste of a place, ready to discover hidden gems and authentic experiences. Can Hull offer that? Damn right it can. The article mentions the atmospheric pubs and the cobbled streets of the Old Town, and quite honestly, I can imagine being a stranger not only to Hull, but to the UK, and sitting with a pint in a unique little pub, feeling like I’d found somewhere really pretty cool. Hull really does offer that feeling so many backpackers seek out in their travels. Not all travelling is about ticking off world famous sites. Much more of it is down to chatting with locals, seeing where they spend their evenings and sampling the local beer, plus a good portion of fish and chips while you’re here. You wouldn’t have to spend long in Hull before a resident offered you their life story, and you wouldn’t have to travel far to hear the stories behind the city’s heritage. Plus, you’ll get more change from a tenner at a bar than you will anywhere else in the country, and cost of visiting is one of the most considered aspects of travelling for most Rough Guide readers.
So if you read that article and felt like the Rough Guides writers had gone slightly mad, take a second look. Compare Hull to Amsterdam (which you can conveniently get the ferry to from Hull’s port), Nashville and Wroclaw, and ask whether it still doesn’t make any sense. Of course, the only way to really judge a place is to go there, so come and see for yourself. There’ll be plenty of people happy to show you around.
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