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12 of the Best Things To Do In Leeds – A Local’s Guide

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Best Things to do in Leeds

Here’s a rundown of the best things to do in Leeds, the largest city in Yorkshire. This post comes from a born-and-bred Loiner (someone who comes from the city), so you know it’s a source you can trust!

The place has changed quite a bit since my childhood. Like many of the UK’s northern cities, Leeds suffered from the loss of much of its manufacturing and textiles industries in the late 20th century.

But significant investment from the 1990s onwards turned the city into a bustling metropolis of commerce – it’s now a thriving financial centre – and culture.

Here, then, is my pick of the best this city has to offer.

This post was written by local Chris Young. Chris is the owner of EnglandExplore – a blog for those looking to travel to England, or who just love this gorgeous country, its people, history and culture. 

Best Things To Do In Leeds

Royal Armouries

Things to do in Leeds UK

In 1996 much of the Tower of London’s collection of armour, weaponry and the like was shipped to Leeds, to be displayed in the purpose-built Royal Armouries Museum in the city centre.

Like most museums in the UK, entry is free. So if knights, suits of armour, or Napoleonic muskets are your kind of thing, this makes a great day trip.

Canal Waterfront

Another of the best things to do in the city is to visit the canal waterfront. Along the refurbished area of the Canal, there are tons of bars and restaurants to explore. This is also where you’ll find the armouries, and it’s one of the most exciting parts of the city to explore. 

The canal is the longest in the UK built as a single waterway, and it’s possible to follow it all the way to Liverpool – if you’re so inclined! If you don’t fancy quite such a long walk, there are plenty of shorter ones to choose from. Or you can simply relax in one of the waterfront bars and watch the canal boats sail by. 

Unusual/Alternative Things to do in Leeds

Tick Tock Escape Games

Tick Tock Escape Rooms Leeds England

The city centre is home to one of two venues of Tick Tock escape games. These are best described on their website:

“Tick Tock escape games are a fun activity for groups of friends, colleagues and families where they must work together to find clues and solve puzzles to escape from a room within a certain period of time.”

So if you’ve ever wanted to puzzle your way out of an Egyptian tomb or escape the asylum (two of the actual games) then this might be the perfect thing for you and a bunch of mates.

Places to Eat

This city is a foodie heaven. You can sample cuisine from around the world – all within walking distance of the centre of town. 

The city is particularly proud of its fine dining restaurants in the canal area of the city – home of several refurbished warehouses – such as Michelin starred ‘Man Behind the Curtain’.

But our first choice of the best place to eat is a much humbler place:

The Corner Café

Places to eat in leeds

A city institution, this Indian eatery is, on the surface, a far cry from the Michelin stars and £100/bottle wine lists of its city centre cousins.

With its Formica tables and out-of-the-way location – on the Burley Road in the west of the city – you’d be forgiven for not thinking much of the place.

But that would be a mistake as The Corner Café has been serving the best Indian food since 1976, tapping the large sub-continental community in the area. It’s particularly popular with the many students living nearby – especially as a sumptuous feast can be had for less than £20/head.


Another great local attraction is Whitelocks, the oldest pub in the city.

Opened in 1715 to cater to merchants at the local market, the pub has been a central watering hole since that time. The poet John Betjeman called it “the very heart of Leeds”.

It’s managed to retain its charm and caters to beer drinkers, so the pub offers a range of craft beers and real ales. It’s also a great place to eat. Whitelocks serves locally-sourced traditional meals, such as black pudding and steak and ale pie.

A great place to eat well, whilst enjoying a beer or two! 

Things To Do in Leeds at Night

things to do in leeds

Student Life

Leeds has one of the largest student populations in the UK – it has three universities – and has a reputation for some of the best nightlife.

The Headingly region in the west of the city is the student area of town – and where many of the best pubs and clubs are to be found.

Leeds Playhouse

One of the top theatres in the UK, the Leeds Playhouse (formerly the ‘West Yorkshire Playhouse) has just been redeveloped at a cost of over £15m.

It has two stages and runs everything from Shakespeare and Greek Tragedies to modern comedies and plays. A must for all theatre lovers out there.

Shopping in Leeds

Harvey Nichols

The opening of this northern outpost of the famous London store in 1996 is seen as the start of the city’s revival, putting the city on the map style-wise.

The Arcades

things to do in leeds

These Victorian arcades – brightly decorated alleyways between shops – were refurbished as part of the city’s facelift. Today, they house some of the most stylish boutique stores in the north of England, including the likes of Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, and Michael Kors. 

Corn Exchange

Leeds Corn Exchange

The old corn exchange – where much of the area’s corn, barley etc was bought and sold in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – has been turned into a gorgeous shopping arcade. Here you’ll find still more boutique shops and pretty cafes, such as Tiffin Coffee and Cafe W. 

Festivals and Events

Leeds Festival

The Leeds Festival, along with its cousin Reading Festival, is one of the leading music festivals of the year in the UK.

It usually takes place in late August, at Bramham Park. Leeds Festival has attracted bands such as Nirvana, Oasis, Metallica, Foo Fighters, and Radiohead in the past.

Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival

Thought Bubble is the UK’s largest annual festival of ‘sequential art’, held every November at the Harrogate Convention Centre. If you’re into superheroes, manga, or comics – or you just want to geek out – then this festival is for you!

Where to Stay in Leeds

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things to do in leeds

I always stay with my parents when I visit, so don’t really have any hotel recommendations! But the Queen’s Hotel next to the station is in an ideal location in the centre of town. It’s pretty upmarket, but would be perfect for a luxurious weekend. 

Emily’s input: The Dakota is a luxurious boutique hotel with some of the highest ratings on, so that’s another winning option. The decor looks fab and recent reviews have all been really positive, so this would be my choice for a city break. 

Or, if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of hostels and guesthouses to choose from. There’s definitely accommodation to suit every budget, so shop around a bit and see what you can find. 

Read More

Extend your trip with some of these fab suggestions, or find all my UK blog posts here

Best Things to do in York – A Local’s Guide

A Weekend in Yorkshire

Best Things to do in Sheffield – A Local’s Guide

A Local’s Guide to Manchester

This post was part of a series of “locals guides” to UK cities I’m running on my blog. My goal is to promote tourism all over my home country, and to help people discover the best of a city with the help of a genuine local. If you’d like to take part with a post all about your own city, please get in touch. I’d love to grow the section to cover every destination in the UK! 

Do you have any recommendations for the best things to do in Leeds – or nearby? Scroll down to leave a comment or shoot me an email! 

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11 thoughts on “12 of the Best Things To Do In Leeds – A Local’s Guide”

  1. Solid post Emily, heading there this weekend so looking for inspiration. Last time I went it felt a bit scuzzy lol so trying again.

    Come up to Newcastle… x10 better!

  2. I’ve always wanted to go to UK.Its one of the wonderful places that i really want to see and thanks for this amazing post on Leeds as it will help me in planning the trip to UK next year a lot.

  3. Is that it? This city is the metropolitan capital of Yorkshire and the best you can offer is some shops, a curry and a museum that used to be somewhere else.

    1. Hi KayNob :) I’ve not been to Leeds myself, so I asked a local to write this piece for me and this is what he came up with! What else would you add? I’d love to hear more suggestions.

  4. Thank you for sharing your information, which I too find very useful when i was visited to Leeds
    , with a few good and important points, and I learned a few new ones from it.

  5. Amazing! This is an incredible rundown, I’m curious about UK as I’ve never visited so your aide truly made a difference. I’m adding shopping, festivals and Events ,Con Exchange to my rundown – the architecture of those structures are simply mind blowing.

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