Things to Do in Leeds

by : Ms Leisha Greenfield

Leeds is a city in West Yorkshire, with a population of just under half a million people.

The city has been dubbed 'the Knightsbridge of the north' for its array of 1000 shops and 5 shopping centres. There are fine dining restaurants, super clubs, masses of live music venues and numerous upmarket cocktail bars, generating a busy, modern city atmosphere.

Leeds's cultural venues and spaces are also incredibly impressive and still being improved, with a large civic museum of social history planned for 2008.

Amongst other regeneration plans are the development of the tallest building outside of London, renovation of some of the city's historical landmarks and creation of a new shopping area in the city centre. This is evidence, if more were needed, that Leeds certainly deserves its title as the fastest growing city in the UK.


Leeds was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, and was already a busy merchant town at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Leeds's population was 150,000 by the middle of the nineteenth-century and the coal industry became the city's most important employer.

The Royal Armouries Museum contains a collection of arms and armour, formerly held in the Tower of London. The Thackray Medical Museum is the largest medical museum in the country and explores the social impact of medical developments through the ages. The Leeds City Museum will open in 2008, covering four floors and exploring social history.

Leeds has more listed buildings than York, and 58 scheduled ancient monuments. Important historical buildings in the city include the eighth century Ledsham Church, and the twelfth century Kirkstall Abbey.

Art Galleries

Leeds Art Gallery is home to, what The Times described as, "the best collection of twentieth century art outside London". The permanent collections include prints, watercolours, Pre-Raphaelite paintings and modern sculpture. The gallery will be closed until May 2007 for refurbishment and extensions.

The Leeds University Gallery displays works from the seventeenth century up to the present day, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, ceramics and photographs.

Artco is a private gallery, showcasing contemporary paintings by local, national and international artists, with new exhibitions every three weeks. Original art is also for sale, and there are interest-free loans available.


The West Yorkshire Playhouse has won numerous awards, and – comprising The Quarry Theatre and The Courtyard Theatre – is officially the largest theatre outside of London and Stratford. The theatre hosts around 1000 events and performances every year, including sixteen productions by its in-house theatre company.

The Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House seats 1550 people, and has been open since 1878. Large-scale touring productions, stand-up comedians and live music are hosted in the Victorian Gothic auditorium.

The City Varieties Music Hall has a capacity of 531, and hosts small-scale productions, stand-up comedy and live music.


The Box Tree Restaurant holds a Michelin star, three AA rosettes and was awarded 'County of Restaurant of the Year' by Good Food Guide. The restaurant serves contemporary-influenced, traditional French dishes and an extensive selection of wine.

Fuji Hiro is a popular Chinese and Japanese restaurant that has received glowing reviews from publications such as The Observer. The food is high quality, and the atmosphere relaxed.

Anthony's specialises in experimental and contemporary European cuisine, prepared by an award-winning chef, using 'molecular gastronomy'. The restaurant was also awarded 'Best New Restaurant' at the 2004 Remy Awards.

Bryan's is a recently refurbished seafood restaurant a few miles out of the city centre.


Leeds is packed with pubs to suit all tastes and budgets. Prohibition is a cocktail bar, with a variety of 145 on offer, and a 2am-license on Fridays and Saturdays. Another bar popular with young professionals is Normans Bar, with 100 different spirits and cocktails, unisex toilets and stylish-kitsch d?r; the bar has received glowing reviews in Europe and Japan.

The New Penny is a gay bar close by, with live music and resident DJs, and a 4am license on Fridays and Saturdays.

Joseph's Well is another pub and live music venue, specialising in indie, rock, punk, metal and other alternative music, and has played hosts to bands such as Kaiser Chiefs and The Killers. Food is served during the day, and there is a 2am license on Fridays and Saturdays.

Leeds CAMRA named the 200-year old pub, The Scarborough, 'Pub of the Year' in 2006.


My House is one of 150 clubs in Leeds, and comprises three floors and a garden area. The club presents house music over two floors, with a chillout space upstairs.

The Space has two rooms, and presents funky house, hard house, drum'n'bass and garage.

Club Mission is the city's most popular gay club, offering cheesy dance, Euro mixes, pop and indie. The club holds 1500 people and boasts state of the art lighting and sound systems, and a VIP lounge, with table service, on the top floor.

The Brudenell Social Club is a club and live music venue, hosting rock and alternative bands. Previous acts include Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chiefs, along with numerous local bands.

The Cockpit is also popular with rock bands, and presents live music and rock, metal and indie club nights.

The city university's The Refectory and Stylus and Pulse are a club and a bar, both of which regularly host live bands and club nights. The Refectory has a capacity of 2000, and Stylus and Pulse 1200.


White Rose Shopping Centre houses more than 100 stores, including the major high street retailers, numerous cafes, restaurants and bars, and offers 5000 free parking spaces. The Leeds Shopping Plaza is located in the city centre, and also home to leading high street stores. The Light is a designer fashion shopping centre, and The Merrion Centre comprises budget stores and supermarkets.

The Victoria Quarter, in the city centre, is pedestrianised and covered, and home to more than seventy stores, including Hugo Boss, Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton. The Shopping Quarter is the place to find department stores, and Briggate the high street stores and supermarkets. The Corn Exchange contains a variety of shops, including Ark and Eva, and hosts art and music events.

Leeds Kirkgate Market is the second largest covered market in Europe.


The John Charles Centre for Sport comprises a gym and facilities for tennis, hockey, football, rugby, indoor bowling, athletics, badminton and table tennis. There are also three caf?located around the building. The Leeds International Pool is home to a 50-metre pool, diving pit, learner pool, aerobics studio and gymnasium.

Xscape was awarded 'Best Tourism Experience' by the UK Tourist Board in 2005, and comprises a real snow slope, the tallest indoor ice climbing walls in Europe, two rock climbing walls, an aerial assault course, an indoor skateboard park, Laserzone, dodgems and ten-pin bowling facilities. There is also a multi-screen cinema, a gym, twenty bars and restaurants and ten shops.

There are four golf courses in Leeds that welcome non-members.