Visiting Leeds – A City Guide
Leeds, historically a market city, has attracted visitors for centuries. Its blend of Victorian architecture and trendy shopping continues to make it an ideal choice for a city break or longer, more leisurely stay to soak up the Yorkshire charm.
Leeds: city layout
Leeds is in Yorkshire county, 44 miles northeast of Manchester via the M62, and 195 miles north of London via the A1. The railway station is a national hub and the airport, shared with Bradford, is 10 miles northwest of the city.
Step out of the railway station, just north of the River Aire, and most of the compact city centre’s attractions, hotels and restaurants are at your feet. The Headrow, the city’s main thoroughfare, bisects the city from east to west.
Head right from the station and you’ll find the main Shopping Quarter, north of which is the Cultural Quarter with entertainment, galleries and music venues. Head left out of the station and it’s the Financial Quarter, north of which are two universities. Cross the river behind the station to reach Brewery Wharf for more shopping and museums.
The city centre is well-served with plenty of street maps dotted around to help you find your bearings.
Top attractions in Leeds
You’ll be able to watch opera, ballet or the latest indie bands in the Cultural Quarter and University venues. Notable buildings surrounding Millennium Square include the Town Hall, Leeds City Museum and Leeds College of Art. The square also hosts public events and concerts.
Sports fans are well-served with an international cricket ground at Headingley and Elland Road stadium, home of Leeds United Football Club.
The concierge recommends…
Hotels in Leeds
You can find peace and quiet or buzzing nightlife on your doorstep when selecting a Leeds hotel.
Staying close to the centre offers the best of both worlds. Near the docks, between the A61, the River Aire and the Royal Armouries Museum, is a quiet district ten minutes’ walk from both the city centre and the Cultural Quarter, and a five-minute drive from Crown Point Shopping Park.
Cavendish Street is in the vicinity of Leeds City College and University of Leeds, both with lively bar scenes, and a 15-minute stroll to renowned live music venues, such as The Brudenell Social Club.
Favoured by both business and leisure travellers is the well-connected area around Leeds Railway Station. From here you’ll be able to make your way easily north towards Westgate and take the main artery east, The Headrow, leading to restaurants, venues and the Shopping District.
Eating Out in Leeds
Leeds has everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to Middle Eastern street food plus, of course, good old-fashioned fish and chips.
The area around the Shopping Quarter hosts upscale restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Man Behind The Curtain on Vicar Lane.
Visitors to the Arts District often end up at the classic, French-style Kendell’s Bistro; don’t miss the fresh-baked bread.
Fans of street food should head to Bundobust (Indian), the North African/Middle Eastern Café Moor in Kirkgate Market or Trinity Market’s street food vans, which change each month.
Nash’s has been serving fish and chips to Leeds since 1924 – eat in or take away. A short walk away is The Town Hall Tavern, a gastropub specialised in British grub including the local delicacy: Yorkshire Pudding.
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Shopping in Leeds
Leeds’ reputation as a shopping destination has grown over the years. Though it’s relatively compact, there are over 1,000 stores here, from boutiques and arcades to international fashion icons.
There are five miles of shopping streets in the area around Briggate, the main pedestrianised shopping street. Kirkgate leads toward two markets where you can explore the stalls of independent retailers. You’ll find upmarket stores between Briggate and Albion Streets, including those at Trinity Market and Victoria Quarter.
The Headrow is home to The Light, a large new mall with cinemas, designer retail and even fitness centres, in case a day’s exploring the estimated 4.5 million square feet of shops isn’t enough of a workout already.
Top markets and malls in Leeds
Culture & Nightlife in Leeds
From the latest indie bands to opera, contemporary art to open mics, Leeds is packed with things to do day and night.
Follow the River Aire around toward the Royal Armouries Museum, the national museum of arms and armour. A ten-minute walk away is The Tetley, a contemporary art museum set in a former Tetley’s tea warehouse.
The Wellington Street area is home to the photography and film gallery White Cloth, plus The Flux, where you can catch open mics, poetry and small exhibitions.
Opera buffs can head to the Grand Theatre, home of Opera North. The Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, in the Cultural Quarter is the place to see ballet. Nearby on Quarry Hill is the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Just off Kirkgate, Call Lane’s nightlife ranges from cocktail bars to traditional pubs, some with live bands or DJs.
Up near the Universities you can see art exhibitions at The Henry Moore Institute by day and catch live music acts at the O2 Academy by night.
Live music venues in Leeds
Visiting Leeds with a Family
Families are well-catered for in Leeds, with loads to do for kids of all ages. Refuelling after a session at the museums or bowling is easy, too, with some kid-friendly restaurants to sample.
Leeds City Museum, in Millennium Square, has four floors of interactive galleries including Egyptian mummies, the Leeds tiger and regular special events for children.
Explore the city at your own pace with the self-guided walk downloadable at Curious About Leeds. It covers galleries, arcades, the River Aire and more.
In the suburb of Headingley you can get up close and personal with some animals at the Meanwood Valley Urban Farm.
Looking to blow off some steam on a rainy day? Try The Leeds Wall climbing centre or MFA Bowl in the Merrion Centre.
Family-friendly restaurants in Leeds