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Cool things to do in Leeds

by Hannah Stuart-Leach
Wednesday 31 January 2018

From local street food markets to intimate live music venues, this energetic city in northern England has a strong sense of self…  

Places to eat and drink 

Group of friends eating lunch at a table at Trinity Kitchen Leeds
Trinity Kitchen © Hannah Webster for Visit Leeds 

If you like tasting new foods and prefer to steer clear of chains, you’ll love exploring Leeds’ amazing selection of independently owned restaurants

New and exciting cafes, restaurants and bars just keep on opening, so there’s always somewhere different to try. It’s tough to beat Laynes Espresso for your morning caffeine hit, while Just Grand! Vintage Tearoom is a top spot for afternoon tea. Olive & Rye is an abundant deli cafe stocking Yorkshire cheeses and chutneys, The Oxford Place is a gorgeous gluten-free restaurant and Vice & Virtue serves up extravagant cocktails and a spectacular tasting menu. Of course, some independents have been going for years – Hansa’s opened in the 1980s and is a firm favourite for vegetarian Gujarati cuisine.

Make sure you try some of the street food at Trinity Kitchen, too. Every 8 weeks, 6 new food van vendors get the chance to test out their exciting new recipes on the public. And celebrate the burgeoning local food landscape at Eat Leeds Restaurant Week in February or Leeds Indie Food Fest in May.

Places to see live music

Man playing trumpet at the Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds
Swimming in Trumpet at the Belgrave Music Hall © Belgrave Music Hall  

Leeds is well-known for its original music scene, where experimental genres and indie music labels thrive. The Kaiser Chiefs are perhaps the city’s most famous band to date, but countless other musicians have found inspiration there including indie rockers The Pigeon Detectives, folktronica outfit alt-J and Spice Girl Mel B.  

Legendary venues such as Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, The Wardrobe, Bad Apples Rock Bar and Nation of Shopkeepers ensure whatever your music taste you’ll find something new to add to your Spotify playlist. 

Leeds' independent fashion and shopping scene 

Shopping at Leeds Corn Exchange
Leeds Corn Exchange 

You could spend your whole time shopping in Leeds and never set foot in a big branded department store. Popular shops for clothes include MKI Store, famous for its Japan-inspired clothing, epitomised by simple but stylish bubble jackets and baseball caps, and Audere Couture, for smart-casual t-shirts and sweatshirts. There’s also Blue Rinse for colourful vintage finds and Welcome Skate Store – the go-to for ‘Don’t Mess with Yorkshire’ tops. And for brides-to-be, The Bridal Emporium stocks one-of-a-kind dresses from independent designers. 

If you like your shopping under one roof, head to Leeds Corn Exchange or the Grand Arcade and spend hours browsing at independent book and comic stores, music and camera shops and fashion and jewellery boutiques. You'll often find record fairs and vintage markets there too. 

Art and exhibitions 

Artist Tony Cragg's Postcard Flag (Union Jack) at Leeds Art Gallery
Tony Cragg, Postcard Flag (Union Jack), 1981 © Tony Cragg and Leeds Museums & Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery)

With all this creativity in every other area of life in Leeds, and its large student population, there is a cutting-edge art scene to enjoy too. As well as the recently refurbished Leeds Art Gallery and The Tetley, explore The Gallery at 164 – an independent gallery and cafe that hosts interesting pop-up events – or Sunny Bank Mills Gallery, a creative hub in a former cloth mill displaying local artwork. White Cloth Gallery, meanwhile, puts on photography and film exhibitions. 

There are also more than 80 festivals in Leeds each year, which are a great way to experience the city’s unique culture. Keep an eye out for Thought Bubble, Leeds’ festival of comic arts, Leeds International Film Festival, the International Contemporary Artists Book Fair and more at Visit Leeds



Hannah Stuart-Leach

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