Favourite Things: Why Sheffield is the best place to live and study

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Sam Bellagha was born in East London, but spent most of his life living, studying and working in Sheffield.

From a Stocksbridge upbringing thorough to secondary schooling in Hillsborough and time at both of the city’s universities studying law, Sam always considered Sheffield as home. He is now a paralegal working in the private client team at Sheffield’s Wake Smith Solicitors and lives in Aston with his girlfriend, Emily, and spends most of his free time enjoying what the city offers.

24 Feb 2015....Mag feature on Sheffield's Antique's Quarter.Some Oriental-ware in Langton's Antiques and Collectables. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1007/28g

24 Feb 2015....Mag feature on Sheffield's Antique's Quarter.Some Oriental-ware in Langton's Antiques and Collectables. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1007/28g


I spent all of my formative years in Sheffield from starting out at Stocksbridge High School, to studying for my A Levels at Hillsborough College and then my first university degree at Sheffield Hallam University before returning for post-graduate studies at the University of Sheffield so I’ve really got to know what Sheffield offers as an educational city.

The buzz of being surrounded by such a density and wealth of international students from two top universities makes Sheffield one of the best places in the UK to live and study and although some of my friends moved to other cities for university, I never felt I was missing a thing.

architectural gems

I may be slightly different to many, who see Sheffield as an odd place architecturally, but I think it is fascinating. Because much of the city was destroyed during the war, we have got many different layers of architecture to look at.

This ranges from the post-war brutalist style of Park Hill Flats, to the well executed Heart of the City development including the Winter Garden and stylish modern offices, to some of the remaining pre-war opulence that can be seen in buildings such as Abbeydale Picture House and further back to the ‘little mesters’ works that can still be discovered in Butchers Works on Arundel Street. One of my favourite architectural gems is hidden in plain sight on Cambridge Street, the stunning red-brick facades and ornate rooftops above the shops are a delight but because most people are only looking at street level.

independent cinemas

Another great part of Sheffield for me is its independent cinema offering.

Not many cities have independent cinemas and places like the Showroom Cinema, Abbeydale Picture House and my favourite, Curzon Cinema, which is tucked away between Chapel Walk and George Street right in the city centre in an old bank building, are not only amazing and informal venues, but they provide opportunities to view films which are outside of the mainstream blockbusters.


Sheffield is a treasure trove of curiosities and I love nothing more than taking time at the weekend to explore and see what we can find.

This stems from my childhood when I would accompany my dad as he trawled around the antique shops on Abbeydale Road and we would spend hours rummaging through all of the old bits and pieces to find something interesting or essential like a vintage door lock or an old clock for the house. Nowadays, the antiques shops have spread out from Abbeydale Road and there is a whole tour of the antiques quarter to be done so Emily and I can often be found there whiling away our Sunday mornings.


You are never far from the great, green outdoors in Sheffield, whether you are passing one of the city’s parks or venturing out into the Peak District, it is an option that most Sheffielders embrace. I love to go out walking around the Derwent and Ladybower Dams in the Peak District, it is breathtaking and not to be missed, particularly as autumn takes over and all of the trees come into colour. I also love the parks and have started to do Saturday morning Park Runs at Rother Valley Country Park which is near our home, so I feel very fortunate to have so many options on my doorstep.


I couldn’t finish without mentioning the fact that Sheffield is simply food heaven.

There are so many restaurants to choose from, we really are spoilt for choice, but it is not a complaint. London Road is a multi-cultural foodie heaven and I enjoy trying new cuisines whenever we venture that way. If I was to pick a favourite place, I’d be hard pressed to miss Mama’s and Leonies on Norfolk Street. I love the atmosphere and the food is perfectly authentic.