Not a too prominent name like London, Edinburgh or Oxford, but Leeds has a unique charm unlike any other city. If you are looking for a lesser known destination that is still full of surprises and interesting things, then Leeds is an ideal choice. So, is Leeds worth visiting, what to do in Leeds and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Leeds for the first-time? Let’s check out our Leeds blog (Leeds travel blog) with the fullest Leeds travel guide (Leeds guide, guide to Leeds, Leeds tourist guide, Leeds city guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit, what to eat and top things to do in Leeds to find out the answer!
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Overview of Leeds (#leeds blog)
Leeds is the largest city in the West Yorkshire region of England with colorful and nostalgic houses and buildings by the river Aire. The city was formerly said to have been named Loidis as recorded by Saint Bede – he was also known by another name The Venerable Bede – who was a famous scholar of the Anglo-Saxon period (410-1066AD).
This is considered an ancient Welsh-speaking land which was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria. Another theory is that Loidis may also have been the name of a tribe meaning “people of the flowing river” – reminiscent of the Aire River today. In the Middle Ages, Loidis changed to Leedis and later Leeds became the official name.
If London is considered the fashion capital of the South, then Leeds and Manchester compete for the top position in fashion in the North. So when you come to Leeds, you will not be surprised by the very stylish fashion of the locals. Leeds is famous for its shopping centers and fashion festivals take place that always attract fashion companies and shopaholics.
Leeds city is located in a convenient location, close to the Aire river and this is also a famous cultural center, regularly taking place many big events such as: Leeds Festival, Leeds International Concert Season, Leeds International Film Festival, etc.
The beginning of the prosperity of Leeds must be mentioned in the Victorian era (1830-1900). This was the boom period of industrial revolution, literature, art, engineering, architecture and fashion. Great Britain during this period was extremely prosperous and Leeds became known as the center of the wool industry and Manchester took a unique position in cotton. Therefore, this place has been invested to become a center of fashion right from the Victorian era until now.
Despite being a big city, the cost of living in Leeds is much cheaper than other major cities in the UK. According to data from the website Expatistan, Leeds ranks 6th in the UK Cost of Living index. Relatively 30% cheaper than living in London.
Compared to other cities in the UK, Leeds is somewhat less well known and little information about the city. To be honest, at first, I didn’t expect much from Leeds either. But when I come to Leeds, I was surprised by the beauty of the city.
Once a bustling trading hub for England, Leeds’ tourist attractions are all tied to economic activity. Must mention such as Leeds Corn Exchange, Kirkgate Market… Despite experiencing many ups and downs of history, the city still retains its traditional beauty with nostalgic buildings amidst a bustling pace of life.
Culture and life: Located in the heart of England, the city of Leeds still retains its traditional beauty with nostalgic buildings by the river Aire. In addition, there are many theaters and museums that make visitors impressed with the magnificent beauty of these works.
This is also the city where the most famous universities in the UK are located, with around 200,000 students from 100 countries. Multinational companies such as Adsa, Capita, First Direct… are all located here, this is an opportunity for students to develop their career right after graduation.
When should you travel to Leeds? (#leeds travel guide)
Exploring the city of Leeds, if you come at the right time, you will have many interesting experiences. The peak tourist season in Leeds is in the period from July to September, in which August is the most crowded. However, because it is the peak tourist season, everything is quite expensive.
And if you want to save money on travel to Leeds, come here around April and November. The weather is not very favorable, so very few people want to go to Leeds at this time, so the service price sharply drops. However, before planning a trip, you just need to pay attention to the weather forecast, it will not affect the trip.
How to get to Leeds? (#leeds travel guide)
With a convenient transport system, you can easily go to Leeds from other UK cities. You can use train, coach and even plane.
But getting around in the UK, you should still take the train because it’s comfortable and fast (but it’s expensive). I also took the train from Nottingham to Leeds. Go up to check the tickets that was being discounted, so pack my bags and go.
- Buy UK train tickets at www.nationalrail.co.uk and coach tickets at www.nationalexpress.com.
- Traveling within the UK, students should make cards 16-25 to get cheap fares. And this card can be borrowed together by Asians to save money (because the conductor on the train is not free to look at each person’s face in the picture, and especially for Asians, they are even more hesitant to watch carefully).
Getting around Leeds (#leeds guide)
To getting from the suburbs to the center of Leeds or traveling within the city, you can buy a FirstDay Leeds ticket for around £4 (or a FirstWeek ticket for £14.50). You will be allowed to ride on any bus within the Leeds metropolitan area. You can also buy a single bus ticket for £1.
Like other cities in the UK, the city of Leeds has a fairly convenient transport network. But because the city is small, you can easily walk to tourist attractions.
Except for Kirkstall Abbey, it’s a bit far. To get here, you can take a bus or call a car on ride-hailing apps. We check the price, it’s cheaper to take Uber, so we called the car on Uber.
What to do & where to go in Leeds? (#leeds tourist guide)
Civic Quarter (#leeds tourist guide)
Located in the center, known as the city square. This is an ideal walking place when traveling to Leeds. Coming here, visitors can freely admire famous works such as: Black Prince statue, the City Town Hall building, statue of inventor James Watt, Leeds Civic Hall,… ensure this tourist attraction will bring you many interesting experiences.
Civic Quarter is known as a pedestrian area like Town Square in the heart of Leeds. Famous for many precious statues, including the Black Prince and James Watt inventor.
In addition, Civic Quarter also owns an art gallery since 1988 in Victoria Square. With a collection from British artists J.S. Cotman (1782-1842), Italian and French artisans such as Courbet, Renoir and Signac. An ideal spot for art lovers.
Kirkstall Abbey (#leeds blog)
If you have time, you should visit the Kirkstall Abbey dating back to the Middle Ages. Only about 3 miles from the city center and 10 minutes by bus. Although only ruins, Kirkstall is a beautiful structure that evokes the history of the Cistercian Order. And visitors are free to walk right in the park by the Aire river to enjoy a peaceful Leeds.
Although no longer intact, Kirkstall Abbey is the most popular tourist attraction in Leeds. Partly because of the historical value that the building keeps, but also because of the beauty from the ruins.
Although there are just walls or pillars left, but they are telling a story. When I saw the picture of Kirkstall Abbey, I wanted to go there.
- Address: Abbey Rd, Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3EH, U
- Opening hours: 10AM – 16:30PM (Closed on Mondays)
- Ticket price: £5.00 (If you are a Leeds citizen, you will not need a ticket)
Kirkgate Market (#leeds blog)
Leeds Kirkgate Market is located on Vicar Lane. This is the largest covered market in Europe with 800 stalls. First opened in 1822. The old yellow stalls inside the market make me fall in love.
Leeds has so many markets, but I didn’t have enough time, so I just had to observe and then rush to mingle with the crowds to see the Victoria Quarter. This is a place to sell high-end fashion items dating back to 1900. And that’s not all. The grand market opened in 1897 or the The Queen’s Theatre was built in 1898. These are fine examples of Victorian architecture that are sure to please those who take the time to visit.
Kirkgate Market is one of the largest indoor markets in Europe. If you look from the outside you will not think this is a market (because it looks so gentle, I thought it was a post office).
Inside the market there are many shops, but most especially Mark & Spencer (a famous retail chain in the UK). This is the brand’s first store. In order to preserve the company’s heritage, in 2013 Mark & Spence set up a souvenir stall inside the market.
To reveal more to you, there is a shop selling Vietnamese bread in the market. If you miss the taste of your hometown, you can try out to support the restaurant.
- Address: Vicar Lane, Leeds City Center LS2 7HY
- Opening hours: 8AM – 5:30PM
- Ticket price: Free
- Web: https://www.leeds.gov.uk/leedsmarkets
Leeds Town Hall (#leeds travel blog)
Leeds Town Hall is one of the most prominent buildings in Leeds. Built in the 19th century, with the purpose of showing the prosperity of the reign of Queen Victoria. Therefore, the grandeur of the work is not inferior to the town halls in big cities. And Leeds Town Hall is one of the largest city halls in the UK.
However, with the presence of the Leeds Civic Hall and the relocation of many ministries, the building is now used as a convention and conference center.
Address: The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AD, United Kingdom
St John the Evangelist’s Church (#guide to leeds)
If you want to explore the old architecture in Leeds, you definitely cannot miss the St John’s Church. Built in 1634, with a unique and impressive design, this place has attracted the attention of many visitors. Stepping inside the church, you will be overwhelmed by the interior and bold Renaissance architecture.
Address: 23 New Briggate, Leeds LS2 8JD, United Kingdom
Millennium Square is the central square in Leeds, where special city activities take place. The square is surrounded by prominent city structures such as Leeds Civic Hall, Leeds Town Hall, The Carriageworks Theater and Leeds City Museum.
Leeds Civic Hall (#leeds city guide)
Wandering the streets of Leeds gave me an unforgettable memory. In the chilly air, occasional gusts of wind make passersby shiver in fashionable outfits. The centuries-old buildings in this city still defy the weather.
Centrally located in Millennium Square is the Leeds Civic Hall. This is the city’s town hall, replacing Leeds Town Hall since 1933. The special feature of the building is located in 2 gold-leafed twin towers on both sides of 2.3m high. In each tower, there is an owl statue at the top and gold-plated clocks on both sides.
Architect Vincent Harris who designed and built it from 1853-1858. Leeds Civic Hall was opened by King George V and Queen Mary in August 1933. And it costs 360,000 pounds to build this beautiful structure.
Address: Calverley St, Leeds LS1 1UR, United Kingdom
Leeds Corn Exchange
One of England’s oldest Victorian buildings was designed and built by Cuthbert Brodrick from 1861 to 1864. The building looks like a crown that holds architectural significance and cultural symbolism. This is a must-see for anyone who loves architecture. And admiring fashion items as well as beautiful vintage items.
In the heart of Leeds city center stands a preserved Victorian building, the Leeds Corn Exchange. This is one of only three corn exchange that still function as a commercial center in the UK (actually no longer functioning as a corn trading spot).
The architecture inside the Leeds Corn Exchange is different from what many people imagine. The shops here are decorated and decorated in a vintage style, so you can easily find many beautiful corners.
Address: Call Ln, Leeds LS1 7BR, United Kingdom
Hours: 10AM–6PM/Thursday: 10AM–9PM/Sunday: 10:30AM–4:30PM
Ticket price: Free
Headrow and Briggate
If you don’t know where to go when traveling to Leeds, consider heading to Headrow and Briggate. A neighborhood with friendly people, with shopping malls springing up in series… There will be nothing more wonderful than being immersed in the lives of the people here, learning about the beauty of British culture, and being able to go shopping at very low prices.
Headrow is home to many cultural attractions, such as the West Yorkshire Playhouse, considered the largest theater outside London and one of the oldest living music halls in the world.
Leeds City Museum
The Leeds Museum is not only a place to display artifacts associated with the history of the city’s formation and development, but also has artifacts discovered from civilizations around the world such as India, Egypt, and Greece.
In addition to the exhibits, visitors can also experience virtual reality technology. This is my favorite point in Leeds City Museum, because this virtual reality experience will make sightseeing not boring.
- Address: Millennium Square, Leeds LS2 8BH, UK
- Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM (Closed on Mondays)
- Ticket price: Free
- Web: https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/leeds-city-museum/
Royal Armouries Museum
In Leeds, in addition to visit the Leeds City Museum to learn about the history of Yorkshire. You can also go to the Royal Armories Museum – which showcases weapons and armor from around the world
One of the most famous tourist attractions in Leeds, look no further than the Royal Armouries Museum. This is a place to store more than 8,500 artifacts dating back about 3,000 years. The artifacts here are mainly related to weapons and armor. Coming to the weapons museum, besides seeing the antiques, you also have the opportunity to understand more about the formation of the arms, weapons as well as the heroic resistance history of the people here.
Chasing the Minerva (Statue of goddess Minerva) incarnated in the form of an owl
The symbol of Leeds that can be seen on the shield with a history of nearly 200 years is three owls and a sheep. The sheep is associated with the Greek myth about the hero Jason in search of the golden fleece, while the associated with wisdom and intelligence.
An interesting thing for visitors is that you can become a detective to track down the owls. You will be surprised to discover they are present in so many places, it can be a striking golden statue, cast iron statues perched on a fence or an owl quietly lurking on the wall of an old building or a statue at 40-51 Briggate, Leeds LS1 6BR, United Kingdom.
With a music-loving soul, visitors will be immersed in the nightlife in Leeds. Experience this great atmosphere at Call Lane – where hundreds of cafes, restaurants, bars with different regional styles. Especially the Leeds Festival – a colorful music festival that takes place every August.
In Leeds, you have a wide variety of shopping options, depending on your budget. You can go to famous shopping centers. With many mid-range and high-end brands, in leading shopping malls such as: Trinity Leeds, Victoria Leeds or White Rose Shopping Centre.
What and where to eat?
The addresses of delicious restaurants in Leeds.
Leeds is also a place where anyone who is passionate about food is spoiled for choice. Typically Yorkshire pudding in any restaurant or in a bar to enjoy the atmosphere in a strange city.
Besides discovering the beauty of the city, enjoying the food here also gives you memorable memories of your trip. Some famous and good restaurants in Leeds, you can refer to such as:
Man V Roast
The restaurant is famous for its excellent delectable grilled meat. The meats here are imported from Skyer House Farm, so the quality is safe, as well as the delicious meat taste. In particular, the restaurant not only serves right at the spot, but if you do not have much time, or want to save money, you can come here to buy foods and bring them home.
Address: 144 Cardigan Rd, Burley, Leeds LS6 1LU, United Kingdom
Hours: 8AM–6PM/Monday; Saturday: Closed
Discovering the city’s cuisine at Teppanyaki restaurant is also a great choice. This famous restaurant specializes in serving Japanese dishes such as: Sushi, Yakitori, chicken curry, etc. The dishes are prepared according to the authentic recipe, bringing an irresistible delicious taste.
Address: Belgrave Hall, Belgrave St, Leeds LS2 8DD, United Kingdom
Hours: 6–10PM/Friday: 6–11PM/Saturday: 4:30–11PM/Monday: Closed
Zaap Thai Street Food Leeds
Zaap restaurant is also a favorite stop for diners. Because coming here you not only can enjoy Thai delicious food at the restaurant is decorated beautifully and impressively, bringing many the most beautiful virtual living angles when coming to Zaap. Some of the most iconic dishes at the restaurant you should enjoy such as: Dim Sum, soups, grilled meat, curry dishes…
Address: 22 Grand Arcade, Leeds LS1 6PG, United Kingdom
Hours: 12–10PM/Friday/Saturday: 12–11PM
Abyssinia Cafe and Restaurant
Coming to the city without visiting Abyssinia restaurant is a mistake in experiencing the cuisine here. Because the restaurant’s dishes are famous for their delicious, attractive and different flavors compared to other restaurants. You can enjoy dishes such as: Stewed lamb, stewed chicken, steak…
Address: 12 Ashley Rd, Harehills, Leeds LS9 7AB, United Kingdom
Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Dakota Leeds (Agoda, Booking)
- Jurys Inn Leeds (Agoda, Booking)
- Clayton Hotel Leeds (Agoda, Booking)
- Park Plaza Leeds (Agoda, Booking)
- Malmaison Leeds (Agoda, Booking)
- ibis Styles Leeds City Centre Arena (Agoda, Booking)
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Leeds City Centre (Agoda, Booking)
- Novotel Leeds Centre (Agoda, Booking)
Suggested Leeds itinerary
Leeds city is quite small, only need to go in 1 day to see all the attractions. You can go in two ways:
- Visit the attractions in the center first and then go to Kirkstall Abbey.
- Go to Kirkstall Abbey first and then go back to the central spots.
I chose the 2nd way, after arriving in Leeds, I went to Kirkstall Abbey right away, then turn around and go back to visit the attractions in the city center.
- I recommend everyone to use Three SIM card because this sim can be used in the UK and Europe, and it is easy to buy. You can buy at the following link.
- Always remember to stand on the right and give way to others when using escalators in the UK.
- Leeds is quite small, only visiting for 1 day is enough, you do not need to stay overnight unless you want to explore Leeds in a slow way. And room rates in Leeds are more expensive than in Manchester and there are not many choices anymore.
At first, I didn’t have much hope for Leeds, just thinking of simply finding a place to hang out to not be bored. But Leeds really surprised me because it was much more beautiful than I thought.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Leeds you can refer to
- Airport Flyer from Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) to Leeds City Center or Bradford Interchange Bus Station
- Leeds Castle Ticket in Kent
- Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, and Dover Full Day Tour from London
- Leeds Castle, Canterbury, Dover, & Greenwich River Day Tour and Boat Ride from London
- Leeds Castle, Canterbury, Dover, and Greenwich Day Tour from London
- From Leeds: Yorkshire Dales Emmerdale Locations Bus Tour
- Leeds: 2-Hour Highlights Walking Tour
- Leeds: Emmerdale Village Set Guided Tour
- London Travelcard
- London Explorer Pass
- London Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tours (Open-Top)
Are you looking for more top things to do in London: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here. And Where should I go in London? — 21 top famous places to go, see & best places to visit in London.