One of the UK’s largest cities, you’ll find that Leeds is a perfect destination for a weekend away whether for a romantic visit with your partner, beers with friends or for spending quality time with the family. Here you’ll find my top things to do in Leeds!
Leeds is often referred to as the unofficial capital of Yorkshire. It’s certainly the regions largest city and is perfect for a weekend break for pretty much everyone. I was a regular visitor to Leeds whilst I lived in York, often jumping on a train for a few beers and some ‘low and slow’ smoked meat at Red’s True Barbecue. As I’ve grown older, I’ve still re-visited Leeds and found that it really does cater for so many people whether you’re looking for a romantic trip away with your partner, shopping with friends or even some quality time with your family.
This guide pulls together several different visits to Leeds throughout my twenties and thirties and I really think that these are, in my opinion, the best things to do in Leeds.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN LEEDS
One the largest indoor markets in the whole of Europe is right here in Leeds and dates all the way back to 1857. I love visiting markets whenever I visit a new city so I’d definitely say that you have to take time to have a look round here. There are a number of different entrances but my favourite is the 1904 Hall on the corner of George Street and Vicar Lane. Make sure you grab a coffee from Miles & Co and don’t miss the birthplace of Marks and Spencer either.
Leeds Corn Exchange
The Leeds Corn Exchange is without doubt one of the must-sees when it comes to any trip to Leeds, a non-negotiable if you like. At the top of Call Lane, you’ll struggle to miss the iconic Leeds landmark in all its domed glory. Leeds Corn Exchange is a Victorian building home to some of the cities best independent stores including Colours May Vary (for books and zines) and All Blues Co (for vintage clothing). There’s everything else from records to jewellery to sculptures to plants plus coffee and food outlets.
Burgers at Almost Famous
I’m a huge lover of a burger and I find it really difficult to go anywhere without ordering one so it would be rude not to visit Leeds without having one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. They’re so good that we treated ourselves to one of their Famous at Home boxes during the year that was 2020. The Phoenix burger is always a good shout thanks to the additions of frazzles, bacon bacon mayo and bacon ketchup!
I make a point of visiting Headrow House every time I’m in Leeds. The beer hall on the ground floor is divine with its Pilsner Urquell fresh from the tank along with the smell of wood burning from the Ox Club Restaurant. There are four floors here with events regularly taking place upstairs and two rooftop terraces which give me proper NYC vibes.
Tiled Hall Café / Leeds Art Gallery
The charming Tiled Hall Café is one of the most beautiful cafes I’ve had the pleasure of drinking my morning coffee in. The walls and ceilings are all adorned with, you guessed it, stunning tiles which you can admire from the comfortable leather sofas. Oh, and if you manage to peel your eyes away from the beauty of this Victorian Hall, you’ll find that the coffee is good too.
Either before or after your coffee, you should definitely have a walk round the Leeds Art Gallery which is free to enter.
Whilst my love for coffee is relatively new and I’m certainly no coffee connoisseur, I would say that the best coffee in Leeds is right here at Laynes Espresso. You can’t miss Laynes Espresso with its bright yellow exterior a short walk from the train station. I grabbed a flat white to take away but I’d highly recommend booking a table if you want to sample the food (which looks insane). The current menu features buckwheat pancakes, sweet potato fritters and ham hock potato cake which would all be top of my list when considering brunch! All of the pastries are made by the spin-off Laynes Bakery.
Village (Books & Zines)
In Thornton’s Arcade, above a skate shop, is Village where you’ll find all manner of quirky magazines and books that I’m certain you won’t see anywhere else. If you’re into things that are a little different or you’re after a specialist photo book, you’ll find it here.
Ramen at House of Fu
I’m a big lover of Japanese food but I’ll be honest and I’ve never ordered ramen in a restaurant until we visited House of Fu. I guess it’s as good a place as any to start other than in Japan itself obviously. Next to the opening that cuts through to Headrow House, House of Fu’s design is unexpected in this area of the city. From the ramen noodle graphic on the windows, the blue tiled exterior to the calming Japanese interior, this is a place that just draws you in. I had the Spicy Fu Tantanmen whilst Emma had the Fu Katsu rice bowl which were both insanely good. As always, we wanted to try a few different sides (for blog research purposes obviously) so my recommendations are the crispy cauliflower with hot sauce, the House of Fu pickles and your choice of gyoza. No skimping here.
For those with a more outgoing side, get yourself booked into one of the karaoke booths upstairs and don’t miss the Snaparazzi photobooth!
Victorian Shopping Arcades
Leeds is synonymous with a day out shopping and it’s no surprise as there are so many top quality shops in the city. The Trinity Centre is a good introduction with all of your usual high street chains but its the Victorian Arcades that you need to check out; Queens Arcade, Thornton’s Arcade and the Victoria Quarter. Even if you’re not here to shop, you have to check out the Victoria Quarter. It’s a Grade II listed architectural landmark and has Europe’s largest stained glass roof. The shops here are all high end including Mulberry, Louis Vuitton and Harvey Nichols.
Talking of shopping, the nearby Victoria Gate is a new £165 million development home to loads of exclusive stores plus a flagship John Lewis.
Northern Monk Refectory
Not far from the city centre is Northern Monk Refectory, the original home of this northern brewer, which has been long on my wish list of places to enjoy a few beers! I haven’t made it here yet, I keep promising myself a visit, but it has to be included on this list as you won’t find many places better for craft beer.
For Longer Trips
If you are spending a little longer in Leeds, there’s plenty more to do such as visiting the Royal Armouries, talking a walk down the canal, heading out to Roundhay Park or checking out an art gallery housed within the former Tetley brewery.
WHERE TO STAY IN LEEDS
For me, there’s only one place that you should be looking to stay when visiting Leeds and that’s the iconic Queens Hotel right next to the train station. You can read my full review here after I stayed in November 2022. There’s also a Malmaison hotel and the Doubletree by Hilton that can always be trusted!.
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