Leeds is a major city, but one with a warm heart. It has a renowned indoor market and some of the finest shops in the north.
It played an immense part in helping to create the wealth that made Britain “great” during the Industrial Revolution but has continued to move with the times and is now an important base for the financial, manufacturing and creative sectors. And it has a wealth of cultural and leisure activities – something to appeal to just about everyone.
There’s its famous nightlife, with – arguably – the best club scene outside London.
There’s an amazingly vibrant cultural milieu – with Opera North based at the city’s Grand Theatre, Jongleurs – the Leeds branch of the Comedy Club, the City Varieties Music Hall (which doesn’t just do “The Good Old Days” but also a variety of pop, rock, folk, cabaret, comic, and other performers), and the West Yorkshire Playhouse And there are art galleries, museums, and some of the finest historic houses in the country.
There’s a whole range of pop and rock music venues – large and small. The Who recorded “Live in Leeds” at the University’s Refectory, and many other world class acts come to Leeds. And there’s the Leeds Festival – a three-day outdoor concert.
Jazz fans have several venues too, including the Wardrobe.
For classical music aficionados there’s Opera North at the Grand Theatre, open air summer concerts at Harewood House, the classical concert season at Leeds Town Hall, and throughout the year the Leeds College of Music holds a wide range of events.
The West Yorkshire Playhouse is where Lenny Henry made his theatrical début in Othello, and it puts on the “classics” as well as the works of new playwrights. The Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House specialises in family entertainment with West End and Broadway musicals. And there’s the Northern Ballet Theatre, the Phoenix Dance Theatre, and many other venues for performance art.
For museum buffs, there’s the Royal Armouries – a “must see” experience for anyone interested in our heritage. There’s the Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, which provides an insight into what made Leeds – and Britain – great in the 18th and 19 centuries. And there’s the Leeds City Museum, the Horsforth Village Museum, the Thackray Museum, and many more.
If your idea of a good day out is wandering around a historic house and its grounds, then Leeds has some of the best. Harewood House, home to the Earl & Countess of Harewood with stunning grounds, award-winning gardens, a planetarium, some of the finest architecture in the north, and a superb collection of Chippendale furniture.
Or there’s Temple Newsam House and Park – a Tudor-Jacobean mansion with gorgeous collections of old masters, furniture, pottery and ceramics and set out in 900 acres of parkland designed by Capability Brown.
Or there’s Lotherton Hall, an Edwardian country home and Bramham House and Gardens – built by the 1st Lord Bingley in 1698.
There are several waymarked walks in and around Leeds, including the 62-mile circular Leeds Country Way – which takes the walker round the rural outskirts of the city, yet never more than seven miles from the City Square in the centre of Leeds. There’s also the Transpennine Way – for both walkers and cyclists, and the tow-path of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, plus an extension of the Dales Way which leads towards Ilkley and Windermere.
And, when you get hungry, there are some excellent restaurants and cafés.
Interesting fact: The Middleton Railway in Hunslet in Leeds, is the world’s oldest working railway.
Things to see and do.
The Royal Armouries
Leeds Indoor Market
West Yorkshire Playhouse
Temple Newsam House and Park
The Middleton Railway
Leeds Industrial Museum
Leeds and Liverpool Canal
London is known for its nightlife scene and Leeds, though not as active as London, has taken its cue from this popular city. There are a number of bars and clubs in Leeds, and there is an emphasis on highlighting the underground local music popular in the area. Travelers interested in getting the full Leeds experience, especially the part making up the youth culture of the area, should make it a point to check out some of the following places:
Brudenell Social Club is a place where visitors can hear live local bands. Hidden in Leeds university grounds, very popular with students.
Cockpit is massively popular with students. Regular alternative club nights and plenty of gigs. Worth a visit for cheap drinks and there aren’t many bars hidden under railway bridges these days.
If you’ve never been to a pub that’s also a boat and is nowhere near a river then Dry Dock is your place. They do fab pub food and there’s usually deals on drinks. Tuesdays are probably the busiest night of the week but then they’re also the cheapest.
Joseph’s Well is a live music bar popular with University of Leeds students. A bit of a trek from the city centre, but there are usually good punk gigs etc on here.
If you fancy somewhere a little bit different Fab Cafe is a good call. Hidden away in plain sight, it’s has all sorts of film/tv memorabilia. There’s always a cult film on and you can buy retro sweets too.
Call Lane One of the most popular areas in the city and home to plenty of trendy bars. It’s a bit on the expensive side but worth a visit. You can find something to suit pretty much any music taste. Headingley Home to students from both Leeds Uni and Leeds Met Headingley is a bit of a mixed bag. There are plenty of cheap studenty bars and a few up-market cocktail bars too. The Box is usually a good call, although it gets ridiculously busy on weekends.
Another good place to try is Arcadia it’s a bit small inside but there’s a good selection of beers and ciders. In summer, The Original Oak has a massive beer garden where you can chill out and watch whatever sport happens to be on and tuck into a good bbq.
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