With renowned galleries like Leeds Art Gallery and The Henry Moore Institute showcasing work from around the world, independent galleries and Leeds College of Art, there’s plenty of opportunity to experience the unique culture of Leeds.
But the creativity of Leeds can’t just be seen in an art gallery. Based in the centre of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, there are numerous pieces that give Leeds a unique urban landscape, such as the Black Prince in City Square and the stunning Mandela Gardens in Millennium Square.
A lot of the city’s public art is also hidden in plain sight. Look out for junction boxes covered in life’s biggest questions by the train station, arm rests shaped like little dogs on Lands Lane and a subway tunnel on Woodhouse Lane decorated with a musical who’s who of Leeds.
There’s also encouragement to get a new generation interested in the arts. The Tetley, who specialise in contemporary art, host workshops and activities for children of all ages, from finger painting to family orientated projects inspired by their exhibitions.
Leeds is also home to a number of art collectives, charities and organisations that encourage and showcase work from both local and international artists, including East Street Arts, who have studios and spaces all over Leeds.
This love of the arts is also prevalent in the number of festivals and celebrations held in Leeds throughout the year. Light Night is a huge fixture on the calendar, turning the entire city into an art installation, with light shows and events that offer a unique view of the city.
Love Arts Festival raises awareness of mental illness through public art, while Thought Bubble celebrates comic book and graphic novel art on Leeds Dock, with some huge names from the industry giving lectures and signing exclusive artwork every single year.
Leeds is proud to be one of the only UK cities outside London to boast both its own Opera House and Ballet Company.
Opera North is England’s national opera company in the North and one of Europe’s leading arts organisations.
Northern Ballet is a Leeds based touring ballet company who have performed all over the country.
Both companies regularly perform at Leeds' many theatrical venues. Upcoming shows include Northern Ballet's Swan Lake and Andrea Chenier by Opera North, so you can catch world class shows right here in Leeds City Centre.
Shopping has for centuries been at the heart of Leeds, and it all began in the streets and lanes around Kirkgate, an area that is still home to the innovators and the independent traders leading the way in the city’s retail story.
As a shopping destination Leeds has a character all its own. Stunning Victorian architecture including the landmark Leeds Corn Exchange, iconic Kirkgate Market and breathtaking arcades host a revelry of market stalls, home grown fashion houses, boutiques, salons and specialists ensuring that when looking for something truly unique you don’t leave empty handed.
Designer brands and truly unique one-off shops sit within easy walking distance of each other, so if you’re visiting the city for the first time or nipping out on your lunch break you’re just moments away from a shopping experience like no other.
Sheltering from the inclement Yorkshire weather has never been so glorious; forget streets paved with gold, our roofs are made from glass - twinkling domes and striking stained glass that will keep you warm and dry as you make your way from place to place.
Recently renovated, Europe’s biggest covered market has to be seen to be believed. Wander through the halls, admire the architecture and listen to the constant calling of the traders. Pick up your Sunday roast at the same time as some new curtains, freshly cut flowers and a traditional European snack to keep you going as you negotiate the hundreds of stalls inside and out. The market is where Marks & Spencer started back in 1884 so it’s a pretty impressive part of our national retail heritage.
LEEDS CORN EXCHANGE
The 150-year-old Corn Exchange was once where the city’s corn merchants traded, the oval domed roof designed specially by architect Cuthbert Brodrick to show each grain in the best possible light. Now home to over 30 independent businesses it’s THE place to find something special whether you’re after fashion or food, beauty or bling, gorgeous gifts or great music and a shopping experience that should be top of your list when making the move off the high street.
Leeds’ oldest street lies between the Corn Exchange and eponymous market, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times the street is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance. The recently opened Art Hostel sits at one end with other units taken by creatively minded businesses, including arts and crafts supplier Fred Aldous, part of the next generation of Kirkgate merchants taking us with them on their journey.
The five arcades in Leeds City Centre date back to 1878. The Thornton’s and Queen’s Arcades are the oldest, each has a selection of boutique businesses lining the covered walkways. The Grand Arcade is home to one of Leeds’ most magnificent original Potts Clocks, more examples of which can be seen in Thornton’s Arcade and Leeds Corn Exchange, while designer brands can be discovered in the impressive Victoria Quarter. The Central Arcade is a contemporarily designed home for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
BARS AND CLUBS
Leeds is home to a number of fantastic bars and clubs to give you a night to remember, whether you’re just popping in for a pint or staying out until the sun comes up.
Call Lane is one of the more lively nightlife spots in Leeds, popular with professionals and students alike. Full of bars playing every type of music you can think of, you’re sure to find a favourite.
Spend the night enjoying the cocktails at Call Lane Social’s Tiki Hideaway or head to Jake’s Bar for a homemade liqueur from Tabitha, their copper pot still. Oporto offers a home away from home with their regular live bands and DJ’s, a great place to kick back with some mates.
Craft beer lovers will be spoilt for choice at Black Swan, who have paired their selection with homemade sourdough pizzas, while Roland’s have a unique array of booze ready to be enjoyed in their beer garden – weather permitting, of course.
Those looking for something out of the ordinary in Leeds are sure to find it in Briggate. Filled with traditional pubs and cobbled streets, it’s the place to be for fans of the quiet pint.
Just off Briggate is Whitelock’s, still standing strong after 300 years of pulling pints in Leeds. Their traditional décor, unchanged since 1886, offers a cosy hideaway in the heart of the city.
A regular haunt for Leeds’ beer connoisseurs, North Bar on New Briggate feature an ever changing drinks selection.
Smokestack brings a taste of New Orleans to the heart of Leeds, with live music and a soulful soundtrack, while Mint Club spins the latest in house and techno into the early hours.
MILLENNIUM SQUARE / PARK ROW
A hot spot for professionals looking for an after work cocktail, Millennium Square and Park Row offer bars in Leeds that are perfect for starting the night off right.
You can enjoy the fine wines of The Decanter, relax on the benches with a beer at A Nation of Shopkeepers, or experience the finer things in life at Epernay and The Liquorist - just off on Greek Street - with their range of specialist champagne and cocktails.
Later into the night, you might even find yourself dancing on the tables with a stein at Bierkeller. Trust us; everyone’s done it at some point.
The new kid on the block when it comes to bars and clubs in Leeds, the Arena Quarter is perfect for a cocktail before a show at Leeds Grand Theatre or first direct arena.
Here, you can take a bite of the Big Apple at Manahatta or head over the road to The Social for a pint and a homemade stew.
And if you’re a sports fan, you can catch the latest fixtures on the big screens at The Brotherhood of Pursuits and Pastimes, or head to Slate NQ for some friendly competition on their pool tables.
Leeds is a city known for its diverse and multi-cultural communities. The LGBT* culture of Leeds is an important part of this, full of big venues, nights out and huge events all year round.
The Calls and Lower Briggate is the main hub of LGBT* nightlife in Leeds. Queens Court, the biggest gay club in Leeds, has DJs and themed nights throughout the week across two floors.
Mission 2 have gay clubbing nights twice a week on Monday and Saturday while The Viaduct Showbar, just next door, have live performances from the International Viaduct Show Girls every Friday and Saturday night, alongside karaoke and cabaret acts.
Further down are The New Penny – the oldest gay pub in Leeds – Bar Fibre, Blayd’s Bar and the Bridge. And be sure to hit the cobbles between Bar Fibre and Queens Court on a Bank Holiday Sunday for their Courtyard Parties, with tunes and cocktails flowing day and night.
But the ‘must not miss’ event on the city’s LGBT* calendar is definitely Leeds Pride. Thousands come to the city for a diverse line up of mainstream and LGBT* acts at Millennium Square, a march through the centre of Leeds and the biggest parties until the early hours. A true celebration of Leeds’ diversity and equality, it’s the biggest event of its kind in Yorkshire.
Sophisticated dining, quirky cafes and the street food revolution have all come together to make Leeds a must visit destination for foodies.
Restaurants in Leeds can make a special occasion even more so, with unique menus and service that you’ll remember forever.
Michelin Star restaurant, The Man Behind The Curtain, takes its Wizard of Oz inspired name to heart, with an 11 course yellow brick road of a tasting menu that features everything from pork rinds to oysters.
Crafthouse offers a more traditional menu that celebrates the best of British and changes with the seasons, with local cuts of meat cooked to perfection over their exclusive Josper grill.
For those looking for a French flavour, try Kendell’s Bistro. Their menu changes daily and is made with only the freshest ingredients, making every dish unique.
From Bundobust’s Indian street food to Friends of Ham’s charcuterie, there’s an appetite for independent food all over Leeds.
Take a look around Trinity Kitchen, who host a line up a street food traders that changes every month, alongside Vietnamese street food at Pho.
Located in Leeds’ historic Kirkgate Market, Café Moor serve authentic North African and Middle Eastern street food that wouldn’t look out of place in the world’s finest restaurants.
Each May the city celebrates its fantastic food scene with Leeds Indie Food, the country’s biggest festival of independent food and drink culture. The festival sees businesses all over the city collaborating to run innovative events, with everyone from fine dining restaurants to coffee shops, from independent cinemas to art galleries getting in on the action. The 2016 festival will be taking place from 12th - 30th May, for more information visit leedsindiefood.co.uk.
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to Sunday lunch in Leeds, with The Cross Keys, Whitelock’s and The Midnight Bell serving them up with all the trimmings. Which is the best? That’s up to you, but they’ll all leave you with a full tummy and a wide smile.
The Grill on the Square offers an extensive choice of the finest 100% British steak, along with fresh seafood and some indulgent home comforts. Their focus is on solid, honest and proper food.
We’ve even perfected fish & chips. Nash’s has become the destination for a fish supper in the city, serving generations of Leeds’ folk since 1924.
Town Hall Tavern serves up classic pub lunches made with fresh, local ingredients - such as their Yorkshire beef pie and the ever faithful scampi and chips.
Bradford’s Victorian past is evident in the impressive buildings in Little Germany. German merchants built the imposing buildings to house their goods; many are now listed buildings.
Explore Undercliffe Cemetery
Whether you’re taking a well-deserved break from shopping or having a laid back lunch with friends, there are afternoon teas for every taste in Leeds.
You can step back in time at Just Grand! Vintage Tea Room or have a Parisian break at Le Chalet. 2 Oxford Place also offer gluten free afternoon teas, for guilt free indulgence, or watch the world go by on the waterfront at City Cafe.
Enjoy afternoon tea under the Victoria Quarter’s stunning stained-glass ceiling in the Harvey Nichols Espresso Bar.
Coffee is serious business in Leeds, and you’ll be spoilt for choice with Mrs. Atha’s, La Botegga Milanese and Layne’s Espresso if you’re after a quick pick me up, morning, noon or night.