Visit Leeds : My guide to the Yorkshire City

Visit Leeds : My guide to the Yorkshire City

Leeds is also known as the un-official capital of Yorkshire. It is quite an industrial city famous for its wool and iron foundries. I grew up in Manchester which is only 1.5 hours from Leeds and I had never visited until recently and it is a great city for shopping and eating. I spent 3 days exploring the city and outskirts and here is my guide to the city of Leeds. I learnt a lot about the city that I didnt know before my visit.

Leeds earned its place in Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Europe 2017’ top ten travel destinations thanks to its transformation over the past decade, with urban regeneration accompanied by a flourishing cultural scene, a growing food and craft beer reputation and thriving entertainment and nightlife. (Source : VisitLeeds)

I wanted to visit Leeds so I could go to the Emmerdale Studios Experience for my birthday as it is one of my favourite TV programs. I then got the chance to work with Visit Leeds who gave me a detailed itinerary on what to do in Leeds and a voucher for the Trinity shopping centre so I could sample some of the delicious food that the city had to offer.

leeds city centre

Travel to Leeds

I drove to the City of Leeds and the traffic wasn’t gridlocked but my Sat Nav did get confused with the pedestrianised streets and kept trying to take me down one to get back to my hotel. There are a number of car parks, the parking is pricy but this is normal in any UK city. I didnt notice much off street parking, there were a few parking meters for up to 1 hour so if you are only popping into the city this is OK however I needed somewhere to park the car over night. Check with the hotel you are staying at because like the Radisson Blu they might over a discount in the local carp parks.

Here is a list of the Leeds car parks

Depending where you are coming from a Train or a Bus might be the best option. Leeds train station is situated centrally and has a excellent network to other UK destinations. The Leeds Bus and Coach station is also centrally located and has some good links to other UK destinations outside of Yorkshire. This is also a great place to check out for day trips from Leeds if you have more time to explore the surrounding areas.

If you are coming from abroad you can fly into Leeds Bradford Airport or Manchester Airport is less than 1.5 hours away and it is easy to get to Leeds from Manchester by the above mentioned services.

Places to stay in Leeds

There are many types of Leeds accommodation and it will all depend on your budget and what your requirements are. I stayed at the Radisson Blu hotel which was a great location for exploring the city this was a mid range hotel. If you are on a budget there are a range of hostels and B&B’s. If you are looking for luxury the city has a number of 5 star hotels.

I would recommend on staying central so you can easily visit the city but if you are going to be doing more day trips from Leeds then you might be best finding a hotel out of the city purely for parking reasons and it might be a little cheaper. You could try and stay at one of these quirky places in Yorkshire.

twin beds at the raddison blu in leeds

Getting around Leeds City

Leeds is quite a walkable city with most of the tourist attractions being close to each other. It was also a fairly flat city and both me and my mum who have mobility limitations were OK walking around. There were plenty of benches so we could have little rests along the way.

The city also has a good local bus network if you need to get to somewhere which isn’t quite in walking distance. If you are going to be using the bus you can buy daily and weekly tickets from the bus driver which may save you some money. There are a number of taxi companies if you google you will find one or ask your hotel also the UBER app works in the city which is how I normally get around these days.

For those who would need to use some form of transport to travel around the city:

Leeds City Bus – The Leeds CityBus links Leeds’ rail and bus stations, business and shopping districts, the General Infirmary, Universities, Park Lane College and Halton Moor. Fare is £1 or free with a valid concessionary pass. Find out more here 

The Leeds Access Bus – AccessBus is a dial-a-ride bus service providing door-to-door local transport, seven days a week between 9am and 5pm. Find out more here (information provided by Visit Leeds)

Things to do in Leeds City

If you are visiting Leeds for the first time then a trip to the Leeds visitors centre will give you an idea of what is on in the city during your visit. I always try and visit a tourist information centre when I am visiting a new place as they will be the fountain of all knowledge about their city. Also the Visit Leeds website has so much information which will give you lots of fun things to do in Leeds.

The city is on the river Aire which also flows through the Yorkshire Dales, the city is supposed to be a great spot to admire the river as well as Bingley, Saltaire and Rodley.

Emmerdale Studio Experience : 27 Burley Rd, Leeds LS3 1JT

I had to put the Emmerdale Studio experience at the top of things to do in Leeds as this is the reason why I wanted to visit the city. I am a huge fan of this British TV program and I highly recommend if you are also a fan. You can read more about my trip here but if you love Emmerdale and want a chance to learn about behind the scene and get to see some set replicas then you have to visit. You need to pre book this online.

me with emmerdale signage

Thackray Medical Museum : Beckett Street, Leeds, LS9 7LN

Thackray Medical museum gives you a chance to travel back in time to the dirty streets of Leeds where you would visit a Victorian doctor who had the weirdest type of cures for the most common ailments. Do you think you would have survived living in Leeds so many years ago I dont think I would.

Leeds City Museum : Millennium Square, Leeds, LS2 8BH

Leeds City Museum admission to this museum is free and is centrally located. The museum is closed on Mondays but do check the website for current opening times. The major exhibitions change which means even if you have already visited the museum on one visit the next time you visit the city it might have a new exhibition.  

Leeds City Art Gallery : The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AA

Leeds City Art Gallery is another one of the cities free attractions and is again closed on Mondays. If you are an art lover this is a pace to visit as it has many different touring exhibitions to make it a interesting thing to do when visiting Leeds. It houses an impressive collection of 20th century British art and a colourful new wall painting commission for the Victorian staircase by Lothar Götz

Henry Moore Institute : The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AH

Henry Moore Institute is named after the famous sculpture who actually began his training in Leeds. It is a exhibition dedicated to sculpture. I visited but to be honest I know nothing about sculpture but it was nice to walk around and have a look. Again the attraction is free and centrally located you can visit the city museum, Henry Moore Institute and the Leeds City Art Gallery in one go as they are all very close to each other. Closed on Mondays.

henry moore institute

Leeds Town Hall : The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AD

Leeds Town Hall holds a number of events throughout the year including a beer festival and a piano competition which people can attend. The Leeds Town Hall was built between 1853 and 1858 on The Headrow (formerly Park Lane), Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, to a design by architect Cuthbert Brodrick (Source : Wikipedia

Interesting fact : The Town Hall houses a once used police station called the Bridewell. There are many cells underneath the grand building – some are even concealed under the front steps. (Source : Leeds town hall)

The Royal Armouries : Armouries Dr, Leeds LS10 1LT

The Royal Armouries  A chance to see arms and armour from across the world. It is open daily and is free admission. They have different activities such as cross bow shooting and exhibitions so check out their website if you are planning a visit to see what is on.

Leeds Cathedral : Cathedral House, Great George St, Leeds LS2 8BE

Leeds Cathedral is a place of peace in the bustling city of Leeds and dates back to 1786. It is a working cathedral so might be best to visit outside of mass times unless you are a catholic and want to take part in the religious services.

Interesting fact : Leeds Castle is actually in Kent and not in Yorkshire so dont expect to see a castle when visiting Leeds.

Activities to do in Leeds

There are a few places where you can watch a movie or catch a show which I have mentioned below. However if you get the chance you have to visit the Everyman Cinema.  I had a totally different experience visiting this cinema and it was so enjoyable. The cinema is decorated with lots of old movies posters it doesnt feel like a chain cinema although I have later discovered there have a few more in different cities and I will definitely try and visit some of the other especially as they have one in my home town of Bristol.

Its the service at this cinema that made it so unique. Unfortunately the lift was out of order and as my mum has a cane they got another member of staff to take us through the back entrance it was kind of weird having to walk through another theatre screen while a movie was playing but the member of staff did this will the least disruption to others and I thought it was really nice. If you want to find out more about these cinemas you can read my full review here.

The best bit was watching the movie on a really comfy sofa relaxing just like I would at home. There are a number of other cinemas in Leeds including two Vue cinemas one of which was next to my hotel and if I hadn’t already visited the Everyman I would have gone here as I love watching a movie when I am travelling. 

everyman cinema in leeds

There is also the Cottage Road cinema which is the oldest cinema in Leeds and one of the oldest cinemas in the UK in that it has been continuously showing films since 1912, this cinema doesnt have an extensive show list but does have movies everyday if I was to visit Leeds again I would love to try this out. Then you have the Hyde Park Picture House which is a local independent cinema showing a totally different range of film that you will see at the other cinemas.

How about watching a play at one of the Theatres in Leeds including the Leeds Grand Theatre that was showing the Calender Girls the musical during my visit or the Leeds Playhouse, Carriageworks TheatreStanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, and the Riley Theatre which is a dedicated dance house focusing on contemporary dance. 

Curious about Leeds is a self guided walk in each booklet it gives detailed directions, maps, clues (with answers if needed!), and fascinating stories about Leeds’s history. These can be downloaded for £5.99

The Key Club Independent Music Venue has made it onto the list of alternative things to do in Leeds by Timeout. If you like your music then this is going to be the place where you are going to want to spend your evenings in Leeds.

The city has a number of instagrammable places and there are a number of selfie stops which are marked on the floor to give you that perfect selfie.

selfie spot in leeds

Where to Eat and Drink in Leeds

Well you are definitely not going to go hungry or thirsty during your visit as there are so many places to eat and drink in Leeds. Every street had some form of eatery catering to everyone’s taste and budget. I would have happily stayed in the city for much longer to eat my way around some of the places as I just didnt have time to try all that I wanted to.

The Trinity Centre has a number of restaurants as well as the Trinity Kitchen that rotates 6 food vans every 8 weeks. I tried the New York-Shire Hot dog van and it was so tasty.

food vans at trinity in leeds

I am quite fussy about my hot dogs and was really surprised it was such good quality for a food van and the chips were scrummy. We had 2 hot dogs, 1 portion of chips and 2 cans for £16. There were some great looking vans and if I lived in the city I would be coming here all the time to try the new vans.

food in leeds

We decided on the Brazilian restaurant Cabana Rio Street Food as I am currently working out a trip to Brazil so thought I best see if I like the food and luckily I did. I had a flamed grill chicken skewer which was huge I went for a mild sauce for they did have some spicier options although I am not a big fan of spice.

rio street food in leeds

The restaurant also had a number of sauces that you could help yourself to and have as much or as little spice as you wanted. My mum had Churrasco Fried Chicken Coconut curry and she loved it. I really liked the décor in this restaurant is was a fun place to eat. The prices were reasonable and the service was great.

brazilian coconut curry in leeds

Afternoon tea during any city visit is lovely but at the tiled café in the art gallery it looks a great experience, I am gutted we ran out of time to try this. We had some cakes from a stall called Meli Patisserie in the Trinity Centre and they  were delicious so if you get chance try the sweet treats I would recommend. We took them back to our hotel and had with a cuppa and if I had been in Leeds for longer I would have gone back to try some more as they all looked good.

cakes at meli patisserie in leeds

If you are looking for fantastic views over the city then try The Skylounge bar in the Hilton by Double Tree and the Angelica in the Trinity Centre.

I visited the Angelica and even though it was quite pricey it was perfect for a treat. It was a lovely evening and we sat outside I had a cocktail and it was great to look at the city down below. This was a popular venue and we were lucky to get a table as it was quite busy on a Wednesday early evening. They sell spirits by the bottle and if you are feeling a bit flush how about a bottle of brandy for £1600. I settled for a Angelica Punch cocktail priced at £11

me having a cocktail in leeds

Other recommendations by Leeds tourist board of where to eat in Leeds.

Greek Street area for dinner and cocktails

Bar Soba – Street Food inspired by the night markets of South-East Asia. Creative Cocktails made with smoke, ice, fire, premium ingredients and exotic flavours. Greek Street, LS1 5RW

Gusto – A gorgeous Italian restaurant with a menu that features all the traditional classics, and an abundance of contemporary dishes. 10 Greet Street, LS1 5RU

Alchemist – Ringing the adventurous and unconventional to Greek Street in Leeds. The bar houses an extensive list of cocktails including the renowned smokey old fashioned and the mad hatter’s tea party, to name but a few.
Yorkshire House, Greek Street, LS1 5SH

Tattu – The stunning floral interior of this stylish restaurant and bar will transport you to another world. 29 East Parade, LS1 5ES

Festivals in Leeds

Leeds holds an annual music festival in August which is ran by the same people of Reading Festival and obviously it is called Leeds Festival. After going to my first mini festival this year I was so tempted to go to this but you have to be quick as the tickets sell out fast as it is very popular. Also be aware that you are visiting the city as the same time of the festival it might be harder to find accommodation. The city also have a number of other festivals throughout the year including the Leeds West Indian Carnival and the Leeds International Film Festival in Autumn.

music festival in leeds

Shopping in Leeds

Leeds would be paradise for any shopping fan as there are so many places to go shopping from your recognisable high street brands in the Trinity centre to various streets and lanes for the more elite such as Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood in the Victoria Quarter. I am not a big shopper but enjoyed walking around the shopping arcades the architecture was beautiful.

shopping arcades in leeds

We visited the Kirkgate Market which didnt have many stalls open but in the olden days I could imagine this to be a bustling area. They have Leeds Famers market every first and third Sunday.

kirkgate market

Leeds is also home to the first Marks and Spencer’s which was a penny bazaar opened in 1884. In Kirkgate market they have a stall which looked like the original but I enquired and the assistant explained it wasn’t in fact the original stall as in 1884 it was a open market but then when Michael Marks teamed up with Thomas Spencer they opened their first stall in the arcade in 1904 and this is set up to look like what they think it might have looked like back in the day but obviously it was selling modern things from Marks and Spencer’s.

The assistant was really helpful and said you can visit the archives not too far from the market to find out more about the first stall.

marks and spencers in leeds

Things to do outside of Leeds city

Kirkstall Abbey : Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds, LS5 3EH

Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery in Kirkstall which dates back to 1152. It is a free attraction and is very popular on TripAdvisor as being one of the top places to visit when in Leeds. It is also one of the best picnic spots in Leeds.

Temple Newsam : Temple Newsam Road, Selby Road, Leeds, LS15 0AE

Temple Newsam is a Tudor-Jacobean house open daily apart from Mondays. You can visit the house and farm for £9.50 for adult and £4.50 for a child a wonderful place to spend a family day out in Leeds.

Harewood House : Harewood, Leeds LS17 9LG

Harewood House and grounds are open March to November and it is recommended to book tickets online prior to visit. The house dates back to the 18th century. Visitors can enjoy exhibitions of contemporary art, rare Bird Garden, Farm Experience and over 100 acres of exquisite gardens to explore The house also has other attractions throughout the year such as an open air cinema.

Lotherton Hall : Off Collier Lane, Aberford, Leeds, LS25 3EB

I visited Lotherton Hall and it was a lovely day out. I loved walking around the wildlife park getting to see all the different type of birds, piggies and they even had penguins which were stinky but cute.

animals at lotherton hall

My mum enjoying exploring the Hall as she loves a stately home. I was surprised at how accessible the hall was they had fitted a visitor lift to get to the different floors and they even had stool seats you could borrow to walk around the hall and have a seat whenever you needed.

lotherton hall

My mum found butlers pantry in the stately home interesting as she has visited many homes and has never seen one before. This is where the butler locked away all the silver so I guess as most stately homes are still being used this has to be still kept a secret otherwise people might steal the family jewels.

butler pantry at lothertonhall in leeds

Roundhay Park and Tropical World : Princes Ave, Roundhay Park, Leeds LS8 2ER

Roundhay park and tropical world with gardens and lakes is a lovely place to spend the day. The Tropical world has greenhouses filled with UK’s largest tropical plant and animal collections outside of Kew Gardens. Opening times vary depending on the time of the year so you are best checking the website for these and the latest prices.

Oakwell Hall Country Park

Oakwell Hall Country Park  is furnished as a family home in the 1690s and offers visitors a real insight into a post-English Civil War household. The site also includes over 100 acres of country park, a visitor centre, gift shop, nature trail, picnic sites and playground. (Source : Kirless Council)

Day trips from Leeds

If you are staying in the city and you do not have transport or want to sit back and relax you can do a coach trip from Leeds or catch a train from Leeds to York or one of the other Yorkshire destinations that you can read more about in my guide to Yorkshire.

There are many places to visit near Leeds and these are probably accessible by train too as there is a great train network from Leeds.

Yorkshire Dales

If you have a car then do try and get out to the Yorkshire Dales and as they are stunning. I often forget how beautiful the countryside is in the UK and it is such a contrast when you have been visiting a city to then drive a little and be in the middle of what looks like nowhere. There are also a number of coach tours from Leeds to the Yorkshire Dales. I did a tour when I was in York and I highly recommend as I was so impressed.

York

You can read all about my time in York here. It is a city that I love and there is always so much going on. You can get a train from Leeds to York in just over 20 minutes or it is a 40 minute drive. You can easily visit York whilst still staying in Leeds as it is so close but be warned there is so much to see and do in York you might need a few more days but it you are limited in time I would still recommend going for a day.

During your time in York you can visit the York Cathedral which is so impressive, the chocolate story which is a must visit place for any chocolate lover and if you time it right the city has an excellent Food and Drink Festival.

Skipton

Skipton is a market town in Yorkshire, if you visit this town you can see the Skipton Castle which is over 900 years old, as well as getting a glimpse of the Yorkshire Dales. The town also has a great list of activities going on around the year so check out the website if you are going to visit to see what is on in Skipton

Famous people from Leeds

I love knowing which famous people came from a city I am visiting so I have including a list here, didnt realise so much talent came from this Yorkshire City.

Alan Bennet playwright
Mel b spice girls
Helen Fielding creator of Bridget Jones
Chris Moyles radio presenter
The Kaisher Chiefs
Corinne Bailey Rae Soul Singer
Vic Reeves
John Craven Newsround
John Simms
Peter OToole
Gabby Logan
Ernie Wise
Marco Pierre White
Jeremy Paxman
Gaynor Faye
Angela Griffin
Kay Mellor Screenwriter

Thank you to Visit Leeds for putting me and mum up in your wonderful city and helping me to explore. Also big thanks to Emmerdale Studio Experience for our complimentary tickets for this wonderful attraction in Leeds.

Guide to Leeds, UK

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