Leeds is rich in culture and heritage, it’s a vibrant city full of experiences, easy to explore with plenty to be discovered.
Top 14 Things to do in Leeds
For further details on any of the below go to the Visit Leeds website
(1) Breath-taking architecture. Leeds has more listed buildings than any other city outside London. Strolling through the centre you’ll come across the iconic Leeds Town Hall, Leeds Corn Exchange with its awe-inspiring domed roof, Leeds Civic Hall and Leeds Central Library, a gothic masterpiece. Kirkgate Market is one of the most recognisable and best loved landmarks in the city. The majestic Grade I listed building dates back to 1857 and is home to the birthplace of Marks & Spencer, which still has a presence. Leeds is famous for its spectacular Victorian arcades.
(2) World-class performing arts. Leeds is the only English city outside London to have its own resident opera and ballet companies, the internationally renowned and award-winning Opera North and Northern Ballet, and repertory theatre Leeds Playhouse. With some of the finest theatres in the UK there’s a wide range of entertainment; from classical music at Leeds Town Hall and music hall evenings at the City Varieties, to West End plays and musicals at Leeds Playhouse and the beautiful Leeds Grand Theatre.
(3) Phenomenal Food and Drink. The Leeds food and drink scene is thriving; with award-winning eateries, a Michelin star, and a flourishing street food scene. While you can find all your favourite big name restaurants here, it’s the independent venues that make the offering in Leeds one of the country’s best! The love of craft beer and brewing is prevalent in Leeds too; the city is home to a number of independent breweries so be sure to try a local pint or even take a tour to find out more about the process.
(4) Historic Country Houses. For a slice of British history, the city has plenty to offer with a number of nearby historic houses including Lotherton and Temple Newsam. One of the Treasure Houses of England, Harewood House with its Capability Brown designed landscape, is situated only eight miles from Leeds. If you’re a lover of beautiful green spaces then be sure to visit to Kirkstall Abbey. Situated only three miles north-west of the city along the River Aire, Kirkstall Abbey is one of the most complete medieval 12th century Cistercian Abbeys in Britain.
(5) Inspiring Art. Enjoy a day of culture at Leeds’ visual art galleries. Head for the flagship Leeds Art Gallery and discover the best twentieth century collection outside London. Just next door, The Henry Moore Institute is dedicated to celebrating sculpture from across the world. A leading centre for contemporary art, The Tetley is located in the art deco headquarters of the former brewery. The art spills out onto the streets here in Leeds; abstract sculpture and historical figures are among numerous pieces that give Leeds a unique urban landscape.
(6) Parks and Countryside. Leeds is home to a number of parks, including Gotts Park, Golden Acre Park and Middleton Park. Roundhay Park is one of the biggest city parks in Europe with over 700 acres of parkland. Enjoy scenic walks around the lakes and woodlands, then visit the more formal but equally beautiful Canal Gardens. The city is also the perfect base for exploring the wider area and the stunning Yorkshire Dales national park can be reached in just half an hour. Otley Chevin Forest Park has themed walking and mountain bike trails, as well as magnificent views of the Wharfe Valley. Or visit Ilkley for a scenic walk on the famous Ilkley Moor and find the Cow and Calf rocks. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, call into the renowned Bettys Tea Room for some quintessentially English afternoon tea.
(7) Marvellous Museums. History buffs can spend many a happy afternoon in Leeds’ museums. The award-winning Leeds City Museum has six galleries to visit. The Royal Armouries Museum is Britain’s national museum of arms and armour and is home to many treasured objects including Henry VIII’s original armour. Nestled on an island within beautiful riverside surroundings, Thwaite Mills is one of the last remaining examples of a water powered mill in Britain. Experience life as an 18th century worker in the industries which shaped the city at Leeds Industrial Museum, or hop on a train at Middleton Railway; the oldest working railway in the world!
(8) Festival city. Leeds has an enviable line-up of festivals too with more than 75 festivals taking place every year! Light Night is a huge fixture on the calendar, turning the entire city into an art installation, with light shows, projections and installations. Leeds International Film Festival is one of the largest film events in the UK and Leeds Indie Food brings a delicious, two-week celebration of the Leeds independent food and drink scene.
(9) Sporting success. Emerald Headingley Stadium is the home to Leeds Rhinos, Yorkshire Carnegie, and Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Elland Road Football Stadium, the 40,000 capacity home of Leeds United, regularly plays host to some of the world’s biggest sporting names. Both venues offer tours which give exclusive behind the scenes access. The city is also the proud home of Olympic and Paralympic athletes and world-class training facilities for diving and triathletes. In recent years, Leeds has gained a reputation as being THE host city for major international sporting events, having hosted Tour de France, Cricket World Cup and UCI Road World Championships. 2020 sees the return of the AJ Bell World Triathlon Series and, looking forward to 2021, Leeds is a host city for Rugby League World Cup.
(10) Ideally located. You’ll find the city of Leeds in the middle of the UK. Equidistant from London and Edinburgh, the city can be easily reached by road, rail or air. Leeds has its own airport and our neighbour, Manchester Airport, can be reached in just under an hour. The rail network allows direct access from across the country. If you prefer to drive, Leeds is located at the crossroads of the M62 and M1 with the A1/M1 link, so it’s easy to reach at speed from any direction.
(11) A home away from home. With an excellent choice of accommodation in Leeds you’re sure to find a room that is just right for you. Looking for a little luxury? You can find a 4 star retreat in the heart of the city. Dakota Deluxe combines innovative style and exceptional quality to offer a 5 star experience. Quebecs is a Grade II listed 4 star luxury hotel where you can relax in classic, comfortable rooms and enjoy an unforgettable guest experience. Or, if you’re wanting the excellent standards of well-known hotels such as Hilton, Marriott, Radisson Blu, Malmaison, Novotel, Crowne Plaza or The Queens, these can all be found within the city centre. Or escape the city for an indulgent spa break at Oulton Hall, Thorpe Park or Rudding Park.
(12) Nightlife. The Nightlife in Leeds is arguably some of the best in the country! The city has been awarded the Purple Flag Award to show that a night out in Leeds is entertaining, diverse, safe and enjoyable. Whether you’re catching a show at the arena or theatre, enjoying cocktails, singing along to live music, dancing ‘til you drop in a nightclub or soaking up the atmosphere in some of Leeds’ liveliest bars, there’s something for everyone to enjoy!
(13) LGBT+. As well as the annual ‘must not miss’ Leeds Pride, when thousands come to the city for a diverse line up of acts at the UK’s friendliest pride, Leeds’ LGBT+ nightlife also has a great reputation. The Freedom Quarter is a hive of activity with plenty of LGBT+ venues to choose from. The New Penny is one of the UK’s longest running LGBT+ venues, and Leeds oldest gay bar. The award-winning Viaduct Showbar will entertain you seven days a week with cabaret, live shows and DJs while Fibre will have you dancing until the small hours.That’s just the start; other places to check out for a welcoming atmosphere and spectacular array of entertainment are Bridge Inn, Blayds bar, Tunnel Leeds and Queens Court.
(14) Shopping Heaven. Leeds is one of the UK’s best shopping destinations; you’ll find all your favourite high-street names and luxury brands here, but it’s the independent shopping and markets that really sets Leeds apart. Browse the shops is Stunning Victorian arcades and listed buildings.
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Photo credits: 1-3. Leeds City Council, 4. Carl Milner