Saltaire has many fascinating things to do and see. Saltaire is a UNESCO world heritage site located in West Yorkshire in England. Saltaire was built in 1851 by a Victorian philanthropist, Sir Titus Salt. He built this model village with a working mill, houses, shops, a church, a community centre and a school for his workers on the banks of the River Aire. This ambitious project has created a picturesque industrial village with plenty of things for visitors to see during their trip to Saltaire. Whether you are intrigued by the giant Salts Mill, would like to get lost in one of the UK’s prettiest book shops or just want to wonder through Robert’s park, there is plenty to do in Saltaire. Here is a list of 10 things to do and see in Saltaire, Yorkshire.
- Explore Salts Mill
- Admire the Victorian Houses
- Find the Italian church
- Stroll around Robert’s park
- Eat vegan food at the Willow Tree Café
- Support the local zero-waste shop
- Buy a souvenir from Radstudio
- Treat yourself to a Yorkshire baked good
- Enjoy one of the UK’s most picturesque book shops
- Saltaire boat trip
Explore Salts Mill
You cannot visit Saltaire without visiting Salts Mill. This huge former mill dominates the Saltaire skyline. Its huge chimneys can be seen from the village and the park. Salts Mill used to be a textile mill until it was closed in the late 20th century.
Salts Mill was built by Sir Titus Salt in 1853. After seeing the appalling living conditions in the sooty city of Bradford, he decided to build his mill on the outskirts next to the river Aire. This also meant he had easy access to the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Hence the village of Salt-Aire was born.
Whilst the looms now lay silent the mill is still a hive of activity. Visitors can explore the vast space which now houses an art gallery, gift shops, book shops and cafes.
The art gallery in Salts Mill houses paintings from the local artist David Hockney.
Salts Mill is free to visit and open 7 days a week.
Admire the Victorian Houses
Another delightful thing to do in Saltaire is to admire the Victorian houses. When Sir Titus built his huge mill, he needed to house his workers. He built enough houses to accommodate his work force and different houses were allocated according to the mill hierarchy. Managers were given larger houses than the cottages given to the workers. Sir Titus also built a community hall and a school. The Victorian village is now internationally recognised as a world heritage site. Strolling around admiring the Victorian architecture is one of the nicest things to do in Saltaire.
See if you can spot the Saltaire lions or the street named after the founder himself Titus Street.
Find the Italian Church
An unlikely find in a Yorkshire village is an Italian church! Well, the church was built in an Italian style between the years of 1856 and 1859. The religious building of Saltaire cost a total of £16000 at the time.
The ornate Saltaire church was designed to appear as a temple with Corinthian colums. Whilst it may look small from Victoria Street, the church can seat 600 people. Sir Titus insisted on building a religious building in his model village. He said it would be the focal point to ensure that the spiritual needs of his workers were catered for. Sir Titus himself now lays in a mausoleum which was added after his death.
This grade I listed building is now a popular wedding venue in West Yorkshire.
Stroll around Robert’s Park
Another pretty site to see in the village of Saltaire is Robert’s park. Robert’s park in Saltaire is a public park just to the north of the river Aire. The park is 14 acres and attracts many visitors.
In Victorian times, ladies would promenade through the upper gardens and cricket games would take part on the lawn.
Nowadays visitors can still walk through those gardens and watch cricket games as well as admire the old bandstand, see the statue of Sir Titus and even find an alpaca?! There is a lovely little café, called the half moon café, from which you can admire the park and watch children climb up the alpaca. The café has a nice selection of drinks and even a couple of vegan cakes!
Eat Vegan Food at the Willow Tree Café
To fuel your site seeing around Saltaire, you will need to stop for a spot of brunch or lunch. There are many lovely restaurant and cafe options around the Victorian Town of Saltaire but one particularly nice spot is the Willow Tree Café. This 100% vegan café can be found on Kirkgate to the south of the Saltaire village. The menu at the Willow Tree Café changes weekly but you can be sure the owners will be serving up delicious food whatever week you go! For breakfast, go for either the full vegan English or the fluffy pancakes. If your visit to the Willow Tree Café in Saltaire is a little bit later there will be a range of mains such as burgers, wraps, ‘fish’ etc. The light airy café is a wonderful place to relax before you tick off all the things to do in Saltaire!
Click here to check out this vegan guide to Saltaire.
Support the Saltaire zero-waste shop
There are many wonderful shops in Saltaire full of hidden trinkets. One recent addition to Saltaire is the zero-waste section in Giddy Arts. Upon entering the quirky shop your nose is filled with the aroma of good quality coffee. It turns out this shop is very multi-functional with coffee, art and a zero-waste shop! Head down the stairs to discover Saltaire’s zero waste shop. There are a wide range of zero-waste goodies on offer. Visitor can bring their own tubs and glasses or buy containers at the shop to fill with the various goods on offer. The owner proudly stated that they have had an overwhelming positive response from the zero-waste shop. So if you need to fill up on any household goods, fancy purchasing reusable folding cloths or treating yourself to some tasty vegan chocolate, head to Giddy Art’s zero-waste section.
If you care about zero-waste travel, check out this post about our stay at a vegan and zero-waste B&B in the Lake District national park.
Buy a souvenir from Radstudio
Another thing to do in Saltaire is to find a souvenir so you can remember your visit to Saltaire! Victoria Road is dotted with lots of cute independent shops. Radstudio is one of these quirky shops in Saltaire.
Radstudio describes themselves as a “design led shop offering modern, fun and functional gifts and homewares, carefully selected from inspiring designers all over the world.”
Radstudio is located just a short walk from the train station and even overlooks Salts Mill. There is a huge range of colourful products. Plenty of which are ideal as gifts or souvenirs! The owner wanted to create a gift shop which was a little different to the standard village gift shop. Indeed, the shop has an almost Scandinavian feel to it. Spend a little while browsing and deciding what you or a friend would like as a treat from Saltaire.
Enjoy one of the UK’s most picturesque book shops
Book lovers will fall in love with Salts Mill’s book shop. This vast book shop is one of the UK’s most picturesque book shops.
“When asked to think of a bookshop, most of us are likely to conjure up an ineffable sense of calm and cosiness, a general notion of wisdom and aspiration, rather than an actual place.”Sian Cain, Writer for the Guardian
The Salts Mill book shop is huge. The books are forever changing making this a wonderful, light-filled space to browse the books on offer. Salts Mill book shop pride themselves on their variety of topics from philosophy and cooking to gardening and mindfulness. There are also plenty of fiction books and a fun children’s section.
The Salts Mill book shop is open daily from 10:00 to 5:30pm.
Treat yourself to a Yorkshire baked good from Salts Bakery
To sample some of Yorkshire’s traditional baked goods stop off at Salts village bakery. You can either grab something tasty for now or to take home to enjoy later. There are also plenty of vegan options at Salts Village Bakery. There are vegan sandwich fillings on offer, a vegan sausage role and also a tasty vegan Thai bake full of spicy goodness. So go on and treat yourself during your trip to Saltaire!
Enjoy a relaxing boat trip
If your trip to Saltaire falls between the months of April to October add a boat trip to the list of your things to do in Saltaire. The Saltaire boat trip is a relaxing 30-minute cruise along the Leeds-Liverpool canal.
For just £4 per passenger you can hop on the narrowboat Titus for a cruise. Owners say there is no need to book, you can just turn up on the canal side close to Salts Mills. The boat tours run between 11am and 5pm. The boat itself has a comfortable cabin and a covered deck enabling you to take photographs of Saltaire without your camera getting wet!
What would you like to do in Saltaire?
Have you been inspired to visit Saltaire? There are many amazing things to do and see in Yorkshire!
If you are an outdoor lover, the Yorkshire Dales national park is just half an hour from Saltaire. There are plenty of crowd-free hikes to explore. You could easily spend a weekend in West Yorkshire by exploring Saltaire on the Saturday and hiking in the Dales on the Sunday!
What would you like to do in Saltaire from this top 10 things to do in Saltaire list? Let us know in the comments below!