Crowds were a dozen deep in places around Sheffield Cathedral, with people clambering on to walls, railings and bins in an attempt to get the best view.
People cheered and waved Union Jacks as the royal party arrived around 11am.
The Queen was accompanied on her visit to Sheffield by the Duke of Edinburgh.
She arrived in the city at Sheffield railway station, where she was greeted by Lord Lieutenant of Sheffield David Moody.
After the service at Sheffield Cathedral they attended a civic lunch at the Town Hall.
Many people had waited hours to get a good view of the royals as they visited the city.
The first to arrive, at 6.40am, was 71-year-old Hazel Wright, from Ecclesall.
Mrs Wright, a member of the choir at All Saints Church in Ecclesall, said she has waited all her life to see a member of the Royal Family.
A 90-year-old member of her church has been invited to attend today’s special service at the cathedral, where the Queen will hand out silver coins - known as Royal Maundy - to South Yorkshire pensioners.
Mrs Wright said: “I am very excited to be here because I have never seen the Queen or any member of the Royal Family before, so I thought I had better get up early and get my place.
“I got up at 5am but it was worth it to be able to get so close to the cathedral to get a good view of her.”
Isabelle Sheriff, 18, from Elsecar, Barnsley, was one of the first spectators to arrive.
The Longley Park Sixth Firm Centre student said: “I only found out about the visit at 11pm last night when my sister told me the Queen was coming so it was all a bit last minute but I decided to get up early to try and see her, and left home at 5.10am.
“It’s easier than going all the way to London.”
Among those in the crowd were Martin and Jenny Coward, who had travelled from Surrey.
They were there as Martin’s mother Jean Coward, 89, was among the pensioners receiving Maundy money from the Queen.
Jean, from Doncaster, was nominated for the honour as a thank you for being a stalwart at her church in the village of Askern.
They said they had managed to get a glimpse of the Queen arriving and it was a ‘great honour’ for Martin’s mother to be among those getting the money.
Kathryn Wileman, from Rotherham, was there with her 20-month-old son Henry.
They were there in support of Henry’s great-grandfather Alf Wileman, another of the pensioners meeting the Queen today.
Mr Wileman, 87, has been in The Salvation Army’s Sheffield band for nearly 70 years and has spent many years mentoring young people through his musical talent and spiritual guidance as the Junior Band Leader at Sheffield Citadel.
Kathryn said her grandfather was ‘absolutely delighted’ to have been selected for the honour.
She said she hoped Henry would have good memories of the day when he is older.
“It is the story behind it, to be able to say we were here and we saw the Queen,” she said.
Also in the crowd were parents Matt and Kelly Wooller, from Dronfield, whose son Alex was born on the same day as Prince George.
They also brought along their neighbours’ daughter Eden Kus, six.
Matt said: “We have never seen the Queen and she has not been to Sheffield for a few years.”
Kelly added: “With Alex being born on the same day as Prince George, we thought it would be really nice to see her.”
Mishal Zaheer, 27, from India, who is studying construction at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “It is a once in lifetime opportunity. She is one of the most iconic women in the world.”
Denise Hibbard, who works on Campo Lane, said: “It’s a really good turn out, this might be the last chance we ever get to see the Queen in Sheffield.”
Student Ben Allsop, 21, arrived in the city centre with a pal at 7.30am complete with deck-chairs and a flask of tea.
“I’ve got tremendous respect for the Queen really, we wanted to come out and see her for real. She’s not getting any younger either,” he said.
“From what I gather she’s never done the Maundy Thursday service in Sheffield so it’s a special occasion for everyone.
“We had no idea how busy it would be which is why we got here so early.”
Cassie Mohney, 25, from Michigan and Carolyn Spelt, 22, from Canada, who are both studying at the University of Sheffield, were among the first to bag a spot outside the cathedral.
Cassie said: “We got here at about 7.30. It’s just the British experience really. If the Queen is going to make the effort to come to Sheffield then we can definitely get out of bed early to come and see her.”
Julia McCarthy-Fox, 50, her friend Jim Fairman, 69 and Julia’s Godson Charlie, four, travelled from Sussex for a glimpse of the Royal party.
“We go to quite a few Maundy Thursday services and we go and see the Queen a lot,” said Julia,
“I think if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to do it properly.”
Anne and Peter Grant, from, Hillsborough, arrived at the cathedral at 8am.
Mrs Grant, 57, said: “It’s the first time I’ll have seen the Queen but Peter worked for the river police in London for 31 years so he’s seen her a fair few times.
“I think it’s a great occasion. People don’t realise the significance of the occasion which is a shame really. I just think people don’t appreciate how special this is.”
Following the service, the Queen and Prince Philip were flanked by members of the King’s Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard, in full red uniform.
Members of the 148 Barnsley Squadron Air Cadets, who had earlier formed a guard of honour on the Queen’s arrival, again stood outside the cathedral.
Watching with pride was Susan Richmond, who son Samuel, 14, was taking part. He began the day assisting at the Meadowhall tram station before forming the guard of honour.
She said: “I’m very proud of him. He was a little bit nervous but he was full of smiles.”
The Queen collected flowers from children before driving to Sheffield Town Hall, where the Royal couple were due to have lunch with civic dignitaries and invited guests.
The crowd burst into spontaneous applause as the couple waved as they drove away from the Cathedral.
Outside the Town Hall large crowds greeted the couple once again, including Claire Rose, 31, of Sheffield, and her sons Benjamin, nine and Joshua, eight.
Mrs Rose, a former forces’ medic, met the Queen in 2003 at a remembrance service for those who died in the Iraq War.
She said: “I’ve met the Queen before and wanted the boys to see her, It’s nice for the children to know about their heritage.”
Many of those outside Sheffield Cathedral were members of the same church as those chosen to receive the Royal Maundy.
David Hopkin, rector of Penistone Church, nominated deputy church warden Fred Etherington, 77, of Penistone.
Mr Hopkin said: “Fred has done a lot of work over the years for the church and very much deserved it. He takes tours to Belgium and France to visit war graves, and that is why he was chosen. He not only takes tours, but comes back and speaks to children in schools and his experiences.
“We’re very proud of him, and just wish we could be in there with him.”
Also from Penistone Church was Margaret Rothwell of Holmfirth. She was also in the crowds when the Queen distributed the Royal Maundy at Wakefield Cathedral in 2005.
She said: “I am a royalist and very happy to be here.”
Jan Travis, a member of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, in Barnby Dun, Doncaster, come to see two of her church members receive the coins.
She said: “The Queen looked lovely, and we saw the people we know go in.”
Pamela Hodgson, from Beauchief Abbey church in Sheffield, came along as a retired canon minister from the Abbey, Trevor Page, was among the recipients.
She said: “It’s wonderful to be here to celebrate the Queen, in her 89th years. We saw her very briefly and we’re looking forward to seeing the Maundy Money when our friends come out.”
The crowds were full of families, many grandparents who brought their grandchildren to witness the event.
Kent and Victoria Holroyd, of Hackenthorpe, brought their six-year-old daughter Poppy along.
At the age of nine, Mr Holroyd had waited for eight hours in the pouring rain to see the Queen when she visited the city in 1978, and wanted his daughter to have the same experience.
“I think it is great that the royal family are growing in popularity again,” he said. “We can rely on them, they are always there, steadfast. She’s brilliant, the Queen.”
Margaret and Peter Marsh from Woodseats came along with granddaughters Emily, seven, and Daisy, four.
Mr Marsh first saw the Queen outside Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground in the 1950s.
He said: “When you have grandchildren, you see the life through their eyes. It’s something for them to remember.”
Mrs Marsh likened the atmosphere to that of the Olympic Torch relay, which the couple witnessed in a soggy Dorset while on holiday.
She added: “This has been a great opportunity for the grandchildren.”
Among those to receive the Maundy coins was D-Day veteran Denis Gratton, 91, from Sheffield.
He said: “It was just quick. I’m not very good at hearing. She did say something but I’m not sure what it were.”
Patricia Durkin, 72, said: “It was brilliant, absolutely wonderful. When I got here the atmosphere was tremendous.”
Police chiefs cancelled holidays to ensure there were enough officers on duty today.
They also drafted in officers from others forces to boost numbers.
Chief Superintendent David Hartley, District Commander for Sheffield, said: “We are currently unable to put a figure on the cost of today’s policing operation; this will take some time to work out.
“As we have known about the Royal visit for some time, we have been able to plan in advance to ensure the cost to South Yorkshire Police is kept to a minimum.
“We have achieved this by cancelling weekly leave and rest days and utilising as many of our own resources as possible, including volunteer special constables.
“Mutual aid from other forces and specialist search functions will have a cost implication but it is important to recognise this is a wonderful event for the city and we are proud to host the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.”