National Space Centre
The futuristic National Space Centre sits just off Exploration Drive, next to the River Soar...National Space Centre
2,000 years of illustrious history were bombed out of Leicester by the Luftwaffe during WWII: leaving behind a city that refused to die. Yes, its postwar housing estates could have been better thought out; and there’s no denying the fact that much of its former beauty has disappeared. But Leicester’s a town with other things on its mind. Environmentally revolutionary, culturally fabulous and still peppered with landmarks recalling the glory days of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, Leicester’s got too much going on to care what people think of its looks.
Thousands of people visit Leicester to see the remains of Richard III, whose body was found under a car park in the city centre. And that’s just typical of this city, which hides some of the most bloody and spectacular history in Britain beneath the anonymous cloak of modern town planning. Scratch the surface, and you’ll find plenty going on behind the scenes!Read more
Leicester Town Hall
by Steve Cadman
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Modern Leicester has effortlessly synthesised the cultures of its ethnically diverse inhabitants with the remnants of its history.
The Leicester local is proud of all of it: the Roman ruins dotted around the city’s ample parks; the noisy, colourful religious festivals held throughout the year, celebrating all sorts of different beliefs; and the fragrant stew of world foods whose combined aromas wind temptingly out of cafes and restaurants on every street.
It’s not just the vibrant life of the town that recommends Leicester to the traveller – it’s the city’s location. Set on the banks of the River Soar in the heart of the Midlands, Leicester’s an easy jumping-off point for exploring the lush countryside and stately parks that surround it. Spend an afternoon wandering through massive Bradgate Park, check out the ruins in Abbey Park or take in the Golden Mile: in or out of town, there’s plenty for the visitor to see and do.
For a city that suffered so badly at the hands of German bombers, Leicester features a surprising number of well-preserved ancient buildings: from the stunning 14th century Guildhall, one of the most completely preserved timber frame structures in the country, to the wonderful Georgian New Walk (an 18th century public space surrounded by perfectly preserved town houses), there are some key historical jewels in the crown of this modern melting pot.
Leicester’s the perfect example of a city built on feel rather than appearance: for all its emblematic enclaves of times past, the majority of the city’s personality is formed not by attractions or any one overriding architectural look, but by something much more unique. A huge diversity of residents means there’s no one ethnic majority: and that means there’s a live and let live attitude in the streets and districts of this patchwork town you’ll rarely find in other provincial cities. It’s as exciting in its way as London, and as packed with local events and intriguing customs as a carnival.
Visit Leicester for something completely different: a hotchpotch of history and forward thinking that’s created an environment like no other in the Midlands.
Leicester is on the M1 motorway, which travels from London through the UK to the north east. It’s also accessible via the M69.
Leicester is admirably connected to airports in and around the Midlands and the south. Its closest airport is East Midlands (just outside Nottingham), and the city can also be accessed via Birmingham International Airport or Coventry Airport. For longer haul flights, Leicester is reasonably close to London’s Heathrow and Gatwick: a couple of hours in a car, or Gatwick can be directly accessed on a train.
National bus services stop at Leicester St Margaret’s bus station, which is close to both train station and the city centre.
Internally, Leicester is excellently served by buses. Mainly, the buses are operated by First and Arriva – there’s also a Stagecoach service to limited locations. Because of the large number of local buses, it can be difficult to work out which stop you need to wait at – even if you’re Leicester born and bred! Be aware that you can’t use a ticket bought on an Arriva bus on a First service, and vice versa: all service operators are independent of each other. You can buy a Flexi Day pass or a Flexi Week pass, however, which entitles you to travel on any bus in the network for the duration of the ticket.
While Leicester is the biggest city in the Midlands, it has a typically compact centre that can be walked across with ease. All central attractions may be accessed on foot.
The city is also blessed with a decent cycle network, and a staffed Bike Park in the centre where you can leave your steed with safety
Cardinal Wolsey died in Leicester in 1530, and was buried at Leicester Abbey – the ruins of which are still visible in Abbey Park.
Leicester’s known history is more than 2,000 years in the making: there are Roman remains within city limits, including the remnants of bath houses and the still-visible Jewry Wall next to St Nicholas’ Church. The area was continuously inhabited through the Roman and Saxon eras – it wasn’t until medieval times, though, that the city’s expansion into its present form began. During the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth mentioned Leicester in connection with the myth of King Lear (there’s a statue to Lear in the Watermead County Park); and in the 15th century Richard III met his end and was interred in the grounds of Grey Friars Church, which has since been demolished (the grounds lie under a car park).
Leicester developed a significant economic advantage over other British cities during the Industrial Revolution: rather than becoming known for one industry, the city tried its hand at everything from textile milling to footwear, engineering, machining and building. As a result, the city weathered the interwar crash of the early 20th century rather well: it was only after savage bombing by the Luftwaffe in World War Two that Leicester really began to experience the downturn common to post industrial UK towns. Industry dried up, manufacturing slowed considerably and the city’s post-war rebuilding programme generated a number of poor housing estates.
Modern Leicester is undergoing a significant transformation, largely a result of the huge numbers of cultures that now live in the city. A diverse ethnicity of population has given the city a rich and colourful calendar of annual events, including celebrations at Diwali, Holi and Eid-ul-Fitr. For incredible food, relaxed attitudes and plain old fun, Leicester is hard to beat.
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