48 Hours in… Leeds

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.

 

DAY ONE

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. 

 

DAY TWO

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.

OR

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.

6 stately homes in Yorkshire to visit before the end of summer

Every region of Britain is peppered with stately homes, living testament to the destination’s rich heritage. Their doors and gardens are open to visitors for a large portion of the year and, with the summer season in full swing, there’s even more to see and do during these months. The north England county of Yorkshire has a fabulous assortment of these grand estates; here are just six you should explore this year.

 

Harewood House

Harewood House stands majestically in the heart of the county, just 20 minutes’ drive from the city of Leeds. This year it’s celebrating the 300th anniversary of Thomas Chippendale, arguably the most famous English furniture maker of the 18th century, who was commissioned back in 1767 to furnish Harewood House. It’s here that you will see one of the greatest collections of Chippendale in the country and 2018 is packed with exhibitions and displays of Chippendale’s work, as well as a programme of contemporary artistic responses to his work. And that’s in addition to Harewood’s vast art collection by masters of the Italian Renaissance, JMW Turner watercolours, family portraits by Reynolds and modern art collected by the Earl and Countess of Harewood. Find a different kind of beauty in its Bird Garden; colourful parrots, Humboldt penguins and the endangered Bali starling are among the 40 species of birds from around the world you can see here.

 

Castle Howard

You’ll recognise this grand family home, half an hour’s drive from York, from its starring role on the big screen; it appeared in both versions of Brideshead Revisited (1981 and 2008) as well as in numerous other TV and movie productions. More than 300 years old, it boasts 1,000 acres of grounds – with woodland walks, fountains, lakes and temples – meaning Castle Howard has plenty of space to offer a diverse programme of events through the summer months. August will host the Castle Howard Proms, a magical classical concert with guest soloists include soprano superstar Lesley Garrett, and a programme of favourites from the world-famous Proms, further enhanced with a fantastic firework finale.

This year also sees Castle Howard host an exhibition by one of the UK's leading contemporary artists, Mat Collishaw, as well as its award-winning exhibitions such as Duty Calls, exploring the stories from the castle in times of war, and Brideshead Restored, about how it was transformed into film sets for both the 1981 and 2008 versions of Brideshead Revisited.

 

Ripley Castle

Come to Ripley Castle to for enthralling tales of plague and persecution, renaissance and enlightenment and the castle’s role in the industrial revolution. It’s been in the Ingilby family for more than 700 years and its huge parkland means it’s also perfect for outdoor activities. The Castle has teamed up with Live For Today Adventures, who have brought bushcraft skills, archery, body zorbing, kayaking and orienteering to the castle’s grounds.
Ripley Castle and Gardens is situated just three miles from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but it also has its very own deer park to explore; wander among 1,000-year old oak trees and be captivated by wildlife from deer to geese, herons to kingfishers.

 

Brodsworth Hall & Gardens

For an in-depth insight into how country houses operated during the Victorian era, Brodsworth Hall & Gardens is the place to visit. Its ‘conserved as found’ when it was built in the 1860s and has witnessed few changes, aside from the garden restoration and general conservation. Now looked after by English Heritage, this stately home – located 45 minutes’ drive from Leeds – still has many of its original furnishings, a huge Victorian kitchen and scullery. Don’t expect the rooms to be all on a grand scale; the library's original wallpaper and carpets are faded, and the woodworking room is full of clutter, but that just adds to its charm. This August you can relive what life was like at Brodsworth during wartime; climb inside a biplane replica, try your hand at soldier school and hear about the work of medics during World War One.

 

Newby Hall and Gardens
Home to a contemporary sculpture park, 25 acres of land and glorious interiors, Newby Hall in Ripon (a 50-minute drive from both Leeds and York) is bringing a special exhibition to its home this summer. As part of its own dolls house exhibition, which is now the permanent home to one of the finest collections of dollhouses and miniatures in the world thanks to collectors Caroline Hamilton and Jane Fiddick, this July will welcome an evening with Charlie & Lola creator Lauren Child, as she introduces her dolls houses to the collection, on loan for the summer.

Visitors will also love exploring garden views from its Miniature Railway, which runs along the River Ure, as well as its charming Teddy Bear Collection, housed in a newly built home within the gardens of Newby Hall, collected by British TV personality Gyles Brandreth; look out for some very famous bears among the collection. And, this summer, the stately home also welcomes its annual Historic Vehicle Rally to its grounds as well as alfresco Shakespeare performances.

 

Sewerby Hall and Gardens
For a stately home with stunning coastal views, head to Sewerby Hall and Gardens; this impressive country house and estate is perched on a cliff-top with views over Bridlington Bay on East Yorkshire’s coast, just over an hour’s drive from Leeds. Set in early 19th-century parkland, a restoration programme a few years ago recreated how the house would have been in the early 1900s, with furniture loaned from London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, as well as a collection of memorabilia that was once owned by the famous local aviator, Amy Johnson. Visitors can get fully immersed in the experience, with the chance to dress up as Edwardian servants or as members of the residing Graeme family, play with Edwardian toys in the nursery and view an interactive display portraying life as a servant during that era.

Summer is also a perfect time to enjoy its landscaped gardens and woodland walks as well as its on-site zoo, which is home to penguins, lemurs, pygmy goats, llamas and macaws. You can also stay on the estate in one of the holiday cottages.

 

Getting to Yorkshire: York is just under two hours by train from London, 1.5 hours from Manchester and 2.5 hours from Edinburgh. Reach Leeds from London by train in under 2.5 hours, in one hour from Manchester and in 3 hours from Edinburgh.