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10 Reasons Why Leeds Might Surprise You

· Ali Turner · Visit Leeds

If Leeds isn’t at the top of your list of must-visit cities, it’s time to rethink.

Leeds Might Surprise You

Ever been to Leeds? If not, you’re in for a treat, because it’s one of the best cities in the North and North – and it’s it’s full of surprises.

Leeds isn’t your average city. In fact, it’s pretty awesome – and not just for the conventional reasons. You’ll find all manner of surprises here, from the quirky independents that make eating, drinking and shopping here special to the absolute abundance of green spaces that are scattered all over the city. So if you haven’t been yet, it’s time to plan a visit.

1. It’s the ‘Beer Capital’ of the North

Northern MonkIf there’s one thing we do particularly well up North, it’s beer – and no one does it quite as well as Leeds. Not only does the city have a long history of brewing (it was home to Tetley when it was the largest producer of cask ale in the world) but it’s also packed to bursting with fantastic bars that are passionate about their beer. From North Bar, where you can choose from a huge selection of 150 beers, to Friends of Ham where they mix craft beer and charcuterie, there are so many great bars and pubs that you’ll have to come back to try them all.

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2. It’s amazing how much there is to do here

Things to do in Leeds

Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a shopaholic or a foodie, you’ll find plenty to do in Leeds. There are hundreds of options, taking you from beer tastings and festivals to impressive performances from the likes of Northern Ballet and Opera North, both of which have won critical acclaim around the world. Families are just as well catered for, because Leeds has loads of parks, museums and attractions, including the marvellous Tropical World – and if you’re looking for adventure, well, this is God’s Own Country, so you won’t have to go far.

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3. It’s jam-packed with cool, quirky independents

Friends of Ham Meat and Cheese Board

One of the reasons why Leeds is such a fabulous city break is the vast array of independents that can be found here. They’ll make your visit unique, by offering something you won’t find anywhere else, whether it’s one-off cocktails served in a pre-Prohibition drinking den at Blind Tyger, a range of fabulous things made by a mix of local designers at Fabrication, or a Korean barbecue cooked on the grill built into your table at Bulgogi Grill.

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4. It’s a city of green spaces

Roundhay Park

You might be surprised to discover that Leeds is full of green spaces. You can have a picnic in the park without leaving the city centre, head out for a walk around one of the 20 nature reserves that sit within our borders or take a trip to a stately home to explore landscaped gardens and beautiful vistas. Even better, these fabulous outdoor attractions are closer than you’d think.

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5. It’s one of the best places to shop outside London

Trinity Leeds

If it’s shopping you’re after, you’ll absolutely love Leeds. It’s crammed full of high street, designer and independent shops, giving you loads to choose from. But that’s not the only reason to visit. Leeds is unique in that many of its shopping hubs are also landmarks, which means you’ll find yourself wandering around a host of historic arcades, as well as Leeds Corn Exchange and Kirkgate Market, which is the largest covered market in Europe.

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6. It’s got loads of cool landmarks and attractions

Kirkgate Market Leeds

Fancy a spot of sightseeing? You’ll find plenty of landmarks and attractions in Leeds that are worthy of your attention. Why not take a tour of Leeds Town Hall, venturing down into the prison cells beneath and up to the clock tower above? Alternatively, catch a show at Leeds Grand Theatre, take in an exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute or browse the national arms and armour collection at Royal Armouries – you certainly won’t be short of things to do.

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7. It’s the biggest small city you’ll ever visit

Leeds Might Surprise You

When it comes to its size, Leeds is a bit of a conundrum. You see, it’s actually one of the biggest cities in the UK – but it’s also got a compact city centre that means you can walk from one side to the other in just half an hour. The result? A city break that will put you right at the heart of the action, with all the shops, bars and restaurants of the city centre within walking distance, as well as a host of natural wonders, outdoor spaces and quaint villages less than half an hour away.

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8. It’s a fantastic night out


Leeds has a buzzing nightlife that will see you hopping from bar to bar, discovering cool little hideaways, bouncing club nights and unforgettable gigs. You can even take in a little culture while you drink with the city’s arts bars, or switch your night on the town for a night at the theatre. Whatever you choose, you’re sure of a night to remember.

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9. It’s full of hidden treasures

Ox Club Headrow House Leeds

Leeds is a city full of surprises, so no matter how many times you visit, there’s always something new to discover. You’ll find cool independent cafes tucked away down alleyways, public art engraved into the very ground you walk on and awesome bars hidden behind unmarked doorways – be sure to explore, because you never know what’s around the corner.

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10. It’s the gateway to Yorkshire

Otley ChevinLeeds is a thriving cosmopolitan city, but it’s also at the heart of God’s Own Country, which makes it the perfect base for exploring. You can jump on the train to York, Ilkley or Scarborough, to name but a few, and the likes of Otley and Ripon are just a bus ride away. Renting a car? You can head out into the Dales to see natural wonders like Malham Cove, venture into the North York Moors for a long day of walking, visit the world-famous Yorkshire Sculpture Park or cycle the route of the Tour de France to Otley.

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Cover, gateway to Yorkshire, nights out, things to do and biggest small city images copyright Contakt Photography. Ox Club image copyright Tom Joy.  Friends of Ham image copyright Ollievision.