Leeds is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, and it isn’t hard to see why. This West Yorkshire gem has a diverse and vibrant cultural scene worth celebrating, with lively festivals and a thriving independent scene. The award-winning arena draws crowds, as does Headingley Stadium for sports fans, which makes it a hub of entertainment in the heart of the UK. The varied nightlife promises a good time for anyone, with live music venues, fun cocktail bars and underground clubs.
While it is the third largest city in the UK, it’s surprisingly compact. Much of the city centre can be explored on foot, but taxis are easy to find and pretty cheap if you have to go further out.
Explore the City
The Leeds party strip is where it’s all happening, a playground for tourists and locals alike. It’s home to everything from bars dedicated to tequila (Neon Cactus) to tiki cocktail bars, so there is something to suit all music tastes. There are live music venues like Oporto, popular restaurants like Red’s True BBQ and Wire, an underground club with some exciting club nights.
For shopping and dining, Leeds Trinity is a shoppers paradise, with over 120 shops, bars, restaurants and a cinema, all under one roof. There’s a mix of independent shops and all the big high street brands, so you can visit all your favourites, or discover new ones. Kirkgate Market has everything from food to fashion, homewares and jewellery, with plenty of great places to grab a bite.
Sports at Headingley
Leeds is a proud home to football, cricket and rugby, with Headingley, a frequent hang out for sports fans. Catch a cricket or rugby match at the stadium, start the notoriousOtley Run pub crawlor find a pitch and have a game yourself. There’s plenty of activities you can do, like play a game of five-a-side, goggle football or foot golf. You can even play with a cricket or football legend.
A shoppers paradise
If you're after shopping and dining, then Leeds Trinity is a good place to go. Explore the hundreds of brands under its roof from the independent shops and high street brands, to popular food outlets and restaurants.
Eat Like a Local
When it comes to food, Leeds has everything. It’s bursting with cuisines from all corners of the world and is taking the street food revolution by storm with its variety of vendors. It’s also one of the best cities to grab some tasty barbequed meat.
BBQ and burgers
Leeds does BBQ restaurants well, and there’s no shortage of them. Red’s True BBQ serves BBQ wings, dry rubbed ribs, juicy burgers and platters, all slathered in their special homemade sauces. Smoke BBQ was inspired by Man v. Food, with dishes like ribs, pulled pork, brisket and hot link sausages. The Pit has flavours from both North and South America. Those are to name just a few.
Leeds has a delicious and varied collection of street food vendors. Try Dough Boys at the front of Belgrave Music Hall for pizza slices with unique combinations of flavours. Head over to Kirkgate Market for stalls like Fat Annies, for every kind of hot dog you could want, or Café Moor for North African & Middle Eastern cuisine. The Kitchen in Trinity Leeds shopping centre has a rotation of six street food vans every eight weeks.
The shopping centre has lots of places to grab a bite to eat, especially if you’re looking for your favourite high street chain restaurants. For meat lovers, head to Chicago Rib Shack, Meat Liquor or TGI Fridays. For food from around the world, there’s Wagamamas for Japanese cuisine, Pho for Thai street food, Carluccio’s for Italian and Giraffe for an eclectic menu.
Nights out in Leeds are anything but dull - there are tons of places to drink and dance. It’s a place where live music thrives, so keep an eye out for any gigs happening. As an added bonus, it’s a friendly, welcoming place to party, but also one of the safest, which can’t hurt.
Call Lane bars
For fun cocktail bars and late-night party venues, head to Call Lane. Tiki Hideaway is perfect for tropical drinks and a Hawaiian vibe. Neon Cactus does everything tequila, from cocktails to shots. Revolution is a popular favourite wherever you go. Cuckoo is an escape into a world of colour, with craft beers and cocktails to match.
Leeds attracts everyone from global superstars to up-and-coming artists across all kinds of genres, and there are lots of venues to host them. The Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen is a three-floor venue with popular regular live music gigs and festivals. The HiFi Club is a nightclub, comedy club and live music venue all rolled into one. The Key Club specialises in rock and Oporto is a more intimate music venue.
The Mint Club is a huge part of the Leeds clubbing scene, hosting some of the best DJs in the country and the biggest parties. Dance the night away to house, techno and underground with popular club nights like System and Mint Mondays.
If you’re looking for clubs you know and love, look no further than Leeds. Favourites like PRYZM and Tiger Tiger have both found a home here. For cheesy pop chart-toppers, head to Popworld, for Bavarian fun and German beer try Bierkeller, and if you don’t want to miss the latest game, Shooters is for you.
Places to Stay
If you’re looking for good value accommodation, check out some of the chain hotels in the city centre. They’re central, making it great for late nights out or taking breaks from days exploring. Jurys Inn, Clayton Hotel and Holiday Inn are all particularly popular with groups.
A guide to a weekend in the capital of the north
Leeds city centre is a bustling place and on arrival it may seem as though all of the action is packed right in. And while there’s certainly enough here to keep you entertained, there’s even more to discover if you step away from the shops, bars and museums right at the heart. Whether you want to wander along the river or take a taxi trip into the suburbs, you can discover scenic views, even more pubs and superb spots for dining.
Leeds at a glance:
- Discover the home of Yorkshire cricket and sup a beer or three in the welcoming pubs of Headingley
- Fast becoming a food lovers’ must-visit, Leeds showcases culinary treats from around the world
- A bustling music scene and burgeoning love for craft beer means Leeds is buzzing with hipster independent bars and clubs
Headingley – the sporty student hub Home of the Yorkshire Cricket Ground and starting point for the notorious Otley Run pub crawl, Headingley is a frequent hangout for sports fans, students and fancy dress enthusiasts, as well as a good place to spot the odd celebrity. It’s obviously perfect for watching some sporting action if you time your visit well, and also offers plenty of choice for drinking and dining, making it something of a hotspot for stags, hens and fun-loving hordes. A bus ride or 15-minute taxi from the city centre, but far from a hidden gem so expect to meet plenty of other partygoers on your trip.
Call Lane – entertainment alley Situated a short walk from the main shopping streets, Call Lane is playground to many and a must-see for visitors. The main strip takes partygoers from after work drinks through to early morning dancing with the likes of Jake’s Bar, Neon Cactus and Normans Bar, plus familiar favourites such as Vodka Revolution, serving up food, drinks and music and ensuring the street is bustling most nights of the week.
Fancy dress isn’t always welcome and you may have to queue to get into the street’s favourites at busy times but once here you won’t have to wander very far to see out the night. Nearby you’ll find nightclubs such as indie venue Wire and pool hall hangout The Elbow Rooms, plus Queens Court, Fibre and a hub of other LGBT venues ready to welcome revellers.
Brewery and Granary Wharf – riverside revelling You don’t need to be a fan of fishing to enjoy the River Aire. In the summer in particular the areas of Brewery Wharf and Granary Wharf fill with people soaking up the views and sunshine and enjoying a drink or bite to eat beside the river. There’s a short walk between these two spots but highlights at each make them worth a visit.
Leeds Trinity – the new shoppers’ paradise that serves up some culinary delights Nestled on Albion Street, it somehow manages to pack in over 120 shops, bars and restaurants under its roof, not to mention a cinema. The Angelica restaurant at the top offers great views of the city and bar/restaurants The Alchemist and The Botanist boast great cocktail menus.
While there’s a huge range of shops, including a smattering of independents and all of the big names, many people come here just to eat and drink, particularly in Trinity Kitchen. The Kitchen welcomes visiting street food vendors each month, so there’s always something new to try.
Top 10 real ale pubs in Leeds:
Brewery Tap, New Station Street You don’t have to wander far after arriving by train to arrive at one of the best real ale pubs in the city. Two minutes from the station, the Tap is a top spot for supping a pint.
Brewdog, White Cloth Hall Just behind the Corn Exchange nestles Brewdog and its range of punk beers and regular guest brews. You’re guaranteed an edgy atmosphere to accompany the superb selection of drinks from the independent Scottish brewery.
Veritas, Great George Street Bang opposite the Leeds General Infirmary, the Veritas isn’t a late opener so you may want to pop in early. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a great range of international beers and a surprisingly posh food menu.
Friends of Ham, The Headrow A visit to Friends of Ham is one you’ll never forget. Just a few doors down from the Brewery Tap, this is a bar dedicated to the consumption of the finest meats alongside the best beer, simple as that. Meat and beer. What could be better?
The Hop, Neville Street The traditional real ale house has been brought up to date with the arrival of The Hop, complete with contemporary decor and a strong emphasis on top notch live music. It also benefits from a nice beer garden in a cracking location at Granary Wharf.
The Adelphi, Hunslet Road It might not look much from outside, but the Adelphi serves up a warm welcome and an impressive selection of beers and wine. The food here is consistently good and the pub even plays host to a monthly cheese club.
North Bar, New Briggate, City Centre Home to a superb range of continental beers and wines, it has an arty vibe and has bagged numerous awards for its dedication to craft brews. Now a long established favourite on the independent bar scene, it’s still well worth a visit.
The Midnight Bell, Water Lane, Holbeck A brilliant beer garden and beer always go well together and when you throw decent food into the mix you know you’re onto a winner. It’s a short walk from the centre but only five minutes from the train station and a great spot to spend a Sunday.
Whitelock's Ale House, Turks Head Yard Established in 1715, this is the oldest pub in Leeds and has the traditional interior you would expect from a pub dating back centuries. It’s certainly not rested on its laurels though and serves up a fantastic selection of real ales and ciders from local breweries.
The Palace, Kirkgate, City Centre A little out of the way but a stone’s throw from the river, The Palace is another pub free of pretension but with a plentiful quotient of good ale and a fine selection of whiskies too.
Best clubs in Leeds:
Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen This independent venue is spread across three floors and has its own roof terrace. As well as hosting gigs, DJs and club nights, the Belgrave also serves up food and film and holds regular street feasts showcasing local and national food vendors.
Wire It’s hard to position Wire as playing any one type of music and they describe themselves as ‘pushing quality underground music in a friendly and intimate setting’. The vibe is usually trendy-meets-hipster and the drinks include a good range of imported beers.
Smokestack A little more of a bar than a club, Smokestack (and sister bar Sandinista) offer a more relaxed drink and dancing experience, though that’s not to say the place doesn’t get busy. You’ll find a real mix of revellers here, enjoying funk, soul and jazz.
Neon Cactus A dedicated tequila bar that also serves some great value Mexican food, Neon Cactus comes alive on Friday and Saturday nights with house, indie and electro DJs. The action is spread over two intimate floors and things don’t come to an end until 4am.
Food: eat like a local:
Leeds loves to eat and is home to several annual festivals dedicated to food. Whether you want to experience fine dining or take in as many culinary experiences as possible, it’s a place where you’ll find something to suit all budgets and tastes.
For eating on the go, head to Kirkgate Market or pick up a sandwich at Hepworth’s Deli in Thorntons Arcade.
Friends of Ham near the station is a top spot for meat lovers and fans of real ale and if meat is your thing, you’ll be spoilt for choice thanks to a handful of quality burger and rib joints including Byron Burger, Almost Famous, Reds Barbecue and The Pit, to name just a few.
Blackhouse has some of the finest steaks around and Kendalls Bistro boasts French-inspired cuisine in a cosy atmosphere.
Buses are in plentiful supply and a lot of the city can be negotiated on foot. Taxis are generally easy to find and fairly cheap too if you’re heading out of the city centre. Parking is harder to come by so worth checking with your accommodation in advance if you plan on driving.