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Things to do in Leeds, UK

Visit the Leeds docks - one of the best things to do in Leeds

There are so many exciting things to do in Leeds, and it's so great that you decided to visit this epic English city. Leeds is a city in West Yorkshire in the valley of the River Aire. Leeds is the largest city in the county, with over half a million inhabitants, so you can imagine that there are plenty of activities, cool bars and cafés and amazing restaurants. You'll get to see museums, art galleries, walk in nature and take the family out for lots of shopping.

One of the most exciting things to do in Leeds is to visit all the gorgeous shopping arcades.

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Leeds Corn Exchange

For architecture lovers, a visit to the Corn Exchange is a must. It is a superb Victorian building completed in 1863. It is a Grade I listed building designed by Cuthbert Brodrick, a Hull architect best known for Leeds Town Hall.

The building has been restored in 2007 and reopened in 2008 as a quaint boutique shopping centre for independent retailers and food outlets. Visit for a shopping day out or relax with street food and coffee.

Address: Call Ln, Leeds LS1 7BR

Book a 2 Hour Leeds Highlights Walking Tour.

Leeds Corn Exchange

Trinity Shopping centre

Continuing with the shopping theme in Leeds, take the whole family out to Trinity Shopping centre. Trinity is shopping and leisure centre named after the adjacent 18th century church.

If you love food, this is the place to visit too, as the centre has a great concept called Trinity Kitchen where you'll find permanent stalls but also pop-up vendors.

Don't miss the Equus Altus, a sculpture of a packhorse carrying a roll of cloth, and The Briggate Minerva. Both sculptures are by Scottish artist Andy Scott.

Address: 27 Albion St, Leeds LS1 5AT

Leeds trinity shopping centre

Leeds Art Gallery

Art lovers head to the Leeds Art Gallery and admire a collection of 20th century British art of national importance. The collection is in a Grade II listed building. You'll immediately recognise the building thanks to the Henry Moore sculpture named Reclining Woman: Elbow from 1981.

Also in the entrance hall you'll find the city's oldest civic sculpture, a 1712 marble statue of Queen Anne.

Admission to the Leeds art gallery is free.

Address: The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AA

Leeds art everywhere you look

Leeds city museum

Leeds city museum, originally established in 1819 and recently reopened in 2008 is a museum housed in the former Mechanics' Institute.

Add it to your list of things to do in Leeds to see displays about the history of the city. The admission is free and there is a cafe serving delicious cakes on site.

When visiting, make sure to check out the Life on Earth gallery and get close to amazing animals. Discover buried treasures and see the ever-changing exhibits.

Address: Millennium Square, Leeds LS2 8BH

Leeds city as seen from above

Leeds city centre

There are many free things to do in Leeds city centre, and sometimes it's nice to just leave the car in the car park and start exploring the city on foot. There is something for all the family. Start by exploring the shopping hub with the gorgeous restores arcades and the indie chain stores.

This is also the best place to find souvenirs for your home and your loved ones. Relax in cocktail bars or attend a cool music venue. Leeds is dubbed as the Foodie Capital of the North, so you'll never be short of exciting eateries in the centre.

The city centre is especially delightful during the summer months when the city truly comes to live.

Book your 2 Hour Leeds Highlights Walking Tour.

Leeds city centre

Leeds tropical world

Love Kew Gardens and want to have a similarly cool experience in Leeds? Then head to the Leeds tropical world, where you'll find superb greenhouses filled with large tropical plants and animals.

There is an admission fee, and you are advised to book your tickets online as there are limited tickets available each day. This is the perfect place for a family day out. You'll enjoy the great outdoors, but also get to see superb plants and animals. There are toilet facilities onsite as well as a café for your convenience.

Tropical world is located in the north of the city and free parking is available on site. There are two buses, number 2 and 12 that stop right outside the door.

Address: Princes Avenue, Roundhay, Leeds, LS8 2ER

Tropical world Leeds

Millennium square

The millennium square was created to mark the year 2000. It's surrounded by some of the city's most iconic buildings so chances are you will visit the square on your way to other attractions such as the Town Hall or the Museum.

There are several concerts held at the Millennium Square and you are always advised to book them in advance. Check online what's on during your visit and plan accordingly.

Address: Millennium Square, Leeds, LS2 3AD

Book a Leeds Food Tour with locals.

Millenium square Leeds

Abbey house museum

Would you like to see how Victorian Leeds looked like? Then you will want to visit the Abbey house museum, a Grade II listed building with nostalgic galleries.

You'll definitely want to see the Victorian streets, lined with quaint old school shops and houses. They are realistic with a drinking house and objects which date back over 100 years.

You'll even get to see how people used to wash their clothes or how they warmed their homes back then. There are always events and special exhibits happening year round including the marvellous world of Curious Creates and the Victorian attitude towards animals.

Address: Abbey Walk, Abbey Rd, Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3EH

Abbey House museum

Henry Moore institute

Henry Moore was one of the most important British artists, renowned for his semi-abstract monumental bronzes. If you want to celebrate British art, a visit to the Henry Moore institute is a must.

The Leeds venue is recognised for the study and enjoyment of Moore's sculptures. There are several exhibitions and events year around. You don't need to book tickets to visit the galleries but you do need to book in advance to visit the Sculpture Research Library.

Address: 74 The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AH

Henry Moore in Leeds

The Stanley & Audrey Burton gallery

Another free activity in Leeds is to visit the Stanley & Audrey Burton gallery. The gallery is part of the University of Leeds Library Galleries and was established in 1970. If you intend to visit the campus during your trip, then make sure to add a visit to this gallery on the list.

There are many art exhibitions on displays, but you can also attend public events including talks, workshops, and receptions.

You'll get to admire paintings, special collections, traditional watercolour and modern collages as well as fascinating objects from 18th century pottery.

Address: Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Ln., Woodhouse, Leeds LS2 9JT

All the Leeds arcades

As already mentioned one of the best things to do in leeds is to visit all the arcades in the city. See the wonderful ornate Victorian arcades lined with diverse and interesting shops.

See the Victoria quarter, a beautiful shopping district designed by architect Frank Matcham. Marvel at the rich marbles and mosaics, wrought iron and incredibly detailed arches.

Go to Thornton's arcade, a three storeys high, with a glass roof. At the northern end is a clock with a mechanism made by William Potts and Sons of Leeds.

The Grand Arcade was built in 1897 and it's located at the heart of the Northern Quarter. The Grand Historic Theatre is located just a minute away. Unlike other arcades, you won't find your usual high street retailers here.

Other superb arcades to add to your list are the Queens Arcade, home to some of the city's favourite boutiques and the Victoria Gate which looks posh and luxurious.

Book a 2 Hour Leeds Highlights Walking Tour.

Beautiful Leeds arcades

Kirkstall Abbey

Visit the stunning abbey ruins located just outside of Leeds. Founded in 1152, the Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery.

Enjoy wandering through the park and woodlands or just take a stroll in nature. You'll learn the history of the Abbey at the visitor centre and see some magnificent architecture dating back over 800 years. The Kirkstall abbey is a Grade I listed buildings.

The park is an excellent play area you can enjoy year round. Note that there is a small entry fee to visit the Abbey. However, the entrance remains free for Leeds residents.

Address: Abbey Rd, Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3EH

Kirkstall abbey in Leeds

Leeds minster

Visit the Leeds Minster, which now stands on the site of the oldest church in Leeds. The original church was recorded as early as the 7th century. However, the Minster today was completed in 1841. It is a Grade I listed building.

While visiting the Minster make sure to see the Leeds Cross, a very rate cross which dates back from the 10th century. Admire the mosaics around the altar, which shows fourteen figures in mosaic and set in marble arcades. This work was installed in 1877 by Antonio Salviati of Venice.

Don't miss the Hardwick monument, the painted table-tombs dating from the reign of Elizabeth I.

Address: 2-6 Kirkgate, Leeds LS2 7DJ

Leeds minster

The Royal armouries museum

One of the coolest museums in Leeds, the Royal armouries is a modern display of armour, history, and weaponry. If you've ever wanted to see all sort of armours for people and horses, then this is the place to learn all about it. You'll learn about combats, and how arms have shaped history, art and culture.

Among the main attractions are Henry VIII's foot combat armour and a full-size all-metal elephant armour and tusk swords from the late 16th Century.

Besides the permanent collection, the museum has a range of indoor and outdoor events. Tickets are free, but you should prebook your visit.

Address: Armouries Dr, Leeds LS10 1LT

Leeds dock

The Docks are mainly residential, but there are things happening here too. Visit the Waterfront Festival for 2 actions packed days of experiences and entertainment. On a normal day, the Leeds dock is the perfect place for a relaxing stroll, especially in the evening.

There's public art, and the Royal armouries museum is located here too, giving you yet another reason to visit. For shopping, head to 'The Boulevard', the Dock's main shopping street.

Book a 2 Hour Leeds Highlights Walking Tour.

Leeds docks during the day

Belgrave music hall

Visit the superb 1930s venue spread over three floors. Chill on the roof terrace or attend one of the events like gigs, comedy, or films. this is the ideal thing to do in Leeds if you're visiting on a sunny day and want a lively and fun atmosphere.

There are eateries here too, so grab a burger and a tray of fries. The cocktail selection is fantastic and reasonably priced too. There is a constant stream of events happening at the Belgrave Hall, including clothes sale, food festivals, art presentations, music, and films. There's always something going on for you to check it out.

Address: Cross Belgrave St, Leeds LS2 8JP

Kirkgate market

Head to the Grade I listed building which houses 800 stalls. The Kirkgate market is a market complex which attracts over 100,000 visitors every single week.

There's a bit of history to it too, as the market first opened in 1822. In 1884, Marks & Spencer opened here as a penny bazaar. Check the Market Clock in the 1904 hall with the shop's name on it.

The market is open every day except Sunday. The outdoor market is also open just 6 days a week.

Address: Vicar Lane in Leeds city centre

Belgrave music and food hall

Hyde park picture house

Love watching cool and interesting films? Then you'll want to go to the Hyde Park picture house, an independent cinema located in a Grade II building. It was opened in November, 1914.

You won't be watching your conventional movies here, but cool workshops, special screenings and delightful film debuts. If you are a fan of contemporary art and artsy films, then this is the place for you.

Address: 73 Brudenell Rd, Leeds LS6 1JD

Hype Park picture house

Roundhay park

Roundhay park is the ideal place for outdoors lovers. The park covers over 700 acres of rolling parkland, lakes, and woodlands. It's one of the largest urban parks in the works and it welcomes close to a million visitors every single year.

The Tropical World is part of the park so you can easily visit both in one day. There are several gardens too, including the Canal Gardens, the Friends Gardens with its sublime roses, the Alhambra Gardens with pond and fountains and the Monet Gardens based on the Monet's gardens at Giverny. There are also four more award-winning gardens which look spectacular and celebrate the Yorkshire Heritage.

Make sure to visit the Roundhay castle, a folly built in 1811.

Address: Mansion Ln, Roundhay, Leeds LS8 2HH

Roundhay park in Leeds

M&S Company Archive

The famed British retailer was born in Leeds. Celebrate its origins and head to the M&S Company Archive to learn about the history of the now giant retailer. Follow the timelines or walk the M&S Heritage Trail.

'Don't ask the price, it's a penny' was the slogan Michael Marks used when he opened his first bazaar in Leeds in 1884. And the rest, is history, as they say, as it's now one of the most iconic British stores known for its quality clothes and groceries.

Address: University of Leeds, Michael Marks Building, Woodhouse, Leeds LS2 9LP

Marks and Spencers bag

Street food in Leeds

The people of Leeds are dedicated to creating extraordinary food which is why if you're a foodie, a visit to Leeds is a must. Leeds is known as a hot spot for street food so whether you visit for the indoor or outdoor markets, you'll find plenty of fantastic dishes to keep you happy.

There's street food from all around the world. Try soft bao buns, killer burgers, Indian delights or local Yorkshire pudding wraps. You're going to love it.

Book a Leeds food tour with locals.

Burgers chips in Leeds

Thackray museum of medicine

Visit the Grade II listed building and enjoy the history of medicine. If you want to learn more about how medicine progressed, this is the attraction for you. You'll learn about Victorian Leeds and what it was like to live back then in the slums and survive rats, fleas, and bedbugs. You'll learn about surgery done before anaesthesia and what it was like to give birth.

There are over 70000 objects from medical history some dating back to Roman times.

Address: 141 Beckett St, Harehills, Leeds LS9 7LN

Thackray museum of medicine

The Leeds Library

There's something spectacular about the Leeds Library: it's the oldest surviving subscription library of its type in the UK. It was founded back in 1768.

There are occasional guided tours of the Leeds library taking place, and you should book your admission in advance. The General Admission is free, but donations are always welcome.

Please note that if you wish to borrow any books, you will need to become a member. Memberships have a yearly fee.

Address: 18 Commercial St, Leeds LS1 6AL

Take a walking tour

Nothing beats learning about a new city from an actual resident. Leeds is home to so many attractions and beautiful architecture. Explore it on foot on your own or hire a guide to take you to the best of places.

If you love a self-guided tour, refer to the street art trail or the architecture trail.

Alternatively, book your guided tour in advance to see Leeds through the eyes of a local.

Leeds walking tour to see the best highlights

Theatres

Fancy an elegant night out? Then you will want to book tickets to see a show at one of the many theatres in Leeds. Visit the gorgeous Leeds Theatre, a Grade II listed building opened in November 1878.

In present day, it hosts touring productions of West End and Broadway musicals and plays, comedians and music.

Address: Leeds Grand Theatre, 46 New Briggate, Leeds LS1 6NU

Blue Plaque Trail

History lovers should take the Blue Plaque trail, each plaque telling a story that shaped the Leeds we know today. Take a self guided trail and see over 100 locations of Blue Plaques in and around Leeds. You can download your map from the official Leeds Civic Trust website.

Here's something fun about the plaques: they are nominated by members of the public. All nominations are vital and they are considered by the Trust's Heritage Panel.

Book a 2 Hour Leeds Highlights Walking Tour.

Blue plaque trail in Leeds

Quick day trip

Are you staying in Leeds for several days and want to explore beyond the city? Just 40 minutes drive away you'll find the quaint town of Harrogate. There are many wonderful things to do in Harrogate and around. Visit Ripon or our favourite, the town of Knaresborough with its stunning viaduct. If you fancy a longer trip, head to the Yorkshire Dales and visit the town of Hawes or the splendid Hebden Bridge.

There are so many incredible locations close to Leeds, including the relaxing Yorkshire Coast with its long beach in Filey or gothic atmosphere in Whitby.

Walk around Hebden Bridge - one of the best things to do in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

Where to stay in Leeds

Dakota Leeds - Stay in one of the 84 luxurious bedrooms, just 350 yards from Trinity Leeds and 350 yards from Leeds Town Hall. Dakota Leeds on-site bar and grill restaurant offers a fresh menu with a brassiere-style service and their stylish cocktail bar features an outdoor terrace overlooking Greek St. Book your room at Dakota Leeds.

The Bells - Stay in the luxury apartments at the Bells, just 500 yards from Trinity Leeds. Each apartment comes with a large flat-screen TV in the living rooms with Freeview and Netflix access. The bathrooms feature rainfall showers and complimentary Molton Brown toiletries. You will find a fully equipped kitchen in every apartment with oven, hob, kettle, toaster and coffee machine as well as a dishwasher and washing machine. Book your stay at the Bells.

Quebecs Luxury Apartments - Stay at Quebecs Luxury Apartments and discover an unrivaled experience which will exceed the expectations of even the most discerning clientele, setting new standards for opulence, exclusivity and luxury living. Each individually air-conditioned apartment boasts over three times the space of any Executive Hotel Suite and its super-contemporary design and sensibility exudes grace and style. Book your stay at Quebecs.

Leeds by the water

You are now ready to visit the beautiful city of Leeds and know where to go, what to see and what activities to enjoy. Whether you want to admire the finest art collections or walk around formal gardens, Leeds has plenty of fun things for everyone. Don't forget to let us know what you liked most about Leeds in the comments section below.

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