This city in the heart of the UK may not currently be at the top of your city-break list but we’ve got 10 reasons why it should be.
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.
Far from just being Yorkshire puddings and Yorkshire Tea, the Leeds food and drink scene is thriving; serving up an abundance of diverse dishes and world cuisine, 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 you won’t find anywhere else, 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.
For a slice of British history, the city has plenty to offer with a number of nearby historic houses including Lotherton Hall and Temple Newsam; both boasting picturesque gardens and a grand estate. One of the Treasure Houses of England, Harewood House, is situated only eight miles from Leeds. The Capability Brown designed landscape provides a magnificent backdrop to where the showstopping ITV drama Victoria was filmed, retelling the story of Queen Victoria’s life. Inside, you’ll be blown away by rare Chippendale furniture and jaw-dropping interior designs. 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 and set in a spacious green park along the River Aire, Kirkstall Abbey is one of the most complete medieval 12th century Cistercian Abbeys in Britain.
Leeds has more listed buildings than any other city outside London. The built heritage here is one to marvel at and enjoy when 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 with spectacular staircases and archways and mosaic tiling. Kirkgate Market is without doubt 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 one of Britain’s biggest global brands, Marks & Spencer, which still has a presence. As soon as you enter this impressive Victorian masterpiece you feel alive! There isn’t anywhere like this in the UK. Leeds is famous for its spectacular Victorian arcades – Queens Arcade, Thornton’s Arcade, Grand Arcade and the magnificent Victoria Quarter, all awash with history but each with their own unique atmosphere and identity.
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 and the striking wall painting for the Victorian staircase by Lothar Götz. Just next door, The Henry Moore Institute is dedicated to celebrating sculpture, hosting a programme of historical, modern and contemporary exhibitions presenting 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.
Leeds is home to a number of parks, dotted in and around the edge of the city, 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.
History buffs can spend many a happy afternoon in Leeds’ museums. The award-winning Leeds City Museum has six galleries to visit, including: the Leeds Tiger in the Life on Earth Gallery, the mummy of Nesyammun in the Ancient Worlds Gallery and the history of Leeds in the Leeds Story Gallery. 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!
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.
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.
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.