As part of the landscaping, King Edward Street will be pedestrianised and Queen Victoria Square will get street-level fountains.
Public art will acknowledge the history of Beverley Gate, where King Charles I was refused entry to Hull in 1642, an act of defiance that helped trigger the English Civil War.
One of Hull's most famous sons, rock guitarist Mick Ronson, will be celebrated with a performance stage in Queens Gardens. Also in Queens Gardens, a removable stage over the pond will be created for events and festivals.
Throughout the city centre, LED lighting will create ‘sculptures in the sky’ as architecture is illuminated on the skyline, the council says.
It is hoped that work will begin in autumn 2014.
Councillor Steven Bayes said: "City centre improvements are essential in Hull. As a city, we need to raise our game in terms of delivering the ambitions of the City Plan and preparing for our time as City of Culture, starting in 2017.
"However, getting it right is key. Providing public spaces that are enjoyable, convenient, accessible and safe for the people that use them is vital. People's needs - our residents, our businesses and the hundreds of thousands of visitors we expect to welcome to Hull city centre during 2017 and beyond - must be at the heart of all our improvements to public spaces.
"Today's public realm strategy proposals provide a clear route to help us unlock the potential of this great city and to cement Hull's position as City of Culture 2017 and a world-class visitor destination."