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Whether you’re in Leeds for business and wanted to extend your time, live nearby or are just stopping off in the city as part of a larger trip, there’s plenty to do to keep you entertained for the day. Leeds is a firm favourite amongst students (it is estimated that over 60,000 students study in Leeds). This means cheap prices, a thriving nightlife and live music scene, and some fantastic vintage offerings.
I lived in Leeds for three years and had a great time there, so I feel excited to pass on an itinerary which is sure to turn new visitors into Leeds fans!
Where is Leeds?
Leeds is located in the county of West Yorkshire, in the North East of England. Although an attractive city in its own right, its location right on the doorstep of the unspoilt wilderness of the Yorkshire Dales National Park means you’ll find lots of outdoors enthusiasts here.
How to get to Leeds
From London, Leeds can be reached in 2hrs30mins by direct train, and it is just a half an hour train away from York and 90 minutes away from Newcastle. To book train tickets for travel in the UK, your best bet is to head to Trainline, which offers mobile tickets and advance booking discounts. If you’re flying into Leeds, the Leeds Bradford International Airport is just a 20 minute drive from the city by either car or uber.
Getting around Leeds
The best way to tackle this itinerary is by using the city’s bus network. Buy a day ticket for £4.70 and simply scan in when you step on the bus. Another alternative is the group ticket, if you’re visiting on a weekend. For just £7, the ticket covers a full day of unlimited travel for up to five people! Uber operates in the city, and is (as usual much cheaper than regular taxis). If you already have a car with you parking in the city centre can be expensive, so getting accommodation outside the city centre where you can park for free and using the bus to get around is the easiest option.
Where to stay in Leeds
If I could just make one recommendation, it would be the Hilton Doubletree in Leeds City Centre. Not only is it perfectly located next to the train station, but it also overlooks the Leeds canal offering great views for guests. It’s also really reasonably priced at around £75 a night (but obviously it varies). If you’re looking for budget accommodation, Leeds does have a youth hostel, the Russell Scott Backpackers, although I’ve never visited so can’t vouch for it. From £16 a night you can score a bed in a dorm room in a central location, and the hostel has good reviews.
If you’re looking for something different, there are some great quality Airbnb apartments and rooms available in Leeds. If you just want a bit more privacy, whether that’s an affordable private room for a backpacker or an entire home if you’re travelling in a group, renting an Airbnb is a good choice. You can find Airbnb’s in Leeds here and get a sweet discount off your first booking when you sign up using my link.
What should I do in Leeds?
One day is the perfect amount of time to spend visiting Leeds in order to get a feel for the city and see its highlights. For this itinerary, I’ll assume that you’re arriving to the city by train, as this places you really centrally in the city.
On arrival at Leeds train station, head straight to Layne’s Espresso for breakfast. Serving up amazing coffee and delicious, fresh food, you’ll leave feeling fully satisfied. I always opt for the Layne’s Breakfast (£9), which includes a bit of everything and is absolutely drool-worthy, but I’ve had most things on the menu there, and have never been disappointed. Layne’s is a Leeds favourite, so if you can’t find a table, walk over to the equally lovely Mrs Atha’s, which offers some of the best coffee in Leeds and a similar selection of breakfast options.
Caffeinated and fed, the next stop will be the Leeds Art Gallery. Not only is it free, but the selection of art on offer is really varied and regularly rotated, and it’s a tranquil space to spend a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
From the art gallery, head to the Leeds Corn Exchange for some top-quality independent shops. You can get anything from a vintage camera to hipster glasses, a brand new guitar or a new haircut, and it’s a really cool space to hang out in the city. There are also some great options for lunch here too, including Humpit, an awesome hummus and pitta stall.
Leaving the Corn Exchange, you’ll see a huge offering of vintage clothing shops in the nearby area, my favourite of which is Blue Rinse. The vintage you’ll find here is usually around half the price of the vintage clothing on offer in London, but just as cool! Other notable mentions are Ryan Vintage, Pop Boutique and BEST.
Next up, catch the bus out of the city to Kirkstall Abbey, the 850 year old ruins from an ancient monastery founded in 1152. Did I mention it’s totally free? Check out the visitor’s centre for some backstory before stepping outside to explore the abbey itself. Set in a beautiful public park on the banks of the River Aire, this is also a great chance to take a breath of fresh air outside of the city.
It’s time to visit a Leeds institution – the Brudenell Social Club. Established in 1913 as a working men’s club in the Hyde Park neighbourhood, it wasn’t until the early 90’s when the owners decided to capitalise on the huge numbers of students moving in to the area by scheduling gigs. It’s now a popular live music venue and social club for everybody. The club has hosted “secret gigs” for bands such as the Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand, and has a regular schedule of artists playing. It’s definitely worth checking the schedule before your visit, but assuming there’s nobody you want to see, just head for a drink and take in the relaxed and “anything goes” atmosphere.
Visitors who have headed straight from London will rejoice, as “the Brude” offers some of the cheapest pints in town – on average £3-4. Be sure to try something by the Kirkstall Brewery for a taste of local beer.
It’s widely known that finding good Mexican food in the UK is pretty damn hard. In Leeds, your quest comes to an end. Head to Lupes Cantina for amazing Mexican food served in tapas portions, alongside a selection of cocktails, beers and spirits. Book in advance!
If you weren’t able to secure a table, not to worry. Viva Cuba is another great option, serving up delicious Cuban tapas. Not something you get every day in the north of England!
After an awesome dinner, get the bus back into the city centre and go straight to Headrow House, one of my favourite pubs in Leeds. Serving up awesome beer, great cocktails and upbeat vibes, it’s the perfect place to toast to your jam-packed day exploring Leeds!
I hope you enjoy this itinerary, and fall in love with Leeds as much as I did!
Want to explore more of Yorkshire? Check out my post on Staithes – North Yorkshire’s Hidden Gem
Have you visited Leeds yet?