Hull 2017: £25m revamp plans for City of Culture
Hull City Council said the first phase of £13m would "maximise our city's unique character and heritage".
The scheme could lead to a £25m improvement to streets and public places in total, the council said.
It hopes to increase retail turnover by £70 million and see 500 new jobs over 10 years. The work will begin in the autumn.
Landmarks across the city, such as Holy Trinity Church, are to be illuminated with special LED lights to create what is described as "sculptures in the sky".Act of defiance
A memorial to the dead of the Second World War is also planned for the city's Paragon Station.
New street-level fountains are to be installed in Queen Victoria Square. Plans have also been announced to move the Wilberforce monument, commemorating the city's anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce, to the square.
The Beverley Gate, where King Charles I was refused entry to Hull in 1642 as an act of defiance by the governor of the city that helped trigger the English Civil War, is to be re-created with an illuminated "apparition" at the gate's historical location.
Under the plans, King Edward Street would become traffic free.
Councillor Steven Bayes said: "City centre improvements are essential in Hull. We need to raise our game."