Leeds is a lively modern city with plenty to do. Visit stateley homes, ruined abbeys, industrial museums, bird gardens, steam railways or the Royal Armouries.
Leeds is a modern, thriving city with superb shopping and an active nightlife. The exclusive Victoria Quarter hosts top name designer brands and is home to the first Harvey Nichols to be opened outside London. Leeds is an ideal base for touring Yorkshire with The Yorkshire Dales and Bronte Country within easy reach. There is also plenty to do in Leeds away from the shopping centre including:
Armley Mills is less than 2 miles from Leeds city centre. What was once the world’s largest woollen mill, is home to a museum devoted to the industrial history of Leeds. There are exhibits showing how textiles, clothing, engines and locomotive manufacture contributed to the growth of Leeds in the 18th and 19th centuries. Movie enthusiasts will be interested in the history of cinema exhibition which includes the first moving pictures taken in the city and a selection of silent movies from the 1920s
Royal Armouries – A Free Day Out
The Royal Armouries shows the changing face of battle over the years. Armour from the Middle Ages to the present day is on display. There are regular jousting displays and exhibitions and a special exhibition covering the history of the Tower of London.
The Royal Armouries is 10 minutes walk from Leeds railway station and admission is free
Temple Newsam House and Home Farm
Temple Newsam house stands in 1500 acres of land on the eastern edge of Leeds.
The centrepiece is a Tudor-Jacobean mansion that has been called “The Hampton Court of the North”. Visitors can see collections of paintings, silverware, ceramics, wallpapers and Chippendale furniture.
The grounds, designed by Capability Brown, include parkland, woodland, lakes and a rose garden. Younger visitors will love Home Farm , which is a working farm pigs, goats, sheep, ducks and hens.
Roundhay Park and Canal Gardens
Roundhay Park is one of Europe’s largest parks. Explore over 700 acres of parkland, woodland and lakes, less than three miles from central Leeds. Opposite the main gates is the Canal Gardens and Tropical World which is home the second largest collection of tropical plants in the United Kingdom.
Middleton Railway – The World’s Oldest Railway
Trains run on weekends and bank holidays from a terminus at Moor Road Hunslet. The two mile return trip takes about 25 minutes and passengers can alight at Park Halt to explore Middleton Park
Lotherton Hall and Bird Garden
Lotherton Hall at Aberford about 10 miles east of Leeds was the ancestral home of the Gascoine family. The hall is open to visitors to see the family collection of furniture, silver, china, paintings, sculpture and textiles. There are extensive grounds, which host one of the largest collection of endangered birds in the United Kingdom. There are over 200 different species on display including flamingos, snowy owls, cassowaries and hornbills.
Kirkstall Abbey and Abbey House Museum
Kirkstall Abbey stands on the banks of the River Aire about 2 miles from Leeds city centre. The monastery was built by Cistercian monks in the mid 12th century and was used as a place of worship until Henry VIII’s campaign to destroy the Catholic Church in the mid 16th century. The grounds of the abbey are now s a public park, ideal for a picnic on a warm summers day. Nearby, the Abbey House Museum recreates street life in Victorian England and has displays on the history of the abbey, Childhood, and Leeds Social History.
Leeds Walk: Queens Hotel, Victoria Quarter and City Museum
Leeds is located in the north of England and is served by direct trains from London. It is one of the country’s largest towns and has undergone a substantial regeneration in recent years. Leeds is home to some upmarket stores, many of which are located in the Victoria Quarter, and historic buildings, such as the Queens Hotel. The city center is quite compact and can be easily seen on foot. The following walk is one possible itinerary that takes in many of the main sights and last around 60 to 90 minutes without stops.
Leeds Railway Station to Queens Hotel to City Square
A good starting point for the tour is Leeds Railway Station, which is also the location of a tourist information bureau. From the main entrance, take a left and walk towards City Square where the imposing Queens Hotel is an unmistakable landmark. Step inside the lobby to enjoy the true ambience and history of the hotel, which has recently undergone a major renovation. This Queens Hotel, which opened in 1937, replaced an earlier incarnation that had stood on the same site since 1863.
Beyond the Queens Hotel, City Square is also home to the former Majestic Cinema. The building, which opened in 1922, now stands forlornly empty, awaiting a new owner, but it once offered its patrons the chance to watch the biggest films of the day in a luxury setting, accompanied by the sounds of its very own Majestic Symphony Orchestra.
Met Hotel Leeds to Town Hall to Leeds Art Gallery
Leave City Square via Quebec Street and take a left on to King Street, which is home to the terracotta-fronted Met Hotel Leeds (formerly the Metropole Hotel). The hotel opened in 1899, but has recently been refurbished and remains one of the more striking buildings in the city center.
Take a right back towards Quebec Street and join East Parade heading north. Walk towards the large white building on the corner of East and South Parade, which was built in 1911 for the Pearl Assurance Company. Today it houses Sam’s Chop House, an authentic independent eating and drinking venue specializing in traditional and modern British food.
Upon leaving Sam’s, continue along East Parade to the Headrow, where the impressive Town Hall is located. Opened by Queen Victoria in 1858, the Town Hall is today a functioning government building and also hosts a variety of concerts throughout the year. Next to the Town Hall is Leeds Art Gallery, which is home to a selection of twentieth century British art, as well as temporary exhibitions and the beautiful Tiled Hall.
Millennium Square to Briggate to Victoria Quarter
From the Headrow, take Calverley Street north to Millennium Square. As well as some fine restaurants and old buildings, this is also the location of Leeds City Museum, which houses a variety of temporary exhibits and permanent displays, some of which are interactive.
Leave Millennium Square via Cookridge Street and walk towards Leeds Cathedral. From there, continue back down towards the Headrow and take a left. Cross the road and continue down the Headrow until you reach the city’s main shopping thoroughfare, Briggate. Radiating off Briggate are several ‘arcades’ with a selection of small, independent shops. However, the main attraction here is the Victoria Quarter.
Designers such as Louis Vuitton and up-market department store, Harvey Nichols, now occupy the 100-year-old buildings that make up this unique development. Visitors that come during the run-up to Christmas can also enjoy the impressive festive decorations.
Leave Briggate via King Edward Street and head towards the Edwardian buildings that house the vast and lively Kirkgate market. From there, take a left towards the unmistakable circular Corn Exchange (now another retail and dining venue). Walk straight up Boar Lane, which crosses the bottom of Briggate and leads back towards the train station via the eighteenth century Holy Trinity Church. Take a left on to New Station Street and follow it back to the start of the tour.
Beyond Leeds City Center
The above is, of course, only one possible itinerary and there are plenty more sights to be seen, both in the city center and beyond, such as Clarence Dock. This is the location of the Royal Armouries museum, and is also the pick-up point for Leeds City Cruises, which run tour boats along the River Aire. For those who like to take things a bit easier, Leeds City Sightseeing Bus offers open-top tours of the city’s main attractions.
History is everywhere in Leeds. While it may not be obvious on the surface, among the intrusive concrete protusions of modern high rise apartments and office buildings, there are plenty of delights to be found, and those who have never experienced Leeds should find a visit here well worth while.