Leicester

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Leicester [1] is the largest city in the East Midlands region of England, the largest city of the ceremonial and historic county of Leicestershire, with a population of some 330,000 in the city area and nearly 500,000 in the metropolitan area.

Understand[edit]

Leicester is one of the oldest English cities, having been founded by the Romans as Ratae Corieltauvorum in 50 CE. Unusually for a British industrial city, much of its Roman and Medieval history is still visible today in the restored old town. Leicester is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United Kingdom and is Britain's first environment city. Leicester has grown rapidly throughout the centuries and is now a cosmopolitan city with friendly people from all races, backgrounds and cultures, creating a culturally diverse city where the 2015 reburial of King Richard III catapulted it to international fame.

Get in[edit]

By road[edit]

  • Leicester is adjacent to the M1 Motorway, allowing speedy road access from London.
  • The M69 motorway provides good access from the south of the city at M1 junction 21 towards Coventry and Birmingham.
  • For non-motorised road users, there is good access to the city for cyclists, from all points of the compass.
  • First-time visitors to the city coming by car may find the inner ring road and associated one-way system a little daunting, but no more so than in other old English cities. Plan your journey in advance, be patient, and look for signposts for the many car-parks close to the city centre. Alternatively, use one of the Park and Ride services (see below under 'Bus') to access the city centre without the hassle of driving into the urban core.

By train[edit]

Leicester is on the main London to Leeds rail route with most services operated by East Midlands Trains [2] from St Pancras International station. There are up to four trains to and from the capital every hour. Most journeys to the capital are under 90 minutes, with express services under an hour. There are also direct services to Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby, Cambridge and Birmingham. Leicester is well-connected to regional airports via the railway. Direct services operate to Stansted Airport [3], East Midlands Parkway for East Midlands Airport [4] and Luton Airport Parkway for London Luton Airport [5]. Whilst Leicester does not have an extensive suburban rail network, there are services which connect the city to the county, with services to stations along the main lines to Loughborough, Hinckley and Market Harborough.

As with all British trains, an open return valid for one month bought on the day of travel is only marginally more expensive than a single ticket. Tickets bought in advance are often significantly cheaper. Train passengers are entitled to discounts for local bus travel in many British cities [6]. A PlusBus ticket can be purchased simultaneously with the train ticket online or at the station, including at some ticket vending machines.

Leicester station is ten minutes' walk from the centre of the city, and another five minutes from the main coach station (St Margaret's Bus Station).

By plane[edit]

  • The city is close to East Midlands Airport [7] and a drive should not take much longer than 30 minutes depending on the traffic situation. The airport is served by a 24/7 SkyLink bus from St Margaret's Bus Station in Leicester city centre (timetable [8]). A taxi is about £30 one way.
  • Birmingham International Airport is within a 45 minute to 1 hour drive from Leicester. It can be reached by train - a ticket to Birmingham is valid for Birmingham International station at Birmingham airport as well [9] - or by coach [10]
  • Stansted and Luton airports are linked directly to Leicester by regular train services (see links to CrossCountry and East Midlands Trains above).
  • Manchester Airport can be reached by train, with a change at Sheffield; Gatwick Airport can be reached by train changing at Luton, Bedford or London [11]
  • Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Birmingham airports can also be reached by direct 24/7 National Express coach services [12]
  • There is a small airfield (Leicester Airport) for small private planes at the east of the city.

By bus[edit]

National Express [13] coaches arrive into St Margarets Bus station, a short walk from the city centre. There are regular services to and from London, Birmingham and Nottingham where connections are available to most of the UK, as well as EuroLines [14] services to continental Europe.

Megabus [15] connects Leicester with London and from there to other British cities, as well as Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. However, be aware that their bus stop is not in the city centre.

Get around[edit]

  • All city centre locations are easily reachable within walking distance.
  • The city supports an extensive bus network. Services are operated mainly by First Leicester and Arriva. First Leicester services cover the more local (city) destinations, those operated by Arriva can also be useful for reaching areas just outside Leicester, as well as city destinations. First Services leave from a variety of points in the city centre; most Arriva services depart from St Margarets Bus Station.
  • Stagecoach run a regular service (Route 48) from St Margaret's Bus Station to Hinckley and Coventry
  • There are services operated by other companies: some are one-route-only operators; you may find that a different company will run the same service on a Sunday (or during evenings) to the day-time operator.
  • You will generally be able to get advice on bus travel from St Margaret's Bus Station.
  • You will find stops for most services in the City Centre streets. Keep an eye out for timetables which will advise you of the correct stops for each service - each bus stop has an alphanumeric code for ease of identification.
  • Bus tickets are not interchangeable between different companies, however, there are day tickets for each operator which will significantly reduce the cost of travel if you make more than one bus journey. Ask the bus driver for advice. Fares are expensive for very short journeys, but can be remarkable value if travelling to the suburbs or further.
  • There are Park & Ride services that operate Monday-Saturday from three locations - Meynells Gorse near Braunstone Crossroads (leave the M1 Northbound at junction 21A and follow the signposts for P+R), Enderby near the Leicestershire Police Headquarters (access from the B4114 via M1/M69 junction 21 and follow the signposts for P+R), or Birstall (take the A6 exit from the A46 and follow the signposts for P+R). Each serves the city centre with a reliable, regular, fast service from a large car park. Prices are very good value, particularly if travelling with family (£3.50 for parking and return bus for up to five people [2016]), however you MUST be a car user to use the park and ride services.
  • Cycling in and around Leicester is generally pleasant with there being a good road network and generally well-mannered car and bus drivers. Previous city council policies have led to the development of well signposted, well designed cycle-tracks: some of these are now in need of repair and upkeep, but the network remains and many additional paths have been added in recent years. Sustrans Route 6 bisects the city North/South, with Route 63 going north-west toward Charnwood Forest.
  • The city centre Bike Park provides a handy place to park your bike with complete security during the week. The Bike Park is situated to the right of the Town Hall (in Town Hall Square) right in the city centre. The friendly staff can help with repairs and local knowledge. There are changing facilities here if you require them.
  • Remember that Leicester is effectively in a 'bowl', so whichever way you enter the city (except along the river/canal) you are likely to have to climb to leave it! As a cyclist you may wish to avoid routes leading directly to the local M1 junctions (21, 21A, and 22) as these carry heavy and fast motor traffic, although off-road cycle paths with light-controlled cycle crossings are available around these major junctions.
  • There is free signposted motorcycle parking in the city centre, along Abbey Street and behind the Town Hall.

See[edit][add listing]

  • St Nicholas' church [16] is the oldest (over 1200 years) place of Christian worship in Leicester. Open for visitors every Saturday, 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm, as well as for worship - see their website for details. The Jewry Wall, the largest piece of standing Roman masonry in the UK, abuts the Church building to the South.
  • St. Mary de Castro [17] is one of the most ancient buildings in Leicester (from the early 12th century). The name means "St Mary of the Castle". It stands on the grounds of Leicester Castle, from which it gets its name and of which it was once the chapel. The Church is open Monday to Friday 12.00 pm - 2.00 pm and Saturday 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm outside of worship times. It stands opposite the Great Hall of the Castle and the Tudor judges' lodging where the Assize judges stayed. Nearby is Rupert's Gateway and the 14th century Magazine Gateway, and Trinity Hospital Chapel founded in the 1330s to care for the poor and infirm of the city.
  • Leicester Cathedral, the Church of St Martin, became the cathedral in 1927 when the diocese of Leicester was restored after almost 800 years. You can see the tomb of King Richard III here. He was ceremonially reburied in 2015 after his remains were uncovered buried beneath a car park nearby. Admission to the cathedral is free. [18]
  • The King Richard III visitor centre is an award-winning exploration of the life and time of the last Plantagenet king of England, and the story of the rediscovery of his remains beneath a Leicester Car Park. Open Monday to Sunday 10.00-16.00, Saturdays 10.00-17.00. Admission £7.95 [19]
  • The National Space Centre [20] is space museum with a planetarium/cinema and six galleries. It features lots of activities for children with regular themed events, and a very large collection of space miscellania, including one of very few Soyuz spacecraft in the UK and a landmark tower containing the British Blue Streak and American Thor rockets. For admission prices and opening times it is best to check their website.
  • Leicester Guildhall [21] is one of the best-preserved timber framed halls in the country, dating back to the 14 century. Do not miss the prison cell on the ground floor!
  • Jewry Wall Museum [22]
  • New Walk Museum and Art Gallery [23] is the grandest of Leicester's museums and the most popular in the city. Its Dinosaur and Egyptian galleries contain genuine remains, whilst the German Expressionist and Picasso Ceramics galleries contain notable works.
  • Newarke Houses Museum and Gardens [24] is a museum dedicated to the city's 20th century history. The garden is particularly beautiful.
  • Abbey Park [25] is an award winning public park owned and managed by Leicester City Council through which the River Soar flows. It contains the remains of the 12th century Leicester Abbey and the ruins of Cavendish House. It has formal gardens, a sensory garden, a boating lake and model boat lake, a miniature railway, visitor centre, cafe, children's play area with paddling pool, pets corner, tennis courts, a bowling green, and a bandstand.
  • The Golden Mile [26] is a stretch of the Belgrave Road, to the north of the city centre, renowned for its authentic Indian restaurants, sari shops, and jewellers.
  • New Walk [27] is a unique late 18th century urban public walk leading from near to the University to the city centre. it has been a pedestrian street for over 200 years.
  • Walk with your eyes open More than any particular place, it is the cityscape as a whole which impresses. Leicester has a fine Victorian and Edwardian cityscape peppered with listed buildings combined with a well-restored old town (where the Cathedral and Guildhall are located). The capital of the East Midlands is probably the UK's least known great city, but it well repays time taken to wander around and look upwards at the often quirky architecture; the Victorians built commercial buildings such as banks with a determination to make architectural statements which endure today. Those interested in industrial history should not miss the area around the Grand Union Canal which is lined with former textile factories from Leicester's days as an industrial colossus.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Those who wish to visit historic sights can visit the Jewry Wall museum located near the city centre, which is the site of the 2000 year-old remains of the Roman Bath House in the city and is the second largest such survival in the UK. The adjacent Museum tells Leicester's history since ancient times.
  • The National Space Centre is also a popular tourist attraction with tourists visiting daily from all over the world. It is the nation's only space centre of its kind and features a space theatre.
  • Abbey Park located near the Belgrave roundabout, is a large park with a pets corner, large sports fields, children's play areas and beautiful gardens. The park features a 12th century Abbey ruin and the ruins of Cavendish House, destroyed during the English Civil War and the siege of Leicester.
  • Bradgate Park, located just northwest of the city, encompasses 850 acres of land. A good place to take a walk or a picnic, there is also a visitors' centre and cafe on site. The ruins of the former home of Lady Jane Grey (Queen for nine days), Bradgate House, are within the park, as is Old John, a hilltop folly in the shape of a beer tankard built in 1784. Both structures were built by the Grey family (Lady Jane's family) from the 15th Century onwards. The park is also a protective zone for many bird, deer and plant species and was a Victorian-era gift to the people of the city.

Sport[edit]

Ticket prices shown are those for one adult ticket and are subject to change.

Football (Soccer): Leicester City Football Club [28], King Power Stadium, Filbert Way. Tickets: £30. Premier League champions in 2015-16, Leicester City are one of the top clubs in the English football league system and as such match tickets are in high demand.

Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers [29], Welford Road. Tickets: £20-34. The Tigers are amongst the most successful rugby union teams in Europe.

Cricket: Leicestershire County Cricket Club [30], County Ground, Grace Road. Tickets: £12.

Basketball: Leicester Riders [31], Leicester Sports Arena. Tickets: £10.

Rowing: Leicester Rowing Club [32], Upperton Road.

  • Horse Racing: Leicester Racecourse, Oadby

Buy[edit][add listing]

The city centre of Leicester has a vibrant and friendly atmosphere along with many department stores and a large shopping centre in the city centre called Highcross with a wide selection of popular stores. Shoppers can expect to find the majority of items and services offered within a main city in the UK.

Leicester Market is over 700 years old and the largest covered market in Europe. You can find a large variety of new and second hand goods as well as groceries. Difficult to miss and worth a wander. Located near the clock tower and open every day except Sunday.

The Haymarket centre also has a range of high street stores, located at the Clock Tower in the city centre opposite Highcross.

Leicester also has some interesting independent shops around the 'Lanes' area just off High Street. The St Martins area also has interesting small boutiques, delicatessens and cookware shops.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Leicester is dominated by large restaurant chains, however good independent eateries can also be easily found and the food scene is improving in the city. Try St Martin's Square and the Lanes for a range of good quality, independent cafes, bars and restaurants.

Budget[edit]

Shivalli (21 Welford Road) [33] - an Indian vegetarian restaurant. Try their Shivalli Special Thali or a spicier Udupi Special Thali. Saturday and Sunday buffet is very popular and of fantastic value.

Criterion (44 Millstone lane) [34] - a very fine pub that serves excellent Italian-style pizza every evening except Sunday. Get your order in early on busy evenings, or you'll be hungry a while.

Bobby's [35] - an Indian (Gujarati) restaurant run by the same family since the early Seventies; it very popular with the local Indian communiy. There’s also a massive Indian sweet counter.

The World Peace Café [36] run by a Buddhist centre is a very popular place for breakfast and light vegetarian meals – traditional British and various Italian and Middle Eastern dishes.

Good Earth (19 Free Lane) - the closest thing Leicester has to veggie heaven, it is poor on decor and service, but serves excellent home-style food.

Phulnath [37](93 Melton Road) - an Indian (Gujarati) vegetarian restaurant and Sweet Mart reasonably priced items.

Mid-range[edit]

Kayal (153 Granby Street) [38], an Indian restaurant, it has received a number of awards and renowned for its fish and seafood dishes, as well traditional meat and vegetarian ones.

Chutney Ivy (41 Halford Street) [39], an Indian restaurant in the heart of the cultural quarter.

Barceloneta (54 Queen's Road, Clarendon Park) [40], a Spanish tapas restaurant: a very lively venue equally popular with couples and large parties. The next door Dos Hermanos bar (affiliated to Barceloneta) serves fantastic British breakfast/brunch. The whole area of Queen's Road is full of small independently run bars, cafes, restaurants, shops and delis well worth of exploring.

Sapori (40 Standon Road, Anstey) [41], probably the best Italian restaurant Leicester - or its vicinity, to be precise - has. It serves imaginative modern interpretations of traditional Italian cuisine; the menu reflects seasonal availability of ingredients. The staff are knowledgable, so it makes sense to allow being guided for drinks and food if unsure. Cheaper set menu is available at lunch and early evening - check the website.

Splurge[edit]

None of the listed below restaurants are unreasonably expensive: eating out in Leicester is an affordable experience to the majority of travellers.

The Case [42] in St Martins quarter (4-6 Hotel Street): a distinctly French feel is on offer, as well as excellent dishes and thoughtfully chosen wines.

Maiyango [43] (13 St. Nicholas Place) – a Michelin-star atmospheric place receiving exceptional reviews.

Boot Room [44] (27-29 Millstone Lane) features a delightful interpretation of a traditional British cuisine and outstanding, though simple, table service.

Drink[edit][add listing]

With two universities Leicester boasts a good number of bars, pubs, and clubs offering a wide variety of alcoholic drinking experiences, offering everything from traditional pubs to champagne and vodka bars.

Leicester also has a small number of bars and a nightclub catering for the lesbian/gay communities.

For those that prefer their drink without alcohol there are also a good number of coffee shops in the city centre, but these usually tend to only open during shopping hours.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There is a Travelodge very close to the city centre, on Vaughan Way, close to the High Street. Near the train station, there is a budget Leicester hotel ibis Leicester City Hotel(http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-3061-ibis-leicester-city/index.shtml) on St. George's Way.

The largest hotel in the city is the Holiday Inn at St Nicholas Circle, just at the end of High Street. There is another Holiday Inn, to the south of the city, on Narborough Road, closer to the M1 junction 21. Take care when booking to ensure you book into the correct location. The Mercure Leicester City Hotel [45] hotel is situated right in the city centre and boasts a high quality bistro in the bustling Granby Street area of the city. A further very popular hotel is the Belmont Hotel just off London Road.

Stay safe[edit]

The city is quite safe. As with other big UK cities there are places best avoided, at night, including the the inner city areas of St Matthews and Highfields. However these is little to see there anyway.

Get out[edit]

  • Rutland Water, a reservoir located 20 miles east of Leicester is a popular location for fishing, picnics and watersports such as sailing and jetskiing.
  • As noted above, Bradgate Park is close to the city, and very popular with locals for a breath of country air - it can, however, get crowded on Bank Holidays.
  • The River Soar is a popular green artery running south-north through the city. North through Abbey Park towards Birstall is a pleasant walk, and return by bus from Birstall is possible; going south through the Aylestone Country Park, to Aylestone, Blaby and beyond will quickly get you into open country, with the option of returning either by bus or walking back along the Great Central Way (part of the Sustrans National Cycleroute).

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