During World War II, Hull suffered from an intensity of bombing which made it one of the most heavily blitzed cities in Britain. Air raids fundamentally reshaped the history of the Yorkshire port city. In 2017, 75 years later, Hull's year as UK City of Culture marked another period of change and development. This article explores how one public history project, The Hull Blitz Trail, brought these two moments of urban transformation together, and reflects on some of the benefits and challenges of taking urban history beyond the academy. It outlines how public engagement projects can become more meaningful, more engaging and more ‘impactful’ if we carefully consider the physical and cultural landscape of the city today, as much as the histories themselves. However, combining the urban past and present influences our work in powerful ways, shaping the histories we are able to share, and how we share them.