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One of the only cities outside London to have its own ballet and opera companies, Yorkshire city Leeds is a hotbed of cultural gems, a city with a rich industrial and sports heritage that has become an energetic, contemporary city with a flourishing food and drink scene. Home to its own international airport (Leeds/Bradford Airport) and just two hours by train from London and one hour from Manchester, spending a weekend in one of the north of England’s most exciting cities has never been easier.
TIME TO CHECK IN
Leeds has a wide range of hotels to suit all budgets yet if you’re looking for high-end accommodation, check out the only independently owned luxury hotel in central Leeds, Quebecs. This Grade-II listed, four-star property is situated in one of the city’s most impressive terracotta brickwork buildings, located in the attractive Victoria Quarter. Another luxury option is the city’s oldest hotel, The Cosmopolitan, which combines a historic setting with contemporary style. Leeds has some lovely boutique hotels too; in the heart of Leeds, the Malmaison is the place to go if you’re into cool, quirky interior designs while riverside hotel 42 The Calls, located in an 18th-century former flour mill, will soon be undergoing a multi-million pound investment under new management, set to develop it into five-star luxury accommodation.
09:00 EMBARK ON A WALK OF DISCOVERY
It’s common knowledge that to really get to know a city you should walk it – and this is just as true of Leeds, where you can download self-guided walks around the city with a treasure hunt theme! Just over a mile each, Curious About Leeds has devised routes that take you from Leeds Art Gallery to the River Aire, and a second route from the river to Park Square. The beauty of these walks is that you’ll take in not just the city’s famous sights but also the more unusual ones. Expect to see the chic Victorian Arcades, Europe’s largest covered market – Kirkgate Market – former mills whose fortune the city was built on and secret squares to explore. Also look out for iconic street art; Leeds is home to the UK’s tallest mural, Athena Rising, as well as works such as Cornucopia next to the Corn Exchange and the George Street Mural at Kirkgate Market.
11:00 DELVE INTO THE CITY’S PAST
The story of Leeds unfolds at the Leeds City Museum, where – through six impressive galleries – you’ll find artefacts from archaeological finds to displays reflecting city life today. It’s also home to the Leeds Tiger… one of the most recognisable and loved exhibits at the museum with a fascinating back story to discover.
13:00 TAKE EARLY AFTERNOON TEA
It will be hard to tear yourself away from the pretty period furniture and mismatched crockery at vintage tearoom Just Grand! but try to as there’s plenty to tempt you on its menu. Located in the city’s Grand Arcade – a Grade II-listed Victorian shopping arcade that now boasts a good mix of independent retailers – you’ll reboot energy levels enjoying drinks from its huge assortment of loose-left teas (Yorkshire tea is, of course, on the menu!) and the delectable afternoon tea menu. Why choose a plain scone when you could choose from its wide range of flavoured scones such as black treacle and date, Earl Grey and Lemon, and ginger and apricot. Just Grand has also introduced a Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea – finger sandwiches, locally produced pork pie and crisps along with a choice of Yorkshire bottled beer.
15:00 EXPLORE CONTEMPORARY ART IN A HISTORIC BUILDING
One of Leeds’ leading centres for contemporary art is at The Tetley, housed in an Art Deco-style former brewery. It’s not just the collections inside that are worth exploring – the building itself is an Insta-favourite; founded in 1822 – Tetley is one of Leeds’ oldest (beer) brewing families – it’s of huge social and industrial significance to the city. As well as changing exhibitions there’s a rich programme of events to take part in, including art workshops.
17:00 ENJOY COCKTAILS AND PRE-THEATRE DINNER
A department store might not the first place you think of for cocktails and dinner, but when’s it’s The Fourth Floor brasserie and bar at the city’s branch of the high-end Harvey Nichols, you know you’re in store for a treat. Superb views of the city greet you as you enjoy cocktails in the glamorous bar – think gold dome lights and circular banquettes – and the menu in the brasserie focuses on using the best Yorkshire produce in its creative dishes. It’s perfect for a pre-theatre meal, with the dinner service starting from 4.30pm.
19:30 CATCH A SHOW
Take advantage of the fact that Leeds is the only city outside of London to have its own ballet and opera companies and book tickets for a performance by either Opera North, one of Europe’s leading arts organisations, which produces the classics as well as lesser-known works and musical theatre, or the Northern Ballet, where you’ll find original productions as well as new interpretations of classic ballets.
09:00 DISCOVER HISTORIC TREASURES
Ever fancied seeing a world record-breaking suit of elephant armour? Here’s your chance – at Leeds’ Royal Armouries Museum, which sits on the waterfront at the city’s docks. Five galleries hold more than 8,000 fascinating objects, including Henry VIII’s tournament armour, the five heroic swords based on the prop weapons used in movies Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and the incredible centrepiece of the whole museum, the Hall of Steel – the largest mass display of arms and armour created since the 19th century.
11:00 SET OFF ON A SPORTING JOURNEY
Yorkshire boasts a legendary cricket heritage and, for cricket fans around the world, the Yorkshire Cricket Museum is a must-visit. It’s here that you’ll discover artefacts from Yorkshire’s cricket legends, the bats and balls used by iconic players as well as multi-media interviews with cricket heroes.
SET OFF ON A SHOPPING JOURNEY
A raft of unique independent retailers can be found under one stunning roof at the Grand Arcade, a shopping venue built in 1897 where its fine Victorian architecture – including an exquisite glass roof and beautiful arched windows – is just as much of a draw as the shops. It’s a lovely surrounding in which to explore the stores, which range from luxury menswear retailer Labels, My Vibrant Home for stylish handmade interiors goods, and The Handmade Collective, where you’ll find unique gifts created by 60 local Yorkshire design-makers to take home. You’ll also find a vibrant shopping district at Victoria Leeds, an eclectic shopping destination combining Victoria Quarter and Victoria Gate with traditional the British high-end department stores of Harvey Nichols and John Lewis and more than 90 boutiques.
13:00 VEG OUT FOR LUNCH
Also finding its home in the Grand Arcade is Roots and Fruits, a fantastic vegetarian restaurant that’s recently upgraded its menu to be mainly plant-based. But there’s no compromise on flavour… this Leeds favourite is packed with local, seasonal produce and presents dishes such as Roots and Fruits Jerk Jackfruit with a secret recipe jerk marinade and giant Rainbow Salads.
15:00 LOSE YOURSELF IN A CHOCOLATE METROPOLIS
Leeds is home to the UK’s first two-storey chocolate emporium at Hotel Chocolat and it’s here you can learn the delicate art of chocolate-making at its Chocolate School, just one of the chocolate-filled experiences on offer here. Chocoholics may want to embark on its Tasting Adventure and there’s always further opportunity to taste the glorious sweetness in its Mega Café; look out, in particular, for its signature hot chocolate.
17:00 GO CUCKOO FOR CREATIVE COCKTAILS
Come to quirky bar Cuckoo for its imaginative cocktails, such as Peanut Butter Martinis and Dirty Grasshoppers, or to sample local craft beers served through ‘Giraffe Towers’, and stay for its amazingly fun décor. Murals, paint-splattered animal heads, cool neon lights and a secret rooftop garden all make a visit to this bar a colourful occasion.
20:00 TASTE THE CREATIVITY
Restaurant Man Behind the Curtain – with a name inspired by The Wizard of Oz – offers a magical culinary experience where you’ll be wowed by chef Michael O’Hare’s creativity. The restaurant’s tasting menu of 10 to 14 sequences’ includes hand-massaged octopus with capers and lemon; birds nest and kimchi ramen and cardamom & lemongrass soup with chilli sorbet- a treat for both the eyes and the taste-buds. Other high-end restaurants to have on your radar include Stockdales and Ox Club.
Alternatively, visit Bundobust for delicious Indian street food and craft beer that make this place one of Leeds go-to places for easy, deliciouscuisine. Still hungry? Try Matt Healy x The Foundry. This Leeds institution has recently relaunched with Yorkshire-born chef, Matt Healy (runner-up in BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals series), at the helm. The interior and exterior was redesigned and rebranded as Matt Healy x The Foundry. In the kitchen, Matt is concentrating on a menu of simple British dishes using up to five ingredients. A sample menu may include baby chicken ‘kiev’, wild garlic and duck fat potato, or pollock, charred leeks and potatoes with romesco sauce. Watch this space as the restaurant is quickly becoming one of the hottest spots in Leeds.
22:00 Leeds’ nightlife rivals that of any major British city and it’s particularly good for quirky bars. For a slice of hipster heaven and craft beers head to the cool, vintage-style Outlaws Yacht Club; drink cocktails from teapots at the Alice in Wonderland-themed, eclectically decorated The White Rabbit; while the Belgrave Music Hall is where to go to enjoy craft beers and cask ales across three floors of a 1930s venue that comes with a fabulous roof terrace, live music events, film and comedy or art exhibitions. Beer is also big news in Leeds; why visit one brewery when you can visit four on the Leeds Brewery Tour, and, if you’re coming over in October, look out for details of the city’s Oktoberfest.
For more information contact:
VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.com