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7 Best Leeds Attractions + Restaurants, Hotels and More (England)
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Leeds is the largest city in West Yorkshire, in the north of England that offers plenty of things to do for singles, couples and families alike. In case you’re looking for some of the most exciting Leeds attractions, you’re in the right place. Scroll down and you’ll find all my travel notes that I gathered throughout my 3 week-long visit to the city!

Leeds is a gorgeous destination where you’ll find stunningly preserved Victorian houses as well as modern structures, parks and nature, amazing gastronomy and cool cocktail bars. It’s a mix of many things, and the numerous tourists and students that go to Leeds each year consider it to be one of the true hidden gems of England.

Below you’ll find my complete Leeds travel guide that includes the 7 unmissable Leeds tourist attractions, as well as some free things to do, plus useful info about accommodation, my top restaurants and everything in-between. In short, enough suggestions to to set you up nicely for a weekend getaway!

Let’s begin!

Quick info about Leeds, West Yorkshire

Briggate Leeds UK
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Briggate street in Leeds UK
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Leeds is the largest city in West Yorkshire and the economic capital of the entire region of Yorkshire. In fact, it is one of the biggest cities in the UK and it has a vast and interesting history. For example, fizzy drinks were invented in Leeds, did you know that? That was in 1767! Plus, the first Marks & Spencer store was opened here and JRR Tolkien was a teacher at the University of Leeds.

Many big things happened in Leeds. Nowadays, there are still loads of things to see in Leeds and I can’t wait to share all of them with you!

RELATED READ: Complete York City Guide, UK

Where is Leeds located?

As I mentioned before, Leeds is located in northern England, close to Sheffield, Bradford and York. In order to make things clearer for you, here’s a map of Leeds to see its exact location:

leeds map location in england
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7 Unmissable things to do in Leeds

There is an abundance of activities to do in Leeds. So many, that I had to divide my list into three categories: top things to do in Leeds (for people who are visiting for the first time), free tourist attractions (for those on a budget) and a bonus list with more options for those that have seen the main attractions before and are now looking for some off-the-beaten path places to see in Leeds.

 

Let’s start with the first list:

1 - Leeds city tour

Town Hall in Leeds UK
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In my opinion, the best way to discover the true flavour of a city is by walking. This is especially true in Leeds, as the city is ram packed with fun things to do and see. Every walk is an opportunity to find a new spot to check out!

Here’s my short list of the main sites in the city that you should “tick” during your walking tour: Leeds Town Hall, Leeds Civic Hall, Leeds Central Library, Millennium Square, Kirkgate Market, Leeds Corn Exchange, Leeds City Market, Hunslet Road (to see Leeds’ own flatiron building).

As for tours per se, here are your options:

  • Guided walking tours – such as this 2-hour highlights walking tour during which you’ll learn a lot about the city’s history
  • Foodies tour of Leeds – for all my foodies out there that want to explore the city’s gastronomy and the best places to eat in Leeds centre! I have found this website – Leeds Food Tours that is well-recommended and that offers anything from self-guided tours to street food tours.
  • Street art trail – this 100% free street art trail will take you through the streets of Leeds to find the most beautiful mural art.
  • Owl trail – The entire idea behind this tour is to discover Leeds’ impressive heritage by walking the streets and keeping your eyes wide open to the buildings in order to find the 25 hidden owls of the city. It’s so fun and I’d especially recommend doing this trail with kids too!

NOTE: Alternatively, if you want to experience Leeds from a different perspective, I recommend taking a ride in one of the yellow water taxis. The price is only £1/person/journey and it takes you from Leeds Docks to Granary Wharf. More information on their website here. There is also a shorter, free taxi boat from Leeds Docks.

2 - See the ruins at Kirkstall Abbey House

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In case you’re a fan of England’s history and charm, I definitely recommend a visit to Kirkstall Abbey to see its ruins and museum. This is one of the top attractions in Leeds and a must-do for every first time visitor!

Kirkstall Abbey is one of the most complex and well-preserved (almost completely) Cistercian abbeys in the UK. The abbey is almost 900 years old and it is located in a public park on the banks of River Aire. There are numerous routes you can take in order to see everything this place has to offer.

Abbey House Museum is made of sets that accurately resemble the buildings, shops and alleys of the Victorian era. There are also actors that wear traditional Victorian costumes on the set to make everything feel even more real – if you’re up for being immersed in the whole experience, you can even interact with them!

TIP: If the weather is nice, pack yourself a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grass near the abbey, it’s one of the most pleasant days out in Leeds!

PRICE: free. Entrance to the museum is £6/person.

By the way, you can find a lot more fun things to do in Leeds for free in this section down below.

3 - Spot wildlife at Rodley Nature Reserve

Rodley Nature Reserve in Leeds
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Rodley Nature Reserve is located in Kirkstall Valley as well and it’s THE place to go if you want to witness wildlife and wetlands in all its splendour! There are lots of things to do here, from spotting various species to feeding animals or even pond-dipping. 

It’s a really nice getaway only 8 km (5 miles) from Leeds city center and I recommend it whenever you want to escape the bustling city life!

PRICE: free.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The reserve is currently closed everyday except Sundays due to works to the canal swing bridge. Usually, the schedule is Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM.

TIP: I recommend visiting the Rodley Nature Reserve right after you’re done with Kirkstall Abbey, as they’re pretty close and this itinerary is the most structured.

4 - Take a walk in Roundhay Park

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Speaking of nature and taking some time to recharge our batteries… Here’s another green heaven for you! Although it’s not that easy to find beautiful portions of greenery in England’s cities, Leeds is a wonderful exception with this gorgeous park located only 5 km (3 miles) north of the city centre – in fact, it is one of the largest city parks in England!

Roundhay Park stretches over 700 acres / 2.8 square kilometres and it offers plenty of woodland, lakes and gardens and enough space to walk, run or have a picnic. Or, in case it’s summer and you’re getting tired of walking, you can always hop on the “train” and take a circuit of the entire park every 15 minutes.

FUN FACT: This is the only park in Leeds that hosts a family of meerkats. So cute!

By the way, while you’re here, make sure you visit Tropical World as well, which is right inside the park and it’s one of the most appreciated family-friendly places to visit in Leeds. This zoo hosts various species of butterflies (they have an entire butterfly house!) as well as monkeys, rare birds, bats, crocodiles and more.

PRICE: free. Admission to Tropical World is £5/adult. Children under 5 can enter for free.

5 - Do some Leeds shopping

Leeds Victoria Quarter shopping UK
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Leeds Victoria Quarter shopping
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Leeds’ central area is a real shopping paradise with lots of options to choose from for every budget! Here are some of the places I went to and that I can recommend:

  • Trio of Victorian arcadesQueens Arcade, Victoria Quarter and Thorntons Arcade – these art nouveau, elegantly covered shopping arcades are full of boutique and designer shops, as well as smaller indie stores. You can find luxury brands here such as Louis Vuitton or cool alt places such as the Weekend Skate Store. 
  • Victoria Gate – This is a fourth arcade near the other three mentioned above, only this one is newer and not-vintage. This is a higher end place decorated with marble and, even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s worth taking a walk here just to admire the establishment.
The Corn Exchange in Leeds
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  • The Corn Exchange – Apart from being an excellent shopping spot, the Corn Exchange in Leeds is an interesting attraction itself because it is hosted in a gorgeous Victorian building. No, really, it’s truly worth a visit and considered to be one of the most beautiful Victorian structures in the North of England! As for shops, you can find lots of independent stores here selling anything from vintage objects to clothes and jewellery. If you get hungry, head over to the lower ground level to find some street food vendors.
  • Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre – With plenty of shopping, food, entertainment and relaxation options, Trinity is the perfect spot to do some shopping and indulge in some good food as well.
  • Briggate – Briggate is different from all the shopping centres I mentioned above simply because this one is a pedestrian shopping street. It is also one of the oldest ones in the city. You’ll find lots of charming cafes, high street favourites, plus some of the best places to eat in Leeds city centre here.

6 - Sip a drink in one of the best cocktail bars in the country

cocktail bar
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Did you know that Leeds hosts some of THE best cocktail bars in the entire country? If you take a look at this list of 50 top cocktail bars in the UK, you’ll see that Leeds is home to 4 of them (by comparison, London has 5). So if you weren’t planning on exploring some deliciously ingenious drinks, now you should!

Here are the 4 cocktail bars from the top list above:

There are also rooftop bars to choose from such as Headrow House or The Alchemist (at Trinity Shopping Centre).

7 - Enjoy the nightlife on Call Lane

Call Lane Leeds nightlife clubs
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Because Leeds is a lively university city, you can expect the nightlife here to be the same – very, very young. The best spot to experience this is called “Call Lane” and most people compare it to the well-known Canal Street in Manchester – just so you can get an idea.

In short, Call Lane is a long street (pedestrianised during the weekends), scattered with bars and nightclubs.

Here are some of the most popular places to check out on Call Lane:

If you’re looking to chase the night, or want to dance till closing, some clubs to add to your list are: Revolución de Cuba, The Backroom, Fibre.

NOTE: Most clubs in Leeds are open until 3 AM.

NOTE #2: Not a fan of Call Lane? You can also check out Millennium Square or Park Row.

BONUS #1: 7 Free things to do in Leeds

Leeds City Museum in England
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I know that some of my activity suggestions in this Leeds city guide are already free, such as the parks or the nature reserve, but guess what? There’s more! Which is why I have created this separate list of places to go in Leeds if you don’t want to spend a penny but still enjoy yourself (btw, most of them are indoor activities in Leeds):

1 - Leeds City Museum

If you’re a museum fan, I definitely recommend Leeds City Museum, especially if you’re travelling with children. This museum has no less than 6 different exhibitions and it’s the place to learn more about Leeds’ history. Plus, they have a dedicated Toddler Town inside the museum where you can leave your little one to do some arts and crafts – how amazing is that for a museum that has free entry?! 

2 - Leeds Art Gallery

Although it has free entrance, this well-known art gallery hosts one of the most impressive collections of 20th century British art with authors such as James Tissot or Henry Moore. Except for this, the notable building is to be taken into consideration too (like for many other tourist attractions in Leeds, as I’ve said this numerous times before, haha!) with a stunning Victorian staircase that will surely impress you. If you love art, now you know where to go!

3 - The Craft Centre and Design Gallery

If you’re planning on visiting Leeds Art Gallery, make sure you add the Craft Centre to your list as well, as it’s right underneath. If the art gallery is for 20th century arts, this place showcases new generations of artists and designers from all around the country – glass, wood, ceramics and more.

tetley gallery in leeds
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4 - The Gallery at 164

Okay, I’m not done with the art galleries! This one’s an independent art gallery that opened in 2011, combined with a cafe – Cafe 164. Here you can admire an eclectic mix of art, ranging from photography to illustration and even printmaking, while also sipping on a cup of good coffee and indulging in a scone.

5 - Royal Armouries Museum

In case you’re a fan of war-related remnants and treasures, the Royal Armouries Museum is the place for you. Here you’ll find bullets, pistols, cannons, as well as Henry VIII’s tournament armour and lots more. And even if you’re not a history buff, this museum is still impressive, with more than 8.500 items on display divided into 6 different galleries, including oriental pieces or objects from the present day for comparison.

6 - The Tetley

If you like art galleries in general, know that The Tetley is… something else. This amazing, free entry place (and I cannot stress this enough!) hosts a masterfully curated selection of contemporary artists from all around the globe. Films, installations, sculptures, free talks and events – you can find everything here and then some. And if you’re travelling with kids, they also have child-friendly events.

7 - Meanwood Valley Trail

Last but not least, a walk in the park. Well, not really, as the Meanwood Valley Trail is 11 km (7 miles) long. Luckily, it is divided into 3 different sections in case you want to take a break. Why am I recommending it? Because it’s the perfect activity for people who want to explore Leeds’ woodland and paddocks, from Woodhouse Moor up to the Golden Acre Park. 

BONUS #2: Extra things to do in Leeds if you have more time

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In case it’s not your first visit to Leeds, you might find the list below to be super useful:

  • Hyde Park Picture House – this is one of the oldest cinemas in the UK and the only gas-lit one that survived, which is a strong reason to visit per se! Other than this, I recommend going there if you want to watch an arthouse or foreign film for a very accessible price.
  • Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House – if you prefer theatrical performances, opera or ballet instead, this is the place to go – majestic architecture included!
  • Emmerdale Tour Leeds – also called the “Emmerdale Studio Experience”, this tour will take you through full-scale set reconstructions, props and costumes from one of the UK’s most beloved soap operas. Tickets are £35/adult and you can find more information here.
  • Marks in Time tour – this is the Marks & Spencer company archive, which was found in Leeds in 1884. The exhibition contains artefacts that tell the history of the company and how it has influenced British culture over time. Entrance is free. More info here.
  • Brewery tourBrewtown Tours organises local craft beer tasting experiences for all those that want to learn more about Yorkshire’s independent pubs and breweries. Not a beer fan? No problem! They also organise gin tours – now we’re talking! More info here
  • Sunday Roast Dinner Cruise – how about a canal cruise combined with a traditional meal? I’m in! The entire experience is organised from March to November, takes 3 hours and the price is £29 per person.
  • The Thackray Medical Museum – if you’re eager to find out more about the history of medicine without feeling like you’re in a museum, this place is for you. Fun and dark!

Best organised tours of Leeds, West Yorkshire

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Short on time? Overwhelmed by all the things you want to squeeze into your itinerary? A good idea for any of these two options would be to book some organised tours through Leeds that will make your life easier. Why? You’ll be accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide that will take you to all the main tourist attractions in Leeds! Here are my recommendations:

Where to stay in Leeds

Where to stay in Leeds Quebecs Hotel
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RELATED READ: Where to Stay in Leeds, UK – Complete Guide

Leeds offers lots of accommodation options for all budgets and preferences. Only one thing to know, though: my recommendation is to stay in the city centre to ensure that you’re close to all the main tourist attractions in Leeds, as well as the best places to eat and shop. 

In order to help you out, I have put together this list of recommendations for the best hotels in Leeds:

LUXURY. Dakota Hotel Leeds – gorgeous, popular 5-star hotel in Leeds

LONG STAY. Quebecs – hotel and long stay serviced apartments – this is where we stayed and we quite enjoyed it!

MID-RANGE. Radisson Blu Hotel – comfy and dependable hotel chain

BUDGET. Art Hostel – simple and straight-forward hostel with double rooms as well

AIRBNB. Smart Balconied Apartment in Heart of City Centre – highly-rated Airbnb Plus apartment!

ENTIRE APARTMENT. Aire Apartments New York Styled – fully equipped luxury apartments close to River Aire

Best restaurants in Leeds

Best restaurants in Leeds
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Now, this is my subject of expertise! I tried lots of eateries while in Leeds, so now I can present to you my personally curated list of the best Leeds restaurants divided by themes:

BREAKFAST

LUNCH

DINNER

DRINKS

Although all of them are very good, I can personally recommend two of them out of the bunch – Fazenda, which is literally all you can eat meat (boyfriend loved that) and Iberica (my choice), where the food was insanely good and really well presented. I’m getting hungry just by thinking about the place!

WHAT TO EAT IN LEEDS

Although Leeds doesn’t have traditional dishes itself, the region of Yorkshire has the following, which I definitely recommend you try:

YORKSHIRE PUDDING.

A yummy, baked pudding made from a heavenly batter with eggs, flour and milk. The composition is very similar to a pancake, but the Yorkshire pudding is served as a savoury side, and usually with lots of gravy!

Yorkshire pudding
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WENSLEYDALE CHEESE.

Also called “Yorkshire Wensleydale”, this type of cheese originated in, you guessed it, Wensleydale, it’s crumbly and made from cow’s milk. There’s also a version of this cheese with cranberries in the mixture – yum!

You can buy it here.

Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese
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YORKSHIRE CURD TART.

This is basically a variation of a cheesecake, made with fresh curd and filled with currants and egg.

Yorkshire Curd Tart
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YORKSHIRE TEA.

Of course this part of Britain had to have its own type of tea, right? And personally, I think it’s the very best! Yorkshire Tea is a blend a black tea that has been produced since 1977.

Yorkshire Tea
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6 Exciting day trips from Leeds

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Looking for things to do near Leeds as a quick and exciting day trip? I got you! Here are some of my favourite options below:

  • Harewood House – Harewood House is a gorgeous 18th century estate house and one of the “Treasure Houses of England”. Plus, there’s also an art collection inside as well as a… flock of penguins that lives inside the mansion – how unique is that? Harewood House is also easily accessible by bus from the centre of the city (buses pass every 15 minutes – good if you’re looking for day trips from Leeds by coach)
  • Newsam House – here’s another impressive mansion for you, nestled among lush sculpted gardens and well-preserved artefacts. Make sure you don’t miss the rhododendron walk if you’re a plant lover!
  • Lotherton Hall and Estate – a historical family home and museum that deserves a visit. If you’re travelling with kids, you will also find ‘Wildlife World’ in the surrounding area.
  • Yorkshire Dales – this national park is huge, full of hills, waterfalls, valleys, bridges and villages – a real natural wonderland. And it’s only a short drive (1h) away!
  • Peak District – another charming national park full of hills, moorland, forests and meadows. Ironically, no peaks.
  • Lake District – yep, you guessed it, another national park! This one houses some of the country’s biggest lakes and tallest peaks.

How to get to Leeds

Leeds Docks UK
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Leeds Street Art UK
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Luckily for us travellers, Leeds is one of the easiest accessible cities in the country, as there are lots of trains with fast connections.

BY PLANE. Leeds Bradford Airport  (LBA) is your destination and it’s located only 12.8 km (8 miles) from the centre. 

BY TRAIN. Lots of trains available, including from Heathrow Airport, St. Pancras or Manchester Airport, as well as many other destinations across the country. Just so you can get an idea, if you take the train, Leeds is only 2h 15m away from London, 50 mins from Manchester, 2h from Birmingham, 1h 30m from Newcastle, 20m from York and 4h from Glasgow.

BY CAR. Leeds is also easily accessible by car – 3h 30m from London, 4h from Edinburgh, 1h from Manchester, 2h from Newcastle and so on. Up for a road trip?

BY BUS AND COACH. In case you don’t have a driver’s licence or if you dislike travelling by train or plane, you can also get to Leeds by bus or coach. Leeds Bus and Coach Station is right in the city centre and there are many destinations across England connected to it year round.

This was my complete Leeds guide that includes everything you need to know about the best things to do here (both free and not), where to stay and where to eat for the best experiences, Leeds day trips (in case you get bored in the city… almost impossible!), as well as other technical bits of information about how to get there and more.

I didn’t quite expect to like Leeds as much as I did, but it’s hard not to fall for the vibrant buzz of this city! I’m planning on going back whenever I get the chance. Seriously now, there are so many interesting tourist attractions in Leeds, that it’s virtually impossible to get bored during your trip here. From the laid-back Golden Acre Park to numerous galleries and museums, music venues, lush gardens, and lots more, there will always be something new to discover in this part of West Yorkshire.

 

And in case you need more help with planning your trip around Great Britain, I recommend clicking here to find all my articles about my home country.

 

xoxo,

Melissa

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    7 Best Leeds Attractions + Restaurants, Hotels and More (England)
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    I’m a travel enthusiast, content creator and sun seeker extraordinaire! I love a good matcha latte, am obsessed with hats and like to give human names to the stray animals that I befriend on my travels ( I’m talking about you, Lesley!) In 2018 I took the leap and switched my London lifestyle for continuous adventures abroad.

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