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Leeds

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Leeds [1], the largest city in the county of Yorkshire, in West Yorkshire is famed for its excellent shopping, vibrant nightlife, thriving universities and sports. But in addition to these, Leeds is an extremely attractive city with wonderful Georgian, Victorian, 20th and 21st century architecture. There are also plenty of fantastic museums, cafés, restaurants and theatres to visit, not to mention easy access to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire Moors.

Understand

Leeds (derived from the Celtic area Leodis) was voted UK's favourite city in Condé Nast's Readers' Traveller Awards 2003. It was a market town that became an industrial powerhouse and grew and developed into a service-based city economy with an attractive, smart centre.

Roman Leeds was an important strategic fort, ford and small settlement on the York-Chester road. Recorded in the Domesday book of 1086, Leeds became a thriving market town in the middle ages, gaining its town charter from the King in 1207. The medieval city was based around Briggate, Kirkgate, Swinegate and The Calls. (The ending -gate came from the old Norse for 'street'.) It was a trading centre in the West Riding of Yorkshire for cloth and wool; from Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield to the port of Hull, east along the river Aire and the 1699 Aire & Calder Navigation canal. Whilst the town grew rapidly (population over 30,000 in the eighteenth century, when the gracious Georgian West End was built), it was for a long time economically overshadowed by nearby York.

The industrial revolution brought about massive change as it became a huge manufacturing centre of wool and textiles and a major trading centre (with over half the country's export passing through for a period). Leeds became known as the city of a thousand trades and by the middle of the nineteenth century the population had passed 200,000. Bolstered by the 1816 Leeds-Liverpool Canal and the Leeds-Selby railway in 1835 (The Middleton Railway was the world's first commercial railway, 1758 Railway Act, from The Middleton colliery to coal-staithes (sidings) at Meadow Lane just south of Leeds Bridge), the city continued to grow and prosper rapidly, with grandiose architectural manifestations of the Victorian city's wealth built in abundance, and expanding affluent suburbs to the north. Leeds University was created around the 1880s, bringing an intellectual dimension, and Leeds was served by one of the world's most extensive tram systems (sadly later replaced by buses). Leeds Bridge was the location of the world's first moving images, filmed in 1888 by Frenchman Louis le Prince (who later disappeared in mysterious circumstances), and Leeds was the first city in the world to have a modern traffic light system, the first of which were situated at the junction of Park Row and Bond Street. Leeds was granted city status in 1893.

By the twentieth century, Leeds's population was approaching 500,000. Whilst Leeds suffered far less than many other large UK cities from the WWII blitz, it was affected by the mass industrial decline of the country in the post-war period, and became characterised by unemployment and huge council estates. Versatility enabled it to survive and it began to prosper in the 1980s, when renovation of the centre and waterfront, and demolition of some of the worst estates began. By the 1990s the city was reborn with wealth based on service industries and commerce, the financial and legal centres making it the most important city in the UK in these areas outside London. With the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Royal Armouries, restoration of the Victoria Quarter and Corn Exchange, the clean up of major historical buildings, the new Harvey Nichols store and new bars, shops and restaurants - all in the mid 90s, the city was truly on the move. The most recent Census (2001) shows Leeds with a population of just over 715,000.

Today, Leeds is still one of the most cosmopolitan, fast-growing, innovative and prosperous cities in the UK with developments springing up by the week and new bars, boutiques, clubs and restaurants seemingly more often, the two universities adding to the vibrancy, and international eateries and shops. Today it is one of the most multicultural cities in the country, with people of many different origins almost totally in harmony.

Districts

  • Central Leeds
    • Civic quarter - north of the railway station, focussed on Millennium Square. Many museums and galleries can be found in this area as well as two major educational institutions.
    • Central shopping district - north and north east of the railway station
    • Exchange quarter - east of the railway station, centred on the Corn Exchange. Home to many quirky independents, bars and cafes.
    • Gay Village - east of the railway station around Lower Briggate
    • Financial district - north west of the railway station. The attractive Georgian Park Square is at the centre
    • Riverside - south of the railway station. The converted granaries are now home to shops and restaurants, while new developments bring upmarket shopping to Leeds. The Royal Armouries museum can be found at Clarence Dock.
    • Holbeck - south of the railway station. Once the industrial heart of Leeds, this district has been regenerated into a creative industries quarter with trendy bars spilling into cosy public spaces.
  • Headingley - the lively student and sports district
  • Chapel Allerton - trendy north Leeds area bursting with al fresco bars and restaurants
  • Roundhay - attractive, leafy and well-heeled district of north Leeds, home to the vast and beautiful Roundhay Park, Tropical World, and a small selection of exclusive shops and eateries supplemented by those in nearby Oakwood.

There are various places of interest, shops, restaurants, historic sites, etc outside of the city centre and the above districts. These are listed geographically in the following guides: North East Leeds, North West Leeds, West Leeds, South Leeds and East Leeds.

Get in

By plane

  • Leeds-Bradford International Airport [2]. Leeds is very accessible by air. 10 miles north-west of the city centre. Budget airline Jet2 [3] offer a wide range of flights to and from Leeds, its main base. It is possible to fly direct from London (Gatwick) and Amsterdam amongst a wide range of other destinations. Direct flights to and from New York are being test-marketed this winter (2008) by Jet2. There is a regular bus service (the 757) into the city (journey time 40 minutes) and cabs are plentiful.
  • Manchester Airport [4]. If you are coming from other continents then this is the nearest intercontinental airport. Come to Leeds by rail (24 hours a day service – hourly, at night every 2-3hr, journey time 1½ hrs).

By train

The busy, modern railway station [5] (occasionally called Leeds City Station), one of the biggest in the country with regular trains to a huge range of destinations all over the UK, is in the heart of the centre just off City Square.

By car

Leeds is possible the best connected UK city by road, lying in the centre of the country, halfway between London and Edinburgh and halfway between Liverpool (west coast) and Hull (east coast). The M1 motorway runs from London via Milton Keynes, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, and passes about 2 miles east of Leeds, to join the A1(M) at Wetherby. The M62 trans-Pennine motorway, which runs from the outskirts of Liverpool to a few miles from Hull, passes about 3 miles to the south of Leeds. The M621 motorway loop just to the south of the city centre, and connects with the M1 and M62. The Scott Hall Road scheme features a park and ride site to the north of Leeds, opened in the 1990s and caters for 157 cars. For much of the journey into Leeds, buses run on a guided busway beside (or down the middle of) the main road, and are given priority over cars. (See National Park and Ride Directory [9]. WhizzGo, a national car 'club' (i.e. car hire organisation which charges a £50 annual membership fee) has a branch in Leeds, and offers pay-by-the-hour car hire across the city. Cars are accessible via a smart card and PIN. [10]

By coach

  • Megabus [11] - to/from London.
  • National Express [12] - to/from London and other cities and towns.
  • Yorkshire Coastliner (bus) [13] - to/from York and the beautiful Yorkshire coast.

By boat

The ferry can be caught from mainland Europe; Zeebrugge, Belgium or Rotterdam, Holland to Kingston Upon Hull, which is approximately an hour from Leeds by car/train.

Get around

On foot

If you're just visiting the city centre, you might as well walk, as much of it is surprisingly compact. To orientate yourself, free maps [14] (quite simple but good for basic orientation) are available at the tourist information and a number of visitor attractions. There are some street maps dotted around the city centre, in guide books, street atlases, etc. Getting around Leeds is fairly easy. However, Leeds' central area is fairly compact with most of the major attractions and shops within walking distance of one another. There is also the FreeCityBus operational during the day, which you can hop on/off for free as it loops the outer city centre (the main centre is pedestrianised) - see below.

Leeds walking directions can be planned online with the walkit.com walking route planner [15].

By bus

Metro [16] (West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority) provides bus and train information on its website, and offers the innovative My Next Bus service of real-time bus information by text message or online. This real-time information is also displayed in certain bus shelters. First [17] runs most of the bus services within Leeds, and if travelling by bus, the best option is to buy a, "day rider," for £3.70/£2.70 (M-F before 9:30AM/other times), which allows unlimited on First Bus within West Yorkshire all day. Public transport isn't bad - most major bus routes within the city are every 10min or so. Useful bus routes for visitors include:

  • FreeCityBus [18] - loops around much of the city center every 6-7 minutes during the day.
  • 1 - Holt Park (North West Leeds) - Headingley - Universities - City centre - Beeston (south Leeds
  • 2 - Roundhay Park - Moortown - Chapel Allerton - City Centre - Middleton (south Leeds)
  • 3/3A - White Rose Shopping Centre (South Leeds) - City Centre - Chapel Allerton - Gledhow
  • 4 ftr [19] - Whinmoor - Seacroft Shopping Centre - St James's University Hospital - City Centre - West Leeds - Pudsey (Watch out for ultra-modern purple and mauve bendy-buses.)
  • 12 & 13/13A - Middleton (south Leeds - City Centre - Harehills - Oakwood - Roundhay Park (12)/Gledhow (13/13A)
  • 16/16A - Seacroft Shopping Centre - City Centre - Armley - Bramley - Rodley - Pudsey Bus Station
  • 18/18A - Ireland Wood (north west Leeds) - Headingley (cricket ground) - City Centre - East Leeds - Selby Road - Garforth
  • 28 - Adel - Headingley - Universities - City Centre - Clarence Dock
  • 33/33A - City Centre - Kirkstall - Horsforth - Rawdon - Yeadon - Guiseley - Otley
  • 37/37A - City Centre - East Leeds
  • 40 Seacroft Shopping Centre - Cross Gates - City Centre
  • 42 - Old Farnley - Wortley - City Centre - Burmantofts - St James's University Hospital - Fearnville
  • 49 & 50/50A - East Leeds - St James' University Hopital - City Centre - Burley Road - Bramley (49) - Horsforth (50/50A)
  • 51/51A Morley (south of Leeds) - City Centre - Meanwood - Moor Allerton Shopping Centre
  • 56 - Whinmoor - East Leeds - City Centre - Tinshill (north west Leeds)
  • 71 - City Centre - Scott Hall Road - Park & Ride - Alwoodley (Primley Park)
  • 72 Leeds Bus Station - Leeds Headrow - Armley - Bramley - Stanningley - Thornbury - Bradford
  • 73 Leeds Bus Station - Leeds Train Station - Armley - Bramley - Stanningley - Pudsey
  • 95 & 96 - City Centre - Universities - Headingley - Otley Road - Lawnswood - Bodington Hall (95) or Cookridge (96)
  • 97 - City Centre - Headingley - West Park - Horsforth - Rawdon - Yeadon - Guiseley
  • 757 - City Centre - Kirkstall - Horsforth - Rawdon - Airport (- Otley)

By taxi

Taxis can be expensive, but the black and white ones are licensed and safer than private hire cabs. The black and white taxis can be flagged down but others can't, you ought to phone first.

There is a very cheap taxi company called Amber (advanced booking only, tel: 0113.2311366) - you can get around the city centre for about 3-7GBP.

By rail

There is a limited suburban train service which serves some tourist destinations such as Headingley Stadium, but plans are underway for a radical overhaul of the city's transport system since the proposed tram system had its funding withdrawn by the government.

By boat

There is a shuttle boat between Granary Wharf (for Leeds City Station), Brewery Wharf and Clarence Dock (for the Royal Armouries Museum) operated by Leeds City Cruisers.

See

City centre

Town Hall

Although not considered a 'traditional' tourist destination, Leeds has plenty to occupy the visitor for a short break or a longer stay. As well as the main sights, museums, galleries, shops, parks etc, wandering around the buzzing city centre to take in the atmosphere and admire the fantastic blend of architectural styles from the past few hundred years is a pleasure in itself. Within the city centre the main districts are the civic quarter, central shopping district, exchange quarter and financial district.

  • Millennium Square. There is generally something going on! A great public space home to some gorgeous civic architecture, concerts, exhibitions, ice rinks, Christmas markets...
  • St Anne's Cathedral, Cookridge Street, [20]. Small, but an extremely interesting example of an Arts and Crafts, 19th Century Catholic Cathedral - unique within the UK.
  • St John's Church, New Briggate. Hidden away within peaceful gardens lies this true gem, built just before the English Civil War, it has beautiful ornate woodwork in its charming interior, and architecturally it is an extremely rare example of a 17th century double nave design.
  • Town Hall, The Headrow, [21]. The city's symbol and pride and joy, one of the world's finest Victorian buildings, and home to a dazzling array of concerts, particularly during the city's popular and extensive International Concert Season [22]. The recently restored interior is stunning.
  • Leeds Art Gallery and The Henry Moore Institute, The Headrow. The world of modern and classical art is at your disposal here in Leeds. It has a small but interesting range of exhibits, and is a great place to kill half an hour, and it's free!
  • Oxford Place Chapel, Oxford Place. Lovely 19th Century, red-brick baroque church.
  • Victoria Quarter including County Arcade, Briggate, [23]. When the Victorian civic authorities sought to improve the sights and foul smells of Briggate and the city centre, they decided to demolish some of the city's dirtiest yards, alleyways, shambles and lanes and in there place build covered shopping arcades filled with fine establishments. These were to cater for the refined tastes of the growing moneyed classes of Leeds. This rebuilding continued into Edwardian times and the legacy of which are some of Europe's finest, most elegant shopping locations. Even today these arcades are home to some of the most exclusive designer shops that Great Britain can offer (Vivienne Westwood, Hugo Boss, Luis Vuitton and Harvey Nichols to name but a few).
  • Kirkgate Market, Vicar Lane, [24]. This traditional British market is largest in Europe. Housed in an opulent late Victorian palace to commerce, it has both indoor and outdoor stalls. Marks and Spencer had their first establishment here, originally called, 'Marks Penny Bazaar'.
  • Corn Exchange, Call Lane, [25]. Shopping in surroundings to rival any of Leeds' fine arcades. Located just to the south of Kirkgate markets on Vicar Lane. Designed by Cuthbert Broderick and architecturally based on the Paris corn exchange. A largely elliptical building, crowned with a great glass dome roof, that allows light to stream in even on the greyest Yorkshire winter mornings. (Broderick was also architect of Leeds town hall and the Leeds Mechanics' Institute, Millennium Square, Two shops designed by Broderick still survive opposite the Mechanics Institute on Cookridge Street, now converted into a cocktail bar.)
  • Parish Church, Kirkgate, [26]. An attractive and fairly large neo-gothic church with a renowned choir and concerts from time to time. During the rebuilding of the Parish church in Victorian times, the original Saxon crosses where Leeds folk would have worshipped in the 8/9th centuries (well before the first church of Leeds had been founded) were unearthed in the medieval tower and is permanently on display inside.
  • Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane. An unassuming location and exterior hide an elegant baroque interior, built for the merchant class by subscription and donation so they could worship well away from the lower working classes of the city. The Iconic spire of Holy Trinity has dominated the skyline of the city for hundreds of years; and after undergoing restoration in 2006/7 will continue to do so.
  • Park Square. A lovely Georgian square reminiscent of Dublin, and is often an overlooked haven of tranquility in the city centre.
  • Clarence Dock, river area, [27]. This interesting development of cafés, restaurants, shops and apartments will be completed during 2008. Home to Royal Armouries Museum. N.B. cafés/restaurants/shops currently not open.
  • The Royal Armouries Museum, Armouries Drive, river area (Clarence Dock), [28]. National museum of all things deadly, from swords and guns to armoury and pikes, now famous for its regular live jousting. Contains rare armour belonging to King Henry VIII and a diverse arsenal from the Royal collection, sourced from a-far a field as China, India and America. Features rare experimental pistols, and weaponry from many of the world's conflicts.
  • Salem Chapel, Bridge End. Interesting and unique Unitarian chapel. Also the place where Leeds United football club was founded, replacing the old bankrupt Leeds City football club.
  • Leeds Christmas Illuminations (Leeds Lights), [29]. The UK's biggest display, are an annual display from Nov-Jan comprising both big show lights and the subtle and beautiful across the city, and are even longer than the legendary Blackpool Illuminations.

Civic Quarter

Home to the Town Hall, the fantastic Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute and Millennium Square, this grand corner of the city is where many of the main tourist draws are to be found. The Light with its shops, restaurants, bars, hotel, cinema etc in a beautifully converted historic building is of course a major pull; but venture along the Headrow and experience some of the best cultural attractions on offer in the city. The Art Gallery has great rotating exhibitions and the best collection of 20th century British Art outside London. Adjoining it are the Henry Moore Institute and the Central Lending Library with its beautiful Victorian interior. Both the library and art gallery are going to be comprehensively renovated and restored in the next few months. Across the road is the Town Hall (see above), a breathtaking demonstration of civic pride.

On Great George St is a small selection of shops, the 19th century entrance (with a lovely colonial-style entrance hallway and small gallery space up the stairs) of the Leeds General Infirmary, and the recently restored Electric Press which is now home to the Carriageworks Theatre and several bars and restaurants, providing a semi-al fresco eating environment for all weather conditions. Next door is the impressive and well-used public space of Millennium Square (see above) with its attractive Mandela Gardens (opened by Mandela himself, now a freeman of the city, they are a lovely spot especially in summer) abutting the Electric Press building. The square is crowned with the Portland Stone neo-classical Civic Hall and the new City Museum (opened in 2008). Down on Cookridge St is the city's small but unique Arts and Crafts St Anne's Cathedral.

Central Shopping District

The very centre of Leeds is a temple to consumerism. Bounded by the 'Public Transport Box', a rough half mile square between The Headrow, Vicar Lane, Boar Lane and Park Row gives Leeds one of the most compact, busy and diverse pedestrian shopping districts in the UK where the highest concentration of the city centre's stores are to be found.

The principle shopping street is the broad and bustling Briggate (recently attractively repaved), where many flagship stores such as Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser, Debenhams are to be found alongside high-end fashion (eg Louis Vuitton) and high street favourites (Topshop, Zara, H&M) etc. Briggate's attractive and eclectic architecture spans three centuries, and the grand shop fronts only add to the streets appeal.

Either side of the top end of Briggate are the city's famous arcades, splendidly palatial Victorian roofed-over shopping streets home to some of the city's most exclusive and interesting shops. The famous Victoria Quarter (Victoria St, County Arcade and Cross Arcade) have some of the most expensive clothes in leeds. Queen's and Thornton's arcades are a little more affordable with more independent stores. Down from the arcades, several medieval yards (or "loins") run off almost hidden from between shopfronts on Briggate. Whilst some are little more than shop-backs and some are now closed off, some exude genuine historic atmosphere and a few are home to attractive pubs and bars, including The Angel Inn, The Ship, The Bay Horse, Queen's Court and three-hundred-year-old Whitelocks'.

Beyond Briggate, there are several other prominent shopping streets, including gorgeously symmetrical King Edward Street with its matching Victorian Burmantoft terracotta buildings. Commercial Street, Kirkgate, Lands Lane and Albion St are other principal streets in the area, continuing the mix of shops, cafés, lovely architecture. There are also several indoor shopping centres, and a central focal point is tiny but busy Central Square at the base of Lands Lane. Albion Place is a quieter street of elegant Georgian buildings (mainly offices) including the exclusive Leeds Club and the city's central private members library, running between the square and Albion St. Swan Street is a quiet and pretty little street between Briggate and Lands Lane with a few attractive little shops, cafés and bars and a laid-back vibe, as well as the internationally famous City Varieties theatre and music-hall, once home to Charlie Chaplin.

Exchange Quarter

Centred on the massive dome of the Corn Exchange, the Exchange Quarter is the centre of Leeds' bohemian life, with one-off boutiques, funky cafés and piercing parlours filling its pretty cobbled streets. It is becoming increasingly chic, however, with a plethora of upscale bars and stylish restaurants, particularly on Call Lane.

The Corn Exchange dominates the area, sitting squattly at the junction of several major roads. This grand Victorian building is one of the finest in the city, and was a functioning corn market for several decades, but was almost unused for much of the twentieth century, until its restoration to its present form in the 1980s. It now houses a myriad of little boutiques, a few cafés and market stalls. The goth and emo teenagers that hang around outside frequent many of the shops such as Grin and Exit, but there are also a range of fashion and artisan stores to please all, and the beautiful architecture (the shops fit into the retained 19th-century store-fronts, and the domed roof is spectacular from the interior) can be enjoyed by everyone.

Three sides of the Corn Exchange are bounded by semi-pedestrian cobbled streets lined by a hotch potch of attractive victorian buildings home to shops and restaurants from Blue Rinse (see below) to Pizza Express, housed in the beautiful Third White Cloth Hall, sadly sliced in half by the railway in the mid-nineteenth century, but retaining its lovely facade and clock-tower. Along the railway, the continental feel continues with bars and cafés that spill on to the pavement. Beautiful Assembly Street, a hub of nightlife, is lined with elegant and imposing eighteenth-century warehouses and has been recently repaved, and in the summer is a relaxing place to sip a coffee or cocktail and admire the buildings and atmosphere. Nearby Crown Street buildings are a fine example of modern architecture at its finest, sympathetic to the surrounding environment but adding a dash of vibrancy with bright use of colour above its restaurants and bars.

Call Lane, the area's main drag, is a hive of activity in the evenings, with several of the city's best and most stylish bars, all vying for attention. In the day-time however it is much quieter, with a few vintage and alternative clothes stores at the Kirkgate end, and musical instrument shops located at the Calls end. There is plenty of enjoyment to be had from wondering around the pretty and historic medieval yards that run between Call Lane and Lower Briggate (at night these too come alive and are full of revelers).

Kirkgate is currently a fairly downmarket shopping street with a few off-beat stores. However plans are afoot to refurbish the historic town-houses and bring life back into the street as a centre for independent shops, with the renovation of the dilapidated First White Cloth Hall along similar (if smaller) lines to the Corn Exchange. The east end of Kirkgate and New York Street also increasingly have a number of bars and clubs, including the celebrated Northern Light; there are also several new apartment buildings springing up. The end of Kirkgate is market by Leeds Parish Church, a grand (if not enormous) neo-gothic structure home to one of the country's most revered children's choirs. To the west, Central Road links Kirkgate to Duncan Street, and is home to some attractive Flemish-style buildings, a few off-beat shops and the acclaimed Little Tokyo restaurant and Leeds institution the HiFi Club. Duncan Street has a number of small shops.

The Calls was where riverside life restarted in Leeds, with its renovation from a derelict nowhere to the city's most desirable real estate in the 1980s. The apartments lining the waterfront may not be as exclusive or as rare today, but it is still an attractive and expensive area, home to some of Leeds' longest running high-end establishments including 42 The Calls hotel, Pool Court and the Calls Grill. Some of the waterfront and streets around here are surprisingly yet to be fully renovated, but it's unlikely to be long before developers get their claws into the remaining warehouses, railway arches and mill-cottages. Leeds Civic Trust's heritage centre and left-wing arts centre The Common Place fill the gap between the Calls and the railway line.

Financial District

Whilst the Financial District doesn't have the obvious draws of the Civic Quarter, it is nonetheless an interesting area that deserves at least a little of your time. Roughly bounded by the Headrow and Westgate to the North, the A58 motorway to the West, the River Aire to the South and Park Row to the East, this is the most expensive business real estate in the city. Many large companies have their offices here as well as innumerable lawyers, estate agents, etc.

Park Square is probably the number one attraction of the area. Situated just south-west of the Town Hall, this large and handsome Georgian Square has lovely formal gardens that fill up with workers at lunchtime in the warmer months. Whilst most of the square is bounded by rows of 18th century redbrick townhouses that made the square one of the city's most fashionable addresses 200 years ago, the South West corner is home to a little-known architectural highlight of Leeds, a converted warehouse (now offices) built in the 19th century as a replication of a Moorish Palace, complete with turrets and Islamic-style ornate design. The streets to the south of Park Square are a mixture of Georgian townhouses and more modern office buildings sitting cheek-by-jowl. Whilst not hugely diverting, there are several interesting buildings in this area. Wellington Street, a busy thoroughfare which marks the bottom of the Georgian area, has several restaurants and bars as well as being characterised by more modern business development. The area between Wellington Street and the river is being comprehensively redeveloped as an ultra-modern business district ('Wellington Place'), which is planned to include cultural attractions and the UK's first city beach on the banks of the Aire; currently new glass and steel towers rising seemingly every few weeks. Work is due to start on La Lumiere, the tallest building to be built in the city on Wellington Street. This massive skyscraper will be the tallest residential building in Europe upon completion.

Between East Parade and Park Row, two busy main routes through the area, are a series of parallel streets that are home to some of the city's top restaurants and bars, most famously Greek Street. There is a rich patchwork of architecture spanning the past two centuries in this small area, with fine Gothic buildings and sleek modern towers. Park Row itself boasts outstanding buildings such as the Leeds Permanent building, blending seamlessly into modern glass building-fronts.

The south-east corner of the Financial District is City Square, one of the most important hubs of city life. Recently cleaned up and repaved, the square is still home to bronze nymphs holding gas lights and the famous statue of the Black Prince. The old post office is now the swanky Restaurant Bar & Grill and Loch Fyne seafood restaurant. A rarely beautiful 1990s office block sits at No1 City Square, and the south side is taken up by the Art Deco facade of grand old dame of the Leeds Railway hotel trade, The Queens Hotel (L.N.E.R.).

Other attractions

  • Thackray Medical Museum, Beckett Street (next door to St James' Hospital), [30]. Award winning. The best of its kind in the country, with all manner of exhibits and the chance to experience the life of a Victorian child or mill-worker (and their often gruesome medical history). If you've got children, you'd be mad to miss it!
  • Tropical World, Princes Avenue, Roundhay, [31]. Great for a rainy day as it's all indoors, this extensive menagerie has animals, birds, fish and insects from across the globe in thoughtfully themed zones.
  • Temple Newsam, Temple Newsam Road (off Selby Road), [32]. One of the great historic estates in England. With over 1500 acres landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century, it is a large Tudor–Jacobean mansion housing a large collection of works of art. The garden has some excellent walks and houses a working Rare Breeds farm.
  • Harewood House, Harewood Village, [33]. This huge estate, complete with extensive gardens, lake, lovely café and bird gardens, is owned by the Queen's cousin. The opulent roccoco house itself is well worth a look around.
  • Kirkstall Abbey, Abbey Road, Kirkstall,, [34]. Largest abbey in the North of England - see below. One of the UK's biggest and best preserved abbeys, recently restored with a new visitor centre. It's 3 miles out of town but lovers of history and architecture, or those in search of a beautiful and peaceful spot in the city won't regret making the trip. Buses (33/33a) every 10 minutes from the city centre. Opposite is Abbey House Museum [35].
  • Armley Mills, Canal Road, Armley,, [36]. Excellent museum of industry and Leeds' (major) role in the Industrial Revolution.
  • Thwaite Mills, Thwaite Lane, Stourton, [37]. Rare example of a former stone-crushing mill, now an excellent working museum.
  • Middleton Railway, Moor Road, Hunslet, [38]. The oldest working railway in the world. Situated in South Leeds between Middleton and Hunslet, it used to carry coal from the coal mines to the south of the city to the factories of Hunslet and central Leeds. You can now have a ride on the historic rolling stock.
  • Church of St John the Baptist, Church Lane, Adel, [39]. Whilst a long way out of town, this leafy and extremely affluent suburb has some lovely houses, and is a world a way from the bustle of the city centre - nearby York Gate garden is beautiful and well worth a visit), this lovely and well-preserved early Norman church set in verdant grounds is a hidden treasure
  • Bramham Park, Wetherby, [40]. Another such stately home to the north-east of Leeds with a long history and lovely gardens and grounds.

Future attractions

N.B. under construction or planned for the future:

  • Holbeck Urban Village, [41]. The complete renovation and restoration of an entire city district. In the south-west of central Leeds, this historic area was key to the Industrial Revolution, and has many buildings and sites of interest, including the stunning Egyptian-style Temple Mill and Italianate Tower Works. The restoration and redevelopment has already begun with the Round Foundry, a new-age village of offices, flats, cafés and media centres complete with traditional paved streets and 200-year old buildings. A plethora of other developments promise that this area will become more and more of an exciting new destination.
  • Lumiere, Wellington Street, [42]. Construction halted in July 2008.. Planned to be the tallest residential building in Europe, Lumiere also included a winter garden, numerous shops and restaurants. It was to be a dramatic new addition to the city's skyline (and at 52 stories the tallest UK building outside London). If construction starts again at a later date, it will no doubt grab the attention of visitors and residents alike.

Do

Cinema

Leeds holds two annual film festivals: the increasingly prestigious Leeds International Film Festival [43] with its huge menu of different films and Leeds Young People's Film Festival [44]. Cinemas in surrounding areas include Odeon Leeds Bradford (Thornbury: 7 miles) [45]; Showcase (Birstall: 6 miles) [46]; Vue, Kirkstall (2 miles) [47] and Xscape Castleford (10 miles) [48].

  • Vue, The Light Shopping Center, The Headrow, city center, [49]. Modern, well located 13-screen multiplex with huge screens.
  • Hyde Park Picture House, [50]. Another excellent independent cinema in the midst of the hot-bed of student habitation in the town. The cinema shows a mix of modern mainstream and art-cinema films as well as a formidable selection of classics. Lucky cinephiles may even experience the latter in conjunction with an introductory speech prepared for local film students. It retains many of its original features including gas lighting.
  • Cottage Road Cinema, Headingley, [51]. Atmospheric old cinema near the centre of Headingley. Plenty to do afterwards as well.

Theatre & comedy

  • The Carriageworks, Millennium Square, [52]. Home to the city's impressive range of amateur dramatic and musical groups, including the acclaimed Leeds Youth Opera [53]
  • Jongleurs, [54]. The Leeds branch of the national comedy club chain.
  • City Varieties Music Hall, [55]. World famous and has even had Charlie Chaplin tread the boards. Home to a mix of shows.
  • Grand Theatre, [56]. Major shows (often straight from the West End); also this is the home of the world famous (and extraordinarily good) Opera North who perform a wide repertoire of operas and operettas.
  • Seven, Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, [57]. A new theatre and arts centre due to open soon on Harrogate Road in Chapel Allerton
  • West Yorkshire Playhouse, [58]. More adventurous and often performs world premiers and encourages local talent - well worth a visit. Lucky travellers may arrive in time for one of the themed, almost festival-style programmes.

Live music

The city's music scene is burgeoning at the moment, and Leeds is a great place to see up-and-coming talent, with recently successful bands such as Corinne Bailey Rae, Kaiser Chiefs and Sunshine Underground. Leeds is home to many live performances from big-name stars, mostly at outdoor concerts. Millennium Square in the city centre regularly has gigs with a 7,000 capacity. Leeds is planning to build an indoor concert arena of around (or possibly over) 14,000 seats. See also: Clubs, for example The Cockpit and HiFi.

  • Harewood House, [59]. Summer.
  • Leeds Festival, [60]. Northern twin of the famous Reading festival. 3 days of live bands and stars from around the world play to 80,000 people every summer bank holiday weekend. You can camp over, or attend just one day.
  • Leeds Irish Centre, York Road, East Leeds. Regular concerts from a variety of different types of musical acts.
  • Leeds Metropolitan University (Leeds Met), [61].
  • Roundhay Park.
  • Temple Newsam. Every year, Temple Newsam plays host to the UK's original Party in the Park pop extravaganza featuring big name chart stars of the minute. Opera in the Park is a massively popular outdoor festival of opera and songs from the shows, also at Temple Newsam.
  • Leeds University Refectory. Hosts a huge number of concerts from medium-large bands across the year. It is famously where the Who recorded their seminal live album Live at Leeds.
  • The Wardrobe, Quarry Hill. Famed for its diverse range of quality live music, including a strong jazz offer.

Sport

There are plenty of leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools across the city, though unfortunately no public ones will remain in the city centre after the International Pool closes. Major city centre fitness/leisure centres are deluxe Esporta, LA fitness and the ubiquitous Virgin Active. Some hotels have great leisure facilities or agreements with local centres for free access for guests.

  • John Charles Centre for Sport, South Leeds, [62]. International standard facilities for all four jumping disciplines: triple jump, long jump, high jump and pole vault. As well as an area for javelin throwing, an indoor throwing cage is available for discus and hammer. The centre also has its own specific weights area, designed specifically for use by athletes, dedicated to high performance and strength training. An eight lane all weather outdoor athletics track conforms to full International Association of Athletics Federations specifications. Six indoor tennis courts and six outdoor floodlit courts provide the ideal tennis environment either for the complete beginner or the established player. Leeds has a brand new (2007) 50 metre pool and diving centre.
  • Cricket (Yorkshire County Cricket Club), Headingley, [63]. April-September. Also a Test Match venue.
  • Leeds United Football Club, [64]. August-May. Currently in League One (the third tier of English League football), but traditionally one of the larger English clubs.
  • Rugby League (Leeds Rhinos), Headingley, [65]. Best supported Rugby club in the UK (League or Union). World Champions 2004, Superleague Champions 2007, 2008.
  • Ice Cube, Millennium Square, [66]. January-March. Outdoor ice skating.
  • Pole Position Indoor Karting, [67].
  • Rugby Union (Leeds Tykes), [68]. September-May. Currently in the Guinness Premiership (the top tier of English Rugby Union) - Powergen Cup Winner 2004.
  • Xscape Castleford, Colorado Way, Castleford, [69]. Real snow indoor ski slopes (with designer outlet, cinema and nightlife). Indoor real snow skiing, Ice climbing wall, cinema and restaurants!

Parks

Whilst hardly tropical, Leeds has an unusually mild and sunny climate for northern England, protected from the worst and wettest weather by the Pennine Hills to the west ... this gives more than ample opportunity to explore the fantastic parks of one of Europe's greenest cities (Leeds has the most green space in its city limits of any European city other than Vienna).

  • Roundhay Park, [70]. Huge picturesque park with 2 lakes, café, flower gardens and walks. Right next to Tropical World, and the lovely formal Canal Gardens, be sure to visit them all in one day.
  • Golden Acre Park, North West Leeds, [71]. Gardens and café set around huge lake.
  • Hall Park, Horsforth. Some distance from central Leeds, has lovely Japanese Gardens and is accessible by bus.
  • The Hollies Arboretum, North West Leeds, [72]. Large botanical garden set in lush woodlands with a wonderful selection of plants.
  • Lotherton Hall, [73]. Deer park, extensive and interesting bird garden, historic hall and café. Museum.
  • Meanwood Valley Trail, [74].
  • Otley Chevin, Otley Village, North Leeds, [75].
  • Temple Newsam, East Leeds, [76]. Country mansion, wonderful parkland and rare breeds visitor farm (excellent for kids) - all within the city boundary!
  • Woodhouse Moor, Central/North Leeds. The closest big park to central Leeds, between Leeds University and Hyde Park Corner. In summer months it is packed to bursting with students and other young people sunbathing and playing sports. There are large fields, small formal gardens and a skate park.

Learn

Leeds University, Parkinson Building

Leeds is one of the UK and Europe's foremost university cities, with a student population of over 100,000 (10%+ of the population!) concentrated on several higher educational facilities including the two main universities. This gives the city a young feel and lively buzz, and many bars, clubs and restaurants are geared towards students particularly in Headingley and North West Leeds, although if this isn't your scene the city has plenty to offer away from student life.

  • Leeds University [77] (30,000 students) - one of the most important and respected academic institutions in the UK, based around the city centre campus; also a major centre for research. One of the country's original 'redbrick' universities.
  • Leeds Metropolitan University (Leeds Met) [78] (50,000 full and part-time students) - more modern and larger with two main campuses, at Headingley and in the Civic Quarter. Rapidly expanding and improving, with major redevelopment planned in the Civic Quarter.

Buy

Opening Times

City center - M-W 9am-6pm Th-Sa 9am-7/8pm Su 11am-5pm. Other areas - 9am-5pm.


City centre shops number well over 1,000, made up of modern shopping centres, the lovely arcades and busy streets - principally Briggate, a wide and attractive pedestrian street with all the high street favourites and much more (from time to time there are markets and other events, and there are usually street performances of some kind). Much of the central shopping area is pleasantly pedestrianised, making retail therapy even easier. Leeds has myriad options for shopping including the beautiful Victorian-era shopping arcades, offering anything from the reasonably priced to the expensive items. In November and December, Millennium Square is turned into a Christmas wonderland of stalls, eateries and fairground-rides for Christkindelmarkt - the city's German Christmas market. There are also several outdoor markets held across the city more regularly, including occasional French markets on Briggate. Plans are also afoot for a massive extension of the main shopping district. City Centre Shopping Centres include all:

  • Victoria Quarter, Briggate, city center, [79]. Home of Harvey Nichols [80], North Face, Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood [81] and much more, the upmarket (and architecturally stunning) jewel in the crown of Leeds' shopping district.
  • Thornton's Arcade and Queen's Arcade, city center (opposite Victoria Quarter). Opposite the Victoria Quarter offer a range of interesting (if mainly fairly pricey) shops including some great boutiques and one-off places.
  • Corn Exchange, city center, [82]. A stunning domed interior and a range of shops to please both label-lovers and teenagers, as well as stalls and cafés. There are occasional concerts, exhibitions, fetes and the Christmas decorations are lovely.
  • Market, Kirkgate, city center, [83]. The biggest cover market/market on one site in Europe. Fascinating even just for the atmosphere of a traditional British market. Largest indoor market in Europe and also is a beautiful Victorian building and a landmark in Leeds it also has a outdoor market which sells everything from food to clothes to electronics and accessories.
  • Granary Wharf, (literally under the railway station). By the canal, has a selection of interesting boutiques, restaurants, exhibition space, a small concert venue, street performers and more in a unique subterranean setting. There is also a regular market. The waterfront area is undergoing redevelopment but the range of shops on offer is set to only get bigger.

The districts of Chapel Allerton, Headingley and Roundhay also offer a smaller (but worthwhile) range of boutiques and other shops. Crossgates in East Leeds has a medium sized shopping centre and many highstreet shops and cafés, and Horsforth in the North West offers a range of shops and eateries.

Food

Of course, as with almost all of the UK today, supermarkets, M&S Simply Food and other chains dominate the food-shop market, but there are an increasing number of quality independent delicatessens, bakeries and other little food shops across the city. Many out-of-centre areas retain their local shops (though this cannot be said for everywhere) and the city centre has an impressive range on offer, including:

  • Chinese. There are a number of Chinese food shops around Vicar Lane and the Templar Street Chinatown Arcade - including a well-stocked oriental supermarket on Vicar Lane itself. The best restaurants around are Tong Palace on Vicar Lane, and Lucky Dragon on Templar Place
  • Harvey Nichols Foodmarket, Briggate, city center, [84]. Small, squashed between Fourth Floor Restaurant and Yo Sushi, but it has lots of expensive goodies for that extra special something.
  • Out of this World, city centre. Excellent, well stocked, fair-trade organic mini-market offering all the food you could want, but tastier, healthier, more ethically responsible and, admittedly, more expensive.p
  • Pickles & Potter. Sandwich shop par excellence, this award winning little place just off Lands Lane gets mouths watering. The chocolate brownies are genuinely the best you will ever have. The roast beef sandwich is also highly recommended. Some of the most expensive Pork Pies ever encountered!!
  • Salvo's Salumeria, Headingley. Range of fine authentic Italian produce.
  • Simpson's, Dock Street, city centre. Exclusive but excellent deli-cum-mini market.
  • Safran, Kirkgate, city centre. Fantastic authentic Iranian cuisine.

The lively area of Harehills (bus no 12, 13, 49 or 50) in East Leeds has a bad reputation locally for crime and poverty, and whilst the visitor should be aware that it is maybe best not to flash expensive items or visit the area after dark, it is worth visiting for its fantastic range of food shops, cafés and restaurants from across the world. A true cultural melting pot, the area has everything from Jamaican grill-houses to Indian restaurants, Persian tea-shops to Eastern European supermarkets, and if you want to experience authentic international food or simply see another side of the city, it is an interesting place to go - and prices are far lower than in many other areas.

Books, CDs, DVDs

Leeds has all the major chains such as Borders, HMV, Waterstones, Virgin Megastore, WHSmith, etc and also a variety of smaller independent shops including Crash Records on The Headrow and Jumbo Records in the St. John's Centre, which hosts fairly regular instore performances (there's also lots of second hand places - including a massive, well-stocked Oxfam Books & Music in Headingley)

Eat

This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under £10
Mid-range £10-£20
Splurge Over £20


There are many restaurants in central Leeds that everyone can to find something to their taste and budget. There are all the usual chains (many of which have several branches in the city) and a huge variety of one-off places, including many award-winners. Headingley, Chapel Allerton, Roundhay and various other districts outside the centre also have a range of quality eateries (whilst a few places in these areas are mentioned below, fuller selections can be found on their respective guides). It is possible to have food delivered from a selection of top Leeds restaurants for a fee [85].

Café culture is thriving in Leeds, with a great number of places for a lunch or lighter meal, and there are also many fine curry houses in the city, due to the large South Asian population.

Leeds has a successful annual food and drink festival, held at the end of August, with many free events bookable in advance.

You can also check the hygiene standards assessed in the kitchens of any restaurant by checking this link: [86]

Restaurants

  • Aagrah, Quarry Hill, city centre, [87]. Is an expanding Leeds-based chain of quality curry houses.
  • Arti, 285 Roundhay Road, 0871 8115354, [88]. Simply stunning Indian restaurant with authentic and tasty food. Very popular with Asians and Indians; this can only be a good thing. Wonderful relaxed atmosphere; the rice is absolutely stupendous and must be tried - the owner also runs the post office next door!
  • Arts Café, exchange quarter, [89]. One of the oldest establishments in the Exchange Quarter, with a friendly-relaxed vibe and food to die for at very reasonable prices (the desserts are especially delicious).
  • Bibis, city centre, [90]. Wonderful Italian food served in a fantastic Art-Deco restaurant - packed with local regulars who know a good thing when they eat it!
  • Café Guru, Brewery Wharf, river area, [91]. Design-lead swanky new Indian restaurant.
  • Casa Mia, Casa Mia Grande and Casa Mia Millennium, Casa Mia and Casa Mia Grande: Chapel Allerton, North Leeds; Casa Mia Grande: Millennium Square, city centre. Locally famous for their top-notch Italian fare.
  • The Clock Café, Hyde Park. This wikitraveller has found it difficult to fault this restaurant despite several visits. Anything on the menu is delicious and the service and beers (no weak fizzy lager here!) are outstanding, ranging from traditional English to renowned Czech produce. The setup is basic with benches and tables but the atmosphere is pitched just right for small groups and couples - recommended. If there were popularity contests for bar staff, this place would win.
  • The Flying Pizza, Roundhay, [92]. North Leeds institution. In the centre of Roundhay, this fantastic Italian restaurant has been going for well over 30 years.
  • Georgetown, [93]. Behind the striking clockmakers' facade lies a subtropical palace to colonial opulence, decked out in impeccable but tasteful old world grandeur and serving delicious Malay cuisine: an experience for all the senses.
  • Hansa's, North Street. Acclaimed vegetarian Indian restaurant with curries to die for. Service can be extremely slow. On two midweek visits, we had a one-hour wait for the main course.
  • Little Tokyo, Exchange Quarter. Multi-award winning Japanese place.
  • Livebait, The Calls, city centre, [94]. Excellent seafood restaurant with simple, traditional style and decor and emphasis on quality food.
  • The Mill Race, Kirkstall, West Leeds (5min walk from Kirkstall Abbey). Hearty organic fare in a beautiful building, this place often needs reservations but the food is breathtaking.
  • L'Oranaise, Hyde Park, [95]. This Algerian restaurant offers authentic atmosphere and eating. The food is amongst the best this Wikitraveller has tasted in Leeds. Teas and coffees can be taken upstairs amongst the low tables and scatter cushions.
  • The Red Chilli, Electric Press/The Carriageworks, Great George Street, city centre. Highly recommended Chinese restaurant. The most SNOBISH Chinese restaurant in Leeds.
  • Restaurant Bar & Grill, City Square, city centre, [96]. Simply named, this restaurant sits in a stunning location in the Old Post Office conversion, and exudes style and elegance, offering a range of fantastic quality meals and drinks.
  • Salvos, Headingley, [97]. Italian restaurant and salumeria/café two doors down. Both fantastic simple food, great atmosphere.
  • Simply Heathcotes. Exclusive but incredibly good waterfront restaurant.
  • SiSushi, Great George Street, city centre and Harrogate Road, North Leeds, [98]. Great sushi restaurant and takeaway.
  • Tampopo, financial quarter. Ever-popular swanky noodle restaurant.
  • Truffles, Kippax, [99]. A 20-minute journey out of town to this award winning restaurant, twice voted best restaurant in Leeds. Book now, waiting list of about 4 months. Serves the finest Traditional English as well as imaginative dishes to die for! A welcoming warm atmosphere with lashings of luxury!
  • Viva Cuba, Queen Square, city centre and Kirkstall Road, West Leeds. Excellent, acclaimed Cuban Tapas restaurant.

Budget

  • Brio, Great George Street and The Light Shopping Center, both city center, [100]. Popular Italian restaurant with generous portions and great pizzas.
  • Cuban Heels, exchange quarter. Beautiful, relaxed little restaurant-café-bar with buckets of charm, great food and a lovely, intimate location in railway arches on a cobbled site street. Inexpensive with midweek offers.
  • Lucky Dragon, Chinatown Arcade, Templar Street, city center. Authentic Chinese restaurant.

Mid-range

  • Akbars, Eastgate, city center. Award-winning Indian food served in cosmopolitan surroundings - and at reasonable prices too! Focus is on portion size rather than taste, however, and although the interior is gorgeous, it is often simply too full - one always feels rushed here.
  • Maxi's, The Light Shopping Center, city center. Renowned Chinese restaurant.
  • Room, (near railway station). Surprisingly affordable stylish restaurant deservedly popular with the city's rich and famous, serving modern takes on traditional British food.

Splurge

  • Anthonys, city center, [101]. Michelin star rated. If you're willing to spend a little bit more for that extra-special meal then this is the place to go - but book ahead as this is the most popular restaurant in Leeds - highly recommended. There is also a popular branch in Flannels department store.
  • Brasserie Blanc, [102]. New to the Leeds restaurant scene and owned by world famous chef Raymond Blanc.
  • Fourth Floor at Harvey Nichols, Briggate, city center, [103]. Renowned Leeds branch restaurant has been going strong for years with an innovative menu tailored to the seasons. Despite the swanky location, it is surprisingly unpretentious and not ridiculously pricey.
  • La Grillade, 27 Wellington St, [104]. French food with perhaps the best steaks in Leeds. Small menu that concentrates on meat, small wine list, the bottle we had was one of the best New Zealand sauvignons I have had, I would assume the rest are also well chosen. Fantastc cheese board, concentrating again on French, the Epoisse was very ripe. The staff were attentive without being fussy. The clientele it being a Wednesday appeared to be mainly business men. Not cheap but very tasty.
  • Mio Modo, financial quarter. Plush Italian restaurant oozes style and whilst not cheap the excellent food easily makes it worth the prices.
  • Sous Le Nez en Ville, financial quarter (near railway station). Fantastic dining experience below street level in this exclusive-but-well-worth-it restaurant. Does a very good value early bird menu, but you need to book in advance at the weekend.

Cafés, coffees and light meals

As well as a plethora of fine restaurants, Leeds also has a huge range of cafés and places for a drink or light bite. Of course there are countless Starbucks, Caffe Neros, Costa Coffees, etc but there is also a strong showing from independent places. Many of the above restaurants will do smaller meals and lunch menus during the day but here are a pick of some Leeds cafés:

  • Bagel Nash, City Square; The Light Shopping Center, The Headrow and Swan Street, all city center. Rapidly expanding Leeds bagel chain, with a massive range of bagels and fillings, all extremely tasty.
  • Citrus, Corn Exchange, city center and Headingley. Ever-popular café-bar.
  • French Connection, County Arcade, Victoria Quarter, city center. Pleasant café.
  • Harvey Nichols' Café, Briggate, city center, [105]. High quality treats that won't break the bank.
  • Just Bean. More of a coffee stand, this nonetheless was titled best place for coffee in the city, with its organic drinks at reasonable prices.
  • Philpotts, St Paul's Street, financial quarter, [106]. Top quality sandwich deli and juice bar.
  • Roots & Fruits, Grand Arcade, city center. Quality vegetarian café with a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Sahara, Eastgate, city center. All-day and all-night, it may look a tad grubby but you can't argue with the food (or the sheesha).
  • Tiled Hall Café, The Headrow, city center. A magnificent tiled hall linking the city library and city art gallery next to the Town Hall. A must for any visitor, and pop in the gallery and library for a free look round.
  • Wrappid, city center. Fajita/wrap café. Free Drink eg. coffee refills.

Drink

Leeds' two large universities means there is a vibrant, diverse and thumping nightlife scene including many clubs as well as a huge range of fine drinking establishments from traditional pubs to ultra chic concept bars. It is estimated that there are over 180 city centre bars and pubs, and around 29 nightclubs with late licenses. Railway arches are increasingly popular as homes for bars and clubs across the length of the city centre. Leeds City Guide [107] is a good source of information, as is the comprehensive (and excellent) listings magazine the Leeds Guide. Leeds was voted Number one city for clubbing [108]. All areas (indeed, most streets) of central Leeds offer something in the way of nightlife, but the main areas are:

  • Call Lane in the Exchange Quarter (one of the city's main nightlife districts), offering a range of bars (which many would argue are the best in the city) from chic to bohemian. The area around the Calls and the Parish Church has overspill from Call Lane and some great waterfront bars and restaurants
  • The 'yards' off Briggate are home to both traditional pubs and modern bars and clubs. Boar Lane is for the most part made up of standard chain bars and more downmarket drinking establishments, but a few buck the trend. Architecturally lovely Assembly Street has a select number of swanky bars, clubs and restaurants. Greek Street is expensive, but in between the high-end exclusivity are tackier bars attracting a less desirable crowd at weekends. New York Street is becoming increasingly popular. The Northern Quarter, centered on New Briggate and spreading north (and down Grand Arcade) is home to several older Leeds institutions but is now up-and-coming with many hot new venues.
  • The Civic Quarter has everything: flashy bars in the Electric Press, traditional pubs, and loud, trendy bars and clubs above Millennium Square
  • The financial district has a number of dispersed, chic watering holes. Park Row continues along the same lines as Greek Street
  • Brewery Wharf on the south bank is growing as a drinking destination
  • Lower Briggate is the centre of Leeds' gay community, and a variety of establishments in the area reflect this, though most are welcoming (and many are popular with) the straight population

Out of the city centre, the districts of Headingley and Chapel Allerton are extremely popular for bars and restaurants. Exclusive Street Lane in Roundhay is also becoming increasingly popular. (See their respective guides for details on specific drinking spots in these areas)

Pubs and bars

Leeds Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) [109] offer free pub guides from their website. What follows is a selection of some of Leeds' highlights, but it is by no means definitive or all-inclusive!

  • The Adelphi, Dock Street, river area. Great selection of British beers, interesting decorative mix of Victorian pub architecture and 70s retro decor. A gem! Gay friendly. Good food too (including a few veggie options) at reasonable prices.
  • Baby Jupiter, York Place. Ultra-stylish bar which exudes class and has beautiful interiors to match.
  • Boutique, (off Call Lane), [110]. Fantastic range of cocktails.
  • The Duck and Drake, (near market). A 'locals' pub.
  • Epernay, Electric Press/The Carriggeworks, Great George Street, city center. High-quality champagne bar.
  • Fab Café, (south of Leeds Metropolitan University). Great place to visit if you like your music away from the mainstream, and they actually have what seems to be an original 'Star Wars: The Trilogy' arcade cabinet!
  • Ha! Ha! Bar & Canteen, Millennium Square, city center. Gay-friendly, trendy - a place to meet your date.
  • Call Lane, city center, [111]. Thought of by many as having the best drinks in the city, and is on one of the city's busiest bar strips.
  • Norman, Call Lane, city center. Sexy and stylish, has bucket-loads of atmosphere and great drinks.
  • Milo, Call Lane, city center. Bohemian, has bucket-loads of atmosphere and great drinks. DJs and often a bit of dancing too.
  • Mojo Bar, northern quarter, city center, [112]. Old favourite still going strong with a wonderful, friendly atmosphere and drinks to die for.
  • North Bar, 24 New Briggate, city center. Great beer selection! Recently named best place to drink in Britain by The Observer.
  • The Oracle, Brewery Wharf, river area, [113]. Swanky new waterfront bar has a glittering reputation founded on its outstanding cocktail and champagne menu, exclusive members bar, ultra-cool interior design, gourmet burgers, chauffeur service and lovely riverside setting.
  • The Palace, (near bus station).
  • Prohibition, Greek Street, city center. If you like to flash the cash, Greek Street is the place for you - and Prohibition one of its best bars.
  • The Reliance, North Street, city center. Laid back, loungy bar, also does great food.
  • The Scarbrough Hotel, (near train station). Leeds CAMRA Pub of the Year 2003/4.

*Strawberryfields[Strawbs bar]Not your usual brewery owned pub.This family run and owned continental style bar is very popular with students, pre drinkers to Halo, otley runners. Located on the main road between met and uni. www.strawbs.com

  • Victoria Family and Commercial Hotel, city center (behind Town Hall). A refurbished Victorian gem.
  • Whitelocks, off Briggate, city center. A great historic pub, one of the most impressive (and oldest) in Leeds.

Leeds' thriving gay village (the city's first annual Pride festival launched in 2006) has a number of venues, including the ever-popular old stalwart Queen's Court, Lower Briggate housed in a fine 17th century building, amongst notable others including Fibre, The Bridge Inn, Blayds Bar, The New Penny, The Viaduct and Religion to name a few.

Clubs

Leeds was voted Best UK City for Clubbing, and certainly not for nothing! People flock to the city from all parts of the country for a bit of the action. It is not uncommon to meet clubbers from London on a night out. The city centre is packed to bursting with bars and clubs, ranging from cutting edge chic to indie and alternative, from cheesy tunes for the drunken masses to small select places for people who really like their music (house is still very much in vogue in Leeds, but whatever your musical taste you are guaranteed to find something). Here is a short list of some of the best and/or most popular places in the city at the moment:

  • Baja Beach Club. If you are drunk and want to hear Chesney Hawkes, it’s the place for you.
  • The Cockpit, city center, [114].
  • Discotheque by Gatecrasher. Very popular Saturday nights. £10-£15 entry Sat. Night.
  • Halo, city center. Studenty nightclub located near the university entrance, where you will find Voodoo and Skewed Circus events. Skewed Circus [115] is the pan-Northern funky alternative cabaret event run by theatre, comedy and musical promotions company Komedy Kollective [116] held monthly in Leeds, at the Halo nightclub. Similar high profile monthly events are held at Manchester and Bradford. Halo is not very close the the centre. Voodoo is also always packed and a great night. More mainstream dance.
  • Hifi. Good range of live music, particularly jazz. Regularly voted the best club in the city, has a range of quality nights out with quality music in easy-going yet chic surroundings...everything from jazz to reggae to hip hop.
  • Mint. Quality dance music nights. Much Ket.
  • Mission. Very trendy. Ranging nights, from Glasshouse to Purrfect Electro this has it. It also has some Gay Nights.
  • My House. (aka Stinky's Peephouse) - new home for one of the UK's biggest club nights: Back to Basics (Sa).
  • Oceana. Huge, it has a million rooms, it’s overpriced (like all big nightclubs in Leeds), but it's still fun. 19+ Friday night, 21+ Sat night. Upstairs can be hired out for private do's until 10pm when it opens, however this is a cheap way to get friends (Or under 21's) in on a Sat night.
  • Rehab, Assembly Street, city center. After a shaky period, this club is picking itself back up, having poached ever-popular nights Speedqueen and Fruity.
  • The Space. Great Thursday nights (Habit) and great weekends sometimes too! Although, Fridays & Saturdays are to be avoided unless you know it will be busy, its not really a Fri-Sat-night place...
  • Townhouse. Very trendy bar (and psedo-club) for the beautiful (and well-dressed) with a range of music and great drinks. Upstairs can be hired out for private do's.
  • Wire. Quality indie, rock and alternative club.

There are several gay nights (and fully gay venues) in clubs on and around Lower Briggate, including Mission, Fibre and Queen's Court.

The West Indian Centre on Chapeltown Road has a reputation for great fun nights of a less-mainstream kind, including ever-popular monthly Subdub. Whilst the venue itself is friendly and safe (or as safe as can be expected from a club), Chapeltown is infamous in Leeds and to avoid trouble go in fairly large groups and don't wonder around outside. There are regular buses from the city centre (2 miles to the south) or call a cab. Don't walk.

Sleep

Budget

There are currently no Youth Hostels in Leeds except during the summer months when a temporary city centre hostel operates. However plans are afoot for a permanent hostel to open shortly. There are a number of B&Bs behind the university on Woodsley Rd, 20 minutes walk from the city centre and less than half an hour from the station. Cardigan Rd in Headingley also has a range of B&Bs, right next to the Cricket Ground, minutes from the shops, bars and restaurants of central Headingley and on the 18 & 56 bus routes into the city centre.

  • Etap Hotel Leeds Centre, 2 The Gateway North, Crown Point Road, +44 (0)8712 222288, [117]. £32.
  • Express by Holiday Inn Leeds Armouries, Armouries Drive, Clarence Dock, city center, +44 (0)870 8900455 (), [118]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM.
  • Ibis Leeds Centre, Marlborough Street, city center, +44 (0)113 2204100, [119].
  • Glengarth Hotel, 162 Woodsley Road (Take Free City Bus to Dental School, right on Hyde Terrace, left on Woodsley.), +44 113 245 7940, [120]. Nice location among University of Leeds buildings, free wi-fi, friendly staff. £45.

Mid-range

  • Headingley Lodge, Headingley, [122]. Overlooking the world famous Headingley Cricket pitch.
  • Jury's Inn, city center, [123].
  • Merrion Hotel, Merrion Street, city center, [124].
  • Roomzzz, [125]. Get your own swanky apartment with kitchen and washing machine etc. From £50.

Splurge

  • 42 The Calls, 42 The Calls, city center, [126]. Award winning establishment has now been going for years offering boutique luxury in a quiet waterfront setting only minutes from the bars and clubs of the Exchange Quarter and the city centre shops.
  • Met (formerley Hotel Metropole). Exudes class and style.
  • Malmaison, city center. Three minutes walk from the City Rail Station, located in the Swinegate area of the city.
  • Park Plaza, city center (opposite railway station), [127]. Funky hotel in a prime location with great views on the upper floors.
  • Quebecs, city center, [128]. Stunningly refurbished building housing one of Leeds' finest and most luxuriant hotels in a prime location.
  • Queens Hotel, City Square, city center, [129]. One of Leeds' oldest hotels, its dramatic Art Deco facade and old world charm and style ensure it remains a favourite.
  • Radisson SAS, The Light Shopping Center, The Headrow, city center, [130].
  • Residence 6*, City Square, city center, [131]. Serviced apartments in The Old Post Office.

Stay safe

Leeds is known as a friendly city, however - as with any European city - the usual tips about exercising a degree of common caution apply: don't leave valuables unattended, don't go to badly lit/obscure/unknown places by yourself or walk around alone at night, etc. There are some notorious areas of Leeds at night with seedy reputations, including much of East Leeds, the un-rejuvenated areas of Chapeltown (particularly Spencer Place red light district), Holbeck and Mabgate. Whilst by and large these places are safe by day, it is best to avoid risking trouble. If you do encounter any trouble, the emergency services (police, ambulance, fire) number is the same as for the rest of the country: 999, or the new European wide emergency number: 112.

If you do happen to fall ill in Leeds, there are of course NHS and private medical practices all across the city, with the first major healthcare centre in the city centre to be built as part of La Lumiere (see above). Leeds is also home to two of Europe's largest hospitals - Leeds General Infirmary (in the Civic Quarter) and rapidly expanding St James' (a couple of miles east of the City Centre and just south of Harehills), as well as numerous smaller hospital and PCTs across the wider city area. As with the rest of the UK, tap water is safe to drink, and you are unlikely to come across any major health risks other than speeding traffic and the effects of alcohol.

Cope

The main tourist information office for the city is in the railway station, but there are various other information points across the city (e.g. Central Lending Library, The Headrow). For foreign visitors Leeds has a range of consulates, including: Danish, 6-7 Park Place, city center; Dutch [132]; Finnish [133]; German [134] and Greek, 8 Street Lane, Roundhay.

Get out

Leeds is the railway hub of much of Northern England, and railways serve York, Harrogate, Knaresborough, most of West Yorkshire and parts of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. The Leeds-Settle-Carlisle railway is one of the most scenic routes in the country. By road, the A64 leads to York, the A61 to Harrogate and the A65 to the Dales - there are plentiful bus services to these destinations.

  • Bradford, [135] - including National Media Museum (formerly the National Museum of Film and Photography), [136].
  • Ilkley - attractive spa town is easily accessible by bus or train and lies on the edge of the Dales, with the beautiful Ilkley Moor above the town, incorporating the (climbable with equipment) Cow and Calf rock formations. The town itself is a small, genteel and attractive place with an outdoor lido (pool) popular in the summer months; Bronte Country [137] and Haworth.
  • Yorkshire Sculpture Park, [139].
  • Harrogate. A lovely, affluent spa town with a range of upmarket and independent shops and restaurants in its elegant Victorian town centre ringed by lovely parks (including the lush and extensive Valley Gardens). Picturesque Knaresborough is a small medieval market town dramatically located on the side of a gorge dropping to the river Nidd. A castle, viaduct, cobbled streets, centuries-old buildings and thriving market only add to the charm. It is pleasantly under-visited by tourists and is easily reachable on the train from Leeds.
  • Hebden Bridge. An attractive little town in a wooded valley amid the Pennine Moors. It is famed for its left-wing bohemian flavour and plethora of independent shops and cafés - no chain stores here!
  • York, [141]. The historic capital of Yorkshire is well worth a trip, being less than half an hour away.
  • Manchester, Leed's great rival, in the North of England, is well worth a visit and under an hour away by car, train or coach [145].



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