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Your guide to... Leeds

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When it comes to Leeds, there’s a lot to say. For starters, it’s the city that gave us Marks & Sparks, Pudsey Bear and Scary Spice. And, as a country, where would we be without all these things? It’s also home to two universities, it has a shopping space bigger than Heathrow and the weather is considerably better than in fellow Northern city, Manchester.

With all this in mind, it seems like Leeds is a pretty great city to be in. And the public seem to think so too, as there are currently over 800 rooms in the area on SpareRoom. So we thought we’d share our detailed guide on all the wonderful things you can get up to in the ever-popular city of Leeds...

Where is it?

T’up north in West Yorkshire! On a good day, Leeds is a three and a half hour car drive from London, but if you catch a coach it’ll take an hour longer – because of all the stops (duh). But when companies like Megabus have rides going for as little as £5, who cares?!

If road trips aren’t your thing, Leeds is a two and a half hour train journey from London Kings Cross. And the city is also well connected to cities including Newcastle, Manchester and Bristol – all of which have direct train services.

What is there to do?


Leeds is renowned for its multiple shopping arcades. But don’t get it twisted – these are NOT your typical British shopping malls with screaming children, broken escalators and a Mcdonalds on the ground floor... Instead, Leeds’ arcades are all classic Victorian establishments with marble arches and high glass ceilings. Built between 1878 and 1900, the arcades are now flooded with luxury shops (think Mulberry, Vivienne Westwood, Louis Vuitton) and fancy eateries. Out of the five that still stand, Victoria Quarter is undoubtedly the most famous due to its magnificent mosaic floor and bottle green stained glass roof. So get your wallet (and your camera) at the ready because Leeds’ arcades will give your shopping trips a new lease of life…

For another unique shopping experience, try Kirkgate Market, which is (impressively) the largest indoor market in Europe. From Monday to Saturday this spacious hall sells everything from fresh fruit and veg to homewares and jewellery. It may be a real Leeds institution but Kirkgate Market has a bit of everything – one minute you’re scoffing a scone, the next a chapati.

Another must-visit in Leeds is the Royal Armouries Museum. As the name suggests, this museum showcases a wide range of historic arms and armour from around the world. From hunting weapons to real-life jousting in the tiltyard, there’s plenty to see and do. The museum even has a film inspired collection, which boasts the M-41A Pulse Rifle from the sci-fi horror Alien, and five replicas of the iconic swords from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. So if you fancy a gander at Gandalf’s sword, you know where to go. Don’t worry, you shall pass… it’s free admission!

The museum lives towards the docks. But why waste time walking there when you can catch a boat ride to the door for free?! Leeds’ Water Taxis, which go by the names ‘Twee’ and ‘Drie’ ferry passengers between Granary Wharf (aka the city centre) and Leeds Dock. Once on board you can sit back and relax for a leisurely 12 minute glide down the River Aire. Okay, it may not be a Gondola on the Grand Canal, but these taxis are still a great novelty and quite a useful transport option too.

If you fancy getting out the city take a 40 minute drive out to Ilkley Moor – a moorland with neolithic sites and plunging views. This green oasis offers a selection of Heritage walks ranging from one hour (for all you walking lightweights) to four hour long treks, with sights like stone age carvings and WW2 bomber plane wreckage to gawp at. Of course, we all know a pint pit stop is a necessity on a country walk – how else will your legs survive? Luckily Ilkley Moor boasts several pubs to choose from, ey...

Where do I eat?

Leeds has a multitude of tasty breakfast spots. For a traditional, hearty brunch head to LS6 for a full English, enjoyed against a snazzy backdrop of flamingo wallpaper.

But the only thing better than brunch… is bottomless brunch. So if you enjoy an 11am tipple on a Saturday, Shears Yard is where you want to be. For £25 you’re free to guzzle as much prosecco (or Bloody Mary’s) as you can within the hour and a half bottomless time frame. The booze is accompanied by a brunch dish – like the ‘Croque Madame’ brioche sandwich, which comes drenched in cheese sauce... * wipes dribble from mouth *

For a cheap, tasty lunch on the go, try the Falafel Guys – two brothers who have been bringing middle eastern cuisine to Yorkshire from their trusty red van since 2016. Despite being number one on TripAdvisor (!), the van humbly sits outside an M&S on Briggate; Leeds’ main shopping street. For under a fiver, you can get a wrap or salad bowl with a choice of scrumptious ‘layers’ (falafel, halloumi or chicken). PLUS, you can add all the extras you fancy for £1 each…

As mentioned before, Ilkley Moor is a great place for a post-walk pint. But after battling Northern winds and grassy terrains, sometimes a glass of lager just isn’t enough – you need a fat burger and chips as well. Cow and Calf pub is our top pick thanks to its cosy, country vibes, open fires and classic pub food. The only problem is, you still have to walk (or roll) back home…

Back in the city, it’s all about the Ox Club for dinner, where head chef, Ben Davy, serves up delicious wood-grilled meat and fish inspired by US cuisine. The food isn’t cheap, but the place is far from snooty – you could almost be mistaken for thinking it’s a Five Guys, thanks to the open, tiled kitchen and simple wooden seats. Clearly, Ox Club has decided to let the food do the talking, and boy does it talk...

For a more reasonably priced meal, try The Reliance; a casual pub-come-restaurant. Despite cheaper prices, The Reliance still promises high end ingredients like pheasant, pigeon and hanger steak. It’s particularly well known for its charcuterie boards, which are air dried and cured in house in the bespoke curing room. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that!

Fancy Yorkshire’s take on an oriental experience? Make your way to Tattu where you can indulge in contemporary Chinese cuisine beneath purple cherry blossom trees. Or go down the more budget route at My Thai, with three restaurants throughout the city to get your Pad Thai fix.

And to drink?

Belgrave Music Hall is Leeds’ ultimate watering hole. This whopping three storey venue has two bars, two kitchens, a 200 capacity event space and a staging area - so no matter what you’re feeling, Belgrave Music Hall will have something. A boozy night of burlesque? Check out BMH’s monthly cabaret show, The Wet Spot. A chilled drink in the sun? Head to BMH’s jazzy roof terrace. Fancy a big gig night? Belgrave Music Hall even has that – every week the venue hosts a variety of new and inspiring artists.

If you’re not in Leeds around Christmas, don’t fret – you can still get your dose of German markets all year round at Leeds’ Bierkeller. From bingo and karaoke to a live oompah band on Fridays and Saturdays, there’s always something on. You can even get a stein for under £10 – no wonder everyone ends up dancing on the tables! So get your dirndls and lederhosen at the ready, because you do NOT want to miss out on this Bavarian fun.

For a much more upmarket drinking experience, try The Maven – a “speakeasy” cocktail bar with a 1920s prohibition theme. To get in, look carefully for the black unmarked door above Call Lane Street. Once finally inside you’ll find yourself surrounded by dark walls, taxidermy and animal portraits – plus a bar jam-packed with liquor bottles. The Maven’s cocktail menu is small but mighty – The Zombie King and the Tiramisu Martini (made with Bailey’s, mmm...) are our favourites.

Up for a more casual trip to the boozer? Whitelock’s Ale House has your name over all over it. Tucked away down a narrow alleyway, this 300-year-old pub with its ceramic tiled bar and stained glass windows has been (and always will be) a firm favourite with Leeds’ locals. The interior may not have changed for decades, but as the saying goes: if it aint broke, dont fix it…

If you want a side order of music with your drinks head to Church. With strobe lights and smoke machines, Church is a temple like no other. You could say that it’s a bit sacrilegious to convert the house of God into a raving nightclub, but trust us when we say it works. Church is guaranteed to provide you with an unforgettable night that will leave you confessing a whole host of sins the next day…

Love Leeds? Let us know YOUR favourite hot spots...


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