I’ve lived in Leeds for nearly 3 years (what?!) and I’ve spent much of that time exploring and getting to know this buzzing northern city. Admittedly most of my exploring is in the cafes, bars and restaurants of the city centre and some of its suburbs (specifically Chapel Allerton in north Leeds where I’ve lived for two years) there hidden gems to discover throughout the city and its surrounding areas.
Whilst Leeds has a gritty industrial edge stemming from its past, it is becoming a vibrant and ever changing powerhouse of the north with more and more people visiting and moving to the city. It might not be top on your list of pretty cities to visit but nevertheless get out and about and discover these top X Instagram spots in Leeds!
1. Leeds Corn Exchange
Leeds Corn Exchange is a beautiful Victorian building that sits on Call Lane (one of Leeds bustling nightlife areas) in the heart of the city centre. The building was used for trading corn into the 1950s and beyond but popularity began to decline. In 2008 the Corn Exchange was reopened as a place for independent retailers (there’s come lovely boutique shops to look around as well as cafes) that we know today! The exterior has an amazing domed roof but step inside for the multicouloured interior which is a big favourite of Leeds Insta shots.
2. County Arcade
The Victoria Quarter of Leeds is a series of Victorian shopping arcades whose opulent style and extravagance have led them to house some of the most expensive retail stores in Leeds. The County Arcade is perfect for an Instagram shot with its wonderful mosaic floor, gilt designs and marble columns…
3. Immaculate Heart of Mary
This unusual but equally lovely little spot is one I’ve only encountered recently on my walks through my neighbourhood that I’ve never spotted every time I’ve driven past in my car. The red bricked Catholic church was built in the Byzanto-Romanesque style. The grotto and its a teal copper rusted dome make this a rather enchanting little spot.
4. Leeds Docks
Back to the centre of Leeds and we find Leeds Docks where the renowned Royal Armouries Museum is situated. The Docks are surrounded by high rise modern flats but with plenty of canal boats nestled into the moorings. Stand on the bridge at the end of Armouries Way and wait for the iconic little yellow water taxi to glide past transporting people from the docks to Granary Wharf near the train station.
5. Kirkgate Market
When Kirkgate Market opened in 1857 it was the largest indoor market in Europe. Nearly two centuries later it is still a bustling hub of the city with stalls selling everything from fresh fish to fresh flowers. My favourite thing about Kirkgate Market is that it is the birthplace of Marks & Spencer. In 1884 Michael Marks set up his Penny Bizarre inside the market with its slogan: ‘don’t ask the price, it’s a penny’. Although they may not be only a penny anymore, you can still pick up tea, coffee, biscuits and more at the stall!
6. Roundhay Castle
Yup you did read that right! Although not a royal castle by any stretch of the imagination, Roundhay Park has its own castle that sits within its grounds (btw don’t worry – Roundhay Park will get its own mention later on 🤪). Grab a shot that looks like you travelled miles away into the countryside when really you’re only about ten minutes away from home with this spot.
Nicholson added the folly in the guise of a medieval gateway in the 1820s and after its construction it was used a summer house and a hunting lodge. From here there are spectacular views across the Waterloo Lake.
Caravanserai is a super quirky little street food restaurant right next to the Corn Exchange which serves Ottoman inspired dishes. As soon as it’s possible I need to get here because nowhere else have I heard of this inspiration behind food 👀 The wacky exterior is so vibrant (it’ll definitely stand out on your Insta feed!) and along with the name is inspired by the Caravanserai which were the roadside inns that travellers and traders along the Silk Road would have spent the night in.
8. Canal Gardens
Just below Tropical World are the beautiful Canal Gardens which again, despite being in the area many times exploring Roundhay Park I had never noticed before I ran past them during a lockdown run. I came back again a couple of weeks later with my new tripod (best purchase!!!) to photograph them. In Spring the rhododendrons are in full bloom in this peaceful place.
There’s only one canal in the garden now but it’s still wonderfully picturesque with fountains and statues as well as stone bridges at either end!
9. Kirkstall Abbey
Kirkstall Abbey is a beautiful historic ruin in West Leeds that has some spectacular angles to photograph. The Abbey was founded over 800 years ago and is one of the most well preserved monasteries in the country.
It’s free to step back in time into the Abbey to see the marvelous detail and architecture that it has. You can also head across Abbey Road into the field opposite to get a full view of the ruins! Kirkstall Abbey has been immortalised by artists Girtin to Turner.
10. Roundhay Park
Roundhay Park is an emerald jewel in Leeds crown and spreading across 700 acres of land it rivals some of the biggest parks in Europe. In fact, it’s bigger than London’s Hyde Park, actually much bigger at DOUBLE the size – take that London 😜 It’s the perfect place to spend a weekend morning or afternoon with a variety of walks and corners to uncover. The main feature is the expansive Waterloo Lake which has a 2.5km walk around its perimeter.
The mansion house was built for Thomas Nicholson and his wife in the 1810s with views over the Upper Lake. The mansion house is now a popular spot for weddings and it also has a tea room to quench your thirst after a few hours hiking or strolling through the park. Look out for some of the out buildings and stables on your way to the car park here as well.
11. Oakwood Clock
The Oakwood Clock has been a focal point of the Oakwood area to the south of Roundhay Park for over 100 years since it was erected in 1912 but has been restored to its former glory in recent years. It’s a super cute little spot to photograph – I love the baby blue and gold detailing 😊
What about the rest of Yorkshire…