With its vibrant art scene, history and heritage, the city of Leeds boast a unique atmosphere, a break away from the overwhelming feeling of London or Birmingham. Here's why Yorkshire's cultural metropolis is more than worth your time.
The fourth biggest city in the UK, Leeds boasts an urban area of 1.9 million people in 2020. Located close to Scotland and away from the attraction of the southern coast, the biggest city in Yorkshire possesses a unique vibe. Sometimes dubbed The Knightsbridge of the North, the city was a major hub for the production and trading of wool in the 17th and 18th centuries, then became a major mill town during the Industrial Revolution.
With this industrial legacy, Leeds had to reinvent itself to become a trendy and modern city, built around fashion, museums and tech. Appearing at number five on Lonely Planet's list of Top 10 European Travel Destinations of 2017, the city has been making a reputation for itself over the last couple of years.
A major fashion hub
Leeds has been built on a tradition of wool, textile and clothing manufacturing. This legacy can be seen throughout the city even today as the city has become the UK's major retail and fashion hub. Its stunning shopping arcades, in the Victorian Quarter, are made of arcades reminiscent of the 19th century's architecture and will send you back in time while you go on a shopping spree in the city. Many famous brands are established in the city and for example, Marks & Spencer was created in a small stall of Leeds Kirkgate Market.
For all the famous brands, head to the Merrion Center, while the historic Corn Exchange is home to more independent and creative designers and outlets. Kirkgate Market is one of Europe's largest indoor markets, very similar to Asian bazaars and farmer's markets.
A city of football
Football is a tradition in the UK but it didn't seem like that passion propagated to the city of Leeds. However, the club of Leeds United is an integral part of English football history. The club won three Premier League titles, the last one being in 1991-92 and even reached the Champions League finals in 1974-75.
But the club spent several years between the Second and Third Division before Marcelo Bielsa was appointed manager. Today, the stadium of Elland Road is home to Premier League games and the football performed by Bielsa's team is worth witnessing for 90 minutes.
Numerous free museums and a thriving art scene
Leeds might be the city with the deepest history outside of London, with 16 free museums and galleries scattered around the city, especially the newly renovated Art Gallery. There you can find the best 20th-century collection in the country outside of London. A few minutes away, The Henry Moore Institute is home to sculptures from all over the world with historical, modern and contemporary exhibitions. If you'd like to experience what life was like 200 years ago, head to the Abbey House Museum where you can walk down a recreated 19th-century street.
Performing arts are also one of Leeds' specialities. You can find many theatres and dance companies throughout the city. Leeds is home to a resident Opera and Ballet Company, four major theatres and an international concert season. Outside of London, the city's performing art scenes is one of the most celebrated in the country.
Live music and nightlife
Many famous British artists were born in the region of Leeds. Kaiser Chiefs, Alt-J and the Spice Girls' very own Mel-B, all originated in the city. As such, the city is reputed for its immersive live music venues, like the O2 Academy, the Brudenell Social Club or the Belgrave Music Hall.
When it comes to the nightlife, head to Call Lane. There you can find chill pubs and bars to late-night clubs where you can party all night long. But the most famous event in Leeds might be the Leeds Festival. One of the most famous music events in Europe, the festival features every year the biggest names in the rock, indie and metal scenes. On top of that, Leeds hosts since 1967 Europe's longest-running West Indian carnival, attracting over 50,000 people every year.
The beauty of Yorkshire
Known as the biggest and most famous city in Yorkshire, going outside of Leeds can also be very rewarding if you spend time there. The surrounding countryside has much to offer with the astonishing Wakefield Cathedral while the ruins of the famous Harewood Castle will send you back to the 12th century when such sights seemed to be the usual.
If the weather is forgiving and that you feel like walking, take a hike through the famous Yorkshire Dales. At this huge national park, only located a few miles away from Leeds, wander along Ilkley Moor or visit the small town of Harrogate. You can even go through the Liverpool and Leeds canal as a way to relax and commune with nature.