I was only supposed to live in Leeds for eight months which turned into six years…! It’s given me plenty of time to explore this northern city and get to know some of the best things to do as well as places to eat and drink. Similar to York, Leeds is pretty well placed to be accessible from all over the UK with direct trains from Edinburgh, London, Manchester & Birmingham to name just a few. Leeds has lots of bars and restaurants to enjoy as well as lots of sites to see and is even home to one of the biggest parks in Europe which you can relax in! All of this makes it a great place to spend a weekend away.
1. Ride the water taxi to Leeds Docks & The Royal Armouries
If you arrive in Leeds by train then it’s super easy to make the first thing on this list the first thing that you do in Leeds! Behind the train station is Granary Wharf where you can take the quirky little yellow water taxi (for free!!) all the way to Leeds Dock. The Docks are filled with canal boats and surrounded by flats and one weekend in Summer host a fearsome dragon boat race!
The Docks is also where the world class Royal Armouries Museum is located which is always one of the top places to visit in Leeds. This free museum holds the UK’s collection of arms and armoury and was originally housed in the Tower of London before making its way north. The collection spans countries and centuries across 5 floor of exhibits including a tournament gallery which is enjoyable for events!
2. Make the most of brunch
Something I have explored veeeeryyy well in Leeds are brunch spots 😅 there are so many places to choose from so make sure you fuel up ready for a day of discovering the city.
In the city centre head to Olive & Rye in the enchanting Queens Arcade. For brunch near the Docks then head to North Star. If you’re up towards Roundhay Park (see 4) then House of Koko and Grön Kafé are both beautiful and delicious!
3. Soak up plenty of culture
Leeds is home to a growing multitude of spots to become a proper culture vulture. From theatres to galleries and from stately homes to museums you can’t miss visiting at least one or two on a trip to Leeds. Here’s a super speedy rundown of some of the ones you can visit categorised by theme (I may need to write a more detailed post on them all!).
Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds City Museum, Royal Armouries (see 1)
- Art Galleries:
Leeds Art Gallery, The Henry Moore Institute, The Tetley
- Stately Homes (all outwith the city centre):
Lotherton Hall, Temple Newsham, Harewood House
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Grand Theatre, Leeds Town Hall, City Varieties
4. Explore one of Europe’s biggest parks
In the north of Leeds lies one of the biggest parks in Europe, in fact it’s DOUBLE the area of London’s Hyde Park! Get out to Roundhay Park for some much needed greenery away from the concrete and high rise jungle of the city centre and stretch your legs exploring this wonderful space. A stroll around the Waterloo Lake is 2.5km and just about entirely flat although with some mud to avoid in places.
The park was once the playground of the mansion house that remains within its grounds so there’s plenty of little finds to discover. Lookout for the Roundhay Castle – a folly built in the guise of a medieval gateway that was once a summer house. There are also lots of little bandstands dotted through the park.
5. Discover some unusual bars
Leeds is known for its nightlife and there are plenty of different bars to try out to suit everyone’s taste! Headrow House has an excellent roof terrace and is a good place to start an evening with a relaxed but very nice atmosphere – great for dates. Belgrave Music Hall is Headrow Houses’s more vibey younger sibling for a slightly more edgy, student filled rooftop bar (with great pizza by the slice as well).
For a prohibition style bar with impeccable cocktails then don’t miss The Domino Club (you really do enter through a barber’s shop!). If you’re looking for some experimental cocktails in an underground bar then give Below Stairs a try. For gin tasting flights, head to Blind Tiger.
If you’re looking for beers then Head of Steam on Park Row has a massive selection (as well as vegan pizzas & shuffleboards!) and BrewDog North Street also has the combination of shuffle board and craft beer. Meanwhile at Flight Club, book a table and bring some friends to enjoy a social darts evening!
6. Walk amongst the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey
In the west of the city is a smaller park but with the magnificent Kirkstall Abbey at its heart. The Abbey is over 800 years old and one of the best preserved monasteries in the country. The Abbey was disestablished by Henry VII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries which has in fact inspired a beer produced by Kirkstall Brewery (Dissolution IPA)!
The Abbey is free to explore and hosts an outdoor market on the last weekend of every month (March-November) where you can buy street food for a picnic or local produce to take home if you happen to be visiting on the right weekend! It’s a beautiful setting to unwind as well as being an impressive spot for photographs as well.
7. Stroll through the markets and arcades
Leeds has a completely varied set of places to shop from daily markets to boutique independents and high end fashion designers you may only window shop. Even if you don’t particularly enjoy shopping you can still spend time visiting Leeds’ iconic malls and arcades as their design and architecture is incredible to view. The Corn Exchange is an impressively colourful building filled with independent shops and cafes which is perfect if you’re looking for a gift.
The Victoria Quarter is home to the high end designer brands of Leeds city centre and at its heart is the beautiful County & Cross Arcades. These shopping arcades have intricate mosaic flooring complete with marble columns and gilt stylising. You might be window shopping but make sure visiting here is on your list in Leeds to see the wonderful architecture.
Step over the road (Vicar Lane to be precise) and you’ll find yourself standing at the entrance to the Kirkgate Market. This was the largest indoor market in Europe when it opened in 1857 and still remains a bustling hub of the city. Not only can you find everything from fabric cleaner to fresh flowers but you can also find the original M&S where you can still buy some classic goodies to take home.
8. Devour a roast dinner
If you’re in Leeds on a Sunday then there is only one thing you should be eating for lunch and that’s a roast dinner. Make sure your plate has got fluffy Yorkshire puddings, crispy roast potatoes and lashings of gravy… There’s quite a few different places to try but I would recommend Whitelock’s Ale House in the city centre (down a little narrow alleyway – Turk’s Head Yard). It’s the oldest pub in Leeds and has a cosy traditional feel with dark wood interior.
The Adelphi which is closer to the river is another great spot. Book the upstairs for an airy room with big windows and a modern feel. The freshly baked bread starter is amazing but make sure to share so you don’t fill up ahead of the main 🤤
If you’re looking for some great Instagram shots during your time in Leeds then check out…