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Visit Leeds

Leeds is a post industrial success story – a huge sprawling edifice of Victorian grandeur and hyper-clean central arcades, which has become the UK’s second largest centre of finance (after London). The reason? A city centre full of designer boutiques, chain stores and respected national and international department stores, scattered pleasantly around acres of pedestrianised real estate. This is where Yorkshire comes to shop: and when it’s finished with the Manolo Blahniks, it loves nothing more than a drink or six in one of Leeds’ countless pubs, clubs and bars.

Every one of Leeds’ 10 main districts has its own personality: the Exchange Quarter is quirky and alternative; the regenerated Holbeck area is all about trendy bars and swish public spaces; and the beautiful Roundhay district wears the exclusivity of its residents with quiet Georgian and Victorian pride. This is a city that’s thrown off the after-effects of industrial demise, and is busy embracing the 21st century.

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Top Attractions in Leeds

Trinity Leeds Shopping Centre

Leeds’ epic shopping centre attracted more than 130,000 visitors on its opening day in 2013...

Trinity Leeds Shopping Centre

Royal Armouries

Battle-scarred warriors of all ages will love the Royal Armouries museum, which houses a vast collection of arms...

Royal Armouries

Leeds City Museum

Just around the corner from the O2 Academy Leeds, you’ll find the imposing façade of the Leeds City Museum...

Leeds City Museum

Leeds Town Hall

Extraordinary Leeds Town Hall is a model of Victorian grandeur – a huge colonnaded structure on the Headrow...

Leeds Town Hall
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Leeds University by Neil Turner

In its industrial heyday, Leeds was one of the major textile centres of the world, enjoying bustling trade thanks to links with Liverpool and Selby by canal and railway.

Architecture

Its enviable glut of Victorian and Georgian architecture represents a city that has been used to economic success for centuries: and the modern additions to the town’s skyline are there to remind the visitor that, unlike other northern post-industrial towns, Leeds is still very much open for business.

Versatility

The secret of Leeds’ success lies in its versatility, which has seen the city develop from Middle Ages market settlement (the “gate” in the famous Leeds party areas of Briggate, Swinegate and Kirkgate, which were once the focus of market activity, is Norse for street) to modern service industry mecca. Where once there was wool, now there are shops, restaurants, bars and theatres.

Regeneration

Residents of the city are fiercely proud of its regeneration, which took effect in the 1990s after some years of decline. Now Leeds is prosperous, vibrant and all about the good times, with bars unique to every district and a populace that loves to let its hair down.

Sport and Education

Sport and education play equally big roles in the life of the city: Leeds University is well regarded, and has spawned its own lively district. Headingley, where the students hang out, is colourful and fun, and a summer’s afternoon is as likely to find them lapping up the runs at the cricket ground as downing pints in the boozer with their mates.

Eating Out

Eating out in Leeds is a pleasure, with everything from hyper-experimental cuisine in posh restaurants to pub classics turning up on the table. And when you’re done noshing on some of the best eats the north-west has to offer, it’s time to hit the tiles. Global superclubs and underground up-and-comers vie for your attention in every district.

Visit Leeds

Make no mistake: you don’t visit Leeds to soak up culture (though it does have an outstanding roster of theatres and live music venues), take in local history or hit major attractions. This is a city devoted to good living, and it expects visitors to get involved and have a good time. Forget the Industrial Revolution. This is the 21st century, and there’s plenty on the menu.

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Leeds Station by Oliver Mallich

Leeds is excellently connected for air travel, with Leeds-Bradford International Airport just 10 miles away from the city centre. The airport makes mainly domestic and European destinations, with Amsterdam used as a connection for long haul flights. Alternatively, you can connect with Leeds by flying to Manchester airport and taking a train, driving, or catching the bus the rest of the way.

By train

Leeds City train station is one of the largest in the UK, and connects the city to London and points south, Manchester and points west and north, as well as Hull, Liverpool and York. There’s also a pretty line running from Settle to Carlisle, which stops at Manchester.

National bus services stop in central Leeds.

There is a small suburban rail service, and a boat taxi (the boat taxi runs between Granary Wharf, Clarence Dock and Brewery Wharf.

By car

Leeds is connected to the UK motorway system via the M1, the A1M, the M62and the M621. There are park and ride services on the Scott Hall Road into the city.

On foot

The central district of Leeds is compact and frequently pedestrianised. It is possible to see most of the city’s sights on foot, without using public transport to get between them. Internal buses run in loops around the city centre, called the CityBus route: this used to be free, but is now charged, so don’t believe any signs you see to the contrary.

By bus

Internally, bus transport is an ideal way to get around Leeds. May roads into the city centre feature dedicated bus lanes, which can make for a quicker journey than driving your own car.

Local buses into and out of the city centre are mainly run by First Leeds. There are dozens of routes, so do make sure you have the right bus before boarding.

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Leeds Corn Exchange by Steve Cadman

Leeds’ history of industrial importance significantly predates the Industrial Revolution, making it one of the longest-running centres of financial activity in the UK. The heaving party streets of Briggate, Swinegate and Kirkgate started life in the Middle Ages as market streets – and the still standing White Cloth Hall, which is Grade II listed, was built during the city’s years as a market centre for pre-industrial Yorkshire.

Railways and Canals

Significant growth occurred in Leeds when the railways and canals opened the city to trade from further afield. During the Industrial Revolution, the town became known as the City of 1,000 trades: access through Manchester to the port of Liverpool gave the merchants of Leeds a leg up in international exchange, and the city grew quickly. Marshall’s Mill, which stands on Marshall Street in the Holbeck district of the city, was built at the start of the industrial surge – the Leeds Corn Exchange, which now operates as an upscale shopping centre, was constructed at the height of Leeds’ international importance, in the late 19th century.

WW1 and WW2

Leeds’ fortunes stayed reasonably high until the period between WWI and WWII – and were temporarily revivified by the second war, when the city’s factories were turned over to the manufacture of military uniforms. The long slow fall common to most post-industrial northern cities took real effect in the 1960s and 70s: by 1980, Leeds was in serious trouble, full of decrepit housing estates and starving for business.

Modern Leeds

New investment in the city centre paved the way for Leeds’ 1990s resurrection: following on from the original redesign of the centre, the city has been almost completely overhauled. It’s now a major centre for telephone banking, law and business: a city that’s come back from the dead. In 20 short years, Leeds has become a globally connected city, with an increasingly affluent population.

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