Ok, so we know they say York is the capital of God’s Own Country – but we can’t help but disagree. Coming on leaps and bounds over the past decade, Leeds has carved itself into a real Northern Powerhouse, not only leading the way when it comes to digital entrepreneurs and creative geniuses, but also with its unbeatable force of unique bars, restaurants and shops.
It’s a city to be reckoned with these days, and one that should be right at the top of your list of places to visit this coming year. Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Leeds.
Things to do in Leeds: by day
Take a stroll around the beautiful Harewood House
While Harewood House is situated just outside of town, the stunning stately home is well worth the detour.
Boasting bags and bags of grandeur, guests are welcome to potter the 120 acres of land owned by the estate, as well as explore inside the 18th century mansion.
Art lovers will be blown away by the house’s fantastic collection of artwork – which rivals many of our countries museums – with tons of beautiful antiques, manicured gardens and even a rare Bird Garden to enjoy, too.
Potter through the lovely Victorian arcades
Home to a number of stunning Victorian arcades (Victoria Gate being the most well-loved), architecture lovers will be in awe of the city’s stunning shopping history – with plenty of fantastic independent shops to explore.
From the cosy Grand Arcade where you can grab a cuppa, to the more high end Victoria Arcade, and others such as County, Thornton’s and Central, there’s plenty to see and do, with tons of photo opps for the Instagrammers among us.
Check out one of Leeds oldest pubs, Whitelock’s
Dating back to 1715, Whitelock’s – first know as the Turk’s Head – is one of the oldest pubs in the city. Beloved still to this day, the pub boasts much of its decor from its 1886 refurbishment, including the marble and copper bar, the tiled bar front, the cast iron fireplace and the etched brewery mirrors.
Today, the former Marketman’s pub offers an extensive British pub menu, alongside ales, beers and so much more.
Visit Kirkstall Abbey
One of Leeds’ most historic sights, Kirkstall Abbey is one of the best preserved Cistercian monasteries in the whole country. Boasting over 800 years of history, the stunning structure can be admired still today, and if you visit at the right time of year, you might be treated to sights of snow drops and spring blooms.
Kirkgate Market, while unassuming to your average passerby, is actually one of the largest of its kind in Europe – filled with fresh food, fashion, gifts, jewellery and more, alongside street food, baked goods, butchers and even beauty salons.
It’s the perfect place to potter for a while, with rows upon rows of fantastic things to browse and buy.
Stroll down the canal and Leeds Dock
Feel like stretching your legs? Leeds’ canal walks are ever so pretty, particularly when you head over to the Docks.
Home to Steph’s Packed Lunch and great views of the river, if you head down at lunchtime on a weekday, you might catch a glimpse of Steph, Cammy or other celebs filming the daily Channel 4 show.
Pop for an ale at The Tetley
Those who’ve done their homework already will know that Leeds was once home to a huge Tetley’s brewery, which, to this day, retains many of its original features.
Today, visitors can still step inside, where they’ll discover a contemporary art gallery, a number of exhibitions, pieces of Tetley’s history, a bar and a cosy tearoom, too.
Go shopping at Trinity and Victoria Gate
There’s no denying what Leeds is truly good for: shopping. Home to the huge Trinity shopping centre and the more high end Victoria Gate, those looking for a successful day of burning the money in their pockets won’t be disappointed by Leeds’ retail offering.
Think your typical high street giants, alongside more quirky independents such as Blue Rinse Vintage, The Hip Store and Giant Kitten.
Things to do in Leeds: by night
Enjoy a drink with a view at Angelica
Angelica is one of Leeds’ most popular bars – and for good reason. Providing lovely views of the city, the gorgeous cocktail bar resides at the top of the Trinity shopping centre, offering a great escape from the retail chaos that exists below it.
There on the rooftop, guests can enjoy a sliver of elegance, with a wonderful menu of cocktails, brasserie dishes, and, of course, some of the best views in town.
Catch a bit of live music at Belgrave Music Hall
Popular among foodies and music lovers in Leeds, Belgrave Music Hall is a fantastic destination all day long.
By day, guests can enjoy pizza from Dough Boys and burgers from Patty Smiths, alongside great beers and an uber-cool atmosphere.
By night, the venue truly comes alive, with tons of gigs and events making up the weekly schedule, pop-up cinema nights and so much more to get stuck into.
Check out West End hits at Leeds Grand Theatre
Who said the theatre was just for London? Not us. In fact, Leeds Grand Theatre is just as appealing. Boasting an upcoming schedule of huge West End hits, those visiting Leeds can enjoy global productions from both Broadway and London’s most prestigious stages – with stunning 1800s architecture to take in while there.
Knock back a few cocktails on Call Lane
No matter what corner you turn in Leeds, you’re bound to find a great bar – but Call Lane, in particular, is one of our favourite spots.
Dotted with plenty of cool cocktail bars, the area of town is home to bars such as Call Lane Social, Neon Cactus, Cuckoo, the Tiki Hideaway, Revolution, The Maven and many more, all of which are perfect for kicking back with a cocktail, enjoying a bit of music and generally letting your hair down a little.
Challenge your mates to a game of darts at Flight Club
Providing fun for all occasions, Flight Club is the perfect bar to visit for those on the look out for something a little different.
Consisting of a number of ‘oches’, guests can compete against their mates in a number of fun mini darts games, with a little something to suit everyone’s technique.
In addition to the game, the bar also offers a classic menu of cocktails, alongside tasty pizzas and an array of bottomless weekend events, too.
Try Michelin Star grub at The Man Behind The Curtain
Food with a side of theatre, anyone? Created by chef Michael O’Hare, The Man Behind The Curtain is one of the most unique dining experiences in the city – combining fine dining with fine art at the Michelin Star restaurant.
Each dish is as creatively presented as the next, with lobsters served on old-fashioned telephones – a là Salvador Dali and Schiaparelli – quite the norm for O’Hare and his team. Even the desserts resemble an abstract Damien Hirst piece, something that can’t quite be said for any other restaurant around.
Catch a comedy show at The HiFi Club
Known for its live music nights and weekend comedy sessions, The HiFi Club is great for those looking to leave Leeds entertained.
Hosting an array of events to suit everyone, guests can enjoy Leeds’ finest independent comedy night every single Saturday, alongside DJ nights, live jazz bands, brass bands, salsa bands and so, so, soooo much more.
The venue has grown a glittering reputation over the years, with the likes of Katherine Ryan, Alan Carr and Chris Ramsey making appearances on stage at some of their recent comedy sessions.
Our top bar recommendations:
- The Banker’s Cat
- The Maven
- The Watermark Bar
- Pixel Bar
- Below Stairs
- Headrow House
- Nation of Shopkeepers
- Assembly Underground
- East 59th
- North Brewing Co.
- Water Lane Boathouse
- Lost & Found
- The Alchemist
Our top restaurant recommendations:
- The Man Behind The Curtain
- The Swine That Dines
- Ambiente Tapas
- Slap and Pickle
- El Gato Negro
- Almost Famous
- Yard & Coop
- Little Bao Boy
- Lost & Found
[Featured image: SakhanPhotography – Adobe Stock]