The name signifies "broken bridge".
Pontefract Castle, dating from the 12th century and now a ruin, is where Richard II was starved to death after being deposed in 1399. Thomas, the Earl of Leicester, was brought here in chains after the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, and beheaded for treason. James I of Scotland was also imprisoned here.
All Saints Church, with its octagonal lantern, was partially destroyed during the Civil War. In the tower is a double spiral staircase.
St. Giles Church was rebuilt in the 17th century, but retains a 14th century arcade.
The Butter Cross was built in 1734, and the Market Place has a pump given by Elizabeth I.
The Hermitage was carved out of stone in the 14th century by Brother Adam de Laythorpe. It has an underground spring.
There is a rececourse nearby.
The town is famous for liquorice confectionery, notably Pontefract cakes.
Sir John Betjeman wrote a poem entitled "In the Liquorice Fields of Pontefract".