Tough and uncompromising, Hull is a curmudgeonly English seaport with a proud seafaring tradition. It has long been the principal cargo port of England's east coast, with an economy that grew up around carrying wool out and bringing wine in. It was also a major whaling and fishing port until the trawling industry died out, but it remains a busy cargo terminal and departure point for ferries to the Continent.
Hull has climbed aboard the regeneration bandwagon, but the recession has called a halt to many projects including the East Bank and Fruit Market developments on the waterfront, though at the time of research a new footbridge was being built across the Hull River at Scale Lane.
Meanwhile, the city's attractions include a fine collection of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, several good museums and a world-class aquarium. It's also home to the famous Hull Truck Theatre company, and counts among its famous former residents William Wilberforce (1759−1833), the Yorkshire politician who led the movement to abolish the slave trade; and the quintessentially English poet Philip Larkin (1922−85), who presided over Hull's university library for many years.
A distinctive feature of the city and surrounding area is its old-fashioned telephone boxes, which are cream-coloured rather than red. Hull was the only place in the UK to retain its own municipal phone system after all others were taken over by the Post Office in 1913; the company, now known as Kingston Communications, still provides the local phone service independently of British Telecom.
The train and bus stations – collectively known as Hull Paragon Interchange – sit on the western edge of the city centre; all the main sights are within 20 minutes' walk from here.