10 Things Leeds Didn’t Have a Decade Ago That Actually Make a Massive Difference

· Ali Turner · Business

See how Leeds has changed over the past 10 years.

The Majestic

What a difference a decade makes, especially in Leeds – the city has seen plenty of changes over the past 10 years.

Leeds in 2012 was completely different to the city you’ll see in 2022. It’s not just that the city’s skyline has been transformed by one development after another – we’ve made major strides in retail, entertainment and technology, helping us to build a reputation as one of the most exciting cities in the North. So without further ado, let us introduce you to the new additions that have left their mark on Leeds over the last decade.

A bloomin’ huge arena

First Direct Arena

Credit: Ant Longstaff Photography

For years, Leeds was bereft of a top class entertainment venue. When the Queen’s Hall shut down in the 1980s, the city struggled to attract the big names when they toured the UK, bar for one-offs at Millennium Square, Roundhay Park and Elland Road. Enter first direct arena in July 2013 – it has seen the likes of Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam and Eagles play since, putting Leeds firmly on the musical map.

A state-of-the-art innovation hub


© Copyright: Johnny Burrell 2022.

Nexus, the innovation hub at the University of Leeds, brings together the brightest minds in business, technology and academia. It opened in 2019 and has since attracted a long list of high-profile members. From Pet AI, the scale-up that uses technology to transform pet care, to Dedalus, the world leader in healthcare software, they’re driving innovation and unlocking the economic potential of the Leeds City Region.

The largest BID outside the capital

Leeds Jurassic Trail

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

LeedsBID was established in 2015 to make the city better for everyone. It’s the largest Business Improvement District outside of London and has already invested over £12.5 million into city centre improvements, with another £14 million allocated to take us up to 2025. That money has brought us clean streets, public realm improvements, must-visit installations and international events that have put Leeds on the map.

Two massive, modern shopping centres

Trinity Leeds

2013 was the year that Leeds became a shopping destination. It was then that the now-famous Trinity Leeds opened its doors, bringing with it a raft of high street stores and catapulting us into Javelin Group’s list of the top three shopping destinations outside of London. Just three years later, the city added another retail empire to its bow in the form of Victoria Leeds, further cementing our reputation as a retail hub.

A totally revamped train station

New Station Entrance

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ali Turner

Leeds City Station is one of the busiest in the UK, but up until recently, its design didn’t match its stature. 2018 saw the opening of a new southern entrance that has jump-started the regeneration of the South Bank. But that’s not all. The main station entrance has also had a major overhaul, creating a brighter, lighter and lovelier welcome to the city, one that’s worthy of our status as a major northern hub.

An industry-leading digital festival

Leeds Digital Festival

Founded in 2016, Leeds Digital Festival has become one of the biggest tech events in the UK. It’s a celebration of tech culture that attracts experts from all over the world and brings people together from every corner of the industry. As such, it’s helped to boost skills, fuel collaboration and raise the city’s profile, establishing Leeds as a thriving tech hub. And that, in turn, has attracted some really high-profile businesses into the region.

A cracking Michelin-Starred restaurant

The Man Behind the Curtain

Credit: Allen Markey

After a decade bereft of Michelin Stars, Michael O’Hare brought it home with The Man Behind the Curtain in 2015. He sources the finest ingredients to create innovative tasting menus like nothing you’ve tried before. They’ll take you from scallop with tigers milk and plankton focaccia to aged beef with gordal olive juice and warm fat, as you set off on a 14-course culinary adventure. It’s no wonder people come from near and far.

A catalyst for media investment

The Majestic

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

After a neck-and-neck race against Manchester and Birmingham, Channel 4 chose to open their new National HQ in Leeds. They took a penthouse spot in the newly renovated Majestic and officially opened in September 2021. Their decision has triggered a flurry of investments in the region, including the arrival of ITN Productions, UKTV, Pact and The National Film and Television School, as well as a major expansion of Leeds-based True North.

The redesign of Leeds city centre

First Bus Leeds

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

Two major projects have transformed the city centre to improve transport links and create a world-class gateway. The £20.7-million Headrow project has introduced dedicated bus lay-bys, cycle lanes and major public domain improvements. Meanwhile, The Corn Exchange project, which stretches from York Street to Boar Lane, has created two new public spaces, pedestrianised Call Lane and streamlined bus travel through the city.