Leeds is Yorkshire's biggest city. Although significantly out-beautied by historical York, the city is a buzzing university town with an up and coming arts and cultural scene. Once a small market town, Leeds transformed into a major industrial city and a forerunner of the Industrial Revolution alongside Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool. Often cold and rainy during the winter months, there's loads going on in Yorkshire's largest city come summertime. The city hosts a number of festivals including one half of the famous Reading/Leeds rock duo, reflecting the fact that Leeds is a key player on the Indie music front. Leeds has a number of museums and a growing underground arts scene. 2012 will see the kickoff of the city's first Fringe festival, paired with the smaller, quirkier On the Edge Arts Festival. You don't have to travel far from the centre of Leeds to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Kirkstall Abbey is a 10-minute bus journey from the city centre. The well-preserved ruins of the Cistercian monastery date back 850 years and provide a stunning backdrop for a picnic.
Leeds is perhaps best known as Yorkshire's biggest shopping city. From high-end to high-street and vintage, there's not a lot you won't find in Leeds. The city also has an impressive indoor market, which can be found on the corner of Kirkgate and Vicar Lane. Originally built in 1857, the market space is clad with domes and wrought-iron balconies from which to observe the hustle and bustle of the scene below. Market stalls sell just about everything, and are the perfect place to pick up some bargain snacks for an inner-city picnic should the sun decide to show, or to hide from the rain if you're not so lucky! If it's culture you're after, visit Thakray Museum, which tells the story of medicine and even houses a Victorian operating theatre! If weird and wonderful medical instruments aren't you're cup of tea, the Royal Armouries can be a great day out, especially on days when the museum has archery displays. Just outside of Leeds, and accessible by car or bus, visit Xscape - an indoor ski slope and activites centre, or Tropical World - a greenhouse with waterfall, terrapins and spiders next to Canal Gardens. Leeds has a huge clubbing scene which is mainly dominated by large, mainstream clubs. As an alternative, go for a cocktail and tap your feet to some salsa at the up-and-coming underground District Bar. The bar does great food and some days it even offers half price tapas. The year-old Nation of Shopkeepers also has a lot of good gigs, and is the choice destination for trendy kids!
See a film at Hyde Park picture house, a lovely old cinema which shows all sorts of films, both art house and mainstream. The cinema was opened in 1914 and was soon acclaimed "the cosiest in Leeds" - a reputation that it still lives up to! Perfect therefore for a rainy day, and you won't have to search long to find a rainy day in Leeds! The Victoria Quarter is an upmarket shopping area in the heart of the city. Designed by Frank Matcham (who also built the London Coliseum), the building is a classic Victorian mix of marble, mosaic and high stained-glass windows. The labyrinth of arcades contains an array of high and mid-range shops including Vivienne Westwood and Harvey Nichols, and a small number of cosy cafes. If you fancy getting away from the city, there are many UNESCO world heritage sites near Leeds such as Fountains Abbey and Saltaire, which make for lovely days out if you have a car.
Leeds is easily accessible by train, which takes under two hours from London, Birmingham or Liverpool, and just 55 minutes from Manchester! Like most of the Northern giants, Leeds is a city that is prone to rain, so remember to bring your brolly and to wrap up warm. It's helpful to have a car in Leeds, as many local UNESCO attractions are more difficult to reach by public transport.
Avoid visiting Leeds during the last weekend in August, when the city becomes flooded with festival goers and the trains are busy if not packed.
Yorkshire is the birthplace of many hearty British classics, including of course the Yorkshire pudding - the best part of a traditional roast dinner! Wensleydale cheese also originates from this part of the country - eat with crackers and tea for the full Wallace and Gromit effect! For something a little less English but a little more tasty, head to the tiny but delightful Nazams - a small Indian restaurant located in Hyde Park. There are hundreds of Indian restaurants in Leeds but this one really is the best. The restaurant doesn't serve alcohol, but guests are welcome to bring a bottle. Also in Hyde Park, La Cafetiere is a healthy Meditaranean style eatery that serves Mezzes and milkshakes and all things green and healthy.
Bring back a boot load of shopping and a full belly following a traditional Yorkshire Sunday lunch!