10 Things to See and Do in Leeds

Like many university cities around the world, Leeds, UK is packed with incredible amenities to accommodate all ages and lifestyles. Set alongside River Aire, Leeds showcases a historic center brimming with hundreds of shops, from brand names to one-of-a-kind stores. The large number of captivating art galleries and museums means anyone can absorb high doses of culture. You can’t beat the number of exciting festivals, fairs, and fetes each year like Leeds International Film Festival in November. Parks and gardens, walking trails, and architectural wonders dot Leeds creating a fascinating landscape within a friendly, inviting city filled with choices.

10. Wander the City

The size of Leeds is quite accommodating because many places are within easy distance. It makes finding points of interest easy and getting around simple. The compactness of it all lends a charming, small town vibe. Countless cities worldwide aren’t pedestrian friendly, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth in Leeds. For anyone with even a mildly adventurous spirit, wandering the city rather aimlessly is one of the best ways to experience the dynamic outdoor arcades, stunning Victorian architecture, and attractive cobblestone streets alongside the river. A little daytime vagabonding reveals plenty of small avenues to intriguing places otherwise missed if not for nosing around. Wandering is perfect for travelers who aren’t prone to precisely scheduling each day and the best part is, if your final point is one you can’t find your way back from, just hail a taxi and cross town easily and for an affordable price.

Alastair Wallace / Shutterstock.com
Alastair Wallace / Shutterstock.com

9. Small Gallery Tour

Leeds is Yorkshire’s harbinger in the art scene, home to a legion of top-rated art galleries. Inevitably, some of the city’s most commanding art centers land on an art-lovers must-see list, but there are plenty of smaller, independent exhibitions that will grab the attention of any artisan at heart. These lesser known spaces provide authentic treasures to view and contemplate. At the University of Leeds, the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery is open for public viewing, showing off a large collection of sculptures, ceramics, and photographs in addition to European and British prints, paintings, and drawings. Sunny Bank Mills is another gorgeous, naturally lit, multi-purpose art space within a re-established industrial area in the center of Farsley district and featuring revolving exhibitions. Within The Calls district, head to Mexico Project Space for contemporary art or Workshop Press Gallery for inspiring prints by in-house artist Garry Barker and other local artists.

dimbar76 / Shutterstock.com
dimbar76 / Shutterstock.com

8. Golden Acre Park

The flurry of travel can become overwhelming but an easy way to erase the stress is a stroll through one of Leed’s impressive green spaces. Golden Acre Park’s 179 beautiful woodland acres are ripe with airy trees, water features, sandstone, and limestone rock gardens. The park is ideal for getting a look at native wildlife, especially wildfowl. The parks’ gardeners keep an ever-changing landscape by replanting often with interesting choices. Main features of Golden Acre Park include: The Clematis Walk and Water Garden on the west side, Adel Dam Nature Reserve, Jubilee Plantation, and lush Heather Gardens. Golden Acre is less than 10 miles from the Leed’s center and within easy distance if riding one of three daily buses to the main parking lot. It’s a fantastic spot for kids to burn off some energy and ideal for all age groups because the majority of trails are completely level.

Photo by: Terry Madeley via Flickr
Photo by: Terry Madeley via Flickr

7. Kirkgate Market

South of the Victorian Quarter near Trinity Leeds is Kirkgate Market, one of Europe’s most esteemed indoor marketplaces. Inaugurated as an open-air market in 1822, the first covered market sections were built over 25 years in the mid 1800s. Today, more than 100,000 people head to Kirkgate each week for the more than 800 stalls selling a huge variety of goods. This is the place to go for fresh produce and meat; skip the supermarket and visit one of the professional food vendors for a bite to eat, recipe ingredients, or both. Kirkgate really is a sight to see and so convenient you can shop for new clothing, pick up wine, beer, and spirits, sip a cup of tea and have a chat, pore over hundreds of food vendors, get a haircut, and so much more. The all-encompassing market is as much an attraction as it is a local staple.

Photo by: Yus via Flickr
Photo by: Yus via Flickr

6. Bramley Baths

Following a busy day exploring Leeds, Bramley Baths could be just the thing to put the spring back into your step. The facility is one of the last remaining Edwardian bath houses open to the public in the UK’s northern area. The Leeds community took over in 2013, repurposing it as a social project and not-for-profit enterprise. Introduced in 1904, locals swam, washed, and used the Russian Steam Baths, a pastime well-loved by the Edwardians for the health benefits. The center is focused around the baths, but also provides a gym and large swimming pool. Possibly the most celebrated part of Bramley Baths are the steam rooms (saunas), called banya in Russian and popular across Eastern Europe. A swim in the pool is especially pleasant; the vaulted glass roof lets the sun spill in, naturally warming the water. Follow a swim with a steam using an inexpensive, pre-purchased day pass.

Photo by: Bramley Baths
Photo by: Bramley Baths

5. Legendary Nightlife

Gastro pubs, dance clubs, trendy bars, and live music venues dot the Leeds city map. With a more recent overhaul in the nightlife industry, Leed’s has proved they can play ball with the best of them, showcasing tons of innovative places to put back a pint. With such a compact city center, it’s easy to walk from one end to the other in around 20 minutes. On the south side is The Calls, a popular district with a diverse selection of crowd-pleasing bars. The New Briggate area is another hotspot for a night out with a long list of great bars. Millennium Square in the north end is where you’ll be spoiled for choice, with a large array of restaurants and bars just a stone’s throw from each other. Brewery Wharf, though not as frequented as in previous years, is a fantastic place to take a stroll and find some excellent drinking holes.

Brewery Wharf, Leeds

4. City Varieties Music Hall

North of the Victoria Quarter in central Leeds is the famous City Varieties Music Hall, an authentic hall surviving the Victorian era and featuring a fascinating and mostly original interior. Some of City’s most famous stage performers include magician Houdini and comedian Charlie Chaplin. Checking out the lineup of shows, you’ll find music performances, theater shows, comedy shows, and much more throughout the year. Small and intimate, there really are no nosebleed seats at City Varieties and the local volunteers add a homey and welcoming feel to the already inviting atmosphere. Most locals recommend buying tickets for the lesser-known acts, which most often turn out to be the hall’s best shows. Enjoy a pint from the well-priced bar, relax in comfortable seating, and let the show wow you. The hall is surrounded by a good number of pubs and restaurants, making the area perfect for an entire night out.

Photo by: Jason Tozer via Visit Leeds
Photo by: Jason Tozer via Visit Leeds

3.  Corn Exchange

Leeds Corn Exchange is one of the finest Victorian era buildings in Leeds and one of just three like it in the United Kingdom. Architecture enthusiasts will love this Victorian highlight located on Call Lane. The circular building was designed by Yorkshire architect Cuthbert Brodrick. He entered his idea in a competition for the creation of Leeds Town Hall in 1852 and took home the win. He went on to design Leeds Corn Exchange, The Brodrick Building, and Grand Scarborough Hotel, one of the world’s biggest hotels of that era. The Corn Exchange is filled with galleries, a broad and unique range of shops, and several great cafes. The venue’s regular fairs are something to look forward to and a great place to find unique goods, vintage wares, and handmade items by local artisans. The annual spring record fair is the best place to find some rare, vintage vinyl treasures.

Leeds Corn Exchange

2. Meanwood Valley Trail

Meanwood Valley Trail is Leed’s greenest artery, beginning at Woodhouse Moor close to the heart of Leeds, and leading away past the edge of the city. The verdant walking path runs along a route filled with natural and historical interests. Despite how impressive the trail is, it’s generally never overcrowded, maintaining a serene and flourishing avenue to stretch your legs and enjoy the calls of nature. There are four stages to the 11-kilometer walk, which can be started from the city center or joined at most points along the route. Over the years, Meanwood Valley Trail has seen upgrades along the pathways as well as new signs filled with facts on native wildlife. The walk has plenty of notable features including tunnels, lush gardens, charming bridges, an old aqueduct, and a mix of architecture via buildings visible from the path. The whole experience ends at beautiful, garden-filled Golden Acre Park.

Photo by: Chemical Engineer via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Chemical Engineer via Wikimedia Commons

1. Geocaching

Geocaching is a fantastic way to explore the different areas of Leeds; it’s wandering but with a purpose. Geocaching could hit the mark for anyone interested in trying something totally out of the ordinary. The worldwide fad can be enjoyed by anyone who owns a GPS system or a cell phone with GPS capability (you’re likely packing it anyway so why not?). The GPS device is used to navigate a specific set of coordinates to try to hunt down a container, or “geocache,” hidden in a certain location; essentially an adult-friendly treasure hunt and one that’s perfect for some awesome family fun. To take part, create a free account with www.geocachingonline.com, look up the city you’re in, and a list of cache names are displayed. The only rule is to replace the hidden object with something else (at least) equal in value. Who knows what you’ll find at the end.

Leeds Map

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