Leeds is the economic and cultural heart of the West Yorkshire region. Though a vibrant, modern and multicultural city, it has a long history that goes back at least to medieval times. The present-day city retains many of its historical attractions, such as the ruined medieval Kirkstall Abbey, and has a range of fascinating specialist museums. These include the national collection of arms and armour at the Royal Armouries, the Thackray Medical Museum, the Armley Mills industrial museum, the fully restored Thwaite Mills watermill and the Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.
Steam buffs will enjoy a visit to the Middleton Railway, which claims to be the oldest working railway in the world, while architecture enthusiasts will also find much to interest them, such as the neoclassical Town Hall, the Jacobean St John The Evangelist Church, the circular, domed Corn Exchange and the neo-Gothic ‘Headingley Castle’. Leeds is also home to various art galleries, the largest of which is the Leeds City Art Gallery, and a number of beautiful stately homes, including Temple Newsam House, Harewood House and Lotherton Hall.
For those looking for retail therapy, there is an extensive city-centre shopping district which includes several shopping centres. The largest of these is the Trinity Centre, which contains 120 shops, bars, restaurants and a cinema. If the peace and quiet of nature is more your thing, the area boasts some outstanding spots of natural beauty, such as the recently opened St Aidan’s RSPB reserve, which offers tranquillity and the chance to spot species including buzzard, kestrel, grebe and kingfisher. Or there is the Roundhay Park and Tropical World, a popular visitor attraction, and numerous other major and small parks.
The city has a vibrant nightlife scene, hosting a huge number of pubs, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and live music venues. Millennium Square is a good place to start, lying at the heart of the entertainment district. For alternative but hugely popular live music venues, check out the Brudenell Social Club in the grounds of Leeds University, or Cockpit, which is tucked away under a railway bridge on Swinegate. If you prefer a more old-fashioned pub, the Palace on Kirkgate offers historic, wood-panelled surroundings and a selection of real ales.
For an establishment with strong emphasis on bar meals, the Pack Horse on Briggate is highly recommended. Or for a pub with a range of world beers on tap, try the North on New Briggate, which offers classic German, Belgian and US brews alongside traditional Yorkshire ales. The Adelphi, The Cross Keys, The Wrens, Aire Bar, Mojo, The Prince of Wales, Friends of Ham and the Fox & Newt are all well worth a visit too. If you prefer theatre to the pub, there’s the Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera House, the West Yorkshire Playhouse, City Varieties Music Hall and the Carriageworks.
All in all, Leeds is a modern, vibrant city with a unique character, peopled by friendly Yorkshire folk who will make you feel more than welcome. Greg is a keen traveller based in the UK and spent three years living in Leeds. In his spare time he writes for a travel blog.